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All roads lead to Fenway: Stars make opening scene

Much-anticipated opener creates a crowded Fenway scene

In seeking to revitalize his career and reclaim his status as an A-List movie star, Ben Affleck's been keeping a low profile lately. But it's baseball season again, and that means Ben's back.

Appearing at a benefit last night for the Red Sox Foundation, the Cambridge actor was front and center, with a little help from his pal, Seth Meyers of ''Saturday Night Live" fame. Nearly every player -- with the notable exceptions of Manny Ramirez and Edgar Renteria -- and the entire management team -- principal owner John Henry, CEO Larry Lucchino, chairman Tom Werner, GM Theo Epstein -- were among the 900 in the Sheraton Hotel ballroom. The duo lovingly skewered the Sox to the delight of the crowd. On the massive size of the World Series rings, Affleck said: ''[David] Ortiz's ring is only his fourth largest piece of jewelry." To which the actor added: ''My ex-girlfriend wouldn't take that ring," in an apparent reference to Jennifer Lopez. Noting that the Sox were untouched by the steroid scandal, Affleck said: ''But if they test for chimichangas or excessive peroxide, Ortiz and Damon are facing lifetime bans." Continuing to work his way through the roster, Affleck cast an eye toward a pony-tailed Johnny Damon, offering that the centerfielder might want to tone it down a tad. ''If Ben Affleck tells you you're overexposed," said the actor, ''that's like hearing it from Paris Hilton." Elsewhere in the room, actor-producer Fisher Stevens, a self-confessed fan of the Cubs and Yankees, explained why we've seen him at various playoff games and now opening day at Fenway. ''When your friend owns the team" you come to the games, Stevens said of his friendship with limited partner Michael Gordon. Also sighted were ''Cheers" actor John Ratzenberger, comic Steve Sweeney, and lead singer Ken Casey and the Dropkick Murphys. Meyers, a veteran of ''Saturday Night Live," was on hand to help with last night's auction and said he expects big things from Pats QB Tom Brady, who will host ''SNL" on Saturday. ''I expect he'll do as well as Derek Jeter. ''Leaders, guys with ice water in their veins, are perfect for the show," said Meyers who added that long hours of rehearsing shouldn't be a problem either. ''Anybody who plays for Bill Belichick can do this show."

THE MADDENING CROWD Standing amid the mob making its way into Fenway Park yesterday, we were reminded of Yogi Berra's admonition: ''No one goes there; it's too crowded." If only that were true. The beer-swilling Bosox fans who showed up for yesterday's historic season opener managed to clog every artery into the ballpark. On Lansdowne Street, the launch of Patrick Lyons's slick new sports cafe drew the usual mucky-mucks, and a few new ones, while around the corner on Ipswich Street, VIPs arrived at Gate D in gleaming black Hummers. A bevy of Boston sports heroes were among the first to wander into the park, including Bruins legends Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, BC alum Doug Flutie, Sox greats Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, Dennis Eckersley, and, wearing gold hoops in both ears, Dennis ''Oil Can" Boyd. ''Not bad for a day's work," said Gavin Guerschuny of Quincy, as he collected the autographs of his idols. Former New Kid Donnie Wahlberg, clad in a Sox jersey and dark shades, walked past us with the producers of ''Dig Fenway," a documentary due out in August about the renovation of the Fenway field. (Let's hope groundskeeper David Mellor has more box-office mojo than ''Fever Pitch" star Jimmy Fallon.) Captain Carl Yastrzemski showed up, but kept his thrilled fans waiting while he smoked another Marlboro and took a few photos with security. Following Yaz into Fenway were MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, former US senator from Maine George Mitchell, Maine powerbroker Harold Pachios, Congressman Ed Markey, and the first lady of the Red Sox wives club, Michelle Mangan. Alas, by the time James Taylor crooned ''America the Beautiful," the parking lot was full.

GAME ON! INDEED Just as Game On!, Patrick Lyons's latest club on Lansdowne Street, was gearing up for a private pregame party, the owner was dealing with a few last-minute details. Up walked Boston magazine's Dan Scully, who yelled, ''What a difference a few weeks makes." Lyons shot back: ''A couple of weeks and a couple of million bucks!" On its first day in business, Game On! hosted a private party thrown by the Sox brass. Owner John Henry chatted with Sox vice chairman David Ginsberg and COO Mike Dee. Concert promoter Don Law made the scene, as did Sox limited partner Ed Eskandarian. We spied chef Ming Tsai getting a bite from the Sausage King. A gaggle of pols stopped by the party -- Dianne Wilkerson, Frederick Berry, Steven Tolman, and Senate prez Robert Travaglini. AG Tom Reilly arrived with legal eagles Harry Manion and Frank Marinelli. We also spied former AG and speaker of the house Robert Quinn with his wife, Claudina; Convention Center chief Gloria Larson with her husband, Alan, followed by former Bank of America exec Chad Gifford and his wife, Anne. Historian Dick Goodwin was at the opening party and in his usual Fenway seats. Chef Jasper White took his son J.P. to the party and the game. Walking up Brookline Avenue to get to the owners party, Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour parted the teeming crowds, eliciting roaring cheers. . . . When Celtics legend Bill Russell made a quick stop at Game On! he was nearly mobbed, as was football stalwart Doug Flutie, who took in the game with his wife, Laurie.

CROWNED Just before the start of the afternoon festivities, MSNBC show host Chris Matthews and political strategist Ed Jesser were in the Crown Royal Club waiting for power couple Jack Welch and his wife and ''Winning" co-author, Suzy. Welch was slated to appear to do an interview with Matthews for ''Hardball."

BEN THERE DONE THAT Before taking his place in the front row, right next to the Red Sox dugout, Ben Affleck hung out in Harvard Square. Decked out in his Sox windbreaker, Affleck checked out a couple of stores in the square. . . . Walking into the Capital Grille on Newbury Street Sunday night, Yankees ace pitcher Randy Johnson walked to the end of the bar and announced: ''Hi! I'm Curt Schilling," then walked into the dining room.

MENINO OPENING UP Boston Mayor Tom Menino was at Fenway for the first time on Opening Day. ''The Red Sox asked me, so I came," he told us inside the Reebok suite, where he watched the ring ceremony. Shown the World Series rings earlier in the day, Menino confessed that he tried on Manny Ramirez's prized piece of jewelry. ''It's a really nice ring. It has a good look to it. I didn't want to give it back."

SPIED AROUND THE PARK Spied inside the park were former Sox GM Dan Duquette; Dunkin' Donuts CEO Jon Luther and COO Will Kussell; Ed Kane, owner of Tosca in Hingham; chefs Gabriel Frasca of Spire and Amanda Lydon of UpStairs on the Square; the Ninty Nine Restaurant & Pub's Brad Schiff; party planner Bryan Rafanelli; Anthony's Pier 4's Michael Athanas; and Back Bay realtor Beth Dickerson and hubby David Drubner.

Names can be reached at names@globe.com or at 617-929-8253.


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