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Last Day at Fenway Park

Last Day at Fenway Park
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The crowd roared anew, and a thought sprang loose in my mind — my God, this could happen. I was suddenly assaulted with mixed feelings. Could I handle winning? Had I become so adept at rationalizing close-but-no-cigar, so comfortable with second-guessing and speculating, that I didn’t in my heart of hearts want anything else? Did I want it to end cleanly and honorably right now so that I would not have to face the pressures of a stake in the Series? I was, after all, the one who missed Fisk’s legendary foul-pole home run in 1975 because I had gone to bed, unable to endure the tension.

On the mound Gossage was looking for his sign.

And then another random thought:

“Bobby Thomson.” He of the 1951 playoff-winning homer for the New York Giants. I had always envied Giants fans the eternal ecstasy of that moment, had run through many a daydream of something like it in Fenway one day. Now the day was here and I was thinking, “No thanks”?

I looked out at Paul Blair in center, waiting, and pictured Yaz ramming one over his outstretched glove. Remy would be flying around the bases for the winning run, I would be pounding on Bill, he would be pounding on me, and the general eruption would make the ’67 homer seem like afternoon tea at the Copley.

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.

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