Sox fans tend to refer to Camden Yards in Baltimore as Fenway South. You can get a cheap flight or bus ticket to Baltimore and great seat at Camden for about the same price as a good seat in Fenway. Is it any wonder that, with some frequent flyer miles or hotel reward points, you can have a great weekend trip to see your team and maybe hop the MARC into DC for some sight seeing? We've done it and we're not alone. In fact, it was kind of strange to be at the player's gate in Baltimore and run into someone I knew from home. They were visiting relatives for the Easter holiday over school vacation week. We were in DC visiting family during school vacation week and our paths crossed at a Sox game in Baltimore.
What about people going the other way? People who grew up in Baltimore during the hey day of the Orioles and their domination of the AL East that came to Boston for college or work and never left? We often talk about the Sox/Yanks mixed marriages, but there have to be Sox/O's and other mixed marriages in Red Sox Nation. While I have pretty much brought my husband to the light so that I know he means the Red Sox instead of the Yanks when he says, "How are we doing?" as he walks in during a game, do any of us in these mixed marriages ever stop trying to convince the person we love to change on this particular subject? What do we, as Sox fans, know about other teams cultures and traditions?
I was once asked to write an essay for "Seasons of Hartford" magazine about our mixed marriage. I focused the summer my son became a Yankees fan. He came around pretty quickly, but I did have to remind myself that I loved my husband and I loved my son... no matter what faults and bad habits they may have.
So here is a picture of battle of that fight to change.
Walking across the parking lot, Fred and his mom linked arms and began singing.
“Tessie, “Nuf Ced” MacGreevey shouted, we’re not here to mess around. Boston you know we love you madly hear the crowd roar to your sound. Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you, you know we couldn’t live without you. Tessie, you are the only, only, oh ohn-ly…”
“Seriously you two, cut it out,” Ellis said. Ellis was Fred’s step-dad, his mom’s second husband, and a life-long Orioles fan. While they were in Baltimore for Passover with his parents, they decided to catch the Red Sox versus the Orioles at Camden Yards.
“I can’t help it if my mom married a guy with bad taste in baseball teams,” Fred called out over his shoulder. “If you get with the program, you can join the light side.”
Fred and his mom laughed while Ellis trailed behind. They were in their gray Red Sox away jerseys. Fred wore his Youkilis jersey and his mom wore her Varitek one. Ellis had on an Orioles jersey with “Ripken” across the back.
Ellis trailed behind a little as the two danced in front of him singing all of the song “Tessie,” the Dropkick Murphy anthem that Sox fans felt helped propel the team to its first World Series victory in 86 years. He enjoyed seeing the two of them so happy.
“Come on El,” mom called out, “join us in the chorus.”
He caught up with them, smiling.
“I’ll walk with you but I won’t sing.”
“Poop,” mom called him.
“Good thing I love you two,” he said, “or you’d have to buy your own tickets to the game.”
“Thanks for the tickets,” Fred quickly said.
“You can thank me by not singing.”
“Ain’t gonna happen,” he replied.
Fred was amazed at how many Red Sox shirts and caps he saw on people entering the park. His mom had taken him to a couple of away games before when visiting. There were always folks representing Red Sox nation, but nothing like what he was seeing in Baltimore.
Looking around, Fred noticed the way the walkways were laid out, the vendor stands, the brightness of the whole concourse area was similar to what McCoy stadium in Pawtucket was like. It was comfortable and familiar, but as they entered the stadium bowl, Fred was struck by how similar it was to Fenway without the Green Monster.
“So if you took Fenway and McCoy and merged them together, you’d have Camden Yards.”
“Not exactly,” Ellis replied. “The decks and things are more like modern parks but you’re right in that they really wanted to get an intimate feel like you get at a place like Fenway.”
“Is this the Red Sox seating area?” Fred asked as they looked around. Almost everyone around them was wearing Red Sox gear in the close to sold out crowd.
“Nice try my friend, I suspect there are a lot of folks, like us, in the area for school vacation, the holidays and everything else. Some folks will come down from Boston and it’s a chance for people in the general area who originally came from Boston to catch their team. It’s a good location, just like Tampa Bay in the south, for expat Bostonians to catch a game.”
“Believe what you want, the truth is this is Fenway South and your best player retired before this guy was born,” mom chimed in. “Trust me, come to the side of goodness and light. We have cookies.”
“Yeah, I’ll stick with the dark side, we have beer.”
“No you have watered down hops. We have real beer like Sam Adams and Wachusett.”
“Hey Ellis, how come your parents didn’t come to the game with us? Isn’t your dad an O’s fan?”
