It was...amazing. To my six-year old eyes, I had entered Eden. Forget the drunken brawls in the bleachers, the trough toilets that lined the men's room walls and the rest. Here were my heroes, live, in front of me. It solidified my awakening as a Boston fan.
Almost one month shy of exactly 31 years to the day of my first game, my wife and I brought our two children to their first game at Fenway. My son is seven and my daughter is four, so we weren't sure how long we'd last. But we knew it was time to make the pilgrimage.
A lot has changed since my first trip. Back then, anyone could walk up and down Yawkey Way...including some women who weren't looking to get into the park. I went with my dad as part of the annual trip he organized for where he worked. The bus would park in a sunken sand lot a few blocks down on Jersey Street and then we'd walk up to the park. People were soused by the second inning. It was a wild time.
Today you need a ticket to set foot on Yawkey Way. "Friendly Fenway" is a mantra enforced by a legion of security personnel. Women of ill repute are nowhere near the stadium these days (unless the Yankees are in town). And while it's sad that some of the rough edges have been sanded down, it is a much better place to bring your kids today than it was over 30 years ago. For one thing, they have urinals now in the men's room.
So we got to the park and walked in. We sat in Section 41, which isn't too bad for game viewing although you can't see anything hit hard into the Triangle in deep center or anything all the way down the right field line. As we walked the kids up the ramp towards their first view ever of the field, you could see their eyes get wider and wider. And when the glory of Fenway was laid out before them, my son summed it up best...
From there it only got better. They got their Red Sox caps (no pink for my girl, they both wear old school blues with the red "B"). They got their Fenway Franks (which have improved immensely since 1978). They had lemonade and Cokes and cotton candy and popcorn. But all that paled to the game itself.
We went Saturday, which ended in a 7-2 Sox over Baltimore. The highlight of that game, for my kids, came early when Big Papi mashed that three-run shot in the first inning. They are HUGE David Ortiz fans. And when that ball cleared the fence my son's head just about popped off. He was jumping up and down screaming Ortiz's name while my daughter stood on her seat and pumped her fists into the air. It was, without a doubt, one of the most awesome things I have ever seen in my life. It was their "I saw Pudge catch" moment.
And it may have gotten a wee bit dusty in the stands where I was sitting. Because at that moment, they joined the long line of Red Sox fans in my family. It started back in 1901 with my great-grandfather watching the Boston Americans play at the Huntington Avenue Grounds. And now it continues with my son and daughter, five generations strong.
We had to leave after six innings as my daughter was beginning to tire. But it was enough for them both. My wife and I found that out on Sunday when we were watching the Sox back at home in our room. My son walked in to ask me something when he looked at the television.
"Is that the Red Sox?" he asked us. We told him yes and then he plopped himself down between us to watch a couple of innings.
Another Sox fan for life.
* Stanley gave up the tying run in the ninth with one out and then the go-ahead run in the twelfth. So the Sox come up in the bottom of the inning and get to two outs with Remy at second base, pinch-running for Yaz and Lynn on first. Scott comes up and hits a ground ball that looks like a game ender until Carney Lansford botches the throw to first and Remy scores, putting Lynn on third. Next batter up is Butch Hobson. He hits a single to center, Lynn scored and that's the game. Two years later Lansford would come to Boston in a trade that included Butch Hobson. Small world.