The man and his wife were almost relieved when the security guards ejected them. On that day in 2007, they went up the stairs and out of the park. Nobody would ever know the culprit's name.
Dan Kelly had done something that was hilarious. Something has gone viral for 15 years in a row. Boston sports fans love Paul Revere.
People would be able to identify the Kellys. They wanted to take their ejection and run back off into anonymity. Kelly laughs when he thinks back on the naivete of making a clean escape.
Kelly's wife, Selina, was a high school teacher in Boston and didn't need her students or fellow faculty members to recognize her. Kelly started a new job that he thinks he got hired partially because he seemed like a grown-up. During the interview process for the job as a medical supply sales rep, he was so wrapped up in being his authentic self that he couldn't help but choke down.
He needed the bottled-up version of Dan Kelly. Kelly had an engineering degree, but he didn't like it as a profession, so he turned to sales. He liked talking to people and they liked talking to him. After he got the job, Kelly thought he could loosen up a bit and sell his more fun-loving side to health care providers.
He and his wife are a good match because she is more straight-laced than Kelly. He drags her 10% into the silly side of life, and he needs her to let him know when to stop messing around.
It works for them. Their back-and-forths give a surge of electricity. When his wife applied for membership in an Irish social club in Boston, Kelly received an email confirmation that they both had been accepted.
He edited the letter to say that he had been accepted and that she would only be allowed to attend two gatherings per year if she was escorted by an official member. She was livid and reamed out whoever picked up the phone at the social club.
Looking back on that day in 2007, they feel that way. It took a few years to fully embrace the fact that Dan Kelly was responsible for the greatest pizza throw in history.
On April 16, 2007, Kelly and his wife, along with five or six other friends, had planned where they would be at 8 a.m. before heading to the Red Sox-Angels game. The bars in Boston get a special permission to open early on the day, and the lights are usually on when people like Dan Kelly line up outside.
The bars are usually empty an hour before the start of the game. The majority of fans camped out for an extra hour during the rain delay in 2007, because the field was tarped over.
The field was ready to be used when the grounds crew arrived around 11:45 a.m. Kelly and his gang paid their bar tab and headed to the stadium. Kelly & Co. settled into empty seats a half-hour later, about 10 rows back from the left-field line, because most of the crowd didn't show up because of the rain. Kelly noticed that the crowd seemed to be more angry than usual, and he was feeling warm and fuzzy.
Boston starter Josh Beckett threw the first pitch of the game, and by the time he finished, the RedSox were up 6-1. The air was wet and cold and the fans were getting bored and hungry as the RedSox won.
Kelly and his group of fans began to argue with another group of fans 20 feet away. Kelly calls that groupboisterous, and it should be stated for the record that the Kelly group sounded pretty boisterous as well.
Kelly and his friend, Matt Madore, went out to grab some food and drink after the sixth game.
Madore ate it on the steps and then stumbled down the pavement. Madore says that the other group started goofing on him for being drunk, and he got off the steps.
Kelly promised as they reached the top of the stairs that they would get them.
At the concession stand, Kelly asked for four slices, and the cashier said that they had a new deal where you could just get an entire pizza.
Madore won a March Madness pool by picking the University of Florida to win the NCAA tournament and he got $800 in the morning. He was burning money all day. It might be the most memorable $96 he has ever spent, because he paid for the beer and pizza himself.
The group that lugged the pizza box back to their seats demanded a slice, threatening to alert security that Kelly had brought in an entire pizza. Kelly tried to convince the man that he did not sneak it in, that he bought it at the concession stand. The two groups were so far apart that some of the barking got lost in translation. It was the meme of American Chopper, a bunch of dudes yelling over each other.
The tension reached a low boil when J.D. Drew came to the plate in the seventh. Drew missed the ball at the line. The ball bounced directly into the other group, causing spilled beers and confusion about whether the ump was going to call fan interference, as Anderson rushed to make a play on it. The ball fell to the grass after flying 30 feet.
On the broadcast, Don Orsillo worked through the replay as the late color commentator Jerry Remy's tone went from steady to confused. The beer had bounced everywhere on the play, and on the first pass through, Remy wondered out loud about what the mark on Sole's shoulder was. The poor guy was covered in beer and mud when he was first guessed to be dirt.
Over the next three minutes, Orsillo and Remy launched a full deep dive into the situation, losing their minds in laughter as they realized what actually happened. They saw a foreign object come skying in and drilling Sole near his neck after replaying from various angles.
They realized it was not mud. As the camera went back to the next pitch, he wondered if it was a sub sandwich. This story never happens because that could have been the end of it.
The commentators weren't done. As Drew stood back in the batter's box, Orsillo and Remy went back to the live crowd shot, where Sole was yelling at Kelly's group. The graphics crew slapped on aPepsi Fan of the Game for Sole as he continued to rage.
Orsillo said that he was the "Pepsi Fan of the Game" until he got thrown out.
The laughter spread to Orsillo as he tried to announce that Drew went down swinging for the final out. It had become one of those SNL skits that are funnier because the actors are laughing so hard.
By the time the commercial break ended, Orsillo and Remy could barely speak. Orsillo's giggles provided the soundtrack for more carnage on the horizon, as Remy tried to plow through a W.B. Mason plug for the upcoming postgame show. As the crew prepared for more replays, he was trying to choke down his analysis.
Orsillo jumped in as Remy read his read. He said that the responsible party had been ejected and was walking out of the stadium. They went to the video again, and as they did, Remy worked his way through one more slow-motion replay. As the camera showed the ball bouncing harmlessly to the ground and the beer landing on Sole and a friend, Remy blurted out what would become one of his most notorious calls.
