JODY AVIRGAN: From ESPN Films and ESPN Audio, you’re listening to 30 For 30 Podcasts, presented by the Mini Countryman. Today, ‘Yankees Suck.’ It’s arguably the greatest rivalry in sports, the Red Sox and the Yankees. Boston fans have been chanting “Yankees suck!” for decades, but in the late 90s, the fate of the Soxs and the chant charted the same course, when a group of kids showed up at Fenway Park with what would become one of the most successful bootleg t-shirts in history.
These guys aren’t the only ones to profit off of “Yankees suck!” but they’re definitely the most colorful, our own Boston native and die-hard Sox fan, Julia Lowrie Henderson, tells the story.
A heads up, this episode features a lot of strong opinions and even more profanity starting right now.
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[FANS (chanting): Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!]
RAY LEMOINE: Yankees suck dick. We hate the Yankee fans. We hate the way they talk, like, “Hey, bud-a-bingo,” and they’re all from like, they’re not even from the city. The further away from the city you go, to the mall and the Palisades, the more you’re gonna hear some guy like, “Bada bing I’m friggin a Yankee fan, ay oh!” (laughs)
JULIA L. HENDERSON: That’s Ray LeMoine. In case you couldn’t tell, Ray doesn’t like the Yankees.
RAY LEMOINE: The Yankees represent pin stripes, Wall Street, Rudy Giuliani, like everything that sucks. I can’t even think one thing that they do that’s cool besides playing the Bronx. Like, nothing. I even hate Derek Jeter.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Millions of people in and around Boston feel this way about the Yankees. I am one of those people. Ray LeMoine and I grew up in neighboring Boston suburbs. Hating the Yankees is part of our heritage. It has brought generations of Bostonians together.
But Ray did something none of the rest of us did. He took that hatred and made a shit ton of money off of it.
JONATHAN CHOE: it was thousands of dollars
RAY LEMOINE: I had 20,000 in a shoebox once
TOM GIBLIN: it was you know in the hundreds of thousands
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees is what you would call a wicked big deal in Boston. Sox fans know it by heart, I know it by heart.
[Announcer, 1978 Sox vs Yankees Playoff Game
ANNOUNCER: Hit high in the air to left field, going to the wall Yastrzemski, it’s over the wall, it’s a homerun for Bucky Dent and Yankees take the lead 3-2]
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: It wasn’t much of a rivalry for like 80 years or so, it was the rivalry of the hammer and the nail, and Boston was the nail
Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe. Author of Curse of the Bambino. Baseball guy.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: It goes all the way back to 1919 and the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees for cash. And from that point on, the Red Sox don’t win another World Series for over 80 years, and the Yankees rack up 26 titles.
And so no matter who we lost to, especially if it was in the World Series, it was always the Yankees’ fault.
[Announcer,1986 World Series, Game 6, Red Sox vs. Mets
VIN SCULLY: 1986 World Series: Little roller up along first, behind the bag, it gets through Buckner, here comes Knight and the Mets win it!]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: That ball through Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series is one of my earliest baseball memories. It’s also how I learned that to be a Red Sox fan was to suffer
IAN HILL: Watching with my family, the discussions around the Thanksgiving table were who’s gonna blow it for the Sox this year?
My name is Ian Hill. I am one of the biggest Red Sox fans around.
If you look historically at the Yankees Sox rivalry they break our hearts and then they take our players.
[Host, SportsCenter Clip
LINDA COHN: As for Boston, already bleeding, well now their wound has just gotten deeper with the news today that Roger Clemens will be wearing Yankee pinstripes]
IAN HILL: So it’s like your girlfriend breaking up with you and then going out to date your best friend right. You know right in front of your eyes.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: So how do we respond to our continued humiliation at the hands of the Yankees? With three syllables: Yankees Suck
[FANS (cheering): YANKEES SUCK! YANKEES SUCK!]
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: it gave Red Sox fans some satisfaction, and it’s got a nice cadence to it, the two syllables followed by the one syllable. It’s a got a good punctuation to it, exclamation point, “Yankees suck.”
IAN HILL: When it starts, your eyes kind of light up and go yeah, they do suck! Yes. We do hate the Yankees. And you turn around and start high fiving. And it gets the blood flowing. It’s like a rallying cry…
NOAM OSBAND: You would chant Yankees Suck anywhere. Right? And it didn’t have to be at a Sox game. You’d chant it at any professional thing. You’d chant it at a Pats game, a Celts game, at a Bruins game
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: you would hear Yankees suck at a funeral, Yankees suck at a football game, Yankees suck at a beauty salon
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: You could be at a birthday party, a high school graduation party, a bar mitzvah, a wedding, you know, it could break out anywhere.
NOAM OSBAND: so like the WBCN river rave at the Hatch Shell down by like the Charles, at the Boston Marathon, seeing the band moe. at the Orpheum
I’m Noam Osband, a former Masshole, big sports fan
They were playing the White Sox they weren’t playing the Yankees, but I’m a Masshole. I start chanting Yankee suck and trying to get the people around me to chant Yankees suck. I remember somebody saying to me like, “You’re at a White Sox game, like, why are you chanting that?”
And I say, I can’t believe I said this, I can’t believe I said this, I said, “You know when we fought in World War II we chanted, “Fuck the Nazis” and we didn’t chant “Fuck the Italians” because we kept our eye on the real enemy and the real enemy is the Yankees.
