Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Opening Day At Fenway Park

****** The Red Sox home opener yesterday was a joyous event marked by thousands of lucky fans (with or without their children playing truant) at Fenway Park, and hundreds of thousands more who like me watched the televised festivities at home. Championship rings were given each member of the team, bands played, singers sang, Boston sports luminaries on the rosters of the Celtics, the Bruins and the Patriots waved at the crowd and revelled in the chilly April sunshine. There was an Air Force fly-over, always exciting but especially so at this address since I live spot on the direct flight path to the ball park. It is therefore a much anticipated but dizzyingly brief thrill to step out to the deck just seconds before the air craft rattle and roar across the rooftop.

****** Unquestionably, the most emotional moments occured with the announcement that Billy Buckner (Yes ...THE Billy Buckner) would throw out the first ball. He was greeted by waves of applause and cheering as he made his walk from center field to the mound, tears streaming his face because he realized he never again will carry the "goat" label. (For those of you who are not aware of the history, a brief description of the incredible moment follows below. You may read a full explanation here).

****** The 1986 World Series:

****** On October 25, 1986, the Boston Red Sox faced the New York Mets in game 6 of the World Series. Boston led the best-of-7 series 3 games to 2, and had a two-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. New York came back to tie the game with three straight singles off Calvin Schiraldi and a wild pitch by pitcher Bob Stanley. Mookie Wilson fouled off several pitches before hitting a ground ball to Buckner at first base. The ball rolled under Buckner's glove, through his legs, and into right field, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run, forcing a seventh game, which the Mets won. Buckner's error capped off a poor Game 6 performance; he went 0-for-5 with runners on in all five at-bats.

****** Buckner was a key member of the team that year. He hit 8 home runs that September, with 22 RBIs and a .340 average, missing only three games. He drove in over 100 runs for the season. In game 5 of the Championship Series when the Red Sox faced elimination, he singled to start their ninth inning rally capped off by Dave Henderson's famous home run.

****** The Boston press crucified Mr. Buckner and the fans were equally (and understandably) venomous. Yesterday, Boston collectively hollered "Enough already"! He threw the first pitch to Dwight Evans, another crowd roar, followed by Johnny Pesky's appearance at the microphone, who with the vigorous voice of a man half his age, shouted the words we waited all winter long to hear: "PLAY BALL"!!!!

PS ...Oh yes, the game: The Sox beat the hapless Detroit Tigers 5-0 in regulation.

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