EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 26, 2007

World Series ball takes center stage in Methuen dining room

By J.J. Huggins , Staff writer

Walk into Curtis Braxton's Methuen home and the first thing you'll see is a shrine - with a cross on top - to Boston sports.

The buffet inside his dining room displays hats, David Ortiz's book and bobble head doll, a commemorative bat from this year's American League Division Series, a glove, a basketball, a football, Red Sox bottles, cups, dirt from Fenway Park, and a photograph of his wife, Marcy, with the World Series trophy from when the Sox won it in 2004.

"She actually got to touch it," boasted Braxton, 40, a Penobscott Circle resident.

The centerpiece of the tribute to Braxton's beloved teams is a souvenir ball from Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, which he and his wife attended. Players didn't actually use the ball, but it is a limited-edition collectors item.

"You could only buy it there," Braxton said.

The nearly floor-to-ceiling display sits just a couple of feet away from where the family eats their meals, even if they host guests for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"It doesn't shock anyone," Braxton said.

Braxton keeps a cross in every room of his house, including the room with his sports memorabilia, to bless his family - not his teams, he said.

Braxton and his wife shelled out $1,200 for two tickets to Game 4 of the 2004 World Series in St. Louis, the game where the Sox clinched their first world title in 86 years.

Braxton kept the game tickets, plane tickets and even the tickets for the train ride from the hotel to the ballpark. Those souvenirs are too special to leave in the dining room, so Braxton keeps them locked in a fireproof safe, along with several rare Patriots collectors coins.

He has considered locking away the World Series ball.

"I have been thinking about keeping it in the safe, but I love looking at it so much," he said.

He also keeps a color photocopy of one of the World Series tickets next to the ball.

If he's watching a game from home, he won't miss a second. He has a television in his dining room, kitchen, bedroom, deck and even in the bathroom.

"I put clear doors on (the bath tub), so I can watch the game while I'm in the shower," he said while standing in his bathroom.

Luckily for Braxton, his wife is also a huge sports fan who supports his desire to collect special balls, hats and bats.

"You have to have your wife on board to drop 140 bucks on a football," he said.

Braxton went to Olympia Sports at the Loop on Monday after the Sox won the pennant by defeating the Cleveland Indians Sunday night.

He went there to buy the American League champions T-shirt and ball cap. He had been looking for a hat from the American League division series, which the Sox won by beating the Angels before moving on to the American League championship series.

Braxton couldn't find the hat in stores or on the Internet. While waiting outside the store, he struck up a conversation with a woman who said her husband found the American League division series hat at a newsstand at the Manchester Boston Regional Airport.

He then drove to the airport and cleared them out of all 16 of the hats they had left at Hudson News.

"They even had to pull the last one out of the display," he said.

Winning the American League East was special to Braxton because the dreaded Yankees usually win it, but this year it was the Sox.

"That's a big thing to me, because we beat the Yankees to get it," he said. "It just makes it so much sweeter."