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The Sports Museum March 6, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Sports.
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I recently visited The Sports Museum in Boston. This museum showcases the rich history of sports in New England and strives to teach important principles to youths, including leadership, teamwork and self-sacrifice.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Satchel Paige was one of the most colorful characters to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. He would entertain fans with his showmanship, performing feats such as firing 20 consecutive pitches over a chewing gum wrapper in place of home plate. With the tying run on base, he would call all of his fielders to sit behind the mound before he struck out the next batter. Despite his theatrics, he was one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, and none other than Dizzy Dean called him the best pitcher that he had ever seen.

2. The Beanpot is an annual ice hockey tournament held in February that features four Boston-area schools – Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. The winner secures not only the Beanpot trophy but, more importantly, bragging rights in the Boston-area ice hockey scene. The tournament has sparked several memorable moments over the years, including a thrilling victory by Northeastern in the 1980 edition that ended a 28-year title drought.

3. The parquet floor that adorned Boston Garden was assembled in 1946 using wood scraps from oak trees in Tennessee. These wood scraps were employed due to widespread post-war material shortages; it took a skilled team of workers about two hours to bolt all of the scraps together in the interval between a Bruins game and a Celtics game. The parquet floor was rumored to have dead spots, where the basketball in play would mysteriously lose its bounciness; it was alleged that Red Auerbach and his players knew the exact locations of these dead spots and steered opponents toward them.

4. Bruins great Eddie Shore, who was one of the best defensemen in NHL history, was also involved in one of the league’s most violent moments. On December 12, 1933, the Bruins were playing the Maple Leafs at the Boston Garden. Shore was tripped by King Clancy and sought revenge. He ended up going after another Leafs player, Ace Bailey, and smashing him to the ice. Bailey’s career was effectively over after that infamous hit.

5. Dom DiMaggio, though overshadowed by Ted Williams and his brother, Joe, was actually a fine baseball player in his own right. He was small in stature and wore glasses, earning him the nickname “The Little Professor.” DiMaggio, though, was an astute student of the game and learned to properly position himself in center field, giving him a good jump on balls that were hit in front of him. He also helped cover up some of Williams’ defensive deficiencies in left field, and he was one of the best base-stealers of his time.

6. The Boston Athletic Association is the actual entity that hosts the Boston Marathon. Inspired by the marathon that was held during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the BAA organized the first Boston Marathon in 1897. The Boston Marathon has sparked many memorable moments over the years, including the 1936 edition where Johnny Kelley gave Ellison ‘Tarzan’ Brown a friendly tap on the shoulder as he passed him on the final ascent of the course. Brown was spurred by this gesture to outkick Kelley and win the race, earned that ascent the nickname “Heartbreak Hill.”

7. Steals have been featured in three of the most famous moments in Celtics history. The first steal was made by John Havlicek at the end of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and the 76ers, inspiring a famous call by Johnny Most. The second steal was made by Gerald Henderson, which led to a Celtics victory over the Lakers in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals. The third steal was made by Larry Bird and led to a game-winning layup by Dennis Johnson, as the Celtics triumphed over the Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

The museum is filled with a treasure trove of interesting items, including outfits worn by figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Todd Eldredge, an exhibit on the rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and a collection of photographs that celebrated the career of Rocky Marciano. I was also able to walk around the stands of the TD Garden, admire the various championship banners and retired jerseys, and watch some of the Pittsburgh Penguins go through passing and shooting drills in preparation for their game with the Bruins later that day.

In terms of quibbles, I should note that the exhibits are co-located with kitchens and food storage areas, so museum visitors should be aware that the TD Garden staff members will create a significant amount of foot traffic while they browse about; some patrons may view this as a distraction.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who want to gain an appreciation for New England’s love affair with sports.