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A Bostonian at the University of Michigan.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005  

When you go to a ballgame, you don't really have any control over what sort of game you see. You have to expect that some are going to be more memorable than others, but you can't get lucky every time.

I've been to some stinkers this year (the game where David Wells injured his ankle immediately springs to mind), but I've also been very, very lucky.

I saw Marcus Thames' grand slam at Comerica (an 11-1 victory for the Tigs, that was... remember that, kids? Remember when the Tigers actually won games? Those were fun times) back in April. I was in Fenway for David Ortiz' walk-off homerun in early June. I saw Roger Clemens strike out 10 in RFK just a couple of weekends ago. And I was in the park for Sunday's Red Sox game, which involved the following memorable moments:

-Jon Papelbon's major league debut.
-Manny Delcarmen's Fenway debut.
-A sick defensive play by Gabe Kapler.
-Back-to-back homeruns by Big Papi and John Olerud.
-The triumphant return of Manny Ramirez.

It must be the seats. I was in these exact same seats for the walk-off homer game.

Jon Papelbon got cheered the moment he stepped out of the bullpen and walked across the field to the dugout, before the game even started. On the T ride in my brother and I had listened a group of 30-something male Bostonians in Red Sox gear talk about the starting pitcher for the day. They decided that someone named 'Trumblebum' was pitching, then thought that it was Manny Delcarmen. The urge to correct them was fierce, but I was too busy holding in the laughter. In any event, it was good to see that the majority of Fenway did know what was going on, and cheered the kid appropriately.

It didn't exactly hurt that he came right out of the gate throwing 93, 94 mph fastballs with great regularity (my brother and I wondering if the radar gun was juiced, or if he was just amped about pitching in the big leagues), and that he stone cold struck out the first two batters he faced. His first major league strikeout was Shannon Stewart, the very first batter he ever saw at this level. There's a tiny little smiley face in the corner of my scorecard box for that at-bat. Some people stood up and cheered after the K, and quite a few stood up after the 1-2-3 inning he turned out.

5.1 innings later he'd given up two homeruns and shown some shaky control (especially when he had a runner on... seemed to rattle him a bit), but he also had 7 Ks, and that is some insane stuff, kids. The homeruns weren't even that worrisome... a guy who throws a lot of hard fastballs is going to have some of that velocity going the other direction and over the wall sometimes. The 5 walks and one HBP were more disturbing, but he is after all still young.

He got a standing ovation when he left the field, which felt awfully good. People stayed standing to cheer a bit for Manny Delcarmen, the hometown boy who was getting his first Fenway pitching experience. A strikeout, an error on Bill Mueller that resulted in an inherited runner scoring, and a walk. Not the most wonderous of first outings, but he'll have that first K to look back on, and what a great game this was to make your debut in.

Brad Radke had been looking untouchable for the first three innings, so when Papi went yard off of him, the place erupted. We were still standing and high fiving each other when Olerud came striding up to the plate and immediately hit one out. I'm sure you can imagine the glee. There were two small children in big floppy fishing hats with embroidered Boston Bs on them and opposing David Ortiz tshirts (one kid in blue, one in white) who were nearly besides themselves. They kept standing on the seats to see around everyone standing up, then getting back down because if they jumped around in excitement on the seats they'd probably fall over.

David Ortiz hitting homeruns with regularity is nothing new to Fenway, but the weekend that Olerud was having was the talk of the stands.

Justin Morneau.

Lew Ford.

The Twins weren't anything special offensively, and it was their pitching that kept the game close. It seemed very frustrating to think that after Papelbon's emotional start he might still lose the game, and the crowd reacted accordingly.

First off, you have to bear in mind that we all noticed Manny in the dugout sometime in the second or third inning. He came up from the clubhouse and plopped himself down on the bench next to David Ortiz. Later in the game he tied a towel around the lower half of his face like a bandit and started gesturing to someone... either someone on the field, or someone in the Twins dugout. Another few innings later he marched up to Edgar, who was sitting on the very lip of the dugout, and gave Edgar a good, vigorous rubdown with the towel. It was cute.

