MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Red Sox, Yankees transport back in time

Red Sox, Yankees transport back in time

Red Sox, Yankees transport back in time
BOSTON -- The Red Sox went all out for the 100th birthday of their cherished little Fenway Park, replete with a blowout pregame ceremony and throwback uniforms to 1912. And leave it to Bobby Valentine, Boston's first-year skipper, to put the stark home whites and road grays into some sort of perspective.

"I'll see calves of players that I've never seen before," Valentine said about the shorter pant legs worn by the Red Sox and New York Highlanders, who officially forever became the Yankees the very next season.

Ditto Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who was also fixated on his legs.

"For those of us who don't have the biggest calves, it can be somewhat embarrassing," said the team's captain after the Yankees spoiled the party by hitting five homers, three of them over the Green Monster, in a 6-2 win on Friday. In that first game ever at Fenway in 1912, the Red Sox defeated the Highlanders, 7-6, in 11 innings.

FENWAY AT 100

The opposing managers might have been from foreign countries. Girardi, having grown up in the Chicago area, is still partial to Wrigley Field because "that's what I'm accustomed to, and I think people are more comfortable with things that they are familiar with." Valentine, who grew up in Stamford, Conn., heard a lot about Fenway as a kid, but never saw a game there until he became a big league player.

As he tried to describe his feelings about the odd-shape ballpark that was built to the configuration of the neighborhood in which it exists, he struggled for a phrase or a few words. Does the ballpark have a life of its own, he was asked?

"The ballpark has at least a life," he finally said. "It has a magic to it. It's the baseball land of Oz. People dream about this place."

And as former Red Sox players emerged from the open gate in the center field, the old yard had a "Field of Dreams" feel to it as if players materialized out of the tall stalks of corn in Iowa that bordered the outfield grass.

And as Dorothy said in the "Wizard of Oz" as she stared at Emerald City: "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." And she was right.

Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said he was on the field at 2 p.m. ET just before the ceremony began. He stayed. He gawked. He enjoyed.

"I'm a baseball fan, man," said Swisher, who had one of the five Yankees homers. "I don't know why you wouldn't want to be out there to witness that. It's something I'll never be able to witness again. I'll be long gone before another 100 years comes around. All the ovations the guys were getting, it was a great day for baseball."

The grandest ovation went to Terry Francona, the two-time World Series-winning manager who left after this past season. The warmest went to Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. And the most poignant moment might have been when Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield rolled Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky toward the infield skin in their wheelchairs.

The list of returning Red Sox was more than 200, ranging in alphabetical order from Don Aase to Bob Zupcic, with a Bill Buckner, Bruce Hurst, Kevin Millar and Jim Rice in between. As each player came out, he congregated in a group around the position he once played.

"Oh, that was amazing," first-year Red Sox outfielder Ryan Sweeney said. "I had goosebumps sitting out there on the side watching those guys run out on the field. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be able to play for a team like this that's had such history. It was a pretty fun thing to be a part of."

"It's pretty incredible being able to share the field," said Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, in his second year with the team. "For me, it was really special being able to say, 'Thank you,' to all the guys that paved the way for all of us. It's always great to see the greats."

And then there were the uniforms, sans numbers, which were not in vogue until the 1927 Yankees put them on the back to reflect the batting order. Babe Ruth hit third, and that's why he wore the No. 3. Gehrig, the cleanup hitter, was No. 4.

These uniforms might have been similar in design, but they certainly weren't the heavy wool threads that ballplayers had to wear even on the hottest of days back then. The players polled on Friday called them "extremely comfortable."

The caps, white for the Red Sox and gray for the Yankees, were "interesting and take a little getting used to," Valentine said.

They won't be around for long. The Red Sox plan to auction off most of the uniforms and caps worn in the game to raise money for the Red Sox Foundation. The Yankees don't have a specific plan yet, but say they will also use the caps and uniforms for a fundraiser.

Aside from the obvious loss in the game for the Red Sox, the day couldn't have been any more of a smash.

"I loved it," Girardi said. "I thought it was great watching all the players walk out on the field. It meant so much to the Red Sox, and I really enjoyed all the excitement the people displayed."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.