It was 25 years ago today that Yours Truly stepped foot into the Hallowed Grounds that is Fenway Park for the very first time.
Dates always stick with me, especially important dates like this one. 1986 was a very different time, and I got the tickets to that day's game in a way you couldn't get them today.
I worked at the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village at the time, and we had the ticket service known as Ticketron (later to become Ticketmaster). And back then you could buy tickets to events even outside the New York area that were also sold by Ticketron. And that's how I did it. Looked at the Red Sox schedule in late April and selected May 20 and 21 and bought the tickets right then and there. (Neither game was close to a sellout, so there were no problems there.)
It was a Tuesday and Wednesday night, games against the Minnesota Twins. And the first game was a great pitching matchup: Roger Clemens (who had set the MLB record of 20 strikeouts in a game three weeks earlier) against future Red Sox hurler Frank Viola. I sat between home and first base about midway up. I couldn't believe how great the seats were, and I'll never forget the feeling of coming down the runway for the very first time and seeing the Green Monster live and in person. It was a transcendental experience to be sure.
The first batter I saw at the plate that night was a future Hall of Famer, the great Kirby Puckett. Yes, he was a leadoff batter back then. (And if the Texas Con Man wasn't stupid enough to take the roids, I could say the first matchup I ever saw at Fenway was two future Hall of Famers.) He flied out to right.
The Sox came out smoking against Viola. The first six men who came to bat all reached base, and all scored. Viola was gone before he ever got an out, the worst outing of his MLB career.
It was basically a comfortable night for Clemens and the Sox. Clemens wasn't sharp, and allowed home runs to Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne (they were both blasts over the Monster, especially the one hit by Gaetti). It was 13-5 Red Sox by the time he departed after seven innings.
I'll never forget the booing by the 20,000+ Sox fans that Bob Stanley received when entered in the 8th. And then he allowed a two-run shot to Gaetti for his second HR of the night (and the Fenway Faithful really let him have it).
But my most vivid memory of the night was when Wade Boggs came up in the 7th with the bases loaded and the Red Sox leading 15-5. He was 5-for-5 on the night and another would tie the record for hits in a nine-inning game. And Boggs hit a hard grounder to first that went right through first baseman Mickey Hatcher's legs and scored the final two runs for the Red Sox on the night. And when an "E-3" went up on the scoreboard, the whole park booed resoundly. But it was an error and Boggs was denied immortality. The final score: 17-7.
I took a good look at the Baseball-Reference boxscore of the game, and a few observations on my first Fenway game:
-Kirby Puckett left the game after the game was put on ice, and who replaced him in center? Current Oakland A's GM Billy Beane.
-Red Sox catcher that night was the immortal Marc Sullivan. The onetime owner's son, who couldn't hit his hat size, had three hits that night.
-The mopup man that night for the Twins was former Yankee hurler and father of Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Ron Davis.
-There were three future Red Sox players in the Twins' lineup that night: Viola, Gaetti and Tom Brunansky.
-The Twins played brutal defense, and made five errors. Only two of the 17 runs were unearned.
-The Twins had one future manager on their roster who did not play that night: current Rangers skipper Ron Washington.
-The Red Sox were two games up on the Yankees in the AL East going into that game. New York lost to Oakland that night. The Red Sox would hold first place the rest of 1986.
It was quite a memorable night that night. The next night the Red Sox won, 3-2, and I sat through 3 hours worth of rain delays, with the final pitch thrown just after 1 AM. I sat behind the Red Sox dugout with about 200 other fans who stayed until the very end that night.
I can't believe 25 years could go by so fast.