What's Brown and Blue and Red All Over?
While the roof of Tisch Library affords a panoramic view of the city of Boston, the lights of Fenway Park aren't quite visible from the Medford/Somerville campus. In downtown Boston, at Tufts' health sciences campus, the grind of traffic on Kneeland Street drowns out whatever strains of organ music could possibly wind their way east from the Back Bay. At Tufts' Cummings Veterinary School in North Grafton, the only Green Monster they have a chance of seeing on any given evening is a patient at the animal hospital.
But don't let that fool you. The Tufts community boasts several card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation, ranging from incoming freshmen to longtime professors, staff members to graduate students. (Though as President Lawrence S. Bacow said in his 2005 matriculation address, "even Yankees fans are welcome" at Tufts.) These Jumbo-sized Sox fans are carefully attuned to the highs and lows of the Olde Towne Team. When Boston won the World Series last year after a 86-year drought, Tufts students were among those joining the celebration in Davis Square, with other Jumbos in New England and beyond cheering along.
The history between Tufts and the Red Sox stretches back decades. Most notably, the Sox held spring training at Tufts in 1943 and 1944 rather than Sarasota, Fla., in order to free up trains for transporting troops and supplies – part of the compromise by which baseball continued during World War II. For decades, members of the University community have long been fixtures at Fenway Park, both in the stands and otherwise, with the past few years bringing several notable appearances.
In August 2002, former Tufts provost and resident baseball scholar Sol Gittleman threw out the first pitch at Fenway, accompanied by the roar of 60 Tufts alumni present for the occasion. In October 2003, then-junior Caitlin Rouse – a member of the undergraduate a capella group sQ! – sang the national anthem there. The entire sQ! group was slated to bring down the house before a game in April 2004, but their performance (and the game) was rained out. Meanwhile, the Beelzebubs have serenaded the Fenway Faithful multiple times, including a performance during the 70th Annual All-Star Game on July 13, 1999.
The Jumbo baseball squad isn't quite a feeder team for the big league club, but some members have worked their way into the system. Currently, 2004 Tufts graduate and baseball standout Randy Newsom is pitching for the Greenville (S.C.) Bombers, a Single-A affiliate of the Red Sox. In 1997, Jumbo baseball star Jeff Taglienti was drafted by Boston. Other Tufts graduates found different ways into Sox circles. For instance, Dan Morse, a 1999 Tufts graduate who played both football and baseball for the Jumbos, now directs baseball camps operated by current or one-time Sox stars Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon.
And then there's the curveball of some Sox coming to Tufts after their playing days are over. Red Sox pitching legend Jim Lonborg (D'83), who in 1967 helped propel the Sox into the World Series and won the Cy Young award, attended Tufts School of Dental Medicine after retiring from professional baseball, and is currently a practicing dentist in Massachusetts. Andrew Spognardi (M'36) played one season in the major leagues – as a second baseman for the Red Sox in 1932 – prior to entering Tufts School of Medicine.
In a purely spectator capacity, many Tufts students visit Fenway Park – not just as fans, but sometimes as students. Baseball has even made its way into the academic curriculum at Tufts, with classes that celebrate the history, the passion and even the math behind America's favorite pastime.
As these facts attest, Tufts and the Red Sox have a rich, intertwining history. But the present is arguably even more exciting, what with the Sox seeking to defend their World Series title this fall in the postseason. In October, as the air cools and the playoffs heat up, expect to see more blue caps with red embroidered Bs peeking out of the crowds in the Campus Center, making their way down packed Boston sidewalks or strolling across the Grafton grounds. It's as certain as a clutch hit by slugger David Ortiz – wherever you find Tufts, in Massachusetts or elsewhere, you will also find members of Red Sox Nation.
A New Kind Of Academic Field
Red Sox Nation, Tufts Chapter
Portrait photos by Aaron Schutzengel (Class of 2007) and Brian Loeb (Class of 2006)
This story originally ran on Sept. 26, 2005