All-Star Game countdown
Posted: Tuesday July 13, 1999 07:55 PM
CNNSI.com's Bryan Boyle is on-site in Boston. He filed his impressions of the atmosphere at Fenway Park during the hours leading up to the All-Star Game.
OUT IN LEFT FIELD - The phrase originated in describing the misfortune of fans situated in the wrong field to catch Babe Ruth roaming right field, as well as the Bambino's longball souvenirs.
Speaking of flights, Fenway's air-traffic control must be having fits. Propeller planes drag banners for Lids.com, Giants Glass, The Boston Globe,, Lycos.com, Captain Morgan, Fleet and Executive Pampering Exotic Dancing. There are also four blimps: Tommy Hilfiger, Goodyear, Monster.com and Budweiser. They're orbiting in the direction of a sound baserunner.
Everybody's settling in, filling out All-Century Team ballots, and awaiting perhaps the last truly great moment in the history of antiquated, beloved Fenway Park.
MAIN CONCOURSE -- Trying to cover ground from section to section has turned physical.
The narrow corridors have some folks muttering wistfully about amenities in the new ballpark come 2003. There's more cradling -- of beers, that is -- to put any regulation lacrosse match to shame.
BEHIND THE BATTING CAGE -- It's the NL's turn in the batting cage.
The Expos' Vladimir Guerrero delivers the loudest pop. The Braves' Brian Jordan delivers foul after foul. The Phillies' Mike Lieberthal delivers two balls onto Lansdowne Street. The Marlins' Alex Gonzalez delivers one as well. Each swing is broadcast on the big screen over the center field bleachers.
Jeromy Burnitz and Jeff Bagwell lean on their bats and chew the fat, and I just noticed for the first time the components of the All-Star logo on the left side of players' caps. Stiched in the wool is the player's number, the word All-Star and a replica signature.
Incidentally, Bagwell has less than impeccable penmanship.
As I'm off, the announcement for Mark McGwire's batting practice stops me in my tracks. No homers in five swings. Sammy Sosa follows and puts two over the center-field fence. Each receives three games' worth of applause -- in Montreal.
YAWKEY WAY - A signature of any major event: cops on horseback. Boston's finest have little to worry about, however. There hasn't been a disturbance nevertheless an arrest as far as I know.
Down the Way is Sports Illustrated writer Leigh Montville. Minus the press pass, Montville looks like he's here to enjoy the event rather than cover it.
Can't help but wonder what his "Viewpoint" might be on the vendors' vanishment from the very same street [see below].
BEHIND THE BATTING CAGE -- During the American League batting practice, AL manager Joe Torre and NL manager Bruce Bochy lean against the back of the cage swapping stories.
The Yankees' Derek Jeter hustles into the cage. Swing and a miss. Screamer up the middle. Fly ball to center. Fly to left. Fly to center. ... And out.
The Twins' Ron Coomer replaces Jeter. Homer over the Green Monster. Liner to right-center. Liner to left-center. Another liner to right-center. Again to right-center.
The routine is easy to pick up. Jump in take five swings. Jump out.
Jeter pops back in the cage. One swing and out.
Coomer returns for a swing. Now he's out. Same for Jaha and, finally, Ausmus.
Torre has turned from Bochy to Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci. It's not so much an interview as it is a discussion. Verducci keeps his media guide and notebooks clasped behind his back while the two talk back and forth.
A very tan ESPN anchor Chris Berman looms on the periphery for his "in." Torre finally notices, and Berman casually enters the discussion.
Braves pitcher Kevin Millwood passes by and bumps into a familiar face. Discussion quickly turns to this year's All-Star uniforms, made distinct by team and player names that read top-to-bottom.
"I like them. They're different," Millwood says with a shrug. "And I got mine signed by everybody."
Just as Millwood makes the final comment, a man in his mid-40s approaches, pen and ball in hand.
"Mr. Millwood, would you sign?"
How could he say no.
Then, no. It can't be. The Fox Sports magnetism strikes again [see below].
I open a door for Howie Long.
IN PASSING -- Somebody asks ESPN's Charlie Steiner how he's doing.
"Ugh!" Steiner replies. "Ready for my All-Star break."
PERIMETER OF FENWAY PARK -- A walk outside the park and it's clearly noticeable: There are a lot more people on the adjacent streets than Monday. But there's a lot more room, too.
The proper authorities finally cracked down on All-Star Game Day. Only the official vendors are on the sidewalks, making the official All-Star program all the easier to find.
Meanwhile, what vendors remain have squeezed onto the sidewalk opposite Fenway Park -- and then some. Situating themselves just off the sidewalk -- and onto private property -- keeps some vendors on Yawkey Way in business.
Meanwhile, on Lansdowne Street, there's only one vendor, perched precariously on a ledge attached to an underground parking garage.
"It's been a long struggle with the Red Sox and the vendors," says David Littlefield, a.k.a. The Sausage Guy, who's been serving sausage for three years on Lansdowne. "There are a lot of people making a living as vendors for 20, 30, 40 years. But they've [Red Sox] drawn the line between greed and need."
The Sausage Guy pauses to flip links on the grill.
"The overall agreement for this year was to move all the vendors from Lansdowne to Yawkey. It was a 'compromise.' A 'public safety issue.'
"I hate to see what's going on. We're the fiber of the country, fiber of the city. It's a way of life for a lot of people.
"Like fans vote for the All-Stars, the Boston people should vote 'yea' or 'nay' for the vendors."
Then he sighs.
"But, I understand the principle of economics. ..."
So does Uncle Sam, who's on Yawkey with a sign that reads: "America's Favorite Uncle Needs a Ticket. Please."
MAIN CONCOURSE -- It's the calm before the storm. The gates open to the public in 10 minutes.
Vendors scoop popcorn and tap kegs. Ticket-takers peel open boxes of complementary programs. The media pick through boxed lunches in the press box. And ... what's this! I'm a Fox Sports personality magnet [see below].
Fox Sports broadcasters Kevin Kennedy, Steve Sax and Steve Lyons stroll opposite me.
SECTION 34, ROW 7, SEAT 1 -- Nestled against green brick in the seat directly to the left of the tower of speakers in the center-field bleachers, the view is equally obstructed and gorgeous.
Last night in the Home Run Derby, Mark McGwire reached the wall just above these speakers. It's one thing to see it go. It's another to be where it went. I can't even see home plate without squinting.
On the long walk through the concourse, the breeze of a purposeful walk swept by my ear. Fox Sports very own Jim Rome!
"Romey" is off to the races in a dark suit, sunglasses, a briefcase in one hand and a periwinkle jacket in the other.
Emerging for a quick look outside the park, I notice a small crew working on the grass in center field. Actually, these fellas are painting the grass. Double take. Yep. They're painting the grass green with 6-foot rollers.
SECTION 20, ROW 18, SEAT 20 -- Camped momentarily on the furthest row back directly behind home plate.
The clouds have opened and sun drowns the field at Fenway Park just one hour after rain threatened and one hour before the gates open to the public.
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