Friday, April 20, 2012

Fenway Memory

Just as they did 100 years ago today when they opened the new playground of the hometown Boston Red Sox, the NY Yankees (known then as the NY Highlanders) will be afternoon guests at the centennial of Fenway Park. A cherished edifice of Beantown architecture, Fenway is a bandbox of a ballpark where fans sit so close to the action they feel they can almost touch the players. For years they suffered with them in the anguish of never having won a championship from 1918 until 2004. Even with a second World Series title in 2007, Boston fans are forever lamenting the fate of their beloved Bosox. All the while they repeatedly sell out Fenway Park.

My one and only time visiting the baseball shrine off Lansdowne Street was in 1975, for the seventh game of the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. My friend John and I had freebie tickets courtesy of our employer, the New Haven Register. We sat along the third base line, in the lower, covered deck. It was the night after the Red Sox had triumphed in what some people argue was the best World Series game ever, a contest tied in the bottom of the eighth by a three-run home run by Bernie Carbo and won four innings later by a solo shot over the Green Monster down the left field line by Carlton Fisk, a home run forever immortalized in film by Fisk’s willing the ball to stay fair to give Boston a 7-6 victory and a chance to win its first championship in 57 years.

Despite the exhilaration from the night before, Boston fans, including my friend John, seemed to me to carry an air of resignation on their shoulders, even after the home team took an early 3-0 lead. They seemed to be waiting for someone to foul up, to make the error that opened the floodgates for the Big Red Machine. Sure enough, in the sixth inning second baseman Denny Doyle, a mid-season acquisition based on his defensive skills, made his second error of the game, a miscue that prolonged a Cincinnati at bat. Tony Perez promptly made Boston pay by smacking a two-run homer. From then on the home town crowd’s emotional support never revived. Like prisoners waiting for their turn before the firing squad, the fans waited patiently for the coup de grace. Cincy scored single runs in the seventh and ninth innings to win the game and Series, 4-3.

With the exception of Reds players and their families, I probably was among the few fans to leave Fenway a happy fellow that night. I don’t like the Boston Red Sox. My only regret is I could not openly express my feelings. I’m not stupid, after all. No way would I openly cheer against the home team in Fenway.

I have another regret, not tied to the Red Sox, but to baseball in general. My business travels took me to every major league city. I regret not watching a game in each ball park. Too late now.

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