Like nearly every kid who grew up or spent summers in New England, Jeff Boujoukos developed a strong tie to the team that kept breaking his heart. The Red Sox of the 1970s were often good. Sometimes great. But never champions. While the club chased one elusive goal, Boujoukos eventually began chasing something too.
He left for college in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s and on one spring break trip to Florida, he made a few trips to the Red Sox spring training grounds at Winter Haven.
“Back then you could get much closer to the players. They’d be on a minor league field and you could sit there and watch the morning workout,” said the 39 year-old who was then on his way to becoming an attorney.
“The Red Sox were having a rough time of it during that era. Sports Illustrated had done a piece in their baseball preview issue saying things were so tough for the Sox that infielder Mike Brumley’s bats had come back printed ‘Bumley’.”
Boujoukos remembered the story after managing to pick up a bat Brumley had been using during drills and asked if he could have it. “He said ‘sure, they got my name wrong anyway’. Sure enough, I peeled the tape off after awhile and there it was…’Bumley’. From then on, I was hooked on bats.”
He began buying bats of other lesser known Red Sox players, pouring over lists from the dealers who carried them. Bat collecting at that time was hardly mainstream. A contact in the Red Sox clubhouse helped him expand the collection and he decided to pursue a goal. He wanted to obtain a bat from every position player who had donned a Red Sox uniform from 1960 on.
“It was the last year for Ted Williams and the first year for Yaz who was my favorite player. Plus, 1960 seemed like a good round number and getting bats from the ’50s is very, very difficult anyway,” he explained.
A search of Red Sox media guides and box scores gave him a daunting list to work from. With a few dozen players often suiting up at one time or another during each season, the list was in the hundreds and growing each season. But Boujoukos was relentless.
He bought at shows, he advertised in magazines and hounded every contact he had, letting anyone and everyone know what he was trying to do. Still, he holes to fill. And then along came eBay.
“When we got into the early and mid-1990s, I’d exhausted about every avenue I could to find the bats I needed. When eBay came along, it helped tremendously. I was able to knock off a bunch of player bats I needed from the 1960s.”
Boujoukos is now down to needing just 27 bats to reach his goal. Two of his toughest finds have come in recent months, though. One particularly difficult bat to find had been that of Roger LaFrancois, who had spent only a short time with the team some twenty-four years earlier.
“I put an ad on Craigslist.com two months ago in the Rhode Island and Boston areas. Two days later, I got an e-mail from someone who had been a bat boy for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He had several bats but only one from the 1980s. It was Roger LaFrancois. For me it was like finding a Dwight Evans or a Jim Rice.”
The second find involved an even more obscure player. John Lickert was a catcher who played in one game for the Red Sox in the strike year of 1981. He never batted, but he was on the roster for one regular season game. And that mean Boujoukos needed a Lickert bat.
After a fruitless search through the normal collecting channels, Boujoukos finally wrote to the former player-turned-coach and asked him if he still had one of his gamers. He explained in a heartfelt letter what he was doing and even sent a home-made ‘book’ about the Red Sox bat collection. Hoping to ensure a reply, he included a self-addressed, stamped envelope. It was returned…empty. He tried twice more with the same result. He’s not sure Lickert ever got the letters, but kharma again smiled on the father of three.
“I have a special search set up on eBay and finally one day, a Lickert bat popped up. It was nine bucks.” Needless to say, another bat was checked off the list.
Boujoukos’ collection consists of over 400 bats, and while not technically a complete set yet, it’s impressive. This summer, he was asked to come to Pawtucket and put his bats on display during the team’s fan fest. Unable to figure out a way to transport and display the entire collection, Boujoukas instead brought his collection of bats belonging to each member on the roster of Red Sox World Series teams in 1967, ’75 and 2004. He has one of each.
He doesn’t set out to get the bats autographed, but when the opportunity presents itself, he will add a signature. “The players are totally blown away when I show up with one of their bats. At a Series reunion show, Jose Tartabull picked his bat up and started swinging it. Rico Petrocelli looked in my bag and said ‘hey, what else you got in there’?
He’s hoping to get the Red Sox to assist him with bats for new players by offering part of his collection for display along with the offer of a charitable donation.
Boujoukos collected baseball cards as well but finds a particular, more personal connection with his hobby niche. “Bats are unique and special to the player. Some are superstitious and prepare their bat a certain way. It’s been a quest that’s taken him from college kid to family man and working professional; part research project, part obsession and part fanatical devotion.
“It’s become more difficult now. Bat collecting has become very competitive. It’s now a very popular hobby. I’m lucky enough to have a wife who’s been incredibly supportive and now my son is eight years old and realizes that not everyone collects bats and he thinks it’s pretty cool.”
Game used bats for sale on eBay