I mean it’s not like the greatest logic, but I just wanted to chant ‘Yankees suck.’ And I was young and drunk.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Young, old, drunk, sober, Yankees Suck was our mantra. And Ray LeMoine knew just what to do with it.
RAY LEMOINE: I was driving a cab in Boston. At that time I was the youngest cab driver. The pay sucked.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Whether or not Ray LeMoine was the youngest cab driver in Boston, in 1998 he was a student at Northeastern University, with tuition and rent to pay. So he got a job as a vendor for the Sox, which is how he ended up vending inside Fenway Park in the spring of 1999
RAY LEMOINE: I was in there in an April game. You know, the lowest man on like the totem pole, was probably selling like ice cream when it was like fifty degrees out, and it was not crowded and still in the far right, right by the bleachers they start chanting Yankees suck, and it spread, you know, all the way to the bleachers.
[FANS (shouting): Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!]
This is like a Minnesota game, on like a Tuesday, like in April. These people really hate the Yankees.
And that was when I said, you know I bet if someone put that on a shirt, because I’m sitting there selling stuff. I’m like imagine if I had a shirt that said “Yankees suck” I could go sell it over there.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Put Yankees suck on a t-shirt. Its brilliance is eclipsed only by its simplicity: Take the holy chant of this Boston Red Sox religion and give it material form.
But he needed help to make his epiphany happen. So, naturally he turned to his friends in the hardcore scene
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: I’m Anthony Pappalardo
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Anthony is one of those friends
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: Despite the perception that punks are kind of not like jocks, I think in New England, Boston, I think those cultures, in a weird way, and I think this ties into the Red Sox, punk was analogous, is that the right word, with sporting culture because it was an underdog culture.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: That, and hardcore kids look like bros.
RAY LEMOINE: The whole irony was, you know, we hate jocks, but like we love certain aspects of jock culture, like Air Jordans and stuff, we loved Nikes, we loved windpants, we loved like athletic bold fonts.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And this athletic jocky collegiate aesthetic came directly from the bands they worshipped. Bands like SS Decontrol, and Slapshot, and Ten Yard Fight.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: Shaved head, hooded sweatshirt, cuffed jeans, high top sneakers — hardcore kid. Specific, not punk rocker, not skateboarder, hardcore kid.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Welcome to the world of Boston hardcore.
Which was about to infiltrate the Boston sports world, thanks to Ray LeMoine and his friends— Jamie
JAMIE MANZA: My name is Jamie Manza
RAY LEMOINE: his nickname was Mr. Awesome because he was a pretty awesome guy…and he knew it
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Todd
TODD WILSON: I’m Todd Wilson
RAY LEMOINE: and then Todd, I met him like beating someone up in front of my dorm like the first week in college at Northeastern
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And Eric
RAY LEMOINE: Eric had a license from California and it looked exactly like Rusty Griswold, like exactly so were were like dude, what? [laughs] So he became Rusty
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Together, Ray, Jamie, Todd, and Eric would come up with the ultimate Yankees Suck scheme
The actual designer of the Yankees Suck shirt could be any number of people, Ray and Jamie don’t even know
RAY LEMOINE: I don’t remember who designed the first shirt, I have no idea
JAMIE MANZA: I always assumed it was Anthony Pappalardo or John LaCroix
RAY LEMOINE: It was probably LaCroix, it wasn’t Caplicki either, it might have been Geoff TDT
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: I’m almost 100% positive that this design was based on a Boston Sucks shirt that was sold at Yankees Stadium, I think it was in red ink.
RAY LEMOINE: It was stolen from the Bronx, we just we did a different typeface. We owe New York everything.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The idea may have been stolen from New York, but the design of the Yankees Suck shirt, down to the font, came directly from their hardcore punk look
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: The de facto font is like I don’t know the official name it’s been called City bold, been called Burkholder city and it’s this blocky collegiate font
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The t-shirt was white. Yankees was written in navy blue, and then the word suck was below it in the reverse, in a blue rectangle with white letters. That’s it. Super simple.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: This was always lacking in sport merchandise because sporting sporting goods come from this mass consumer idea of if it has more colors or it has more bells and whistles. It’s more valuable. Why would I pay $25 for something with one color?
RAY LEMOINE: It was like everybody was making 74 color shirts with like a subway flying across here, the trophy there
JAMIE MANZA: A Nascar shirt
RAY LEMOINE: No, but like remember how the ink we used to call it bullet proof ink?
JAMIE MANZA: The shield shirts, yeah
RAY LEMOINE: Like if you look at the World Series shirts from mid 90s on they were so bad and so poorly designed and had like 4000 colors and like a ferry and they’d have like every single thing you could put onto a shirt
JAMIE MANZA: And the ink was impenetrable so underneath the ink you’d just sweat
RAY LEMOINE: It hurts your nipples
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: It’s hard enough to wear like a red white and blue shirt like those color suck. I hate red white and I hate red period, and so when we were making our own shit, whether it was shirts for our bands, or shirts for Yankees suck, is just like simple and bold and just carry that idea of like that dude hates the Yankees, it’s really fucking simple.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Ray had his t-shirt epiphany in 1999, which was a really good year for the Sox.
GORDON EDES: 1999 was the first year that the Red Sox were on an equal, or pretty close to an equal, playing field with the Yankees.
