Sox Family and Friends
Out at the Old Ball Game
By Edward Shanahan
It’s certainly not my father’s Fenway Park, and not even mine from my earliest view in 1944, but a recent visit revealed it to be still magical, despite the Jumbotron looming over centerfield and wall-to-wall advertising plastered on every available surface.
Gone also is the fabled home-run catching wire netting atop the Green Monster, replaced by big ticket seats for high rollers. Of course, the owners of the Red Sox have had to bow to the economic realities of fielding an extravagantly expensive team for an extravagantly passionate fan base.
The passion and enthusiasm of that base is no more evident than in the attire of the Red Sox faithful—hats, jerseys, jackets, T-shirts, sweaters, drink cups and other paraphernalia sporting the familiar team graphics—Bs, Red Sox, Boston, Socks and so on.
Early on Sunday, heading east on the Mass Pike, I pulled into the Charlton service area and it was clearly game day as a dizzying traveling throng of red, white and blue logos also were headed to Fenway, many from Connecticut.
I was on my way to meet son Mark, his daughter Julia and our New York grandson Benjamin, who has given up his previous enthusiasm for the Mets (never the Yankees) to enlist in Red Sox Nation.
Jostled by the fast-moving crowd entering through Gate A, and hearing the vendors hawking programs brought back so many sharp memories of going to the ballgame. In those early years, I could travel bus and trolley to the park, with a bag of sandwiches in hand, getting there early enough to watch batting and fielding practice, a dividend before the actual game.
Just as in the old days, the true surprise always is to emerge from the dark underground walkways into the sunlight and be dazzled by lush green turf, the color of the spectators in the stands, the crack of bats on balls and balls thumping into mitts, the crisp uniforms of the players on the field.
Win or lose, that initial visual and aural image of Fenway is one that lasts long after the actual details of the game and the individual players have been lost to history, except for times when you witnessed Ted Williams or Yaz hit a home run, or make a crucial play in the field.
And on this day, the Red Sox did not disappoint, unlike what often happened in the past. With the help of a David Ortiz hit, they came from behind in the last of the 7th inning to win the game. This pleasure of the outcome was enhanced by the company – three generations of us Red Sox fans – Benj showing seven-year Julia how to score a game on the official program, Mark going down on the field to interview for an item for his next day Globe column film actor Mark Wahlberg, who threw out the first pitch, and me escorting Julia to the crowded rest room and waiting for her to emerge to make sure she was safe and sound.
But wait, there was more. Because of Mark’s media connections, he was able to get us on the field about an hour after the game had ended to join the picnic activities that take place once a year to support the Red Sox Foundation.
Tons of people with an excess of disposable income pay a hefty sum for this privilege, which allows them to mingle with players and their families, eat for free, stand in line for autographs by some of their favorite players, and just generally to walk the hallowed green outfield grass of Fenway and experience a view of the park that usually belongs only to the players.
For me it was important to travel along the base of the left field wall where Ted Williams and later Yaz patrolled for so many years. I was able to reach out and touch the hand-operated scoreboard—the only one in the majors, I believe—that has been a fixture, even in my father’s day and in my youth.
One thing we never had, however, was access to the field and to some of the players. Julia and I made the most of it, waiting patiently in line to get David Ortiz’s signature. And so it happened.
As Ortiz signed my program, I could not resist telling him that I was honored to be standing on the same field with him, and that he had played a great game. And he replied with courtesy: “Thanks very much.”
The whole day was one of privilege and honor. And to think Fenway is only a baseball park.
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