For Christmas this year, my family gave me a ticket to see the Winter Classic, a hockey game being held at Fenway Park between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. My initial reaction was jubilation — the thought of seeing my favorite team in such a classic setting was heart-stirring.
My second reaction was fear. We had been in the grips of a cold spell, and I feared being discovered frozen in my seat by the guys cleaning up the empty beer cups at the end of the game. Fortunately, my fear was shared by my family, and for Christmas I got a nice warm Bruins stocking cap and a pair of long johns, and I layered up nicely; and I was going with three strapping lads, my son, Spike Currier, and two of his friends, Alex Fletcher and Elliott Tholen, who had been given explicit instructions to bring the old man back alive.
One of the main attractions was the novelty of seeing the game played out in the open air, pond hockey style, but it occurred to me that this wasn’t the only time that I’d seen Fenway used out of context. I never saw U2 or the Stones, or any of the other great musical events, at Fenway, but I’m probably one of the few people around who can claim to have seen the Patriots play at Fenway as well.
It was back in 1963, on another freezing cold December day that I saw the Boston Patriots (pre– New England Patriots) beat the Buffalo Bills in a come-from-behind victory led by Patriots’ quarterback Babe Parilli.
While it was interesting to think of Fenway out of the context of baseball, my first trip there couldn’t have been more in the baseball context. While I was still in grade school, my parents took me to see the Red Sox play the New York Yankees! On the mound for the Yankees was none other than Whitey Ford, throwing to catcher Yogi Berra. And Mickey was in centerfield. Not to be outdone by Ted Williams in left field for the Sox.
What an introduction that was to Fenway Park, although nothing could totally prepare me for the time I met Ted Williams in person. Not long after seeing that epic Yankees game, my next-door neighbor learned that Ted Williams was going to speak at a nearby country club, and would I like to go see him? I sat attentively while Williams made his remarks and when he was done, he sat down at a table not far from our table and my neighbor asked me if I wanted to ask him for his autograph. My neighbor gave me a pen and a cocktail napkin, and instructed me to “go get him.”
I approached Williams and sheepishly asked him if I could have his autograph. And to this day I’ll never forget his reply: “Jesus, kid … What the hell?” The pen had leaked, covering the cocktail napkin and Ted’s hands with ink. What had started out to be a trophy turned out to be an inky mess.
Fortunately, there was no such an unexpected surprise at the Winter Classic. My first impression after getting out of the car in Kenmore Square, was as I looked up Commonwealth Ave., and as far as I could see, there was an endless procession of people wearing Bruins black-and-gold sweaters. That alone was mighty inspiring. As for the game … the home team won a tightly contested game, 2-1. I got to see Bobby Orr drop the ceremonial first puck. And Keith Lockhart conducted the Boston Pops. And if there was anything that approached a Ted Williams’ ink-leak moment, it was when the stadium ran out of food during the second period. My advice: If you’re going to sell hot dogs for $17 a pop, you might want to have some backup on hand.
But all in all, it was a fantastic — make that a historic — day, and thanks to my son, Elliott, and Fletch for getting the old man home with not so much as a trace of frostbite. What a day.