By Ron Leir
No, it’s not a mirage. And, no, you’re not in Boston. But yes, there it is: Looming above the PNC Bank Franklin Ave. parking lot there stands a replica of – dare I say it – the Fenway Park scoreboard.
This iconic image of Red Sox Nation – planted just 28 miles from Yankee Stadium – is the loving creation of Nutley resident Steve Turowski.
Turowski, 64, taught health and physical education at his alma mater, Kearny High School, for 37 years until he retired in 2010.
In the ‘60s, at KHS, he played outfield for the Kardinals baseball team and often crossed paths with future Sox hurler Bob Stanley (the pair were a couple of years apart). “I’d see a lot of him – we’d be at the same practice (varsity and junior varsity) on Harvey Field. It was like a war zone.”
Growing up, Turowski didn’t really pull for any one team, though he remembers his dad being a follower of former Cardinals great Stan Musial – “probably because he was Polish” – and very “anti-Yankee.”
Some years later, after he went to college, got married and had kids, Turowski’s son Steve Jr. (he prefers “Ziggy’’) became a devoted follower of pitcher Roger Clemens, then playing for Boston. “My son, who was around 8 or 10 at the time, got me into the Sox,” he said. “That would be in the early ‘80s.”
So, following up on his high school connection, Turowski called up someone in town who had Stanley’s contact information and managed to get in touch with his former teammate.
Stanley remembered him, Turowski said. “[Kearny] is a small town – you knew the guys who played ball.”
“Bob was very gracious about it,” Turowski said. “He’d get us tickets six, seven times a year and he’d take me and Ziggy into the [Sox] dugout and introduce us around.
“The best thing about it was half my family on my mother’s side still live in the Boston area so we always had a place to stay when we went up there for a game.”
Sometimes, they’d drive up without having seats waiting for them. “We’d go to maybe 20 games a year,” Turowski said.
Gripped by a wave of diamond fever, Turowski began amassing a vast collection of thousands of vintage baseball cards and watching games when he wasn’t at the ballpark.
“I get Baseball Channel every year – I don’t know how my wife [Margarita] stands it,” he said.
Margarita, who emigrated to the U.S. from her native Cuba around 1962, remembers liking the newly emerging Mets while living, initially, in Staten Island, N.Y., but noted that, “when we got married, we became Sox fans.” She’s retired from teaching language arts at Kearny’s Lincoln School.
The couple’s two kids, Steve Jr. and Elaine, were sportsminded: Steve Jr., aside from being a Sox devotee, played football for Lyndhurst High and Elaine has coached Lyndhurst Girls’ Softball for the past several years.
It was three summers ago that the great experiment began
A serviceable handyman and gardener, Turowski had put up a picket fence along the back end of his rear yard patio garden. “I thought it would be tremendous to paint it as the Green Monster.” He was referring, of course, to the towering left field wall in Fenway Park, which was first painted green in 1947.
“I even called the Red Sox for the name of their paint supplier. It turns out there’s a color called Fenway Fence Green.
” Turowski bought two gallons of the stuff and went to work.
Along the way, he decided to include a replica of the Fenway scoreboard by duplicating one of the last 2004 American League playoff games between Boston and New York.
He cut out a picture of Fenway from a sports magazine to use as a guide for his design. “I had to measure it all out.”
“Every morning I’d wake up at 6 to start – I used scaffolding to reach up the fence – and I used a stencil and a little artist’s brush to paint in the team letters and the numbers, inning by inning,” he said. “By 9 p.m., because of the heat, you’re done.”
Three weeks later, the masterpiece – about 44 feet long and 12 feet high – was finished. “A chore of love,” he said.
Of course, with this part of New Jersey being dominated by Yankee fans, Turowski’s prized possession didn’t always draw rave reviews.
Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco, a dedicated fan of the Bronx Bombers, has shunned the artifact.
“My next-door neighbor is a major Yankee fan,” Torowski said. “He busted my chops about it.”
“A couple times I got rocked – a couple times, kids threw stones against the exterior fence that I put in for safety since the end of my property slopes down to the bank parking lot,” Turowski said. “But it turns out that the bank manager is a former [Kearny] student of mine so I talked to her about it and that just stopped.”
Asked to explain his attachment to the Sox, Turowski said: ‘I guess it’s being an underdog so long … The Red Sox always found a way to break your heart.” Until, of course, they ended an 86- year drought and won it all in 2004.
Loyalties die hard. Even though corner man Kevin Youkilis defected to the hated Yanks this season, Turowski still proudly wears a copy of his old Boston uniform jersey.