I’m Gordon Edes, I’m a historian and Strategic Communications Advisor for the Red Sox
In the late ’90s the Red Sox took a huge step upward and they did so primarily behind two players. Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez
[Announcer, Red Sox vs. Yankees, 9/10/99
ANNOUNCER: Another strikeout and that will create a high for Pedro Martinez, with 17 strikeouts]
GORDON EDES: Pedro took the town by storm. Every time Pedro pitched in Fenway Park it was an event. Dominican flags flying. Pedro, the little Dominicano with this tremendous flair, this incredible fastball
NOAM OSBAND: The way you know Pedro was great was you’d go to a baseball game, you take a piss when your team is pitching. Not when your team is up. They might hit a homerun. When you went to a Pedro game, you pissed when your team was hitting because you wanted to be in the stands when Pedro was pitching. He might strike out the side. Who knew what he was going to do. But like you didn’t want to be at the urinal, you know.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: At the end of this historic 1999 season, Ray ordered the first batch of Yankees Suck shirts — but not for a ballgame.
Local hardcore band Ten Yard Fight was scheduled to play its final show on 10/17/99 at Karma Club on Lansdowne Street, across from Fenway Park.
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
TEN YARD FIGHT FAN: 10/17/99 would be equated with something that you didn’t even have to explain what it was]
RAY LEMOINE: I ordered them specifically for Ten Yard Fight’s last show, I was gonna sell Yankees Suck shirts with Ten Yard Fight and then the date was on the back
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Ray knew he could count on selling shirts to hardcore kids inside Karma Club.
What he couldn’t have known when he ordered the shirts was that the Red Sox would be playing the Yankees at Fenway Park in the playoffs for the first time since 1978.
[Announcer, 1999 ALCS, Game 3, Yankees vs. Red Sox
ANNOUNCER: The classic stadium. The classic rivalry. The classic pitching matchup and the perfect autumnal day here at Fenway Park, Boston teeming since late morning with the hope that lives everlastingly in the heart of every fan of the old town team]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: When Ray showed up to Landsdowne Street on Sunday with 300 shirts he had ordered from a guy in New Jersey, the area was swarming with Red Sox fans pumped for game 4 at Fenway that night.
RAY LEMOINE: The second we said “Yankees suck” t-shirts people just crowded around us and bought them as fast as we could sell them and we were like, “Woah, we underestimated that.”
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
TEN YARD FIGHT LEAD SINGER: How’s everyone doing tonight? Good?]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: All these Sox fans were buying a punk band’s t-shirt.
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
TEN YARD FIGHT, LEAD SINGER: We are Ten Yard Fight from Boston.]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: But they didn’t care. It said ‘Yankees Suck.’
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
TEN YARD FIGHT LEAD SINGER: This is the last time we’ll ever play live, so enjoy it]
JAMIE MANZA: This was beautiful because you had the juxtaposition that all these jocks going to the, or baseball fans on Lansdowne Street on one side of it
[1999 ALCS Game 3, 2nd Inning, Fenway Park
(song) GARY GLITTER, “ROCK AND ROLL”]
JAMIE MANZA: And then all these hardcore kids on the other side of the street.
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
(song) IN MY EYES, “ROCK AND ROLL” (cover)
IN MY EYES LEAD SINGER: “Fuck the Yankees!”]
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: What better flashpoint for this than a final show, a bunch of people, there’s a playoff game happening, and Ray and Eric come out with this shirt in the font of SSD control that says Yankees suck in blue and on the back the date of the show and the name of not their band. Right? So it’s like a double bootleg which you have to give them kudos for not only bootlegging their friends’ band but bootlegging you know the Yankees
JULIA L. HENDERSON: But while the hardcore kids were moshing away and having a great time
Over at Fenway, things weren’t going as well.
[ Announcer,1999 ALCS, Game 4, Red Sox vs. Yankees
ANNOUNCER: And Valentin a checked swing ground ball to Knoblauch and they say he tagged the runner out at first and they’re calling it an inning ending double play]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: This is what Sox fans will always refer to as the Phantom Tag game
[1999 ALCS, Game 4, Fenway Park
ANNOUNCER: Jimmy Williams comes storming out to talk to the second base umpire]
GORDON EDES: Jimmy Williams had gone out to argue the call and the fans showered the field with debris. George Steinbrenner, who was then the Yankees owner, accused Jimmy of inciting the fans. Jimmy said, “I don’t care what Georgie Porgie says.”
JULIA L. HENDERSON: I mean, it’s called “the Phantom tag” for a reason. Chuck Knoblauch did not tag Jose Offerman. It wasn’t even close. Just look at a picture of it.
But it didn’t matter.
The Sox went on to lose the ALCS and their chance to go to the World Series. This is what we do, we lose when it counts. At the time, it just felt like the same old story.
But, it wasn’t.
GORDON EDES: There’s no question that the ’99 ALCS ratcheted up the rivalry significantly.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry had entered a new chapter.
[Sox Fans chatting
FAN 1: Yankees Suck.
FAN 2: Yankees Suck.
FAN 3: Yankees Suck.
FAN 4: I fucking hate the Yankees.]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And Ray LeMoine and his friends had the perfect t-shirt for it.
The test run had been an overwhelming success, Ray had sold out of 300 shirts in less than 24 hours. So Ray, Todd, Jamie, and Eric officially went into business together. And on Opening Day of the 2000 season, they showed up with 1000 shirts
[Old Video Recording, Ray LeMoine selling t-shirts on streets around Fenway Park
RAY LEMOINE: T-shirts, here. Yankees Suck t-shirts!]
RAY LEMOINE: The second we like stood on the street with them they were gone.