Here comes the pizza!
Kelly had just finished one slice and was reaching into the box for another when Dr. Dunk was heading towards his section. Kelly heard a voice in his head that said, "You wanted a slice of pizza?" as Sole and his friends tried to catch the foul ball in front of Anderson. Well, here you go!
Madore and Kelly were required by Boston law to protect the beers. He realized the ball was going directly into their section. Kelly leaned down toward Madore and whispered.
He uncorked a pitch toward his opponent. The throw is better than anything Beckett did that day. Kelly threw a shot put style throw and the slice hurtled directly at Sole as he tried to catch the foul ball.
The slice fell onto Sole's neck, splattering sauce in an almost perfect triangle mark, after flipping over once in the air. The pizza landed on the railing by Anderson. The throw, the direct strike, the landing on the rail, it feels like a one-in-a-million chuck. How did he do it?
Professor Peko Hosoi analyzes Kelly's throw on a phone call from her office at MIT. She wrapped a rubber band around a triangular shaped notebook and tried to re-create it. She walks back about 10 feet and picks out a target.
She nails it on her first try, as the sound of a flying notebook clangs off the wall in the background.
When she was told that Kelly was closer to 20 feet away and the wind was 15 mph at his back, she ran her. She starts talking about lift and drag, and she mentions the second law of motion, that force equals mass times acceleration, and she thinks Kelly probably threw the pizza at 11 mph.
She tosses the notebook for her official attempt under more exact conditions. She tries it a few more times.
Hosoi is a co-founder of the MIT Sports Lab who teaches engineering and mathematics. That is a difficult throw. I will not lie.
Kelly connected on a direct strike after only one shot. He pulled the same move every spitball does when he saw the slice hit its target. He ran away and looked for the person who threw the pizza. As the dust settled in the stands, it was obvious who the chucker was.
The guy with the entire pizza that seemed to be missing one slice was the one who had been arguing with the victim. Madore made eye contact with the other group and pretended to be angry.
He yelled, hands raised in innocence, "Where did that come from?" Who threw the pizza?
The Bahstan Red Sawx troublemaker mockery is what Kelly and Madore tell that part of the story. They were asked to leave by security. Kelly and Madore tried to convince the security guard that they were innocent.
Madore asked, still faux-shrugging.
The guard said that because you are on national TV, you are an idiot.
Sole's girlfriend scrubbed him down with napkins as Orsillo and Remy continued to break down the incident in real time. Sole was laughing when he took a cellphone call. He did a brief interview after the game, but didn't respond to many attempts to reach him for this story.
Kelly thought he would never address the pizza chuck. It seemed like life might go back to normal for an hour or two. He and his wife were at a bar for a half hour after they were kicked out of the team. Madore called him to meet them at a different bar.
They both stopped in the doorway when they walked in. They were falling apart trying to talk about the slice toss, because every TV in the bar had the Red Sox postgame on it. Kelly was hoping to sneak into the bar without anyone knowing it was him.
Kelly didn't have to buy any drinks for the next 20 minutes until he and his wife had to go to relieve their babysitter.
Both Kellys breathed a sigh of relief on the car ride home. It seemed like they had escaped unscathed. Nobody at the bar knew the names of the people who were there. Kelly asked his friends from the game to keep his identity quiet after he sent them a text.
As his wife drove, he flipped on sports radio and heard the hosts discussing the incident in excited tones. Matt Madore was going to be a special guest. The Kellys listened in horror as Madore talked about the aftermath of the throw.
The host asked what the Pizza Chucker's name was.
Kelly was hoping that Madore wouldn't say he couldn't reveal his friend's identity.
Instead, Madore hesitated for a second, then blurted out. His name is Danny Kelly.
The legend of the pizza chucker had been taken over by Dan Kelly. He turned off his phone because it began to chirp nonstop. He decided to ignore the voicemails from pizza places that endorsed their products. Kelly thought the whole thing might blow over if people knew his name.
It has not blown over.
Kelly had no choice but to address it publicly after the calls kept coming in. A few years later, he showed up at the restaurant with a friend who had a sign that said he was with the Pizza Chucker. For the first time, Kelly realized he was going to have to lean into it when he was interviewed in the stands. He said he wished he could apologize for being so drunk that day.
He tried to straddle the line between being apologetic and not taking the whole thing too seriously. It was my Will Smith moment.
Kelly sits in the middle of what he calls Kelly's Pub, a room filled with Boston sports gear, ranging from a Roger Clemens autograph ball to a picture of him with Larry Bird. There is a long rectangular frame with seven pictures in it from the seven pro sports titles won by Boston sports teams from 2001 to 2011.
He reached back and grabbed a personalized license plate he used to have on his car, but was tired of paying to renew. He takes joy in waiting as people try to figure out what it means.
He was trying to figure out which item was his favorite from Kelly's Pub, and he took a picture of his son and daughter at their first Red Sox game as a family.
There is no sign of anything that commemorates what makes him a legend. Where is the framed pizza slice? The ticket from that night? An artist rendition of the greatest throw in baseball history? He doesn't want to be known as the idiot that threw the pizza.
He is going to get calls for this on the 15th anniversary and also on the 20th and 25th. He is the Pizza Chucker, and he will always be. Kelly hesitates for a few seconds when he is asked if he could hit a button and get rid of it.
If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said yes.
The guy who alters Irish social club acceptance letters is about to enter the chat.
Kelly says he regrets the whole thing, and his voice lowers a bit.