Red Sox Nation arrived to Fenway Park on April 8, 2008, knowing a celebration was in order.
Ahead of their home opener against the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox were set to receive their championship rings in honor of the club’s four-game Fall Classic sweep of the Colorado Rockies the previous October. A slew of Boston sports icons came out to the ballpark to take in the festivities, but it was an unexpected guest who stole the show.
Bill Buckner was given the honor of throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Buckner, who once lived in Boston sports infamy for his 1986 World Series mishap, prompted a raucous eruption from the Fenway crowd when he emerged from behind the Green Monster in left field. The booming cheers maintained throughout Buckner’s jaunt to the pitcher’s mound, where he was overcome with emotion.
After wiping away tears, the 1980 National League batting champion toed the rubber and delivered a perfect strike right over the heart of the plate. Red Sox legend Dwight Evans, who was behind the dish for the memorable moment, greeted his former teammate with a hug.
Boston went on to blank Detroit, 5-0, on the strength of 6 2/3 strong innings from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who struck out seven while allowing only four hits. Kevin Youkilis provided the bulk of the offense for the home nine, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored.
Red Sox fans have been fortunate enough to enjoy four World Series title celebrations at Fenway Park over the past 15 years. While the 2005 home opener probably sits atop the list for obvious reasons, Buckner’s emotional moment of redemption puts the 2008 opener not far behind.