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The Fenway 500

This week I reached a personal milestone – my 500th game at Fenway Park.  When I realized a year ago that my current pace was getting me close, I pulled out all my old scorecard books and ticket stubs and totaled them all up in a spreadsheet.  The big day came Monday, August 20, a game against the Indians.

Happy 500th to me!

Happy 500th to me! That necklace that the Red Sox gave out after Big Papi hit his 500th home run comes in handy for all sorts of formal occasions.

It all started May 9, 1987.  Here’s the story of my first game at Fenway Park: May Ninth.  (The funny thing is I wrote this in 1998, when I had been to a whopping total of 13 games at Fenway.)

My second game (don’t worry, I’m not going to list them all) was the following month, with my school’s 8th grade Boston trip, where we came down from Maine to see the Aquarium, Science Museum, and a Red Sox game.  That’s why we we had gone as a family in May, so my first game wouldn’t be with my Yankee-fan science teacher.

The Fenway skyline and "skybox" seats as they were in 1987. I remember picking out that outfit so I could wear red socks to match.

The Boston skyline and Fenway's "skybox" seats as they were in 1987. I remember picking out that outfit so I could wear red socks to match.

Over the next few years, we’d try to get to a game every summer, and then when I started at Providence College, there were school trips up to Boston once a year.  I remember borrowing a Class of ‘94 sweatshirt from a friend (I was ‘95) one time so I wouldn’t look out of place on a trip sponsored by a dorm of upperclassmen.

Ticket stub from my 4th game at Fenway, a 10-5 loss.  Certainly wouldn't have guessed at the time that 15 years later I'd have season tickets a few rows in front of where I sat that night.

Ticket stub from my 4th game at Fenway, a 10-5 loss. I certainly wouldn't have guessed at the time that 15 years later I'd have season tickets just a few rows in front of where I sat that night.

After college, I went to grad school in Kentucky, then worked in Atlanta for a few years.  I always worked in a game at Fenway when I’d fly home to visit.  In 1998 I went to my first Red Sox road games, seeing them in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Anaheim that year.  (The 24 Red Sox road games I’ve seen in 10 ballparks over the next 20 years are not counted in my 500.)  Here’s the story of the game I flew up for in August 1999: Red Sox vs. Mariners.

I flew up to Boston for a game in August 1999. Remember when Pedro was late getting to the ballpark and Jimy Williams benched him and started Bryce Florie instead? That was my Game #14 (8/14/99).

I flew up to Boston for a game in August 1999. Remember when Pedro was late getting to the ballpark, and Jimy Williams benched him and started Bryce Florie instead? That was my Game #14 (8/14/99).

My favorite game of the 500 I’ve been to at Fenway was also my first playoff game, and only the 15th I’d ever attended.  It was Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS, in which the Sox staved off elimination by beating the Indians 23-7, and again it involved an improbable flight up from Atlanta.  Full story here: My Favorite Game.

Ticket from 1999 ALDS Game 4 on 10/10/99. The Red Sox won, 23-7.

Ticket from 1999 ALDS Game 4 on 10/10/99. The Red Sox won, 23-7.

After the 1999 season was over, I finally moved to Massachusetts.  My first act was to splurge and get tickets to 7 games at Fenway Park during the 2000 season.  It started as one game per month, but I added a second September game to see Carlton Fisk’s #27 retired.  That was game #21.

Game #20, on August 23, 2000, was the first time I kept score.  NESN was handing out K cards (competition for WEEI’s red K’s in the height of the Pedro Era) and there was a scorecard on the back.  Scoring had always fascinated me, but I thought it would be too complicated while focusing on the game.  Turns out it’s not, and a new obsession was born.  My other memory from that game is that there was a long rain delay before it started.  I was joking about making stuff up to write onto the scorecard, but then when the game finally got underway after 10:00, I was glad I hadn’t filled it all in fictitiously.  That was back in the days when a huge chain link fence separated the bleachers from the rest of the park.  Because that game started so late, they actually opened the gate and let the bleacher people sit anywhere they wanted.  When it finished up at 1:04 am (as conveniently noted on the scorecard), the T had stopped running, and we had to take a cab back to the car – the first of 3 times out of the 500 where I needed to call a cab.

In the lineup on the night of 8/23/00 were Jose Offerman, Trot Nixon, Brian Daubach, Carl Everett, Troy O'Leary, Lou Merloni, Jason Varitek, Mike Lansing, and Manny Alexander.  Mo Vaughn played first base for the Angels.

