Twelve hours at Fenway.

Now that it’s pretty certain I won’t be able to make the rescheduled game on Labor Day, I figured it was time to write a bit about my twelve hours at Fenway back on August 14th.
Mike and I got up at around 6 in the morning, no small feat when we’d gone to bed close to 3. I met up with him over at Sub Terra, and we grabbed a bite at Dunkin’ Donuts before heading to the Harvard T. We emerged in the heat and humidity of Kenmore Square, bought the Sunday paper, and were in line at Gate C by around 8 a.m. with maybe 20 other people.
It was a good job we arrived as early as we did, because by the time we had groggily done the Metro crossword and moved on to the Globe, the line was stretching far back along Landsdowne Street. Though we could barely keep our eyes open, the weather was oppressive, and I needed to pee like a racehorse, we were able to hold out until Jeff and Laurie arrived to keep us company in line, which was a welcome distraction. I was too tired, really, to be able to concentrate on reading for any length of time, so we joked about things, and made fun of Jeff’s new Sox hat, and tried our best to ignore the loud conversation of the extremely annoying woman queued in front of us until the ticket booth opened and the line began to move.
Jeff and Laurie headed into the park with their tickets; Mike and I bought a couple of Section 21 Grandstands and followed suit. I made quick use of the restroom facilities in the big concourse, and the four of us grabbed some food and drinks and sat at a picnic table with the paper for a while. Then we headed to our respective seats.
Mike and I were grateful not only for the view from our seats, but also the cool breeze, and the sounds of a jazz band floating up from Yawkey Way below us. The band was loud enough to be in strange competition with the Fenway PA music until the pregame ceremonies began, but the mixture was surprisingly pleasant, one of bustling excitement that we were exhausted enough to be able to let blend into a warm background of crowd noise and ballpark sounds. I closed my eyes, sipped my beer, leaned back in my stiff wooden seat, and relaxed for the first time all day.
Jeff and Laurie were over in Section 10 or 13 of the Grandstand (I can’t recall which — it was either Section 13, Row 10 or vice versa), but our group didn’t stay separated for long. Once the game was underway, we noticed that the two seats next to us on the aisle were vacant, so we notified Jeff and Laurie, and they joined us behind home plate. The pitching matchup was Clement versus Hernandez, so we knew it would be a long game — we just didn’t know how long. After a relatively neat and scoreless first half inning — in which Clement threw 10 pitches, 6 for strikes, Rule 5 outfielder Adam Stern made an amazing catch of a Juan Uribe fly ball, and Carl Everett hit a ground rule double into right off the first pitch he saw — the temperature dropped, the breeze picked up, and the grounds crew appeared with the tarp. The rain came down steadily for maybe 20 minutes or so, which made for something close to an hour-long rain delay before we could get to the bottom of the first.
It was a 1-2-3 inning for Hernandez, but our boys worked him anyway, making him throw a total of 19 pitches before retiring the side. He managed to get Alex Cora looking and Graffanino swinging before Papi grounded one straight to the first baseman for the third out. Clement worked a sweet top of the second, striking out Jermaine Dye and getting Aaron Rowland and Geoff Blum to ground and fly out on 2 pitches each. A 9-pitch inning for Clement, 7 for strikes.
Hernandez opened the bottom of the second by walking Manny on 5 pitches, but Tek grounded into a 3-4-3 double play, and Petagine hit one straight at the first baseman for the third out. A much neater inning for the White Sox, and where the Red Sox’s troubles began.
Clement retired the next two batters he faced, but once he got to the top of the Chicago order, he seemed to lose command of the ball. Timo Perez hit a single into short right, Uribe walked on five pitches, and, as if in answer to the booing of the Fenway Faithful, Carl Everett singled into right to bring Perez home and Uribe to third. With runners on the corners, Paul Konerko worked Clement to 2 and 2, fouled off a pitch, then watched a wild pitch that advanced Everett to second before hitting a double down the left field wall that brought the runners home. That was enough for Clement: he got Rowland looking to end the inning, but not until he’d thrown 31 pitches and the White Sox had managed three runs on three hits in an ugly two-out rally.
Now it was Boston’s turn to get serious. Mueller grounded out to the the second baseman to begin the inning, but Kapler’s single past the second baseman got things started. Adam Stern proved worthwhile for the second time in the game with a nice piece of hitting into short right for another base hit, putting a man in scoring position. Alex Cora hit a double on the first pitch he saw to bring Kapler home, and Graffanino dug Bellhorn’s grave just a little bit deeper with an RBI single on the first pitch he saw. On a 1-1 count, Ortiz hit one right at the second baseman, who picked off Graffanino before throwing to first for the double play. 2 runs, 4 hits, and Boston on the board.
