By Budd Titlow
A lifelong baseball fan, I experienced something on a crisp evening in late October 1986 that changed me forever.
I had just moved to Boston and my television was tuned to Game Six of the World Series—being played between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. I was a dedicated Los Angeles Dodgers’ fan, so when Mookie Wilson’s little grounder trickled between Bill Buckner’s legs—costing the Red Sox the game and their first World Series Title in 67 years—I thought, “Wow—that’s really a shame.” But—as any Red Sox fan will quickly tell you—I really had no idea!
The impassioned outcry about that one play lasted for another 18 years—until the Sox finally broke their 85-year curse and won it all in 2004. It also forced Buckner—a long-time standout major league hitter, with nearly 3,000 hits—to escape the daily abuse and move his family all the way to Idaho.
So, what could possibly create such a state of deep acrimony over one little baseball play? It’s really quite simple—a thing called the Red Sox Mystique. It starts the first time you walk up a stadium ramp and stare out at the hallowed grounds of 110-year-old Fenway Park. The deep green grass imbued with the Red Sox Logo, the towering Green Monster, the glowing CITGO sign, the Pesky Pole—they’re all right there for your viewing delight.
After a few minutes of soaking up these vaunted sights, your eyes grow misty and your heart starts palpitating as you think of all the baseball greats that have roamed this hallowed place—The Babe, Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Oil Can, The Spaceman, Pudge, El Tiante, The Rocket, The Hit Dog, Pedro, Big Papi. Your mind revels in the realization that all of these legendary players—and their vaunted heroics—took place right out there, on the field right in front of you.
For a lifelong baseball fan, it just can’t possibly get any better than this—except for just one thing. The undying adoration for the Red Sox was always tempered by the team’s inability to win it all. But whenever each new spring training rolled around, every true Red Sox fan had the same thought—this could be “The Year”!
And—so it became with me. From that glorious spring day in 1987—when I attended my first Fenway Park game—the Red Sox Mystique had me hooked. The Los Angeles Dodgers had faded into my rearview mirror—just like a massive Boston traffic jam. I was now a Red Sox fan for life.
And yes—I finally understood the epitome of hardball exasperation that was birthed in Beantown on that crisp evening in late October 1986.
Author’s bio: For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need. Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.