SI Vault
Jonathan Schwartz
February 26, 1979
A Red Sox fan, so devoted he has listened to their games over the phone in Paris, recounts the glittering glory and the chilling finale of last fall's New York-Boston playoff
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February 26, 1979

A Day Of Light And Shadows

A Red Sox fan, so devoted he has listened to their games over the phone in Paris, recounts the glittering glory and the chilling finale of last fall's New York-Boston playoff

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Munson was hitting. Around the batting cage were the faces of the New York press, and those of some Boston writers I had gotten to know through the years. One of the Boston writers told me that moments earlier, in the clubhouse, Carl Yastrzemski had confided that he was "damned scared." A New York broadcaster, who was there only for the pleasure of it, said to me somewhat confidentially, "This is a gala occasion."

Always, when I think of baseball games that have been played, I see them as if they had taken place in the light of day. I have spent a lot of time mentally reshuffling two-hitters and leaping catches that occurred at 10 or 11 in the evening, so that they return to me grandly in afternoon sunshine. The fact that baseball is part of my daily procedure, like getting up for work or eating lunch, inspires me to conjure up sunlight for its illumination.

Forty-five minutes before the 2:30 start, I realized as I looked around the park that in all my years of journeying to Fenway, on all the summer afternoons spent peacefully in the many corners of the stadium, I had never experienced a day of such clarity, of such gentleness. Fluffy cirrus clouds appeared to have arrived by appointment. The temperature of 68� was unaccompanied by even the slightest trace of wind, which made the day seem 10� warmer than it was. For such a majestic encounter there had been provided, despite a less-than-optimistic forecast the night before, a shimmering neutral Monday, as if God, recognizing the moment, had made some hasty last-minute adjustments. It was the afternoon of my imagination, the handpicked sunlit hours during which my perpetual baseball game had always been played.

After a while I made my way up to the press room, which is on the roof of the stadium, behind the press box and the three enclosed rows of seats that stretch down both foul lines. They had been desirable seats to me as a child, because they allowed easy access to foul balls. One had only to lurk in the doorway of one of those roof boxes and await the inevitable. Other lurkers in other doorways were the competition—kids my age, ready to spring into action.

"Here it comes!"

We were off. Under or over a green railing (now red). Across the roof to the brick wall. A slide, a leap, a grapple. A major league baseball in your pocket; if not this time, the next. You always had a shot at getting one on that roof. If I competed 50 times, and surely that is a conservative guess, I emerged from my adolescence with at least 15 souvenirs—and one chipped tooth (the railing).

Before entering the press room, I looked around for a moment. I could see myself outside doorway 25-27 wearing a Red Sox cap. Oh, how quiet it had been when I raced across the top of Fenway Park—just those other feet and the whistling wind shooing me ever so gradually through the years to this very afternoon, to this very press room that I had aspired to for so long, to the tepid piece of ham and half a ring of pineapple that I would be served, to the unexpected sight of Phil Rizzuto making his way toward my table.

"You huckleberry," he said to me with a smile. "I heard what you said."

The morning before, on my radio program in New York, I had spoken harshly of Rizzuto's announcing. "He is shrill," I had said, which is true. He roots in an unfair and unacceptable way for the Yankees," which is true.

"I heard you," Rizzuto repeated, extending his hand. "You got a nice calm show. I like it," he continued, surprising me.

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