Good morning. I hope the delay in sharing the events of Saturday with you hasn’t caused too much disappointment for anyone. As I hope to explain, it was another event-filled day and quite a late finish. Well, too late for any coherent diary writing/blogging.
The best of my photos (only a few of them!) are now up on Flickr.
This view of me after the game gives an idea of the mood. Allow me to tell all….
Saturday started on a bad note. I won’t go into details as it is now water-under-the-bridge, but suffice to say it revolved around us not having been given the correct vouchers for breakfast and a less-than-positive encounter with a waiter as a result. It all got ironed-out and breakfast was taken, if not enjoyed because of the sour taste. Following that I had a wander round the harbourfront in the beautiful sunshine while Nick got himself sorted. Not a cloud in the sky, a light breeze off the water and temperatures in the mid-20s. About as perfect as it gets — what a contrast from the torrential rain of the previous night (in which the Red Sox lost, unfortunately).
Once we regrouped we wandered over to the Silver Line. Within five minutes we were speeding on our way to South Station and then Park Street on the Red Line. Before very long at all we were at Kenmore and despite it being around two-and-a-half hours before first pitch, the area was already in full game mode. The inevitable ticket touts and unofficial program sellers we prominent among the light throng outside the station.
We had a brief wander around the Kenmore area while I managed to make getting a “Big Gulp” soda from 7-Eleven much more complicated than it ought to have been (getting the right lid and the right length straw managed to defeat me entirely). We headed to Fenway where the pre-game crowd and atmosphere was already building. Sue had bought Nick a membership to Red Sox Nation as his birthday present, although he only has an email confirming this rather than a membership card. This, and a brief but entertaining chat about UK/US sports with one of the Red Sox Nation reps outside the park got our hands stamped and authorised for early entry.
Normally the ‘perk’ of getting into a ballpark early is to be able to watch the players take batting practice on the field. Today was very different, however, as BP was dispensed with in favour of a “fan photo opportunity on the field”. This mean that we were able to wander onto the warning track around the field as far as the home dugout. This was already a hive of activity with assorted VIP guests and media crews going about their business. After a while the players started to emerge and interact with the (by now general admission) crowd. They signed autographs and posed for selfies & the like. Most of the squad showed up, including manager John Farrell. Notable (but probably understandable) by their absence were Dustin Pedroia and — particularly — Big Papi himself, David Ortiz. I suspect had Papi come out he would have been mobbed and it would have made an already potentially quite difficult crowd situation almost impossible to handle safely.
This was an incredibly interesting and — for me, at least — unique event and I took many, many photographs (including quite a few of the backs of people’s heads etc. which we’re later deleted!)
You get the idea…
Then it was time to enjoy the regular pre-game build up. We wandered out into the crowds in Yawkey Way for a while then went and found our seats in block 27 along the third base line. This was the only mild disappointment on the whole day: America’s Most Beloved Ballpark is the tag line for Fenway Park. This hides an inescapable truth that for all its charm and tradition, it is a stadium from a bygone era. The seats are woefully small and cramped and, in our case in particular, the girders supporting the upper levels are huge obstructions to the view. To be fair to the Red Sox, it appeared as though they hadn’t sold the worse seats in this regard (though they were quickly filled by folk who, judging from their conversations, had standing room only tickets).
[One thing I forgot to mention in the first edition of this post: The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by a guy whose name I didn’t catch. He is a retired Navy Seal, highly decorated and a local (New England, anyway) boy made good. His claim-to-fame, and what made the crowd go absolutely nuts when this was announced; it was he who “fired the bullet acknowledged as being the shot that killed Osama Bin Laden”. We gave one another that look.]
My immediate neighbours were two young girls (old enough to have been served beer) who spent the first innings taking selfies and Instagramming. At the bottom of the first innings the girl next to me asked me why the game had paused. With a quizzical if not downright confused look, I explained it was the end of the innings. I was beyond confused when the follow up question was “How many times does that happen – four?”. To be fair to them, despite evidently not having any clue what was going on, they stayed to the end.
The seats were bad enough for me; with long legs and wide girth exacerbated by wearing my camera bag on my belt, but Nick found it even more uncomfortable and spent much of the game in an unoccupied seat at the end of the row so he could stretch his leg out (and get a better view of home plate, as it happened!). We each went for a bit of a wander at separate parts of the game; in the eight inning in my case, going round behind home plate and snapping various views of the action from the standing areas. I invested $5.25 in a bottle of Coke to stave off dehydration but decided against a $9 beer or any food.
As for the game: Well, yo’ve read Joe Castiglione’s take on it as the title of this post and you can read the MLB.com ‘wrap’ here. My verdict — fantastic; but it could have been so different. The Red Sox starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz is universally regarded as being, er, “variable” in the quality of his performances of late. Today it was a distinctly average Clay on the mound. Things didn’t start well with a huge home in the first inning run by Carlos Correa which sailed over the Green Monster and probably ended up on the Turnpike. This was followed in the second inning by a Grand Slam (i.e. a home run with the bases loaded scoring all four batters) by George Springer. Springer has been responsible for a scary moment in the first inning when he grounded into a double play, but his bat had slipped out of his hand into the crowd. There was a lot of activity and pointing and reaction by security, so I guess it clobbered someone, but having heard nothing more since, I assume they were ok. A woman was very badly hurt like that here at Fenway last year and as a result the netting which is supposed to protect the crowd behind home plate was extended.
