BOSTON — The Hollywood ending would have featured Mike Napoli swatting a fastball over the Green Monster for a walk-off grand slam on this important day for the Boston Red Sox.
But with an excited Fenway Park crowd urging Napoli, he grounded out. Mike Carp did the same after Napoli, ending the game in a 7-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The victory remained.
Fans watched a baseball game and, afterward, thousands spilled out of Fenway Park to resume their cheering, this time for exhausted runners on the final stretch of the Boston Marathon.
“We’re celebrating Boston today,” said Maureen Walsh of Natick, Mass. A frequent visitor to Fenway, she rushed out of the ballpark and stood with crowds bordering Beacon Street, applauding the runners.
Of course, Walsh preferred a Red Sox win. But other events mattered more, as in simply playing the game and holding the race in the wake of last year’s bombings.
Who will remember the score, in relation to the continual tributes to victims, survivors and heroes of the bombings, many of them held before games at Fenway Park, including a Sunday night ceremony televised nationally?
“It was a moving tribute,” Walsh said. “It showed the strength of the city having survived what happened last year.”
Because ESPN wanted to feature Sunday’s tribute and game, it was moved from the afternoon to a 7 p.m. start. That made Monday’s 11 a.m. game a little difficult. But even opposing Manager Buck Showalter of the Orioles understood.
“We know why,” he said. “This has something to do with the marathon. It’s something very important to our country, not just Boston.”
Players looked tired hours before Monday’s game.
“This probably used to be a game you complained about, like why are we playing at 11 in the morning?” said catcher David Ross, now in his second season in Boston. “But now it’s a game you take in and play, and remember you’re playing for something a little more important than just baseball.”
Ross and his family planned to join other players near the marathon finish line after the game. While the Boston Marathon is an historic race, Ross doubts he would be so interested before.
“I don’t know if a marathon was as important (to me) then as it is now,” Ross said. “I want to show support and remember, and just to show how strong this country is and how strong this city is; that we’re all going to stick together.
“I’ll always look back on (Marathon Day) and think about what happened in 2013.”
Last year, the Red Sox were getting ready to leave Fenway Park for a series in Cleveland when news began trickling in about the bombings.
“We didn’t really know what was going on,” outfielder Daniel Nava said. “It was like a waiting game. We were at the airport trying to find out what was going on.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. kept receiving texts after that game.
“People were asking if I was alright,” Bradley said. “I thought, ‘what is going on?’ We didn’t know the severity of it.”
When the Red Sox played in Cleveland the next night, the severity and devastation were clear to them. They created a special jersey, with the number 617 (Boston’s area code) and the words “Boston Strong” on it, hanging it in the dugout – so a TV audience back in New England could see it.
“It was much more than a jersey,” Bradley said. “It was the team having compassion and empathy for what was going on.”
When the team returned to Fenway, a moving ceremony took place before the next home game. It was then that David Ortiz made his infamous declaration that “This is our (expletive) city.”
“It was not about sport,” Ortiz said. “It was about us as citizens.”
Ortiz said the bombings moved his team’s mindset from baseball to something much more.
“We began the year with a chip on our shoulder because the year before (2012’s last-place finish),” Ortiz said. “Then this happens with the marathon. We had a group of guys that wanted to do something.
“We looked around. What can we do? Everyone tried to do something positive.”
What could a bunch of baseball players do?
“We just did our jobs,” Jonny Gomes said, citing the victims and those who helped them as “the real heroes.”
“We just rode on their coattails … granted, it did end in a fairy tale ending, with us winning the World Series.”
And of course there was the poignant and touching moment during the team’s victory parade when the duck boats stopped and the World Series trophy was placed on the marathon finish line, with Gomes draping a “Boston Strong 617” jersey over the trophy.
But what if Boston had not won the World Series?
Irrelevant, according to Gomes.
“What this team means to the city and what this city means to us – and the tragic event that did happen – I don’t want to hang a win-loss record on how much we cared about the city and how much we embraced the Boston Strong,” Gomes said.
Gomes will admit that “I think we helped out” as Boston recovered from the bombings.
Individually, several players visited victims in the hospital. Collectively, the Red Sox turned pregame ceremonies into reminders of the tragedy as well as celebrations of determination and endurance.
Monday’s game featured survivor Marc Fucarile from nearby Stoneham, Mass., throwing out the first pitch. Fucarile, 35, who lost his right leg in the bombings and suffered severe burns on his left leg, had the painful distinction of being the last of the survivors released from the hospital (last July).
Fucarile walked to the mound, cane in one hand, baseball in the other. Think Fucarile feels a connection to the Red Sox? He was married last Thursday – at Fenway Park.
After Fucarile threw the ceremonial pitch, he walked along the first base side, where Ortiz greeted him. The applause for Fucarile continued.
Monday was a day for people to praise. They cheered the Red Sox. They cheered the runners. And maybe they cheered simply because they could cheer.
“This is such a great day in Boston,” said Paul Girard of Sharon, Mass., another Red Sox fan that joined the throng encouraging the runners.
“Last year put a scar on this day. Everyone wants to get rid of that scar. This is fantastic.
“These people want to show they’re tough. We’re tough people.”
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: