Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Indians At Red Sox, 10/21/2007 (ALCS Game 7)

aka "the most exciting 11-2 game in history."
People might read this last month of my blog fifty years from now and say, "this guy just says it's a beautiful day every single day--in autumn in New England. What a liar." But, no, Future McGee, it was true. The high was 75 on Sunday. (As I write this, two days later, it's 78, although it seems like there's a hurricane outside.)

I went over to Fenway a few hours before gates, easily got a free, Sunday metered spot, and headed over to the Charles, where I knew they were having the annual regatta. Turns out I was a little too far west on the river, I guess, because I could only see boats way to the other side of the Mass Ave. bridge.

So I started walking that way, grabbing shots of the Pru and the Cock and the moon. Above, you can see some of the boats. I walked out onto the bridge to get the above two shots.

Looking back toward Kenmore from the bridge.

Got back over to the park and looked at all the trucks lined up outside. The Dice games always have more activity, and I thought his ALDS game I went to would be the greatest amount of satellite dishes I'd ever see at Fenway. But this ALCS Game 7, also with him starting, topped it. Above is Fenway High School, across the street.

Choppers and cops were everywhere. I had to wait on the will call line, which was fortunately pretty short. Once you get your ticket there, you go straight in, no waiting. The poor woman that scanned my ticket was yelled at by her boss as I stood there. I tried to give her an encouraging word as I went past, but I don't know if she heard me--as her boss continued to berate her in front of the public instead of waiting til later. Hey, guy, I hear the new Yankee Stadium still has some jobs available....

I got inside and went to my special home run spot, but I only got to see Papi's last two swings, and that was it for Red Sox BP. They must have started early. You're supposed to be clicking on these, by the way.

The first Game Seven at Fenway since '86! And I'm effin' there!

Trot Nixon. This series worked out perfectly: Trot got a game-winning hit, but our team still won the whole thing.

The parrot in the Red Sox' bullpen.

It's so funny how Fenway's press are isn't big enough, so they throw a bunch of folding tables out in the right field grandstand and drape them in colorful sheets.

Here's another view. This was the first time I was able to witness this live. It's amazing how many "real people" seats are taken up by this area. We're talkin' 15 rows with at least 25 seats each. Nearly 400 seats taken up to get maybe 150 press people in there. I say put 'em in section 5.

The ALCS logo on the field. Hafner at top right.

As you may have noticed these past few years, I like getting shots of the Citgo Sign from all different angles.

So, yeah, I've clearly walked all the way around to the third base side at this point. Here, Gammons talks with that Shap-EYE-ro dude, and a Jim Palmer-looking guy.

Trot takin' some swings in BP.

This "ball in flight" shot became plural. The higher white spot in the sky is the ball hit out toward left center by the BP hitter. The lower one was thrown in to the guy in red, about to make the catch. Let's see you get two balls in flight at once, Wally-hat guy!

Howard Bryant and Jack Hank.

A view of the extra photographers' seats.

Under the Bud sign, you can see that press area I was right next to before. And at far left, three rows above the Nikon sign, was my seat.

"Like, I suppose Pat Sajak doesn't have, like, over a million friends...."

I do my usual eating of pizza and walk all the way back to my bleacher spot, above the triangle, in the third row, as we near game time. Game seven time! The parrot now has a ball.

They break out the Dropkick Murphys to do the anthem, plus "Tessie" and "SUTB," both of which they nailed. They were obscured from me by the 18-foot wall, so I had to get up on the seat in front of me and hold my camera up high to get a shot of them. You can see those dancing girls again, too.

Then Millar comes out and throws out the first pitch. Sweet. That dude is awesome.

Jake Westbrook warming up. Okay, this is the point where we deviate from the normal Fenway experience. This was, as I've said a few times, Game Seven. The ultimate do-or-die. And the fans were ready. The usual "opposing pitcher warming up" photo would see the crowd half full, sitting down, with lots of people milling about, making their way to their seats. As you can see here, when Westbrook warmed up, he was almost hard to find amongst the people, all at their seats, all standing up and ready to go.

