Thursday, February 19, 2015

When Babe Ruth was still mad at the Red Sox

I went to Fenway Park in 2003 during the last year of the curse. A friend from college had an extra ticket to a Yankees game, so I took the train up from DC and went to Boston for a few days. I never paid him for the ticket, thinking he'd come down and I'd take him to an Orioles game, but he never did. It was the last time I saw him and it still makes me sad.

I was flat broke. I had packed up my car and moved to DC two months earlier and was having trouble finding a job - I was freelancing some translation projects but most of them were small change. One earned a good sized check but it took me more than a month to complete it and as it was the only thing I was working on, there wasn't any money coming in. Still, I wasn't going to let a little cash flow problem prevent me from going to see a Yankees-Red Sox game at one of baseball's last cathedrals.

The whole experience was overwhelming. I'd been to Wrigley a few times before then but I grew up in the Midwest and Chicago was part of the region - New England was this whole other world that I hadn't even been able to define the first time I went to DC - I thought Maryland was part of it. Boston was the place of pilgrims and tea parties, a place of history books, and I had a difficult time grasping the fact that it was real. Seeing the Wall was like seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Giza pyramids. It was just a wall, but it was so much more than that. It was Teddy Ballgame and Fisk and Yaz, and the ghosts roam there, too, like they did further south before greed tore down the House that Ruth Built.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry hadn't been ruined by E$PN back then, so there was a magic to the game that you don't typically get during baseball in May. At one point the game was delayed because a fight had broken out somewhere in the outfield stands and it was big enough to be a distraction. I don't remember much about the game itself because it was secondary to the experience of just being there. For awhile after that I thought that it was a dream of mine for just one season to have season tickets and go to every game in Fenway. That was before they started winning all the time and the fans became obnoxious and you saw B hats as far away as Lebanon as I once did.

I was only 26 that year and had already traveled extensively and Boston was the closest in America I'd felt to being in a foreign country. Twelve years later, it still feels foreign to me, way up there in the corner between civilization and the North Pole, or so it seems. I can't pretend to know what Boston is like despite having visited, and my idea remains that of a giant Irish pub with a Red Sox game on in the corner. I can't judge Fenway based on my one experience but it was one of the best baseball games I've ever been to out of a few hundred in my lifetime.

You have to wonder if they're going to have any baseball at all up there this year with this eternal winter.

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