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Dan Shaughnessy

Moments frozen in time

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 25, 2009
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Fenway Park.

Where Amazing Happens.

Even against the Amazin's.

On the season's seventh Sunday, in the 44th game of the year, the skies opened and golf ball-size hail fell, and the Red Sox moved into sole possession of first place in the American League East.

For the first time all season.

Averting an embarrassing sweep, the Sox thumped the Mets, 12-5, at Fenway yesterday. This was a day that included four hits by J.D. Drew, three-run homers by Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis, a foul-ball home run by Youk that was reviewed, three hits by George Kottaras, the hidden-balk trick by Ken Takahashi, and Jacoby Ellsbury extending his hitting streak to 19 games.

But none of the above was as amazing as the Biblical storm that roared through the ballpark in the bottom of the first.

There had been threats of rain throughout a sunsplashed morning at Fenway, but it was still dry when Tim Wakefield threw the first pitch at 1:37 p.m.

Big fat drops of rain were plopping on the lawn when Ellsbury flied to center in the bottom of the first. Then all hail broke loose. Dustin Pedroia stood at home plate, taking pitches while little ice balls bounced off his covered head.

"It was weird," said Pedroia. "They were pinging off my helmet. 'Ping, ping, ping,' "

Cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning accompanied the white crystals.

"We could hear the hail pounding on the roof of the bullpen," said Justin Masterson. "And the ice balls were bouncing on the ground in front of us."

Willie Tasby came to mind. It was about 50 years ago that Tasby, while playing outfield for the Orioles, removed his spikes during a thunderstorm in the middle of a game. Tasby feared electrocution - death by conductor cleats.

Nobody took their shoes off yesterday. Throughout the deluge, umpiring crew chief Joe West stood near third base and just let it all be. He reminded me of Lieutenant Dan in "Forrest Gump," clinging to a shrimp boat mast, shaking his fist into a hurricane, and screaming to God, "Is that all you got?"

When David Ortiz took a towel off his head and stepped into the batter's box, West finally waved everybody off the field.

The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" poured out of the loudspeakers while the grounds crew covered the diamond. The delay lasted only 36 minutes and the rest of the game was played in ideal conditions.

And a lot happened.

"Country Joe" West was part of the story again in the fifth when Youkilis launched a shot over the Monster seats in the direction of the Cask 'n Flagon. West ruled it foul, Youk didn't like the call, and he stayed at second base while manager Terry Francona came out to object. It was impossible not to think of Saturday night's reversal when West went into the replay booth and (correctly) ruled that Omir Santos's ninth-inning shot off Jonathan Papelbon had indeed cleared the Wall in left.

Unfortunately for the Sox, West didn't change the call this time. Replay was inconclusive and Youk went back to the batter's box, where he wound up flying to right field. He got his revenge two innings later with a monster shot to left-center. It must have been tempting to say, "That one OK, Joe?" as he rounded third base, but Youk resisted the urge.

"Some things you can do in this game and some things you can't do," said Youkilis.

Youk was on deck in the sixth (Pedroia was on first) when Mets reliever Takahashi dropped the ball at the bottom of his windup, then followed through with an imaginary pitch. It looked like something from a Harlem Globetrotters routine. A balk was called.

"I was confused," said Pedroia. "I didn't know what to do, but they told me to go to second."

"We saw a lot of things today," said Francona. "Snow. Things that you haven't seen in a while."

Like the Red Sox in first place. The Sox haven't been on top alone since last summer's All-Star break.

"It's cool to be in first place," said Youkilis. "But in our division, you've got to play well every day."

A final word about Ortiz: Something must be done. With the Sox out of town for 10 days, Francona is probably free to move Big Papi out of the No. 3 spot. Maybe they'll DL him (remember the Hellenic College flu?) and let him work things out on a rehab assignment. The situation is way out of hand; Ortiz went 0 for 5 yesterday with two more strikeouts, which included some bad luck when he lined to first in the fourth. With more than a quarter of the season gone, Ortiz is batting a sub-Mendoza .195 - which will take you from Providence to Fall River.

At 6:09, while the Sox' bus was en route to Logan Airport, the skies opened again and a rainbow appeared in the middle of the ballpark.

Amazing.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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