It was a sticky mid-summer’s night in 1991 – July the 21st to be exact. How do I remember? No, how could I forget? I would usually spend nights such as this watching the game in my grandparents’ in-law apartment, right downstairs. Salvatore would rant on about how much these guys were bums, while cracking open shell after shell of dry-roasted resplendence. As should be expected, Frances would go through with her, “banana? pie? cake? cookie? apple? ice cream?” routine. Unfortunately, the first-listed and most fancied of these snacks was not, at least on this particular night, readily available.
I was spending the week away with my family. That is to say, most of my family – my grand parents would stay home for these types of excursions. We were on an outdoor getaway in West Kingston, RI at a reservation, if you will, known as Wawaloam Campground.
With it’s on-sight Speedstick-peddling convenience store and copiously-chlorinated “L-shaped” pool – whose winding slide gave serious shocks every time someone dared to take a ride down – it’s quite safe to say that we were far from roughing it.
Despite the ground’s impressive amenities, my only real connection to the outside world was made possible by a tiny, red transistor radio Salvatore had given me. I had packed it up with other homey essentials: Tiger Force Duke & Bazooka (and naturally, Tiger Paw, the GI Joe all-terrain-vehicle) as well as these nifty, neon green swim trunks, whose inner-lining I had carefully cut out (even as a youngster I paid special attention to the sensitivity of my private region).
This was a most memorable evening, made possible by a series of events that I was only able to hear through the minuscule, black speaker (yes, speaker, singular, as in monaural). The sox were on and my 10-year old anxiety was running high – how could this be? It just wasn’t fair.. I couldn’t stop myself from frantically pacing about. There I was neurotically climbing in and then back out of my dad’s musty, mold-ridden 1973 pop-up camper – as if performing some form of Woody Allen-esque ritual of futility. And it wasn’t even due to the fact that the general store was completely out of those gosh-darn gratifying goobers.
Jack Clark couldn’t even get them out of this jam. The Twins had gotten a hold of Bolton early on. The bullpen lacked anything in way of relief. Morton, Lamp, Fossas. Even more runs. Kiecker? Spent. Joe Morgan – at wits end. And then something quite magical happened.
I couldn’t see it beyond my mind’s eye, but what was announced next, filled me with an indescribable surge like I had never felt before (only to be eclipsed some three years later when I finally “discovered myself” for the first time).
As per his unrivaled knack, Bob Star described things in such acute detail: our fair skipper had come out to the mound once again, yet no one was up in the pen. He took up the ball, did an about-face and haphazardly gestured towards the outfield.
As if struck by the spirit of Freddie Lynn, this absolute enigma of a being emerged from the mist of his center field post and dutifully trotted to his manager’s side, where he proceeded to take warm-ups.
Psycho was a player’s-player who had impressively defended in all of the other 8 positions was about to run things in the #1 slot!!
“Alright bud, its about time you hit the sack”, I was then told by my Ma – just my luck. “What would He do?”, I thought. Not to be outdone by my new-found, heroic do-gooder, I took one for the team and respectfully obliged – “phhheeearrsh-click” and I too tuned out for the day.
Sox lost 14-1. He didn’t stay with the club much longer, but he DID show me what it really meant to be part of the greatest professional sports fan-base in the civilized world – Red Sox Nation.
So, for taking my mind off how much better the game would have been had I been able to enjoy it with my grandparents over Sprice and peanuts, I thank you Steve Lyons.