If the top of the third had been unfortunate for the Red Sox, the top of the fourth was even worse. Jermaine Dye led off with a home run, Blum worked Clement to 2 and 2 with a couple of foul balls before slamming a double into right field, and catcher Chris Widger followed that up with another double, this time into center, to bring in the run. Crede made it to first on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning; Timo Perez hit a single into right to advance the runner. Then Uribe stepped up to the plate, looked at the first two balls he saw, swung for a strike, watched another strike, and fouled off six pitches before the grounds crew came running onto the field with the tarps. Perhaps fortunately for Boston, we would never know how that at-bat would end: the rain delay that ensued would last until 8 pm, far longer than even the Fenway crew seemed to anticipate, and the scoreboard would be frozen at that 2-2 count until we departed, sodden and tired, after dark.
Of course, we didn’t know any of this at the time: sure, the rain was heavy at times, but we had hours of Red Sox documentary footage to watch on the Jumbotron, books to read, good company, and good seats under the grandstand roof. By the time they were projecting a 6:10 start time, we had watched the entirety of the 1967 pennant race documentary The Impossible Dream and a NESN documentary about the triumphant 2004 season (not Faith Rewarded, but something else) that had the entire crowd, ourselves included, rapt and cheering as though seeing it all for the first time — a truly marvelous feeling of kinship and joy. Fenway Park was turned into an open-air cinema, and the mood among those of us who had chosen to stick around and wait it out was almost giddy, that feeling of oh-fuck-it happiness and acquiescence that arises from shared inconvenience — like waiting in line for tickets or being stuck in a snowstorm. There’s nothing you can do but accept it and try to have fun — and everyone was succeeding.
As the delay approached the projected start time, we decided to improve our standing a little bit, and dried off some seats in the loge boxes with an even better view than our prime grandstand seats. Of course, as soon as we had settled in, the Jumbotron informed us that more bad weather was headed our way, and the delay was likely to continue for at least another half hour. Laurie and I went underground to get some food — the park concessions were out of half their items, but there was still beer and chicken fingers and fries — and met back up with the boys in the Grandstand, since it had begun to rain again in earnest.
Four episodes of UPN’s The Red Sox Report later, when the rain began to let up again, so many fans had left that all the spectators left could have had field box seats — and this is, of course, exactly what everyone in the grandstand was thinking. A few solitary souls were toughing it out in the bleachers, and kids were romping around in the rain between the field boxes and the loge boxes. The upper decks were empty. The four of us ventured down in the slight sprinkle to secure field box seats in the third row, right behind home plate. If the game had actually been played that night, it would have been the best $45 I’d ever spent. Just look at that.
Since it was still raining a bit, we used the remains of the Sunday Globe to shelter ourselves. Jeff and I made some makeshift rain hats out of the newspaper, much to the amusement of those around us. They were surprisingly effective, and I was glad for them when the rain started to come down more steadily yet again.
Around 8 pm, one of the White Sox trainers appeared from out of the Red Sox dugout and strode across towards the visitor’s dugout. This was the first baseball-uniformed individual we’d seen since the top of the fourth inning (which, at this point, seemed like several days prior, or perhaps another season), and the crowd greeted him with sodden but enthusiastic cheers. He waved to us and smiled, then retrieved a duffel bag from the White Sox dugout and walked back across the field and out of sight. This, it seemed, was a clear sign that we would see no more baseball today.
“Tell us what’s happening,” one of the fans in the front row was saying to one of the rainslickered security guards standing stoic by the batter’s box. “Are they going to play or not? Come on, don’t be an asshole.” The guard just stood, rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, chuckled at his nearest neighbor guard as if to say, “Can you believe this guy?” and spoke not a word.
About five minutes later, an annoucement came over the PA system. “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. More rain is expected for the next several hours, and we will not resume play today. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Please hold on to your tickets, as they may be your tickets to the rescheduled game.”
Though we had been expecting as much for the last hour or so, the crowd let out a collective groan. The seats were obviously too good to be true. We trudged back to Jeff’s car on Newbury Street and drove back to Frogstar, where we curled up in front of the Cubs game with a bucket of wings before we all started to collapse in exhaustion. As we watched with familiarity and affection the complex routine of batting-stance preparation of a particular shortstop who used to play for our team, I let out a contented sigh. Though I was disappointed that my last game at Fenway had to be called due to rain, and I knew it was unlikely I’d be in town for the makeup date, it had been a great day with great friends in a great park, and I knew I would be going to sleep — soon, and quickly — with a smile on my face.


3 thoughts on “Twelve hours at Fenway.

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