Sometimes, a fan is lucky enough to attend one of those baseball games that stick with you over time, the memories etched indelibly into your mind. We’re lucky enough to randomly have bleacher seats for a Tuesday afternoon getaway where a no-name pitcher throws a perfect game. Or, we find ourselves standing and applauding for a three-home run night that came out of nowhere. Or, we see a play unfold that, even though it might take all of five seconds from start to finish, will leave us shaking our heads at each other and marking up our scorecards with asteriks and stars and made-up language to suit our own memories.
National Anthem (credit: Amanda Laws)
Yesterday, Stacy and I were both lucky enough to get to a game that we knew going in would be historic – a Red Sox-Yankees game that fell on the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park. We were both there well before gametime (we found each other in the stands to say hi, and we have the picture to prove it!), and we both watched what was probably one of the best tributes to baseball – and to the power of sport – that I’ve ever seen.
First things first: I got to Fenway early enough to sneak my way into the fancy box seats against the third baseline, where I caught the tail end of the Yankees’ batting practice. Now, I’ve lived in Boston for years, and I cover the Red Sox for Aerys. But I’ll be the first person to tell you that I grew up in New York, and my Yankees bloodline runs pretty deep. So, I’m always a little bit starstruck when I get within 500 feet of any Yankee, let alone Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez.
And oh hey, look, it’s Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez:
credit: Amanda Laws
I have to say, I hardly ever get to a game in time to see batting practice. But I’m always glad when I do. It’s like a home run derby without the silly rules and overdone hype. And, I’m always blown away by how massive the players are in person. Alex Rodriguez is, up close, really, really tall and really, really jacked. It’s just kind of insane how athletic these players are. It’s also kind of insane how easily they flip batting practice pitches out of the stadium. It’s as casual to them as it would be for us to swat a fly.
credit: Amanda Laws
Soon after batting practice ended, the pregame ceremony began. We noticed that there were, oh, something like 200 people standing in the garage in the center field wall. The PA announcer launched into a Field of Dreams soliloquy, and soon it all became clear: those 200 people crammed into the garage were all old Red Sox players, coaches, and managers, and they walked out onto the field in “if you build it, they will come” style, taking their old positions. The ceremony took a long time – the Sox properly and correctly gave each player, whether bit part, role player, Hall of Famer, or living legend, their due.
credit: Amanda Laws
The crowd loved it. A friend of mine who works a good mile away texted me to ask what all the cheering was about. By far, the biggest cheers were for recently-ousted manager Terry Francona, members of the 2004 and 2007 teams, and for the old greats. My experience was enhanced by the old men sitting directly behind me, who screamed out the name of every player they recognized in pitch perfect Boston accents (“Billy Bucknah! No-mah Gah-cia-parrah! Cahl-ton Fisk!”).
credit: Amanda Laws
Once all the alums were on the field, the current Red Sox joined them for the rest of the ceremony. This was the crowd’s first chance to see the 1912 version of the uniforms (the Sox wore their pullovers for batting practice), and I thought they were really cool. Bright white uniforms with “Red Sox” on the front in red writing, without numbers. White hats with no logos. And, to a man, the players wore white socks with red stripes, socks pulled up.
The Yankees wore gray road uniforms with a slightly different, but recognizable interlocked NY logo on the left chest. No numbers on the back, gray hats with navy brims. And, I thought the coolest part was the Yankees’ socks – also pulled up, navy and dark red stripes. I think it’s really, really special that the Yankees wore throwback uniforms for this game. They hardly ever (and never in my lifetime) have strayed from their regular uniform, except for the odd patriotic hat on July 4th or something. The rivalry goes back a long way, but so does the shared history between the two teams, and I think the Yankees did a lot to help the Red Sox respect the centennial milestone.
When everyone was in place, renowned conductor John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in his Fanfare to Fenway, followed by Pops conductor Keith Lockhart (the guy who dominates your television during the July 4th fireworks) giving us the National Anthem.
credit: Amanda Laws
After that, things got a little rowdy – at least, as rowdy as things can get during a family-friendly event sponsored by Welch’s sparkling white grape juice drink (TM). Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez – who sounded as if they might have already been celebrating a bit beforehand – clambered up on top of the Sox dugout and led the entire ensemble in a birthday toast. The toast supposedly broke the Guinness world record for number of people (obviously, it was a packed house yesterday), but I thought the highlight was when Millar implored everyone to “Cowboy Up” again, and when he rambled on for a little too long and then said “this is getting awkward now… please stop filming me.” The grape juice drink itself was not the finest I’ve ever had, by a long shot – but when Kevin Millar tells you to drink, you drink.
Even after all this, a good two and a half hours after I went through the turnstile on Yawkey Way, there was still a game to play. A Yankees game, no less.
On April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox, who were a beast of a team at the time, staged a comeback rally to beat the mediocre New York Highlanders, 7-6 in 11 innings. I guess the baseball gods couldn’t allow that much poetry to unfold in a single day, though, as history didn’t repeat itself. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-2, in a pretty thorough drubbing. Derek Jeter led off the game with a pop fly to second base that Dustin Pedroia lost in the sun and dropped. Jeter came around to score, and the Yankees never looked back. Clay Buchholz went a full six innings, and walked Curtis Granderson to start the seventh, before Bobby Valentine (who was booed lustily every time he popped his head out of the dugout amid chants of “we want Tito”) pulled him. Buchholz allowed six runs, five of them earned. He gave up solo home runs to Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and two to Eric Chavez. The Boston bullpen held New York scoreless from there.
For the Red Sox, David Ortiz and Mike Aviles each pushed runs across the plate. Aviles scored Cody Ross on a double to right field in the fifth inning, and Ortiz hit a monster solo home run in the second. Ortiz, fittingly, illustrated one of the quirks of Fenway Park’s dimensions, when his shot bounced off the top of the Green Monster at its center-field corner, and landed back on the field. The umpires originally ruled the hit a double, but let Ortiz round the bases after reviewing the film. Boston staged a sort-of rally in
the ninth inning when Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled off of David Robertson to lead off the frame. But, Joe Girardi squelched that dream quickly, bringing in Mariano Rivera to protect the four-run (read: non-save situation) lead. Yankees starter Ivan Nova picked up his third win, allowing two runs over six strong innings of work.
Here’s a link to the box score, courtesy of the Red Sox. The rivals meet up again today for a 4:05 start, when Felix Doubront will toe up with New York’s Freddy Garcia.