Red Sox Rites and Rituals

SPORTS

Wide-eyed and eager, we visited Fenway Park with high aspirations of getting our reading public psyched to come down to see the World Series in Boston starting next week. In light of recent events, though, we now have more realistic goals--charging you up for regular season games starting in April.

IT'S a sunny afternoon, and you're going to Fenway Park. As soon as you get off a crowded Green Line car, the sounds and smells of the Fenway area greet you. When you emerge into Kenmore Square, the smell of roasting Italian sausages with peppers and onions wafts pungently into your nostrils.

The atmosphere is pure Boston. No McDonalds, no Bloomies here. Just brick apartment buildings, a few ethnic eateries and vendors scattered along the sidewalks.

"Red Sox caps, got your Red Sox caps here. Four dollars, or family plan--two for eight."

You walk the quarter mile to Fenway Park, the giant CITGO gas sign, a timeless monument towering over the neighborhood, behind you.

In the throng of obnoxious vendors hawking baseball cards and t-shirts, there is a ragged-looking, old Irish priest who holds out a tamborine asking for spare change.

You finally reach the park. If not for the concentration of people, you would hardly notice it. Hugged by shops on all sides and built of the same brick as its neighbors, Fenway's only giveaway is its light posts standing over the area.

Don't worry if you don't have tickets. You can get bleacher seats for $5 from the ticket office, or if the Yankees are in town, there's always a seedy looking scalper nearby eager to sell you the "best seat in the house."

"Come a little closer, come on, come on, fifth row bleachers--12 bucks, fifth row--12 bucks, let's see your cash...here you go."

Entering the gates to the 76-year-old park is like walking into baseball's past. For a moment, you are overwhelmed by memories of the greats who have graced this park. From Ruth to Williams, from Pesky to Yaz, they've all played here.

Don't forget your Fenway Frank. Glob mustard on it, and you might even forget what it's really made of and how bad it really tastes.

You walk up the ramp into the bright sunshine, and you have become a spectator of two games--one on the field and one in the seats.

"Clemens'll get a no-hitter, 15 K's today, I feel it."

"Nah, it doesn't matter. The Sox'll choke in the end anyway."

All of the sudden, you see a universe of green around you. The field is carpeted by some of the most verdant grass you've ever seen. Even the walls and seats are painted in a green hue, which anywhere else would be called putrid.