Fans have fun at A-Rod's expense

The Red Sox, and their fans, get the best of A-Rod in the first of 19 regular-season meetings.

Originally Published: April 16, 2004
Associated Press

BOSTON -- From the moment he stepped on the field at Fenway Park, A-Rod became a lightning rod.

Boos, taunts, singsong chants, echoing around every crooked corner of the old ballyard. And that was just fine by Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez
Third Base
New York Yankees
9 1 3 5 0 .216

"Anytime you have this much interest, it tells you the game is at its pinnacle," he said early Friday night.

The All-Star who nearly wound up playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox stepped smack into baseball's biggest rivalry for the first time, joining Derek Jeter on the New York Yankees' side.

A husky man standing in a third-base box made him feel welcome during batting practice.

"Hey, A-Rod! What's it like to be Jeter's backup?" the guy shouted.

The Fenway faithful had a field day as Rodriguez went 0-for-4 and made a baserunning blunder in the Yankees' 6-2 loss.

"It was a bit of a letdown," Rodriguez said after the game. "It was very intense out there."

Fans spent all winter revving up following a flurry of major offseason moves by both teams, sniping over the Rodriguez trade and a bit of name-calling between owners George Steinbrenner and John Henry.

"It's the Evil Empire from the Bronx, right?" said Eric Wellmann, one of the Red Sox rooters perched in the seats atop the Green Monster. "I think it's all goodhearted. It's more mean-spirited down at Yankee Stadium, I think."

Yawkey Way was packed several hours before the start of baseball's most-hyped April series in recent memory, the scent of grilled sausages wafting outside the third-base grandstand.

Inside, the park was jammed to see the teams pick up where they left off last October. The Yankees added to 80-plus years of Boston misery with a thrilling Game 7 win in the AL championship series, a playoff that included Pedro Martinez throwing down Don Zimmer and a bullpen fracas involving Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia.

In the Hub, this four-game series was the talk of the city. News about the Celtics' and Bruins' playoff series, the Boston Marathon and the upcoming draft by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots hardly drew a mention.

AL batting champion Bill Mueller of Boston tried to low-key the whole thing.

"I think it's good for the sport, that it's on national television and everyone gets to see it," he said. "For us, it's a divisional game. We play them 19 times. You try not to get too high for any game."

Maybe, but he sure seemed pretty excited after hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off Javier Vazquez.

Fittingly, Tim Wakefield threw the first pitch of the night. He threw the final one the last time they played -- Aaron Boone homered on a knuckleball in the 11th inning to win Game 7.

And on Friday afternoon, several Yankees crowded around a television in the cramped visitor's clubhouse, watching highlights of last year's ALCS.

"This can't be bigger than last year. You can't force it," pitcher Mike Mussina said.

Try telling that to the Red Sox. But at least one Yankee, reliever Paul Quantrill, understands the frustration of the Boston faithful, having once pitched for Boston.

"It's tougher when you're on the losing end," he said. "I'll bet they're not watching this over there on the other side."

He was right. In the Boston clubhouse, three TVs were tuned to the Reds-Cubs game.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press