TODD WILSON: We sold them in like 2-3 days, two days. Jamie got arrested the second day, but big deal.
[Old Video Recording, Ray selling t-shirts on streets around Fenway Park
RAY LEMOINE: T-shirts here! Yankees suck t-shirts Yankees suck shirts!]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: So they kept ordering more shirts, and they kept showing up to sell them. And they started bringing more of their friends along to help. Ray even poached fellow vendors from inside Fenway, like Jonathan Choe.
JONATHAN CHOE: Ray asked me to sell the t-shirts. He says, “We made a bunch of Yankees Suck t-shirts. Do you want to come outside and sell them with us?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely. Let’s do it.”
The moment I got the batch of t-shirts, these shirts started flying. And I was hooked. I’m like, “We’re doing this.” I’m making way more money outside on these t-shirts than I am on the inside at Fenway Park.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: It was a commission based system. You get a bag of 25 shirts and like just like you’re selling weed, you got to bring me the shirts or the money at the end of the night.
JAMIE MANZA: White shirts one color like the typical Yankees Suck shirt was ten bucks.
TODD WILSON: Ten bucks a pop. We used to call em 10 dollar crack rocks for jocks.
JONATHAN CHOE: From what I recall the shirts cost about 3 bucks to make, we’d get to keep 3 dollars per shirt and then we’d give the rest to Ray and Todd.
[Old Video Recording, Ray sells Yankee Suck t-shirts around Fenway
RAY LEMOINE: Yankees Suck t-shirts!
BUYER: How much?
RAY LEMOINE: Ten bucks!]
JONATHAN CHOE: Ray, Todd, Rusty, Jamie they’d roll up at the end of a game in a minivan or their cars, they’d park in a nearby parking lot, and then all the sellers would gather.
[Old Video Recording, T-shirt seller looking for spot to sell t-shirts
SELLER: What do you think about going like between here and Gate B?]
JONATHAN CHOE: They’d say, “Choe, you’re getting Gate D. You know, Mike, you’re getting the bridge.”
[Old Video Recording, T-shirt sellers deciding where to put other sellers
SELLER 1: Where should we put AJ at?
SELLER 2: What about just right here, like right around this corner?
SELLER 1: If you want to do that, yeah, yeah, yeah…]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Pretty soon it was impossible to leave a game and not have some dude try to sell you a Yankees Suck shirt, they had Fenway Park surrounded on all sides with a crew of 20-30 of their friends.
JAMIE MANZA: Azy owed me money so he had to work for us
RAY LEMOINE: Bubba
JAMIE MANZA: Bubba was–
RAY LEMOINE: Bubba was a god
JAMIE MANZA: Darren Jones was a big seller, Jonathan Choe
TODD WILSON: The kid was amazing. He never slept ever.
JAMIE MANZA: he was like a very ambitious guy, who had like 6 jobs at the time, including day trading
TODD WILSON: He had gray hair when he was 20, he was just like constantly moving
RAY LEMOINE: And he had the voice
JONATHAN CHOE: “Yankees Suck t-shirts here, Yankees Suck t-shirts!,” and I’d be climbing up on nearby fences putting up the shirts yelling and people were swarming, It was unbelievable. I felt like a rockstar.
RAY LEMOINE: He’d always sell the most, he was always one of the top sellers
JONATHAN CHOE: I’d be going through anywhere between fifty to one hundred shirts. You had to be aggressive. I took a lot from my playbook inside Fenway Park. The faster you are, the harder you work, the more you sold.
JAMIE MANZA: I think we all tried to learn aggressive sales techniques from each other, and that came from inside the stadium. The more obnoxious, especially talking to the masshole crowd
RAY LEMOINE: And we worked Lansdowne. And this is when all the college kids went to the games, so we really worked with the crème de la crème of idiot.
[Guys screaming on the street
GUY 2: Ahhhhh!]
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: I’d fucking throw on the thickest accent I could and heckle people and just like fuck with everyone, like make fun of the dude’s shirt, or like saying like his girlfriend wanted a shirt, just like being a fucking dickhead. If you’re not playing the part, if you’re not like wearing wind pants and kind of looking like a dickhead it’s not gonna fly.
We used to call it the seller’s uniform, it was like denim shorts and a bootleg player jersey and like kind of like a stained undershirt and like a gold chain and it’s cool now because it’s like a dad hat’s now, but like a dad hat wasn’t cool then.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Maybe you’ve seen enough movies starring Wahlbergs or Afflecks to know that Boston folks will shit talk anyone, their family, their friends, and certainly some dude selling shirts outside Fenway Park.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: It was more like, Boston on Boston, dude versus angry dude, or like, “You looking at my girlfriend?” This is what it would always be like, “Who fucking played tonight dude? Who fucking led off bro? Who fucking pitched dude?” Like you get to the quiz, you know, and then you’d like fire back like, “How many how many fucking saves does Lowe have dude?”
You’d just go back and forth, “Go back to fucking Revere, loser. You’re not even fucking from here.” But, then like dudes would get get psyched. They’re like, you know, like looking through their wallet to get out like some crumpled money and then they let out like the side burp and then it’s just like fucking hold it up. So proud of this offensive shirt. Fucking, ya guy.
JAMIE MANZA: There was an awesome technique, I remember using it, I don’t think I claimed it, I don’t know who I learned it from, but you see a drunk person walking by who you know wants a shirt but they’re with their girlfriend or some … You throw the shirt over their shoulder and you tell them, “Ten dollars.” You force the sale.
