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The Late Late Show

Wed., May 4, 2011 – Fenway Park, Sections 43, 3, 17, Box 50, and 23

Angels 5, Red Sox 3, 13 inn.

In the 2½ weeks since my last game, the Red Sox had climbed back to within a game of .500, good for third place in the division, just 4 games out of first.  With my long absence and the team’s better play of late, I was anxious to get to Fenway, but it took me a little longer than usual to get there.  I left work at 4:30, and my usual strategy for night games is to park at the Lechmere T station in Cambridge.  Even though Riverside station in Newton is closer to work, it’s a lot further from Fenway, and on the off-chance that the game went late because of rain delays or extra innings, I wouldn’t want to pay for a cab all the way out to Riverside.  In the 11 years that I’ve been going to this many games, there’s only been one other time that the game has gone later than the T and I needed a cab (there have been a couple of others that went past 12:35, but they were either playoff games where they ran the T later than usual, or Sunday night games when I had parked on the street), but I plan for it every time anyway.  This year there’s construction at the next stop, so while Lechmere has plenty of parking, we need to take shuttle buses from there to North Station to get on the train.  The problem is that with a Bruins playoff game at the Garden at the same time as the Red Sox game, it took forever for the shuttle bus to get there, and I didn’t make it to Fenway until 6:30.

It had rained all day, but this was the Angels’ only trip to Boston.  The two teams had the final game of the series scheduled for the next afternoon at 1:35, after which the Angels were flying back home to Anaheim.  The only way to make up this game if it was rained out was to play a night game tomorrow, which would make for a very late flight for the Angels (and tomorrow’s forecast didn’t look much better so it would be hard to get two games in), or worse yet find a common off-day later in the season and have them fly up for one game.  So we knew going in that they were going to try to play tonight if at all possible.  It wasn’t raining when I headed out to my seat in the bleachers, but as soon as the game began it started up again.  I took a couple of quick pictures, thinking I wasn’t going to get much of anything good to post on the blog, and then put my camera away.  It rained even harder in the bottom of the first, so my friend and I decided to head over to the Section 3 grandstand where we “borrowed” 2 vacant seats under cover.

Adrian Gonzalez comes up to bat in the 6th inning.

Adrian Gonzalez comes up to bat in the 6th inning.

The new seats weren’t bad, and the game moved quickly with both pitchers throwing well.  Josh Beckett worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, but then settled down and had three quick innings.  Ervin Santana was even better, holding the Red Sox hitless for the first four frames.  The rain had continued steadily throughout this time, but after Howie Kendrick struck out to open the fifth, the umps called for the tarp and we went into a rain delay.  The game wasn’t official yet, so if they couldn’t resume tonight they’d still have all the same problems of when to reschedule.  We got comfortable in Section 3 to wait it out, and watched the Bruins game on the scoreboard as we waited.

When the Bruins game went final (a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers to put them up 3-0 in the series) we moved over to the infield grandstand, finding seats under cover in Section 17, just on the first base side of home plate.  The scoreboard switched to the Orioles-Royals game for a while before we finally got word that they were going to resume our game at 11:05, 2 hours and 35 minutes after the rain delay began.  An announcement was made inviting fans to “please feel free to take any open seat in the seating bowl for the remainder of the game.”  We saw people heading out to sit on the Green Monster, but since it was still raining, we stayed put in our nice covered seats.

The lead runner was thrown out, but Jacoby Ellsbury is safe at first on the fielder's choice.

The lead runner was thrown out, but Jacoby Ellsbury is safe at first on the fielder's choice.

After a delay so long, neither starter could return to the game, and the Red Sox were in an additional bind because long reliever Tim Wakefield had just gone 5 2/3 innings in a spot start on Sunday and wasn’t supposed to be available for bullpen duty until Thursday at the earliest.  Matt Albers was the first in from the ‘pen, and he finished up the fifth with two strikeouts and then pitched a scoreless sixth.  In the sixth, we heard the announcement that free hot chocolate and coffee was available in any of the Dunkin Donuts stands behind home plate and third base.

