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Thirty-Four

Friday, June 23, 2017 – Fenway Park, Pavilion Standing Room

Red Sox 9, Angels 4

I left work early on the day of Big Papi’s number retirement ceremony, and even with worse than usual traffic, I got there just as the gates were opening.  I grabbed an early bite to eat and went out to the grandstand to take a look at the field.  On the right field façade, a red curtain hung at the end of the retired numbers.

Shhh, no spoilers! Don't tell me what's behind the red curtain.

Shhh, no spoilers! Don't tell me what's behind the red curtain.

I visited a couple of friends who were there, but I couldn’t stay in the grandstand long.  I had Pavilion level standing room, and I needed to go stake out a good spot early on.  The seats in the Pavilion level are mostly the red seats, but the last row is stools with a counter in front, like on the Green Monster.  Behind this back row of seats is another counter, and that’s where the standing room is.  I loved having the counter to lean on and hold my scorecard, and the view was great… for the most part.  When people came and sat in the stools in front of us, their heads blocked home plate.  And when they all stood up for the opening ceremony and raised cameras over their heads, it was even harder to see.  There is a bar along the bottom of the counter that I was able to stand on to see, but I had to lean forward to keep my balance, and then stretch to hold my camera up.  Somehow, I wound up with great pictures of the ceremony, and then once the game started and everyone sat down, only minimal stretching was needed.

Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski welcome Big Papi to the retired numbers club.

Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski welcome Big Papi to the retired numbers club.

The ceremony began with a highlight package on the video board.  It was several minutes long, but it needed to be to get all of Papi’s career highlights in.  I’ve been to the number retirement ceremonies for Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, and Pedro Martinez, and at all of those they brought out all kinds of gifts – seats with their number on them and the like.  But Papi had received all those things on the day of his final regular season game last fall, so I wondered what they’d do.

Pedro introduces his compadre.

Pedro introduces his compadre.

What they did was perfect.  They started by introducing a couple of longtime former teammates, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Then came (almost) all the other living players whose numbers have been retired by the Red Sox – #8 Carl Yastrzemski, #14 Jim Rice, #45 Pedro Martinez, #26 Wade Boggs – plus the children of the late #4 Joe Cronin and #6 Johnny Pesky.  #27 Carlton Fisk was unable to attend, and 99-year-old #1 Bobby Doerr isn’t able to travel to Boston but was watching from his home in Orgeon.  There were tributes on the video board for #9 Ted Williams and #42 Jackie Robinson.  They also invited family members of the late Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twins’ great whose #34 Papi had chosen to wear as a tribute.  Then they unveiled the number 34 in its rightful place on the façade.  (So that’s what was behind the curtain.)

#34 now hangs with the other all-time greats.

#34 now hangs with the other all-time greats.

Pedro took the mic (he had a prepared speech, but the battery on his phone had died and he’s never been afraid of speaking off the cuff) and reminded us all that he was the one responsible for convincing the Red Sox to sign Ortiz as a free agent after he had been released by the Twins, calling it his “greatest gift to the city of Boston.”  Dustin Pedroia was next, and he got right to the point: “It’s not the home runs, it’s how you made us feel, and that’s love.  You’re not just a teammate or a friend, you’re family.”  Papi had to stop and wipe tears from his eyes before taking the podium himself to thank his teammates, coaches, family, and the fans.

No ceremony would be complete without a selfie of my two all-time favorite players.

No ceremony would be complete without a selfie of my two all-time favorite players.

"The little guy made me cry."

"The little guy made me cry."

The Dominican flag on the Green Monster represented Papi's homeland.

The Dominican flag on the Green Monster represented Papi's homeland.

Big Papi threw out the first pitch (caught by Tek) and then the National Anthems of both the Dominican Republic and the U.S. were sung.  The day was warm and humid, and some thunderstorms had come through west of Boston during my company’s outdoor barbeque in the early afternoon.  It was still cloudy at the start of the game, but there was no rain at night and up in the Pavilion level there was a decent breeze.

View from the Pavilion level standing room.

A full house at Fenway, as seen from the Pavilion level standing room.

I was relieved that Rick Porcello got quickly through the first (thanks in part to an outfield assist by Andrew Benintendi).  His recent starts had all followed one of two patterns – he left the ball up and got knocked around, or he pitched really well but got absolutely no offensive support.  So I was even happier about the reversal of trend when Angels’ pitcher Alex Meyer had a wild first inning.  He started by walking the first two batters.  Xander Bogaerts’ double drove in the first run, and then two wild pitches scored two more.  Even better, the Sox were able to build on the lead.  Hanley Ramirez belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Sandy Leon hit one out in the sixth.  This was more like it!  It seems like I’ve seen more than my fair share of dud games this year.  I know there’s always going to be some, and for the most part I try to view it as taking the good with the bad, but my timing has been exceptionally poor this year.  The team’s in first place, but I have a losing record at Fenway.  At this stage, a well-played game has been rarer for me than a Papi sighting, and it was very welcome indeed.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a walk, stole second, and came around to score on Bogaerts' double.

Mookie Betts led off the game with a walk, stole second, and came around to score on Bogaerts' double.

Andrew Benintendi walks to the plate in the bottom of the fourth. He doubled and scored on Hanley's homer.

Andrew Benintendi walks to the plate in the bottom of the fourth. He doubled and scored on Hanley's homer.

Xander Bogaerts kneels next to second base as the umps review his slide.  He ended up being ruled out because of his slide, but it looked legit to me in the replays I saw.

Xander Bogaerts kneels next to second base as the umps review his slide. He ended up being ruled out because of his slide, but it looked legit to me in the replays I saw.

I thought I was capturing a great diving catch by Andrew Benintendi in left - until I saw the ball bounce past him for a double. Oops!

I thought I was capturing a great diving catch by Andrew Benintendi in left - until I saw the ball bounce past him for a double. Oops!

fenway623

When the people on the stools in front of me left, I moved down and had a great view of the rest of the game.

Porcello started to tire a little in the seventh and gave up a few runs, but by then the Red Sox had built up a big lead.  Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, and Blaine Boyer finished it up.  Jackie Bradley Jr. ended the night with two hits, a walk, and two runs, so the outfielders’ “Win, Dance, Repeat” featured my favorite move, the ski jump.

JBJ celebrates the win with a ski jump.

JBJ celebrates the win with a ski jump.

June 23, 2017 • Posted in: 2017 Games • Share on Facebook

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