May be time to consider that Will Middlebrooks is a robot from the future sent back to murder baseballs. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Yesterday finally felt like spring. The sun was shining all through the day, there wasn't a biting wind trying to send us back to March. The Red Sox were winning, and doing so with authority. Best of all, I had a seat in right field to see them do it.
Watching the game from home has its advantages, of course. Cheaper beer, easier bathroom access, minimal worry that the drunken BC student in the next row will stop looking peaky and instead just throw up. It's a lot tougher to get sunburned while watching the game at home. This is a particular concern for me. Several years ago, I considered mailing Steve Trachsel a bill for the extra aloe I needed after watching his slow-moving butt against the Sox. Last year, I went to the game in June which the Sox bumped to the afternoon so that everyone could watch the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. All was fine until Pap blew a four-run lead and the game stretched into the 14th. J.D. Drew won it by knocking in Carl Crawford, by which time my arms nicely matched my replica 1975 Sox cap. The things we do for baseball.
Ultimately, of course, there's one basic advantage to seeing the game at Fenway: you're at Fenway. Everything about how amazing Fenway is as a baseball venue has been written already, especially in this 100th anniversary year. And still it's remarkable every time you enter the park. Each game has a different feel, a rhythm that can't quite be sensed when you're watching from home or a bar. Every event, every sight triggers a different memory of ballgames past.
Heading up into the ballpark, first thing I saw was the banners they've hung behind Gate A, with the names of the 1912 American League ballclubs. The Philadelphia A's, the St. Louis Browns... I'd known, of course, that these now long-since moved franchises had played in the same park I was standing in, but the tangible reminder was fascinating.
Moving along and up (and up, and up, RF roof seats), I came to the entryway to the nice seats. I don't get up there much, and it's a little weird being in the parts of the park you can't get into without a handstamp. On the other hand, nicer seats, fewer people in line for hot dogs; you certainly get what you pay for. I thought of the last time I'd been up that way, when I decided "eh, it's my birthday" and bought pavilion seats for a game against the Rays. The Sox lost, showing the first hints of an August slump that would eventually lead into the September collapse. But Erik Bedard pitched halfway decently, and Boston turned a triple play. In ten years, I won't remember the loss, but I'll certainly remember the park-wide reaction: "Nice play, Jed! Wait, was that? Holy hell, triple play!"
Sitting down next to my already-arrived girlfriend (thanks, MBTA), hearing the new PA guy announce the Sox coming to bat. Not used to that. Won't be for a while. A favorite Carl Beane moment came to mind: we attended Matsuzaka's first home start as a Red Sox pitcher. Daisuke didn't pitch badly, he just happened to pitch against Felix Hernandez that day. But when Beane gave the starting lineups, after finishing the offense, he introduced Matsuzaka in Japanese. The whole bit, the entire "today's starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, number 18, Daisuke Matsuzaka," all in Japanese. Confused a lot of the crowd, but it was a great touch.
Moving into the game yesterday, the Red Sox were already way up, and Rhode Island's own Dan Wheeler came in to try to keep it close. Only one thing ever comes to mind for me when Wheeler's in, and this was true even when he was with the Sox last year. Game Five, 2008 ALCS. Tampa Bay at Boston, Tampa about to eliminate the Sox. Rays up 7-0 behind Scott Kazmir's solid pitching and B.J. Upton's four RBI. Boston came back to win it (another J.D. Drew walkoff, actually), in one of the more amazing things I've ever seen. By the time the comeback started, most of the crowd had given up. It was cold, the Sox were getting killed, hard to blame them. But this left only the die-hards, and the die-hards are much better at razzing opposing players. That night, we went Little League. Half a ballpark of cold, half-drunk Boston accents, mockingly chanting "Whee-lah! Whee-lah!" as Wheeler fell apart on the mound. It was glorious.
Yesterday, Wheeler again fell apart while I watched. The Sox cruised to a 12-1 victory, and the ballpark was just happy. I wasn't there for the Beckett game, when all the losing and the media grandstanding came to a horrifying, boo-filled climax. Maybe that was really the bottom of the pit, and we're all climbing our way out at last. Funny how much more hopeful things seem when they put together a couple wins in a row. And that's the best part of being at Fenway Park for a win: as you leave, you know they're going to win again, and you can't wait to get back to the park to see it.