THE OLD-TOWN TEAM
Life is different here during the summers. The college kids go home, it’s almost possible to get a parking spot and the Cape beckons. The Red Sox are the soundtrack to those warm, carefree months. From bars to boardrooms, the ballclub’s fortunes are always a topic of conversation, with a downtown ballpark serving as our town hall.
Every generation has a moment to call its own, and those moments have been passed down from one to the next, creating a common language of memories and experiences. The old-timers have Ted Williams. The Impossible Dream season of 1967 was our summer of love, and characters like El Tiante and the Spaceman became counterculture heroes. We were on a first-name basis with Nomar and Pedro as the new millennium dawned, and there has never been anything that electrified the city like when the great Pedro Martinez pitched. Always and forever, we have the Idiots.
I was 10 years old when I went to my first game at Fenway Park in 1984 — Dwight Evans hit for the cycle — and I can tell you without looking it up that a California Angels pitcher named Jack Hamilton crushed Tony Conigliaro’s face and countless dreams with a fastball in 1967. Don Zimmer wrecked my childhood when he refused to pitch Bill Lee in 1978. And no, we still don’t want to talk about Bill Buckner.
For years, the Sox were defined by their tragedies. Some called it a curse, although that bit of dime-store mysticism conveniently covered up the fact that they were poorly run. They didn’t need an exorcism so much as competent management and a reliable reliever.
That all changed during one cathartic October in 2004, and for that we are eternally grateful. The Sox won again three years later, and now we’re faced with an entirely different dilemma: How do we root for a team that we expect, if not outright demand, to win championships each and every year? (We got our answer this fall.)
The team put seats on top of the Green Monster and turned the seedy area around Fenway into a family-friendly theme park of sorts. Red Sox fandom was once a select club of knowing references. Now you can buy a membership to something called Red Sox Nation, which seems unnecessarily redundant. Through all the change — both real and cosmetic — the Sox endure, marking the time from one summer to the next.