The night before Game 6, I looked at ticket prices on StubHub, just for the hell of it. I wanted to see how much money I wouldn’t be spending, and the answer was $1,002. That was the price of the cheapest ticket at Fenway Park — standing room way up in the upper deck along one of the foul lines. Thanks, but no thanks. I had a much better offer, courtesy of my friend Ben Weil, although I refused to believe that it was going to happen until it actually happened.
First things first: he and I drove from New York City to Boston in the early afternoon. At the end of our journey, he dropped me off near Lansdowne Street . . .
. . . and eventually chose a place to park roughly two miles away. The Red Sox were one win away from winning the World Series at home for the first time in 95 years; we figured there would be mayhem and didn’t want the car to be anywhere near the stadium.
Before Ben made it back to Fenway, I headed over to the nearby garage to catch up with my friend Lee Gregory. (Remember this photo of us from Game 2?) As it turned out, he was there with a fellow ballhawk from Chicago named Dave Davison, so the three of us got a photo together:
That’s Lee on the left and Dave on the right. (Remember Dave from this photo from 5/21/13 at U.S. Cellular Field?) Neither of them had tickets, and under normal circumstances, I would’ve stayed out there with them all night. As things were, however, I had to say a quick goodbye and hurry over to the center field gate, where I ended up being first on line. Ben didn’t find me for another 45 minutes, but when he did, we were both in a great mood:
That’s because he had two tickets for the game! Here’s a photo of mine:
Look closely and you’ll see his name on it. Look right above that and you’ll see the face-value price of $250. That’s how much he paid for each ticket, and that’s how much he “charged” me for mine — still a lot of money, but a true bargain compared to what it could’ve been.
How did Ben pull this off? Simple: he has a close friend — a former college housemate, to be specific — who used to work for the Red Sox. She still knows lots of people with the team, and she used her connections to get him a pair of tickets at face value. Ta-daaa!!!
Every gate opened two and a half hours early, and I headed for my favorite spot in center field. This was my view at the start of batting practice:
Within the first minute, I got a ball thrown to me by Koji Uehara’s kid, and no, it wasn’t commemorative:
I’ve never seen World Series balls get used during BP at World Series games. (Dear MLB: that’s lame.) At best I was hoping to snag a few 2013 postseason balls, but as it turned out, the Cardinals used regular balls too. (Dear MLB: super-lame.)
Here’s a photo of . . . someone with a catcher’s mitt walking toward my second ball of the day:
I had no idea who it was, so I took/tweeted a crappy photo of him. Several folks suggested it was Brandon Workman, while a few others said it was Ryan Lavarnway. Between the two, Lavarnway makes more sense because he’s a catcher, albeit not on the playoff roster, but I’m still not sure.
I got one more ball from the Red Sox — a toss-up from coach Arnie Beyeler — and then the Cardinals took the field.
A little while later, I had a chance to use my glove trick for one of three balls on the warning track . . .
. . . but before I had a chance to set it up, Jason Motte jogged over and picked them all up. He ended up tossing one to me, and it wasn’t long before I got another — my fifth of the day — from Randy Choate.
Ballhawking in center field at Fenway Park is boring but reliable. There aren’t many home runs (especially in October when balls don’t carry), but it’s a good spot to get toss-ups.
My sixth ball of the day came from this group of players:
See the guy standing on the left? That’s Rafael Furcal, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, so I forgive him for under under-handing a ball to me — yes, two “under”s because his throw fell short. It was retrieved and thrown accurately to me by the bearded player pictured above. At the time, I didn’t know who it was, but later I figured out that it was Tony Cruz. That ball, by the way, had a blade of grass stuck to the logo. Check it out:
My final ball was thrown by Jaime Garcia — nothing fancy about it.
Over the course of BP, I gave two baseballs away. Meanwhile, Ben snagged three, beating his previous World Series record of one.
After BP, Ben and I were shocked to find an unguarded staircase leading up to the Monster Seats . . . so up we went. At the top, I took a photo of the field . . .
. . . and of Lansdowne Street.
When we tried to walk a little farther into the section in left field (as opposed to lurking on the walkway in left-center), we were stopped by an usher at a checkpoint.
We headed back down to the field level to check out the view from our actual seats:
And look what was right near us:
That’s the famous Pesky Pole, which I photographed close up:
Normally I’d be horrified by graffiti on a historic artifact, but this foul pole is known for being scribbled on. It’s part of Fenway’s charm.
