Curator’s Corner

A Worcester, MA native, Richard A. Johnson has served as Curator of The Sports Museum since 1982. A varsity athlete at Lawrence Academy and Bates College, Johnson parlayed his Art History degree and an abiding passion for both sports and cultural history into a celebrated career. Johnson has also authored or co-authored 23 books and served as a consultant to projects and clients including The Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Cambridge Seven Associates, WGBH, ESPN, HBO, and The Boston Museum of Science.

Here is Richard Johnson’s “Curator’s Corner” where you will find blog posts written by Richard discussing Boston sports history.

Celebrating History

Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti kicking a football
Gino Cappelletti was one of, if not THE greatest football player and goodwill ambassador not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn swinging a bat
1998. Once again we find that today's Red Sox home opener coincides with that other Holy Day of Good Friday. Such was also the case in 1998 on a day that headlines proclaimed that beer sales would be prohibited on grounds of the solemnity of the religious holiday. Pretty sure that was a Fenway first.
Funny how certain milestones of Red Sox history are marked in an undeniably cosmic pattern by the careers of two incredible hitters and characters, one a right-handed slugger, the other a lefty.
Kevin Garnett Holding his hands out to the Side of hi
The force of nature, the human laser beam that is Kevin Maurice Garnett had an immediate and palpable effect on not only the personnel of Boston Celtics and TD Garden, but the entire city of Boston in the autumn of 2007.
Consider the formidable obstacles confronting Willie O’Ree in 1958 as he contemplated the possibility of his being the first black player to skate in the National Hockey League (NHL).
It seemed only fitting that the city of colonial martyr Crispus Attucks and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison would be the setting for the integration of at least one major league sport.
While perusing the contents of one of the many banker’s boxes that contained our first archival acquisitions, I came upon a photograph of then Boston Mayor Kevin White presenting a Revere Bowl to Jackman at a ceremony honoring Boston’s greatest athletes as part of Boston’s 350th anniversary celebration in 1970.
Just as Jackie Robinson should have broken baseball’s color barrier in the uniform of the Boston Red Sox, Malden’s Louise Stokes should have been America’s first African-American female Olympian at the 1932 Summer Games.
One of the few benefits of being quarantined is the opportunity to paw through one’s book shelf and revisit volumes best described as old friends. Such was the case the other day when I spent several hours in the company of legendary Boston Globe sports-columnist Ray Fitzgerald, the recipient of 11 Massachusetts Sportswriter Awards, symbolic of the highest honor bestowed by his peers.
As we contemplate the promise of better days to come on what would have been the opening week-end of the 2020 Red Sox season, let’s look back to an opening day held in the midst of the Great Depression.
Long before the National Basketball Association morphed into today's multi billion dollar international conglomerate that trails only FIFA in global scope it struggled to survive in outposts like Fort Wayne Indiana, Providence, Rochester and Syracuse.
The dream call for any curator is one in which a donor not only offers a priceless artifact but also shares a wonderful story. Such was the case twenty years ago when a north shore woman called to offer the donation of the net in which Bobby Orr scored the most famous goal in Bruins and possibly hockey history.
As a parent, after learning of today's devastating news regarding the death of Tim Evans from complications from neurofibromatosis there are no adequate words.
Dr. Johnson had his dutiful devoted Boswell, likewise Jazz was the magnetic force which drew out the erudite ramblings of Whitney Balliet, Nat Hentoff, and Ralph Gleason, while politics prompted the ink stained deadline driven submissions of David Brodner, Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin, Scotty Reston, and Molly Ivins..all talents perfectly suited to the their beats as well as to the events, and personages they helped define with their informed incisive prose.
After learning of Larry Eisenhauer's death today veteran sportswriter Leigh Montville nailed it when he observed, "Ike was Gronk before Gronk."
Can it possibly be eight years since the big man departed for parts unknown? I remember a friend informing me that Kimball's reaction to learning of his dire prognosis of the cancer that took him was to observe he could now eat as much bacon as he wanted.
Is there any other sporting trophy even remotely as grand?
Inspired by friend and hockey historian Stu Hackel's recently posted gallery of hockey images, here are my bakers dozen. Not many players suffered more for their craft than goalie supreme Terry Sawchuk.
As the accolades for Bill Buckner poured in as news of his death at age 69 marked a bittersweet Memorial Day for Bostonians I mused on his life and the fact he was both a dogged competitor as well as a Zelig-like character who showed up in the backdrop and foreground of several noteworthy sporting and cultural benchmarks.
I'll never forget the first photo I ever saw of John Havlicek out of uniform. It was taken while he attended the first game of the 1967 World Series at Fenway Park
On his last day Nick had to have heard the unmistakable music of his preferred workplace as baseballs thwacked into mitts and a sort of anvil chorus of bats striking balls rang from the sun soaked cages near the path he walked at the Red Sox training complex.
The father of the Boit daughters (Edward Darley Boit) pictured in Sargent’s famous painting that hangs in the center of the MFA's American Wing was a member of the famed Oneida football team, America’s first ever squad.