The Red Sox Houseby Joe Kuras
The legendary character of Shoeless Joe Jackson emerged once again. This time he appeared, not out from a sea of cornstalk rows, but from rows of houses by the sea. Again he hollered, "Hey, is this Heaven?" The reply was not, "No, it's Iowa". This time it was, "No, it's Saco, Maine."
Better known as "The Red Sox House", Joyce Petit's 2-story home, painted white with red trim, sits on the corner of Pleasant and Pearl Streets in Saco, Maine. It's off of Route 1, a couple blocks behind the XtraMart. To say that she is a Red Sox fan would be like saying Babe Ruth enjoyed a hot dog or 2. Joyce Petit grew up in Waterville, Maine and moved to Saco at age 7. By the time she turned 11, she was a diehard Red Sox fan.
Her husband, Bob Petit (no relation to the real Bob Petit of NBA fame), is anxious to greet each passerby and serve as unofficial tour guide. Petit's little home, surrounded by a red and white picket fence, is her own hall of fame. It is her testimony to the team she has lived for and the team she will die for. The "Little Fenway" flower boxes, the red, white and blue "Red Sox Wonder Boy, Mr. 5 Clutch" bench on the sidewalk and the tributes to Ted, Yaz, Nomar on the exterior facade leave little doubt that this woman's life evolves around the Boston Red Sox.
The window trim is painted red. Handmade wooden baseball players wearing number 5 surround the windows on the front of the house. Each picket on the fence includes either a handmade wooden baseball or cap. The red shutters follow the same motif - little handmade bats, caps and shirts with uniform numbers of her favorite players.
She started decorating her house sometime around 1988 or 1989, as "a joke with the girls that I know," said Petit.
Based on the amount of decorations on the house, you'd have to agree with her that nothing is ever discarded. She updates the house every year with new ideas and more players. Nomar Garciaparra was a special project of hers. She took great enjoyment in decorating her house in his honor during spring training of 1997. None of her friends or neighbors knew whom the future AL Rookie of the Year was. Yet she could tell, from watching spring training games from Fort Myers, that this player was special. Nomar made it to her walls of fame before he made it to Boston on Opening Day.
"In spring training, he was unreal," Petit offered. "He's a good person. He's humble."
While Nomar and Pedro Martinez are her current favorites, there is no mistaking that Ted Williams is her all-time favorite player. She carries his name as her own nickname and anonymously sent photos of the Splendid Splinter to him after his stroke. But to her own disappointment, she has never met the greatest hitter who ever lived.
"Noooo, everybody else has but me," she acknowledged dejectedly.
Her special corner in the kitchen, at her place at the kitchen table, sums up her love for Williams, Nomar and the Red Sox. The 64-year-old fan squats in her rocking chair like a catcher behind home plate. Or maybe like Lily Tomlin's little Edith Ann character in the oversized chair. Behind her on the wall is a white, rotary Nomar telephone. A Red Sox glass, ball, coasters and stuffed animals sit on the shelf above her head. A large black and white photo of Ted Williams is mounted on the wall behind her. Like a sacred object, she refused to remove it from the wall and hold it on display while I took her picture. A couple of quart cans of paint sit on the floor, ready for the next decorating assignment. Above the stove are framed autographs of Tony Pena and Bernie Carbo. A pair of Yaz's spikes, enclosed in a Plexiglas case, flanks the stove.
A tomboy by her own admission, Petit played a lot of baseball as a kid growing up in southern Maine.
"We did it because we wanted to," she conceded. "You can't push your kids into it."
When she wasn't playing baseball with her childhood friends, she listened to Red Sox games on the radio. That's when the love affair with Teddy Ballgame began.
You'd think that such a diehard would venture down to Fenway Park on a regular basis, at least once a season. But such is not the case. The last time she saw a Red Sox game in person was sometime in the 1960's. It was only the third Red Sox game that she has ever taken in.
A ballpark has its own distractions, especially when vendors get in the way, steadily hawking their overpriced wares. There are always a few unknowledgeable fans to put up with. And it's nice to have the TV or radio commentator explain why a player is not available to pinch-hit, why the umpire allowed the runner to advance an extra base or why a kid has been called up from Pawtucket.
"At the park, it's OK," she said, "but they're [the fans] not interested like I am."
Joyce Petit watches all of the Red Sox games on TV. She subscribes to the Red Sox cable station, NESN, and videotapes the ballgames when she is at work. She enjoys and takes full advantage of today's modern TV technology, rather than revert to her youth and listen to the games on the radio.
But there is one thing about the game that she wishes would return - the 9-inning pitcher. Today's game, with all the many relief pitcher specialists, is not her cup of tea.
"Too much babying today," she concludes. "It drives me bugs!"
Maine is full of bugs, especially mosquitos. Joyce Petit avoids the bugs by staying right at home, living and dying for her Boston Red Sox, in "The Red Sox House".
EPILOGUE: At the age of 70, Joyce A. (Soule) Petit passed away on January 20, 2005, barely three months after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. Her husband Bob had passed away a few years earlier. In August of 2005, her house appeared poised for a makeover. Ladders were stored in the yard and the house was empty. The handmade decorations of her beloved Red Sox team and favorite players were no more. Only an outline of their previous existence remained on the facade of the house.
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