Take me outside the ball game

How newlyweds with dueling team loyalties were united by a ballpark.

Photo illustration by John Kehe

I love outings to the ballpark. My ears perk up at the whack of a precisely hit ball, my nose enjoys the scent of hot dogs, and my heart jumps at the possibility of winning it all. But a few years ago I discovered the best way to watch a baseball game might be not to watch at all.

This discovery arose the year I got married. The first apartment my husband and I rented could charitably be called “charming,” although “diminutive” better describes it. But to young newlyweds, the 450-square-foot apartment felt sublime. The best thing about the apartment, in my opinion, was its location a quarter-mile from baseball’s oldest stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park.

The only problem? My husband was not a Red Sox fan. I hadn’t anticipated this stumbling block. He was an avid sports fan, and he’d only just moved to Boston. Surely a love of the hometown team would seep into his heart as naturally as fish take to water.

My hopes faded as the season began. A Seattle Mariners hat remained firmly planted on his head. Matching Red Sox T-shirts earned a veto.

As newlywed disagreements go, this one wasn’t horrible. Plenty of couples flourish with dueling team loyalties. But a worry nagged: If he couldn’t root for the Red Sox, would he ever truly make Boston home?

Growing up in Massachusetts, I cherished family trips to Fenway. It seemed as though every game I attended in the 1990s Sox slugger Mo Vaughn would smash a homer to clinch victory. And I counted among my most valuable memories the 2004 curse-busting season when the Red Sox overcame a deficit against the New York Yankees in the divisional championships to win eight games straight and snatch the World Series crown.

The magic in the air that season permeated the girls’ boarding school I attended outside Boston. We begged our house directors to let us stay up past curfew to watch the games on TV, and when they at first refused, we listened on radios in our rooms and gleefully burst into the halls to cheer.

So when my husband said he’d never be a Red Sox fan, my heart clenched. But one delightful spring day our teeny apartment came to my rescue. As we sat at our dining room table, we heard a roar swell to a crescendo. This was the first indication that we could hear the stadium crowds from our home.

My husband’s eyes flicked to where you’d expect to see a television. In our tight quarters we had decided to forgo one. Curiosity piqued, he turned on the radio and tuned in the game.

It turned out we could hear the crowd reaction before the announcers relayed the plays, due to radio delay. We learned the recent cheer was for a Sox home run. 

The eruptions from Fenway soon became our favorite game. When the crowd roared or groaned, we wagered guesses and flipped on the radio. We soon found that calling home runs was too simple and became more discerning in our analyses.

“Definitely a double off the Green Monster,” my husband would state confidently before checking the radio. “The crowd roared like they thought it was a homer, but there was a gasp and the volume lowered before rising again as the runner slid into second.”

Throughout our two years in that apartment we followed the Red Sox this way.

Sometimes we let the mellow cadences of the radio announcers join us in our apartment for longer, and sometimes we walked to the ballpark to attend the action in person. But lots of people can follow the team those ways. We felt special with our apartment guessing game.

Before we moved to a different apartment, we experienced some of the city’s greatest lows and highs. Two gut-wrenching booms and then a blare of sirens out our window alerted us to the Boston Marathon bombings. We huddled in the apartment and prayed as authorities conducted a manhunt. 

A few days later, we heard the Fenway crowd roar its loudest cheer yet when slugger David Ortiz declared in colorful language, “This is our [expletive] city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” At the end of that season we spilled out into the streets, joining throngs of fans celebrating another Red Sox World Series victory. 

But after our experience together at that tiny first apartment, did my husband become a Red Sox fan? Not really. He still roots for his childhood team, and I respect that.

But the other day, he saw me drinking from a commemorative cup celebrating Fenway Park’s 100-year anniversary.

“Hey, that’s my cup,” he said.

“I thought you weren’t a Red Sox fan,” I retorted.

“I’m not. But I am a fan of Fenway Park,” he explained. 

And that’s enough for me.

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