100 birthdays and the pitching still sucks.
Excuse the language, but it's been a long century at times - and even a longer season for Red Sox fans.
Does "Fenway 100" mean the number of losses in 2012? Or perhaps it's over/under on home runs the bullpen gives up by Memorial Day.
Red Sox-Yankees. Fenway's centennial is cause to celebrate - cramped seats, overpriced tickets, non-existent parking and all. But Fenway's 100th has become a victim of overkill. The grandeur, historic significance and personal importance of America's Most Beloved Ballpark (copyright Boston Red Sox) is self-evident. So much of this is unnecessary.
Why are Red Sox fans so cynical? Maybe it has something to do with "Sweet Caroline" when the team is down 14 runs, bricks on the heels of "Chicken and Beer" and childhoods framed around witnessing baseball trauma at the ballpark.
That - at least - is the case for me.
Going to Fenway with your dad for the first time - and then someday taking your kid - is an essential life rite of passage for any Red Sox fan. But the pain in between is inevitable. When the Globe rolled out its "Fenway at 100" preview - great stuff in there by the way - the magazine offered up five of the most painful losses in Fenway history:
- Indians 8, Red Sox 3, October 4, 1948 - Game 155 Regular Season
- Cardinals 7, Red Sox 2, October 12, 1967 - World Series Game 7
- Reds 4, Red Sox 3, October 22, 1975 - World Series Game 7
- Yankees 5, Red Sox 4, October 2, 1978 - Game 163 Regular Season
- Mets 7, Red Sox 1, October 21, 1986 - Game 3 World Series
No wonder I'm so screwed up when it comes to this team. The next day was always the hardest. I stayed home from school the day after Game 7 in 1975 - I was only 10 - and more or less cried until about noon. By 1978, there were no more tears. Just a lot of swearing out of the ears of my parents and anguish over the fact that we were going to have to wait a whole six months before the season to start again. On the flip side - my tickets for both games cost a combined $8.75.
Here's how Game 7 of the 1975 World Series was described the next day's Globe:
"What will stand for baseball historians as an epic World Series this morning belongs to the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio. What was a Series ruled by bounces, plays of dramatic genius and might-have-beens was in the end appropriately decided by a bloop - a looping fly ball in the ninth inning that brought the Reds a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox and brought Middle America’s baseball team its first championship since 1940.
But even as Reds’ reliever Will McEnaney polished off the bottom of that ninth without a threat, the 35,205 joined in chorus by the thousands that lined the Fens, stood and roared. For it was like the death of a favorite grandmother, a season whose life was beautiful and full and gave everyone from Southie to Stonington, Conn., to Groton to Charlestown, N.H., a year they will reminisce about until Olde Fenway calls them back again. But while coming down to the ninth inning of the seventh game of the Series was far beyond our March - or even September, perhaps - dreams, what will last is the frustration of defeat." - Peter Gammons, Reds erase Red Sox lead, win World Series (Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 1975)
My memories are mixed.
For Game 7 - I sat with my mom in the bleachers. My dad and brothers joined a few other relatives with standing room tickets. A major melee broke out before the game in our section and the two guys sitting next us told my mother not to worry - they would make sure she was OK - and told me to get under my seat just in case someone threw a punch or decided to go flying down a couple of rows. Chivalry was alive and well in 1975. It was a special night for me. I had my mom with me in the bleachers of Game 7 of the World Series. For a 10-year-old, you can't beat that.
After the fighting subsided, next crushing blow was delivered by Tony Perez. The Red Sox had scored three runs in the third without the benefit of an extra-base hit but left the bases loaded. The image of Perez's blast off Bill Lee sailing over the Green Monster and beginning its first of multiple earth orbits has been seared into my psyche like Kane's "Rosebud." After Juan Beniquez, Bob Montgomery and Yaz went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, hundreds of fans streamed on to the field. For some reason, I wanted to join them, but that wasn't going to happen. My mom didn't say much, she just gave me a hug before we exited the ballpark.
The five stages of grief commenced, the final one lingering until 2004.
Less than three years later, after many visits in between, I was back at Fenway for the end of the 1978 season. We had tickets for Sunday's game against Toronto - forever known as the Jack Brohamer Affair. It was also the first weekend of my Herald paper route. After delivering the Sunday edition, I saw a notice in the paper that tickets for a potential playoff game were going on sale that morning at 9. My father and I scraped up all the available cash we could find (no ATMs back then) and headed to the Fenway box office with enough money to buy five reserve grandstand seats for Game E2 - which thankfully became necessary. Our round trip to Fenway from the suburbs was completed in 45 minutes and we left again for Sunday's game about 90 minute later. By the time the Sox beat Toronto - the line for tickets was all the way down Yawkey Way.
"Bucky Dent. This was a game that Rich Gossage saved by getting Jim Rice and Yastrzemski with Burleson and Remy on in the ninth. It began with Yaz hitting a stunning home run off Ron Guidry, with Guidry struggling through until the seventh with barely a hint of the fire that has made him 25-3. It was a game in which the winning run turned out to be a Reggie Jackson homer, a game that had Gossage bail out of two-on, one-out jams the last two innings, a game also saved by two memorable defensive plays by Lou Piniella, who is a winner.
But somehow this winter in a pub in East Cambridge or St. Alban’s, Vt., or Somerset, Mass., someone will say, “Bucky Dent.” Harry Brecheen, Denny Galehouse, Jim Longborg’s two days’ rest, Jim Burton and Bucky Dent. The Yankee shortstop, batting because Willie Randolph is injured and Fred Stanley thus had go in at second base, hit a three-run Fenway net job in the seventh that killed Mike Torrez’ shutout and was the game’s bottom line." - Peter Gammons, Yankees have final say again, beat Red Sox (Boston Globe, Oct. 3, 1978)
That October 2nd was a beautiful Monday - a glorious New England autumn day that would end with a classic New England fall. Even more glorious was getting to leave school early. We got to Fenway in time to for me to argue with a Yankees fan about how Jim Rice was more valuable to his team than Ron Guidry was to his. Felt like I won that one with Yaz's home run in the second inning. At the sophisticated age of 13, I thought the Red Sox had this one in the bag and Mike Torrez looked invincible heading into the seventh. We know what happened next. I remember watching Yaz instead of the ball because it was easier to focus on him. When he ran out of field and hit the wall, that hot dog I ate in the second inning began its comeback.
Reggie's homer solidified the feeling of gloom before the gloam. When I met Lou Piniella covering spring training years later, I told him how he helped to ruin my youth with his glove-stab in the sun off Jerry Remy's single in the ninth. Sweet Lou laughed and said "I had it all the way." That SOB. By the time Yaz got ready to pop up, my brothers and I had moved down to three empty seats just a few rows off the field near the Red Sox on-deck circle. We watched at eye-level as Graig Nettles inhaled the final out. All we heard were the yells and screams of the Yankees celebrating on the field. Everyone else was silent.
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