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The 13th inning

Fenway Park
Andre Tan
Fenway Park

Well, it’s late October again, and once more the Red Sox will not be in the World Series. Once again the Fenway Faithful will turn to the past for comfort – and the nice thing about baseball is that there’s so much past to turn to. Fans will continue to argue about what was the Red Sox’s greatest moment. Was it Ted Williams’ home run in the last at bat of his career? Was it “The Impossible Dream” team of 1968. I think most would agree that it took place during the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Sox were down 3-0 in a seven game series against the hated and seemingly unbeatable Yankees, only to pull off what forever after would be known as “The Greatest Comeback in Baseball History.” They went on to win the ALCS 7 -4 and then, almost as an afterthought, swept the St. Louis Cardinals 4-zip to win their first World Series in 87 years.

Some say the finest moment came in the bottom of the ninth inning of that decisive fourth game, when the Sox, down 4-3, had Dave Roberts pinch-running at first base, taunting and distracting the great Yankee closer Manny Revera with his daring leads and finally stealing second base. It was feat that seemed to change the tenor, not just of the game, but of the whole series. Others might argue it was the clutch performance of David (“Big Papy”) Ortiz, who carried the whole team on his back during the series, hitting three home runs and driving in eleven RBIs.

Some of the greatest moments actually occurred off the field, such as the morning after the Sox won the World Series and one saw a dozen or more graves in the local cemetery adorned with Rex Sox caps, a tribute to the loyal local fans who never gave up but didn’t live to see “the Curse of the Bambino” finally lifted.

There are other candidates for the finest moment in that legendary series with the Yankees, but the one that shines most in my memory took place in a local restaurant, run at the time by my friend Eric. Eric was and is a rabid Rex Sox fan, and you could be sure that every Sox game would be shown on the TV hung above the bar. But Eric also didn’t want the customers at his tables disturbed by the sound of the game, so until 9 o’clock, when the kitchen closed, the sound was always turned off.

On the evening of the fabled Game 4, I went over to Eric’s and squeezed into the crowded bar. It was about 8:30 when Dave Roberts made his legendary steal and changed the fortunes of the Home Town Team forever. Immediately, Eric come out of the kitchen, ducked under the bar and reached up to turn the sound on. He turned around and, seeing our surprised faces, said, “What? — Priorities,” and disappeared back into the kitchen.

That was a memorable moment to be sure, but for my money it was outshone the next night, during Game Five, an interminable, extra-innings game, It was late, about 12:30 a.m., but we knew that Eric would not close up before the outcome was decided. The bartender that night was a young woman who seemed to be as mesmerized by the game as we were, and we had to wait for between-innings to order more drinks from her. Then, during a tense moment in the game, the wall telephone began to ring. (A wife wondering where her husband was? The police calling to tell Eric it was time to shut down?) Without taking her eyes from the screen, the bartender picked up the receiver, and — what for me will always be the defining moment of that championship year — uttered the immortal words, “Thirteenth inning.”

On Sunday, November 6, at 2 p.m. Bob will present a talk for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth on three classic Cape Cod books – Thoreau’s Cape Cod. Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, and Wyman Richardson’s The House on Nauset Marsh.

The event will be held at Captain Bangs Hallet House on Route 6A in Yarmouth and also live on Zoom. Reservations are required but admission is free. To sign up go here.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of nine books of essays. A Cape Cod Notebook airs weekly on WCAI, the NPR station for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the South Coast. In both 2006 and 2013, the series won the New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.