BOSTON, Mass–Ignoring the presence of a few early morning stragglers milling around Yawkey Way and Brookline Ave., Billy Moriarty sidles up to the side of a building, lowers the pants of his blue Adidas tracksuit and urinates on the faded brick wall facing out toward an empty parking lot. Moriarty, 49, snaps his elasticized pants back against his gut and yawns audibly, looking disheveled and exhausted. A long night at the hospital will do that to a man.
Crossing over the Brookline Ave. bridge slowly, Moriarty effectively arrives at his concrete office: For over 20 years, he has supported himself by scalping tickets to Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics games. A mainstay of the Boston sports scene for decades, games can’t be considered ‘big games’ if Moriarty isn’t hawking tickets at a hefty profit. With the Red Sox’ popularity swelling to epic proportions over the last 10 years, Moriarty’s Fenway post has become his bread and butter.
For 81 games each season, Moriarty’s primary job description is scalping Red Sox tickets at his usual post across from Uno’s and Popeye’s Chicken in Kenmore Square. The occupation has become lucrative enough to free him from three decades of living with his mother in a cramped triple-decker in Charlestown and deliver him into a lush, one-bedroom apartment in Roslindale. Not that he ever gets to sleep in his own bed these days.
“Yeah, I sleep there once a week, maybe–when I don’t end up in the hospital all night,” says Moriarty.
Surprisingly, it is not the dangerous, shady world of ticket scalping that lands Moriarty in hospital rooms so frequently. Rather, a newfound life mission has transformed the once reprehensible, skeevy scalper.
“I do volunteer work reading books to kids with cancer at Dana Farber Cancer Institute,” he explains. “I‘d say I‘m there just about every night of the week for five to six hours at least.”
While it is undoubtedly a noble cause Moriarty has undertaken, it has nonetheless rendered him a zombie during daylight hours. His moonlighting as a de facto children’s librarian has quite obviously begun to consume him—bags hang lazily over his sleepless eyes, stubble grows unevenly from his tired face, a stale cigarette stench emanates from his clumsily constructed, ill-maintained physique. His voice has become all but a deliberate rasp, angrily hissing from his throat as though to make his listener shudder.
During the winter months, with just the Celtics and Bruins in season, Moriarty has the occasional night off. But this April has become the perfect storm of commitments now that the Celtics and Bruins are all but assured to still both be playing at least until May. Halfway through a two-week Red Sox homestand, the side effects are already evident.
“This is just the beginning for me,” says Moriarty. “I just hope sales start to pick up once the weather gets warmer…Tickets aren’t exactly in high demand right now. Times are tough. People aren’t snatching up these tickets an hour before the game starts anymore. I’m here unloading seats until the fourth inning at half face value.” Indeed, even the Red Sox have resorted to some rather predictable, blunt marketing techniques in order to meet historical ticket sale levels.
This is bad news for Moriarty. The volume of tickets Moriarty is able to flip onto Red Sox fans directly affects his hospital reading routine. After struggling with an alcohol addiction in his more formidable years, Moriarty fended off his dependence by turning to stimulants including cocaine, adderol, Ritalin, oxycontin and other—as he calls them—“cocktails” that help him live his crazy double life.
“I operate on a cash basis in all my business transactions,” Moriarty explains. “If I have less cash from Sox ticket sales coming in than in years past, I don’t get my medications and, unfortunately, the kids I read to suffer. I can’t stay awake all night without my cocktails. And it’s not like I can sell these kids the scattered singles I have left at the end of the night. They’re bedridden, for crissakes. ”
Composing himself, Moriarty takes a long, deliberate gulp of Vick’s 40 cough syrup and chases it with a Monster energy drink to help lubricate his voice box. Hardened and crusty as he is, Moriarty has a gentle side that he rarely shows the outside world. He rebuffs repeated requests to have his photograph taken reading to children and is adamant that no one interrupt this very personal aspect of his life.
Similarly, he refuses to provide names for any of the children he reads to for fear that they will be exploited. His name, he says, will not be familiar if run past hospital officials since he uses an alias–which he also refuses to disclose.
“My favorite nights are the ones where I’m really feeling connected with a certain character and I start to talk like them in one of my fantasy voices. Sometimes a crowd of like five or ten kids just herds around me. It feels like I‘ve got box seats for the World Series.”
Moriarty is a sucker for the classics when it comes to his choice of reading material. “I’ve probably read the text for Charlotte’s Web aloud over 100 times since I started volunteering,” says Moriarty. “But I’m just as big a fan of Dr. Seuss’ There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and The Touch Me Book as the next guy. A lot of the kids are actually pretty big baseball fans. I’ve read the 2009 Bill James Baseball Handbook to a couple of kids over the last few months. They really seemed to like that. Sometimes we get into pretty heated discussions about stuff — you know, player projections and all that.”