September 27, 2013

MLB: Pittston's Hanley still loves Red Sox despite injury during celebration

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Lifelong Red Sox fan Greg Hanley of Pittston bought tickets to last Friday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays a while ago. On the drive down to Fenway Park with three friends, Hanley realized the Sox could clinch a playoff berth and he and his friends could watch them celebrate.

Little did he know he'd become a casualty of that celebration, struck by a beer can punted into the stands by Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes. His injury required eight stitches above his left eye and gave him more than 15 minutes of fame.

"It's all over the Internet," said Hanley, who had the stitches removed Friday morning, a week later.

True. The website Deadspin published a few photos of Hanley and the gash above his eye under the headline "Jonny Gomes Punts Beer Cans, Hits Old Guy in Dome."

Hanley, 74, is recently retired after owning and operating Hanley's Market in Bristol the past 21 years. What he'll miss most, he said, is the regulars coming in and talking sports, especially about the Red Sox.

"I've been a Red Sox fan all my life," said Hanley, whose older sister was president of the Ted Williams fan club. "I love the Red Sox."

Hanley goes to a game once or twice a year, and this was his second trip of the season. His seats were too far behind the Red Sox dugout and after they clinched Friday, he and his friends decided to wait for the crowd and the traffic to clear and watch the celebration. It began in the locker room and was featured on the video screen in center field. But soon the players came back onto the field.

"Some guys were going toward the Pesky Pole in right field," Hanley said "I couldn't see so I was watching it on the big screen. All of a sudden I got hit in the head. It was one of Jonny Gomes' first kicks. The people in front of me ducked."

Those nearby thought Hanley was rubbing beer foam from his eyes but it was actually blood. Security personnel rushed to him and insisted he go to the hospital although he said he was all right. The wait at Beth Israel Hospital was a long one and Hanley didn't get home until 5 a.m. The gash, he said. "was shaped just like a beer can."

A nearby fan grabbed the can -- Hanley was told it was Budweiser -- for a souvenir.

"Somebody grabbed that can real quick from what I hear," he said. "I didn't want it."

Hanley's since heard from the Red Sox a couple of times and believes they'll offer him playoff tickets, although he said considering the hassle of getting to and from Fenway, he prefers the comfort of his own couch to watch games. He also got a call from Gomes who asked if he was OK and Hanley holds no ill will toward the Sox outfielder, although he wishes he used better judgment.

"Someone said he could have hit a kid or an old man," Hanley said. "I guess he hit the old man."

Hanley said he had a couple of beers at the game before the seventh inning cutoff time, but had no plans for the third one Gomes delivered with his foot.

"Everything was great," he said. "We had a wonderful time. We went out to eat before the game. Everything was great until then."

The incident has done nothing to diminish Hanley's love for the Sox and for this team in particular.

"This team I like 'em all," he said. "They done a hell of a job."

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

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