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I slowly woke up at 10:40 Sunday morning, surprised to be awake so early after a very late night with my good friends Bud and Bud Light. I checked my phone for messages and read a text from my neighbor inquiring if I wanted to go to the Sox game. My full body hangover turned into an adrenaline based fervor, and I quickly showered, dressed, and hit an ATM.
After a short drive up to Riverside Station in Newton, and a crowded ride on the Green Line, we were at Fenway, just in time to see the late Dom DiMaggio's wife Emily throw out the first pitch to first time All-Star Tim Wakefield.
The seats were in Grandstand section 29, row 1, seats 22-24. That's in the left field bank of seats that angle at 45 degrees toward the Green Monster. I'd never sat on this side of the ballpark. It's always been the Bleachers, or the RF Grandstand, and two or three times the box seats by 1st base or behind home plate.
But 29-1-24 was perfect. A sunny 85 degree afternoon spent in the shade underneath Fenway's roof. Funnily, the $50 Grandstand tickets have almost the same exact view as the $90 box seats one row in front. Also, since these were the first row of the blue Grandstand seats, there was additional legroom, so much legroom that people could walk through the row without those seated needing to stand up.
That amount of legroom simply doesn't exist at Fenway Park. Certainly not in the Grandstand, where the seats were designed for pre-WWII fans, who were apparently 4' 6" and weighed 88 pounds.
The seats were also in a premium location. Only a few feet from a tunnel down into the cavernous concourses beneath the stands. But also a short walk up the stairs to the newer, brighter concourse behind the seating sections. I've got to hand it to the owners of the Sox, they've improved Fenway's amenities and turned it into a building that could pass for 50 or 60 years old, not 97.
Oh yeah, and then there was the game. Josh Beckett's 94 masterful pitches were launched in a direction perpendicular to our perspective. Which means we couldn't judge inside/outside calls too well, but had an excellent chance to gauge the speed of his fastballs, and the grotesque movement of his off-speed stuff. 96 MPH is fast. Real fast.
You never know what can happen when you go to the ballgame. No-hitters, triple plays, someone hitting for the cycle. On June 27, 2003, I saw the Red Sox score 10 runs in the 1st inning before recording an out. They put up 14 runs that inning on their way to a 25-8 victory over the Marlins. Johnny Damon was 3 for 3 in that 1st inning.
Beckett didn't toss a no-hitter, but he did accomplish a rare feat in today's game: a complete game shutout. The first I've seen thrown by a Sox pitcher. It was also Beckett's 100th career win.
Aaron Bates, who I'd hardly heard of until Sunday, played first base. I'd been in San Diego for nearly a week, so I was unaware that journeyman Jeff Bailey, who had replaced Kevin Youkilis at 1st after Youk replaced the injured Mike Lowell at 3rd, was hurt. Bates replaced Bailey, and was 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and his 2nd career RBI.
Jason Bay was hitless. He didn't even have an at-bat. Yet he reached base 5 times. He was walked thrice, and hit by a pitch twice.
Then there's the stuff you only get to see at the ballpark. In the bottom of the 6th inning, the Sox let 3 little kids announce the first 3 batters of the inning. When David Ortiz walked to the plate, the kid announcing for him was nervous and stumbled on the words. So as "Now b-b, now batt-batting..." echoed through the park, Ortiz turned his head up to the press box and jokingly raised a hand in mock frustration at the kid.
I got home, without a sunburn, without cramps in my legs, but with even more memories courtesy of the Red Sox. And that morning I didn’t even know I was going to the game.
Photo Credits: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer (except that cell phone pic)