By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — Think the 2013 Red Sox are a hairy bunch? Matt D’Agostino of Methuen sported a beard for 29 years while patiently waiting for the Sox to break their World Series drought.
It all started in 1975. The Red Sox were playing the Cincinnati Reds in the Fall Classic and D’Agostino had just grown out his facial hair. “I said, ‘If the Sox win the World Series this year, I’ll shave my beard,’” recalled D’Agostino.
The Sox lost in seven games and D’Agostino kept his scruff. Fast forward to 2004, when Boston’s baseball team had gone 86 years without a championship and D’Agostino’s two children had never seen their father without a beard.
The night the Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, D’Agostino said he received phone calls from old friends until 3 a.m. asking him if he had shaved. A few days later, D’Agostino made the long-awaited trip to the barber.
“I had to fulfill that pledge,” said D’Agostino.
D’Agostino, 64, has remained clean shaven ever since, even after this year’s Red Sox team began growing out their beards early in the season. The facial hair has become a rallying point for the ball club and its fans.
Many experts thought this season would be a disappointment for the Red Sox. But after a last-place finish in 2012, the team blew away the low expectations placed upon them. With a win tonight, the Sox will once again be World Series champions.
“Nobody expected this season to even come close,” said D’Agostino. “In March, if we said that on Oct. 30 the team would be one game away from winning it all, they would have locked us all up.”
D’Agostino was born and raised in Lawrence. He remembers listening to Red Sox games on Lawrence Common in the early 1960s, when radio broadcasts were played there over loudspeakers.
During the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967, D’Agostino and friends attended nearly every weekend home game. They were at Fenway Park when the Sox clinched the American League pennant and ran out onto the field in celebration.
“Nothing will compare to ‘67, because they had been losing for a number of years,” said D’Agostino. “My whole childhood they stunk. This year is a one-year surprise.”
D’Agostino once had a “WBOGGS” license plate in recognition of his favorite Red Sox player, Wade Boggs. But in true Sox fan fashion, D’Agostino changed his plate when Boggs left Boston to play for the rival New York Yankees.
D’Agostino has a large collection of baseball memorabilia that includes autographed photos, ticket stubs and two seats from Fenway Park. He is such a big fan that his daughter Lauri’s middle name — Lynn — is a nod to Sox legend Fred Lynn.
Though Lauri lives in Baltimore and his son James lives in Florida, D’Agostino said they too still root for the Red Sox.
“That’s what Red Sox Nation is all about,” said D’Agostino. “The tentacles are everywhere.”