CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Kevin Youkilis powered in three runs and Tim Wakefield pitched eight shutout innings Sunday to lead to the Red Sox to an 8-3 victory over the Phillies. While the game was on the road, it didn’t stop a small but very loyal group of Red Sox Nation from doing what they always do.
They’ve watched hundreds of games over the years and even had a wedding in a location they consider better than Fenway Park. Their stadium is Harvard Square — the sidewalk in Harvard Square.
You may have seen them. The regular group of eight or so sets up chairs every night outside Cardullo’s, the gourmet food store, to watch the games through the window on the store’s flat-screen TV.
If you want to join them, you are welcome to. But first, warns diehard “chair club” member Bob Murray, you’ll have to be initiated. “To become an official member,” he says, “you have to take all your clothes off and run up and down the sidewalk.”
Murray, who just recently retired from the Cambridge Police Department, is
just kidding about the initiation. But he’s very serious when it comes to the club’s other rules.
“We have two rules,” he explains. “When the game is on, shut up, so we can listen. During the commercials, if you want to talk, talk all you want. And then we usually hit people.”
The club has been around for about seven years now. It was founded by Dennis Coveney, a longtime local in Harvard Square, with the blessing of Frances Cardullo, the shop’s late owner.
“I was just sitting here all by myself and I finally got some friends just to come by and start sitting and watching the games,” Coveney remembers. “And then all of a sudden, people just wanted to come and watch the game. We’re like, yeah, sure, why not, just gotta bring your own chair, though.”
Coveney estimates that for a big game, like when the Yankees are in town, there will be between 50 and 100 people standing around the TV.
In that way, laments Murray, the club can suffer from its own success. “Our biggest problem is people will stop and they’ll stand in front of the television set,” he says. “We’ll go, ‘scuse me, and they’ll be mesmerized by the game and they’ll forget there are people behind them. We used to throw firecrackers.”
Sitting in the chair next to Murray’s and Coveney’s is Kelly Dugas, the only female around. She also happens to be Coveney’s wife. But make no mistake, she’s not here for him, she’s here for the game. In fact, it was through the club that she met Coveney to begin with.
It was a night that Murray remembers with great amusement. “She came here with a bunch of sewing,” he says. “We saw this strange woman sitting down doing needlepoint. And I said, well, you’re going to have to move, because we’re trying to watch the game.”
When she heard that, as Murray tells it, Dugas got up from where she was sitting and sat back down in Coveney’s chair. “I couldn’t believe it,” Murray says. “Dennis goes, that’s my chair. She goes, so what?”
So, the story goes, Coveney ran off. And Frances Cardullo, the store’s owner, had to go chase after him, bring him back and make him talk to Dugas. And then, as Dugas puts it, “it basically evolved from there.”
Murray starts to suggest there was an incident involving Dugas sitting on Coveney’s lap that really sealed the deal, but Dugas intervenes before he can finish — “Bob, they can’t put that on NPR.”
Speaking of NPR, two honorary members of the chair club are WBUR’s own Tom and Ray Magliozzi — known also as Click and Clack — the hosts of the popular public radio program Car Talk. The brothers have an office in Harvard Square and from time to time sit in on the games with the group.
In fact, the club has been visited by an impressive string of local celebrities, including the musician Peter Wolf, of The J. Geils Band, actors Dennis Leary and Ben Affleck, and Affleck’s wife Jennifer Garner — who has shown up a few times “sans Affleck,” according to Dugas.
And, of course, this being Harvard Square, the occasional Nobel laureate stops by.
The appeal, the group members say, is the camaraderie. And it doesn’t hurt that you can watch the game in style for a fraction of what it would cost to spend the evening at Fenway. “We don’t have to worry about someone tripping over us with a beer or steps on our toes,” Murray says.
Oh, and unlike at the stadium, you can smoke cigars. That’s an important distinction for Murray and Dugas, who admit to enjoying the occasional Cuban during a game. Murray says he especially likes to buy one — if he’s got some spare cash — when the Sox plays the Yankees.
So how long will they keep doing this? “Until I die,” Murray says, with a straight face. “And then Kelly will carry my ashes here and stick ’em on the ground so I can watch the game.”
Just call it the Sidewalk of Dreams.