I posted this story on May 5th of last year, since we're all kind of looking for something to cheer us up with the way the season has gone so far I thought it might be nice to bring it up again. I wrote this a long time ago, back when I was just starting to find out what it meant to be a Red Sox fan, so I hope you all enjoy it.
Ted Williams may have been the greatest player to ever swing a bat. People talk about Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Ken Griffey Jr. but none of them held a candle to the great Teddy Ballgame. At least, if you ask my dad they didn't. My pop's name was Allen J. MacHanaugh, and he grew up idolizing Ted more than any other kid has idolized any other figure in sports. To this day he can talk your ear off about the way Ted stood at the plate, hungry, daring the pitcher to challenge him. Despite all this, my father has never been to Fenway Park, the only time he ever heard or saw Williams was on television or the radio.
In case you didn't know, Ted hit the longest home run ever at Fenway Park, the ball travelled over 500 feet into the right field bleachers. The owners of the Sox put a red seat where that ball landed, you can ask anyone in Boston and they'll tell you. The red seat? That's Ted's seat.
If there was one person my dad loved in the world more than Ted, it was my mother Anne. When she died it broke his heart, and I think he stopped caring about the rest of the world. He was lost without her, started misplacing things, forgetting birthdays and anniversaries. He always seemed surprised when I would come to visit, even though we had planned these visits weeks in advance. The death of my mother stole both of my parents from me, it just took some time for my dad to catch up.
The only time my dad seemed like himself again was when he was watching the Sox, so I tried to plan my visits around the baseball season, we sat together on his couch when Schill took the mound with blood pooling into his shoe for Game 6 in 2004, and then again when Keith Foulke tossed the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out of the World Series. He cried then, and I cried with him, the only emotional moment I had with him since the death of my mother.
My father's mind continued to go after that, and he never really seemed like himself again. We'd still watch games together, and every time the camera panned over the outfield he would touch my shoulder and say "Jimmy, out there is a red seat, that's where Ted's last home run landed." And then he would go back to sitting in silence, staring at the television as if I were not even there.
My father turned seventy in 2006, and he still had not ever been to Fenway Park. We lived in Michigan then, and he had taken me to Tiger Stadium a few times, and then to Comerica Park after it was built, but I know he considered the Tigers a second-rate team, even though they had won it all more recently than the Sox. I decided that year that he was going to see Fenway before he went, even if it meant I had to drag him there.
Tickets weren't that hard to come by, even with the Sox in the middle of a sellout streak, but it was still expensive to get us both to Boston, writing isn't exactly the most lucrative of professions. I figured it would be worth it all once we got to the stadium though. We went to a game on September 10th, the Sox were playing the Kansas City Royals, and they had lost to them twice already, any hopes of the postseason were pretty much gone by this point, but that was okay, Dad probably wouldn't even notice anyway, I had another surprise in store for him.
Dad talked about that seat from the moment I was born until the day I moved out of my parents house, and then pointed it out every time we watched a game together on TV. I had done my homework, figured out which seat it was and then bought the tickets way in advance to be sure we got the right spot.
We walked around the park for a while during batting practice, and then I started to steer my dad towards Section 42, Row 37. Dad saw the seat then, and he started to get excited, shaking my arm and pointing. "Look Jimmy, that guy is sitting in Ted Williams' seat."
I hadn't been paying much attention, I was looking out at the field while David Ortiz took batting practice, but when I looked over sure enough, someone was sitting in the red seat, the seat I had paid for so that my dad could sit there. I pulled out our ticket stubs and checked to make sure, seat 21, the red seat, Ted's seat, Dad's seat, and it had been stolen from us by some asshole who had the gall to wear a modern jersey with the number nine on the back. I pushed dad over to the seat and was about to yell at the guy when he turned to us.
"Allen MacHanaugh?" he asked my dad, standing up and holding out his hand. My dad nodded and shook the stranger's hand, shaking all over. "I've been waiting for you," the man said, "I was wondering when you were going to show up." The man moved over, and offered my dad the red seat. As we took our seats, the man smiled and walked away.
As the game started, my dad leaned over and whispered to me, "That was Ted Williams," he said, a wide smile on his face. I told him not to be stupid, it was just some guy in a Williams jersey. Teddy Ballgame had been dead for four years now.
The game went well, the Sox ended up winning by a score of nine to three. We were both pretty into the game, but as we got closer and closer to the 7th inning stretch it became obvious that my dad was getting tired, finally falling asleep in the top of the seventh.
As the rest of the crowd stood up to sing Sweet Caroline I noticed that guy from earlier walking towards us, he walked past me and crouched down next to my dad. "Allen" he said, shaking the older man's shoulder gently "Allen wake up, I need you to come with me. As my dad woke up I moved to tell the guy off, but my dad held up a hand.
Dad stood up with Ted, and looked back at me and smiled. "Thank you Jimmy," he said as he walked away. "Heaven would have been nice, but I think I prefer Fenway."