Image Sources: Mayor Thomas Menino: The Boston Phoenix: Dominic DiMaggio: Number 5 Type Collection : Brawl in Beantown: Derek O’Grady
Saturday, October 16, 1999: the game of a lifetime is at hand, and all of Boston is at a breathless standstill. Roger Clemens, the Texas Turncoat, is starting for the despised New York Yankees at Fenway in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. He’s going against Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez, who is having arguably the most exciting single season any pitcher ever had. The buildup to this game is like the feeling of desperately needing to pee: it is everywhere, and it is electric. In the end the game is one for the ages, especially since The Rocket gives up six hits and five earned runs in a mere two innings as the Bombers get Bombed 13-1.
The day is also one for the ages, as it is the day the mayor of Boston and a Red Sox legend trip over me, and I come thisclose to insulting the mayor.
The game, of course, is hopelessly sold out, but Mayor Thomas Menino happily reroutes some public funds and springs for a Jumbotron on City Hall Plaza. Awesome! And as an extra special surprise, the first pitch at City Hall is to be thrown out by Sox icon Dom DiMaggio (Bostonians of the 1940s changed the chorus of the Les Brown Orchestra song Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio to, “He’s better than his brother Joe, Dominic DiMaggio!”). Double awesome! I’m there!
I arrive at least an hour before the first pitch, and the atmosphere is charged. From my seat on the cold concrete of the plaza (it’s an unseasonably warm day, but I.M. Pei’s brutalist design for City Hall makes any day feel like a term in Siberia) I can see the mayor and the “Little Professor,” DiMaggio, on the stage. I can’t hear the mayor, but this is not a bad thing: anybody who has ever heard a 30 second clip of the Honorable Thomas Menino knows why they call him “Mumbles” Menino. He has a chowder-thick Boston accent and a speech impediment. Nothing wrong with either, and he certainly can’t help it. But put ‘em together and listening to Mumbles can be a painful experience.
As game time approaches, I no longer see Mumbles and DiMag on the stage. Then I notice that they are both walking right toward me. I’m not much of a deer-in-the-headlights type around celebrities, but Dom DiMaggio, yes. So I’m mildly frozen as the great outfielder and the mayor approach. The problem is, they are so engaged in conversation that they can’t see me. An absurdist thought pops into my head: “I AM ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH THE MAYOR OF BOSTON.”
I finally snap to and move a little to my left. Not the greatest move I could make, since Mumbles and DiMag are to my left, thus I just set myself up right in front of Mumbles. The mayor bumps into my left shoulder with his left kneecap and stumbles a touch. Another absurdist thought pops into my head: “I HAVE JUST TRIPPED THE MAYOR OF BOSTON.”
By now Mumbles has recovered and DiMag has stopped. Mumbles turns around to see what kind of pre-school miscreant has just tripped him, and I can see he’s a bit surprised to see me, a 27 year old punk with streaks of white Manic Panic in his hair. I start to apologize, and I manage to blurt out, “Sorry…”
But I keep speaking after “Sorry…” And as I continue, yet another absurdist thought pops into my head: “I AM ABOUT TO CALL THE MAYOR OF BOSTON ‘MUMBLES’ TO HIS FACE.”
Amazing how the human brain can slow down instantaneous action, scan thoughts and correct courses. As I realize that I am indeed saying, “Sorry, Mumbles,” I’m able to catch myself and slur it to “Sorry, Mum…bonor.” Not quite “Your Honor”, but not quite “Mumbles”, either. Not bad. Still, picture Ralphie’s “OHHHH FUUUUDDDDDGE” moment and the look of The Old Man as he realizes that Ralphie is not, in fact, saying “fudge.” Yeah, that’s me. Hi.
So where do I go from tripping the mayor and making fun of his speech impediment? The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Mumbles gives a rousing (I think) speech, so he’s fine. DiMag throws a strike, so he’s fine. From the third inning on the crowd engages in a lovely chant: (left side of the plaza) “Where is Roger?!?” *clap, clap, cla-cla-clap* (right side of the plaza) “In the shower!!!” *clap, clap, cla-cla-clap*So all is forgiven and forgotten, and one of the most exciting days in the history of Boston Baseball spreads out to a magnificent end.
Still I spend the entire day looking out for secret service agents studying my picture and pointing out my location in the crowd.