Friday, September 26, 2003

I had the great good fortune to go to last night's American League wild card clinching game at Fenway Park. The evening started with me meeting my friend Dave. We attempted to get some dinner, but there were long waits pretty much everywhere, so we visited the Sausage King over on Lansdowne St. before entering the ballpark.

We went in through the bleacher gate on Lansdowne St. so we could check out the new "Big Concourse" under the right field stands. The Big Concourse is another effort to make Fenway more comfortable by adding more space and giving fans more concession options. The space comes from a former storage area near Gate B and by taking parts of the old laundry building (now a parking garage) and turning it into concession areas, new rest rooms and a customer service desk. The rest of the area consists of tables, picnic benches and just plain, old open space - something Fenway has always been sorely lacking.

I really applaud the Henry ownership team in their efforts to do their best to make Fenway more fan friendly. Turning Yawkey Way into a street fair, the incredible Monster Seats and now the Big Concourse are three of the primary examples. You're never going to turn a 90-year-old building into Camden Yards or Pac Bell Park, but it's great to see the Sox making an effort.

As we made our way through the ballpark we stopped by "Autograph Alley", where former Sox outfielder Rick Miller (that's pronounced "Mueller") was signing. It was nice to meet a member of the great 1975 Red Sox team, and I got him to sign my scorebook and shook his hand.

We made our way to very nice grandstand seats in medium left field and waited for the game to begin. Of course, the Sox didn't leave the outcome much in doubt for very long, as they quickly battered Orioles starter Omar Daal for seven runs in 1 and 2/3 innings. By the end of the 4th it was 12-0. Derek Lowe pitched quite well for the Sox, giving up only one earned run in six innings before the mop-up squad came in. By the end of the game, Bill Mueller was the only regular player left in the game (and was rewarded with a standing ovation before his last at bat.)

Ramiro Mendoza came in to face the Orioles in the top of the 9th and the tension mounted: would Mendoza be able to hold an 11 run lead? Actually, Mendoza pitched quite well and set the Orioles down with the crowd getting louder and louder as each out was recorded. Finally, Mendoza struck out Brian Roberts looking and the crowd exploded! The Sox were returning to the postseason for the first time in four years.

The player's celebration started off fairly low key, but as the crowd continued to cheer the team, the players started to feed off the energy. Things really got rolling as Kevin Millar croaked out a few bars of "Born in the USA" (don't give up your day job, Kevin). Then new Boston folk hero David Ortiz took the microphone and told us what great fans we were and how the team was going to try to bring a world championship back to Boston. This, of course, made things even louder. Then some of the players came out with bottles of champagne and started to spray fans sitting in the first few rows of seats. It was very exciting to watch and to be a part of.

We finally headed for the exits and checked out the wild card hats and T-shirts being sold. After deciding that $30 each (!) was a bit much, we headed home.

It was a great, memorable night. Now the magic number counter is reset to 11 - the number of wins the Sox would need to get to win the World Series.


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