Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette Oct 31, 2007

Posted in memory of the great Julio Lugo, who passed away November 15 just two days shy of his 46th birthday.

BOSTON – Boston played hooky today. And a lot of other towns did, too. From one corner of this commonwealth to the other, people called in sick, kept their kids home from school, got a sitter for the dog and came to the Hub. The Red Sox were coming home. Everyone had to be there. Norm from Millis with the Nomar jersey took a personal day and brought his 8-year-old son with him. Asked what sort of example he was setting for his impressionable offspring, he said, ‘The best.’

He was certainly in good company for the celebration of the Red Sox winning their second World Series in four years.

Some arrived early and secured spots along the parade route. Entire fraternities camped out on platforms, waiting, howling, throwing footballs, waiting.

Forget April in Paris. Boston in Indian summer is breathtaking. The old steeples stand taller against the dancing blue sky. The Statehouse dome sparkles like Mars. And the giant bronze statue of Ted Williams that stands at the entrance to Fenway Park’s Gate B seems almost alive. The great slugger is bending slightly in this frozen tableau, playfully placing his cap on the head of a small child.

Not since Cecil B. DeMille staged Cleopatra’s entry into Rome has such spectacle and grandeur visited the confines of a great city. With what appeared to be a cast of millions, Red Sox Nation lined both sides of the street from Fenway to City Hall Plaza to wave and cry out to the heroes of 2007.

They came in duck boats, large amphibious motorized craft that tower over everything like Ringling Brothers elephants. Red, white and blue confetti poured out of the back of the first one and rained down on the whooping crowd. The boat carrying the brain trust came next, with Larry Lucchino flashing two fingers, Tom Werner laughing and waving, John Henry pumping his heart to show what the fans mean to him. General Manager Theo Epstein had a boat of his own, surrounded by a front-office entourage worthy of the Rolling Stones.

Then came the boats with the players. The groundswell from the crowd was deafening.

Kevin Youkilis wore a ‘We Did it Again’ T-shirt. Center fielder Coco Crisp rode side-by-side with the iconic Jacoby Ellsbury, the guy who supplanted him in the ALCS and will take over completely next year. It must be amazing to be where Ellsbury is right now, a rookie out of nowhere not only playing in a World Series but excelling in one. But he doesn’t look amazed. He looks like a guy who’s done this plenty of times and figures to do it again.

Whose boat got the biggest reaction from the crowd? Ortiz’s and Manny’s? Maybe. Pedroia’s and Youkilis’? Pretty close. Jacoby Ellsbury’s? Hard to tell. NESN announcer Tina Cervasio, she of the prettiest smile in Boston? Definitely.

At the Berklee College of Music, all the drummers were out front, banging away. Well-dressed people stood on a pillared terrace by Exeter Street and seemed to be blessing the throngs like the pope at Vatican City.

Shortstop Julio Lugo almost fell out of his boat laughing at the guy in the green bunny suit.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon fittingly rode on the flatbed truck with the Dropkick Murphys, who supplied the music to his improvised riverdance the night the Sox clinched the pennant over Cleveland.

Papelbon is bigger than life. When he’s prowling the flatbed puffing a long cigar, he’s JFK on his yacht, the Hyannisport breeze blowing through his shock of brown hair. But when he’s wearing a kilt at center stage, accompanying the Dropkicks with a broom as lead guitar, punctuating the air with swinging power chords and menacing stares, he’s Jimmy Page at Boston Garden, he’s Pete Townshend at the old Boston Tea Party.

Survivors of the ’46 team that came up just short are here – Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio. So are Frank Malzone, the Mike Lowell of the early ’60s, 20-game winner Bill Monbouquette who just missed the fun of ’67, and Luis Tiant.

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz rode together. ‘At my house tonight!’ cried Manny through a microphone. ‘Free drinks!’ He seemed to mean it. He even drove his white Escalade EXT down Cambridge Street later, stopping to talk with fans on their way home.

Thousands just walked right along with the procession, all the way to City Hall.

