Bouncing Around Boston with the Bleacher Creatures

Some Yankees fans long to go to Fenway Park and never do. Others make a pilgrimage and speak in reverent tones of days of yore in golf voices as they gaze in awe at the Green Monster. Others win contests and go on someone else’s dime. Then there are people like me, who leave the comfy confines of Section 39 in the Yankee Stadium bleachers, armed with beer and bluster, and go up there and annoy all these other people.

I made my first storied excursion to that baseballian wonderland in 1996. We Yankees fans were about to become even more overbearing to our friends up north with all those rings coming up on the docket, so to get in some practice for this inevitability I headed to Boston with bleacher cronies Big Tone Capone, who currently holds a position of note in the New York media world, and George, who was burdened with two of the worst bleacher nicknames ever bestowed on a person. (Big Nose George for … well … moving on … and before that the “Little Drummer Boy” which came from the mouth of John Sterling on the air from George’s annoying habit of banging on the bleachers with giveaway bats until threats from both security and annoyed fans around him mercifully ended the practice.)

If you travel with the Creatures long enough, a bad sketch comedy show will begin.  Hopelessly lost in the area as we tried to find a spot to park for the day, George pulled alongside a cop directing traffic on those interminable roads around Fenway. Down rolled the window, and he asked to be pointed towards a comfy parking spot near Fenway as Capone and I scrambled to hide our open containers. The cop started blathering away, culminating in a “You make a left when you come to the fahk in the road.” George’s eyebrows shot up at this and he giggled like a girl, raised his hand as if to make a point, and blurted, “You mean there are two people f-cking in the road up there?” Capone and I looked at one another and rolled our cloudy eyes. The cop, no longer amused, simply answered, “Move along, buddy.” George rolled off, bemused, until we patiently explained there is such a thing as a “fahk” in the road – otherwise pronounced outside of Boston as “fork.” The reason George couldn’t comprehend this was he had actually never heard the term “fork in the road before.” For the next 10 minutes we, and a healthy chunk of Boston, had to deal with George yelling out the window asking where he could find the “f-ck in the road.”

I have only scattered memories of this venture. No scorecard survived in my stash of 600-plus messy scorecards preserved from my decade or so of scribing this stuff. We spent some pregame time in a park, tossing a ball around. Where we got a ball and how we found a park is beyond the likes of me. At one point (and whenever Capone and I are deep into our cups this tale comes back up, so it will live as long as us) out of the woods burst an old lady dressed head to toe in white – her hair was a ghostly grey and she looked like a gargoyle off a stone wall. We stood agape as she spun around and danced to no music. After a minute or so she promptly disappeared back into the woods. Whether it was a ghost, or an old lady, or some sort of hallucinogen, it was still pretty freakin’ cool.

Capone was bounding up and down the thoroughfares, armed with a “Boston Sucks” T-shirt in hand, waving it like a flag until a tourist trolley would come around and then he would promptly hold it out for display, as people shook their heads in disgust. The shirt also dangled over highway overpasses, in restaurant windows and in front of a church. We proudly stood in front of the Yankees’ hotel as Capone stood like a sentry holding up his shirt, as if they didn’t already know Boston sucked.

Soon after we entered this hotel, which was attached to a mall. Our intention was to stalk the mall and let Capone hold up his shirt some more. Obviously we had beer, so we parked ourselves in the lobby to finish them off before entering the mall, and here comes Bernie Williams, strolling around the other side of the lobby. Recognizing us from all the pregame hobnobbing we would do when they still sold beer in the bleachers, so that we would be inside for batting practice, his face lit up. “Don’t you guys have jobs?” Bernie asked. We all chucked in uncomfortable fashion, wished him well, and he was gone as mysteriously as the crone of the woods.

My first impressions of Fenway Park? From outside it looked nondescript. At the time I was shopping in porno stores that had nicer outdoor facades. I grumbled about the grass poking through the cracks in the sidewalk, even though I was used to stumbling into and out of potholes right outside our beloved Yankee Stadium. The greens on the wall were more reminiscent of bile than lush greenery. The seats were rickety and cramped, and there were poles in the way. But, all this said, we knew the history there, and we respected that. Though, at the same time, we were sort of pissing all over it.