We didn’t linger at our seats, and in fact I never went back there during the game. Ben wandered off to find his friend who’d gotten him the tickets, and I made my way toward home plate. Look how crowded it was in the concourse on the 1st-base side:
This is not an exaggeration: at one point, it took five minutes to move 15 or 20 feet, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if there’d been a fire. Not good. But let’s not think about that.
Look how crowded the tunnel was leading into the seats . . .
. . . and look how crowded it was in the cross-aisle before the national anthem:
Fenway Park is such a pain in the ass, but DAMN it’s beautiful . . . sometimes. Usually. If you’re not trapped in the wrong spot.
A few minutes later, my friend Brandon (the one from California that I seem to visit every year) texted me and said, “Send me a pic of ur seat.” Now, keep in mind that I *hate* texting. I make exceptions every now and then for Heath Bell, but other than that, when people text me, I either ignore them outright or wait a couple days and answer them via email. That said, I decided to mess with Brandon (because he deserves it), so I sent this photo:
This was my view for the first pitch of the game:
I might’ve been in the cross-aisle at the time. I can’t remember, but I will say this: for all the moving around that I did throughout the game, I never blocked anyone’s view. When I was in the aisle, I only stood up between pitches or when the people in front of me were standing. And whenever I found an empty seat, I only stood when I had to.
I ended up on the 3rd-base side . . .
. . . and back on the 1st-base side . . .
. . . and then back on the 3rd-base side:
With a scoreless tie in the bottom of the 3rd inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. It was the moment of truth. I could just feel it. And Shane Victorino delivered with a three-run double high off the Green Monster.
Naturally, everyone (except the handful of Cardinals fans) went nuts, and I knew right then that the Red Sox (who were leading, 3 games to 2) were GOING to win the World Series. The way I saw it . . . the Cardinals were gonna have to score four runs to win this game, and that simply wasn’t going to happen. John Lackey wasn’t going to let it happen, and if he somehow got into early trouble, Koji Uehara would come in for a 15-out save.
In the bottom of the 4th, Stephen Drew and his .063 World Series batting average led off with a tremendous home run to right field — and this was happening against Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, who had been unbeaten and nearly unhittable this entire postseason. If there was any doubt after Victorino’s double about the fate of this game, it was gone now. And then for good measure, the Sox tacked on two more insurance runs to take a 6-0 lead:
Yes, the Sox were GOING to win the World Series — something I’d never seen any team do in person, so while the game itself wasn’t particularly compelling after the first hour or so, it was still great to be there and watch it all go down.
Because the score was so lopsided, lots of fans left their seats in the middle innings to get food and use the bathroom. I took advantage by sitting here for a little while:
When the rightful, gray-haired owner of that seat returned, he was super-nice about it.
“Sorry,” I said as I got up.
“No worries,” he replied. “I’ve done the same things myself many times.”
Lackey eventually gave up a run, but for the Cardinals, it was too little too late. By the 8th inning, most fans were back in their seats for good, and it seemed like the celebration had already begun:
Meanwhile, a bunch of MLB bigwigs were crowded around nearby in the concourse, watching the last few outs on TV:
I should mention that I tried *all* night to snag a 3rd-out ball, but it was nearly impossible. Yadier Molina tossed the few strikeout balls into the sections closer to home plate. First baseman Matt Adams never tossed anything into the crowd. Third baseman David Freese caught a line drive and flipped it into the front row before I could get down there, and two outfielders (Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay) tossed their baseballs toward a teenaged kid decked out in Cardinals gear, one staircase to my right. Things at the Red Sox dugout were far too crazy. I couldn’t even get close over there.
At one point in the early innings, I came five feet from a foul ball on the 3rd base side. I was in the cross-aisle, and it landed a dozen rows behind me. The fans in that section proceeded to bobble it . . . and bobble it . . . and bobble it nearly all the way down to me. It was like it was bouncing down a staircase right to me, but at the last second, a women in the 3rd row from the aisle reached up and snagged it.
Remember where I stood for an inning or two during Game 6 of the ALCS? Well, during this World Series game, Matt Holliday hit a foul ball RIGHT THERE. As frustrated as he might’ve been not to drive that hittable pitch, I guarantee you I was more frustrated not to have been there to catch it. Holliday has probably already forgotten about it, and if he hasn’t, he will no doubt move on before long, but that foul ball will bother me for decades. I’m not kidding.