Timlin and Donnely checkin' out the crowd.

And Dice-K starts things off. Everyone going nuts. Everyone on their feet at the very least for every 2-strike count. I hope Michael Kay was watching this "gloom and doom." I won't go so far as to say we willed the team to victory, but we were definitely a presence.

Our first inning rally. (Note: The times I was most likely to take pics were during the rare times we were sitting...) I love how you can see the defined lines of the aisles, as, again, nobody wanted to miss a pitch.

Sizemore and Lofton. God, it was sweet to see Lofton not win. Especially after those displays in Cleveland. He was so sure they were winning, and that made it that much more fun that we came back and took the series. The play where he ran on Manny--just beautiful. And that other play where he didn't--well, more on that later.

Manny on first. We'd end up scoring a run an inning over the first three. We had the leadoff man on in the first four, but had three double plays. We were happy with the lead, but it was rough knowing we'd let Westbrook off the hook. Then they cut it to 3-1, despite being terribly out-hit by us. Every inning was a white-knuckle ride, trying to hold that lead.

Another shot of the crowd, totally into it. I sat among season-ticket holders. It was a pretty fun section. Drunk, but not extra-loud drunk. The type of people who make the "that looked good from here, ump" joke as if they're the first to think of it, and the type who inexplicably laugh at it as if they've never heard it before. Oh, wait, that's every sports fan.... Anyway, this particularly toasted guy said he'd made a sign, but couldn't unroll it until the game was in the bag.... Oh, and I got this ticket for face value, having called the ticket office a week earlier.

Above, the nearly full moon, which hung over the city and the park all day and night. I really think this was the "Life Aquatic" of game sevens--it won't be fully appreciated until decades later. The seventh inning was incredible. Our bats had died, and they'd cut it to one in the fifth. After a 1-2-3 fifth by Westbrook, who suddenly was in control, the guy next to me said, "we need an inning like that." We got it in the top of the sixth, but couldn't add to our lead in the bottom half, going down 1-2-3 again. At that point, even though we'd seen Beckett warm up, we kind of knew the plan: Okaji 6-7, Pap 8-9. Jeemer started the seventh by getting a fly out to right. At this point, we were dying with every pitch. Sweet. An out. Hold this slim lead. Then Lofton pops one down the left field line. Lugo goes over toward the fence and immediately makes the call and settles, albeit unsteadily, under it. He drops the fucking ball. Lofton safely at second base. I'm standing there ready to jump out of the crowd and strangle Lugo. In a year in which many of my predictions came true, I couldn't help but think of how I worried all year that if we had a downfall, it would be Lugo making a mistake at playoff time. I was prepared to hate the man forever. I thought of how he may never recover from this one, if he even comes back next year at all. (Emotions were high, is what I'm sayin'.)

The next guy hits one down the line, past Lowell. I look at the ump. Fair. Shit. We're tied. I'm angry. All those wasted opportunities, and our bats still asleep. But wait! After I watch the ball hit the spot where the boxes jut out, I look at Lofton, and he comes to a quick halt a few steps beyond third. He does a little pissed off spin, as we all watch in disbelief. What is the third base coach thinking? Lofton walks home on that. WALKS home. Manny wasn't even going to try--there would've been no point. So we are still. Almost trying not to move as if doing so would allow Lofton to score: "We were just kidding, we meant to send him. Tie game!" But no. It's first and third, one out, and we're still up one. So now we're thinking double play. And there's a grounder to third. Lowell has it! Two clean throws, and we're out of this. Each throw took an hour. But we did it. The entire rest of the infield got Lugo's back. 5-4-3 DP, and it's stretch time at Fenway.

