Monday, October 02, 2006

To The Bittersweet End

Sunday, October 1, 2006: the last game of the season.
How many times have I seen it... A rainy Fenway, with the tarp on the field, and puddles on the track. The guy who took my ticket informed me that the game would start an hour late, and gave me the option to not enter yet. I went in anyway. These weren't our seats, just a place to stay out of the rain and eat M&M's. We watched as the crew broke open bag after bag of fresh dirt, or whatever that stuff is. We figured they were using up the last of it on this final day of the season.

Hanging around underneath the grandstand was the other big event of the day. While participating in the stay-still-on-two-feet non-dance, I noticed a cool angle of the retired numbers. I love stuff like this. Pictures that reveal hidden stuff. You'd never know this was more than just a picture of some dude in a stocking cap in front of a brick wall unless you zoomed in (click on it, genius). And there's Yaz's 8.

I've seen Lucchino at the last, what, four games I've been to? When I post pics from the day before this game, you'll see him some more. I suspect he just "wants to be seen." And you can call that phony, but when was the last time Steinbrenner actually entered the seating bowl? Larry's just letting us know he's a human being, and that's what I want from a guy like that. In this moment, he hands a janitor lady an envelope. The guy was actually going around the park, personally handing every employee their, uh, holiday bonus, I guess? After he walked away, we watched as she opened it. C-note. At least one. You should've seen the smile on this woman's face, as she swept up everybody's wrappers and cups. I later saw Larry whiz past me at the top of the first base grandstand, still trying to get those envelopes to everybody.

Staring at the tarp, I made the connection: Rick Dempsey is in uniform for the Orioles. When I was growing up, he was the Orioles' catcher, and he'd come out and slide around on tarps during rain delays. I specifically remember him putting on Robin Yount's Brewers jersey (with a pillow under it in Dempsey's tradition) and rounding the bases and sliding into home. I wanted to go to their dugout and yell for him to do it. Turns out, the Red Sox were thinking like I was. NESN showed a similar routine he did at Fenway once. We watched in the concourse, along with that RemDawg Unleashed show, as the rain continued to fall. This wasn't as bad as the six-hour delay we endured earlier in the season, but pretty rough. And colder.

My girlfriend finally gave up and headed out, after being at the park for three hours without seeing any baseball. At this point, I started wandering, hoping I'd just get to see one inning. I had to work, in New York, the next morning.

I noticed "the twins" were still taking tickets. More on the left twin in my next post, which will feature stills from Saturday's game.

Finally, I'm up at my Monster standing room seat, as Wally comes out in fake rain gear. I wonder what other huge outfits they make for him. They must have to use Mark Clear's old locker for that stuff.

Papi gave out the baseballs he auctioned off.

Then Peter Gammons threw out the first ball.

Around 5:30, Hansack threw the first pitch, also his first at Fenway. My mom took a pic of his first major league pitch up in Toronto, and I captured his first home delivery.

Here's Trot in right field. Some people had a huge "We [Heart] You Trot" sign that they hung from near the Microsoft sign in this pic before the game. Terribly, they didn't break it out when he actually took the field. Note the gray sky.

Trot batted leadoff in what may have been his final Red Sox game. I knew he'd do some kind of hat tip, but by this point, the batteries in my borrowed camera started dying. So I just missed that moment. After he reached first on a single, he took off for second on the first pitch to the next batter. Would've been fun to see what would've happened, but the pitch drilled Loretta, so it didn't matter. And he wasn't about to try to steal third after that. Way to ruin the fun, Orioles.

After one, I pretty much had to leave, knowing it was already past the time I originally wanted to leave the city of bean. But, I thought, I'd better wait until Hansack allows a hit. Wouldn't want to miss a no-hitter. I'm always thinking of these things. Then Lowell hit a homer off the Coke bottles, right near me. Check out the replay. I'm right next to the dude in the huge light blue poncho and his buddy in the huge red poncho. Unfortunately my dark hoodie blends into the building in the background, so it's like the arrow is pointing to nothing at all. But it's me:

Two innings later, it was, Well, I might as well have a seat. I'm gonna miss the last train from New Haven to New York anyway. I scouted out some possibilities, and went with the ultra-rare (for me) "behind the first base dugout" seats. Plenty available. Plus, I thought it would be cool to get a shot of Hansack in front of the Monster, on the day of his no-hitter. Again, I was thinking it from inning one.

And here I am, in the loge. I noticed the ushers were keeping people out of the boxes. So this was about as good as I was gonna get. At this point. Papi bats under a freakishly gray, pre-sunset sky.

And again, with a little zoom action. From here on in, though, the camera wouldn't allow me to zoom. There was enough power for turning on,and one non-zoomed shot. Then I'd let it rest.

Then, there was an announcement over the PA, from Mr. Believes His Own Hype. (That's right, I said it. That PA guy, his subtle little messages used to be cool, because they were rare and on target. The pausing between first and last names for either extra cheers or extra boos, finding weird ways to pronounce names, like "Coco....crsssp," and rolling the R in Ramirez, stuff like that. But now, he's one step away from "Kevin.... Yoooooooou-kilis!" Anyway, he announced that as a reward for our patience, and since it was the last day and almost nobody was left in the park, we could all "feel free to sit in the lower seating bowl, or check out the Monster seats and right field roof deck." Seeing the faces of the ushers who an inning earlier were guarding those seats with their life. Terrible job by the one usher who started inviting the people right above the field boxes to move down, instead of letting people from the back to sprint down. I was one of those people right above, though, by chance, and I went right for those field boxes. And terrible job by the fact that the day I actually have Monster seats, they let any old schlub up there.

