October 27, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Fenway Park welcomes a newfound fan

Marge Lee, 90, attended her first Red Sox game last summer.

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Marge Lee of South Berwick is an avid Red Sox fan and attended her first game last summer. The photo, taken after the game, shows Marge surrounded by members of her family and holding a sign she made addressing NESN announcers Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

“He was my darling,” Marge said wistfully. “We were going to be married 69 years.”

Fortunately, Marge has plenty of family nearby. So, as she did her best to adjust to life without Mick, grandson Jason Shifrin of Concord, N.H., took it upon himself to buy eight tickets to the Sox-Blue Jays game on the last day of June.

“He said he wanted to do something for Grandma to cheer her up,” said Marge, who’d grown to love Fenway from afar but never dreamed she’d actually cross the threshold of baseball’s most cherished shrine.

The seats were just a few rows back from the third base line. Emerging from the ramp into Fenway and all its century-old glory, Marge found herself reliving that first day she and Mick paid three bucks apiece for tickets and walked, wide-eyed, into rickety Ebbets Field.

Hence the large, cardboard sign that Marge meticulously prepared for the game, addressed to Red Sox television announcers Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo: “HI JERRY AND DON! I’M 90 YEARS OLD AND THIS IS MY FIRST TIME AT FENWAY! BUT I DID SEE JACKIE ROBINSON PLAY AT EBBETS FIELD. MARGE, SO. BERWICK, MAINE.”

Marge still doesn’t know if the sign got her on TV. But this she does know: When she stood up with her back to the field and held it high, fans for as far as she could see applauded and cheered – so much so that she and her family flashed the placard repeatedly (and with the same response) throughout the game.

“Like a bunch of hams,” Marge admitted.

Then came the best part. After yet another trademark, walk-off win by the Sox, while she and her clan posed for a photo with Fenway’s infield in the background, Marge felt a tug on her sleeve.

It was a 6-year-old boy, staring up at her with a slightly scuffed baseball in his little hand.

“Oh, aren’t you a lucky duck!” Marge said. “You got a game ball!”

“It’s for you,” the boy said.

“Oh, no. I can’t accept that. It’s your ball!” Marge protested.

“No,” the boy insisted. “It’s for you.”

Marge, not knowing what to do, looked around for guidance. That’s when she spotted the boy’s parents, watching from several rows away, silently nodding and smiling their approval.

Grandson Jason has the ball now – after prominently displaying it in her living room for a couple of months, Marge decided it belonged with the guy who got her to Fenway in the first place.

In other words, one family’s act of kindness is now another family’s heirloom. And as Marge sits up late these cold October nights and roots for her newfound boys of summer, Fenway will no longer be that abstract, mythical place the out-of-town announcers can’t stop gushing about.

She can still see where she sat.

She can still hear the applause – not for the Sox, but for her.

And for as long as she’s on this good Earth, she will never forget that little boy.

“Fenway is my Ebbets Field,” Marge said. “The same camaraderie, the same fierce dedication to the team. All of that.”

And then some. 

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:bnemitz@pressherald.com

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