Game 1 of the 2004 World Series at Fenway Park was maybe the toughest ticket to get in the history of Boston sports. The Red Sox were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals, and before you could even get the mustard onto your hot dog, all of Fenway was mockingly chanting, “WOODY, WOODY, WOODY!”
Woody Williams was the Cardinals’ starting pitcher. He got lit up, and lit up early. I was one of many taking part in that chant, while sitting in an aisle seat about 12 rows from the field, looking down the third base line.
I’d tell you what section I was in, but I don’t have the ticket stub to use as a reference. It’s not that I don’t save old tickets to big events I’ve attended. I do. I just don’t have one for Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, because I snuck in.
The 2004 Postseason was quite the adventure. Not just for the World Series Champion Red Sox. But also for me, as a fan.
I was a student at UMass Amherst, living in the Crampton low-rise in Southwest. That’s where I celebrated the Red Sox winning Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS and completing the four-game sweep in the World Series. But throughout the entire Postseason, I would drive back and forth from Amherst to Southie when each series was in Boston.
When the Yankees went up 3-0 on the Red Sox in the ALCS, I went into Fenway with a few friends for Game 4, just to see if we could find some cheap tickets. To our surprise, tumbleweeds were rolling down Lansdowne Street prior to the game.
From what I can recall, the weather wasn’t great that night. Cold and rainy, if my memory serves me correctly. Combine that with being down 3-0 to the Yankees, and I guess it’s somewhat understandable. But still, it’s the ALCS. And in my mind, anything was possible. That’s why I was there.
So we walked up to the box office windows on Lansdowne. Lights were on. No line.
“Got any tickets left?”
A woman behind the glass responded, while pointing to a seating chart, “Where do you want to sit?”
We took the cheapest standing room tickets they had, for just $35 I think it was. We knew we had a friend who could get us up to the right field roof deck in case the standing-room ushers were being annoying pricks.
But by the 8th inning, we upgraded ourselves into box seats overlooking first base after some fans started leaving early. We had the best seats in the house to watch Dave Roberts steal second base in the bottom of the ninth, followed by Bill Mueller’s game-tying RBI single off Mariano Rivera that forced extra innings, and then David Ortiz’ walk-off home run into the Yankees bullpen in the 12th.
The very next night, we did the same thing for Game 5. We went into Fenway early to get tickets. This time, there was a line at the box office on Lansdowne. But it was nothing crazy. They always released a certain amount of tickets an hour before the game. We had waited in much longer lines than this.
When it was our turn at the box office, the tickets we had to buy were a little more expensive. I think we paid $50 each to get in. Still, it was a great deal.
We had to stay up on the right field roof deck for most of Game 5. I only remember that because I’ll never forget watching Derek Jeter’s stupid three-run double off Pedro Martinez down the right-field line, and then Tony Clark’s ground-rule double down the right-field line in the ninth that prevented the Yankees’ go-ahead run from scoring, forcing the runner to stop at third.
By the time Ortiz walked it off with an RBI single up the middle in the 14th to force a Game 6 back in the Bronx, we had upgraded to better seats. But overall, paying a total of $85 to see two of the greatest comeback wins in Red Sox history is a fantastic deal for memories that’ll last a lifetime.
You know what’s an even better deal? Going to Game 1 of the World Series for the goose egg.
After the Red Sox won Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS in New York, I drove back to Boston, from Amherst, once again. This time though, I realized getting into Fenway for Game 1 of the World Series wasn’t going to be as easy as waiting in line at the box office. And I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a ticket. Still, I needed to at least be in the area, just to feel the vibe. So I went in with one of my good friends.
After a few leisurely trips around the park, we made our first attempt. We were told to look for an older well-known guy from Southie who was supposedly working one of the gates, and to give him an empty book of matches, which we brought with us. Apparently, in the past, this guy was known to let you into the game if you gave him an empty book of matches.
Yeah. That didn’t work.
We found him. He just didn’t accept our empty books of matches.
I mean, in hindsight, I don’t blame him. It wasn’t the 1950’s. It was Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.
But I can remember the guy causing a scene once he saw what we were trying to do. Like, come on buddy. You don’t have to let us into the game, but don’t act like this is the first time somebody’s handed you an empty book of matches at Fenway. You were rumored to be notorious for it. And I believe the rumors!
Anyways, after that failed attempt, and the embarrassment that came with it, we were pissed. We then had no choice. We became committed to somehow getting past security.
My friend (who will most certainly not want to be publicly named in this story) decided to go for it at Gate B, on the corner of Van Ness and Ipswich. After he got patted down, he hopped the guard rail to his left and sprinted into the concourse.
Security then started pointing at me, and I took off down Van Ness.
My friend was in. I needed to find a way. It was no longer a matter of “if” I was getting in. It was “how” I was getting in.
I shit you not, something terrifying came over me as I walked around Fenway over and over again, knowing my buddy was somewhere inside Fenway and I wasn’t. He didn’t have a cell phone on him. I had either a Nokia or a Nextel on me. I honestly can’t remember, but I did have some type of cellular device at the time.
A cell phone wasn’t going to help me sneak into the park though. I needed to get creative. I needed to somehow get past the turnstiles. That’s when I noticed something interesting about the “RemDog” pregame party on Yawkey Way (now known as Jersey Street): once you’re in the “RemDog” area (which is now the spot where NESN sets up its stage for the pregame show during home stands), you’re past the turnstiles and in the park.
I needed to get in there. So I walked down into the parking lot on Van Ness. I noticed a couple younger kids in the back corner of the lot, which was extended behind the back wall of Twins, the Red Sox’ souvenir shop on Yawkey Way. These kids had a piece of wood with nails sticking out the sides. They were trying to get it wedged into the ground so that they could use it to climb over the tall fence that separated the parking lot from the “RemDog” area.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and I grabbed the piece of wood and used it as a ladder to the top of the tall fence, where I then hopped over and into a tiny space behind Twins. I’m pretty sure I broke the kids’ makeshift ladder as I was climbing up, but I had no time to care about that. I was in. At least, I was standing in a crevice, sandwiched between the fence and the back wall of the souvenir shop. Still, I was in.
I walked out from behind the small blind spot inside the “RemDog” pregame party, and I walked right across Yawkey Way, with the turnstiles to my right, and into Fenway Park.
Moments later, I got a call from a random number. It was my friend, who had borrowed a stranger’s cell phone. He hid in the bathroom after he hopped the guard rail, but like me, he was in.
After that, we had time to kill before the game, so obviously we did what anyone would do in our situation. We signed up for every credit card in the country in order to get our hands on all the free World Series gifts they were giving out. I still have the baby-blue blankets and backpacks to this day.
We found two empty aisle seats looking down the third base line. I remember seeing Ortiz hit a home run. I remember screaming “WOODY, WOODY, WOODY” at the top of my lungs. And then I remember two people showing up late to the game and kicking us out of those seats in what I remember to be the third or the fourth inning.
Beggars can’t be choosers, so we went back to our right field roof-deck connection. All it did was make for another memory though, as we sat in makeshift metal bleachers, and had a perfect view of Mark Bellhorn’s eighth-inning home run that clanked off Pesky’s Pole.
What a night. What a month. And all for only 85 bucks.
Follow Danny on Twitter: @DannyPicard