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Last Day at Fenway Park

Last Day at Fenway Park
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I decided, with an exhaled heave of breath, I could take a stab at living with victory.

Gossage set and fired again. Yastrzemski uncoiled a full swing, and I could not see where the ball had gone. Then I saw Gossage jumping up and down on the mound and beyond him third baseman Nettles backpedaling.

“I was thinking,” Bill said in a darkened Brattleboro, Vermont, bar months later, “I was thinking I saw Brooks Robinson drop one just like that in 1970.”

But Nettles did not, and within seconds the tableau between batter and pitcher had dissolved into a swarm of joyful Yankees near third base, the cheers of Yankee fans echoing thinly around the park, while the rest of us were abruptly gagged.

John Kiley started playing the organ, and with that cue the park emptied quickly. It was as though you had pulled the plug on something. Bill and I stayed put, staring at the people bunched up in the aisles and past them at the line of ushers and cops around the perimeter of the field, unaccountably guarding against an invasion of jubilant fans.

I started filling out my scorecard box score methodically, deliberately totaling the at-bats, runs, hits, and RBI’s trying to make the statistics a cushion against all else.

The score came out the same every way I added it.

Finally the ushers started moving in on the stragglers, and Bill and I got up slowly and headed for the exit. I went down the ramp and away from the 1978 season without the usual last, lingering look. I knew I already had the vision that would stay with me.

It was the frozen twilight moment as Yaz walked to the plate through the gathering din, the sudden collision of all memory and hope, the confrontation cementing the game’s place as a classic, the setting from which I would spin my dreams of different endings.

Outside Fenway the day had lost most of its sparkle. Commuter and ballgame traffic had met and snarled. The smell of exhaust and the blasts of horns were rising to meet the first leaves falling from the trees along Park Drive.

Bill finally spoke.

“It was the best game I ever saw,” he said.

“The best,” I said.

There was nothing else to add, and we walked along in silence.

I was wondering why Remy’s hit had to bounce to the blinded Piniella, neat as you please. I was wondering why storybook endings hardly ever happen outside storybooks.

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