A Monster of a vacation

My upcoming time off just got better. All it took were those magical words: “I have an extra ticket.”
I’m heading back to New England for a two-week vacation on Friday, and by Saturday, I’ll be spending the evening at Fenway Park. Yes!
The reason we’re headed “Back East” in the first place is to attend a friend’s wedding, which is on Sunday. (Then we’re spending the rest of the time visiting family either in New Hampshire or on Cape Cod). The rehearsal is Saturday afternoon with a dinner to follow. So when my friend (Mike D.) first said he might have an extra ticket to Saturday’s Red Sox game, I declined. I figured I’d be busy.
But I’m not in the wedding (my wife and daughter are) so I’m free. Again, yes!
This isn’t my first trip to Fenway. I’ve been there dozens of times. But it’s been a while.
It’s been even longer since Mike D. – a friend since first grade and a Sox fan for even longer – and I have attended a game together. Our Fenway drought goes back to 1988, the year the Sox sacked manager John McNamara at the All-Star Break, when the team was struggling, and hired Joe Morgan. No, not that Joe Morgan. The one from Walpole, Mass., a guy who looked more at home on a tractor than in a major league dugout.
In fact, “Walpole Joe” did drive a snow plow during the winter to supplement his minor league paycheck, which is what he earned for more than 20 years before “The Show” came calling in ’88.
Anyhow, the Sox won 12 in a row when Morgan took over and 24 straight at home. The period – in which the Sox went from 9 games back to winning the division – was dubbed “Morgan Magic.”
And Mike D. and I were there for part of it.
I remember attending a doubleheader against Kansas City on a hot Friday night, both games won by Boston. Then a week later, we were there for one of the most memorable games I’ve seen at Fenway, which is saying something.
I’ve seen Dwight Evans tie a game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-run homer, then wait at home plate an inning later for Wade Boggs, who had just hit his first major league dinger. I’ve seen Derek Lowe’s no-hitter. I’ve seen Jon Valentin’s unassisted triple play.
But the game against the Minnesota Twins during Morgan Magic topped them all. In the goose bumps department, anyway.
That night, Mike D. and I took the train into Boston and bought tickets just before the first pitch. (That would never happen today). It was a weeknight, but it was summer, so, being 20-year-olds, we weren’t too concerned with getting up for work the next day.
Since the team was hot, all we were able to score were standing-room-only tickets, and we found a spot along the first base line. Well back, of course.
The Sox, behind Roger Clemens, led 5-0 midway through the game, but the Twins chipped away and eventually tied things up and into extra innings we went. In the 10th, Minny scored twice. Clemens was long gone, and so was the lead.
In the last of the 10th, the Sox rallied, however. I remember a guy named Jody Reed, whom Mike D. didn’t care for, hitting a double off the Green Monster to keep the Sox alive. Then a kid with a boyish face named Todd Benzinger stepped to the plate. The Sox were still down by two, but had two runners on base.
Benzinger, a lefty, ripped a pitch down the rightfield line that looked like a line drive that could fall for a hit. But the wall isn’t very high or deep in that part of the park, and from our vantage point in the SRO section, the last thing we were thinking was … well, all we could see were arms going up in the air when the ball disappeared from view.
Home run! Game over! Good night!
After we high-fived about a million times, it was time to head home. The streets around the park that night were electric, all the souvenir shops packed. People were yelling. The Sox were in the pennant race, and we were right in the middle of it.
The last time the Hometown Nine had been this good was in 1986, but I missed most of it because it was my first year of college.
Finally, 22 years later, my oldest friend and I are Fenway-bound again. I wasn’t even aware of who the Sox were playing until a short time ago. (Kansas City; Mike D. would not have had an extra ticket if the Yankees were in town).
It’s too early for a pennant race and the Royals aren’t anything to get too excited about.
It doesn’t matter. I can’t wait to be a part of that atmosphere again. To buy a bag of peanuts, the ones that are still in the shell. To taste a Fenway Frank. To walk up the runway from underneath the seating area and see the Green Monster. To hear “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning.
The goose bumps are returning.


1 Response to “A Monster of a vacation”

  1. 1 Mike D
    July 4, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Timmy D,

    Great entry. It was great hanging out with you at the game. It brought back a lot of great memories.

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