Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
OLD TIMER’S DAY AT FENWAY
Old Timer’s Day at Fenway Park was heart-warming and nostalgic. But it was also somewhat sad, watching middle-aged men trying to relive the magic of their youth.
It was similar to a Memorial Day parade, where frail old gents are carefully perched in the back of Cadillac convertibles, clad in musty uniforms and offering shaky waves to the crowd. You just know they must have been something special in the flower of their youth, back in, say, France in 1918 or at Iwo Jima in 1945. But watching them slowly pass by now, you can’t help but think that time flies so fast and the aging process is so incredibly relentless.
It was a lot like that at Fenway Park the other day. Now, of course, I’m not talking about the ballplayers. I’m talking about myself and the other two guys who traveled with me to the game.
Although I have been a Red Sox fan since age ten (I blame my father—Fanaticus Bosoximus is an inherited disorder), I stopped making the annual religious pilgrimage to Fenway a full decade ago. I didn’t consciously plan to stay away for so long, it’s just that a lot of things got in the way: working, taking care of the house, raising kids, skyrocketing ticket prices, and an unpleasant experience the last time I attended a game when a drunken slob, only two rows behind me, screamed at the top of his lungs for nine straight innings that Bob Stanley is a bum. (This was two years after Stanley had retired from the game. Although the former relief pitcher was fishing in Florida at the time, I’m sure he could hear this guy yelling all the way from Boston.)
The first indication that things were different compared to the good old days was the ride to Boston. We had to stop at every rest area along the Mass Pike. (“Gee, I guess I had too much coffee this morning,” was my feeble excuse.) When I was in college in the late 1970s, my buddies and I would drive to Fenway, polish off the first of many cases of beer before reaching the state line, and never need to hit the men’s room until the sixth inning—of the second game of the double header! (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning drinking and driving. I admit I did some really stupid things back then. For example, I once screamed at the top of my lungs for nine straight innings that Rico Petrocelli is a bum—two years after the former shortstop had retired from the game. This would explain why I received a postcard from Florida saying, “Shut up!”)
There were more signs that I was long past my prime. Once we parked the car (or as they say in that neighborhood, “Pocked the cah”), we took a shortcut through a small opening in the chain link fence which surrounded the parking lot. As I squeezed through the two-foot wide by three-foot high space, I felt a sharp twinge in the back of my leg. Ow! A pulled hamstring! Back in the ‘70s, my buddies and I would simply scale the ten-foot fence like an Army obstacle course, climbing up one side and jumping to the ground on the other side without spilling a drop of Pasbt Blue Ribbon. (Pabst? Yuck! See, I told you we were stupid.)
When I finally limped into the ballpark, the seats were much harder than I remembered, the sausage grinders much spicier (“Do you sell Tums?” I asked the hotdog vendor, who looked at me like I was from another planet, such as New York), and I had to squint to see the scoreboard. The only pleasant surprise was when a drunken slob, only two rows behind me, began screaming at the top of his lungs that Ted Williams is a bum (four decades after the former left fielder retired from the game), and Teddy Ballgame himself came down from the luxury suite and mashed the guy across the forehead with his cane. His swing is still gorgeous.
If there was any question whether I had truly become a ballpark dinosaur, all doubts were dispelled when I committed the unpardonable sin: I wanted to leave before the game was over. In the middle of the eighth inning I said to my companions, “Hey guys, we’ve been here three hours, we know who’s gonna win, why don’t we head out now and beat the traffic?” They looked at me like I was from another planet, such as Wuss-ville.
I think it’s safe to say the next time I go to Fenway Park—if I ever return—I’ll be carefully perched in the back of a Cadillac convertible, offering shaky waves to the crowd. At least the seat will be more comfortable.
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