BOSTON—At this point, I’m beginning to feel more than a little bit guilty.
I’m a Yankee fan. I’m telling you this in the interest of full disclosure. I go to The Stadium in June, July, and August with my friends from high school. We eat Big Mac value meals that we buy from the McDonald’s across River Ave. and sneak them deftly into the left-field bleachers. I happen to believe Derek Jeter—to the dismay of most of the readers of this column, apparently—is indeed “clutch,” and I once incurred lewd hand-gesturing from Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells.
And it is today, with all this sitting in my mind, that I feel horrible.
I feel horrible because as I begin to write this, I’m reclining in the press box of Fenway Park.
No, it’s not that I can’t stand this “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark,” as our own John Updike ’54 so famously stated. It’s not that I can’t bear sitting here and gazing over at the sunlit Green Monster, whose seats security just kicked me out of and whose board shows Boston tied for first.
It’s that I’m actually enjoying sitting here and taking it all in.
Like...yeah, like some kind of Red Sox fan.
There is, simply intuitively, something abhorrent about enjoying your place at the dining table of a family you typically loathe and insult. About seeing literally every hallway plastered with every Sports Illustrated and newspaper cover about winning the World Series and beating your team and somehow, not immediately feeling disgust. About not having the urge to “set the entire building on fire” until someone actually called me up to recommend that.
What exactly is wrong with me? I don’t know.
The thing is, this isn’t the first time, either.
In 2004, fellow baseball beat writer Alex McPhillips and I got to come to this very stadium to watch Trey Hendricks ’04 and senior Mike Morgalis pitch batting practice to a then-injured, then-beloved, and then-Bostonian Nomar Garciaparra.
Press passes dangling, we set foot on the field and talked to Trey and Mike. Cool enough.
But we also bummed around in the Boston dugout. We finagled a way to stay on the field for as long as possible, watching the Red Sox and A’s take batting and fielding practice before that night’s game, and witnessed the incomparable spectacle that is Manny Ramirez bare-handing groundballs at third base. We also, inexplicably, managed a way to stay for the whole game.
Most memorably, we walked down to the Sox locker room, right into the den of the now-mythic gaggle of “idiots,” and everywhere we turned, there was someone I’d once resisted drafting in fantasy baseball. Alex and I interviewed Nomar, Johnny Damon, Ellis Burks. We watched Pokey Reese bizarrely play a hunting video game on Xbox with the help of Alan Embree.
Today, I am reminded of all of that—of shaking hands with the Red Sox and being reduced, in a big way, to a little Boston fan who can’t get over the fact that he shook hands with his heroes.
My conscience pinches me again at Fenway. Last time, I made the decision to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the Yankee logo underneath my collared shirt. A silent, semi-courteous protest.
This time I did no such thing.
But before everyone who knows me jumps on my back: The Stadium, for what it’s worth, is still my favorite ballpark, and possibly my favorite piece of architecture in the world. The Yankees remain my team, no doubt, and when I watch television, I curse every Red Sock I see.
But when I saw Northeastern catcher Dan Milano slam a reality-defying home run right into Fenway’s Coke Bottle today—almost 30 feet above the Monster—my jaw drops and I wonder why Yankee Stadium can’t have some crazy feature like that.
I genuinely agree that there’s something special about this place.
Unable to finish this very column in the cushy press box, complete with windows my fellow writers wouldn’t let me open, I ambled down to the field after the eventual Harvard victory and sought out maybe the only other person who might know how to resolve my moral dilemma.
Junior Frank Herrmann, a Rutherford, N.J. native, came in to pitch the ninth inning of the game to prepare for the Ivy series against Brown this weekend.
Herrmann stood on the field and induced the final out as The Standells’ “Dirty Water” played over the loudspeakers, just as it does after every Boston win.
But Herrmann, you see—like myself—is an ardent, outspoken Yankee fan.
So how does he resolve the conflict?
“The Yankees have won so many big games on this field, that’s why it’s special for me to be here,” Herrmann said, grinning widely. “I’ve seen some sad faces here before, so it was actually good for a Yankee fan to come here and beat a Boston team, like [the Yankees] do, year in and year out.”
Moral crisis averted.
—Staff writer Pablo S. Torre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on alternate Fridays.