Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What a day.

There's nothing quite like Opening Day at Fenway Park. And when the Red Sox are celebrating a World Series Championship and handing out rings, that makes it even better.

I hooked up with my friends Bismo and The Hey, although getting from my office to the ballpark wasn't quite as easy as I had hoped. Despite an earlier claim that the 12:10 Framingham train was going to stop at Yawkey station for the game, it didn't so we had to hike from Back Bay to Fenway. Not a big deal, but it would be nice if the T would get it's story straight for a change.

It was a nice day for the opener, sunny, low 50's and a bit windy. Not balmy, but better than many early April games I have attended over the years. The Hey and I met at the train and met Bismo near the Ted Williams statue. We entered the ballpark through a nearby gate.

We grabbed some beer (Smitwicks for me and Bismo and a Harp for The Hey - if you are going to pay a fortune for beer, it might as well be good beer!), plus some food and found our seats. Not bad seats, section 10 in the grandstand, although a pole was obscuring part of our view. We wedged ourselves into the ancient wooden chairs and got ready for the ring ceremony.

Things started with the Boston Pops playing and Don Orsillo and Joe Castiglione doing the MC duties. The Sox unveiled championship banners from the pre-Curse days on the Green Monster.

Then, to the delight of the crowd, this banner was dropped.

Finally, the banner at the top of the page came down to the roars of the Fenway Faithful.

The next step was to get the rings out to the field. To do this, the Sox brought in representatives of the other Boston teams, along with their teams trophies. A group of Bruins, led by the great Bobby Orr carried the Stanley Cup; the Celtics were represented by Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Danny Ainge, among others, along with one of their 16 NBA Championship trophies (hopefully they'll add to that total in a couple of months). Tedy Bruschi led some of the Patriots with a Lombardi trophy. Even the 2004 Sox were represented, as stalwarts like Curt Leskanic and Dave McCarty brought out that team's World Series trophy.

The rings made it to the table, and the players were introduced on the video board to with the Pops playing various movie themes. Here comes Manny to get his ring.

After everyone got their rings, the team trooped out to center field to raise the championship banner. The 2004 part of this ceremony seemed focused on the past teams that came close to winning the World Series but failed. A large group of former Sox were there, and Yaz and Johnny Pesky actually raised the banner. This ceremony was much more about the current team, and less about exorcising the ghosts of the past.

There was, however, one ghost left in the house. After the national anthem was played by the Pops and four F-16 fighters flew over the ballpark, we were down to the ceremonial first pitch. Fenway Park just exploded when it was revealed who would be getting that honor.

Yes, Bill Bucker had returned from Idaho, no doubt with some trepidation, to stand on the Fenway turf once again. I have to say, this was one of Boston fandom's finest moments. Probably the loudest, longest ovation of the day was given to Buckner, and it had to be an incredibly emotional moment for him. The man has had that one error overshadow his legacy as a very good ballplayer for 22 years, and it had to be great for him to get that kind of reception from Red Sox Nation. Bucker threw out the pitch to his former teammate Dwight Evans and the crowd roared.

Oh, and there was a game, too. The Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 5-0. Daisuke Matsuzaka was masterful for 6.2 innings, pretty much shutting down the potent (at least on paper) Tigers lineup. The best thing that may have happened today from a 2008 Sox perspective was that Manny Delcarmen pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, recovering nicely from his problems with Frank Thomas and the Blue Jays last weekend. The Sox are going to have a tough time this season if Delcarmen can't fill that 8th inning righthanded bridge to Papelbon, so it was good to see him pitch so well.

It was a long game, especially on the Tigers pitchers side. Kenny Rogers threw 107 pitches in only 4.2 innings, and his relief, Jason Grilli through another 41 in only 1 inning. The only pitcher who had any real success against the Sox lineup was Aquilino Lopez, who held the Sox scoreless for the final 2.1 innings.

All in all, it really couldn't have been a better day. The ring ceremony, a Sox win and I spent the day with two good friends. How do you beat that?


At 2:13 AM, Blogger Bismo said...

Oh, and I don't know if I ever mentioned how much I LIKE Dwight Evans...?!


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