okay, day three, it is my last day in boston, so i need to make the most of it. monday, do you think you can deliver? good! it sounds like you are up to the challenge. the day’s not getting any longer, so let’s get started!
after a solid night of sleep, the city was ours for the taking. as we strolled to the fields corner metro stop, we munched on homemade egg rolls that vinh’s mother had given us before we dashed out the door. those things were crispy and warm and gone in no time. the perfect snack to get our metabolisms going.
we grabbed our charlie tickets and stepped aboard the redline, northbound to alewife. when i take public transportation in other cities, i always wonder if i look like a tourist. was i blending in because i was being accompanied (well, more like chaperoned, let’s be honest) by a local? um, probably not, especially since i was so chatty and upbeat for a monday. something i noticed very quickly about bostonians is that while they are not necessarily rude, they aren’t really pleasant either, at least to strangers. i found that my polite “excuse me’s” and “pardon me’s” went unnoticed and seemed to not be appreciated one bit. this much is true of pedestrians and even more severe for drivers. i’m convinced no one’s blinkers work and that lane stripes are more like guidelines than actual restrictions. cars seem to have no regard for those on foot, and the reverse seems to be quite the same. there was more than just once when i thought i might be nudged into an intersection and made to fear for my life. as they say, you can take the girl out of the south, but you cannot take the southern hospitality out of the girl. okay, so maybe it isn’t an actual saying, but right here from yours truly is a first-hand testimony. tell me it counts for something!
okay, now that i’m cooled down from that fun, let’s talk about more food. if you’re thinking to yourself, “geez, kels, it seems all you do is eat,” then you’d be correct. when i’m on vacation, i like to eat my way through the city. food is what brings people together, and there’s almost nothing better than enjoying the company of family and friends over a stellar meal. so, yes, vinh and i were again eating, and it is not one to miss.
vinh had heard about sam lagrassa’s from one of his many friends still here in boston, and being one to never turn down a hot sandwich, he directed me there after detraining at downtown crossing. we quickly jumped inside, trying to not let in too much of the cold.
this place instantly reminded me of the stage deli up in new york city without the glam factor. the tiled floor, close seating, and let’s-get-to-business employees sent the message that they don’t mess around. they’re serious about their sandwiches, and their customers are serious about sam lagrassa’s. i didn’t want to look too out of place, so when my eyes came up on the jumbo reuben, i knew my decision would be a quick one. i paid, grabbed my water glass, and claimed a spot at the long middle table for the two of us.
most of the other patrons were young or grey-haired businessmen popping in for their monday lunch, although i’m unsure i understand how they’re productive after eating at a place like sam lagrassa’s. the sandwiches are so big that i almost got full just looking at mine.
our names were called before too long, so i hopped up to retrieve our lunches. first, because these sandwiches are so large, i’d say that a side is almost unnecessary. now, if you were to ask vinh if he agreed, i’m not sure he would. he easily ended up eating all of his and even the last few bites of my second half. something i came to realize on this trip is that vinh portion sizes are not to scale with average portion sizes. believe me, after eating every meal with him this weekend, a vinh medium is nearly equivalent to a standard extra small. okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still true!
we didn’t want our warm sandwiches getting cold on us, so we got to eating. my reuben was one of the best i’ve ever had and here’s why: the swiss cheese was so creamy and rich and the corned beef was ridiculously tender – it practically melted in my mouth. the russian dressing, sauerkraut, and pumpernickel bread made this classic complete. if you are a reuben-lover like myself and living in boston, come try out sam lagrassa’s version the first chance you get.
across from me, vinh had ordered the chipotle pastrami per the line cook’s recommendation. his sandwich looked downright delicious, and i’m glad he let me have a bite. the flavors on this sandwich are intense from the moment it hits your tongue, and i can promise you it’s something you want to finish right away because it’s that delicious. the coleslaw is sweet, not vinegary, which melds perfectly with the chipotle honey mustard. with all of that and the pastrami on an italian sesame roll, you’ve got a winner, no doubt about it.
again overstuffed and perfectly satisfied, my final meal in boston came to an end. vinh walked me down to the park street metro stop, through the turnstile, and on my way up the green line to kenmore, left on brookline, and onto yawkey way. yes, folks, i was going to tour fenway park. it’s too bad vinh couldn’t join me, but seeing as how he used to be a cracker jack vendor back in the day, he knew what i’d be seeing. plus, he had to work, so off i was!
we all gathered around ed and don in the team store before walking the short 67 feet to the park. we had folks from all over the world with us: a couple from england, two others from minneapolis, a retired pair from tampa, a guy from canada, a girl from los angeles, and four friends from australia.
