date published: May 21, 2007

SOX MANIA! Everything you need to know to make your first Red Sox game a grand slam by Josh B. Wardrop

Rules of the Game

1 Take a Tour: If terms like “Green Monster,” “Pesky Pole,” “Duffy’s Cliff” and so on mean nothing to you, then you can’t get a better primer on Red Sox and Fenway Park history than the Fenway Park Tours (refer to tours listing) offered daily until 4 p.m. or three hours before game time. Guides well-versed in Sox history will take you through the Sox press box, atop the famed left field wall into the “Monster seats,” and perhaps even onto the field to check out the dugouts and bullpens. Along the way, you’re treated to Red Sox trivia, and by the time you actually get to a game, you’ll know enough to pass for a diehard Sox fan.

2 Get to Know Your Players: Not acquainted with all 25 men on the Red Sox roster? Fear not—here’s a primer on the main guys to be aware of if you want to blend in.
#18 | Daisuke Matsuzaka | Starting Pitcher: The Red Sox brought him over from Japan this off-season, igniting Far East interest in the Sox and bringing a slew of Japanese news media into Fenway. Sox fans call him Dice-K—opposing hitters call him all kinds of nastier names when he strikes them out.
#20 | Kevin Youkilis | First Baseman: Don‘t be misled by hearing what sounds like a shower of boos when he comes to the plate. The scrappy on-base machine is actually being serenaded by thousands of fans yelling “Yoooooouk!”
#24 | Manny Ramirez | Left fielder: One of baseball’s greatest hitters—ever. A free spirit, with his multi-colored dreadlocks, adventurous fielding in left field, and the ability to mash homer after homer. May occasionally disappear into left field scoreboard during the game or randomly decide not to run to first base—behavior known around these parts as “Manny being Manny.”
#34 | David Ortiz | Designated Hitter: The most beloved player on the team, the most clutch slugger, and the Red Sox player most resembling a teddy bear. Renowned for monster home runs and excitingly original facial hair. Known to all as “Big Papi” (pronounced “Poppy,” not “Pappy”).
#58 | Jonathan Papelbon | Closer: Currently second only to Ortiz in the “beloved Red Sox” pantheon, this young fireballer won the closer job last year from veteran Keith Foulke thanks to equal parts velocity and intensity.

3 Learn the Words to “Sweet Caroline”: Yes, the song was inspired by John F. Kennedy's daughter, Carolineas finally confirmed in 2007. And no, Neil Diamond has never—publicly or privately—offered any endorsement of the Red Sox. Yet, without fail, every game during the eighth inning, 38,000 or so fans will start singing along as Diamond’s 1969 hit ballad “Sweet Caroline” fills the stadium—you can tell the Red Sox regulars by the way they punctuate the chorus of “Good times never seemed so good” with a chant of “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!”

Apparently, the birth of the “Sweet Caroline” phenomenon at Fenway was totally random. A production assistant started playing it occasionally during the late 1990s. In 2002, when new ownership led by John Henry and Larry Lucchino purchased the team, they asked that it become a staple. And so it has, one that thousands of amateur vocalists greet with great excitement and phenomenally off-key singing each night.

4 Remember Your Etiquette:
bullet If you’ve got prime seats behind home plate, everyone else in the park already hates you. Don’t make it worse for yourself by getting on your cell phone, calling everyone you know to tell them you’re there, then trying to wave at them on television.
bullet There’s no beer vendor coming—Fenway doesn’t have them, unfortunately. However, when you’re getting up to make your beer/hot dog/sushi/bathroom run, kindly time it in between innings. There’s nothing worse than having your view of a Big Papi homer marred by a stream of wanderers. Also, don’t stand up until you decide what you’re buying—trust us, it’s for your own safety.
bullet If you have an “I Love Roger Clemens” tattoo, you’ll probably want to cover that up. Now that he’s officially not coming back to Boston, our affection for him isn’t, either.
bullet Don’t be that person that starts “The Wave.” If it starts around you, and you get caught up in the moment, fine. But don’t start it. How old are you? Eight?
bullet Finally, if you got a great deal on a Johnny Damon #18 Sox shirt, cover up Damon’s name with duct tape and write Matsuzaka over it. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more. Guaranteed.

5 Have Fun: There’s no experience that compares to an evening of baseball played at Fenway Park. Forget about the cramped seats, the odd sightlines and the other quirks of the venerable old park—they’re part of the charm. Just sit back, wave your foam finger, cheer on the Sox and have a great time.

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Ticketing Tips

The Red Sox sell out every game at Fenway Park, and have done so for the last few seasons. To avoid having to negotiate with shady scalpers, here’s a few possible ways to track down the hottest ticket in town, legally.

Visit the Ticket Office: Obvious, right? Yet some people skip right over this accessible resource located at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Way. If you hit the office the day before a game, there are always limited tickets (key word being “limited”) available.

Gate E: This ticket window, located on Lansdowne Street underneath the Green Monster, is another point where last-minute game-day tickets (usually standing room and scattered single seats) go on sale, two hours prior to the game. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and you’re allowed to line up five hours prior to the game.

Scalp-Free Zone: At Gate B (behind the centerfield bleachers, beside the statue of Ted Williams) is a designated “Scalp-Free Zone.” where season ticket holders who, for whatever reason, can’t attend that night’s game are encouraged to come and sell their seats at face value. Buyers must then enter the park immediately. One tip if you go this route: behave yourself inside the park, because you don’t want the folks who did you a solid to get their tickets yanked.

Come Fashionably Late: The Sox don’t want leftover tickets, so there’s no harm in taking in the first couple innings from the comfort of a local watering hole (see below), then casually inquiring of the ticket office if there’s anything left. It’s said that if there are spare tickets, you can get them for quite a tasty discount as the night rolls on.

Not Quite Fenway, but…

Came up empty on tickets? Well, even David Ortiz and Jason Varitek strike out sometimes. If you get shut out of Fenway, here’s some nearby hotspots where you can get your Sox on.

GAME ON!, 82 Lansdowne St., 617-351-7001 (pictured right). You can’t get much closer to seeing a game at Fenway then at Game On!, which is actually in Fenway. Opened in 2005, Game On features a light and airy upstairs dining room and a sleek, dark downstairs nightclub/sports bar. Game On! boasts yummy upscale ballpark food (hot dogs, sandwiches, brick oven pizzas) and pretty much unlimited views of the game on enormous TVs.

THE BASEBALL TAVERN, 1270 Boylston St., 617-867-6526. Inside Fenway Park, the seats atop the famed Green Monster are the most coveted vantage points. Outside Fenway, the Baseball Tavern’s roofdeck (complete with Fenway scoreboard replica) has to take the prize. Atop the Baseball Tavern, you can’t quite see into Fenway Park, but it’s the best way we know to feel close to the game while you sip a cocktail and cheer on the team.

CASK N’ FLAGON, 62 Brookline Ave., 617-536-4840. A popular Fenway hangout since 1969, the Cask got a big-time facelift last year—including raised ceilings, massive top-to-bottom bay windows overlooking Fenway Park, more tables and a lot more TVs (more than 50, including 12-foot projection TVs, 42 and 50-inch plasmas, and even TVs in the bathrooms). After the final pitch, Sox fans can do a victory dance or two at Oliver’s, the back room dance club.