[Old Video Tape,T-shirt sellers advertising shirts
SELLER: Yankees Suck t-shirts here guys, who wants a shirt? Yankees Suck t-shirts!
CROWD (chanting): Yankees suck! Yankees suck!]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Getting a Yankees Suck shirt became a rite of passage for Red Sox fans, one of those moments that you never forget. Thommy and Ian are two fans who bought shirts from Ray and his crew
THOMMY WILLBERGH: We went in we saw like the Red Sox play the Marlins like some random team had nothing to do with the Yankees
IAN HILL: I’d gone to my first game at Fenway. It was against the blue jays.
THOMMY WILLBERGH: We came out and they were still outside selling Yankees Suck shirts
IAN HILL: And I saw this guy had Yankees suck shirts and I said I’ve got to have one of these.
THOMMY WILLBERGH: So, I had to have a Yankees suck shirt, so my dad of course got me one. They only had like a size large and I was 135 pounds at the time and everything I wore was like a size small but that’s all they had.
IAN HILL: It’s a special shirt. You wear it on game day you wear it when it matters.
THOMMY WILLBERGH: I kept that shirt until I think I lost it in Hurricane Sandy
IAN HILL: You walk by a guy and you’re both wearing Yankees T-shirts or even if he’s just wearing one. Put your hand out. Give them a high five. Go yeah Yankees Suck. And they’ll go fuck the Yankees.
[Old Video Tape, Ray and fan interact outside Fenway
RAY LEMOINE: Yankees Suck!
SOX FAN: Yeah they do!”]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Dan Shaughnessy witnessed the rise of the shirts as he headed to Fenway each day to cover the Sox.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: It was a little eye opening to see that expression on a shirt. It’s like oh boy, now we’ve crossed another barrier. Seeing it on shirts gave me, emboldened me that it’s okay to put in the paper now because it’s out there.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: These shirts were out there. They were everywhere. And, even with all their “aggressive sales techniques,” these shirts mostly sold themselves. The only hurdle was the cops…sort of
Technically speaking, the Yankees Suck shirts weren’t illegal — they didn’t infringe on any copyrighted material. But selling them on the streets of Boston outside Fenway Park was a legal gray area
[Old Video Tape, T-shirt seller trying to avoid police
SELLER: See that car right there, man? The green car, the white Taurus with the green stripe? Code Enforcement]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: They were at the mercy of Code Enforcement, who would bust them for things like: selling without a hawker’s or peddler’s permit.
JONATHAN CHOE: There was a stretch where at least one guy was getting arrested every single day.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And so then it’s really useful to have a lawyer who’s a guy who knows a guy.
TOM GIBLIN: My name is Tom Giblin, and I’m an attorney.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Or in the case of Tom Giblin, a guy who knows all the guys.
TOM GIBLIN: I was an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County, which is Boston. I probably personally knew half of the police department
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Lucky for these kids, Giblin also knew the dad of one of Jamie’s college buddies. And Jamie had been given Giblin’s number when he’d gotten into trouble trying to buy speakers with a credit card that didn’t belong to him.
Every one of the sellers had Giblin’s number and if they ran into trouble, they knew who to call.
[Old Video Tape, Sellers start to follow police
SELLER: Oh there’s that Code Enforcement dude right fuckin there. Where is he? There you are. I’m gonna go follow this guy…]
JONATHAN CHOE: We started to really map out escape routes around Fenway Park. I knew all of the parking garages, the back entrances, the front entrances, I knew how to weave through cars, I knew how to literally take off my shirt and put on another shirt and try to hide in my hoodie so the code enforcement wouldn’t recognize me.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Code Enforcement couldn’t do very much about these kids selling shirts. The worst that could happen was they would take their shirts, write them up, and throw them in a cell for the night.
TOM GIBLIN: I’d say, “Okay guys, be careful, don’t do this again because this is just stupid. You’re going to get locked up again.”
JONATHAN CHOE: Basically, you pay about $100, the judge says, “Don’t do it again, don’t let me see you again,” and you try not to show up again.
TOM GIBLIN: Three days later they’d be back or calling me collect or whatever, “Mister Gib,” Yeah, I know. I know you get grabbed again. Right? “Yep.” Okay.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: These 20-year-old kids basically had no competition. Even though they were selling a bootleg shirt that would be very easy to replicate.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: There would be dudes once in a while that come with like some bootlegs of bootlegs and think they’re going to make 50 bucks 100 bucks that night and they would get their asses kicked every single time.
TODD WILSON: We would pour grape juice on their shirts, chuck their shirts off the bridge, beat them up if we had to. The cops confiscated a bunch of shirts from somebody one night, I don’t know why, but the next night these sausage guys were selling T-shirts and I found out about it. So like after we were done we went over you know poured the grape juice on their shirts slashed all the tires on their truck, you know. They never sold them again.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: Listen I don’t advocate that type of behavior but in that scenario like I understood why it was like someone’s gotta beat this dude’s ass so he doesn’t come back
JULIA L. HENDERSON: You’re probably wondering how much money these kids made. I’m wondering how much money these kids made. No one gives me a straight answer on this. But here are some clues:
RAY LEMOINE: I had twenty-thousand dollars in a shoebox once
JAMIE MANZA: I think there’s 25 of our friends who didn’t have a real job during their four years of college.
