Sketch by Henry Gustavson
BOTTOM OF THE THIRD: RED SOX 8 (3) – 0 GIANTS
Look at Matt Cain on the mound, readying his next pitch, holding up a yellowed glove in front of his mouth like the beak of a strange orange bird. Stirrups. Elastic. Uniforms from the early ‘80s. Not the Orioles in town, but the Giants—a rare interleague trip to Fenway Park, the two teams sharing half the World Series wins this past decade, teams with no history of big-time matchups.
Look at Xander Bogaerts strolling to the plate, “Who’s been chilly with the bat,” per the Sox’ TV crew, his metal cleats digging into the dirt. A floral, white and red patch on his shoulder, like the flag of Hong Kong, Boston’s own throwback to the era of ups and downs, curses and sighs. In fabric designs, two teams revisiting the lean years, laurel-less decades when championships worked like a cruel mirage, blurring out of sight in the distance. ‘04, ’07, ’10, ’12, ’13, ’14, and the unknown rewards of ’16 no one’s rational dream. An exaggerated timeline of progress, a forward-looking sci-fi novel with the dates of future events all wrong. But now, somehow, six recent rosters of champions, three for each side, gathered here tonight at Fenway.
Bogaerts hits a single on the ground between third and short. One on, no out.
The TV camera cuts to a reporter hiking up into the right-field stands, approaching the red Ted Williams seat, for a mini-lecture on the homer, the history, the humid summer air making him pause as he tries to get scripted words out, catching his breath.
A beach ball flies around between the fans around him, their attention evading both him and the game.
“Can you see home plate from there?” they ask in the broadcast booth.
The field reporter has just run up a long set of concrete stairs, his blue button-up soaked in sweat, a sound-man dripping behind him, untangling a fallen mic cord, donning a headset and turning to face a far-off camera zoomed in from across the park.
“Yeah, yeah barely. Barely! Almost out of oxygen up here.”
People watch the beach ball bounce around from one section to its neighbor, arms pushing it onward, the ball drifting down the rows until it’s almost into the bullpen, not quite over the edge. A collective prudence snaps to and floats the ball back up to the upper rows, hopping over the aisle as the attention drifts toward and back away from the game at hand. As if they’ve all spotted a giant home-run ball, coming right for them.
David Ortiz comes up and flies out on a deep line drive to center, Denard Span nabbing it on the dirt warning track.
“Almost outta the ballpahk,” says a voice in the booth.
Hanley Ramirez steps up next, almost hit by the first pitch from Cain, an inside fastball. Cain throws over to first, keeping Bogaerts close to the base. He waits, sets up, and throws over again. The Giants looking for their first-ever win at Fenway, still slumping out of the All-Star break.
Ramirez works a long at-bat, adjusting his gloves, dreadlocks draped over his shoulders. And like the Ramirez he’s borderline impersonating, he whips his bat through the zone, and connects on one. Crack!!
The ball sails off over the outfield, aimed dead center above the green garage door in center, some dozen feet past the spot where Papi flew out. Heading straight for the vertical yellow stripe dividing home-run land from the wall that’s in play. And it’s gone—into the triangle, the other triangle, bouncing around like pinball between wall, another wall, roof, flag pole, stands, and into the hands of one happy fan, like a gift dropped down from the heavens, into a hidden back alley of baseball souvenirdom.
Cain turns as the ball rockets outward off the bat, watching it fly, tucking his jersey tighter into his waistband as if to coax the ball back into the field of play.
It’s the second home run on the night for Ramirez. A legacy, never before mentioned with him, starting to form.
— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2016
The eyes on the beach ball change channels for a moment, switching left to right like midcourt at a tennis match, and each pair of arms beyond the walls shoots up like the start of a new season. Red Sox nation sprouting up into a big inning bloom.
Jackie Bradley Jr. strolls up to the plate, his bat tucked into his shoulder, this newest generation of Boston talent—act three of the Killer B’s (& Bogaerts & Betts).
Suarez comes in from the bullpen for Cain, and Bradley rips a slider into the right-field corner. Travis Shaw flies out to left. Two outs, the score already 5-0 for the Sox, as Sandy Leon comes up out of the on-deck circle. And Bruce Springsteen, crooning out from some tape player in the parking lot, his voice reaching up just over the Green Monster, just into the range of the batter’s box:
Sandy…the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden Fenway tonight…
Sandy…the aurora is rising behind us!
It’s now twilight in Boston. The Citgo sign above the field in left flickers on with its red triangle something of a waymark, an arrow pointing upward for offense to come.
Leon, somehow, has been batting .424. A mystery. A sensation. Like one of the rag-tag fill-ins of the 2013 squad that brought another title home to Boston.
Sandy drives one deep to center, the same path as the others. It clangs off the wall, just below the yellow line, at the 379-ft. mark, where the dark green walls turn to light. Span plays the carom—and Leon’s rounding second with a sprint in to third for the triple.
Look at Bruce Bochy in the Giants’ dugout, a face frozen as if there’s some signal lag, and he says into his hand, “What kind of fuggin’ game is this…”
Sandy Leon with the superfluous slide, That was a standup triple all the way. Seriously, who is this guy? Journeyman to legend? #RedSox
— All Boston Sports (@mlbjunkie1972) July 21, 2016
Brock Holt comes up. Brock Holt!! The camera zooms in on the home team’s socks, a throwback get-up with red bottom halves, a white stripe, black stripe, white stripe, and black column rising up to the folded white pants at the knees. Holt gets a 2-2 fastball, up and away, and he reaches out and slaps at it. Shot on a line into the left-field corner. Another run scores. 7-0 Sox. Brock Holt!!
Red Sox all the way up.
Mookie Betts hits his first pitch into the same spot. Line drive pulled to left. Double. Sox up 8-0 now. Sliding into second with his helmet flying off, nodding at the ump as he’s granted time.
David Price gets the dugout going. Finger pointing, head bobbing along, peanut bag in hand. saying “Yes. yes. yes. yes. More, wherever that came from!”
Dustin Pedroia comes up and hits into a quick groundout, the catcher throwing to first for the third out. But the statement has been made. Sox up eight. Summertime, July. New England at its very best.
A rogue out-of-towner walks back to his seats from the concourse, snacks in hand, draped in the all-orange of a die-hard away from home, and looks up at what can only be called horror. The most crooked of numbers on the scoreboard, all zeroes for the Giants, and five more innings to go in a torture seat he actually paid for. Front row view. No chance of a comeback. And the Red Sox, making their case for another year of magic.
See more of Henry’s artwork here: gustavgustav.com