We had a pretty good run, you and I. We were more than great friends. We had a commitment. One could anticipate the other’s moods and we matched each other’s needs perfectly. It didn’t matter what the situation was and we didn’t care about other relationships doing a little better than ours. They didn’t matter. We did. When I first fell in love, you were coverd in emerald green and everything about you seemed to glitter. You were a little older, sure, but I didn’t care how many previous suitors claimed to love you. I knew that I was the only one, Fenway Park. Your team seemed to win for me when I made my annual haj between the All Star break and September 5th. I never caught a foul ball but love is about forgiveness, right? I forgave the 1978 special playoff loss against the Yankees. I was running cross country practice in high school with a transistor radio glued to my ear when that bastard, Bucky Flipping Dent, hit a wind blown soft serve of a home run into the net with a borrowed bat. I smashed the radio against a rock, sprinted the remaining mile and a quarter and swore to leave you for good then. You managed to thaw my petrified heart by April and you promised to never hurt me again.
I forgave during the 1975 World Series when George Foster of the Reds made a perfect throw home to get Denny Doyle, who ran through Don Zimmer’s stop sign at third because Doyle thought he heard, “Go! Go!” instead of “No! No!” I was shattered but the Red Sox had been transcendent in defeat. No one worth a damn leaves their great love in their worst moment and I didn’t. I was there when Billy Martin pulled Reggie Jackson during the inning after The Straw That Stirred the Drink dogged it on a catchable looper to right in 1977. I was in Fenway during Tony C’s brief comeback attempt, tagging Vida Blue of Oakland with a rising laser over The Monster into the beckoning night on May 20, 1975, his final home run in the Majors. Even after Jack Hamilton had ended his career in 1967 by shattering Tony’s left cheekbone, eye socket and damaging his retina, Conigliaro tried to return and he gave me a taste of what all the excitement had been about for a fan too young too remember. Tony tried and that was what mattered.
2004 and 2007? Yeah, baby! Anyone who tells you that the true identity of the Red Sox is to lose and lose ingloriously when the stakes are highest, kindly tell them to go to hell. We once wanted to win as much as anyone. We were dogged, honest and carried a little measure of class that was lacking elsewhere. That’s who we were. That downpour during the parade in 2004 was surely washing away the sin from the sale of Ruth to everything that had happened since. Then, out went Francona and in came Valentine. There was Josh Beckett, chicken lodged between his teeth and beer dripping from his mouth, strutting around like a number one starter and unable to beat Baltimore just once to clinch the playoffs in September of 2011, his Kabuki mask of arrogance and painted on smirk no substitute for going seven strong innings. It’s not about the losing right now. Most teams lose. It’s the lack of an honest effort. A loose lipped New Yorker, a NEW YORKER for God’s sake, is in the manager’s office! The owner is buying soccer teams in Europe and murmuring about IPO’s split dividends and re-amortization.
Around mid-day on May 13, I experienced what can only be described as a waking dream. I witnessed myself entering the spare bedroom off my bedroom, going to the closet with the busted door on the right side and removing my carefully preserved Red Sox jerseys, the ones worn just rarely and only for important occasions to keep them nice. True fans don’t need the gear. It was about reverence and tradition in my case because the uniform used to mean something. I first reached for the alternate red home jersey and removed it from its hanger. I buttoned all the buttons and folded it carefully, placing it on the single sized bed when I was done. Then, I found the current road top with the outdated “BAY” emblazoned on the back. Buttoned and folded, it joined it’s compatriot on the bed. Next, the red and gray 2004 roadie with “RAMIREZ” across the shoulders. After that, another road jersey with “BOSTON” on the front but no number or name with that one. Then, a novelty item, blue with the old “Circle Sox” logo over the heart. It was a gift and I never liked the look but it was too good to rubbish it. Buttoned and folded, it joined the grieving stack on the bed.
Finally, I spied the home white jersey. I loved it because it was the only one I had seen with the letters on the front sewn on at a more severe angle, like the one Ted Williams had worn. It was number 25, the number Tony C. once had on his back. Valentine was wearing it now but I forgave that. Mike Lowell, a Series MVP, had worn it when Boston won the 2007 Classic against Colorado. Mike Lowell’s name was on my jersey, not correct for a home uni to carry a name but I didn’t mind. It was a perfect representation of potential unfulfilled and a pipe dream made manifest. I slowly removed it from its hanger, buttoned everything up, folded it carefully and placed it with the others. I put them all in a white, tall sized kitchen trash bag. Then, I ransacked the house looking for every last Red Sox cap, including my prized red and blue one from 1975, including my perfect replica of the one Dom DiMaggio sported in 1946. As I sealed the second trash bag full of caps, I secured the ties knowing this was not a lover’s spat. I consigned the bags to a never opened basement cabinet and gave the same treatment to my beloved “hanging sox” team jacket and the more current blue one with “RED SOX” across the front. It was finished.
Dear John Henry, you have driven off a life long fan. Your team has been sufficiently callous to make me really question why I ever cheered at all. In spite of those precious two championships, you are completely unacquainted with the contents of a fan’s heart. It is an organ that is simple and durable. It demands little to continue to beat except an honest effort and hope. Despite your wealth, you have starved too many of the simple pleasure of caring.
We had a pretty good run.