The Red Sox have reached out to Red Sox Nation and asked for memories with which to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Fenway next year.
I want to share some with you.
First, I was present at a Papi walk-off victory in 2006. Seated in section 35, to the left of the centerfield camera stand, I watched in the bottom of the 9th as the ball sailed over the right field fence into the visitor’s bullpen. I sat next to four elderly guys from Rhode Island who had spent the prior 15 minutes discussing whether chance would allow David a shot at untying the game, and then interspersed giggling remarks like, “Can he really do it ?”, is he Superman ?” Such was David’s clutch hitting reputation at the time. He did it again and again. He was just a Miracle Man then.
I am deeply thankful to have witnessed that walk-off because I saw Papi do it with my own eyes, and it touched me to see how giddy it made the old men around me.
Another memory involved a wedding party. I, my brother Ben, and friends sat in the last row of Grandstand 16. At the time, the stairs went from the top of the Grandstand 16 all the way down to the field, ending adjacent to the Red Sox dugout, where a little gate to the field was located. It was a night game. Round about the fifth inning, a wedding party emerged from the darkness behind us and stood at the top of the stairs. The bride was still in dress and veil. The groom was still in tie, vest and jacket. The newlyweds drank and hooted behind us for awhile. It was all in good fun. The wedding reception had simply been moved from the reception hall to Fenway Park.
Then a chant, at first quiet, then building, came from behind us. “Cookie. Cookie. COOKIE. COOKIE !”.
We weren’t sure who Cookie was but going by the fact that we saw her standing at the top of the stairs looking straight down at the field while her drunken pals were yelling behind us, we concluded that Cookie was the Bride and that something unusual was about to happen.
Sure enough, with her Boyz still chanting her name, Cookie darted down the 100-odd steps to the little gate in her veil and gown, swung open the gate and made a run for Bill Buckner at 1st Base. I remember the bridal party exploding in laughter and cheers. I recall that once on the field, Cookie was very sweet in approaching Buckner and then was cooperative with the authorities. I do not know if the poor thing spent the night in jail. I do know that I will never see that at Fenway Park again, though I thank my lucky stars I was there to see it happen.
I have many wonderful memories of Fenway. There was the day I, Ben, and my wife took all three of my daughters to Fenway when they were little (ages 2, 4 and 6) and we watched the Clemens-led BoSox lose from seats in the 5th row behind the visitor’s dugout. My 4 year old, now 20, remembers somehow cutting her tiny finger on a Fenway Peanut shell and being horrified to see her own blood for the first time.
My pal, Bill Clark and I sat in the right field boxes for game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, the longest playoff game in history, the game that was win #2 after getting down to the Jeter Men 3-0. I’ll never forget that game, or how I was bundled like an Eskimo to deal with MLB’s absurdly unseasonal scheduling of the late post season.
I’ll never forget the game I went to on October 11, 2009. My friend, Bill Calhoun and I, saw Papelbon blow a 2 run lead in the 9th as the Halo’s swept the Sox out of the ALDS. Bill was the liveliest, funniest, smartest Red Sox fan you could know. He had everyone within earshot doubled over in laughter with his special nicknames for Chone Figgins and Scott Kazmir, as well as pretending I was a closet Yankee fan at one point and convincing our neighbors that he and I “were going to have a go” when the game was over. That game was Bill’s last game. He died suddenly 4 months later at age 47, leaving behind a wife and 4 small children. I feel honored to have watched that game with Bill.
I’ll never forget having my wife and kids atop the Green Monster on a sunny day for a game. I cherish the photo I snapped.
I’ll never forget speaking at the Player’s Gate with Rich Gedman in ’86, and how he refused to be cheered up after a particularly poor game.
I’ll never forget Rolando, an usher who worked the Roof Boxes for years, a great guy. He started with the Sox in 1974 and has missed less than 10 games in the 47 years that followed.
My greatest baseball memory at Fenway Park happened on Sunday, Oct. 2, 1983. I sat in grandstand 13 with several friends, Yankee fans included, for Yaz’s last game. I bought 6 grandstand tickets @ $8 and a handful of bleacher seats @ $4 months in advance, realizing the emotional potential of the day. We sat down 45 minutes before game time. The crowd was already at their seats but they were standing and clapping. It was sensational. Emotion rippled through Fenway Park. Yaz was nowhere in sight but Fenway Park was full of noise and shouting. Then, out he came, treating us to a special jog around the park, slowing circling counter clockwise around the perimeter, slapping hands and waving as he went. He stopped and gazed into the stands several times.
During the game, we saw him get his last hit, his last walk, and make his last error by throwing a fielded ball into the ground in Left Field. (He was not charged with an error.) One has to suspect he was a little rattled by the events of the day.
That was a great day. There have been many great days. There will be many more to come.
Go Sox. Long live Fenway Park.