Munsey on Ballparks
A Journey to Yawkey Way
by David Munsey (archive)
March 5, 2005
This week I am featuring a guest columnist. My brother David sent me this story about his experiences at the third game of the 2004 ALCS, and I liked it so much that I decided to share it with my readers. - Paul Munsey
I stood a dozen rows up, on the first base side, smiling beneath the American flag and the Fenway Park sign. Despite the outcome, I was proud to have supported our Red Sox-in person-in one of the most lopsided games in postseason history....
We all know how the story ends. If you are game for a little more Red Sox nostalgia, this one is right up your alley. Yes, I did attend the game that ended with the third digit in "1918" rotated 90 degrees-perhaps symbolic of the Babe standing one last time, and then finding his final, peaceful resting place. But it took a series of miracles to get me to that game.
I rose at 4:00 a.m. on Friday, October 15th. My mission: to catch a plane from Denver to Boston and, ultimately, watch the Red Sox play the Yankees for the first time in my life. I had been to my share of Red Sox games over the years, but I had never gone to a playoff game or seen them play the Yankees. I had a standing invitation from a business associate and Yankee fan, Brian, who was part of a Red Sox season ticket pool (so he could see the Yankees at Fenway each year). As soon as the Red Sox swept the Angels, I called him to take him up on his offer.
When I arrived at Kenmore Square, I had an hour to kill before I was to meet my Yankee associate. I took a few pics of Fenway in all of its traditional regalia, and then headed down Brookline Avenue. Not having lived in the Boston area since I was a teenager, I stopped in at the Boston Billiard Club. I walked inside, and all I could see from wall to wall was a sea of Red Sox jerseys, caps, and the fellow fans that donned them. Although somewhat older than the average patron, I felt more at home than I had in years. What an awesome feeling. After a Sam Adams, I headed out to meet up with my friend.
Brian and I met at the parking lot outside the old Sears building. He greeted me by displaying two new rain jackets: one red and one blue. We had feared it might rain all week. But it was just a drizzle at that point, and still game-on back at Fenway, so we started toward the ballpark. As we left the parking lot, he handed me my ticket: "Home Game 1", it said. I was so psyched. We picked up the pace, passed the bar in which I had connected with anonymous-but committed-Red Sox fans, and approached Yawkey Way. It was there we encountered our first obstacle.
"I don't have the tickets," Brian said. He checked his pockets. He checked again. The tickets were nowhere to be found. By then, it was about 7:10 p.m. He suggested we walk back to the car: "They must have dropped out of my pocket before I got out of the car." We backtracked carefully, surveying the ground for that invaluable, rectangular piece of paper. About a hundred yards up the street, there it was, with one corner submerged in a puddle. With all of the pre-game foot traffic and commotion, it was a miracle we even found that ticket.
"That's only one of them," Brian murmured.
"No, remember? You gave me the other one as we were leaving the parking lot," I fleetingly attempted to explain.
In an effort to play a practical joke, he had given me an unused ticket to Home Game 1 of the ALDS. Brian's plan was for me to approach the turnstile with the wrong ticket, and have a good laugh about it after he finally revealed not only his actual ticket, but also mine. It meant, of course, we still had one ticket to find.
Brian continued back to the car while I searched the area for the second ticket. After about five minutes of looking under parked cars and confronting a scalper along the way (I was treading on his turf-I told him to shove it), I started asking around. I had spotted the first ticket about 25 yards from the front door of another bar-Bb Wolf. I asked the bouncer there if anyone had found a ticket. To my amazement, he said "yes". "Five-ten white guy" (like me), "wearing a white Red Sox jersey" (like mine) "and a dark blue 59/50 Red Sox cap" (also, like mine). "That's a lot to go on," I sardonically thought to myself. The bouncer added, "He said he was going down to the Boston Brewing Works."
I ran down to the bar at which he said the holder of miracle number-two would be, came upon a long waiting line, and pleaded my case with the doorman. He would not let me in. I turned around, peered at the people in line, and saw one guy who seemed to fit the description.
I approached him: "I was told you might have found a ticket."
Without hesitation, the guy dressed like me asked: "What's the number?"
"I don't know, but I have the same ticket-or for the seat next to it-from the first game when they played the Angels," I said, hoping he would buy what I was (genuinely) saying. I showed him my ticket. He pulled the second ticket from the left cuff of his long-sleeved undershirt.
He did not have many words. I did find out he was there with his family. I offered him a couple of twenties as a finder's fee, but he declined. "No way," he said, "I don't need your money." That guy is one of the most honest people I have ever met.
I started back toward the car to meet Brian halfway. He showed me a second pair of tickets. "Home Game 3," he said. "They will let us in the gate if I tell them I am a season-ticket holder-since we have one of the two for tonight's game," he said confidently. I nodded my head in agreement, put on a wry smile, and showed him the second ticket. "Miracle number two," he commented, and we both breathed a sigh of relief.
Then, the rain started coming down. And this time it did not stop. Brian instructed me to go to the gate while he started to negotiate for tickets to Home Game 2 on Saturday. We had found out Home Game 1 would be rescheduled to Monday, and my return flight was on Sunday morning. Just as I approached Yawkey Way, I heard a number of people say the game had been postponed. I called my brother in Houston (another HUGE Red Sox fan), and he confirmed.
