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Nothing is too good for the Boston fan.
I don't think you can trade a Fisk, a Jimmy Rice, a Fred Lynn, a Carl Yastrzemski or a Rick Burleson. When you trade key men like that, you are just defeating your own purpose.
At approximately 11 a.m. on April 10, Carlton Fisk arrived at Fenway Park, just as he had nine times before on Opening Day. This time, however, his 9-year-old son, Casey, had to show him the way to the visiting team's clubhouse. Casey's father, you see, was now a member of the Chicago White Sox.
A crowd of 35,124, the Red Sox' second largest for an Opening Day, was on hand that beautiful afternoon. One of the reasons they came was curiosity: Fisk, Burleson, Lynn and Butch Hobson had been replaced by Gary (Mugsy) Allen-son, Glenn Hoffman, Rick Miller and Carney Lansford. Outside on Yawkey Way, a vendor was hawking bumper stickers that read HAYWOOD AND BUDDY ARE KILLING THE SOX.
When Fisk was introduced, the boos took an early lead, but finally surrendered to cheers. Pudge may be No. 72 in the program but he's still No. 27 in the hearts of Boston fans. Then Ed Hoffman, the new shortstop's dad and an usher at Anaheim Stadium, showed more range than his son in singing the national anthem. Having declared this The Year of the Fan, the Red Sox chose waitress Eleanor (Stoney) Stone of Holyoke, Mass. to throw out the first ball. Mrs. Stone is a lifelong Red Sox supporter who remembers Jim (Rawhide) Tabor hitting a home run on the occasion of her first date with the man who became her husband of 34 years, Richard. Mrs. Stone was an appropriate choice for another reason: she brought nine children, eight grandchildren and four busloads of neighbors along with her. Although she had teasingly threatened to throw the first ball to Pudge Fisk, at the moment of truth she pegged it to Mugsy Allenson.
Mrs. Stone didn't like it when the fans booed Fisk. "I thought it was terrible," she said. But her 28-year-old daughter Debbie proudly announced. "I booed him. If those guys wanted to be here, they could still be here." In the seventh, Mugsy hit a solo homer to pad the Red Sox' lead to 2-0, and Debbie shouted, "Let Pudge eat that. He called the pitch." But when Fisk hit a dramatic three-run homer in the eighth to put the White Sox ahead, the Stones didn't know what to do, and neither did the fans. The crowd stood, but it wasn't an ovation in the traditional sense. It was more like a standing mortification.
After the game, the press mobbed Fisk in the visiting quarters, so he had to hold an impromptu press conference in a storage room. "It's always nice to beat your own team," he said. Casey unbuckled his father's shin guards. (Eight days later Fisk would beat the Red Sox again with a home run.)
Is it any wonder, then, that schizophrenia is rampant in Boston? The fans don't know whether the Sox are being unraveled or darned, they don't know if Visible Owners Haywood Sullivan and Buddy LeRoux should be pilloried or praised, and they don't know if this is 1920, the year Babe Ruth left, or 1967, the year four new guys broke into the starting lineup and begat the Impossible Dream. On the one hand, the team has just lost three bona fide heroes, and with a 7-12 record at week's end, it was struggling to stay out of last place. On the other, hope springs eternal in the heart of a Red Sox fan. "We're not as bad as we've been playing lately," says Dave Massey, whose clear perspective on the situation comes from his vantage point in the leftfield scoreboard where he posts the inning scores. "We're going to finish with a winning record. The hitting hasn't been that bad. We just need to work a little on the pitching."
Harry Frazee was right about one thing. Nothing is too good for the Boston fan. The Yankees belong to George Steinbrenner, and the Dodgers belong to Manifest Destiny, but the Red Sox, more than any other team, belong to the fans. Not just fans in Boston and Massachusetts but fans all over New England. Sullivan, who concentrates on player personnel matters, and LeRoux, who handles the business end. sometimes forget this, and that's a bigger sin than forgetting mailing deadlines.
There are basically three types of Red Sox fans. Eleanor Stone represents the majority, who have lovingly suffered since 1918, the year of the last world championship. Then there are the literati and intelligentsia, who have made the Red Sox one of the few truly national teams. Enough maudlin muck has been written in the name of The Wall and Teddy Ballgame to fill the Harvard library. And finally there are the yahoos, who aren't displeased that Boston was the last major league baseball team to integrate and has only one black player, Jim Rice, today.