As if I didn’t already have an extended case of the feels from the 2013 World Series hangover, now I’ve got the guys I grew up watching and listening to coming back to Fenway tonight for induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. That’s right, we’re talking Pedro, Nomaaaaaaaaaaaah, Clemens and Castig. If Dewey, Jim Rice and Yaz were the players I was drawn to as a kid, Nomar, Clemens and Pedro were the guys at the wheel when my relationship with the Red Sox blossomed into full-on obsession. For better or worse.
Before the Pedro Era, every Clemens start was like a holy day of observation in my house. You dropped everything — f$%k, you didn’t even make plans, man — and made sure your ass was parked in front of the TV by first pitch. Before we’d ever had a NESN was even available in my childhood home in West Roxbury (ah, the good old days), I remember listening to Clemens’ 20 K game while fumbling with my homework and running downstairs after every strike out to update my father. Yes, Roger had a baffling tendency to crumble when we needed him most — those quick playoff exits against Dave Stewart and the A’s still sting (and don’t get me started on the Terry Cooney “I know where you live” incident) — and his rep has taken, er, a few hits since he left town. But those days when he stepped to the mound as a young motherf$%ker full of piss and fire, he was the closest thing our pennant-starved asses had to a Great White Hope. His time with the Yankees, I’ve blocked that out. Tonight, I’ll applaud what he did for us when he wore our laundry.
Also, how could you not love a guy who does this:
Once Clemens was gone, there was Pedro. And Pedro was probably the only guy in the world who could make us forget Clemens. You almost run out of superlatives talking about the guy, but I’ll harken back to something I wrote in 2004, when Pedro got signed by the Mets.
I miss him already.
Miss the swagger. The head pointing. The drama queen antics. The Great Zim Toss of 2003.
The Yoda mask. The spastic dance moves. The dugout cheerleading. The horrific jheri curls. “Wake up the Bambino and maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.”
He had a heart as big as your Aunt Selma and a body that seemed vulnerable to the slightest breeze. But when he got on that mound, man, all he was missing was the cape. And some nights, he even had that.
His rules were simple. The inside of the plate is mine. Thou shalt plunk my teammates at your own risk. The ball you hit over the wall this inning could be the ball that gets wedged up your south 40 next inning. So think about it, punk.
He was a gamer. He was a warrior. He was controversial. He was beloved.
And now he’s a New York Met.
And while it’s tough to ID one single Pedro highlight, one of the most memorable was surely his appearance in game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians. Again, I’ll go back to what I wrote in that 2004 piece:
My two favorite Pedro moments provide splendid bookends to his remarkable tenure in Boston. The first is in 1999, when he reversed the tide of the ALDS, coming in against a Cleveland team that was beating the tar out of the ball and rendering them completely inoperative. In those days, the salad days, he was the angel of death. And on that October night, with a packed house in Cleveland going apeshit and tasting Red Sox blood, the bullpen door swung open, a slight figure ambled out of it, and an eerie silence descended. Because Pedro was coming into the game. And that was like flipping a switch. Over and out.
And then there’s Nomar. I think the best Nomar moment for me, oddly, was when he was with the Oakland A’s. When he returned to Fenway for the first time since The Trade and got a standing O that lasted over a solid minute. It was the chance for the fans to put aside — in the wake of 2004’s triumphs — the awkwardness that defined our relationship with Nomar before he was sent to Chicago. And it was a f$%king beautiful moment, if you like baseball.
It’s gonna be an emotional night for me, and for most of Sox Nation. I can’t wait to show ’em the love.