At one point during the game a beefy guy in front of us noted Capone’s New York Rangers shirt and asked if he liked hockey, which when you think about it was a brilliant question. After it was established that yes, the guy in the Rangers shirt liked hockey, the drunk mentioned his friend played hockey, and was quite accomplished to boot. He looked back at us like a puppy wanting a treat, waiting for us to ask who the hell his friend was. Losing patience fast, we asked, and he beamed and said with a flourish as if he was a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, “Scott Lachance!” Capone promptly choked on his beer and hooted, “Scott Lachance of the Islanders? He sucks!” Meanwhile, Scott Lachance was sitting in the row in front of us and two seats to the left with his drunken friend, and he shook his head in dismay.

Ah, the game! The Yankees lost 12-11, which was bad enough. They blew an 11-9 lead in the ninth after they had come back from a 9-7 deficit in the top of the ninth, which was worse. As you can imagine, when the Yankees took that ninth-inning lead, we were full of vigor and mirth, and not making many friends with our particular brand of hoot and holler. And, as you can further imagine, after the Red Sox stormed back and pretty much told us all to put it back in our pants, our night was done and we were showered in a potent mix of mock.

Our good friend John Wetteland was the catalyst for disaster, serving up three hits with a side of two walks, to plate three runs, in 2/3 of an inning. The legendary Vaughn Eshelman got the win that night to pour salt in the wound. Other interesting asides included a home run from clod Jose Canseco for Boston, another by Mariano Duncan for the good guys, a pinch-hitting appearance by Mike Aldrete and Wade Boggs swiping his first bag on the year. It was also yet another “near” four-hour affair for these two clubs, clocking in at 3:58. Upon further review, I see that this win put Boston a solid 15 games behind the Yankees in the division hunt. Good job, way to go, fellas!

There was a sad side note to the trip on that 17th day of July back in 1996. We had flipped on 770-WABC for the postgame, which was coming in clear up the East Coast, only to have Curtis Sliwa break in with the news that TWA Flight 800 had gone down off the coast of Long Island. We pretty much rode the rest of the way home in silence, which may have been a first and a last for the three of us.

A few years later someone was daft enough to rent a bus for a Creature trip to Boston. At this time we were the scourges of, well, everywhere. Baltimore politicos were publicly imploring locals not to sell those damn Yankees fans their extra ducats, and even our kindly friends up north in Toronto had tired of us by then after a series of road trips gone awry. I hopped on board for this one and drank all the way up. Hell, I even drank on the way to where we were meeting the bus for the ride up! I was quite the cock of the walk by the time we rolled into Beantown.

All went well until we were approaching the gate for entry into the storied park. I’m a noted critic of lines. I don’t’ like them, and usually make that point known while I’m in them, which endears me to few. I successfully handed off my ticket, which was an accomplishment in itself, considering how much I had to drink. Then I subjected myself to someone rummaging through my nifty vinyl Yankees giveaway duffle bag. Why I had a bag with me is beyond comprehension since all I really needed was my scorecard to make messy notes on that no one (including me) could read later. After my bag was checked I moved on my way. Well, four feet anyway. I was then stopped to have my bag checked again, and this flustered me to no end. Of course the easy thing to do would have been to open the bag, chuckle, and ruminate how this was already done while it was being done again. The proverbial no harm, no foul. I tended to veer left when a simple right turn would do. I balked about this transgression, insinuating it was an outrage, and that I was being discriminated against because I was decked in Yankees gear with a spiffy vinyl bag with a Yankees logo on it. No Boston fan would suffer such an indignity! I was causing quite the scene, which by then I was used to.

Someone in a position to make my life miserable walked over to find out what was going on. I continued my harangue until I was asked to leave. At this point I realized I might have flubbed. My apology was ignored. My initial attempt at begging was scoffed at. As I was led to the door I saw some fellow Creatures not only heading in, but trying to hide behind Boston fans to avoid getting involved in my plight. Once I was back at the exit reality sank in and I started playing the sympathy card to the police officer, who by now had walked over with a smile on his face. He was obviously a man of action and here was some to be had in spades.

“I spent hours on a bus to get here,” I pointed out. “Hope it had a nice bathroom,” the cop retorted. “My wife is inside,” I lied, as I not only didn’t have a wife, but I could not even keep a girlfriend. “I hope she has a good time,” the officer said, openly smirking now.

It was time to break out the big guns. “Well, I’m Sheriff Tom,” I said, pointing at the plastic toy badge on my T-shirt that proclaimed this very thing. “Yes,” he said, “and I’m Officer Clancy. It’s been nice meeting you. Now move along.” Between this and the “fahk in the road” incident I realized Boston cops liked telling people to move along.

