Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Other Side of the Wall

The list of those who have played left field for the Red Sox and won respect for their ability to play balls hit off the left field wall begins with Duffy Lewis and includes other luminaries such as Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice. Even lesser fielding lights such as Mike Greenwell and Manny Ramirez, otherwise unheralded for their defensive prowess, were surprisingly adept at playing balls off the wall.

There are, however, two sides to the left field wall. The list of those who have played the outside of the wall, the one that faces Lansdowne Street, is much, much smaller.

I think I’m the only one on it.

For nine years running, from 1983 thru 1991, I celebrated Opening Day at Fenway Park by donning an old baseball uniform, consuming a copious amount of “Baseball Marys” and, standing outside the leftfield wall with a Pignose amplifier and a microphone, I recited baseball inspired poetry to mystified early arrivals. When I began I was just a few years out of college looking for a way to combine my two favorite pastimes, baseball and poetry. When I stopped nine years later I was a published author.

In my recent book, Fenway 1912, I contend that Fenway Park is a place that can change your life. That’s not hyperbole, but because in my case, it was true. Playing the outside of the left field wall had a lot to do with how I made the change from “wanting to write” to becoming a writer.

Part of why it was true was the people I met out there – Bill Littlefield, George Kimball, Rick Dunfey, and others – all of whom later played some role in my transition. More importantly, however,standing outside that wall and speaking poetry to the face of baseball made me whole and complete. For the first time the two most important aspects of my life were able to co-exist. Not always easily, mind you. Some people laughed and some threatened to punch me in the face, but a handful dropped coins at my feet and a surprising number stopped and listened, and made me want to come back.

For a few short hours, mixing words and baseball, I was right where I was supposed to be. In these pages each month, and those of Fenway 1912, I still am.

[This essay first appeared in the June 2012 edition of Boston Baseball.  Glenn Stout is the author of Fenway 1912, the only book to ever be awarded both the Seymour Medal and the Larry Ritter Award by the Society for American Baseball Research.]

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