JONATHAN CHOE: I just know it was thousands of dollars that I never would have had just working inside Fenway Park. It was a lot of money for somebody in college.
TOM GIBLIN: Ugh…I don’t really know because I didn’t really get into too much of the financial stuff with them. They kept it real close to the vest and that was their thing to do, but I know it was in the hundreds of thousands.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: That’s all they’ll tell me. But, here’s what I can figure out. There are 80 home games, give or take, at Fenway Park in a season. Obvoiusly, not everyone who went to a game bought a shirt. The guys say four to five hundred shirts was an average night. Just looking at their profit share, on a $10 Yankees Suck shirt, they made $4 a pop. On the low end, you are looking at $128,000 per season. In cash. And that’s conservative. That’s averaging only 400 shirts per night, and they say that on a good game, like Red Sox vs Yankees on Patriots Day before the Boston Marathon, they could sell more than eleven hundred shirts. Plus, these numbers only take into account the $10 shirts.
RAY LEMOINE: We were the first people to put the Boston accent in print, we put Nomah with an “H”, I’d never seen it before
JAMIE MANZA: Number 5 on the back and the pitch for that one was ‘Nomah with no ah’
TODD WILSON: I mean “Jeter swallows” was like the next like big one you know navy blue with white Yankees Suck on the front with “Jeter swallows” and the number two on the back
JAMIE MANZA: Derek Lowe would pitch no-hitter–We had “Derek Lowe no-no” shirts out there.
TODD WILSON: Like everybody hated O’Neil so you had “O’Neil sucks,” you know, “Giambi sucks.” Then Yankees suck on the front with the whole roster in the back. And “Jeter swallows” and then “Jeter swallows A-Rod,” once he shows up.
RAY LEMOINE: And all of our ink once you washed it fell off
JAMIE MANZA: Not all of it
RAY LEMOINE: We were really bad at making shirts
JULIA L. HENDERSON: All those other shirts – “Jeter Sucks” and “Giambi Sucks” and everyone sucks and “Jeter swallows,” those shirts went for $20. And the owners were making more like $10 a shirt off those sales. So if they sold 400 shirts a night and made $10 off of half of them and $4 off the other half, if you follow my math, that’s $256,000. Per season. In cash. You multiply that by four seasons and that’s gonna add up to more than a million dollars in cash profit.
But all I could get out of Ray was this–
RAY LEMOINE: We declared what we had to declare. What our accountant told us to declare. We operated our company at a loss.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: They told the IRS they made no money.
Of course, it’s absolutely impossible for me to actually say how much money they were making — but they were spending big
TOM GIBLIN: You know at that point, they were running wild and crazy, they were making their own money and spending money like drunken sailors. Instead of listening to advice saying, “Hey look guys, you made $20,000 this week, put 10 in a bank somewhere and go spend the other 10 the way you want to do it so that you can watch it grow and have something.” They were just, it was burning a hole in their pocket
RAY LEMOINE: You could only put cash in so many places. And one of them is at nice restaurants.
JAMIE MANZA: and really the money facilitated our traveling habits and our dining habits. I mean, Ray and I started fine dining as soon as we could.
JAMIE MANZA: We didn’t know you cooked salmon on applewood and like chilis and shit
RAY LEMOINE: I grew up in North Andover, with no money, I’d never had lobster, well, maybe like once or twice, but I’d never had a good meal before these guys introduced me to this
RAY LEMOINE: We went to pretty much every country in Europe, we went to Argentina, Brazil Chile Peru, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia…
JONATHAN CHOE: We did a lot of frivolous spending. there were guys buying luxury watches, dropping two grand on a watch, people buying suits.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: This dude buys a motorcycle. This dude gets a nice apartment. This dude’s running around in fuckin Gucci loafers
JONATHAN CHOE: Stuff that we really didn’t have growing up. We had access to so much money so quickly, we didn’t know what to do with it. Of course, it went to partying, it went to splurging, it went to a lot of casino trips to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. It got crazy. We didn’t know what to do with the money it was coming in so quickly.
JAMIE MANZA: We both had $4000 watches on at one point, but sold them
RAY LEMOINE: No mine got stolen by a hooker.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: there would be times where I would fly somewhere to meet up with one of these dudes somewhere and they’d be wearing my shit. It’s just like it’s just like, fuck, we don’t like own shit. It’s like like everyone considers that money communal. So, it’s like, I’ll take your fucking jacket. I’ll take your girlfriend I’ll take your car. I’ll take your drugs. There’s no boundaries.
TOM GIBLIN: They were like ants, they were always around and there was always some method, one way or the other, that I would get involved with one or more. There were skirmishes that they were in where they were charged with assault and battery, or threats. Then other things where they were victimized and I’d go in and try to talk to the DA about helping them because they were either victims in assaults and thefts and one of them was shot and held up
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Todd was the one who was shot. It was a drug deal gone bad. He was trying to sell 5 pounds of marijuana for $20,000 — in the house he lived in with all his friends…The buyers tried to rob him, he tried to be a hero and fight back, and they shot him. He recovered, but it was a scary moment
TODD WILSON: I had like you know really like bad PTSD, or whatever you want to call it, you know
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Even though most of these kids weren’t getting into anywhere near this kind of serious trouble, one of your friends getting shot and almost killed in a drug deal he decided to do in the house you all share, it shook the group up.
