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Opening Day has nice ring to it

Opening Day has nice ring to it

BOSTON -- Twice was just as nice for the Fenway faithful -- and just as rewarding for the Red Sox.

On Tuesday, the club's uniformed and clubhouse personnel received their 2007 World Series rings from principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president/CEO Larry Lucchino as part of the second Opening Day World Series celebration in four years at Fenway Park.

From DHL's early-morning delivery of the rings to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at Fenway to the hanging of another banner to one of the most emotional ceremonial first pitches in team history, Tuesday was a day that will long be remembered by Red Sox players, coaches and fans.

And like in 2005, 88-year-old Johnny Pesky led the '08 team to raise the World Series banner up the center-field flag pole.

"The best part of the day was when Pesky was pulling up the flag and he didn't stop until it was all the way up," Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp said.

There was a flyover of four F-16 fighter jets and a parade of flags representing 62 countries of Red Sox Nation fans worldwide. And then the dropping of every Red Sox World Series banner, including the seventh and most recent one, the 2007 flag, over the Green Monster.

"Seeing the banner drop, that seems to make it official," said Melissa Sheridan, 23, from Easthampton, Mass.

"I've been to four or five Opening Days, but this is the first that I've been at that's been like this," said Jim Fennyery, 39, who made the trip from Chicopee, Mass. "All the team with trophies, that was pretty classy how every team from New England with a championship trophy is out there.

"It's better than seeing it on TV. You don't get the atmosphere and crowd reaction you get here."

All seven World Series championship banners were ceremoniously unfurled on the Green Monster to the theme from the movie "Jurassic Park," composed by John Williams, which was chosen because of its gentle yet celebratory grandeur.

The pregame ceremony also featured an impressive array of great Boston/New England athletes, such as Bobby Orr from the Bruins, Bill Russell and John Havlicek from the Celtics and Tedy Bruschi from the Patriots. The "Champions of Boston" ceremoniously carried the World Series championship rings to the Red Sox ownership for presentation.

The highlight for many came when Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch to another Red Sox star of the past, Dwight Evans.

"The past is the past, and they've erased that with two world championships, and that's over and done and get over it," Fennyery said, "and look at the way they're playing now and doing good."

The fans weren't the only ones who felt vindicated for Buckner.

"I've probably never almost been in tears for somebody else on a baseball field," Kevin Youkilis said. "That was the most unbelievable thing. It shows how great of a man Bill Buckner is. There's not too many people who can do what he did today, and face thousands of people that booed, threatened his life and did horrific things to him."

"That was one of the most special things I think I've ever seen," added Sox skipper Terry Francona. "I caught wind of that kind of late when that was happening. To watch his reaction and to watch the fans' reaction was very special. I was happy for him. I was thrilled for our fans. I was happy for the organization. I thought that was a very special moment. And it actually lasted more than a moment, which I also thought was very appropriate."

Following that, the Red Sox went about their business, blanking the Tigers, 5-0, behind the masterful pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Manny Delcarmen came on in the seventh to pitch 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

"I remember in 2005, when I first got called up," Delcarmen said. "[David] Ortiz invited me and my family to his house, and I pretty much wore his ring all day in his house for the [team] barbecue. I told him that one day I wanted to win a World Series with him on the team. We did it last year. I was born and raised in Boston, so I can't ask for more than this."

Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler sang "God Bless America" and the tradition of "Sweet Caroline" in the bottom of the eighth had a unique twist. Neil Diamond was shown on the video board in center from a taped performance of the famed song from two weekends ago, when the Red Sox were in Los Angeles.

The team then announced that Diamond would be appearing one night only at Fenway Park on Aug. 23, as part of his 2008 world tour.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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