The Red Sox are on the verge of winning their third World Series title in a decade. For us locals of a certain age, such a sentence would have once been inconceivable. That 86-year long “Curse of the Bambino” is getting further away in the rear view mirror with each passing day. For the youngest Red Sox fans, it may be tough to appreciate just how fleeting it can be to have a perennial championship caliber team in town before hitting seven or eight decades of tough luck.
So with that, I’m not going to bother with any “Go Sox” or “Red Sox Nation” stuff. This is more for the serious lifelong fans who have suffered and rejoiced with the home town team for as long as they can remember. I’m going to share a few of my recollections from many years as a Red Sox fan below, and invite you to add your own in the comments box below.
Let’s go back to a time when a Pink Hat was a 1975 Sox cap you ran through the washing machine by accident and when “Sweet Caroline” was a classic pop song and not something to keep the out of town tourists busy as they wonder how many touchdowns the Sox are going to win by.
- Personally, the first game I ever attended at Fenway was during the 1979 season, the most noteworthy thing about it was that the lineup read like a Red Sox Hall of Fame roster. My Aunt Pat took me to that game, and they won 2-1 late in the game against the Oakland A's on a home run into the Green Monster, I believe by either Jim Rice or Dwight Evans. And that’s how great this lineup was. Along with Rice and Evans, that night I watched Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson, and Butch Hobson (and possibly a popular new player named Jerry Remy). Bob Stanley pitched in relief that night and I forget who started. I’ve seen plenty of better games since then, but that lineup alone is enough to make a longtime fan nostalgic. Fortunately, this Youtube link will give you about 40 minutes back in the 1979 season from a Sox/Angels game. For the record, 30-something years before the Red Sox fans had Big Papi, that year they had Stan Papi.
- From time to time, we end up being present at a game where
something very unusual happens. I haven’t really had such luck, although in
1990 I was at the game where Jack Clark (remember that name?) hit a home run
over the Monster that somehow struck a wire and created the optical illusion
that it bounced off the Citgo sign some 1,000 plus feet away. Back in those days you could get bleacher seats for nine bucks or so on a whim, and the "Sweet Caroline" crowd was all just a nightmarish twinkle in some marketing type's eye. Now I think it requires a visit with a loan officer and at least three credit references to go to a game - and that's just from the scalpers.
- This isn’t a memory per se, but it’s more of a family story. My grandfather lived in Salem his entire life, worked as a machinist, and served in the Navy during World War II and Korea. I’m told that back in the ‘50s, he would go up on a ladder to do work on his house, and the whole neighborhood could hear him yelling at the transistor radio broadcasting the Sox game. Again, something tells me that more than one local fan has a similar story. My grandparents always had “The Ballgame” going at their house, and I remember breathlessly watching Bobby Ojeda throw a near no-hitter at Yankee Stadium on their TV circa 1979. I think it was Reggie Jackson who broke it up late in the game. At some remote point in my boyhood my grandfather took me to the sportsmen’s show in Boston, where a 60-something Ted Williams was doing a fishing demonstration. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that this fisherman I had never heard of was the greatest member of the Red Sox in history. Up until the Mike Greenwell era, there were only two other players in left field for something like three decades – Williams and then Yastrzemski, a former Lynnfield resident.
- I don’t think I’ve ever been to a game where I haven’t
looked into right field and wondered how on Earth do I get a ticket for that
red seat marking Ted Williams’ record home run. For the record, he retired
years before I was born, but Ted Williams is actually my all-time favorite Sox
player, for various reasons, including the fact that he postponed his superstar career to go fight in World War II. As far as players active in my lifetime go, Dwight Evans is my all-time favorite.
- I remember the frustration of the Red Sox losing in 2003 in the ALCS to the Yankees. This was the time in our history when the last world championship had come back around World War I. I think if my friends and I could have gotten away with driving it to New York and sacking the city like a horde of ancient barbarians, we’d have been there by sunrise. It had nothing to do with sportsmanship. It's just that to any red-blooded Bostonian of that era, New York really was that vile and despicable of an entity, like some creature from an H.P. Lovecraft novel turned loose in this dimension to cause human misery. The "curse" thing was so heavy feeling in that era that Laurie Cabot, the official witch of Salem, even did some sort of ritual (apparently with sox great Bill Lee involved) to end the curse of the Bambino.
- Finally, 2004 came, and the Great Curse came to an end. Where was I? Busy with other stuff. The very week of the 2004 World Series, I was a brand new news editor at the Laconia Citizen newspaper up in Central New Hampshire. My work day started at 5 a.m, and my new apartment was a mess of boxes, and I knew nobody in town, nor did I know where any remotely decent bar to watch the game at was. This may sound physically painful to some Red Sox fans, but it wasn’t so bad – I was still euphoric from watching the Red Sox come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in a thrilling ALCS. That felt like five World Series titles to me at the time. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals 4-0 in that series. The night they won the whole thing, I was woken up by cars honking off in the distance. I somehow knew that the Sox were now the world champions for the first time in my life. My first thought was of my grandparents – I looked up to the ceiling and pointed to it, as if to say, “Hey, look! You finally got to see it happen!” To think they spent 76 or so years on this earth and never, ever saw it happen outside of those terrible disappointments in 1948, 1967 and 1975. And then we won’t even mention 1986.
Anyhow, it’s been a long colorful ride for the region’s diehard Sox fans, and the current era is no exception. Do you have some memories you’d like to share as a Red Sox fan? Post them below!