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Joining the BLOHARDS

Evan Spelfogel reflects on a lifetime of Red Sox rooting

Published in 2022 New York Metro Super Lawyers magazine

For longtime Boston Red Sox fan Evan Spelfogel, it was the best of times, and it was worst of times.

“I grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston,” says Spelfogel, an employment and labor attorney at Phillips Nizer, “and in grades 7, 8, and 9, I was at the Boston Latin School, a six- or seven-minute walk to Fenway Park. In those days—this is the 1940s—the games began at 3:00 in the afternoon. There were no lights, no night games. They began later in the afternoon to give all the businessmen a chance to put in a day at the office and then go to the game.

“I used to get out of school at 2:15 in the afternoon,” he continues, “and I’d be at the park well in time for the game. Cost me 60 cents admission. I went to two or three games a week when they were playing at home. And my dad took me every Saturday if there was a game.”

Spelfogel calls this period “the glory years.” The war was over, Ted Williams led the league in everything, and in 1946 Spelfogel got to attend both the All-Star Game (when Williams smashed a homerun off of Luke Sewell’s famous eephus pitch) and the World Series (which the Red Sox lost in seven).

“And I was at Ted Williams’ final game in 1960,” he adds. “I was at the National Labor Relations Board, working in the Boston regional office. I went out to lunch to a bar, and on the news they announced that today might be Williams’ last game. … So I called my office and said I had a stomachache and went out to Fenway Park. I was sitting in the bleachers not more than 20 or 30 feet from where the homerun in his final at-bat landed. The biggest fight I have ever seen broke out over the ball.”

Spelfogel is speaking from his office in Manhattan, where two relevant signs hang. “One says ‘The Benevolent Loyal Order of the Honorable Ancient Red Sox Die-Hard Sufferers of New York’: BLOHARDS. And the sign next to it says, ‘I love New York, too. It’s the Yankees I loathe.’”

Which is why, growing up when and where he did, it was also the worst of times. The Red Sox won nothing. The New York Yankees won everything.

And in 1963, Spelfogel moved into the belly of the beast.

Shortly thereafter, two things happened. The Yankees stopped winning the pennant every year, and that loyal order, BLOHARDS, was created when two Red Sox fans met on a train following a game in the Bronx. It would be decades before Spelfogel heard about them, but when he did, “I signed up for a life membership,” he says.

Before COVID-19, he adds, the organization would hold semiannual luncheons with several hundred people at the Yale Club in Midtown Manhattan. “They would arrange for Red Sox front office officials, coaches and players to come to the Yale Club, and there would be trivia questions and talks and video clips,” he says. “They would have a couple of autograph signings and some tickets available for that night’s games.”

And it wasn’t long before it became the best of times again.

The 2004 ALCS didn’t even look to go to seven games. The Yankees won the first three and were winning the fourth in the ninth inning with Mariano Rivera on the mound. But, says Spelfogel, “Sox tie it up, Sox win it. And they ended up winning four in a row, which was never done before [in a best-of-seven series].”

After their World Series victory against the Cardinals, Spelfogel says, “the BLOHARDS arranged for that championship trophy to be brought in under armed guard on an Amtrak train from Boston to New York for a special BLOHARDS event in November. I have photographs of me with the World Championship trophy. That was quite a celebration. The Sox had finally broken the curse and won.”

This season was not a good one for Boston, though.

“It’s difficult being a Red Sox fan in New York,” Spelfogel admits. “However, I’ll say this: The fans have been pretty good. You’d think that if you’re wearing any kind of Red Sox paraphernalia, you’d be the target of not only verbal abuse but they’d start throwing things at you—like cups of beer. But no. Even on the subways when you’re going to the game, people might comment, but that’s all. They’ll say, ‘Have a good night and I hope you go home unhappy.’”

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