You’ve waited a long time.
For as long as you can remember you’ve always thought about what it would be like to be there, in person, not just to see it on TV like you have a hundred times before, because every time you have seen it you’ve stopped and dreamed a little bit.
What would it be like?He has told you about when he his Dad took him and your uncle when they were both kids and how it seemed like it took all day to drive there and how he can’t remember the score anymore or who they played but he remembers popping soda cups with his foot. And then later, when he was young and living in Boston, about how you could wander in almost any time you wanted for just a couple of bucks, and that he went all the time and it wasn’t anything special. Even now, when your grandmother goes, she calls you after and tells you all about it; where she sat and what she saw, what she had to eat and how many times the fat guy in the middle of the row had to get up and down and up and down and how he missed half the game but ate seven hot dogs by her count.
Then one day he tells you – you’re going. All four of you - you, your brother and your mother, too. He knows somebody, and got some good seats, third base side. He’s even taking the day off. He shows you the tickets, lets you hold them and explains what the numbers mean and shows you on a little colored map where you’ll sit. Then he put the tickets back in an envelope and says that’s enough. You tell him not to lose them and he promises he won’t.
You saw the lights from the freeway once and it didn’t seem so big, but now that you think about actually going there, it starts looking bigger and bigger and you pay more attention when you see it on TV. When the camera pans the stands you ask “Have you ever sat there?” and “What about there?” and “Did you ever get a foul ball?” or “Where are the bathrooms?” and “Did you see Babe Ruth?”
He laughs and says you have to pay attention. He never got a foul ball or a home run, but you never know, and that’s why you have to pay attention, so you don’t miss your chance or get hit with a ball. He tells you the bathrooms are under the stands, that Babe Ruth played a long, long time and that he’s old but not that old.
The night before it’s hard to sleep and you stare at the ceiling holding your glove and hear the crowd and think about popcorn and cotton candy and hope it doesn’t rain. Breakfast is ready when you wake up and run downstairs like it’s Christmas, but he doesn’t act excited at all. The sun is shining in the window but he looks outside, shakes his head and says it looks like rain then looks at you from the corner of his eye. You stop chewing but then he winks and laughs.
It’s a long ride and he tells you to try to take a nap but you can’t shut up and ask a hundred times how much longer it’s gonna be. But when you start to get close and get caught in traffic your eyes close and then the next thing you know he’s shaking your foot and asking you if you want to go to the ballgame or not. You snap awake and climb from the car, tilted cap on head, then he stops, reaches back into the car for your glove and tosses it your way saying “You might need that,” before he locks the door.
You all hold hands and with each step the sidewalk gets more crowded and you see people wearing caps and shirts that say “Pedroia” “Martinez” and “Williams.” There are carts selling hats and pennants and sunglasses and peanuts and pretzels, and when he tells you he once had a pretzel cart himself and sold pretzels on the corner you start thinking that could be the greatest job in the world, that or playing shortstop.
You turn a corner and suddenly it is Fenway Park, all red brick and green paint and crowds and sausage smoke and old guys stubbing out cigars and vendors waving programs, and music from somewhere pouring through the sky. He reaches in his pocket, then tilts his head and asks “Did you remember the tickets?” But this time you smile. He’s got them, all four, and you stand close as he fans them out and hands them to the usher and you push through the turnstile first.
The game hasn’t even started and it’s already the best day ever.
Glenn’s next book, Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Season, will be published in October. To order now, visit www.glennstout.net.