Fright Night at Fenway Park

23Oct08

Fenway ParkWednesday, September 24 was a dark and chilly night at Fenway Park, as the Boston Red Sox prepared to play the Cleveland Indians in a meaningless game. The Red Sox had clinched a post-season berth the night before, assuring that there would be October baseball in Boston.

Cleveland was going nowhere, achieving a .500 winning percentage only by playing well for the previous month. Pitcher Paul Byrd was starting for Boston against the Indians, a team that had previously released him, so there was some on-field drama.

But who could know that the real drama that night would unfold beneath the stands, on the lower concourse on the third base side.

I had received a phone call from a friend earlier the day before. He had been wanting to go to one more game this season, he said, and had gone online that morning and managed to snap up a couple of good seats behind third base. Was I interested?

He didn’t need to ask twice. We made plans to drive in early, both of us unprepared for the eerie encounter that awaited us inside the historic ball yard.

When the gates opened at 5:05 p.m., we entered Fenway Park in time to watch the Indians’ batting practice from the railing in the right field corner. The rays of the setting sun warmed the faces of early arrivals as we watched Cleveland pitchers in warm-up jackets shagging fly balls in outfield.

After batting practice ended, we made our way in the direction of our seats, stopping briefly behind home plate to watch a steady parade of pre-game ceremonies and photo ops. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino was milling around shaking hands with the various people crowded around the home plate area, waiting for Fenway PA announcer Carl Beane to announce each group’s moment under the lights.

The Sox had clinched a playoff spot the previous night, so team President Larry Lucchino was also working the pre-game crowd on the field, as congratulations were offered all around. Lucchino exited the field through a small gate right in front of us, and as he walked up the aisle past us, my friend shouted, “Hey Larry, congratulations!”

Lucchino stopped and shook my friend’s hand. “And the same to you, as well,” he said.

As a chilly darkness descended around Fenway Park, we made our way to our assigned seats, unaware that a tall figure clad in red was taking his own seat along the first base line.

His presence would be known to us in due time.

We got to section 31, box 162, Row MM in plenty of time to watch Paul Byrd warm up. Long about the third inning, we decided to head down to the lower concourse to re-stock our provisions.
Green Monster
The concourse was packed between innings as seemingly everyone in the ball park had the same idea. The sights and sounds of wall-to-wall fans along with the smells of hot dogs, peanuts, pretzels, pizza, sausages and beer combined into a feast for the senses.

I waited in line for hot dogs and pretzels while my friend stood in the beer line. We met by the condiment stand, where there was a short line for mustard, relish and ketchup. I got in first, while my friend grabbed the next opening.

We could not have imagined our ensuing fate.

I stepped away from the condiment stand first, balancing my Fenway Frank, pretzel and beverage as best I could.

Into the void that I had vacated stepped a tall figure in a red jacket. The word “Bangor” was emblazoned in white letters on his back. My friend was busy spreading mustard on his own purchases, and did not notice the presence beside him.

As my friend stepped away from the stand, I pointed to the tall figure and mouthed, “Stephen King.”

Horror writer and Maine native Stephen King is a notorious Red Sox fan and frequently attends the team’s home and away games, usually from seats on the first base side. What he was doing in our neck of the woods behind third base was a mystery.

King has written both fiction and non-fiction books about baseball. But he achieved world-wide fame as the author of more than forty modern horror classics like “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “Misery,” “Salem’s Lot” and “The Stand.” Hollywood has adapted his books into celluloid scare-fests.

With my free hand, I fumbled for my camera as the Titan of Terror finished his business turned away from the stand.

“Hey Steve,” my buddy called out. “Would you mind if my friend took your picture?”

The First Man of Fright turned and fixed his gaze upon the source of the voice. He placed his right hand on my friend’s left shoulder.

“Yeah,” he said. “Sort of.”

With that, the Master of Horror stalked away and vanished into the crowd.

[This column originally appeared in the October 23, 2008 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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2 Responses to “Fright Night at Fenway Park”

  1. I’m sorry. That’s just wrong. When my novel is on the NY Times Best Sellers you can take my picture anytime. I enjoyed your account of the baseball experience. I can smell the night air.

  2. 2 Meg Sardella

    Obviously Stephen King does not know who the distinguished Mark Sardella is. I think the picture was more his loss!


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