“Sort of. He hasn’t been to a game in years and I suspect the thought of sitting in the middle of a bunch of Red Sox fans doesn’t really excite him all that much. In fact, the last game he went to was back when Cal Ripken, Jr. was still playing.”
“I like that book he gave me by Ripken, ‘The Ripken Way.’ I was reading it before I went to sleep last night. It was pretty cool about how hard he worked and stuff to the point that his own dad was surprised at what he learned and could do. I read like half of it already.”
“Be sure to tell him that, it will make him happy to hear you’re enjoying it.”
“Maybe we can go to the Ripken Museum together. That would be kind of cool I think.”
Ellis smiled. Fred was a good kid. His mother had done a good job raising him.
“Hey Fred, what are the chances I could get you to wear a Roberts shirt?”
“Slim to none.”
“Can’t blame a man for trying.”
“Maybe not, but she’d kill you if you bought me one.”
“Not if he bought you one Fred. Don’t be so dramatic. I’d kill the two of you if you wore it. In fact, how about I get you a Pedroia shirt to wear so you can stop embarrassing me with that damn Ripken shirt?”
Ellis shook his head.
“Not gonna happen my love.”
“Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
“How about a wager?” Fred asked.
“Since when do you make wagers?”
“Not me mom, I mean between the two of you. If the Sox win, Ellis has to wear a Pedroia shirt. If the O’s win, then you have to wear a Roberts shirt.”
“I think I could do that,” his mom said, “what about you chicken boy?”
“Oh it’s on like Donkey Kong!”
The game was a good one, the score was tight and both teams played hard. It was weird for Teddy to have the Sox leading off instead of the O’s, but he was enjoying himself. If it weren’t for the “Let’s go O’s” chants and the music playing for the O’s instead of the Sox, he would have sworn he was at Fenway.
“So when you were a kid, did your dad take you here for games?”
“Nah, the place opened in 1992. We used to go to games in Memorial Stadium, which was kind of a dump. You’ll see we have our traditions too. Just like they play ‘Sweet Caroline’ for the 8th inning at Fenway, we have ‘Thank G-d I’m a Country Boy’ during the 7th inning.”
“Seriously, you’re proud of a John Denver song for your tradition?” mom interjected.
“Says the woman who gets psyched over a Neil Diamond song.”
“Hey he was sexy once, a word you’ll never hear used in describing John Denver.”
“Perhaps, but I do hear the words ‘old’ and ‘lame’ when it comes to Neil Diamond.”
“Burn!” Fred said.
“Enough from the peanut gallery.”
“We also do the whole ‘O’ thing during the Star Spangled Banner and a lot of the O chants instead of the clapping you do for the Red Sox.”
“Interesting,” Fred said. He watched the game for a little then said, “You know what’s too bad?”
“What?” Ellis asked.
“That announcers get to go to all the parks but they don’t talk about this kind of stuff. I think that if I were ever an announcer, I’d want to let fans know that other teams have their cultures and traditions. It kind of makes me feel like Orioles fans are kind of cool. I mean yeah their team has sort of sucked for 30 years, but they’re still into them with stuff like the songs and chants. That’s worth something.”
“Kind of like the Red Sox sucked for as long as they did and yet the fans still had their traditions and stuff.”
“Just like that,” Fred said. “It would be nice if people knew that then maybe it would be a lot less fighting about team stuff and more like, ‘Hey it’s cool you like your team, it’s cool that we all love baseball so much that we get into our teams like that.’”
“I think you’re onto something there Fred.”
“I think so too,” Fred said. “And you would think Sox and Orioles fans would have a little bit more in common since the guys who own the Sox used to own the O’s.”
“You would think.”
“Well, maybe one day.”
“When I get older, I think I want to write books and stuff about baseball traditions. It could be a lot of fun.”
“I like that idea,” his mom said.
“Tell you what sport, we’ll start this summer by going to the Hall of Fame during vacation and lets see what you can learn there.”
“Can we mom?”
“Like I’m going to say no to Cooperstown? Of course we’ll go.”
In the end, the Sox pulled it out and they stopped at the gift shop on the way out to buy a Pedroia shirt for Ellis.
“My father may disown me over this,” he said putting on the Pedroia shirt as they headed back across the parking lot.
“It was a good bet.”
“I suppose. I guess taking the two of you to the Ripken museum may save the day for me.”
“Since you’re wearing the shirt,” Fred said, he looked at his mom and started, “Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you, you know we couldn’t live without you…”
Ellis looked at his family and smiled, joining in with them he sang, “Tessie, you are my only, only, oh - ohnly…”