I’m predisposed to loving Boston, mostly because of its fierce passion for sports and tradition. On Patriots’ Day, a holiday unique to New England, the rest of the world gets to experience the essence of both.
Being a baseball lover, I’ve been much more inclined to care about the 11 AM Red Sox game. That wasn’t always the specific tradition, as Garry Brown of The Republican explained, but it is a tradition that ultimately goes back even farther than Fenway Park itself:
In 1894, Massachusetts designated April 19 as Patriots’ Day to commemorate the 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord that launched the American Revolutionary War.
It soon became a day to celebrate sports as well. The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897 – and the world’s most prominent road race has been a Patriots’ Day staple ever since.
Baseball joined the mix in 1903, when the Boston Americans – later to be known as the Red Sox – opened their third American League season on Patriots’ Day by splitting a morning doubleheader with the Philadelphia A’s at the Huntington Avenue grounds.
Up to 1958, the Red Sox didn’t always play at home on Patriots’ Day. In 1959, they convinced the American League that they should have a home game on Patriots’ Day every year.
The new scheduling began with a bang – a ninth-inning walk-off home run by third baseman Frank Malzone for a 5-4 victory over the Yankees and their fearsome closer, Ryne Duren.
These days, per the same site, the early start time is to allow fans to have a chance to cheer on the eventual winners of The Boston Marathon, which traditionally ends in early afternoon. Many years, it didn’t quite work out that way. In 1980, Rosie Ruiz notoriously cheated her way into a supposed win as women’s champion, eventually being outed by a series of testimonials from several observers. She was stripped of that record-breaking performance and the title a week later. Two years later, she embezzled $60,000 from a real estate company that she worked for, and then returned to her native South Florida where she was arrested for her involvement in a cocaine deal a year later. She died four years ago of cancer, nearly forgotten, but forever maintaining she had indeed run and won.
But she did live long enough to witness 2013. Which, on the 10th anniversary of that event, makes today’s run all the more poignant. So much so, that the face of the city and the baseball team that played that day and eventually won that year’s World’s Championship, is this year’s grand marshal, a sequence of events he recalled prior to yesterday afternoon’s game with the Angels that saluted those champions. As Boston.com’s Christopher Gavin reported:
After tragedy fell on Boston in 2013, David Ortiz offered his now iconic message of strength at the first home game following the bombings at Fenway Park.
On Monday, Ortiz made clear that the 2013 World Series championship team’s support for the city has not faltered in the years since.
On Sunday, the 2013 Red Sox reunited on the field before the Sox took on the Los Angeles Angels — a reunion he reflected on Monday morning, not far from the 2023 Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton.
“It made me feel great, just, you know, [to] reunite with them boys. If there’s something that I miss about baseball, it’s just being with them boys out there,” Ortiz told WCVB.
“Going back in time, 10 years ago, when everything went down here in Boston, it brings a lot of memories,” he added. “Last night, we went for dinner and we were all talking about that and how fast the time moves on, and to all those families out there that were affected by this disaster 10 years ago, we want to spread the message and let them know that we got their back.”
Ortiz’s defiant, profanity-laden rebuttal to the bombing that marred the 117th running produced the Boston Strong attitude. The out-of-character blue-and-yellow alternate uniforms the Red Sox occasionally wear are a salute to the Marathon and this approach. And after a last-place 2022, a weak off-season free agent market where few desired stars were signed and the price to keep the one remaining young talent, Rafael Devers, skyrocketed, the Sox have swept the Angels in the first three games of this series, awaiting Shohei Ohtani’s start this morning, weather permitting.
On a day as raw and wet as this one has started out in Beantown, amidst the backdrop of tradition and memories, on a race course that dates back to the 19th century and in a tarp-covered park that is the oldest currently in use in major league team sports in North America, it’s both an inspiration and a reminder that some traditions are worth preserving, and that Boston Strong is more than simply a motto.
At least for today, I’m a Boston fan. And I bet some of you secretly are as well.