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Out of either superstition or reverence, whenever I went to a game I always liked stopping by the Pesky Pole in rightfield, named for this delightful middle infielder, knee-high to a bat rack, who was believed to have wrapped home runs around the marker and into the short porch that cleanup hitters could reach with a check swing. Granted, he only actually hit a handful down that line, but its legend somehow stuck. I'd watch Pesky—then a Red Sox instructor—being besieged for autographs by a six-year-old, and I'd see fathers telling sons about the Pole, and my faith in the circle of life would somehow be reaffirmed.
EXPERIENCING A CLASSIC
By Sarah Kwak
IT WAS 39.6°, BUT THE AIR IN FENWAY Park smelled like a June afternoon. The smoky scent of ballpark franks on the grill, the salty aroma of melted cheese and deep-fried food—so unmistakably summer—felt at odds with the mass of people bundled up in layers and warm knit hats. On the first day of 2010 Fenway opened its doors to a different game.
Two days before the Bruins hosted the Flyers in the NHL's annual Winter Classic, I made the most of my first visit to Fenway by taking a guided tour of the ballpark. The visit led off strong: Our first stop was the Green Monster. Inside the dark and cramped corridor I peered out from the small slit in the wall, seeing the field the way the scoreboard operator sees it—only what I was seeing was blanketed in white. (I stood in awe before realizing I might well have been standing in a Manny Ramirez freeze-dried urine stain. A gross thought and yet, also kind of cool.)
The next day, when Bruins captain Zdeno Chara ambled out of the Red Sox dugout in skates and full gear, he and his teammates were greeted by a faint snow shower overhead. They practiced—sort of—on the makeshift ice rink constructed over the infield. This was a day, in the midst of an 82-game schedule, during which each player cavorted like a kid.
"Yeah, even [Mark] Recchi," Boston center David Krejci quipped about his 41-year-old teammate.
When the snow piled up in the corners, a handful of Bruins traded hockey sticks for shovels, morphing from pro athletes to bladed snowplows, a bit of nostalgia for those who used to shovel out rinks on their backyard ponds. And after the teams finished practice, the players skated with their families, snapping pictures with the Monster—adorned with Bruins and Flyers logos—serving as the unlikely backdrop.
Less than 24 hours later the stands were packed (38,112 turned out), and for about three hours, it seemed that no one actually sat in the old red wooden seats of the lower level. The hockey itself wasn't pretty—pristine passes were rare on the choppy ice—but the atmosphere was dazzling. I roamed the stadium between periods, chatting with rosy-cheeked fans who clutched beers with gloved hands. They celebrated each hit and an early fight, and though the Flyers scored first, the Bruins then gave their fans reason to cheer. Recchi tied the game with less than three minutes left in regulation, and just two minutes into overtime Marco Sturm tipped in a pass from Patrice Bergeron to win the game. Fenway erupted. In the dead of winter there seemed no place more alive.