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A slice of Boston in our own backyard

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published October 17. 2012 4:00AM

Mashantucket

There's a life-size statue of Ted Williams. Shaquille O'Neal's actual sneakers. (Vegas would make it a pick 'em as to which is bigger). The foot apparel Adam Vinatieri wore to kick three rather famous field goals. And Bob Cousy's warmup jacket.

Let's leave it here: Magnificent would be one way to describe "Victory - An Exhibition Celebrating Boston Sports," on display now through Jan. 27 at Foxwoods' Great Cedar Exhibition Hall. Really magnificent would be another. And depending upon your age, it's the best $10-15 you'll spend all year.

This is the first time any such memorabilia from The Sports Museum, located on floors five and six of the TD Garden, is on display anywhere else. You can thank Foxwoods Director of Ticketing and Patron Services Bruce Flax for his diligence in turning Foxwoods into a temporary Smithsonian. Every artifact is a tether between generations.

It's a little like walking through a maze, except you don't ever care about leaving. Would you like to take a tour before your actual tour?

You begin with a wall of famous quotes uttered by various personalities. The personal favorite: "Young man, you have the question backwards." Bill Russell said that to a questioner who asked how he'd fare against Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

After a display about the Boston Marathon - note Johnny Kelley's sneakers and trophies - the Bruins begin the official entrée. Gerry Cheevers' pads. The iconic photo of Bobby Orr airborne. And a life-size statue of Orr, the first of Rhode Island sculptor Armand LaMontagne's masterpieces, of which curator Richard Johnson said, "the artistic counterpart of those he depicts."

LaMontagne also sculpted Bird, Williams, Yaz and Harry Agganis.

Then comes the Red Sox. You could spent an afternoon in here. There's an old Fenway bleacher seat. A bat once used by Tony Conigliaro. Williams' locker. The Boston Globe front page from Sept. 11, 1918, the day after the Sox won their last World Series until 2004. There's home plate from the old Braves' field.

You move soon to boxing. A Globe headline from April 1, 1955 when Tony DeMarco beat John Saxton for the welterweight title. There's even a section on the Olympics - remember Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione have ties to Boston University - and even Sports Illustrated's photos of the Miracle On Ice.

Next comes a theater for a primer on what you've seen and what you're about to see. A section on the Patriots with Vinatieri's sneakers and all things Brady and Belichick.

Maybe the best room of all, perhaps because it's awash in such vibrant green, is the ode to the Celtics. If only for a second, you honestly feel as though you're back in the old Garden.

There's a championship photo of the 1966 Celtics, all huddled around Red Auerbach. One player is even holding what passed for the euphoric nectar of the day: an old bottle of 7-Up. There are replica banners of all the Celtic titles, same color and font as the ones hanging. Shaq's sneakers. A rather impressive sized piece of the Parquet. (What I wouldn't have given for bounce a ball on it just to find one of its apocryphal dead spots).

There's a life-size portrait of the old Garden, the Bird statue and a portrait of Dave Cowens taking his left-handed hook shot.

You walk and, happily, lose yourself in time. You needn't be a loyalist of any particular Boston team. It's like the line Bill Parcells once said to Phil Simms. They were walking on the field at RFK Stadium, listening to the fans. Parcells said, "Simms, they hate us so much here they like us."

How true. Even those of you who despise all things Boston would love this. Because you've actually lived it, too. And sports, if nothing else, are about history.

Museum director Rusty Sullivan attended the opening two weeks ago. When asked how all the memorabilia was transported from Boston to our corner of the world, he said, "very carefully." Sullivan reported an affinity for us, saying his brother, Scott, is a Connecticut College graduate.

"I'm even in a fantasy football league with other Conn guys," Sullivan said.

See? It's all about us. (Isn't it always?)

A tour would make a great Christmas present. And if it doesn't, the stuff you can buy afterward before leaving the exhibit sure would. All proceeds fund The Sports Museum's educational programs, too. So take the drive over. You'll love it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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