Flickr photoset here.
Deuces were wild in the ninth; there were two on with two down in the bottom of the inning for Papi, who racked up two balls and two strikes in his at-bat. The Red Sox were down two runs.
The crowd was on its feet, its full roar held back into a tense rumble, with occasional chants of "Papi" and "Let's Go Red Sox" breaking the surface. Papi stepped back, he spit on his gloves, he took up the bat again and stood in. He faced the Rangers' Akinori Otsuka, a 30-year old Japanese fair-to-middlin' righty who replaced the Rangers' erstwhile closer Francisco Cordero after the latter blew 5 of 8 save chances to begin this season.
Ortiz fouled off strike three from Otsuka by a hair's width. "It's a good thing he's got paint on that bat," my dad remarked next to me, sipping his beer, as we were jostled by the crush of other excited fans. "Otherwise he'da missed it."
Once again David stepped back, spit, clap, bat. Once again he stood in, stared down Otsuka. The pitcher wound, delivered, and I swear in that second between pitcher and bat you could feel that the ball was going out of the park. I swear people started to cheer and celebrate before Ortiz even made contact, so fat and so ripe was the pitch just a nanosecond into its flight.
It was deafening where we were, as the PA system began to blast "Dirty Water" so loud, we could feel it in the soles of our feet, but could just barely hear it over the shouts of tens of thousands of our fellow fans, as we high-fived strangers and each other, as we raised our beers in salute toward the television monitors at the Cask N' Flagon, as close, literally and figuratively, as I've ever been to such a tremendous walkoff hit.
Yes, we were in town for the game. But, as it turned out, it was the wrong game: Game 2 of the split-admission double-header.
You know, the game we lost 13-6. The game that plodded on forever; the game where the pitching staff just shriveled up in the middle of the field before God and everybody while hit after Texas hit bounced into the outfield. A game where the men next to me, in the field box just inside the Pesky Pole, passed the time by discussing hot chicks, fat chicks, nice chicks, sourpuss chicks, who made how much money, and by eating peanuts in quantities so vast I thought we'd all be up to our armpits in the shells by the seventh-inning stretch.
I'd say the seats we had were a highlight, as they were in the first row of the right field corner, but they got us intimately acquainted almost immediately with why right field during a day game is so difficult to play at Fenway, with the sun honed to a knifepoint in the eye no sunglasses or hatbrim can block. In response to this, and also due to their general lack of consideration for other people on the planet, several undersupervised kids and even a few people old enough to know better took to standing up in the seats between me and any view of home plate or the infield, often shielding brows with palms to make their obstruction of my view as great as possible. One little girl in particular stood with her mouth hanging open, staring goggle-eyed through her glasses into the grandstand with her back to the field, for nearly the whole game. No amount of yelling for her to sit down from the rest of us stirred her, or her father sitting next to her, to get her narrow behind out of the way. After nine miserable innings of this, I cannot say I would have been sorry if one of the screaming foul liners common to this area of the stands had come in their direction.
But though none of the above were exactly charmers, the bulk of my ire was reserved for a blonde woman with a knock-kneed adolescent girl in tow who emerged from somewhere in the grandstand late in the game, parked herself and her gawky charge by the wall and proceeded to screech beseechingly at "Mister Nixon", as she called him, about how the girl was his biggest fan and how they both loved him, and for him to come and meet them or give them a ball between innings--all this with the game going on, and "Mister Nixon" otherwise occupied, you know, TRYING TO PLAY RIGHT FIELD FOR THE BOSTON RED SOX.
"LADY, SIT DOWN!" my dad hollered. She flinched but didn't acknowledge him. My dad then placed his first two fingers in his mouth, the better to create the eardrum-splitting whistle he used to use to call my sister and me home for supper from blocks away. That got her attention. "SIT. DOWN!!" he yelled again; his voice when raised is nearly as loud as the whistle.
"You sit down," the woman mumbled, like an eight-year-old. It was all I could do not to walk over and give her my unabridged opinion of the situation.
Finally, though, the better part of a half-inning of which I had not actually seen a single pitch had passed, and on his way in from the field, Trot Nixon--with a generosity and forbearance I cannot possibly fathom--gently lobbed the ball toward the girl who stood with the screechy woman.
Unfortunately for her, the sight of the ball created a small stampede in our section, followed by a feeding frenzy--the ball was in the screechy woman's hands for a split second, but she was sacked from behind by several other greedy parents and wild-eyed children, and the ball passed through to the section behind us, where it was snatched up triumphantly by a beaming little boy and carried off.
"That ball was ours," sniffed the screechy woman, when she and the girl had recovered. "They stole it."
"Right through the wickets!" my dad chuckled, quietly enough so that only I would hear it.
"I'm not gonna lie to you," I murmured back. "I enjoyed it thoroughly."
Other than that one little moment, the game was a total bust. It was the first game I've been to since I myself was a clueless kid in which I've thought, "only another couple outs till we can leave."
But how were we to know? What are the odds, on any day at Fenway, that the highlight of the afternoon will come anywhere outside the park?
In hindsight, though, the half-hour or so we spent at the Cask was without a doubt the more worthwhile experience. At that moment after the home run, everything was coming up roses: Papi had saved the day and first place in the standings; Pauley had yet to implode; a total stranger saw the way my dad killed his second Sam Adams and insisted on buying him another, telling anyone who happened to be listening that "This man is a professional!" The game that followed wasn't what we anticipated, but the sun was shining, we had our health, and at least we'd gotten the tickets for free.
P.S. Is Papi clutch? Statistically speaking? You better freakin' believe it. Paul SF over at YFSF has a freakin' awesome post up about just that subject, the kind of post, in fact, that makes me feel like just a monkey with a keyboard and an urge to babble on sappily. Sigh.
P.P.S. Apparently that douchebag who heckled Foulke last month? Is a regular at Fenway. And he's still at it. I'd seriously punch that guy in the nads and stuff him in a trash can if I could. That's one case where I can agree with Massarotti--anyone who'd heckle Foulke like that can't possibly be a real fan, and doesn't deserve a spot in "church", much less right behind the dugout. What an asshole. (Via Dan)