Twilight was frosty at Fenway Park on Friday, April 15th. Income tax deadline day for some, JACKIE ROBINSON DAY for those of us who jammed the baseball shrine in Boston’s Kenmore Square. Pilgrims and Players, everyone wore number 42 in tribute to the man who broke baseball’s racial barrier and stirred a nation’s conscience 69 years ago, with World War Two still casting a long shadow.
Grantland Rice’s archaic litany, “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s how you play the game”, echoed silently as a winter’s night chilled the crowd. Arch rivals, Boston and Toronto, displayed respect instead of animosity. Batters picked up the catcher’s mask in flashes of sportsmanship rarely seen these days.
Big Papi stole second base, likely to be his only stolen base of the year and sent the crowd into a frenzy. The pilgrims erupted with joy and players on both teams broke into smiles and laughter.
An image of the young Jackie Robinson split the jumbo screen with a replay of Big Papi’s theft of second.
The message was clear.
For one night, 2016 Boston was 1950’s Brooklyn. You could almost hear Vin Scully’s poetic calls of the plays by Jackie Robinson and the other fabled Boys of Summer.
It was parka and gloves weather as the game wound down but few left the ball park. Eventually, the Red Sox prevailed over the Blue Jays.
The crowd slowly filed out, songs filled the night. “Sweet Caroline” mixed in with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” The image of Jackie Robinson in his prime filled a neon billboard. A night to remember.
See: VIN SCULLY, JACKIE ROBINSON AND A LOSS OF INNOCENCE – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG for the rest of the story.