Brian McGrory

An authentic tale of the city

(Dave Greenhalgh)
By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / May 25, 2011

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They were having what a friend would later term a “Ferris Bueller Day,’’ Dave Greenhalgh and his teenage son, Austin. How good? Brace yourself: When they pulled into Boston Saturday morning, the busiest weekend of college commencement season, they found a parking space on Beacon Hill with two hours on the meter.

They were headed for Community Boating, which has a program for special needs kids, so father and son — who is autistic and mostly nonverbal — spent the first sunny morning in forever sailing around the Charles River and having the time of their lives. After that, it was Tornado Alley at the Museum of Science, which Dave, a confessed weather geek, declared a terrific show.

From there, they pointed their car toward the North End for pizza and dessert, and lo and behold, immediately found a space on Hanover Street in front of Mike’s Pastry — a triumph capped off when there were no lines at Pizzeria Regina.

Can it get any better for Dave and Austin of Acton? They were willing to see. They went all-in and headed for Kenmore Square, specifically to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox were playing the Chicago Cubs in a game that was the toughest ticket in years.

They found a parking space near Kenmore Square. Hey, why wouldn’t they? The seas were parting for these two fine men. The sun was always shining on their smiling faces. There was nothing that could go wrong on this perfect father/son day as Dave’s wife, Wendy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Hayden, shivered their way through a bug-infested Brownie sleepover.

Or was there?

Now came the dreaded but inevitable encounter with the famed scalpers of Brookline Avenue, sketchy men with beady eyes and no remorse. Dave still had fresh memories of a scalper handing him a fake ticket outside North Station last year.

Near the turnpike overpass, Dave started a conversation with a scalper who looked every inch the part. Suddenly, burly young men appeared from behind poles and parked cars. “It was all confusing and interesting at the same time,’’ Dave recalled.

They settled on $50 apiece for a pair of $28 bleacher seats, which seemed like a good deal — perhaps too good a deal. Dave handed cash to one guy, who handed it to another, and the tickets were turned over by yet another large young man.

Dave immediately felt trouble — literally. The tickets were too light and flimsy, probably fakes. He grabbed Austin and set off in pursuit of one of the scalpers, who was beating feet toward Kenmore.

When Dave caught up with him, think of a shrub looking up at a tree. Guess which Dave was. The scalper was 6 inches taller and about 10 years younger and not predisposed to fear. Dave, famously quick on his feet, concocted a peaceful strategy.

“I want you to meet my son, Austin,’’ he told the scalper. “He’s autistic. This is his first game, and he’ll be crushed if we don’t get in.’’ The surprised scalper guaranteed the tickets were authentic. He showed Dave his driver’s license. Dave and Austin had no choice but to trudge toward the gate and meet their fate.

Which is when an odd thing happened. “Hey buddy,’’ someone called after them. Dave whirled around to see the scalper, who fumbled a bit, handed over $40, and told him, “Buy something nice for your kid at the game.’’ Skepticism fluffed into full-on cynicism. Dave had little doubt that the guy was trying to ease a guilty conscience.

The moment of truth came at the turnstile. “I closed my eyes,’’ Dave recalled. “The ticket taker said, ‘What’s the matter?’ I told him I bought them on the street.’’ He scanned the first and announced, “One of you is in.’’ The same for the second.

There you have it, probably the first recorded act of a scalper’s benevolence in the history of spectator sports, part of Dave and Austin’s excellent adventure, a day like none other, the stuff of dreams.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at