Friday, February 12, 2010

2010: The Year Truck Broke?

January 21st, 1952:As long as people have reported on baseball, they've been kind enough to let us know when the season has started. Not the first game, but the day the equipment gets packed up and hauled south. It used to go by train, then a van, then a truck, and now...still a truck. At some point, instead of seeing pictures of the equipment being packed in the clubhouse, newspapers began just showing the truck outside the ballpark. Ten years ago tomorrow, Dan Shaughnessy, in his yearly piece on the unofficial first day of spring, wrote

The Truck Day photo has become one of those odd rituals that are so indigenous to New England.

And that's the name that would eventually stick. "Truck day."


Despite what Dan wrote in 2000, along with what he wrote in 1991 ("The picture of the Sox truck is one of those corny local traditions"), the Boston media aren't the only ones to show its team's equipment being packed. But they've been consistent about it for decades, and combined with Red Sox fans' tendency to actually bundle up and go to the park to watch the trucks roll away, "Truck Day" really became a "Red Sox thing."

1957 (actually a shot of the equipment after its arrival in Florida):
In 2003, Dr. Charles gave Red Sox fans something to do while they watched the truck, turning the experience into a celebration. "This trip is a metaphor," he said. "Winter is going to end. Spring is going to come. And baseball is the robin. Baseball heralds spring. You want to celebrate that."

1976 (yay, 70s hair!):
Ever since then, the Red Sox version of Truck Day has had an "official" feel. And has since reported it not only for the Sox, but for other teams. While "everyone" now is aware of the point when equipment begins to roll across the league, no teams have fully embraced Truck Day like we have. It's funny, you hear someone ask "how many days till pitchers & catchers" these days, and you think, This person clearly doesn't celebrate Truck Day!

So is this the year Truck Day finally goes all-the-way mainstream for everybody? You can't tell me there are still teams with fans who don't say "Truck Day," when the Red Sox have already given it an official name, complete with sponsor (Spring Training Truck Day Presented by JetBlue Airways). And where can we go from here? Celebrating the day the trucks leave wherever they leave to go to ballparks to pick up the equipment (sponsored by Peterbilt)? Who knows what the future of Truck Day holds, but Happy Truck Day to all, and to all a good mid- to late February!

The date of Truck Day for the last 20 years:

2010: Friday 2/12
2009: Friday 2/6
2008: Saturday 2/9
2007: Monday 2/12
2006: Monday 2/13 (Note the claim that the Dr. Charles quote was "one year ago" when it was really from 2003 as linked above.)
2005: Friday 2/11
2004: Monday 2/16
2003: Monday 2/10
2002: Monday 2/11
2001: Tuesday 2/13
2000: Tuesday 2/15
1999: Monday 2/15
1998: Monday 2/9
1997: Tuesday 2/11
1996: Friday 2/9
1995: Monday 2/13
1994: Saturday 2/12
1993: Saturday 2/13
1992: Monday 2/17
1991: Friday 2/15

Before that it's easy to find Truck Day/equipment loading coverage, and of course plenty of spring training coverage, especially in the Florida papers, but I'll spare you the rest of the full list. Search it yourself--it's fun to read about this stuff in the 1930s.

Here's one more line though, from the Globe, 1/15/1988: "Red Sox publicist Dick Bresciani announced that the Sox equipment truck will leave for Florida Feb. 9. Photographs of the baseball equipment truck are an annual highlight in local papers. The truck photo is a signal that spring is in sight."

And no article on Truck Day would be complete without mentioning the Orlando brothers. You saw Johnny in the pics above. Between him and his brother Vinnie, these guys worked the clubhouse for over 80 years combined. They deserve their own post, but, again, do a news search--every year from 1933 on one of them would get a mention in the paper in February. Check out Johnny Orlando with Johnny Pesky in 1951:
Johnny O. died in '74 and Vinnie O. in '99.

It's so funny how CHB says the same stuff every year. Today on my lunch break I heard him on 98.5, and he mentions how we talk about the trucks every year, and then says how it's like we see the L Street Brownies every January. Then just now when copying his quote from 2000, I noticed his next line was:

"On Jan. 2 we show you the L Street Brownies swimming at Carson Beach."

That guy needs some new material.

Eh, I guess I mention how the All-Star game reminds me of watching Lynn's grand slam in '83 at the Heritage Motor Inn in Old Saybrook every July, too....
Terrific article, Jere. Love the pics. I also used the Dr. Charles Steinberg quote on my blog today. A Happy Truck Day to you and yours.
Very cool, Jere! Nice work finding those newspaper clips.

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