Well the names have all changed since you hung around

Home today with nothing to do but stay in bed and hope this stupid virus, or whatever it is, goes away soon. So I have the MLB Network on for the better part of the day. Numerous viewings of their “MLB Tonight” show as well as their “Prime 9” shows. Over and over and over again. (So once the regular season begins, we get actual games during the day, right?) In the midst of these repeated showings, though, is a game from 1981. White Sox at Red Sox. Carlton Fisk’s first game back at Fenway. I’m sure, if this game was on television, I watched it (MLBN’s version is the White Sox feed. Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall.) but I don’t have a clear memory of it so it was fun to watch parts of it. (Not so much fun? Red Sox lost 5-3.) Interesting was the fans reactions. Lots of cheers, for sure, but as Piersall and Caray were talking about all the fans cheering and giving Pudge a standing ovation, the cameras caught many fans NOT standing or cheering for Fisk. He certainly got more cheers than boos, but those boos were loud enough for audio equipment from 1981 to pick them up. I don’t know if I know anyone who was at that game (my friends Dori and Dale come to mind as possibilities – let me know ladies!) but I wonder if, given that the Red Sox lost the game, if the fans there look at that game as being something special? Something they’re happy to have witnessed in person. The loss wold ruin he entire thing for me. So thinking about all the times I’ve been at a game where a beloved ex-Sox player returned, I figured I’d reflect on the three best here. Why not?

Kevin Millar returns to Fenway. Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net. Used with permission.

* Kevin Millar returns as an Oriole: May 5, 2006. I bought the tickets at the beginning of the season specifically because I wanted to see Millar. I had no idea if he’d be starting, but I wanted to at least see him. My friend Pam, who was with me the first time I met Millar back in 2003, was with me and we both were genuinely excited about seeing him. I remember not really focusing on caring about who won the game. I mean, I always want the Sox to win, but that night I just wanted to see Kevin – and I especially wanted to see how the fans treated him. I wasn’t disappointed, neither with the game nor the treatment of Millar. He got a hit in his first at bat, eliciting some good-natured boos from the fans – but he was cheered every time he was announced that night and the park was littered with people wearing Millar jerseys and t-shirts (including me!). But the best part of the night was Mike Lowell. It was pretty fitting, actually. Lowell made an amazing catch in the first inning (basically diving into the ground and stealing the ball from Tek), he stole a base and he hit three doubles. Mike Lowell made me realize quickly that night that I DID care about which team won the game. (The Sox did, 6-3!)

Dave Roberts returns to Fenway. Photo taken by Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.net. Used with permission.

* Dave Roberts returns as a Giant: June 15, 2007. There’s no question that I wanted the Sox to win this game. My blog entry that day read, in part, “Dave is the main reason I bought the ticket for the game tonight. Having written that, I hope my boys destroy his team.” I was past excited at the idea of seeing Dave Roberts again. I literally cried when they introduced him. I was so struck by the sight of him and the memory of what he helped accomplish, that it took a bit of the sting away from the sea of Barry Bonds jerseys around me. Dave Roberts will always have the ability to bring me to tears without doing anything. The party line you hear in Boston is that Dave Roberts will never have to buy himself a drink when he’s in Boston. I’ll tell you what, if he asked me to, I’d take someone out for him. What? He’s a nice guy, he’d never ask. Oh, and incidentally, Sox won this one too: 10-2.

Pedro returns to Fenway. Photo taken by me!

* Pedro Martinez returns as a Met: June 28, 2006. I had to be at this one. Absolutely had to be there. I sat in the bleachers, under the scoreboard. UNDER it. And because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see much during the game, I made sure I got there early for BP. I brought a friend from work and the two of us parked ourselves as close as we could so we would get a good view of Pedro when he walked across the field to warm up. I don’t have to explain to most Red Sox fans what Pedro meant to me when he was with the team. When he didn’t re-sign with the Sox, I was sad but not mad. Pedro made it clear he was looking for the big payday and long-term contract. I was pleased he didn’t go to that other team in New York, so there were no hard feelings that he came back to Boston in Mets colors. Being the emotional sort, I cried when he came out and I cried when they announced him and I cried when he took the mound (I also cheered each time). But after the tears, I wanted the Sox to knock him around…and they did (10-2).

The two most vivid memories from that night: Finding out that Peter Gammons had an aneurysm blew me away and took some of the thrill out of the evening. One of my parents had a brain aneurysm burst when I was in grammar school and, thankfully, fully recovered. But it’s still frightening and confusing and, as much as Gammons pisses me off on almost a daily basis these days, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach when I heard he fell ill. My other strong memory was getting a text message during my ride home telling me that Pedro said he didn’t care about the outcome of the game, he just cared about the fan reaction. That was vintage Pedro for you. I was sorry to see him get as beat up as he did…but I still felt like I got the best of both worlds. We got to show Pedro we still loved him and then we got to show the Mets which was the better team.

Wednesday at 7pm, MLB.tv, MLB Network and NESN will all be airing the first Red Sox/Twins spring training game of the new season. If you are near a computer or television at 7pm, you have many options to check out the team for the first time this year!

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