On Monday, May 27th my wife Jennifer and I will be bringing our daughter Abigail to her first Red Sox game.
I was just five when I went to my first game with my father and grandfather. I will never forget walking up the ramp to see the field for the very first time. I had heard many games on the radio at home, and had even caught a game or two on TV as well, although at that time, the Anderson family still had a black and white TV. I was overwhelmed by how green the field and the green monster were.
We drove in and parked near Fenway. The walk to the stadium grew more electric with each step. The crowd got
bigger, the sounds grew louder, the smells of food more captivating. I was handed my first ticket and felt like I had been given the keys to some magical kingdom. I handed the usher my ticket and was set free inside the underbelly of Fenway Park. People were everywhere, many wearing the same color – Red Sox red. Food and drinks were available most everywhere you looked. Our first stop was to pick out a hat and to get a program. I was the
luckiest kid alive, there with Dad and “Bubba” as I called my grandfather.
Up the ramp we went and there was heaven on earth – Fenway Park. As a Christian I have had many “religious experiences.” While Fenway is not a church, that day provided me with a religious experience. We were about to be seated on the right field side just beyond first base. The green of the field, the colors of the scoreboard, which in those days was very simple; The American flag flying in center field; The ever growing sounds of the crowd. All so big and all so real.
The next marvel came in the form of a hot dog, but not just any got dog. A man out of nowhere came and “gave us” all a Fenway frank. Never had a hot dog tasted better. Me, Dad and Bubba - it was the essence of guy time or family time. I sat between them eating my first of many if not hundreds of Fenway franks. I was so proud of the moment. I still remember it vividly.
Next came the National Anthem. “David, we need to stand and take your hat off, we are going to sing a special
song. The sheer power of this magical place exploded with the organist playing the “Star Spangled Banner.” To this day I get mad when I see people talking through the anthem or not removing their hats. Everyone (most people) dressed in Red Sox garb, everyone focused and the game that was to come and all standing in attention, hats and hands over their hearts bringing honor to God and country – this great country that created baseball.
All at once, the team, our team, the Red Sox ran onto the field in their brilliant white home uniforms. “That, my boy, are the Red Sox” my grandfather declared. I do not remember all who played that day but I do remember Dwight Evans, Rico Petracelli, Carlton Fisk, who looked as big as a giant in his catcher’s gear. There was Tommy
Harper, Luis Aparicio and the man guarding the Green Monster – Carl Yaztremski who to this day remains my favorite Red Sox Player of all time. Yaz.
There stood our team, the team of the Anderson men. There was something graceful and majestic, something
poetic and magnificent about the game. The swing of the bat. Balls being scooped up by the infielders and thrown to first so fast you could barely see the ball. Outfielders racing around the green grass chasing down fly balls and line drives. Later in the game we witnessed Dwight Evans throw a ball harder than any man ever could, getting a player on the other team out at third.
Late in the game, “Yaz” hit a ball that went so far it crossed over the top of the huge wall in left field. Everyone stood and screamed as Carl Yaztremski ran slowly all the way around the bases. “That my boy was a home run!”
We cheered and we clapped. We stood in reverence. We jumped up and down – OK I did that mostly – and took
in each and every play. We ate peanuts and popcorn and had the coldest sodas I ever had.
As a boy I had been taught right from wrong, good from bad and the difference between Red Sox and this
other team going by the name of New York Yankees. Apparently we did not like them, at all. Not even a little bit. It was on that day I began a love affair with all things Red Sox and all things baseball. I love the game and can watch
any team play at any time or place but I do love my Red Sox. That love affair began 40 years ago because my Dad and his Dad loved me so very much that I was brought along, I was included in this journey. I lost track of the number of games I have been blessed to go see at the holy ground known as Fenway Park. Summer after summer Dad and I would go to several games – Bubba died the next summer but not before he helped pass on this significant piece of my life.
Six months before my Dad died I took him to one more game. He was so frail and struggled to get the whole
way to our seats but nothing was going to stop him from climbing that mountain one more time. That night, for the first time, Dad wanted a beer and so we toasted our times together at the old ball park. Part way through the game he thanked me for all the great times we shared there. He looked back at the memories, the players and the times we shared at Fenway Park together. I wondered that night if he knew something, if he knew this would be his last
journey to our little piece of heaven on earth. He seemed to as he sat there so content taking it all in.
Some years ago I was blessed to bring my nephew Justin to his first game. I framed the tickets and the newspaper sports page covering that game. He was five when we made our first trip.
And so on Monday May 27th, I bring my daughter Abigail for her first game at “my” Fenway Park. I have been waiting for this day, picturing it for months. We will be sitting on the third base side (Thanks Mark Wheeler) We will buy Abigail her first jersey and hot dog and popcorn and ice cream. We will cheer on this team that we call the Red Sox, this experience that was handed onto me, this journey that I now am so blessed to pass onto my daughter.
In 1975 I observed people crying because of the Red Sox for the very first time. In 1978 I cried for the
first time – stupid Bucky Dent. I cried again in 1986 and was angry in 2003 – stupid Aaron Boone. And then in 2004 like so many others I thought of Dad and Bubba and all the trips to Fenway Park. After the greatest comeback ever against the Yankees and a four game sweep of the Cardinals my Boston Red Sox were world champions.
It is funny the things that bring us pleasure in this life, and amazing the things that shape us and inspire us. For me Fenway Park has forever done both, and will continue to do so. This one is for Bubba, and Dad, for Yaz and Pudge and Dewey. This one is for the man who took my very first ticket and that very nice man that brought me my first Fenway Frank.
And so, all of this becomes Abigail’s to savor and enjoy on Monday, May 27th as the Boston Red Sox take the field.
(And I will continue to pray that my beautiful daughter will never ever give her heart to a boy who loves the Yankees)