This guy has 757 Red Sox bats, and each one tells a story
‘I like history, I love the Red Sox, I love collecting ... and this combined all those things,’ says Jeff Boujoukos
WAYNE, Pa. — Jeff Boujoukos beams with joy.
He grabs a David Ortiz game-used bat and poses amid the 757 Red Sox bats he owns and has assembled in a quilt-like pattern on his driveway in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Some are still gooey from pine tar; others have been broken by a fastball fired a half-century ago. His collection includes a bat from nearly every Red Sox position player since 1960.
Almost all of the bats are game-used. No two bats are identical and there’s a story with every one.
So, who is this guy?
A Boston-born lawyer and Red Sox fanatic from birth, Boujoukos, 51, is the director of the Philadelphia regional office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
His investigative team brought charges against BP for misleading investors regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and has prosecuted Ponzi-like schemes, frauds, and excessive-fee cases.
In his spare time Boujoukos has spent the last 25 years collecting Red Sox bats.
“It’s just a neat hobby,” he says. “There’s something about the baseball bat that people identify with. They evoke memories and feelings inside you.”
There’s everything from a Ted Williams bat signed by The Kid and his teammates to a bat belonging to the immortal Ramon Aviles, whose entire Red Sox career consists of one sacrifice bunt in 1977.
“I get a real thrill finding some of these incredibly obscure bats that I never thought I would find,” Boujoukos says.
“I like history, I love the Red Sox, I love collecting and having a goal, and this combined all those things together because I had to research who all the players were.”
His collection is unique.
It includes All-Star Game bats (Frank Malzone), several 2007 Mother’s Day Miracle pink bats, a 1967 World Series home run bat (a Don Demeter model used by pitcher Jose Santiago), and even a bat that an enraged Big Papi splintered over his knee.
Some bats reveal a lot about their former owners.
There’s the Nomar Garciaparra bat that has ball marks all centered on the sweet spot of the barrel. The Jose Canseco bat that has been hand-scraped to make the handle skinnier. And a Jose Offerman bat that has been corked. (It may not have been game-used, says lawyer Boujoukos.)
Some bats define a particular team, such as the lizard skin-wrapped bats of the 2013 champion Sox. Others are unusual, such as an ax handle bat from Dustin Pedroia and a Travis Shaw bat that has an Ohio State Buckeye leaf on the knob, instead of a number —
a design mistaken for a marijuana leaf.
Newer bats are increasingly more colorful as different bat companies have gotten a larger share of the market.
Boujoukos estimates that he has spent six figures acquiring his collection.
The most expensive bat is the game-used Jonny Gomes “Boston Strong” bat that includes the names of the four people who lost their lives in the Boston Marathon bombings. It raised nearly $4,000 for the Red Sox Foundation.
The most photographic bat is a pine-tar-drenched Jarrod Saltalamacchia model that has sunflower seeds stuck on it, like ancient fossils forever suspended in amber.
Manny Ramirez’s bat still has manicured Fenway grass stuck on it and one can almost picture No. 24 flipping it into the grass after hitting a homer.
But Boujoukos’s absolute favorite bat is his first, a black Louisville Slugger from a reserve infielder named Mike Brumley.
It was the result of a 1992 pilgrimage to Red Sox spring training in Winter Haven during spring break at Temple Law.
“I’m standing on Triple A field and [Jim] Rice is out there giving hitting instructions to players,” says Boujoukos. “Brumley’s there and he’s taking BP and he cracks his bat and he throws it on the ground.”
Boujoukos, standing 10 feet away behind a 4-foot-high fence, called out to the utility infielder.
“I said, could I have that? And he handed it to me and said, ‘Sure, they got my name wrong.’ He said it quickly and I didn’t know what he meant.”
The bat had tape all over it, because in those days utility infielders didn’t get hundreds of bats and Brumley was trying to preserve his.
“I thought the tape looked cool,” Boujoukos says.
Back at school, he read a Red Sox preview in Sports Illustrated that said that things are so tough in the Red Sox camp that Mike Brumley’s bats came in “Mike Bumley.”
