My dad took me to my first Sox game when I was eight years old. He bought me a hot dog, a Coke, and a Jim Rice pin. He showed me where he used to sit when he’d wander over after classes at Northeastern. He pointed out Pesky’s Pole and the Green Monster and where he’d seen Carl Yastrzemski make one of the most amazing catches he’d seen in his life. And he kept score in the scorecard because that’s what Dad always did. And I’ve still got the goddam thing in my closet, Dad’s pencil etchings and all.
Over the years, we probably took in a hundred games together. Because that was the constant. The stability. The thing that kept me sane. I got older, got a job, a mortgage, kids of my own, booze-induced ulcers and let’s not forget that brief foray into porn and a year-long stint in the French Foreign Legion. But every time I met Dad at Fenway, for three glorious hours, I was that wide-eyed, eight year old dink again. And when he got sick, when we knew there wasn’t a lot of time left, each game became a precious form of escape for us. No needles, no doctors, no unsettling hum and whir of electric monitors. It was just the two of us, at the ballgame, talking Red Sox. Just like it always was.
Dad passed quietly in 2006, surrounded by his family and, hopefully, not feeling much pain. I thank the Gods he had the chance to see the Sox win it all before he left, and one of the few good memories I have of his last days was the two of us in his hospital room watching a replay of game two of the 2004 World Series.
This’ll be my fifth Father’s Day without having the Old Man around, but somehow, I know he’s still watching. Pumping his fist every time Lester mows ’em down. Nodding with quiet approval when Ortiz comes up huge. And telling everyone around him how he used to watch Manny Delcarmen back in the West Roxbury High days.
Today, in Dad’s honor, I’m gonna spend Father’s Day exactly the same way he would have: watching the Red Sox. And keeping score.
My best to all the Dads out there in SG land.