And here's Hansack in front of the Monster from my even better seats. The good thing about the state of the camera was that it reset to the higher-quality setting. So this and pics after this can be clicked on for huge, zoomable, awesome pics.

Loretta about to hit second base on his homer.

We also got to see Loretta come off the field for the last time, as he was replaced defensively after he went out to second base. And Papi was pinch-run for, so we gave him a final cheer as well. But, of course, there was one very special goodbye.

That's Trot leaving the field, waving the dirty cap to the crowd. It was great to see everybody showing their appreciation. I felt connected to that crowd. A tiny bunch of people with cheap tickets, at a game that didn't matter, standing in the rain in the good seats, happy as we'd be if we were at a World Series game. (Note Rick Dempsey cocahing first at left.)

Papi literally walks.

Hansack comes off the field--terrible job by O's getting in his way of my lens--after getting the final out of the fifth. I knew he had the no-hitter now, as the game was official.

The rain started coming down again. I wondered if everyone around me realized it was a no-hitter. Of course, officially, it wasn't. But it was a no-hit, complete game win. If the rain came hard enough and they called it. I ran across Yawkey Way, hoping to find some new batteries for the camera. Nothin'. I came back and watched the bottom of the fifth from back behind home plate under the grandstand, as I started wandering again, drenched and not wanting to get pneumonia.

Hansack came out for the top of the sixth, and just before it was to start, they called for the tarp. The no-hitter looked good now. No one was saying anything. Did they not realize it? Were they trying not to jinx it, like we did at Derek Lowe's no-no? Or did they just want to see more baseball? Above the team walks off the field for the last time.

Another delay. I perused the 2007 schedule they gave me when I entered the park. I wandered some more. I noticed that they were playing the Dempsey thing, now on the scoreboard! They wanted him to come out, just like I did. He never came out.

Here's my shot of Dempsey out on the tarp, albeit just an old video on the big board. So I came close to my lifelong dream. I made sure to get the actual tarp in this picture. Maybe I can do some Photoshopping and get Dempsey from the scoreboard tarp down onto the real tarp.

Almost everyone left. I was so far past the point of catching a train, I decided I'd sleep at my parents' house in New Haven and go into the city in the AM. So if that game continued, I was gonna be there, and in the Drinkwater/Springer seats. I went right down there. The above view is what I would've had if they'd started again. A song would play, then stop. We'd all start screaming through the raindrops during the quiet: "Play ball!" Then a new song would start. Over and over. More people left. It was me and a few hundred at Fenway Park, cold and wet, squeezing every last ounce out of the green grass and bright lights of a summer of missed opportunities. But after 40 minutes or so, they called it. PA guy wished us well, recapped what we'd seen that day, as if it were the beginning of part two of a two-part episode of any sit-com, and sent us out into the rainy night, to the strains of Auld Lang Syne. Before anyone could grab me for a New Year's-style sway-along, I headed for the warmth of the car, sloshing through the aisles, then the concourse, then the streets. Three minutes later, with Sweet Caroline fading almost completely from earshot, instead of walking through Kenmore Square with thousands of others coming from the same place as me, I experienced Boston as it would be had there never been a baseball team there. Just me, walking to the car, an occasional decidedly non-baseball-y person passing me in the night, probably also looking for warmth somewhere...

And then I called my dad from a payphone at a MassPike rest stop and talked him through bidding on a Gedman-worn Cardinals BP jersey on eBay for me. I won in the final minutes. Nice job, dad. I bet nobody expected me to say that.

So, the Red Sox were good to us in many ways on this day. Telling the ushers to tell us the game was delayed and that we didn't have to come in yet if we don't want to. Giving out next year's schedule earlier than any other year. Giving us 20% off all weekend at the Yawkey Way Store. (I actually got a new hat because of that. 16 bucks.) Letting us sit literally wherever we wanted. Lucchino literally handing out hundred dollar bills to each employee personally. And still some caller on EEI on my way home complains about how they shouldn't have played the game and they just wanted to take our money. A lot of people say that stuff. But they gave me a pretty memorable experience despite the worst of circumstances.

Tomorrow will be a hugely anti-climactic post: Pics of the second-to-last game.

Congrats on your winning bid for the Geddy shirt. And your undying Red Sox emotions make me happy, and proud. I mean that!
Way to ruin the fun, Orioles.

They always do this.

I'm going to miss Trot, too. It's for the best, but I still love him.

Total guess- he's a Padre next year.
I want to go to next year's last game not as an insurance policy against missing the extraordinary emotion if they don't make the play-offs, but because I'll bet it's a unique experience either way. Has anyone been to the last game of the season in the last few years?
Great commentary, Jere. And the pix are always so neat. Such a nice break from the news and the likes of Bishop Hastert.
I was very encouraged by watching the highlights of Hansack's outing. I had assumed that he was just a journeyman with a nice back-story filling in at AA, but he really seems to have nice movement on his pitches. We may just have something'd be a really great story if he could show that stuff next year, and give us a solid #5 in the rotation.

Don't you love how I'm catching up with a flurry of comments on old posts?

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Location: Rhode Island, United States