In my Red Sox world, all is perfect
Jason Kimenker - Sylva, NC
November 4, 2004
Growing up in Boston meant growing up as a Boston Red Sox baseball fan. From the time that I was old enough to walk, my father would take me to Red Sox games. To us, baseball was more than just a game, more than a sport, and certainly more than just big business. Baseball was, and always has been, an American pastime.
Going to Boston Red Sox baseball games at historic Fenway Park was an incredible experience, a great bond between a father and his son, a treasure trove of wonderfully fond memories, and practically a patriotic duty for a family from Boston in love with the great game of baseball.
Since 1918, generations of Boston Red Sox fans had shared these historic moments at Fenway Park, at favorite watering holes, and in homes everywhere. Each year, Red Sox fans would retire for another long winter without a World Series victory, only to return each spring with renewed optimism and dreams of making it to the fall spectacular.
From 1903 — when the first World Series was played and the Red Sox took home the championship — to their final win on Sept. 11, 1918, the Sox had brought home a total of five World Series Championship victories.
As it turns out, our October surprise, and about the most patriotic thing a Boston fan could have heard last week, during the peak of election season was the headline declared by newspapers around the world, “The Boston Red Sox win the World Series.”
Red Sox fans from all corners of the globe celebrated the long awaited arrival of their team’s Holy Grail amid what will remain as one of baseball’s best comebacks.
After sweeping the Anaheim Angels, then coming back from a 0-3 deficit to win four games in a row against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship, the Boston Red Sox became the first baseball team in history to come back in the playoffs with a win like they did.
This was amazing stuff. We were in the World Series, and we had just beaten our archrivals, our nemesis, the New York Yankees.
At 11:40 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004 on the anniversary of the 100th World Series, during a total lunar eclipse of a full moon, the Boston Red Sox ended their long 86-year drought with a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in just four games.
With the World Series Championship victory came the end of the fabled “Curse of the Bambino,” a looming taunt resulting from a young Babe Ruth being traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees shortly after the Red Sox’ last World Series victory in 1918.
The Yankees subsequently went on to win 26 World Series Championships while until last week the Red Sox had none since Babe Ruth’s departure. We finally “Reversed the Curse.”
My family was fortunate enough to have season tickets in great seats at one of the best ballparks in the country. For me, baseball meant good times with my father. Like some kids would go fishing or camping with their fathers, baseball was our bond. These father-and-son experiences remain deeply ingrained in me to this day.
From our seats down near the field where the visiting teams’ players would warm up, to the very tops of the nose bleed seats, the sweet smells of hot dogs, mustard covered pretzels, hot pizza and cold chocolate covered ice cream bars lingered in the air.
I can remember the shouts from the vendors hawking, “Get your ice cold Coca-Cola here” with their unique Boston accent that sounded more like “Heeeeee” than “here,” and the familiar cries of “Popcorn! Peanuts! Cotton Candy here!”
Outside the park, vendors would sell everything from delicious bags of hot roasted peanuts and official program guides to Red Sox team souvenirs of every possible persuasion.
I remember jumping up in my seat as the “Wave” made its way towards our section, or the taunts we would yell to distract the other team’s players, or my father teaching me how to whistle loudly with my fingers at just the right moment, a skill I still have today.
I recall fans from both teams yelling colorful words back and forth between plays, seats coming alive each time a ball was hit or a foul ball came crashing down into some lucky fan’s mitt. At the encouragement of my father, I would bring my baseball mitt with me to each game, hoping to catch a pop fly foul ball. I think I may have even caught one or two foul balls over the years and relished in the opportunity each time the ball came within a mile of my seats.
There are just so many memories associated with the Red Sox: the bang of the ball against the batting cage and the crack of the bat as the ball sailed through the air towards left field and the Green Monster, the tall wall waiting just beyond; a golf cart dressed up to look like a giant baseball with its own helmet driving around the field while the batters warmed up before a game as the kids, me included, tried to lure the players over to get the coveted autograph.
There were the long games that stretched over 14 innings, me huddling up against my father during one of the coldest games I ever sat through, waiting for my father to tell me we could finally go home, the Red Sox had won. Memories of those moments in time we shared together, combined with the sensations of this past week’s victory, have led me to wistfully reminisce and reflect on baseball’s significance in my life.
Great Red Sox players like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Oil Can Boyd, Roger Clemens, and many others gave my family great joy. As a kid, I got to meet many of these players, collected their baseball cards and memorabilia, and got their autographs to preserve the historic meetings between a child and his sports heroes.
I left Boston in 1993 to pursue my dreams. The following year, amidst a controversy over baseball player’s contracts and management, the players went on strike. With the strike, the players brought the entire 1994 baseball season to a grinding halt, leaving baseball fans in a very dark place.
The strike did not end until later that year and the World Series never happened. From that moment on, baseball went on a long sour pause for me while I went on with the rest of my life.
Then, with their World Series win last week, the Boston Red Sox renewed my faith in the game. I declared myself a renewed fan of baseball, and called my father at least 25 times to finally get to say, “WE WON! WE WON! WE WON!”
The year 2004 will forever remain one of my favorite in sports as the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl (sorry North Carolina fans, it was a great game) and the Boston Red Sox went on to win the first World Series in my lifetime.
But not the last.
Opening day is April 11, 2005. Appropriately, and as if by some karmic influence, the Boston Red Sox will get to raise the 2004 World Series Championship flag just before playing the New York Yankees at the season opener at Fenway Park.
Jason Kimenker and his wife are proprietors of Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro in Sylva, NC and he and his father own a Boston-based company, Baseball Antiquities, specializing in vintage baseball photographs and memorabilia. Jason can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the Smoky Mountain News. Reprinted with permission.