The crowd stiffens. There is a collective intake of breath. Silence in the stadium. Everybody is watching the pitch. I narrow my eyes, watching intently. As I do, the first red socks stride out onto the pitch, carrying their owner with them. Fans erupt in cheers, stamping feet signalling the energy felt in Fenway Park on that beautiful Monday evening. My very first baseball game, between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. Two of the best teams in the United States. I look to my left at Flex, who grins through a mouthful of popcorn. Neither of us has watched any baseball before, but we know the score. Cheer when everybody else cheers. Our seats are poorly positioned at the top back corner of the pitch, our vision partially obscured by posts supporting the seating above us. However it’s the atmosphere that brought us here. 98% of the crowd are dressed in home colours, ourselves wearing red and navy tees with ‘Red Sox’ emblazoned across our chests. Signs and merchandise wave from around the stands as supporters psych themselves up for the match ahead. A ripple of movement catches my eye, and I tug at Flex to draw her attention to the Mexican Wave beginning across from us. As it makes its way around the vast circumference of the stadium, we prepare to stand and wave with all the energy we can muster. This we do with gusto, and the wave continues around a second, third, fourth and fifth time before dying out as the game commences. Vendors selling popcorn, candy floss and giant foam fingers retreat from the aisles for the first play, and with a sharp whistle, the game is underway.
I won’t try and explain how the game went because truthfully I have no idea. Men threw balls, other men ran around the bases whilst several more tried to catch them. The atmosphere was electric, the anticipation thrilling, the roars seat-rumbling. However the nicest moment comes in the middle of the seventh inning, during a break of play. Orchestral music strikes up over the loudspeaker, the majority of the crowd stands up in their seats, proud and tall. Following suit, we too stand, oblivious to what is happening. As the music reaches a crescendo, the voices of the crowd rise, singing a tune known to them all.
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For its one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”
– ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ – Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, 1908.
The song has become the unofficial anthem of North American baseball. Most fans know the lyrics and sing along in patriocy, as did everybody standing alongside us at Fenway Park. By the time the chorus came around for the final time we knew most of the words to it and were able to sway along in unison with the crowd, singing aloud with all we had. With the tune fading, our cheeks flushed and our throats raw, we sit down to watch the game as it continues. As the evening fades to dusk and the game still going full throttle, we decide to skip out on the remaining innings and head home. Our AirBnB hosts, a couple of Harvard University professors were waiting up for us and we didn’t want to prolong their evening more than necessary. We’d seen all we needed to. We napped on the train journey home, too exhausted to discuss our evening. Crawling into bed with a cup of tea made for us by Jeff and Amanda, we sleep soundly, reliving our authentic American experience.