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Home » July 2009 Game CommentsJuly 2009 » Retire


Game 99: July 28, 2009 ∙ 11 innings
W: Craig Breslow (4-4)
S: Andrew Bailey (12)
42-57, 1 game winning streak
Red Sox8
H: Ramon Ramirez (9)
H: Daniel Bard (4)
BS: Jonathan Papelbon (3)
L: Manny Delcarmen (2-2)
58-41, 1 game losing streak
Highlights: During batting practice, Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor played “My Funny Valentine” and “Eight Days a Week.” I failed to note every retired number-related song performed as I got caught up soaking up the pre-game atmosphere. Number 14 jerseys, t-shirts, and caps abounded. Every few seconds fans would catch each others’ eyes and smile because we all knew that we were sharing history.

I arrived at Fenway about three hours before the gates opened to take advantage of my Red Sox Nation benefit of hanging out in the Monster seats and failing to catch a home run ball. A crimson curtain hung over Jim Rice’s 14 on the right field roof, but like a kid cheating at hide-and-seek I caught a glimpse of that honored number.

Nick Green jostled with a teammate in center to catch fly balls as expletive-laden songs echoed through the park. Sound booth standards are lenient when the home team takes batting practice.

I preoccupied myself with trying to identify players by body type since the majority of them had their warm-up togs on. It took me a while but I eventually I noticed the 14 mowed in the left field turf, which was upside-down from the heights of the left field wall. I vowed to get to the left field pavilion at some point to take a picture of that sacred half-acre rightside-up.

Fenway security guards made their rounds to clear the area of Red Sox Nation members. Just as two women left their perches a home run off the bat of David Ortiz rattled into their seats.

I made my way to the stairs to the left field seats fully intending to go to my assigned spot, but the pavilion beckoned. I had to wait for a guided tour to descend the steps of the pavilion and made my way unaccosted to the major soft drink pavilion. The only other souls in the area were a few security guards who turned a blind eye to my incursion. I snapped a few photos and then swam through the humidity down to my seat.

Section 163, row BB, seat 9. Two seats away from the last seat in my row in the first (last?) section in left. There were white seats arrayed near home plate and I thought that I would be too far from the ceremony to get any good pictures.

I saw a boy and his father wearing matching t-shirts. “Two Legends” read the caption above a bald boy and a beaming Rice. The boy now had a full head of hair and was a few years older. He and his father went to Cooperstown to see their hero inducted and made it back in time to get a ticket for the ceremony and the game. I somehow managed not to cry. I didn’t need to see the celebration up close to feel in my heart and soul how Rice touched others not just as a baseball player but as a person.

Then I saw a cameraman and his assistant make their way to the left field door. They wouldn’t bother to find a 310-foot long cord unless someone important was going to come out of the door in left unless Wally is a lot more popular than I thought he was.

Carl Beane handed over the mic to Joe Castiglione and Don Orsillo. They confirmed that the Hall of Famer was going to make his entrance in the territory he guarded for 16 seasons.

Gruff. Scowling. Laconic. None of those words described the man I saw take the field, stride towards home home plate, and deliver a moving speech. As planned, a host of former coaches, teammates, and mentors were announced and took their assigned seats. Johnny Pesky had the honor of unveiling his star pupil’s retired number to the world.

Perhaps the most poignant moment was an unrehearsed instant of affection. Nomar Garciaparra was stretching in foul territory in front of the visitors’ dugout and lingered there. He and Rice embraced each other, affirming their friendship and respect as fellow Red Sox first-round draft picks and superstars. Nomar held his friend so tightly, it seemed he wanted Rice to carry him back to the dugout he called home for seven and a half years.

Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice, an unprecedented corner of history that will never be repeated.

For photographs, click here.

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