Baseball Season Openers: A Look East and West Forget the Strike; Fans Turn Out Coast-to-Coast

A Day in the Stands at Fenway

Outside the park it is a carnival, a medieval fair. People mill about, shouting for people they must meet, hawkers scream prices for tickets and vendors accost passersby trying to sell buttons and hats, mock helmets and pennants, bumper stickers and plaques which proclaim. "WE LOVE NEW YORK TOO, IT'S THE YANKEES WE HATE." The crowd presses toward the stadium.

Inside, Mr. Ed Hoffman, "the singing usher" from the Angel's Anaheim Stadium and the father of Red Sox shortstop Glenn Hoffman, sings the national anthem accompanied by the muzak of the park organ. Afterwards, Mrs. Eleanor "Stoney" Stone, who the scoreboard calls "a long time Red Sox fan," a mother of nine and a grand-mother of ten, throws out the first ball to Red Sox cathcher Gary Allenson. Someone in the stands yells, "Put her in the bullpen."

Dennis Eckersley started for the Red Sox against the White Sox southpaw Britt Burns. Facing lead-off batter Ron LeFlore, Eckersley missed the strike zone on the first pitch of the season. With the count 2-1, LeFlore nailed a single to the right. Mike Squires, batting second, grounded out and the third batter, Carlton Fisk, ambled out to the plate. Immediately the stands erupted to give the former Red Sox catcher a loud standing ovation. A few fans booed. Fisk, batting against the premiere Red Sox pitcher and a man he has caught for the past three seasons, hit a bouncer to Eckersley, who routinely threw him out. Eckersley retired the side by striking out Greg Luzinski.

When Jim Rice appears at the plate for the first time, a middle-aged man wearing a beatten up leather cabbie's hat, the front unsnapped and flipped up, turns to a short bald man with horn-rimmed sunglasses next to him and says with authority, "He'll get a hit."

The bald man returns with incredulity, "Get a hit? Are you kidding? He hasn't got a hit all year."


Rice looped a single into shallow center.

For the first seven innings the game was a soporific pitchers's duel, seasoned with solo home runs by Red Sox right fielder Dewey Evans in the fifth and Allenson in the seventh, and two Red Sox errors that would be appropriate for Little League competition.

Three girls who left their junior high school early to go to the game borrow binoculars from people sitting near them and peruse the White Sox bullpen. One of them chortles, "Oh Lamarr Hoyt, he's the one I like." And then a moment later, "Ugh! He just spit. That's so disgusting."

In the bleachers it seems that no one cares about the game. First, the frisbees appear. Later, a food and garbage fight breaks out in the center field bleachers. Somehow the battle crawls across the face of the seats and culminates with fans throwing beers from the right field seats into the bleachers. Finally, the police trot up into the stands and break it up. When they leave, the fighting starts up again.

In a feat of almost cliched poetic justice, Fisk smashed Bob Stanley a pitch over the great green wall in left for a three-run homer in the top of the eighth. Fisk, many say, did not wish to leave the Red Sox. But business is business, and Fisk's hit is the game-winner, as the Red Sox lose, 5-3.

A man wearing a huge green cowboy hat made out of polystyrene and a baseball uniform with the message "SUPPORT THE JIMMY FUND" weaves through the crowd, swinging an inflated plastic bat and shaking hands.

When the game was over the Red Sox had lost, but Fenway was still very much Fenway.