In the lineup on the night of 8/23/00 were Jose Offerman, Trot Nixon, Brian Daubach, Carl Everett, Troy O'Leary, Lou Merloni, Jason Varitek, Mike Lansing, and Manny Alexander. Tomo Ohka started, with Derek Lowe recording the save. Mo Vaughn played first base for the Angels.

I started buying a scorecard magazine every time I went.  I kept the first couple, but remember throwing out the one from September 9, 2000, (Game #22) because the Red Sox lost to the Yankees.  The next year I planned on going to 24 games, so I made my own scorecard book. Now I have a stack of 18 years’ worth.

Lots and lots of scorecards!

Lots and lots of scorecards!

Game #23 was Opening Day 2001. I’ve been to every Opening Day since (with a 13-5 record).  I went to 24 games in 2001 (12-12 record).  In 2002, my record was even worse (11-16), but Game #49 was an all-time classic – Derek Lowe’s no-hitter.  Full story here: Diary of a No-Hitter.

The first of many Opening Days. For me, 4/6/01 was Game #23.

The first of many Opening Days. For me, 4/6/01 was Game #23.

The Cowboy Up season of 2003 was successful for me – I went 21-9, including the night they clinched the wild card (Game #102, 9/25/03) and a dramatic win in ALDS Game 3 (Game #103, 10/4/03).  A walk-off win on April 15 (Game #75) finally brought my personal record above .500 to stay.  (My record after 500 Fenway games is 283-217, 66 games over.)

Game #105 (4/15/04) was the first game in the “Tenth Man Plan” package I bought for the 2004 season.  It was supposed to be a one-year package, but when the Sox won and the offseason became hectic, they made them renewable, and that’s how I became a season ticket holder.  (I’m 74-70 in those seats.)

Daniel Nava posed for pictures with fans on Yawkey Way on 8/3/10, before Game #289.

Daniel Nava posed for pictures with fans on Yawkey Way on 8/3/10, before Game #289.

I’ve been to some memorable games in the years that followed.  Game #133 was the ring ceremony on Opening Day 2005, when I got the last available ticket in the day-of-game line.  Games #183 and 184 were when Big Papi tied and broke the franchise home run record in 2006.  In Game #189 (4/22/07) the Sox hit four straight home runs.  Game #214 (10/5/07) was Manny Ramirez’s walk-off homer in the ‘07 ALDS, which 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 Park’s 100th anniversary.  Game #371 (9/18/13) was Dollar Beard Night.  Game #377 (10/24/13) was the only World Series game I’ve been to (2013 Game 2, alas).  Game #456 (10/2/16) was David Ortiz’s final regular season game.

When the Red Sox have a promotion that anyone with a beard gets in for a dollar, you gotta do what you gotta do.  (Just ignore the fact that I spent an additional $6.99 plus tax on the beard.)

When the Red Sox have a promotion that anyone with a beard gets in for a dollar, you gotta do what you gotta do. (Just ignore the fact that I spent an additional $6.99 plus tax on the beard.) Game #371 was officially the cheapest ticket I ever purchased.

So now after 500 games, my record at Fenway is 283-217.  That includes a 7-5 postseason record.  It doesn’t count two that were rained out in less than five innings and had to be replayed in entirety, or twice that I had a ticket for the second game of a doubleheader but got let in early to see the end of the first.  Here are some more stats from my Fenway 500:

Fan Photo Days over the years have given me the chance to get pictures with Keith Foulke (Game #106, 4/18/04), David Ross (Game #348, 4/14/13), Xander Bogaerts (Game #425, 9/6/15), and Hanley Ramirez (Game #490, 5/20/18).

Fan Photo Days over the years have given me the chance to get pictures with Keith Foulke (Game #106, 4/18/04), David Ross (Game #348, 4/14/13), Xander Bogaerts (Game #425, 9/6/15), and Hanley Ramirez (Game #490, 5/20/18).

In 500 games, I’ve seen 34 walk-offs, 18 Opening Days, 12 postseason games, 4 uniform numbers retired, 3 clinching celebrations, 2 triple plays, and 1 no-hitter.  And no sooner was my milestone game in the books, than I was getting ready to come back two days later for Game #501.

August 20, 2018 • Posted in: Personal • Share on Facebook

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