There was probably one mitigating factor that kept me away from Fenway Park for so long: the fact that Fenway is generally teeming with Red Sox fans and that I would have to spend three hours among them. I’ve spent most of my life with reasonably warm feelings for the Sox and their fanbase, operating on the theory that my enemy’s enemy is my friend (and that, without their classic ineptitude in 1986, my childhood would’ve been a little bleaker). Then, the Sox actually won the World Series, and now their fans are insufferable and a general pain to be around (much like Phillies fans). I promise that if either sports team I like wins a championship, I will not turn into a creep. (Of course, we all know that promise will never have to be fulfilled, but it’s fun to think it might.)
Anyway, maybe that’s what kept me away from Fenway. But I overcame my fears on Saturday and stepped into my eleventh major league ballpark to see the Red Sox take on the mighty Kansas City Royals, led by, well, no one really. Maybe Zack Greinke, but he wasn’t pitching.
My friend (and perfectly acceptable Sox fan) DJ and I showed up at Fenway a little after 2 to stand in the Game Day Ticket Sales line for the 7 p.m. contest. The ticket window opened at 5, so we had about three hours to chill out under the Green Monster on Lansdowne. It was a nice day, so the time went by pretty quickly. Lulls were filled by listening to scalpers’ sales pitches, accepting half a Subway sandwich from one of our line neighbors, watching a guy with what we assumed was Parkinson’s get into a filthy hot dog costume to bring in customers to one of the sidewalk vendors, and taking a picture of a walking bowling pin.
By the time gates opened, the smell of hot dogs and sausages was making me really hungry (DJ took the Subway sandwich, as my stomach wasn't loudly rumbling at the time), so after we got our $26 bleacher seats and I took a quick look at the field, it was time for eating. And, since Fenway has a family hour, where a few menu items are half-off for the first hour that gates are open, we were able to fill ourselves (two Fenway franks and a pretzel each) for under $10 each. The Fenway frank wins the prize for best ballpark hot dog I’ve had, though that may have been because I was starving. Whatever the case, it tasted awfully good.
Then we rambled around the concourse a bit, and it was cool to see an old ballpark that was actually old instead of faux old like all the new stadiums. And I would probably say this even if it weren’t true, but Fenway has it all over the old Yankee Stadium, the only other comparison I have for a vintage ballpark.
Next stop was the right field corner and the Pesky Pole, with its fresh graffiti for ’09 (no, I didn’t add mine).
Then we headed to our seats, which were pretty damn good, with a view of the whole field and a prime location for homers, which, since Gil Meche and John Smoltz were pitching, seemed to be a good thing.
The pregame festivities focused on the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bikeathon to promote cancer research. So cyclists, all of whom were cancer survivors, came in from the centerfield gate and rode past the Green Monster on their way to the home plate area. Then, the PA announcer introduced the woman singing the national anthem by including the helpful, surely-not-anxiety-inducing nugget that she lost her father to cancer. C’mon, right before she sings in front of 30,000 people, buddy? But if it affected her, it didn’t show, and she did a fine job.
Then it was gametime, and since the two dudes to my left were yelling reasonably loudly from the time Smoltz made his way out to the bullpen for warm-ups, it had the makings of a long night. Fortunately, they couldn’t maintain their level of loudness for long, though they did manage to pull off the douchiest thing I’ve ever seen at a ballpark. As the popcorn vendor walked at the front of our section, the guy next to me yelled out, “Yeah, popcorn!” So the vendor started to make his way to our row. But he missed it when the creep said, “No, just kidding,” so when the popcorn guy made it up the stairs to our row and asked the guy, “One?,” Joey Jerkoff repeated, “No, I was just kidding.” And then his buddy, the two girls they were with that were celebrating their Sweet 16, and what I assume was some sort of father type all laughed. Way to live down to my expectations, Sox fans.
We also had to contend with a woman in possession of a voice that was born to cut you to the bone. Upon hearing her screech out, "Terry! Teeeeeeeerrrrrrrry! Somebody call Terry and get this guy out of here!" for a bit and start singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the fifth inning, my natural assumption was that she'd been overserved. But upon further inspection, she appeared to be stone cold sober. Somehow, that made it worse. It was doubly worse for DJ, who, since he had an interest in the outcome of the game, did not enjoy the singsong taunt of "This is getting interesting now" as the Royals whittled down an eight-run deficit to just three. And it was particularly vexing because the woman was clearly a Sox fan. I think she just wanted to see Jonathan Papelbon pitch, because after a few solid minutes of giving Hideki Okajima the "Okey-Dokey" treatment ("Hey, Okey-Dokey! It's Okey-Dokey! That's what they call him! Okey-Dokey! Okey-Dokey!"), she began to express her joy that we might see "Papel." At one point, she even insisted Papelbon was warming up in the bullpen, despite the fact that it was the seventh inning, and you don't see many closers coming in for the nine-out save these days.
She got quieter as the Red Sox padded their lead, though, so by the time Kevin Youkilis hit his second homer of the game, there was relative silence, save for the occasional call for "Papelboon." Alas, with the Sox up six going into the ninth, Papelbon never made it into the game. And as the rain fell down hard in the top of the ninth, we headed for a hasty exit and gradually surmised that the game had ended in a 15-9 Sox victory as we were making our way out of the park. On our way out, I was on the hunt for a Fenway Park shirt that didn't have any Red Sox-related words or symbols on it, lest I wear it someday and have a Sox fan think I'm part of Red Sox Nation. Mission accomplished, we darted to the T.
On our way to the T, though, I spotted a t-shirt that begged to be documented, if not purchased.
Stay classy, Boston.
Nice ballpark you got there.