May 10, 2001.
The soon to be 116 win Seattle Mariners defeated the Boston Red Sox in the rubber game of a three game series at Fenway Park that night, 5-2. Red Sox legends such as Dante Bichette, Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman, and Darren Lewis were in the line up that night. Tomo Ohka drew the start. Stop me if you are depressed.
Carlos Guillen knocked in Al Martin to start the scoring in the fifth on a close play at the plate (complete with stadium wide “bull****” serenade for the umpire, Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez homered, John Halama got the win, and Kaz Sasaki got the save for the historically good Mariners.
It was a typically melancholy night during a 86 year drought.
It was also the only time I had ever been to Fenway Park…until last night.
As the son of non-sports fans, it was impossible to get my parents to bring me to the game when I was a kid. Being that the non-sports fans were also a military family, it was only so long before the government would no longer allow us to live in Boston, in spite of that being “home.” As such, I hit the road, and 23 years and 9 states later, I have returned to New England. As an adult, I have seen the Red Sox play in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and St. Petersburg, FL. Any time they were where I was, I was there. Fenway, however, was always more than a drive or T ride away. I have been forced, as such, to watch on television projecting my memories on the feed.
Memories wane, of course, but certain memories remained. Italian sausages, tight corridors*, Fenway Franks all remain.
* Though the new Big Concourse is very cool.
No longer are just the legends celebrated – though FRed Lynn’s presence last night was very cool – but now there are living playing legends on the field in front of us. Monday. While still hungover on the 2013 season, the Red Sox celebrated three time World Champion, local legend, and Boston city ambassador David Ortiz by commemorating him in the most 2005 way possible: a bobble head. Though, c’mon, it is kind of awesome.
The collective melancholy is long gone, however. There is more than joy, there is optimism – anything can happen. Three rings in a decade changes a mood of an entire community – and entire “Nation.”
And, indeed, last night, “anything” did happen. Our shiny new punching bag, A.J. Pierzyniski, went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored (though, admittedly, his passed ball led the to the only run the Rangers scored in a 5-1 game). Jackie Bradley went all Portland/Pawtucket on the Fenway faithful (3 for 4, 2 RBIs), and John Lackey went seven innings with none earned. It is a good sign that Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz can hit a combined 0 for 10 the team still collected 14 hits and the team can still pull out a victory.
So what lessons can be learned between a disappointing loss to a dominate Mariners team in 2001 and a ho-hum April win where the bottom of the order and a once-left-for-dead Jon Lackey star en route to a victory? That hope is not always a pipe dream. Sometimes, against all evidence to the contrary, it can realized – even beyond what had been dreamed. That even the most pessimistic of communities can eventually bathe in success. That beauty (stadiums) can emerge out of the ruins (which was prevailing narrative of Fenway in 2001).
And, finally, that, sometimes, you can come home.