ONE ON ONE: Where, Oh Where, Have My Boston Red Sox Gone

Rummaging through my desk I came across a number of old Boston Red Sox ticket stubs, some dating back to childhood and all of them – including one from the 2000 season – made me wince and instinctively check to see if my wallet was still in my back pocket.

My how times – and, in particular, the cost to enjoy something as simple as a baseball game – have changed.

Junk drawer of Red Sox memories: Priceless.

Junk drawer of Red Sox memories: Priceless.

I can remember having $9.00 from my paper route and telling my mother (not asking) that me and a couple of friends were going to take the train to North Station and go to Fenway for a game one Saturday afternoon.

“Ok, have fun,” was the advice I received.

The cost of the train was to North Station was $1.00 each way. Down to $7.00, that did not leave much room for error or mathematical miscalculation. The subway, if I remember correctly, was $0.25 cents. We arrived at the “Old Garden” via the North Station end-of-the-line where we were promptly greeted by a near seven-foot transient who seemed to glare – and scare – right through me before he stooped down and placed his head inside a steel trash barrel, removed a half-filled cup of what appeared to be orange juice and drank it. It was exceptionally hot. We walked incredibly fast.

Through the hot stench of the Garden it was difficult for this boy to walk by and ignore the Garden Pro Shop and souvenir store with posters of Yastrzemski and Fisk and Orr and Havlicek, but $7.00, soon to be $6.50, would not have lasted a second so we scrambled and I must confess looking back over my shoulder for the curly haired, seven-foot, orange-juice drinking “guy,” half-imagining him following us.

We made it to through the subway and transfers and arrived at Kenmore Square via the Green Line, got our tickets and were in. Of course, we had no intention of sitting still or remaining in the bleachers and with $4.00 left and a token to get home that was more than enough for a hot dog, a giant Coke and popcorn. We found ourselves, eventually three rows back behind the third base dugout and honestly, I cannot even remember who the Sox were playing. The Kansas City Royals, perhaps?

In any event, the seats behind us were largely empty for a while until about a half dozen beer swilling, ZZ Top-looking bikers sat down with absolutely zero intention of watching the game based on the conversations – or arguments, as it were – I was eavesdropping in on.

It was the perfect distraction to keep the suspicious maroon-jacketed ushers away from us. This group of zany characters yelling and drinking and bickering. It was, for a boy, nerve-wracking to say the least and rightly so, but at the same time wildly exciting. It was like watching an R-rated movie for the first time and it just got better.

At some point the argument became so heated, out from one of their tall, black leather Frye boots came a giant Bowie knife. This was the real deal. Before we could react – as in run — a veritable army of those maroon-jacketed ushers came swooping in and miraculously hauled these yahoos away. There were some punches thrown and landed. There were Labatt’s beers spewed everywhere. There was, without question, one or two fantastic tackles thrown in.

But when the furor died down, we were safe. No one checked our tickets. I still had about $1.25 left in my pocket. I think Bob “Monty” Montgomery belted a home run or perhaps it was Denny Doyle or Tommy Helms or George Scott. Maybe it was all of them or some combination thereof.

In any event, that hard-earned $9.00 had gone a long, long way toward the type of excitement most moms would faint at witnessing. I did not relay the story upon arriving home later that evening at dusk.

Somehow, I don’t think $256.00 “Green Monstah” seats are going to get an 11-year-old those type of memories anymore. I think I made less than that in two years of delivering newspapers every day after school. Of course, prices and costs are relative to some degree in 2015 and certainly everything has changed but do 11-year-olds take the train alone without parental supervision anymore and then navigate subways to get in line to buy Red Sox tickets and then make their way home one their own?

Not a chance.

There was something so much more valuable in those youthful experiences that made a trip to Fenway worth far more than $9.00… there were lessons and sights I wish kids could still have but it just doesn’t seem any more possible than, sadly, seeing kids on bikes racing down to local ball fields to play pick-up games.

Those days are gone and along with them the realistic chance that some kids on a summer Saturday morning somewhere West of Boston can pick up the one phone in the house on the wall in their respective kitchens and hatch this “plan” to explore the world for a few simple bucks and be allowed to do it. Those days have been replaced with players who misplace uncashed checks for $50,000 in their $10,000 snakeskin boots or go on the “DL” for “soreness.”

In hindsight, I’d still take Denny Doyle at second base any day.

— Sports Editor Sean Walsh’s column “One on One” appears here weekly. His email is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm

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