Sox Nation

Red Sox Nation in the abstract is one thing. Jerry Remy talked about it all season and even had himself elected president. And 35,000 people crammed into Fenway Park on a given Friday night is another.

But to be part of Sox Nation when the entire living, breathing thing itself is mobilized and on the streets of Boston is a force to be reckoned with.

This was the homecoming to end all homecomings. Thousands of people, having nothing more in common than the Youkilis, Ortiz or Beckett jerseys on their backs, crying out as one. The cheering never stops. It’s like J.D. Drew keeps hitting that same grand slam against the Indians in Game 6 and the entire sell-out crowd keeps rising to its feet and the whole grandstand moves down the street in unison.

‘It’s a great time to be alive,’ said Ian Palmer, a Boston College junior from Leeds, who had to cut class to be there. ‘I had a 10:30 and a 1:30. I couldn’t have done either one of them and still be here.’

Lorraine and Kayla cut four classes between them at Salem State College. Asked if her grades were secure enough to get away with that, Lorraine said, ‘Let’s hope.’

Every window on the route had someone waving from it. Brooms stuck out of windows signifying Boston’s four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies. Patrons of the Boston Public Library stood shoulder-to-shoulder across the building’s great facade.

A giraffe waved from a Berkeley Street window. Guests at the Lenox Hotel waved from the building’s front overhang, framed by a hundred yellow mums.

Children far too young to comprehend what the parade was all about sat on parents’ shoulders and screamed at the players with outstretched arms, knowing instinctively that what they were witnessing was a lot more significant than the Cinderella parade at Disney World.

Workers in hard hats stood on scaffolding in the shadow of the Prudential building and saluted. Twenty Boston firefighters stood abreast on three trucks and stuck their chins proudly in the air, a spontaneous nod to the bravery of sport.

Support for Lowell

One thing the Nation is 100 percent agreed upon: Mike Lowell will be the Sox third baseman in 2008. The Series MVP, all business-like from the first day of spring training, hasn’t stopped smiling since Sunday night.

‘Re-sign Lowell!’ was a chant heard throughout the day. Theo Epstein heard it when he went by in his boat, John Henry heard it, and Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. Catcher Jason Varitek even put down the World Series trophy he’d been holding aloft and held up his own hand-lettered ‘Re-sign Lowell’ sign, as if he were appealing to Sox Nation itself to intervene on his teammate’s behalf.

The Sox right now, this moment, could mobilize a million people to do anything. To march right into Iraq and plant flowers if they so chose.

Sox Nation also has very informed opinions about one Alex Rodriguez, who’s apparently leaving the Yankees and looking for another team. Fox announcers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, in fact, who generally do a topic-driven morning talk show throughout every game they broadcast, suggested that A-Rod might be coming to Boston to take Lowell’s place. This would be grave news to the Nation even if A-Rod hit a hundred homers a season.

‘Do you see Mike Lowell?’ cried somebody from one of the boats.

‘YEAH!’ cried the crowd.

‘Do you see A-Rod?’

‘NOOOOOOOO!’ came the resounding reply.

Joe Castiglione’s recorded voice of the Series’ last out was heard again and again from the announcer’s boat. But it sounded almost anticlimactic, as if we’ve all been through this before ‘Can you believe it?’ Joe cried, the same phrase he used in 2004 when the last out was recorded. It sounds tired now, because what Sox Nation did or did not believe in 2004, has morphed into something else. We believe in a lot of things now. Miracles can happen, sure, but the miracle this time would have been Colorado winning a game. Yeah, Joe, we believe. Now cut it out.

Ted Williams never had anything like this. Of course, the Williams we’ve read about and heard about probably wouldn’t have even shown up for such a spectacle; he would have been fishing some Minnesota lake 12 hours after last out.

But imagine if he had. If they’d had a wild card in 1941 when he was young and giddy and his mind had yet to be poisoned by sportswriters. If he could have done it at the age Ellsbury is now. That would have been something. Something like love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s