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Red Sox Enjoy a Marathon Run on Patriots Day

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Mike Napoli and the Red Sox had plenty of reasons to celebrate on Patriots Day in 2013 after his RBI double gave Boston a 3-2 walk-off win over Tampa Bay. The came ended at 2:10 p.m. Thirty-nine minutes later, everything changed.USA Today


COMMENTARY

Monday morning baseball.

First pitch, 11:05 a,m.

8:05 a.m. on the West Coast.

If only every day were Patriots Day.

Every year since 1972, the Red Sox have scheduled a home game for the morning of Patriots Day.

This was done so they'll finish before midnight when they're playing the Yankees.

Well, not really. We got a mini-version of the "Boston Marathon" two Fridays ago when the Red Sox and Yankees played for 6 hours, 49 minutes and added a 16-minute broken-light delay.

Professional baseball in Boston pre-dates both Patriots Day, which became an official Bay State holiday in 1894, and the Boston Marathon. There's been a professional "major league" baseball team in Boston every year since 1871. On April 19, 1897, John J. McDermott of New York won the first Boston Marathon. The original Red Stockings had already morphed into the Beaneaters by that time. That team would eventually become the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. The Americans/Red Sox were born along with the American League in 1901.

Boston's American League team played its first Patriots Day home game in 1903. That World Series championship season began when 8,376 fans watched the Americans beat Philadelphia 9-4 in a game that began at 10 a.m. Boston's American and National League teams eventually alternated home dates on Patriots Day, with the Red Sox getting the even-numbered years.

Home Patriots Day doubleheaders were the norm for both teams, as well. The Americans/Red Sox first played a Patriots Day doubleheader in 1904 when about 28,000 holiday patrons showed up for a morning/afternoon doubleheader against the Washington Senators. The last Patriots Day Red Sox home doubleheader was scheduled in 1966.

In case you haven't guessed already, Boston is big on history. Monday's Marathon, for instance, marks the 50th anniversary of the first time the race finished in front of the Prudential Center. It was also 50 years ago on Monday that the Prudential Center itself was officially dedicated.

Ancient Greece's Philippides may or may not have run from Marathon to Athens before dropping dead. But he never made it to the Pru on Patriots Day. Or Fenway Park. Of that we are certain.

The 30,000 or so official runners on Monday will take about 1.4 billion steps toward bringing the Marathon back to "normal," whatever "normal" means in post-2013-Marathon Boston.

There are lots of "normal" special events that happen on Patriots Day in and around Boston.

There are parades. Growing up in Arlington, the town's annual Patriots Day parade was a big deal. Pretty much every kid in town marched in it at one time or another. This year, it's been cancelled due to lack of funding. But the parade in Lexington is still on and starts at 2.

Speaking of Lexington and Concord, each town had several events scheduled throughout the long weekend. The first shot in the "skirmish" between the Patriots and the British Regulars on Lexington Green is set to be fired at 5:30 a.m. on Monday. Unfortunately, these Patriots won't fare as well as their football brethren did in Arizona in February.

The Patriots Day morning Red Sox game is a holiday cornerstone. It's become the second part of the sentence: "There are eight different starting times for the Marathon participants and the Red Sox game begins at 11:05."

Only Wave Four of the Marathon is set to start after Justin Masterson throws the the first pitch at Fenway Park. Elite male runners like defending champ Meb Keflezighi should be passing through Kenmore Square around noon.

Somewhere on the Internet we should be able to wager on whether or not Masterson will still be pitching when the male winner crosses the finish line in Copley Square. Thinking the odds there should be about 6-5 against the Boston starter.

No matter when the game ends, fans will be able to stroll over to Kenmore Square to watch thousands of runners reach the 26.2-mile marker.

Red Sox games haven't always been marathons. The Red Sox swept the Yankees in a Patriots' Day doubleheader at Fenway Park on April 19, 1944. A crowd of 3,376 saw Boston win the first game 6-1 in just 1:58. The Red Sox took the "nightcap" 5-2 in just 106 minutes.

The worst drubbing for the Red Sox on Patriots Day occurred in 1990 when the then-American League East Milwaukee Brewers pounded Boston 18-0. In that game, Terry Francona took his final major-league at-bats. He went 0-for-2 and was cut by the Brewers eight days later.

On the opposite side of the ledger, Mark Loretta gave the 2006 Red Sox a 7-6 walk-off Patriots Day victory over Seattle with a two-out, two-run homer over the Green Monster.

The Red Sox game on Patriots' Day of 2013 appeared poised to be the lead sports story of the day for many sports fans in Boston when it ended.

The team was coming off a dismal 2012 season but had raced out of the gate by winning seven of its first 11 games. [The 2015 Red Sox also raced out of the the gate by winning seven of their first 11 games.]

Andrew Bailey, the team's first designated closer of 2013, entered the top of the ninth with a 2-1 lead. The Tampa Bay Rays tied the game at 2-2 after Desmond Jennings led off with a single, stole second base, and scored on a Ben Zobrist single.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Dustin Pedroia walked.

Then, Mike Napoli came up to bat.

Napoli drilled a double off the left-field wall. Pedroia easily beat the throw home and gave Boston a 3-2 walk-off victory. It was Boston's second walk-off victory in three games and marked the team's first series sweep of the season.

It was one of those games that gave you the feeling 2013 would be different. The game ended at 2:10 p.m. What was a cause for celebration across Red Sox Nation instead became the last event of significance that many people remember before the Boston Marathon Bombings.

The end of the innocence, if you will.

As the Red Sox boarded their buses to the airport, word reached Fenway Park that two explosions had occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon at 2:49 p.m.

Two years later, the "routine" of Patriots Day appears to be the unofficial theme of 2015. Last week, Greater Boston and the world remembered and again grieved those who were lost and injured two years ago April 15. That anniversary was preceded by the conviction of the surviving bomber on all 30 counts he faced.

The 2014 Boston Marathon and Red Sox Patriots Day game were both a cause to mourn, remember, and recognize, triumph and survival. The race, and game, were secondary. That was both necessary and just.

This year's Marathon is, again, first and foremost, a race.

And this year's Red Sox Patriots Day game is a game.

As it's been since 1903. And as it should be from here on out.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros.Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, Twitter @realOBF or at
bsperos1@gmail.com
. Thanks for reading.

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