In the middle of the sixth the rain had stopped, so we made our move, this time to the field box seats just beyond the backstop screen, near the visiting team’s on-deck circle.  (That’s where I was able to get the pictures above, as well as many, many others.)  My friend went and picked up some hot chocolate for both of us.  She went to the stand on the third base side; I didn’t see until I got home that all three Red Sox owners were personally handing it out at the stand behind home plate.

The clock struck 12 as Dan Wheeler pitched in the top of the seventh.  (NESN usually shows a 2-hour replay of the game at midnight every night, and a guy behind me cracked, “It’s time for ‘Sox in 2’, coming to you live.”)  Wheeler’s been struggling all year, and he gave up a 2-run homer to Vernon Wells before giving way to Hideki Okajima and ending up on the disabled list the next day.  Now that the game was official and the Angels had the lead, I didn’t want the rain to start again, but it did in the bottom of the seventh.  The rain got harder, but we stuck it out there until the end of the inning, because I wanted to continue taking close-up photos while the Red Sox were batting.

Hideki Okajima is one of my favorites to photograph, because I like trying to catch him in the midst of all his contortions.

Hideki Okajima is one of my favorites to photograph, because I like trying to catch him in the midst of all his contortions.

For the eighth, we moved back to the Section 23 grandstand, still the same great view but under cover again.  The Sox got a run back in the bottom of the eighth, when the pitcher fielded a slippery grounder and threw it away after a double and a groundout.  When Oki put two runners on with one out in the ninth, the call to the bullpen went out.  This time it was Wakefield’s turn.  (We thought he wouldn’t be available till tomorrow, but with 1:00 am fast approaching, it already was tomorrow.)  “Who woke up the old guy?” I asked.  “It’s past his bedtime!”  But Wake got out of the inning after allowing a sac fly that made it 3-1 Angels.  On to the bottom of the ninth…

Jed Lowrie reached on a walk and went to third on Mike Cameron’s single.  A pitch in the dirt skirted away from the Angels’ catcher, and Lowrie was able to score, but Cameron – who represented the tying run – was thrown out trying to advance to third.  At 1:15, Carl Crawford laced a double into left, and Jacoby Ellsbury hit a clutch two-out single to drive him in with the tying run.  (Here’s a video of the fans celebrating the tying run.)  And so, as Dustin Pedroia grounded out to end the inning, this game that had already gone well past the last train was headed for extras.  At this point, it was almost funny.  How late were we going to go?  Looking around at the several hundred fans who were still there as Jonathan Papelbon entered in the top of the tenth, we knew no one else was leaving.  Anyone who had stayed this long was there for the long haul.  The clock showed 1:35 – twelve hours before the start time of tomorrow’s game – as the game moved to the bottom of the tenth.  The rain stopped again, but we didn’t move back down to the field boxes because everyone down close ended up standing for the rest of the game, presumably because the seats were still wet, and it would have been hard to see.

This picture was taken at 2:42 am, in the bottom of the 13th, and it shows how many diehard fans stayed until the end of the game. (Click to enlarge.)

This picture was taken at 2:42 am, in the bottom of the 13th, and it shows how many diehard fans stayed until the end of the game. (Click to enlarge.)

The Sox had two baserunners on in the bottom of the tenth but couldn’t score, and they went in order in the eleventh.  After Papelbon, Daniel Bard took the mound for the next two innings.  The only reliever that we hadn’t seen yet was Bobby Jenks, and he was apparently injured because he wound up on the D.L. the following day.  Marco Scutaro, who had come on to pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez earlier, singled with one out in the twelfth.  That brought up Kevin Youkilis, and we sang along to the Biz Markie song he uses as his intro music: “Oh baby youuuuuuuu, you got what I need, but you say he’s just a friend, you say he’s just a friend…” repeating the line over and over through the at-bat, holding onto the “yooouuu” each time like a “Yooouuuk” chant.  (Video of our serenade, as captured on TV, is here.)  The singing only stopped when it morphed into a collective scream as he launched a ball toward the Green Monster… then became an exasperated cry of anguish as the ball hit off the top of The Wall, a foot or two from going out… then turned back into an excited scream as we remembered that Scutaro was on base and was now being waved around third… then ended as a frustrated “Noooo!” as Scutaro was thrown out by a mile at the plate.  I turned to my friend, breathless, and said, “I just had two separate heart attacks on that one play.”  Darnell McDonald singled to get Youk to third, but Mike Cameron grounded out to end the inning.

