A year ago, I was debating whether to spend Patriots Day in Concord where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired or to stay in the city and see the Red Sox at Fenway before going to watch the Boston Marathon.
I chose the former and not a day has gone by since that reminds me how this decision might have very well saved my life or, at the very minimum, from serious injury.
This year there was no debate as to how I would spend Patriots Day. I vowed to be at the Marathon as did more than a million other spectators.
But before that I made my first pilgrimage to Fenway Park of the 2014 season to see the defending World Series champion Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles.
Clay Buchholz got the start for the Red Sox. In his second big league start on Labor Day Weekend 2007, Buchholz no-hit the Orioles. Today, Buchholz did not have no-hit stuff, far from it. Buchholz was fine the first two innings, but in the third he gave up five consecutive singles to Steve Lombardozzi, David Lough, Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and Chris Davis. The first out of the inning did not come until Adam Jones reached on a fielder’s choice. O’s backup catcher Steve Clevenger resumed the hit parade with a double followed by a single from Jonathan Schoop. When the damage was done it was Orioles 6, Red Sox 0. As Red Sox manager John Farrell removed him from the game, I’m sure Buchholz asked him, “What kept you?” The Fenway faithful was less than amused.
The crowd’s mood picked up considerably when we learned Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. A “U.S.A., U.S.A.” chant surged through Fenway. This uplifted mood seemed to rub off on the Red Sox. They would score three runs in the fifth on doubles by Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Dustin Pedroia and a sacrifice fly by third baseman Brock Holt. This cut the Orioles’ lead in half. The Sox added a run in the seventh on a solo homerun by backup catcher David Ross. The Orioles now led 6-4. It must be noted that Brook Badenhop kept the Sox in the game with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched.
Baltimore would take a 7-4 lead in the eighth on a single by Ryan Flaherty, but he would be thrown out at second when he tried to stretch it into a double. In the bottom of the inning, Mike Napoli’s solo HR made it 7-5. After singles by Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava, the Sox had an opportunity to take the lead. But Farrell opted to lift Ross for Jonathan Herrera, which mystified the crowd. Not only did Herrera strike out, but Bogaerts made a rookie base-running mistake and was caught in no man’s land between second and third and tagged out by Clevenger. The crowd let Bogaerts have it.
The Sox had a chance in the ninth. With one out, Holt singled and Pedroia missed tying the game by inches and had to settle for a double off The Green Monster. This brought up David Ortiz. But with first base open, the O’s were not going to let Big Papi beat them. The crowd jeered when Orioles closer Tommy Hunter intentionally walked Ortiz. I turned to the guy standing next to me and asked, “Why is anyone surprised this would happen?”
Hunter opted to face Napoli instead and got him to ground out to second, but this would score Holt to make it 7-6. Could the Sox come back from being down 6-0? Could lightning strike twice for Mike Carp? On Sunday night, Carp hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to give the Sox a 6-5 victory after they had trailed 5-0? Um, no. Carp meekly grounded out to first to end the game. The crowd carped. The Red Sox lost 7-6. It was a shame, but everyone would go home in one piece and live to see another game.
I proceeded to the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues to watch the Marathon. I could see the runners emerging from Storrow Drive running onto Comm Ave less than a mile away from the finish line. As it was 3 p.m., the elite runners had long finished their race. It occurred to me that many of the runners I was watching were those who did not have the opportunity to finish a year ago because of the bombings and were now making things right. It also thought to myself that this was something I could probably never do. Many of these people are older than me, many of them are without limbs and many cannot walk.
Even those equipped with all limbs had to deal with the heat. It was nearly 70 degrees. A former boss of mine ran in several Boston Marathons and I remember her telling me that she preferred to run when the temperature was in the high 40s. Many of the runners were walking to conserve their energy. Just standing in that weather was getting to me. I couldn’t imagine running for 26 miles, 385 feet in those conditions. And yet they do it and they have my unceasing admiration.
Alas, I only got to see ten minutes of the race before members of Boston’s finest told us to clear the sidewalks and move along. Heeding their advice, I tried to access Boylston via Dalton Street. No dice. I was greeted by a roadblock that was identified as Security Checkpoint #15 and nobody was being let through to watch the race. The amount of security present was overwhelming. I thought to myself that if anyone who wanted to execute evil intent on this day would have to have a death wish. Of course, this could have been said for the 9/11 attackers and the Boston Marathon bombers. So there we have it for better or for worse. Well, actually better. No one died today.