It’s safe to say most Red Sox fans watched the final game of the American League Championship Series on Saturday at home, or maybe at a friend’s house.
I watched it pressed against a window that rattled from the noise of Fenway Park.
In hindsight, it was the best night of my life as a life-long Red Sox fan. Next to maybe getting married last year (of course! I can’t forget that).
Rewind back to 2006, when I served as editor of Northern Essex Community College’s student paper, the NECC Observer. Traveling with a staff of around six or seven journalism students, I had just landed in St. Louis for an American Collegiate Press journalism conference. We arrived to learn that our hotel — a few blocks from the newly built Busch Stadium — was effectively taken over by the American League champion Detroit Tigers.
As it turned out, the World Series had the Cards with a 2-to-1 series lead over the Tigers, and games four and five of the Fall Classic lined up with the first two days of our conference.
As we got to our hotel that night, a couple of us decided to swing by Busch Stadium to see the crowd. We got there sometime around the fifth inning of game four — much to the behest of our faculty adviser, who wanted us to stay in.
From the top of a parking garage across from Busch Stadium, we watched the Cardinals win 5-4 to take a 3-to-1 lead in the series. We could see much of the field perfectly, and sweetening the deal was the fact that our seats were free, not like the $1,000 seats in the park.
The next day, we had the entire staff on top of that parking garage. Since it was the possible clinching game of the series, there were 200 others up there at that point, and by the fifth inning, as the Cardinals had just taken a 3-2 lead, the streets around the stadium started filling up with a sea of red. By the eighth, car traffic had been completely cut off due to bystanders.
Minutes later, with the final Detroit batter striking out to end the game and the series, the city exploded. People were dancing, cheering, celebrating however they saw fit. Booming fireworks were lighting up the sky. A street-performing blues saxophonist didn’t even bother opening his case for donations as he rocked out in the middle of the crowd.
It was a flashbulb memory that, seven years later, I still remember every second of.
So when I told my wife this year that we’d be in Boston for the Red Sox clinching a major title if they had a chance to do it, she didn’t question it. Our parents did ... but she didn’t.
We got to Fenway Saturday night with Detroit holding a 2-1 lead. The Sox had quickly loaded up the bases, however, and right-fielder Shane Victorino was at bat.
We saw the game-changing pitch while pressed against windows overlooking the press area, where baseball writers follow the game on massive TVs before conducting their post-game press conferences in the same room.
There were maybe 60 or 70 others with us when Victorino sent a souvenir to the second row of the Green Monster, hitting a grand slam to give the Sox a 5-2 lead.
My wife and I were jumping up and down, screaming in celebration like little kids as the crowd around us also lost its composure. I felt something latch onto my left shoulder, and I looked to see two other fans jumping with us.
Anywhere else, that would have been weird.
There were probably another 200 people at Gate B of the stadium, now home to a bronze statue of Carl Yastrzemski, when closer Koji Uehara shut the Tigers down and ended the ALCS, sending the Red Sox to the World Series for the first time since 2007.
All around us, people were cheering, singing along with the Standells’ “Dirty Water” as it echoed from Fenway. Many held cellphones high into the air to shoot video of the celebratory crowd cheering, jumping, throwing their fists into the air as the streets filled with the home crowd. Others were running up and down the street, sharing high fives, hugs. I was on the receiving end of quite a few.
Walking back to Boston Common an hour later, we were talking about going to Fenway again if the World Series comes back home for games six and seven. I have since checked with my wife, so I can certify that neither of us would give it a second thought. We’ll be there, wearing our home game whites.
We were maybe halfway on our journey back to our car when a woman sitting outside of her apartment, taking a drag from a cigarette, stopped us in our tracks.
Seeing our “15” and “33” home jerseys, she asked if we were at the game.
Grinning, my wife said, “Yes, we were.”
Dustin Luca is a staff writer for the Andover Townsman and an ardent Red Sox fan.