Okay, so it’s not 2004. It’s not 1967. Heck, it’s not even 1918.
Red Sox fever may not be pervasive in Bedford – at least, not yet. But there are enclaves throughout the town where the excitement is palpable as the team begins the best-of-seven series for the American League pennant Friday night in Houston.
One hot spot is in the northeastern corner of the town, home of F.W. Webb Co. The plumbing, ventilation, and heating supply business, with corporate headquarters on Middlesex Turnpike, is more than 100 years old, with dozens of locations between Caribou, ME, and Allentown, PA.
But now the whole world knows about the Bedford company – because its logo was plainly visible emblazoned on the Green Monster at Fenway Park during the final play of the division series win over Tampa Bay Monday.
F.W. Webb has been a sponsor of Sox broadcasts for several years, and this week the company’s owner and president, Jeff Pope, said, “Hopefully, they will continue to surprise everyone and take home another championship this year. Either way, we are just so glad to see them back to their winning ways!”
“We are a proud partner of the Boston Red Sox and happy to have so many people recognize us by our logo on the Green Monster,” he said. “We can’t wait to cheer them on this weekend.”
All the way across town at Hanscom Air Force Base, one wouldn’t expect a passionate fan base, as military personnel emanate from all over the country. But Hanscom still had a special place in the divisional series.
Mark Wyatt from the base public affairs office cited a press release from Major League Baseball saluting the participation of a Hanscom unit during pregame ceremonies Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. preceding the third game of the divisional series. It announced:
“The American flag will be draped over the left field wall and a flag military comprised of men and women from Hanscom Air Force Base will line the warning track, led by Hanscom Air Force Base Installation Commander Colonel Katrina Stephens.”
Next door at Hanscom Field, it’s business as usual. Boston’s professional basketball and hockey teams fly in and out of Hanscom, but Michael Vatalaro of the Massachusetts Port Authority public affairs office confirmed that baseball teams do not use the local runways.
Over at Kids Club, the Recreation Department’s child-care program in Town Center, Director Dan Brosgol is enthusiastic. “Lots of Sox hats and shirts along with the usual Bedford baseball hats we see around here,” he said, adding, “We’ll do a Red Sox day here for the ALCS home games. Plus I get to wear Red Sox sweatshirts instead of KC gear because it’s the same kind of red.”
“Red Sox fever is running high here at KC — not a few of our kids were at the home games last weekend,” he continued. “Last Saturday was perfect: a 4 o’clock start, and even though it ended at 9 it was prime viewing hours for younger kids.”
Night games are a challenge for nurturing a new generation. “Baseball has had trouble attracting young fans,” noted Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman, “so it will be interesting to see if the Sox success connects with 8-10-year-old kids.”
At Lane this week, he reported. “we’ve seen a little bit of an uptick in Sox talk and gear being worn, but I don’t think it will really get going until they make the World Series.”
Late Thursday afternoon, a dozen or so guys from Davis School and Hanscom worked out at I Field near the middle school with volunteer coaches, part of a fall clinic sponsored by Bedford Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball. Many of the kids weren’t even aware of the Red Sox’s post-season success.
Seven-year-old Xander Tecci was. Although he doesn’t stay up half the night to watch live telecasts, “I go to a bunch of games,” including last Sunday’s five-hour Fenway Park seat-squirmer. His father Michael said Xander goes right to YouTube the morning after a late game to check the outcome.
“I started playing T-ball when I was two-and-a-half,” said Xander between warmup throws. “He could hit a pitched ball at 18 months,” Michael Tecci added. “He has great hand-eye coordination. It’s what he loves to do.” The kid’s replica Xander Bogaerts jersey (coincidence?) was the only Sox gear visible in the group.
Only afternoon games are televised from start to finish at the Red Heat Tavern bar because the night contests extend way past closing time. Nevertheless, said Manager Mike Brooks, “There’s definitely a good vibe. A lot of people are sticking around and watching it. It’s nice to see a similar success story when nobody saw it coming.”
Then there are the ticket-holding fans, who are infecting everyone they know with pennant fever. And there’s no vaccine.
“Last night was the most intense Red Sox game I’ve ever been to,” said Select Board member Emily Mitchell on Tuesday. “Fenway was so loud, and the fans were intensely engaged with every pitch. No one sat down, ever.” Her husband John seconded the motion. “It was an amazing game and the atmosphere at Fenway was electric the whole time. I loved it.”
“We’ve been fans long enough to know that no lead is ever safe,” Emily Mitchell said. “Whitlock’s performance in the top of the ninth, however, was incredible. We could feel the crowd getting more confident with every pitch. And I LOVED that we won it with small ball: single, bunt, single, sac fly.”
Nancy and Scott Wolk were with the Mitchells. “The word to describe the night best was vibrating. The stands were literally vibrating from the noise. People were not sitting still. I doubt anyone could,” she said. “We watched the dreaded 8th inning where the Red Sox have routinely forgotten to play, but we got out of that with a tie. And suddenly, at the top of the 9th, it became clear the Red Sox remembered everything.”
Emily Mitchell observed, “I do love the instant camaraderie in the stands at Fenway. You can strike up a conversation with the folks around you without feeling weird about it, and there’s something remarkably organic about the way the fans start and end cheers — it’s almost like a Greek chorus. And there’s nothing like high-fiving total strangers from the park all the way to Copley after the game.”
“It was surreal when they won. It took a few seconds to realize that it was not just the game, but the entire series won,” Wolk said. “We stayed for all of the songs until ‘Tessie’ played. The walk back towards the Pru was still vibrating.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763