On the bright side, David Ortiz homered in the third inning and Buchholz managed to stop the rot. For much of the middle of the game a series of ‘0’s were posted and we entered the ninth inning behind by a run. Then the fireworks started. With one out remaining, David Ortiz came up to the plate and launched a ‘triple’. To give you an idea how rare that is, he has hit 512 home runs in his career, but this was only his 19th triple. He’s called Big Papi for a reason; I’m sure he’s plenty fit enough but he’s a big guy and sprinting round three bases is really not his thing. It was a joy to see. The manager latter took the mickey out of him about it at his press conference. Regardless, the game was tied and we were into extra innings: Bonus Baseball.
Big Papi triples and ties the game.
In the tenth and into the 11th they went through the order again with no change in score. Inevitably it was left to Ortiz again and, true to the fairytale script, he delivered with a double — this 600th career double which is a major landmark making him one of only three players ever to record over 500 homes and 600 doubles.
Pandemonium. On the field, in the stands. All over Red Sox Nation. It was a fabulous moment and easily a top ten lifetime experience to have been there. In the true scale of things, it was just a win for a sports team. It helps them on their way for the season but it wasn’t like they clinched anything with that particular win. That simply didn’t matter to a single person there. Happy Pandemonium.
The hardest part was holding the camera reasonably steady to capture moment for posterity while wildly jigging up and down with the rest of the crowd singing “Dirty Water” (the Red Sox’s victory anthem by the Dropkick Murphys). I failed!
Probably the funniest moment was lost to us in the stands. The NESN sideline reporter Guerin Austin was interviewing Big Papi immediately after the game when they both got a blue Gatorade shower courtesy of Hanley Ramirez and Christia Vasquez.
Phew. Take a breath.
The game finished about 17:30 and we slowly wandered out behind the bulk of the crowd, avoiding the Kenmore Green line ’T’, though from past experience I am sure the MBTA coped admirably moving the crowds away. Instead we slowly walked back toward Copley place and caught the still busy but very manageable T there. We were back at the hotel around 19:00 to drop off cameras etc. before heading straight back out for dinner.
Our establishment of choice was the local and very apt Jerry Remy’s sportsbar. It was as busy as we expected, not least as it is Saturday night after all. However, we got a table with only a 15 minute wait. Though this isn’t really my vision of a sports bar — too artificial and too busy — it was not at all unpleasant and the food was good. I had a Caesar salad as a starter followed by bacon cheeseburger. The salad was a lunch substitute as neither of us had eaten at the ballpark. It was probably meant as a main given its size. The only issue I had with it was their decision to substitute the traditional croutons with onion rings. Luckily Nick cleared up after me. The burger was good but maybe a little unremarkable after the excellent Caesar salad. Nick tried to get me to try some of his chilli nacho starter. I looked at him like he’d offered me something your favourite pet might leave you after you’ve tried that cheap supermarket own brand rabbit flavoured dog food. It was a well intentioned gesture, badly timed!
On the beer front, I had a Sam Adams Brick Red (which I found a bit bland) followed by a Goose Island IPA (for a Chicago brewery, Goose Island are ubiquitous in Boston at the moment – I noticed Goose Island much more at Fenway than I did Sam Adams, which is odd).
Service was super-fast … In keeping with the high volume turnover they were dealing with, so we were in and out within an hour. I decided to round-off the evening at the nearby Harpoon Brewery. Nick was going to join me and walked part the way there, but then decided the call of a soak in the bath was louder than more beer. Who can fault him?
The Harpoon Brewery Beer Hall was also very busy with the trendy Saturday crowd but I got a seat at the bar. I was “carded” on the door (to be fair, I guess everyone is, regardless of apparent age), and had to surrender both my driving licence and credit card to start a tab. I started with a Boston Irish Stout (4.3%) which was really good and I tweeted to say so. I followed that with a Sweet Spot (4.8%) which was maybe a bit, er, like Nick would enjoy! These are the tasting notes:-
Appearance: Bright and golden Aroma: Clean hop aroma with a touch of wheat notes Mouthfeel: Light in body but full in flavor Taste: Subtle malt character with delicate hop notes Finish: Dry and crisp – See more at: http://www.harpoonbrewery.com/beer/403408/harpoon-sweet-spot#.dpuf
The “ambient” music was intended for a whole other demographic to me! Dance Trance Hip Hop Babble! I followed up with a Harpoon IPA (5.9%) – very crisp and tasty without being over hoppy. I noticed that their “Unfiltered Offerings” (UFOs – geddit?) looked very cloudy if quite colourful. Many customers were trying them in sample racks but I decided they were not for me. I regret to report that I also bottled the several “Here Today” and “Gone Tomorrow ” offerings. All looked a bit heavy and, frankly, too “crafty”.
It had thinned out a lot by 21:30 and I finished off with a Take 5 (4.3%) which is supposed to be a “session IPA” but was by far the hoppiest of the lot. The final bill was $24. I did a bit of maths (well, my phone did) and established that it equated to £16.71 = £4.17 per US pint (16 fl oz). As one US pint is 0.837 imperial pint that’s £4.98/pint. An extensive range of T Shirts were on offer for $22 – $25 but I decided no thanks.
Back at the room a bit after ten. I made sure my photos were all safely uploaded then called it a night.