As the game headed into the 13th, I wondered how long this would go.  The longest game I’ve ever been to was a 14-inning marathon in 2008, and I was looking forward to singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” again as a 14th inning stretch (although I would have changed the lyrics to “Take me home from the ball game”).  Maybe tonight’s would go 15 and break my previous record.  My brother sent an email at 2:23 joking, “I’m sure they are holding the last train for you guys.”  We had a good laugh when we realized that if the game went two more hours, the trains would be running again.  That’s when we noticed that the next pitcher in from the ‘pen was Daisuke Matsuzaka, the slowest worker on the team.  He had been skipped in his last start due to injury concerns – hence Wakefield’s spot start over the weekend – and we had no idea what to expect from him tonight.

The 13th inning proved to be unlucky.  Dice-K gave up a single to the first batter and then came back to get two outs.  But then came a single, a walk, and a 2-run single off the bat of Bobby Abreu at 2:40 before the inning finally ended.  The Sox had one last chance in the bottom of the 13th with the bottom of the order due up.  But Cameron popped up, Crawford grounded back to the pitcher, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, batting for Jason Varitek who had caught all 13 innings, broke his bat hitting a fly out to left.

Salty breaks his bat flying out to end the game.

Salty breaks his bat flying out to end the game.

It was 2:45 am when the final out was recorded.  We gathered our things, hit the restroom, and then caught a cab in Kenmore Square.  My friend was parked in Cambridge too, so we took the cab to her car and then she drove me to mine.  I got home just before 4 am, plenty of time to catch a couple of hours of sleep.  I was really lucky that I didn’t have to go to work in the morning – I had planned weeks in advance to take Thursday off to go to the Charity Wines Launch Party in the afternoon – but I would have been there if I had to.  I’ve gone in before on only a couple hours sleep, like the day after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, and I’ve done the reverse where I had to stay up all night for work and then went to an afternoon game.  I read later that tonight’s marathon was the latest into the night that the Red Sox have ever played, beating out a 2:32 end to a doubleheader in Detroit in 1988.  (Of course, they used to have the American League rule that an inning couldn’t start after 1:00 am, and any game still in progress would become suspended and finished before the next scheduled meeting of the teams.  That rule went away in 1997 when Interleague Play started, because there are so many instances now when a team only makes one visit to a city, making make-ups and continuations hard.)  When I got a chance to look at my pictures after I got home, I saw I had taken a total 463, far and away a personal record.  You can find my favorite 25 pictures from that night in an album on Flickr.

Being as fascinated by baseball history as I am, I find it strangely cool that I was part of this classic game.  Despite the final score, I had a lot of fun.  It was nice to be justified for all the times I’ve sat through rain delays that weren’t resumed, or driven further to park close to Fenway, just in case.  It felt like they were playing the game in private just for me and a couple hundred friends, and those of us who were there for the whole thing will always have the memories.  I just hope I don’t have to be a part of breaking this record any time soon!

May 4, 2011 • Posted in: 2011 Games • Share on Facebook

One Response to “The Late Late Show”

  1. Diary of a RedSoxDiehard » The Fenway 500 - November 2nd, 2018

    […] I got to see after camping out all afternoon in the day-of-game ticket line.  Game #301 (5/4/11) ended at 2:45 am after rain delays and extra innings, another time I needed a cab.  Game #324 (4/20/12) was Fenway […]

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