I did not, of course, see Archie “Moonlight” Graham or hear from him the night I was there. But it seemed I could feel his presence.
Or maybe that was the ghost of Carlton Fisk, or Johnny Pesky. Or Babe Ruth.
Or perhaps the spirit of Buddy Wilson.
As I spied the familiar Citgo sign high in the sky, I knew I was standing on hallowed ground. The aura of the place was immense. And immediate.
It was June 24, 2019, an otherwise regular day, with the ho-hum Chicago White Sox in town to begin a three-game baseball series against the world champion Boston Red Sox. Myself and 36,000 others (37,731 capacity) were there on a perfect summer evening.
Who the heck fills a ballpark on a Monday in June, against the paltry Chisox?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Boston Red Sox can. And I know why.
It’s that stadium - the iconic, larger-than-life Fenway Park.
More than 100 years old, this historic facility is a national treasure if there’s ever been one. Dozens and dozens of stadiums across the country have come and gone since 1912, but legendary Fenway still stands tall.
And it still looks brand new, too. Like a post card.
There’s no place like it. No way.
The nooks, the crannies, the quirks, the grandstand … that Green Monster ... the guy inside that 37-foot tall Monster, changing all those scoreboard numbers by hand. Like the olden days.
The Babe played there, largely as a Red Sox pitcher, just before Prohibition.
And now I’m there, at this perfect place I’d seen on television my entire life. A hundred times.
I had no idea what was about to happen ...
Heck, I’m a rare-for-these-parts Minnesota Twins fan who came to love the game in the mid-60s through my dad, Buddy Wilson. He was a Twins fan, so I became one when I was 7 or 8 years old. We loved Harmon Killebrew.
I’ve gotten to see my Twins play in person a few times (at four different venues) and it’s always special, but this scene was just different.
This was, well, this was Fenway Park … Yaz, Tony C, Big Papi, Rice, Boggs ... the Splendid Splinter, for gosh sakes.
My father died a young man, back in July 1975 - the same year Carlton Fisk cleared the Green Monster with the most famous home run in Red Sox history. I was 17, Dad only 42.
I’ve missed him a lot the last 44 years, ‘specially since becoming a dad myself.
Accompanying me on this evening was the youngest of my two daughters, a bit of a sports fan who dreamed up this jaunt to New England in the first place. She’s getting married next May, so this was a final trip before she (sorta) replaces her old man with a new one.
My wife of 28 years was there, too. Hardly a fan, she just likes to go and enjoy entertainment such as this, particularly with loved ones. She’s a really good sport.
So there I was, at a most-sacred and beautiful playground, to witness a game I’d loved my whole life ... seeing that Green Monster and that old-school scoreboard ... my wife and my baby girl by my side ... memories of my dad and the sport he taught me, racing through my head and my heart ... thoughts of my recently deceased mom ... realizing that I - at age 61 - was closer than ever to my own, inevitable mortality ...
And I cried. No, I didn’t boo-hoo, but as I took it all in, I cried.
It just kinda washed all over me. My arms tingled.
I thought of the speech James Earl Jones had given in “Field Of Dreams,” where he said that baseball had been America’s one unfailing constant through the years …
My out-of-nowhere, emotional moment was not planned - it just happened.
As if it came from the very depths of my soul.
Which it no doubt did.
I told some of my friends about it, and one in particular filled in the blanks.
“A lifetime of emotions poured out of you, as you connected all of the dots of your life,” my wise, old(er) friend mused.
Seems my pal nailed it.
“Yeah, he gets it,” surmised another (younger) buddy, fashionably adding, “He’s spot-on.”
They both were spot-on. My women understood, too.
And, surely, Moonlight Graham would have as well.