to give us a quick taste of what we’d be touring, ed led us out behind home plate for my first ever view of the ballpark. pretty amazing, yes? i think so, too. now, as i took it all in after snapping these pictures, i realized fenway is actually quite small. it’s the third smallest park in the major leagues, seating just under 40,000 fans. the smaller seating didn’t bother me, though, for as we discovered its depths, i became quite nostalgic for america’s pastime. visions of great players and even greater plays come to mind, and i’m reminded why baseball is my favorite sport of them all. could i be more american? only if you give me an apple pie, mcdonald’s fries, and some trashy reality tv. yep, i think that would do the trick.
we traveled back inside to take a look at the visitors’ clubhouse in all its 500 square feet. it looks bearable for a team of 25, but throw 40 grown men in there after september 1st, and things are going to be cozy. ed informed us that the red sox’s clubhouse is over 1,500 square feet on two stories. well, that’s hometeam advantage for you.
as ed led us to the upper boxes, he stopped us on a ramp to reminisce on boston’s world series history. in 1903, the team was actually known as the boston americans, very apropos as they were in the american league. the first modern world series was born, and the boston americans defeated the pittsburgh pirates in 8 games, 5 to 3, when victory went to the best out of nine games. not a bad way to begin your major league history.
again in 1912, after being renamed the red sox under jon i taylor’s ownership, boston came to world series victory again over the new york giants. what’s even better is that year of 1912 was the team’s first season in fenway park. if you were a sox fan in the second decade of the 1900s, the good luck was only beginning. in 1915, 1916, and 1918, boston marched on to be world champions under the talent and leadership of legendary left-handed pitcher babe ruth.
then, at-time owner harry frazee ripped the team into a downward spiral as he sold off babe ruth to the new york yankees and countless other players to other teams, and what for? to fund his broadway disaster no, no, nanette. thanks for nothing, frazee. over the next 80-something years, the red sox struggled to succeed. there were good, even great, times with ted williams and the yawkeys, but at the end of the seasons, things just couldn’t go their way.
then, in 2004, something changed. boston put itself back on the radar in the american league. sweeping wins in the alds against anaheim and then a miraculous comeback against the yankees just put the writing on the wall. boston went ahead to never trail in their straight four-game win over the st. louis cardinals in the world series. that movie fever pitch? yep, it’s based on this unbelievable season. ask any bostonian, and you’ll relive it as if you were there.
2007 was another championship year for the red sox, and then 2013 rolled around to become one of the most memorable seasons ever. on april 15th, the city was in shock as it was terrorized with bombings at the finish line of the boston marathon. lives were shattered, faith was shaken, but these citizens rose above it all. the “boston strong” slogan carried the city out of tragedy’s stupor and gave the red sox more motivation than they could have imagined. boston remained strong, carrying the city to its eighth world series championship. you could say it was a fitting outcome; i know i would. the red sox continue to be one of the nation’s most beloved teams, and fenway park is one of the most loved ballparks in all of america.
our group trooped to the upper level for a fantastic view of the park from the sports writers’ room. at 102 years old, she doesn’t look bad at all.
now, do you see way over on the green monster that ladder, there in between the two left wreaths? back after the monster was built, home run balls would sail over its top and into the businesses along lansdowne street. you can imagine all the bills for broken windows mr. yawkey received. so, a net was put up to stop and catch those balls. such an easy solution! but then at the end of a game, how were they to be retrieved? that’s when the ladder was installed, so that a brave fenway park employee could climb up there to get them. now, the net is no longer there since the monster seats were installed back in 2003, but the ladder remains. since the ladder is technically within the bounds of the field, rules had to be written specifically in case the ball hits it! first, if the ball hits the ladder and falls back into the field of play, the hitter is allowed to run as far as he can make it. but, if the ball hits the ladder and bounces up and behind the green monster, it’s a ground-rule double and the hitter advances to second base. pretty interesting, yes?
before our final stop on the tour, we walked around right field to see the famous red seat. in a sea of green, this seat marks the farthest in-park home run ever hit at fenway park, measuring at 502 feet by ted williams. take it from me, readers, 502 feet is a long way from home plate.
at last! the peak of the visit! we climbed a few more flights of stairs to find ourselves at one of the most famous places in all of baseball: the green monster. i lasted just long enough in the flurried afternoon to grab a few pictures for you guys. as my dad would say, getting to see a part of baseball tradition such as the green monster is strong.
our tour came to an end in a mini red sox museum. there’s memorabilia from eras and eras and also a well-earned commemoration to their recent world series seasons.
before scooting out of there, i grabbed a picture each with my guides ed and don. they were sweethearts throughout, and if i ever see them again, i hope it’s when i’m back in the spring for a home game. go sox!
i made one last local stop at fenway cafe for a chai latte as i awaited vinh’s arrival. as i looked out the front window, i took a moment to soak in the last of beantown before heading back down south. we were able to pack so much into such a short trip, and much of that success can be attributed to vinh’s local status. he knew the places that were worth visiting, and we’ve already talked about all the things we’ll be doing my next visit, hopefully during a warmer month. boston was a wicked host for the weekend, and if you are looking for a relaxing weekend getaway, this city may just be your next destination.