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Top Five Fenway Memories

April 20, 2012

How jealous was I of everyone who was lucky enough to be at Fenway Park today? It was awesome watching it on TV—the ceremony not so much the game—so I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there in person.   To be able to say afterwards, “I was there.”

It got me thinking of all the moments, all the memories that this park holds, and those fans who were lucky enough to experience them.  I have been very lucky to see several Red Sox games at Fenway, and it doesn’t take much to make the experience special.  Sitting in the park, surrounded by your friends and family, watching your Sox, with a sausage sandwich in one hand and a frosty beverage in the other.  That is a pretty perfect day.

I have so many fond memories of watching our Red Sox at Fenway Park it would be impossible to count them all, but here are my top five, in no particular order:

1. Getting Tony Pena’s autograph.  It was one of my first games.  My dad took my brother and me.  We arrived early to watch batting practice.  It was the first, and it remains one of the few times I have ever been in the box seats. I’m not sure if you’re still allowed to get that close during BP without holding tickets for that section, it’s a shame, but we were right between home plate and the dugout.  I remember watching Tony sign my slip of paper—it wasn’t a ball or the program—and him handing it back to me.  It’s too bad he couldn’t participate today with the rest of the Red Sox.  It’s too bad he works for the Yankees.  Still, no matter what team he is with now or in the future, nothing will tarnish the memory of that day.

2. Schilling’s return post bloody sock.  He got shelled by the Yankees in a relief appearance, but I think it’s safe to say that no one has ever received such applause for simply walking from the dugout to the bullpen.  Fenway was buzzing with anticipation and it erupted again when he came into the game.  Incidentally, this is also the game where my brother-in-law screamed some not-so-nice words at Gary Sheffield, and, my hand to God, Gary turned and looked right at us.  We were sitting far back in the right field grandstand, but he found us.  I will never forget that look.

3. My first Fenway Park souvenir.  It was Patriots’ Day in the late 80s or early 90s.  I guess it was supposed to be cold.  Bitter cold days are not unheard of in April, in New England, so my dad made my brother and I wear long underwear and several additional layers.  The day may have begun cold, but, by game time, it was 80 degrees.  My brother and I were melting.  We didn’t have a lot of money in those days.  We brought our own sandwiches and sodas to the game to save on concessions, but my dad couldn’t let his kids die of heat stroke, so he had no choice but to buy us both t-shirts.  I picked out one with a picture of Fenway Park on it.  It came in two colors—white or black.  I begged to get the black one, but my dad argued that the white one would be cooler, temperature wise.  I argued that the black one was cooler, style wise. I’m pretty sure my dad, the one with the money, won the argument.  Regardless, the new t-shirts saved the day and I cherished mine.

4.  Roger Clemens’ return to Fenway as a Blue Jay.  I’m not sure what good fortune led me to seeing this game, but I was there.  I can’t remember if I ever saw Clemens pitch at Fenway, in a Red Sox uniform.  I did have the opportunity to meet him at the RI premiere of Dumb and Dumber, in 1994.  I was a huge Jim Carrey fan, but that’s another story for another day.  I remember shaking “The Rocket’s” hand that evening at the Showcase Cinemas, in Warwick, RI, and I remember sitting in Fenway Park chanting, “Roger, Roger, Roger,” along with the rest of the “Faithful” until Roger Clemens came out of the visitors’ dugout and tipped his cap to the crowd.  I knew, on that day, that I was a part of history, and that is a feeling that never goes away.  It is a memory that will never fade.

5. Manny Ramirez’s return to Fenway as a Dodger.  From the moment that the 2009 schedule was announced, I knew I had to be there.  I was at the Roger Clemens’ game by chance, but I was going to do everything in my power to be there when Manny Ramirez was announced as a member of another team for the first time, since he helped us win two world championships.  I wanted to witness the reaction.  I wanted to experience the roar of the crowd and the sensation that the vibrations could very well cause Fenway Park to crumble to the ground.  Tickets to the game and plane tickets home were the easy part, relatively; so many other factors were out of our control.  The weather.  Manny’s health.  Would he suddenly have a quad injury and not be able to play?  Not to mention, there was the anticipation factor.  Could the experience possibly live up to the expectations I had set?  The day finally arrived, and I wasn’t sure if I would cheer or boo.  Regardless of one’s opinion of Manny, we would not have won it all in ’04 without him, and, for that reason alone, I found myself cheering more than booing.  The experience lived up to every expectation.  I was lucky, I was proud, I was grateful to have been there.

I grew up in an era when Fenway Park’s fate was always in question.  The team was cursed, but that wasn’t going to stop the powers-at-be from trying to make more money.  It’s destruction, to make way for a new, bigger and better stadium, seemed, at times, inevitable. Just think, today, it could be a parking lot or condos.  Instead, it remains the league’s oldest and greatest ballpark.

What’s your most memorable experience at Fenway Park?  In an effort to compile 100 or more fan memories of Fenway, by the end of the season, please submit your personal favorites either in the comment section below or by email to afandivided@gmail.com.  If selected, your favorite memory could be included in a special post at the end of the season.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Bernard Mendillo permalink
    April 24, 2012 2:53 pm

    It was probably 1991. My daughter Hollie was 10 and her brother Chris was 8 and I was taking them to their first Red Sox game.

    I’d just become part of a season-ticket consortium—organized by my brother Robert—four seats, section 30, Row 1, grandstand, seats 9, 10, 11, 12.

    During a rainout last season, they broadcast a tour of the park and the commentator said that our row was the best seat in Fenway park, because of the sight lines and because you’re just under the roof—so you get all the sunlight but you have shelter from the rain.

    At any rate, my then girlfriend and now wife Robin and I entered the park with a very excited Hollie and Chris in tow.

    When we got to the ramp, leading up to our section, I told Robin to come with me to the top and to stand aside a bit and look at H and C as they walked up.

    This is a thing you only get once chance at for each person.

    To see the look on a person’s face when they walk up the ramp from the dark concourse below and come up into the light and see the ballpark for the first time.

    Hollie and Chris walked up and then their faces lit up as they saw that great expanse of green lawn and the seats all the way around and the signs and the walls and the green monster and the players in pristine white warming up on the field.

    I think we won. In actuality, for some reason, we win most of the games we see in person. The Red Sox should give us free tickets to each game, replete with a limo ride and unlimited sausage sandwiches.

    But the real victory was the look on Hollie and Chris’ faces. Two kids, coming fact to face with simple wonder.

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