TODD WILSON: I mean I got out of the hospital and that’s what really got me. When I got back to the house and could tell nothing was ever going to be the same again. You know in that sense of you know innocence lost or whatever you know that’s what really hurt me. And. I could never get it together again.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: It was a very real consequence for a bunch of kids who had been very lucky up until that point in terms of avoiding consequences. Todd was out of the business and back home not too long after that.
And then something happened that had nothing to do with them, that put everything—their success, the wildness, the shooting, in perspective.
[Anchor, NBC’s The Today Show
MATT LAUER: We’re back at 9 o’clock Eastern Time on this Tuesday morning and we’re back with dramatic pictures of an accident that has happened just a short time ago. You’re looking at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan where just a few minutes ago we’re told a plane, some reports say it’s a small commuter plan, crashed into the upper floors on one of the Twin Towers]
GORDON EDES: You know, it’s funny, in many ways baseball is a universe unto itself and a world that often times is successful in keeping the outside world at arm’s length. 9/11 was certainly one occasion where that was not the case. That was certainly one occasion where chanting pejoratives toward the Yankees was anything but appropriate.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And all this happened…at the moment the Yankees Suck kids were becoming more than just a local sensation.
RAY LEMOINE: The first time our shirt got any press? New Yorker 9/11
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The New Yorker’s 9/11 issue came out on September 24, 2001. In it, there was an article by legendary baseball writer Roger Angell, and next to it an illustration.
JAMIE MANZA: They had an illustration of the crowds at Fenway, it might’ve been Yankee Stadium, but an illustrated version of a dude front and center in that illustration with a Yankees Suck shirt on.
RAY LEMOINE: And this is in the big 9/11 issue with Susan Sontag and every major writer writing their initial responses to 9/11, so for us that was kind of like a wake-up in every which way. Like, “Wow, our stupid t-shirt made it, finally got recognized, but three thousand people, including people we know, are dead.”
JAMIE MANZA: Needless to say, after September eleventh, the Yankees Suck shirts didn’t go over too well for the next month and a half. We packed it up basically, and tried to sell only other
RAY LEMOINE: We did do a Bin Laden Sucks shirt.
JAMIE MANZA: Oh yeah, we did (laughs)
RAY LEMOINE: And another guys shows up with a Bin Laden, spelled wrong, and I’m like, “Dude, it’s spelled wrong.” And he’s like, “What, you’re dissing the guy.”
JAMIE MANZA: “What the hell am I trying to get his name right for, I’m trying to diss the guy.” He had Bin Lidin and we had Bin Laden-
RAY LEMOINE: (laughs) Bin Lidin.
JAMIE MANZA: We called him Bin Lidin.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Roger Angell’s article, “Legend of the Fens,” is subtitled, “Back the other day, when baseball mattered.” It begins by asking the reader to go back with him to before the towers fell, “back when we could still take pleasure in our games.” He talks about the crowd in the bleaches chanting “Yankees suck!” at a Braves game and he describes “a large dignified looking gent with well-tended white hair, a bankerish demeanor, and a white t-shirt emblazoned with, yes, “Yankees Suck” in blue block letters.
2001 was a rough season for the Sox. They Fired their manager and replaced him with a pitching coach. Jason Varitek broke his elbow. Pedro hurt his shoulder. Nomar had wrist surgery.
By the time Angell wrote his article, it didn’t even matter that, at one point, the Sox had been first in the AL East, up over the Yankees by a full four games. They had once again blown it, which Angell recounts in excruciating details. He predicts the demolishment of Fenway, and dooms the Sox to be perennial losers.
It’s an article written in the wake of everything we, as Americans, knew changing, that was about nothing ever changing.
But, even Roger Angell can be wrong.
The Sox didn’t disintegrate.
HOST 1: For the first time in Major League History, the owner of the Boston Red Sox also owns a piece of the New York Yankees.
HOST 2: STOP!
HOST 1: And the Florida Marlins, too
HOST 2: STOP!
HOST 1: Come to think of it. He is John Henry to whose consortium of very rich people Major League owners approved the sale of the Red Sox for $660 million]
They got new owners, spent big money, and started to finally catch up to the Yankees.
The writing was already on the wall. Yankees Suck was passing its peak. Their friends were graduating from college, so they were losing top sellers.
RAY LEMOINE: We all started thinking about what the future was gonna hold and what we were gonna do with the money we had.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: They wanted to move on, and they wanted to move on to the very city they stole their idea from in the first place .
RAY LEMOINE: We realized that New York had something that we wanted to be a part of. Because we were getting older. We were in our early 20s. And that’s when you kind of start thinking about what’s next. And New York became the focus We were like, “This is where we wanna be.” And all this music starting bubbling up. Like the Interpols and the Strokes. And there was an electronic music scene that was going on at the same time that crossed over to the rock scene. And we were just like, “This is great and perfect for people our age.”
JULIA L. HENDERSON: By the time the Red Sox suited up for the 2003 season, Ray, Jamie, and Eric had started printing the shirts out of a loft in Brooklyn and running them up to Boston for the games. And they kept that up for the next few years. They’d deputize guys to run the operations at Fenway in their place when they weren’t around, and then they would take a cut.
RAY LEMOINE: I just know I asked for a certain amount of money per game as opposed to a percentage, because you know percentages people lie about
JULIA L. HENDERSON: On top of that, the Sox owners were hard at work making Fenway “friendly” and cracking down on unlicensed vendors.
But the final nail in the coffin was, actually, the thing they’d been yearning for from the very beginning, the thing they and all Red Sox fans wanted more than anything in the world, that’s the thing that finally killed the t-shirt empire.
