Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 10/2003
My dad, God bless him — was the sports fanatic in my family and a true die hard Red Sox fan. While winter nights were often peppered with him shouting “SCORE!” whenever the Boston Bruins got a goal, it was the Red Sox that was his true sports passion and most dear to his heart.
Some of my earliest memories of Dad are him watching the Red Sox, the cool summer breeze blowing in, or the old exhaust fan desperately trying to stifle the blazing August heat.
Dad always said if he got a car he’d have the license plate “Red Sox.” He watched every game, bet on the outcome with his friends, and memorized all the details of the voluminous Baseball encyclopedia. He wasn’t just a fan — he was a baseball expert.
Dad and I only attended one game together; in truth I was much more excited about missing church that Sunday than the outcome of Red Sox versus Minnesota, but I enjoyed the game as Dad loaded me up with soda, popcorn and about $50 worth of Red Sox souvenirs.
Now, I’m not a sports fan, and never have been. I can’t quote stats, can’t name the lineup, and couldn’t tell you had the best season, or even what an ERA is. But the Red Sox hold a special place in my heart, partly because the team is so quintessentially Boston, and mostly because of what the team (and the sport) meant to my Dad.
Dad died in 1984, and not one Spring has passed me that I haven’t seen the “Official Red Sox Yearbook” on the stands and reminisced about buying it for him every year. Not one summer has began for me until the Red Sox played a game on TV. Not one fall passed without noting how the Red Sox were doing, and knowing how Dad would be hanging on the outcome.
Except for when our hopes were crushed when Buckner muffed the grounder in 1986, I have followed the Red Sox with only passing interest over the years, noting that every year seemed to be “THE” year, and how “Just wait until next year” had seemingly become the teams mantra and in-joke.
This year was different, though, for two reasons. The Red Sox had a great season, and I stood in the field at Fenway Park.
First, in September, I was fortunate enough to score tickets to both of the historic Bruce Springsteen concerts at Fenway. On the second night, Sue and I joined 38,000 others to see a phenomenal concert, and also — at least for me — to drink in history. Our seats that night were on the field, and while I rocked with everyone else, I kept thinking of what an honor it was to be standing on the very field where so many greats like Ted Williams, Luis Tiant and Rico Petricelli and hundreds of team members I cannot even name had played the game. I just kept thinking about how overwhelmed Dad would have been to be standing there in that hallowed, historic place, where the ghosts of so many Red Sox players had given their all for the show. I looked at all those banners outside commemorating years the team won the American League championship, and I felt proud. And I felt Dad was with me.
Second, the Red Sox had an amazing season — again, I can’t quote the stats and who did what, but they really played their hearts and made us sit up and take notice. I think I’ll always remember that night outside with three Jaycee friends, freezing in the October cold but not caring, huddled around a small radio, hearing the Red Sox beat Anaheim to advance to the American League Championship series.
I’ll always remember the sinking feeling when the Red Sox lost at Fenway, and were heading back to New York. “They can’t win two games against the Yankees in the Bronx… Can they?” Then they won the sixth game, and in game seven, there was a collective hush in New England.
And none of us will ever forget 2003 game 7. The Red Sox were leading 4-1. It was a lock! We all knew it! The Red Sox were going to the World Series.
This was the year!
You know the rest. New England woke Friday to a state of mourning. Armchair coaches and people around Massachusetts voiced their strong opinions why the Red Sox lost. Grady was wrong. Manny Ramirez shouldn’t have continued pitching. And a thousand other reasons and opinions began circulating the airwaves, office corridors and bars.
I too feel saddened by the loss, but since 2003 was a season that thrilled Red Sox fans like no other in recent memory, there should be good memories that go beyond the game 7 loss and “missed it by that much” World Series.
For me, one of my strongest memories was a feeling of Dad’s presence in my heart — that in some way he was with me, living some of the excitement through me. I felt it at Fenway the night I stood on the field, and I felt it watching some of the games.
And I think finally I want to echo the sentiments of so many people throughout New England who can move past a heartbreaking game 7 and say, to all the Red Sox players, thank you for a memorable, exciting, wonderful year. It was a hell of a ride, and the bittersweet ending doesn’t take away from the joy you’ve brought your fans. And Dad, there’s always next year, and this time, I’ll be watching too.