Game 15: Boston Red Sox
An old friend from Christchurch joined us for our pilgrimage to the shrine of baseball that is Fenway Park. Garth Samuels and I went to school and played rugby together in our formative years through the ages 15-20. Sam went on and excelled as a skilful lock for the much vaunted and champion New Brighton forward pack through the 1980’s. He is going to share our viewing pleasure for the next five games. A good bugger who does not mind the occasional beer. So, we used the Boston subway system, the T, to travel to Fenway Park. If you are ever going to use it, you take any Green Line train except the one on the E branch. You then use either the Fenway of Kenmore stop and walk the couple of blocks to the park. You will probably have developed a thirst from the exercise so I would recommend a stop on the rooftop at The Baseball Tavern to quench that thirst. It worked for us anyway.
Fenway Park itself is an amazing venue that just exudes history. It stands alone as the oldest ball park in the majors having hosted its inaugural contest on April 20, 1912. Built in a swampy area of Boston known as “The Fens”, the parks urban setting led to some unique dimensions and contours. The wall surrounding the playing field has 17 facets that have created a number of nooks and crannies for the outfielder to negotiate. When the field was first constructed there was a ten foot high embankment in front of the wall in left field. The name “Duffy’s Cliff” was coined after Duffy Lewis, the six year Red Sox outfielder who mastered its intricacies. In 1933 the ballpark underwent major renovations including levelling off Duffys Cliff and replacing wooden bleachers with concrete ones. In place of Duffys Cliff was a feature that would dominate the parks architecture: a 37 feet high wall, later known as “The Green Monster.” In fact the monster was initially not green and was plastered with advertising signs. From 1947 however it has been the well-known green colour. The Monster is only 310 feet down the line as it tempts hitters and intimidates pitchers alike.
The ballpark is very intimate with its extended capacity being only 39,605 and this figure is reached for every game. At Fenway, unlike other parks we have visited, a sell-out means just that. There appeared to me to be no empty seats in this neat little ballpark. There have been recent suggestions of moving the Sox out of Fenway Park. I simply do not believe that the Red Sox Nation would allow that to happen. This year, as 100 year celebrations for Fenway are taking place, I cannot imagine the history and tradition being allowed to be dismantled. The Red Sox and Fenway Park are synonyms.
Kayne snuck off work and met us on the rooftop and the four of us begun the Fenway Park experience. First off though was a bit of an adventure getting a beer. It is not unusual over here for the beer sellers to ask for identification, as the drinking age is 21. However, here they did not accept my New Zealand drivers licence and wanted to see my passport, which unfortunately I did not have on me. Therefore they would not serve me – luckily my former student had the appropriate paperwork and Kayne will have to get my beer for the night – oh well!
Toronto Blue Jays….……100 102 000 – 4
Boston Red Sox ….……..610 210 00x – 10
This game was effectively over as a contest by the end of the first innings. After Lawrie doubled to left field and Rasmus singled to centre to score the opening run for Toronto, the Red Sox response was fast and lethal. They sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the innings and scored four runs on six hits off hapless pitcher Ricky Romero. Dustin Perdroia doubled to left field to drive in leadoff Daniel Nava who had been walked. Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate with bases loaded after David Ortiz had walked and Ross singled to left. Gonzlaez put the Sox ahead to stay, 2-1, when he ripped a hard grounder past Edwin Encarnacion at first to score two more runs. It was only then that Romero recorded his first out when Will Middlebrooks ground out to third on an RBI fielder’s choice. Mike Aviles hit another sharp grounder past third to score Gonzalez making it 5-1. Daniell McDonald made it 6-1 when his single to centre scored Avilles.
As can be seen from the score box above, while the Blue Jays scored in the form of a Bautista home run in the fourth and when he tripled and was bought in by a home run from Enccarnacion, four runs were to be their due for the day. Boston responded when Ortiz was worked around the bases after being put on base by balls in both the second and fourth innings and Ross also scored again on the back of a sharply hit double by Avilles. In the bottom of the fifth the Blue Jays finally tired of walking Big Papi (David Ortiz) and worked up the courage to actually pitch to him. A big mistake as he drove in his 399th career home run. All this of course resulted in a resounding and comfortable win to the home team.
A tradition of Fenway Park is the singing of that great Neil Diamond favourite, Sweet Caroline in the middle of the eighth innings. Apparently this was begun by Amy Tobey who worked for BCN Productions, a film and communications company that decided which music was to be played at the ballpark between 1998 and 2004. Amy had heard Sweet Caroline used successfully at other sports arenas, so slotted it into the Fenway repertoire. It was played anywhere between the seventh and ninth innings if the Red Sox were ahead. In 2002 the club went under new management who requested that the song was used in the middle of the eighth. With my vocal chords well lubricated, and being a closet Neil Diamond fan, I let forth and joined the rousing rendition of Sweet Caroline. As they say, “if you can’t sing Sweet Caroline, you didn’t go to the game.”
Another famous aspect and one that I had to get a close up view of, at Fenway Park is Pesky’s Pole or The Pesky Pole. This is the name given to the right field foul pole which is measured at a measly 302 feet from the home plate. It is named after Johnny Pesky who graced the infield from 1942 to 1952. While the term had been sparingly used, Mel Parnell popularised the title when he was a broadcaster for the club in the 1960’s. He had been pitcher and he stated that in 1948 during a game Parnell was pitching, Pesky is reputed to have hit a home run that curved around the pole to win the game for the Sox and Parnell. The facts do not actually appear to back up the myth. During his ten year career Pesky hit just 17 home runs and only six of them were at Fenway. He only hit one home run in a game that Parnell pitched and that was a two shot homer in the first innings of a game lost to Detroit on June 11, 1950. Still, as I always say, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good yarn. On September 27, 2006 on Johnny Pesky’s 87th birthday the foul pole was officially named Pesky’s Pole and a commemorative plaque was placed at the base of the pole. At the completion of this game against the Blue Jays I paid homage to history and to Pesky and added my name to the thousands of others on that right field foul pole.
At the completion of the fixture Kayne, Sam, Kitty and I concurred that the only sensible thing to do would be to wait for an hour or so to allow the crowds on the T to die down. Fortunately enough for us The Baseball Tavern was not closed, so the rehydration process could begin.