[Announcer, 2004 ALCS GAME 7, Yankees vs. Red Sox
ANNOUNCER: This would be the 5th pennant for the Red Sox since that 1918 season. And here it is, ground ball to second, Reese, the Boston Red Sox have won the pennant!]
GORDON EDES: The Red Sox staged the greatest comeback in baseball history in 2004.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: Not only did the Red Sox do something that had never been done in the history of baseball, come back from 3-0, but they did it at the expense of the Yankees. For a lot of people, that was their World Series, to get to the World Series at the expense of the Yankees was better than winning the World Series. Just overcoming the Yankees in a playoff was really the ultimate goal.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: The Red Sox beat the Yankees and went to the World Series and after Boston took the first two games of the series at home, Jamie and Ray knew they had to witness history firsthand. They hopped in their van, expired plates and no insurance, and headed straight to St. Louis. Eric got on a plane from California and the three of them ended this chapter the only way they knew how, by sneaking into Game 4 of the World Series
[Announcer, 2004 World Series, Game 4
ANNOUNCER: The Boston Red Sox one win away from doing something that the franchise hasn’t accomplished in 86 years]
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And rushing the field when they won
[Announcer, 2004 World Series, Game 4, Bottom of 9th Inning
ANNOUNCER: Back to Foulke, Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are World Champions!]
RAY LEMOINE: Eric went first and got tackled and I had already committed and I jumped and because they were tackling, I got through and I turned around I’m running I’m like where is everyone else and no one else behind me. I see the team celebrating the field and I’m running towards that pile and then I look behind and see some guy chasing me and nobody else is, nobody else, just me and I’m like uh
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Ray’s the only one who gets on the field, and he’s in all the footage of the team piling onto the mound. The Walt Disney commercial that every team gets after they win a championship? There’s Ray running right across the screen.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: I thought Red Sox fans became far less endearing and attractive after they won, they became like Yankee fans, which is unfortunate, because we always hated Yankee fans rubbing our faces in it and then the Red Sox fans became Yankee fans in my view.
JULIA L. HENDERSON: And that was it, you can’t be an underdog anymore. 2004 marked the last time you could credibly chant Yankees Suck as the little guy who never wins and always gets the short end of the stick. It was also the last time you could put it on a bootleg t-shirt.
JONATHAN CHOE: Today if they tried to do that within minutes you’d have security at Fenway swarming the place
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Fenway is a much kinder, gentler, more heavily regulated place these days. That moment in time when you could buy a handmade shirt outside Fenway Park from the kids who made it, who often times didn’t even have a license to be there — that’s gone.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: You wouldn’t get away with this today, starting a rogue t-shirt company. The licensing people would be all over you in a heartbeat and like, “Oh no.” You’d be in MLB licensing jail. Those sweet days are over.
RAY LEMOINE: the team caught up, the teams were selling shirts that looked like that, Nike was selling shirts that looked exactly like ours and stuff like that
JULIA L. HENDERSON: Now, super simple shirts with super simple phrases are everywhere — We Believe, Reverse the Curse, Boston Strong — catchy phrases are a dime a dozen. And these days, as soon as anyone makes a headline or comes up with a slogan, it goes on a shirt…just not by a group of kids acting on their own.
RAY LEMOINE: No you couldn’t do it today, someone would immediately put it online
JULIA L. HENDERSON: You can get a Yankees Suck shirt online. There is a guy by the name of Chris Wrenn, he was a fellow hardcore kid, and he still sells Yankees Suck shirts. Though they’re definitely not bootleg anymore — you can find Chris’ shirts in stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.
I don’t think any of them love that Chris is doing this. But it’s not like they wish they still were.
RAY LEMOINE: How much would we have made as a four piece making these shirts for the last fifteen years and would be as happy with ourselves? I don’t know, I mean I didn’t have any interest.
ANTHONY PAPPALARDO: To a lot of people, we became these recurring characters at the park. We became staples just like the sausage guy or whatever that guy had five dolla hats… five dolla hats…and I don’t think anyone knows that we were the Yankees Suck guys when we woke up, when we went to Dunkin Donuts, when we were at Flann O’Brien’s like anywhere we went, we were those guys… and that was weighing on us.
You have a bunch of kids in college and they’re into art and they’re into music and they’re into all this cool shit. And at the height you look down and you have like breakaway Adidas pants on and a gold chain and some tacky ass watch. And your accent’s thicker and your pocket’s fatter and you’re doing all this shit you never thought you’d do because you become that person, you can say whatever, I’m a fucking world traveler and look at me, my cool my fuckin watch, like no dude you’re a bootleg T-shirt seller and you’re an asshole. You become that thing. Some of those pictures I look at and I’m just like who the fuck are these people?
JULIA L. HENDERSON: They were 19 when this started. They’re almost middle aged now. They haven’t been those people in a long time.
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show, 10/17/99
TEN YARD FIGHT LEAD SINGER: A lot of people are asking why we’re breaking up…]
RAY LEMOINE: You don’t realize when you hit the lottery that you hit the lottery sometimes. We hit the lottery
RAY LEMOINE: and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right idea the right pitcher the right team
RAY LEMOINE: And I think I attributed too much of the success or quasi success to myself rather than to the fact that I just literally got lucky.
[Ten Yard Fight, Last Show 10/17/1999
TEN YARD FIGHT LEAD SINGER: This is the last time we’ll ever play live, so enjoy it