At Fenway Park
The Falcon and His Desert Rose
A trivia question popped up on the high-def screen above the centerfield grandstand. Who hit the ten-thousandth home run in Fenway Park?
"I know this one." Thomas leaned forward in his seat and pointed at the huge monitor. "Kevin Millar did it twenty-one, no, make that twenty-two years ago. Millar played outfield and first base for the Sox."
Curious, regarding the challenge hitters face when playing at Fenway, Horace waved in the direction of left field, at the towering thirty-seven-foot-tall wall referred to as the Green Monster. “How could so many home runs have been hit in this stadium with such a formidable obstacle?”
Thomas took a gulp from his ten-dollar Budweiser and set it down between his feet. “Yeah,” he admitted, “the Green Monster has knocked down a bunch of line drives that would've been homers in other parks. It takes a shot, no doubt about it, but it really isn’t that far - just 310 feet. If you get under the ball a little, and connect, it’ll go out." Thomas gestured back toward center field. "Hey, look up there! What'd I tell ya?”
Beneath the John Hancock sign, Kevin Millar's likeness flashed on the huge monitor, accompanied by the following information: Fenway Park, which opened on April 20, 1912, celebrated its ten-thousandth home run on August 9, 2003 when Kevin Millar hit a two-run shot that led to a 6 - 4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
"How would you know that?" Horace asked.
"My dad was a big Kevin Millar fan. Matter of fact, he took me and my mom to that game, but I don't remember being there. I think I was like, only two.
"So, both the Ambassador and your mother are Red Sox fans?"
"Yeah, we all are." Thomas shrugged as if that were the most natural thing in the world.
Horace nodded, took an enormous bite of his hot dog, and reached for his beer. Looking down, he spotted a considerable sprinkling of minced onions and bits of pickle relish decorating his lap. Mortified, he brushed away the fallen condiments, and scowled at the lingering stain.
“Forget about it." Thomas dismissed the spill with a wave. "That’s part of the game. If you go home with no stains, you ain’t a true fan. You oughtta see this girl I know, named Jeanne. She always ends up wearing part of her snacks. Hey, wait ‘til somebody spills a beer on you, that’s always a blast. Oh, and by the way, you got some mustard on your chin.”
Horace self-consciously wiped his chin and considered how he might react if some drunken fan spilled a beer on him. Hopefully he would maintain his composure. A fan of most major sports, Horace watched baseball games on TV, but having lived in Egypt until coming to America three years ago, he had never attended a game.
A buzz of anticipation filled the air. Sitting four rows back from the visitor's dugout, in seats reserved for the season by Thomas’s father, the two young men enjoyed an unobstructed view of the diamond and its emerald carpet of grass. Snippets of conversation from excited Red Sox fans swirled about them, combined with the melodic cries of the food and beverage vendors as they trudged up and down the aisles of the venerable stadium.
Floating by on the crisp evening breeze were the tantalizing aromas of popcorn, steamed hot dogs, roasted peanuts and, of course, beer. The sights, sounds and smells combined to create a unique ambience, unlike anything the young Egyptian ever imagined.
Shifting his position in an attempt to stretch the long legs that carried his six-and-a-half foot frame, Horace asked, “Was it true about the curse? I have read that Boston did not win a World Series from the time their owner, Harry Frazee, sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919 until the full moon turned blood red during game four of the 2004 series.” Horace’s eyes shone with fascination. “There were bizarre rumors of animal sacrifices made in Hawthorne, by Red Sox players and fans at the foot of Babe Ruth’s grave.”
“Curse shmurse,” Thomas replied. There ain’t no such thing and there weren’t any damned sacrifices. That was all hype and coincidence, includin’ the eclipse of the moon.”
“Do you not think it odd,” Horace persisted, “that your Red Sox won three championships in this same park between 1912 and 1918 and never won another championship in that entire century?”
“Oh, been doing some real boning up on the Sox have ya?” Although he sounded a little annoyed, amusement crept across Thomas’s face. "I might've known you'd get into that 'Curse of the Bambino' crapola.”
“Call it what you will, Thomas Franklin, but I assure you there are things in this world which cannot be explained by pure science and logic. In my country, to dispute such things is to invite catastrophe. We learn from what was and accept what is without the cynicism that is so prevalent in the western world. The magic of the Egyptian High Priests is well documented in your Bible, I believe. Moses appeared in the court —"
“Yeah, yeah, I saw The Ten Commandments," Thomas interrupted. "So let it be written, so let it be done, blah, blah, blah. And what’s this your Bible stuff? It ain’t my Bible. I never wrote a single verse. Personally, I don’t buy any of that mumbo jumbo about the parting of the Red Sea. Now, if it ain’t asking too much, why don’t ya just try to enjoy America’s greatest contribution to the world of sports?”
Horace wanted to ask about the girl named Jeanne, who Thomas mentioned, but his plans were interrupted as everyone in the stadium rose for the National Anthem. His keen eyes panned across thousands of fans from every walk of life, transformed into a unified group with a single purpose.
He had read the history books. He understood the nuances of this democratic society, but he hadn't personally experienced the principles of the American dream, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, embraced by such a large throng in one venue. He could feel the solidarity, the pride, the sense of belonging to something important. The fans gathered for this event believed that their ancestors and now they, were a part of the greatest nation on the earth.
Since arriving on these shores, many things about America had impressed Horace, but this patriotic display etched itself forever in his memory. Appreciating the experience as only a foreigner could, Horace listened as the gathered throng sang about ancient warriors inspired at dawn by the sight of their country’s flag. These people have heard this song a thousand times, yet they sing it now as if they were going into battle. This is what I want for Egypt, Horace thought.
Spellbound, the towering Egyptian remained standing even after the umpire yelled, “Play ball!”
Behind him, a fan broke the spell, shouting, "Hey, Goliath, how about sittin' down so's the rest of us can see?"
As the leadoff hitter for the Yankees tapped his cleats and headed for the batter’s box, Horace squeezed into his seat and nudged Thomas in the arm. “We invented this game, you know. Over three-thousand years before the first documented proof of baseball being played in Pittsfield, in 1791. I admit it may not have been exactly the same, but the similarities are amazing. We called it “Batting the Ball.” Raising his cup, as if to offer a toast, he continued, “During those games, we consumed large quantities of Heneket, which you now refer to as beer.”
Thomas opened his mouth to take a bite of his mustard-laden hot dog, but stopped long enough to say, “You sure the name of that game wasn’t Breakin’ Your Balls? I mean c’mon Horace, every time I say or show you something good about this country, you always gotta one-up me with something to prove Egypt is or was better. Next thing you’ll tell me is Egypt invented the hot dog!”
Horace leaned towards Thomas, eager to reply, but Thomas stopped him. Like a cop on a Boston streetcorner halting traffic, he held his hand palm out, and said, “Don’t even think about it!”
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