He ushered me back outside, and as I muttered something under my breath that sort of sounded like, “I’ll just go in at another gate,” he proclaimed, “Oh, by the way, if I see you coming in another gate, you’re going to jail.” He then backed up, looked at me with a grin, proud of his work, and ambled off, whistling a happy tune. I was stuck outside.

What to do, what to do? First, I called the only Creature inside whose number I had in my phone: the infamous Bad Mouth Larry. After interminable rings, I got his voicemail. Totally befuddled as to why he wouldn’t pick up, I left a message explaining I was stuck outside, had no idea how I would find the group or bus after the game, and to send help. I slumped against the wall, cursing my fate. I tried Larry again, got the machine again, and by now I was speaking in more clipped and grumpy tones.

This went on for another half-hour, and another five or six calls. Each message on his machine from me grew louder and angrier. Passersby stopped to watch me bark into the phone, and it only stopped after I dropped my phone on the sidewalk and broke it. Oh, and why wasn’t Larry answering my cries for help? Because I was calling his home phone the whole time! He wasn’t home. He was inside Fenway Park. About 15 hours later, when he got home and checked his answering machine, he had quite the laugh.

And what became of me? I meandered like Moses. I sampled those Boston bars everyone kept talking about, and you know what? For all the crap Boston fans take, I saw none of it that day. I was lauded like a conquering hero. My sob story, as only I could tell it, with curse words sprinkled within and accompanied by funny pantomimes (you should have seen me act out how I dropped and broke my phone) got me free drinks.

We talked baseball. We talked road trips. We talked women! I invited them back to the bleachers, where I promised to guarantee them a hassle-free time, and lots of laughs to boot. Who doesn’t like lots of laughs?  Little did I tell them I had no say in the “hassle-free time” and even if I did, peer pressure would have gotten to me once they were inside Yankee Stadium and I would have turned on them and gave them crap. But for that night, we were cordial enemies, sharing ale, talking ball, singing along to the jukebox, and making fun of the Mets.

The game ended and in a panic I stumbled right into the group and the bus. I guess the story would have been more interesting if I got stuck in Boston, but that’s a story for another day and another venue. As for the game? I have no freakin’ idea. I don’t even remember what year this was.

There are more Boston trips mixed in from over the years. There was the time I saw vocalist Dickie Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in a McDonald’s somewhere by Fenway. I looked at him, and he looked away (I was always good at that). This has since become the impetus for my “Dickie Barrett ordering a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s” impression, which has never gotten me anywhere or anything.

There was the time I was spent an overnight outside Fenway in a play for tickets for the next day with bleacher fixtures Justin and Grover, watching as a fan climbed up a pole in an effort to make “YAWKEY WAY” read “YANKEE WAY” with some stickers he brought along for this sole purpose.

And of course there was the time where a group of Creatures were whooping it up over dinner at a sports bar when someone hollered, “Hey, its Kenny Anderson!” and as I turned to look, my drunk ass tipped over the chair, and Kenny Anderson – otherwise busy that week in the NBA playoffs for the Celtics – had to save me from crashing to the floor. Not everyone can say Kenny Anderson saved them from falling out of a chair because they were drunk. (And I don’t even like basketball, so he was pretty much wasting his time.)

Finally there was the Boston trip, which ended with me somehow losing all of my money, staring at an empty wallet in absolute befuddlement. (I have no conscious memory of being robbed, but who knows with me.) So not only did I need to bum a good meal off of Justin at a Cracker Barrel on the way home, I had the balls to hit him up for another $16 on the way out the door so I could buy a harmonica out of their gift shop. Hey, it came with a book on how to play it! To show that most stories have a happy ending, I still have that harmonica … though I never did learn how to play it.

So yeah, I have memories surrounding the Yankees from out and about Fenway Park. Sure, they don’t involve Munson crashing into Fisk, Jim Rice going down on strikes with the bases loaded, or even a Yankees win, but they sure were fun. I have seen the Yankees beat Boston plenty of times right here at home. That certainly counts for something.

One day I’m sure I’ll make it back up to Boston, but this time I’ll have my wife and daughter with me, and the stories won’t have such an element of danger. But for now you can leave me with my memories with the Bleacher Creatures on the road to Boston, and I’m a happy man.

Cheers and beers … “Boston Sucks!”