LAWRENCE — Walter Fitzpatrick still holds onto a ticket stub for a Red Sox game he watched at Fenway Park more than 22 years ago during a season that disappointed most Boston fans when their team failed to make the playoffs.
His Sox keepsakes also include tickets to eight World Series games he attended and one for the July 17, 1991, Sox-Minnesota Twins game.
Though Boston hit into two triple plays that day, Fitzpatrick calls it “the most memorable game” of more than 1,000 games Sox games he’s watched over nearly six decades since his dad first took him to Fenway.
“Two (triple plays) in one game never happened before, but the Sox still won the game, 1-0,” recalled Fitzpatrick, 68, a city native and long-time resident of the Mount Vernon area.
“I was with Jimmy Fuller, a young man who was originally from Methuen. He lives in Hawaii now, but remains a huge Red Sox fan and still calls me,” he said.
Fitzpatrick, a retired English teacher who taught 38 years at Haverhill High School, remembers another fan that day who sat in front of him but wasn’t in his seat to witness either triple play.
“The man says to his wife, ‘Save the ticket stubs. This is going to be historical.’ He was going to brag that he had been there. But he hadn’t really seen the triple plays,” Fitzpatrick said.
“It just goes to show you, you just can’t leave the game early. Baseball almost always has something magical to it.”
Like the American League pennant-clinching game Fitzpatrick watched a week ago last Saturday in Boston, when Shane Victorino hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Red Sox to a 5-2 lead over the Detroit Tigers. That hit helped to send the Sox back to the World Series.
Or the other pennant-clincher Fitzpatrick watched Oct. 21, 2007, when the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 11-2 in the decisive seventh game after coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALC series that year. The Sox went on to sweep Colorado in the World Series.
Fitzpatrick’s love of baseball and the BoSox got off to a grand beginning back on July 19, 1954 when his dad took him to a double-header at Fenway. The Sox came up with five runs in the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-7.
“The Red Sox just brought up a catcher, Mickey Owen. who hit a grand slam home run with two outs to win the game,” Fitzpatrick recalled.
Boston also won the night game 8-5 against the new Orioles team, which had recently moved from St. Louis where the O’s were known as the Browns. What Fitzpatrick remembers best about the second game was getting to see Harry Agganis, a budding Red Sox star from Lynn, play first base.
Agganis, an All-American football player at Boston University who was known as “the Golden Greek,” had turned down a professional football career with the Cleveland Browns for baseball. But he died the next year of a pulmonary embolism at age 26.
Attending “Father and Son” nights at Fenway with his dad left Fitzpatrick with many good memories and some of the bitter ones that are part of being a Sox fan. He remembered Red Sox relief pitcher Ellis Kinder blowing a save against the Washington Senators in the mid-1950s.
“I was all upset and I think I cried all the way home,” he said.
But like most loyal Red Sox fans, Fitzpatrick’s passion for the game and the hometown team has endured years of losing and disappointment and deepened during his lifetime. When he didn’t go to the games, he often watched them on television with his good friend, Matthew D’Agostino, of Methuen
“I watched a lot of games with Matt,” Fitzpatrick said.
“He’s a former assistant principal in Lawrence, and use to own a baseball memorabilia shop called Matt’s Card Stop in the mid to late ‘80s. Matt went to school with my brother Jim, who was a Lawrence teacher for 35 years. The three men and D’Agostino’s brother, Richard, a lawyer, all shared a passion for Red Sox baseball.
“We were the original four Patriots season ticket holders in ‘73,” said Fitzpatrick, also a huge Patriots fan who has been going to football games for four decades.
Fitzpatrick has been a Sox weekend season ticket holder since 1987, going to 28 games each year.
“After the ‘86 season when they lost the series to the Mets, you had to get season tickets to get a good seat,” he said.
Red Sox Hall of Fame slugger Carl Yastrzemski is his favorite player.
“Yaz and I went to Merrimack College at the same time. Carl graduated in ‘66, and I graduated in ‘67,” Fitzpatrick said.
“He went to Notre Dame for two years and then transferred to Merrimack. I was in a few of his classes, but he wouldn’t remember me. In those days at Merrimack, we all had to wear suits and ties. It was a different era,” he said.
Whether his team wins or loses, Fitzpatrick said, the thrill of baseball never grows old.
“A Sunday afternoon baseball game is the best thing in sports,” Fitzpatrick said.
“It’s family-oriented. It’s relaxing and so in tune with the season. It’s New England. Red Sox baseball is as much a part of New England as the beaches,” he said.
Fitzpatrick thinks there’s a good chance the Red Sox win this year’s World Series in seven games.
“This year and ‘67 would be the most incredible seasons as a Red Sox fan, because they’re the biggest surprises,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Nobody expected them to do much then and now. But I hope it doesn’t end the way it did in ‘67. Of course, they’re playing the same team they did in ‘67 when they lost in seven games.”