The crowd, as I said, was frustrated with the lack of offense. They were aware that Manny was still on the bench with the trading deadline mere minutes away. Which is why I ended up cocking my head towards the bleachers some time in the 5th inning, mildly confused. I turned to my brother and said, "Is that a Manny chant?" It was. Ah, we're such fickle fans, but in the end we come 'round.

Then, of course, there was the 8th inning.

Kapler and Johnny made two quick outs. Edgah doubled. Papi came up, and Joe Mauer stood to intentionally walk him. Adam Stern was standing in the on-deck circle. With two outs and first base open, why wouldn't you rather take your chances with Stern than with Papi?

"We want Manny! We want Manny! WE WANT MANNY!" the crowd screamed. I don't think anyone really believed he was going to come out. But then we saw Francona saying something to him. Manny got up and disappeared into the corner of the dugout. The chants got louder and more frenzied.

Then he came bounding up the steps and into the on-deck area, helmet on and bat in hand, and the pandemonium of the homeruns earlier seemed calm and sedate. Fenway went completely beserk. It was like someone had unleashed a horrible weaponized version of laughing gas or something. People were shrieking and jumping around and stamping their feet and through it all you could hear the rhythmic chant of "Man-ny! Man-ny! Man-ny!"

Juan Rincon didn't really stand a chance. It wasn't a matter of if Manny would get a hit... at that point, it was almost inconceivable that he wouldn't make contact. It was just a matter of where he hit it and how hard. A hard RBI single doesn't seem like much, but it was the winning run, and it was more than enough to drive the frenzied fans even louder. You could probably hear the park from the Aquarium.

When Manny ran out into left field for the top of the 9th, the cheers resumed. He gave a smart little double-point to the guys inside the Monster, who had held the door open just long enough to receive the gesture. The very first out of the inning was made on a ball hit to left center, and he nearly collided with Johnny, who came across to make the catch. Johnny managed to hold on and started ribbing Manny about it. Manny shook his head and laughed and the crowd was in the kind of zone where a Manny moment like that is of absolutely no consequence.

So, OK. We're tough on our stars. When they dog it a little in the field or the clubhouse we, as a fan base and as a region, get on them like little kids on a new Harry Potter book. But when we welcome them back to the fold, there is nothing, absolutely nothing like it in baseball.

In the midst of all this, and in the midst of sweeping the Twinkies right out of town, this gentleman, sporting a Corey Koskie shirt and quite a bit of Twins gear, proposed to his girlfriend, also a Twins fan. He went marching up the stairs holding out a ring, and the entire section turned around to watch. She said yes, and everyone cheered. It was very sweet and probably salvaged an otherwise painful game for such obviously hardcore Twins fans.

I do wonder why he proposed in Fenway, though. Surely the Metrodome would have been more appropriate. Perhaps he just thought that Fenway was, enemy ground notwithstanding, the much more romantic location, in which case he was entirely right.

It really was a heckuva game to go to.

Second little guest article up at Firebrand, this one on the migratory bird of the Boston Red Sox. Go see. That should be it for now, Evan can write his own damn blog again soon.

I know we're starting a series against the Royals, which might not seem very interesting or important. But tomorrow (er, later today) is Hernandez vs. Wake, and WE MUST WIN IT. It is imperative. If you don't know why, probably you should have a look at what happened the last time any of my boys ran into Runny Elves. He must be made to pay, clearly.

For more on that incident, see here.

And for the record, no, I'm not over The Farns yet. As I said in the previous entry, I watched the Braves/Pirates game earlier, mostly to watch Huddy and Zach Duke Whom I Covet, but also in the sad hopes of seeing The Farns. There was one brief shot of him sitting on the bench in the bullpen in his Braves jersey.

Le sigh.

3:55 AM

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