Moments later, I called Brian, and he said he had arranged for a trade: his two-sets-of-two, for one set-of-two for Game 2. Ours were in the outfield. But the deal ended up being a dud. The guy willing to trade had to pick up the tickets the next day. We wanted them in-hand before we headed home. Brian was single-mindedly resolved to get me to the game the next day, so we continued to look for a taker. I found someone who had two sweet box seats behind first base. No deal. Outfield was not good enough-even at two-for-one. We walked around for a while longer, spoke to some other potential takers, but could not find anyone who was willing to trade. About 10 minutes later, I saw the box-seat guy again, and he had changed his mind. Brian made his way down the street to us, exchanged tickets, and we were on our way.
Little did I know getting to a Red Sox game could be so much work ....
Feeling bad about the weather, Brian treated me to dinner with him and his wife at a very nice restaurant on the South Shore. We then turned in for the evening.
The next day, I visited my grandmother and a few relatives in Lawrence. Around 3:30, I drove down to the South Shore to pick up Brian. This time, it would be for real. No rain. Unparalleled excitement in the air. Again, I was so psyched.
We parked at the old Sears building again, strolled down Brookline Avenue, and re-witnessed the Red Sox fervor along the way. This time, Brian wore a red jacket. He must have had second thoughts about chanting 19! 18! and wearing blue. We approached the gate.
We handed our tickets to the man at the gate. Sort of like the man in the Yellow Hat. Did you read the one in which Curious George traded two sets of two tickets to see the Red Sox play the Yankees? He would not have done it if the brim of that yellow hat had been casting an ominous shadow.
Back to the man (at the gate). "They're fake," he said with a note of indifference, after his barcode reader made a sound that would have made anyone frown.
"Oh, no." Brian and I chanted in a low voice. The gatekeeper rubbed his thumb on the ticket, revealing a smudge and what was a poor counterfeit at best-in the gatekeeper's opinion.
We pleaded with him. We virtually begged. We could not miss this game! We told him of my trip halfway across the country, and then our misfortunes-followed-by-miracles the night before-only to be washed out by the weather and, then, a happy crook.
"Go to Gate A-you can ask the people there to help you. I can't do anything here." He started to take other tickets. The game was about to begin. We waited for a lull, and I started in again. "I went to Gate A last night (I really did), and they can not do anything for us," I said in the most convincing tone I could muster. "With all due respect, sir, you are the only one who can help us here." Still, the answer was, in a gruff Southie dialect, "No".
I showed the man my Colorado driver's license. I repeated, "I woke up at four in the morning!" "I have never been to a Red Sox-Yankees game. And it was rained out! My friend has season tickets. I was born and raised here. I watched every game on channel 38 as a kid. My grandfather was in the Navy, and stationed at Pensacola with Ted Williams! Look, I can tell you the entire starting lineup of the '75 World Series team." And I started reciting the names: "Carlton Fisk at catcher, Denny Doyle and Rick Burleson at second-and-short, Freddy Lynn-the only one ever to win Rookie-of-the-Year and MVP in the same year, Dewey in right, Yaz (of course), Hobson or Petrocelli at third, El Tiante, Bill-'Space Man'" ....
"Give me your tickets"
"Give me your tickets," the gatekeeper said. Looking around and then turning to us, he feigned scanning the tickets, gave them back to us, and continued: "Go. You don't know me. You don't know which gate you came in. Standing room only. Don't even think about sitting. Enjoy the game."
Without an ounce of hesitation, we hurried through the turnstiles and did not look back. We found an overcrowded spot to stand, along the (narrow) concourse behind third base, in time to catch the bottom of the first inning.
I was at my game. Compliments of my Yankee friend for life.
And a game it was-for Yankee fans everywhere. By the fourth inning, we were getting shellacked. By the seventh inning, 1918 and I were able to sneak into seats behind home plate.
I dropped Brian off about an hour after the game ended. I had planned on going out and celebrating before my early-morning flight, but that plan was eighty-sixed. "I will just find a Dunkin' Donuts and hang out with the cops," I joked.
Before I pulled away, he remarked, "That was great." I was speechless. I was not close to being in the mood to pull together the words, "Wait 'til next year!" It just did not feel appropriate-not even considering his generosity. We had gotten clobbered by those dreaded Yankees on our own turf.
What I had not realized-what I could not have imagined-was that I had attended the last Red Sox loss of the last 86 years.
Far be it for me to have been the last Red Sox fan after the game that night-in the face of seemingly impossible odds-to smile proudly beneath the American flag and the beloved sign that reads: Fenway Park - Home of Your Boston Red Sox, 2004 World Champions.
P.S. - No disrespect, Manny, but the real MVPs were the best of our kind: all of us Red Sox fans. There were never any divots in our dedication.
David Munsey is a long time Red Sox fan who currently resides in Colorado Springs. Paul Munsey, David's brother, is the editor of Ballparks.com.
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A Journey to Yawkey Way © 2005 by David Munsey.
Munsey on Ballparks © 2005 by Paul Munsey.
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