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Dan Shaughnessy

Boston: Home of the Patriots once again

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / September 13, 2009

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The Boston Patriots open their 50th season at home against the Buffalo Bills tomorrow night.

That’s right. The Boston Patriots.

It’s official. We get to call them that again. Original AFL teams are celebrating a half-century of pro football, and tomorrow night’s “throwback’’ uniforms will look like the ones worn by Babe Parilli and Cookie Gilchrist when the Bills and Boston Patriots played at Fenway in the 1960s.

And the name of the home team will be the name that was written on its birth certificate back when John F. Kennedy was running for president.

Per order of the NFL, the Patriots will be the Boston Patriots for their four Legacy Games this year (the others are against Denver, Tennessee, and Miami). When the Patriots issued their injury report Friday, the heading over the names of the wounded (Tom Brady/shoulder was on there for the millionth straight week) read “Boston Patriots.’’

I love it. Pat Patriot is back, kicking Flying Elvis to the curb. The red and white is back, in place of the blue and silver. And the Patriots are representing Boston, just like the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins.

Next thing you know, Peter Fuller will be selling Cadillacs on Commonwealth Avenue, Ken Harrelson will be opening a sub shop on Massachusetts Avenue, and Don Kent will be delivering weather reports from Soldiers Field Road.

Our local team was the Boston Patriots from 1960 until 1971, when the first stadium in Foxborough was built. They played at Boston University, Boston College, Fenway Park, and Harvard. Nothing “New England’’ about that. They played where the Beanpot schools lived. They played in Boston.

It didn’t have to change. The Detroit Pistons never stopped being the Detroit Pistons, not even when they moved to Auburn Hills, Mich., which is just as far from Motown as Foxborough is from Boston.

This stuff goes on all over the country. The Tampa Bay Rays play their games in St. Petersburg. The Los Angeles Angels play in Anaheim, and they’ve been the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Phoenix Coyotes play in Glendale, Ariz. (site of Super Bowl XLII), and the Ottawa Senators play in Kanata, Ontario. The Dallas Cowboys were in Irving, Texas and are now in Arlington, Texas. The Cleveland Cavaliers for years played in Richfield, Ohio, and the Washington Bullets and Capitals spent decades in Landover, Md.

So why can’t the Patriots of Foxborough be the Boston Patriots?

Before Billy Sullivan invented the AFL franchise, there had been Hub football teams known as the Boston Redskins, Boston Bulldogs, Boston Bears, Boston Shamrocks, and Boston Yanks. None of them survived.

The Patriots in the early years were all about Boston. They practiced at East Boston High School, near the ramps and car rental lots leading to the Sumner Tunnel. They held press luncheons on Tuesdays at the Kenmore Hotel, near Fenway. They played games on Commonwealth Avenue in Allston and at Fenway Park.

So why did they have to become the New England Patriots when that first little stadium off Route 1 in Foxborough was built?

Blame it on Billy. Or blame it on former general manager Upton Bell.

The daring, always-colorful Sullivan wanted his own stadium in Boston, but was repeatedly rebuffed by the Boston City Council. When the Foxborough site was selected, Sullivan announced that the team would be known as the “Bay State Patriots.’’

Bay State Patriots? Ugh.

“When I came here in February of 1971, they were the Bay State Patriots,’’ says Bell. “The first newspaper headline I saw read, ‘BS Patriots.’ I said, ‘Oh, no. The ‘BS Patriots’? Like the ‘bull [expletive] Patriots’?

“Everybody was making jokes about us. I figured, ‘We’re not in Boston, and we’re in the middle of New England - why not become the New England Patriots?’ Trouble was, there was a board of directors and you had to convince ‘the mob.’ There were 32 of them.’’

“The ‘Bay State Patriots’ was short-lived,’’ says Pat Sullivan, the team’s former general manager and the son of original owner Billy Sullivan. “At one point, someone said my Dad did it because our home was on Bay State Road in Wellesley. That did it. Dad said he wouldn’t put up with that.’’

By the time Schaefer Stadium opened in the summer of 1971, the Bay State Patriots were the New England Patriots. I say it’s time to go back to Boston Patriots for good.

“New England’’ includes Connecticut, which is populated, in part, by thousands of Giants and Jets fans. This is the same reason the Red Sox could never be the New England Red Sox; too many Yankee fans west and south of Hartford.

So let’s get back to Boston. Candidates for mayor should make this a platform plank. Rename the football team the Boston Patriots. It might bring more traffic to Logan on football weekends. A lot of football road-trippers, including visiting NFL teams, use Providence for air travel and hotel accommodations. Let’s give them the impression that the Patriots are playing in Boston.

Gino Cappelletti would be happy. Gino has been affiliated with the Patriots for 42 years. He played for the franchise for 11 seasons - always as a Boston Patriot.

“I’m proud to say I was a Boston Patriot,’’ says Gino. “I had some misgivings about the change to New England. It was bittersweet.

“I certainly understood that we had fans throughout New England, but looking at what we did to try to establish the Patriots in those early years, I was wishing it would stay Boston Patriots.

“We worked so hard and we were proud of being able to join the Celtics, Bruins, and Red Sox as a Boston-based team.’’

Here’s hoping Gino signs off late Monday night with, “Final score, Boston Patriots 42, Buffalo Bills 7.’’

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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