I've been a Yankee fan all my life. Despite that, the park I haven't seen that I most wish to see is Fenway Park, and it has been ever since I crossed Wrigley Field off my list on a sunny day in July, 1993.
Prior to Thursday, my closest encounter with Fenway was during the East Coast Hockey Tour of 1991-92. Along with some friends from USC, I saw four games in six days in four cities, capped by my only trip to Boston Garden on January 2, 1992. During my stay in Beantown, I made my friends drive by Fenway, so I could get out and touch one of the true baseball cathedrals. So I'd felt up the back of the Green Monster in frigid January weather.
That was all supposed to change last night. Thanks to a local BP reader, Joe Cleveland, I was all set to watch a game inside the aging beauty. Better still, I would be going with one of my best friends, Matt McDonald, who'd be one of the best guys in the world if not for his affection for the Sawks.
Joe came by my hotel around 6 p.m. to drop off the tickets. And no sooner did I grasp the envelope than umbrellas popped up all over Boston.
This wasn't "rain." This was a deluge. This was a wet version of Armageddon. Small children were being swept away as the streets of Boston became mighty rivers, with all water flowing–I was certain–to the unprotected outfield grass of Fenway Park.
Joe and I were having dr…er, milkshakes at the hotel b…er, diner when Matt arrived. We elected to wait it out in the cool, dry place that served alco…er, ice cream rather than venture into the circle of hell that was Arlington St. It was just as well, as an old man had started a construction project–looked like a boat of some kind–outside the door. In the meantime, Matt and I entertained Joe with stories, some of them even true, about our days at 'SC.
A couple of calls to Fenway revealed that the game was still scheduled to be played, and at around 7:15, the rain let up. With renewed hope, Matt and I set off for Fenway Park. (Fenway Park!) Three T stops and a short walk later, Lansdowne Street lay in front of me, the skies above were clearing, and I'd heard "Tickets?" 4,308 times.
Before we entered, Matt dragged me to a sausage stand across the street from the park. I highly recommend you all do the same to your friends; the sausage sandwich is a bit overpriced–five bucks–but tasty, and it comes on a fabulous roll.
Food in hand (and mouth… and, truth be told, on my shirt), I followed Matt to Gate C. Now, I readily admit that I am a baseball geek, so I will tell you that I was getting chills walking into the park. The last time I'd felt this way at a ballgame was when I'd seen Wrigley for the first time seven years ago.
We made our way, with difficulty, through the crowd under the bleachers, reaching the stairs that would take us outside, to my first glimpse of the Green Monster, of Pesky's Pole, of the park that looks like a little bit of 1915 in our 21st-century world.
And as I gazed up the staircase, I saw… people coming down?
"They called it."
With rain in the forecast for the rest of the night, the game had been postponed. It made sense; the Indians return for a series in September, it was a travel day for them, and any attempt to play the game was going to be fitful and lead to one long and ugly night. Giving up early was the sensible thing to do.
Of course, that's what I'm writing now, at 1:15 a.m. My reaction then was… well, no reaction, really. I was pretty disappointed, and the idea of getting so close, only to be thwarted, threw me for a loop. Matt, though, knew just what to do–an object lesson in choosing your friends well. After allowing a wave of people by, he started up the stairs, and I followed him. Maybe I wasn't going to see Nomar Garciaparra's work, but I could see his office.
You know how when you want something for a long time, the anticipation and the buildup gets so great that there's virtually no way the reality of it can satisfy you?
OK, now think of the opposite of that.
Even though I was leaning on a wall 420 feet from home plate, the view was perfect. I felt closer to the infield from that vantage point than I had at Dodger Stadium last Saturday in seats 60 feet closer to the field. I soaked in the Wall, the bleachers, the way the right-field fence runs straight back for 30 feet past Pesky's Pole. I soaked in the virtual lack of a third deck, the manual scoreboard, the green, wet grass and the flags flying above the 600 Club.
It was the most fun I'd ever had at a rainout. It may have been the most fun I've had at a major-league park this year. I'd seen Fenway, and it was wonderful.
SABR goes to the game tonight, an event in which I wasn't going to participate. Now, I have to hope I can trip over a pair of tickets–what, I'm going to leave Matt out of this?–and finally make a long-time dream come true.
I've fondled bricks. I've leaned on a damp wall and bantered with an usher. I've allowed someone named, "The Sausage Guy" into my life.
Can I, just maybe, actually see a ballgame in this place?