I saw some of the ceremony commemorating Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary prior to today’s game against the New York Yankees.
I think they had nearly every living person who ever wore a Red Sox uniform: Yaz, Nomar, Mo Vaughn, El Tiante, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Jim Lonborg, Rice, Dewey, Fisk, Buckner, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Canseco, Rick Wise and Tito decided to come along after all. If you looked hard enough you could see Don Schwall (who beat out Yaz to win the 1961 AL Rookie of the Year) and Pumpsie Green, the Red Sox’s first black player. Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek helped along Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr in their wheelchairs while Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez led the largest toast in the history of the world with a little help from Welch’s. Mayor Menino and Caroline Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Well, Neil Diamond did write “Sweet Caroline” for her although it’s probably time to hear a new song in the middle of the eighth inning.
As a resident of the City of Boston for the past 12 years, Fenway has become my neighborhood ballpark. For most of those years it was literally so as I lived in the Fenway and could walk to the ballpark in five to ten minutes. Over the years, it often took me longer to get out of the ballpark and onto the street than it did to walk home.
I have seen more than 80 games at Fenway. Of course, I remember the first game I attended at Fenway on April 17, 2000 – Patriot’s Day. The Sox lost 1-0 to the Oakland Athletics. Earlier this week, I saw the Sox on Patriot’s Day. They also lost 1-0 this time to the Tampa Bay Rays. Particular things stand out such as seeing Brian Daubach get walk off hits on three separate occasions in 2000. I saw Hideo Nomo carry a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins. He had thrown one in his Red Sox debut against the Orioles in Baltimore. I saw Bret Saberhagen record his last big league win and on my 35th birthday saw what turned out to be Roger Clemens’ last big league appearance.
I remember Oakland Athletics centerfielder Terrence Long robbing Manny Ramirez of what would have been a walk off homerun and Jermaine Dye looking at him as if to say, “You didn’t just make that catch.” I saw Jonathan Papelbon make his big league debut as a starting pitcher against the Minnesota Twins. In that same game (which was played during the trade deadline), Manny pinch hit and got a game winning single. After the game, he coined the phrase “Manny being Manny.”
On two occasions, I saw David Ortiz hit walk off homeruns. The first was on Easter Sunday in 2004 in a twelve inning triumph over the Toronto Blue Jays. The second time was on July 31, 2006 against the Cleveland Indians off Fausto Carmona (who, as it turns out, is not actually Fausto Carmona.)
Usually I sit in the grandstands on the first base side. But I’ve sat in the bleachers. I would advise against it because you’re not protected from the elements. The same is true if you sit in the seats above the Green Monster which I did on a rainy night towards the end of the 2005 season against the Twins.
Still, I like the fact that you are close to the action no matter where you at Fenway and that the Red Sox assume your intelligent enough to know when to cheer and when to jeer. You don’t see instructions on the scoreboard telling you when to make your voice heard nor do they feel the need to fill every second with loud, obnoxious music. Can you say Yankee Stadium? Since John Henry and Tom Werner took over, Fenway has had a substantial facelift for the better especially the concourses. No longer does it look like a dank basement.
So what’s my most memorable moment at Fenway? That’s easy. Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. If the Sox lose, the Rays go onto the Series. Down 7-0 in the 7th, many people left. I wasn’t going anywhere. If they lost, I was going to see it through. The Sox won 8-7 on a walk off single by J.D. Drew. Of course, that game would have been more memorable had the Sox won Game 7.
I’ve seen the Sox through good (two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007) and bad (the collapse of 2001 and the even bigger collapse of 2011 which I’m convinced has only just begun.) But win or lose, if you love to watch baseball then Fenway Park is the place to be and hope to be there for many more seasons to come.
UPDATE: The losing continues as the Sox fell 6-2. The Yankees hit five homeruns including the 631st of Alex Rodriguez’s career. He passes former teammate Ken Griffey, Jr and is now fifth on the all-time homerun list. Meanwhile, the Sox are 4-9 in this young season.