“I peeled off the tape and sure enough it says ‘Mike Bumley’ and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really neat.’ ”
A local Philly sports bar bartender whom Boujoukos used to beg to tune the satellite dish to Red Sox games befriended him and told him about Sports Collectors Digest.
“I used to wait for it in the mail and rush to get it,” he says. “I would buy the guys I liked. I bought a Yaz, a Rice, Valentin, and Mo Vaughn.”
When Boujoukos reached 50 bats, he set a goal for himself.
“I decided to collect bats from 1960 onward because it was the last year of Ted Williams and the first year of Yaz (his favorite player). No pitchers, because early on pitchers didn’t all have engraved bats.”
Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame, which handles bats with white gloves, Boujoukos is hands-on. Recently he invited his son’s baseball team over for a fund-raiser and let them swing away with Big Papi bats.
“For me, you can pick ’em up and swing them. You can have a bat in your hand that Ted Williams swung in 1960. You can have a bat that Yastrzemski swung in ’67. It feels neat, to be able to hold that bat in your hands. It drives the imagination.”
Collecting the bats has been a massive 25-year undertaking. There was virtually no Internet or eBay when Boujoukos started buying game-used bats.
“I would read through the papers building a network of collectors and putting out a list with names and years I was looking for,” he says.
In the late 1990s, Red Sox third base coach Wendell Kim was helpful. Eventually, eBay proved to be a godsend, but not without verification.
Boujoukos would pore over grainy photographs looking for clues to make sure the bats were authentic. Bats have surfaced in estate sales and in dusty attics.
A lot of the broken bats were given to kids in the ’60s who taped them, nailed them together, and used them in the sandlot.
“They pounded the hell out of them, locked them in a garage, and then they slowly filter out,” he says.
Yet despite all his best detective work, Boujoukos is still missing two utility players from the past: Ken Poulsen, who had five at-bats in 1967 when Dalton Jones had to report to the Army Reserves, and Carmen Fanzone, who played in 10 games as a rookie in 1970.
Boujoukos says he sent letters to both, but only Fanzone wrote back.
“He said he was saving the bats for his grandkids,” says Boujoukos. “‘I respect that.”
Boujoukos’s wife and three kids love the collection, which is secured in bat racks, glass cases, and under lock and key in his home.
“I think we all get a kick out of it. He’s got a passion for it. So better to have a passion for something like this than playing golf all the time,” says Patty Boujoukos. “It balances the really intense, serious stuff and keeps you grounded. “
Sometimes they attend autograph and card shows together looking for bats. In 1997, they met Fred Lynn at a Massachusetts card shop. Boujoukos arrived with two of Lynn’s rookie-era cracked bats.
“I wondered where these went,” said Lynn.
“They’re all in our house,” Patty replied.
Boujoukos showed up at a ’67 Red Sox reunion with a sack of bats. The old-timers were impressed.
“I reach in and I pull out a [Jerry] Moses bat. He says, ‘How do you have this? Where does this come from? This is great.’
“[Rico] Petrocelli looked in my bag and said, ‘Hey, what else you got in there?’ ’’
Jose Tartabull looked like he met a long lost friend when he saw his old bat.
“He was swinging it around and saying, ‘This is definitely mine,’ ’’ Boujoukos says. “That was neat to see them appreciate it.”
Boujoukos says the collection is not for sale, although he has given away some duplicate bats to some players’ families. From this year’s team, he’s still looking for a J.D. Martinez game-used bat, but now he also needs utilityman Steve Pearce.
The Red Sox routinely borrow some of his bats to display at Fenway Park. Sox curator Sarah Coffin calls Boujoukos’s collection “unprecedented.”
“What he wants is to share the history and it makes him a joy to work with. He never says no,” she says.
Recently Boujoukos drove to Fenway Park to hand-deliver bats and catchers equipment for a new exhibit. Standing in the Royal Rooters Club, he watched some wide-eyed kids admiring three dozen bats from his collection.
“Two hundred thousand fans take the tour and when it finishes they’re looking at my bats,” he says proudly.
Boujoukos would love for the Red Sox to display his entire collection in a new Red Sox museum.
“I’ll never sell it,” he says. “I’d like to put it on loan so everybody could enjoy it.”
Video courtesy Boujoukos family