I’m from Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia. Johan is from Stockholm, Sweden. Our paths crossed in Fenway Park in the middle of March, several weeks before opening day.
We met because flags were flying at half-mast and he wanted to know why.
“Nancy Reagan just died,” I said. “That must be why.”
“Right, of course,” he said. “I heard about that. What’s strange is, the last time I was in America, Michael Jackson died.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t cancelled your visa,” I said. “You’re kind of like the angel of death for famous Americans.”
He laughed, said, “Would you believe that my nickname is ‘Lucky’?”
The tour guide, Cheryl, took us through the visitor’s clubhouse, let us sit in the oldest bleacher seats in baseball, and in the seats on top of the green monster, showed us the rooftop vegetable garden, took us into the press box, filled us with history – Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth (before and after the curse), Teddy Ballgame and Tony C. and Yaz and Fisk and Game 6 – 1975, not 1986.
Fenway is 104-years-old. It has been the site of some of the greatest thrills and heartbreaking tragedies a game can conjure, and the workplace of some of the game’s most compelling figures. Its ghosts have ghosts. Cheryl relived for us the miracle of 2004, when the Red Sox ended the 86-year curse, and the catharsis of 2013, when they finally won the Series at home, a gift to all of Boston following the deadly marathon bombing.
She showed us the seat in the right-field bleachers where a sleeping fan was hit on the head by a 502-foot Williams home run, the longest ever hit at Fenway. The seat is painted red.
It was the first time Johan or I had ever visited Fenway, this sports cathedral, an outdoor theatre that has been staging a passion play called Red Sox baseball for more than a century. But I wanted to know why a Swedish psychologist visiting Boston to teach an advanced course at MIT was shelling out 18 bucks to tour a ballpark on its day off.
Turns out, he lived in San Diego a while back, spent a couple of years there and managed to get bit by the baseball bug, in spite of the Padres.
“But I’ve always wanted to visit Fenway Park,” Johan/Lucky said. “I think this place is bigger than the game.”