This was my view before the top of the 9th inning got underway:
There wasn’t an empty seat, but because everyone in the stadium was standing, I was able to walk down that staircase and stand with them. As a result, I had a great view for the rest of the game:
Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso hit fly balls to left fielder Jonny Gomes for the first two outs, and then, after a lengthy at-bat with three consecutive foul balls, Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to end it.
Here’s a screen shot from a video I filmed of the Red Sox celebrating:
I tried to get home plate umpire Jim Joyce’s attention on his way in — how great would it have been if he’d tossed me a commemorative World Series ball?! — but it was no use. The crowd was going nuts, and he probably didn’t hear me, and anyway, his mind must’ve been elsewhere. From a ballhawking standpoint, that was it — seven balls, all in BP, nothing commemorative. No gamer. No World Series ball. Quite disappointing. But from an “I love baseball more than life itself” standpoint, the whole experience was thrilling, and I was so glad to be a part of it.
I photographed all the activity on the field . . .
. . . which included David Ortiz waving a huge flag at home plate:
At one point, I handed my camera to the security guard atop the dugout roof and had him take my picture:
Then there were fireworks . . .
. . . which caused a whole lot of smoke to fill the ballpark:
Here’s my favorite photo of the smoke:
Eventually the players were interviewed and presented with the World Series trophy:
Then David Ortiz received the MVP Award:
Even though I can’t stand him, I suppose he deserved it. He went 11-for-16 in the World Series with two doubles, two homers, and eight walks. That’s a .688 batting average, a .760 on-base percentage, a 1.188 slugging percentage, and a 1.948 OPS. Not bad.
After FOX announcer Erin Andrews finished interviewing him, she ended up 10 feet away from me on the warning track:
I’m not particularly fond of anyone who works for FOX, but it was cool to be so close to her and to the field and to all the activity.
Eventually I moved down to an open seat beside the Cardinals’ dugout:
Then I leaned over and took a photo of the tunnel that leads toward the clubhouse:
After that, I moved a couple dozen rows back to get a better perspective of the huge crowd on the field:
Then I fought my way through the unexpected stench of cigar smoke toward the Red Sox’s dugout. This was as close as I could get:
After a few minutes, I headed back to the cross-aisle and caught up with Ben:
As we made our way toward right field, I spotted Steve Horgan, the famous bullpen cop, doing his famous arms-over-head gesture for the fans along the foul line:
Then we noticed some fans writing on the Pesky Pole . . .
. . . and since they weren’t being tasered, I decided to get in on the action. Here’s a photo of me writing on the pole:
Here’s what I wrote:
See it? I wrote “ZH 7176.” That’s my initials and lifetime ball total. I’m sure the Sox will paint over all that crap by Opening Day, but whatever. It was fun just to climb up there and do it.
Ben also wrote on the pole, and when he finished, we both had the same thought: “Can you imagine that happening at Yankee Stadium?”
Nearly an hour and a half after the game had ended, we made our way out through this mostly-empty concourse:
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cluster of cops and official-lookin’ people walking quickly toward an unmarked corridor. I took a closer look and noticed Matt Holliday, dressed in street clothes, in the middle. He didn’t look happy, but then again, does he ever?
By the time we made it outside, I wanted to head straight to the car and drive back to New York City. It was already close to 1am, and I didn’t know how long my energy would last, but Ben talked me into making a detour toward Lansdowne Street.
On the way, we saw this:
I tweeted about it and got 26 retweets, which I think is a personal record — not that I keep track. It’s just interesting to note what has gotten the most attention.
As for Lansdowne Street . . .
. . . there were cops everywhere, and the bars were closing, and there just wasn’t much happening. And that was it. We headed toward the car (which was thankfully upright) and hit the road at around 2am. I was home by 5:45 and asleep an hour later.
I’m *so* glad that the baseball season is over. Fun as it was, this one was particularly draining, and I need time to recover and do other things. If you’ve pledged money for Pitch In For Baseball through my fundraiser, hang tight. In a few days, I’ll post an entry with instructions on how to donate, and I’ll follow up with emails soon after.
• 717 balls in 94 games this season = 7.63 balls per game.
• 84 balls in 14 lifetime games at Fenway Park = 6 balls per game.
• 127 balls in 24 lifetime postseason games = 5.29 balls per game.
• 966 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 38 balls in 9 lifetime World Series games = 4.22 balls per game
• 30 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, the Oakland Coliseum, and Coors Field.
• 7,176 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I’ve snagged a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 42 donors for my fundraiser
• $4.24 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $29.68 raised at this game
• $3,040.08 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $39,446.08 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009