That was Don Orsillo’s call when the Red Sox clinched a playoff spot in the final home game of the 2003 season. It was another remarkable night in an unforgettable season, a night that culminated with spikes-wearing players celebrating at The Baseball Tavern.
Wednesday night was another unforgettable night at the Fens. More than 32,000 fans packed the ballpark to cheer on Celtic FC and Sporting CP in the first soccer game at the stadium in more than 40 years. Fittingly, the match ended in a draw, and went into six rounds of penalty kick shootouts before Celtic got to raise the Fenway Football Challenge Trophy.
This was a house divided, something we haven’t seen in a long time. I’m not talking about a September game against the Yankees where a few hundred New York college students invade the bleachers. I’m talking about one side of the field clad in green and white cheering on Celtic (or The Bhoys, if you’d rather) while the other side of the park – equally green and white – was screaming for Sporting (or The Lions to those in the know.)
The first-base side erupted in the 72nd minute when Georgios Samaras, just back from his stint in South Africa with the Greek entry in the World Cup – scored on a penalty kick for Celtic. The area behind the bullpens got equally loud when Helder Postiga knocked in a rebound to tie the match for Sporting. The game will be recorded as a 1-1 draw, but here in the States, we like a victor. That’s why they went to penalty kicks, Celtic going a perfect 6-for-6 to win the trophy. Celtic captain Scott Brown accepted the trophy for his team at home plate. By the way, Brown wears number eight, not number "41" like the Scott Brown in these parts.
The question is how do these Fenway events always exceed our expectations? Wednesday afternoon, there were torrential downpours at the ballpark, and the heavy sod that filled in the basepaths was getting drenched. They’ll play soccer in rain or shine, but it was getting hard to imagine how they’d pull this one off.
Then, at around 5 p.m., the rain stopped. By 6 p.m., the sky was clearing. By the 8 p.m. kickoff, the humidity had been cleared out of the area, and it was a wonderful summer night for a soccer match. And what a match it was. The singing continued out on Lansdowne Street deep into the night.
Back in January, we saw another walk-off win, although Marco Sturm had to take off his skates before he could truly walk out of Fenway. The New Year’s Day Winter Classic was unforgettable for everyone on hand, an outdoor game that saw a fight – the first in the modern-day Winter Classic era – overtime, and the announcement of the U.S. Olympic team after the end of the game. The weather cooperated then, too, with temps hovering near 40 degrees in the middle of a New England winter.
It wasn’t that warm a week later for the Hockey East Frozen Fenway doubleheader – but the winter chill was offset by a light falling snow that made the park look "like a Christmas card," according to one of the players. We’ve seen concerts, hockey and now soccer at Fenway in recent years.
As I was leaving the park, someone asked me what we would see next. Here are a few quick ideas:
Just a few ideas to think about. In the meantime, we’d trade in all of those events for a few home wins and playoff-race baseball in August and September. The way the Red Sox looked in Oakland, that might prove to be the toughest event to pull off this summer.