Bottom seven: Ellsbury grounds to third. Blake, who just hit into the double play, misses the ball. Misses the effing ball. It seemed like every time you looked up, a ball was somehow getting past an Indian infielder. The key word being "seemed." Three consecutive breaks for us, and now we're all smiling ear to ear. We all know at this moment (some of us have known for quite some time) that anything can happen--to ANY team. Good fortune can rain from the heavens right on the Boston Red Sox. And we and they certainly deserve it. With &Myers on first (above) and nobody out, we're thinking run. 4-2 lead, and bring in Pap for the last two. We'll take our chances with that....

But Pedroia wanted more. A day earlier, I was talking to Kim about how Dustin still hadn't had a huge walk-off homer, and how I'd like to see that from him this post-season. Well, he knew he couldn't do that here, so he did all he could--promptly deposit one into the Monster Seats. We knew it was gone. And this was off Betancourt, who'd done so well for them. Awesome. 3-2 became 5-2, and Fenway Park became a very confident and raucous place.

Dustin, in the dugout, with Mike Lowell all over him.

It wasn't over yet, though. Okajima gives up a bunt hit to Sizemore to start the eighth, and a base hit later. Papelbon is called in. Here he is on the mound with the tying run--the sleeping giant, Travis Hafner--up. He K's him. Next guy grounds to second, and Dustin double clutches a little before throwing to Lugo. I still think Julio should've thrown to first, but he didn't even try. Two out, first and third. Fly ball, right toward me. Jacoby goes all the way back, and catches it, just barely in my view. So we're three outs away, a we do the most spirited version of Sweet Caroline of the season.

Then Pedroia comes through again, with a three-run double. You know what that means....

The sign comes out! In his drunkenness, he claims to have some up with something "much more clever" during the game, and what a shame it was he hadn't thought of it earlier.

As the Tribe makes a pitching change, cops are protecting the field. They were really worried about this. Before the game they made a special announcement saying to be responsible "regardless of the outcome." It's like they worried we'd riot if we lost, or storm the field if we won. I thought this was ridiculous. First of all, we've already seen the glory of 2004, I don't think anybody's in the mood to go out on the field and rip shit up because we lost to the Indians after a valiant comeback attempt in a year in which the Yanks have already been eliminated. And no baseball fans have swarmed a field in decades--the fans whose team just won after an 86-year drought aren't suddenly going to break that tradition (although I love field-swarming!), especially for a mere pennant clinch. Like how all the "prevent defense" does is prevent defense, the only thing riot cops do is cause riots. Leaving the park later, I'd see an incredible mass of them, with dogs and stone faces. Terrible.

Anyway, here, Youk adds an insurance dong, and it's party time. 11-2. We finish it out with a fly ball to the triangle, out of my view. I later see on the board that it was an amazing catch by Coco, who, rightfully, got a huge ovation when he was brought into the game.

Then, the celebration was ON. (Click there for my celebration photos and video, which was shot by me and shown to you because I'm a nice, unpaid guy, as opposed to getting paid to just search YouTube for "red sox" or tape NESN.) You know, I'm glad I've got this small community of readers, who know to come here for some unique stuff. I appreciate every one of you, and I'm thankful you come here, my fellow AL champion Red Sox fans.

"I've got this small community of readers"...We may be small, but our appreciation for all you do is boundless.

Here's hoping you score some WS tickets somehow.
You're welcome, your blog kicks ass. I'm continually impressed by how many games you manage to get to without being a season ticket holder, corporate type, or celebrity. Nothing like living vicariously...
Thanks and thanks.

pweez: email me about your prize.

Ryan: A few weeks ago at Fenway, some dude surveyed me. He asked if I was a season ticket holder. I said, "I have a 10-game plan, does that count?" He said, "I dunno." So I may or may not technically be a "season ticket holder," but, still, it's only for ten games.
Mom here:
I would have commented on your extraordinary Tues. post but you said it all. And showed it all via pictures and the previous day's clips. Your coverage left me feeling as close as I could be to actually being there. Now I realize there is something I can say. Thanks Jere.
MOM: You're welcome! (13 years later........)

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Location: Rhode Island, United States