I thought I was in heaven, but it was only Fenway
As a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I have a confession to make. I am watching a lot of Boston Red Sox games of late.
My recent interest comes after one of the best days of my baseball life.
It was Tuesday, June 5. It was my first visit to Fenway Park.
It is something I will always remember.
One of the coolest things about Fenway is that you don’t know you are near it, until you are literally a block or two away. This gem of a ballpark, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is tucked away in a neighborhood west of downtown.
When I saw the sign outside of centerfield that simply said, “Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox,” I felt a rush of joy. But it was nothing like a few minutes later.
The usher took our ticket and zapped the bar code. I walked underneath in the corridor for several feet, then headed straight up the ramp behind home plate.
There it was, the green monster. It was something I had viewed on television for years.
I knew it well during the fall of 1967, when the Cardinals played the Red Sox in the World Series. In 1975, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk waved his long ball to stay fair. It hit the foul pole, and the Red Sox had won Game 6, one of the most memorable in the history of the game.
Like a kid on Christmas, I hustled down to the right field line for a real prize. My wife Robin took my picture in front of Pesky Pole. The pole was named by New Orleanian Mel Parnell for Johnny Pesky, who hit a home run down the right field line.
Thousands of signatures were on the pole. I just stared at it in amazement. If you are a baseball fan, and love the game like no other, you would understand.
As I sat in my seat down the first base side, I thought of Parnell, who passed away in March. Mel spent his entire 10-year career with the Red Sox. The lefty once won 25 games in a season. In 1956, he no-hit the Chicago White Sox. His 123 wins are still the most in franchise history by a lefthander pitcher.
Mel loved the Red Sox, and he loved Fenway Park. Now, I truly understand why.
Mel also had a sense of humor. When the Zephyrs arrived here in 1993, then Times-Picayune baseball writer Pete Barrouquere (one of the best baseball writers in the country, by the way) wrote in his story the phone number to get Zephyrs tickets.
It was perilously close to Parnell’s home phone. Pete put Parnell’s number instead. Mel chuckled, even as his phone rang countless times. And we never let Pete live down that moment.
I wish right now I could share a Fenway moment with Mel.
For years, I have heard all the stories about Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field. I have been to both. And they are both great ballparks.
But as I stood in the standing-room-only section behind home plate at Fenway, I could arrive at only one conclusion: None of the rest can hold a candle to Fenway Park.
It is baseball’s version of heaven.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarion herald.org.