'Our Red Sox,' Still?

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In the crowd, particularly on jerseys worn by young kids, there was still the name of another shortstop who played for the Sox in '04: Garciaparra. He was the face of this team for so long, then grew so despondent when shown no love in the off-season between 2003 and 2004, as Theo pursued Alex Rodriguez. Nomar earned a ring last year, but he stayed in Chicago to play in the game that Roberts skipped, notching a single in three at bats in the loss, raising his average to .161 (four hits, all one-baggers). I wish Nomar had come. He still has friends here. Pokey Reese does too, but he wasn't present, either. Kapler, as I said, gets a pass; he's playing in Japan. Pedro?

Well, that was one of the questions of the day? Had Pedro really told the Sox they could keep their stinking ring? C'mon Pedro. They tried for you, they tried to keep you. Many of us think they tried too hard. Theo barely picked up the phone for Derek, but took a busman's holiday to the Dominican to sweeten the pot for the great Pedro.

LaGuardia's right by Shea, Pedro: just hop on the Shuttle.

But no, Pedro was glaringly absent on the glittering day. When reliever Anastacio Martinez, a quarter-year Red Sox, was announced to receive his ring, everyone cheered, and the guy next to me said to his friends, "Well, there's one Martinez who appreciates what's going on here."

Pedro would have enjoyed himself, with his great mates Ortiz and Ramirez. All this hugging and high-fiving and elbow bumping: There's no one better at this stuff than those three, as the dugout shots all last season proved.

Pedro, you're as quirky as they come, and I think if you had come back to the Sox your sense of privilege would have raged ever further out of control—but, please know, we missed you on Monday.

And then that thought passed, for nothing could dampen this day, this glorious day. Everything about the ceremony was pitch-perfect. James Taylor's did as nice a job with "America the Beautiful" as anyone could possibly do, now that Ray Charles has passed. With the first few bars of the Terry Cashman ditty commissioned for the occasions—the one with all of the bygone Sox' names, I thought, uh-oh, here comes the cheese. But then I nioticed how much the teenage girl next to me was enjoying it, and I went with the flow. When these oldsters themselves—Doerr, Pesky, Dom Dimag, Yaz, Lynn, Rice, Oil Can Boyd, Dewey Evans . . . when they all converged in centerfield as Cashman sang their praises, well, I thought the whole thing was brilliant. Pesky and Yaz pulled the rope to raise the banner, and that, too, was just. "Yaz has put on a few pounds," I said to Jane. "All that's missing is Ted."

The old players made their way to the infield and greeted the new. The band played on. The Yankees stayed and watched, courteous guests. On the message board the Sox asked everyone to bid farewell to the Pope and . . . to Dick Radatz, "the Monster," our great closer from the '60s who had recently died after a fall at his home in Easton, Mass. Then Joe Castiglione, one of our broadcasters, said it was time to turn the page, and the ceremony suddenly was about opening day, not last October. The introduction of the Yankees had that one hysterical, rather sophisticated bit of sarcasm when, after Randy Johnson was announced to a show of boos, Mariano was introduced and the crowd cheered and cheered. Mo got the gag and laughed heartily. Who will be smiling in the autumn?

After all the introductions, Jane and I decided to move a little further out to right field. Just before we did a rock star-type showed up with something of an entourage, and the party was shown to its seats in the top row. "Who is it?" people whispered. And finally came the answer" "It's Leskanic!" Fans started posing with him and taking snapshot of his humongous ring, which he had only moments ago been awarded on the field. Jane said to me, "Give him a book." Sure, I thought, that would be a nice gesture. I pulled from my bag a copy of "Our Red Sox," personalized it with my red-ink pen, and handed it to Leskanic, saying, "Hey, thanks for last year." He was enthusiastic in accepting the small gift. Only as I was walking away did I remember that the only mention of Leskanic in the book comes when I'm walking away from Fenway after Game Four and I remark to my friend Jake, "If you tell me Leskanic comes in tonight and wins, I say to you, 'Well, then, it went twelve—and we'd already burned everyone else.' "


The breeze was blowing in; not an auspicious sign for a knuckleballer, who likes the wind to push back at his ball, energizing its dance. But nothing could go wrong today. Wakefeild was sensational—the Yankees' one run was unearned—while the ever-whining Mussina ("I had Bellhorn struck out! Everyone knew it!") was way off his feed. A-Rod contributed a useful error, leading to three of the Bosox' eight, and was later mocked for making an easy play on a pop-up. He said after the game that he's becoming something of a "cult hero" in Boston, and that he doesn't want to be one. Well, he shouldn't have said that aloud—and by the way, tough. Alex would go 2 for 15 in this series, and his history in the Sox-Yanks drama is now an eight-month horrorshow.

Jane and I had a couple of beers and a bunch of peanuts and we couldn't have been happier. In the seventh inning two fans who'd been sitting at one of the tables left early (can't fathom that), and we took their places. These were great, great seats—well they should be at $110 a pop—with a regal view of the entire field. Across the table from us were a cute young girl with braces on her teeth and a pink Bosox cap covering her strawberry blonde hair, and her uncle. These were Rachel and Derek from Lancaster, Mass., and this was a special day for them: It was Rachel's 12th birthday and so she had received license to skip school and accompany Uncle Derek to Fenway where, beginning much earlier in the day, they had stood in a line that stretched from Gate C to Gate E—the throng of hopefuls trying for date-of-sale standing-room tickets. Rachel and Derek won the lottery, then won again when the folks at the table headed out to beat the traffic.

"Are you lifelong Sox fans?"

"Of course," said Derek. Rachel smiled and nodded; lifelong for her didn't imply all of the years of angst and woe suffered by us other three.

"Have you seen 'Fever Pitch' yet?"

"No," said Rachel, "but I want to."

"Who's your favorite on the team?"

"Manny," she said sweetly.

"Are you going to miss Pedro?"

"Ummmm," she considered. "Not really. He was good, but I think he sometimes had a bad attitude."

He certainly did, my dear.

I was content that the Red Sox legacy was being handed down to a bright young generation of fans, fans who would carry the (now, championship) banner forward. I was pleased and proud to inscribe a copy of "Our Red Sox" to Rachel on her birthday, and honored when her response was, "Wow."

The ballgame was soon done—our opening day rout to match theirs—but our day was not. Jane and I made our way down the stands and out onto the field, where we chatted briefly with Gammons, a friend we hadn't seen in years. I thanked him for the foreword to the book, and we chatted about the Bosox for a bit. I asked whether Derek Lowe had come out from the coast just for this.

"Yeah," said Peter, "A red-eye. Of course, Derek never gets to bed before seven anyway. But he was a big part of all this. I don't think anyone enjoyed themselves more today than D-Lowe, Roberts and Leskanic—and they're not with the team anymore." I cringed slightly, wondering if Leskanic had reached page 156.

"See you, Peter."

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