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THE EXAMINED LIFE

The rooter

OPENING DAY is approaching fast. But before Red Sox Nation dons its crimson greasepaint, let's pause to remember a Sox fan whose get-up once caused a real commotion. In December 1912, two months after Boston beat the New York Giants in the World Series, Isabella Stewart Gardner appeared at a Symphony Hall concert wearing ''a white band around her head and on it the words, 'Oh you Red Sox' in red letters,'' as a Boston gossip columnist put it. ''It looked as if the woman had gone crazy ... almost causing a panic among those in the audience who discovered the ornamentation, and even for a moment upsetting [the musicians] so that their startled eyes wandered from their music stands.''

Why the hubbub? '''Oh you Red Sox' was a song popular with the Royal Rooters, a group of Boston baseball fans known for rowdyism,'' explains Patrick McMahon, a Museum of Fine Arts curatorial project manager lending a hand with research for a Red Sox mini-exhibit planned by the MFA for Opening Day. ''Symphony goers must have thought for a moment that one of those raucous drunks had slipped into the building,'' he opined in a telephone interview.

Mrs. Jack wasn't just jumping on the bandwagon, insists Gardner Museum archivist Kristin Parker. While perusing Gardner's scrapbooks for the MFA exhibit, Parker found numerous Sox news items, photos, and notations of scores dating back to the Boston Americans' triumph in the first World Series, in 1903. In 1912, the 72-year-old Gardner purchased season tickets to the newly built Fenway Park, a stone's throw from her palazzo. ''One of the only things that kept [humorist] Robert Benchley from going 'crazy with boredom' in Boston in the summer of 1912, I've read, was meeting Gardner,'' Parker said via telephone. ''She took Benchley to Fenway, where she 'loudly encouraged all the Boston players by name.'''

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