As a Boston Red Sox fan born in the eighties, I missed out on most of the heartbreak and disappointment that fans of the team had endured for, lets just call it, a very long time. The closest I ever came to that feeling was Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. I was a freshman in college and I distinctly recall watching the game on a shitty T.V. in my dorm room. It was David Ortiz's first season with the team, Johnny Damon still had long hair and Dustin Pedroia hadn't even been drafted yet. The game went to extra innings and ended abruptly when Aaron Boone sent a Tim Wakefield knuckle ball into the left field bleachers. Just like that, as Boone rounded the bases with his hands raised in the air, the season was over. The next year the Red Sox would come back from an improbable 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees and go on to win their first World Series Championship since 1918. I've watched them win two more since.
As is the case with professional sports teams these days, players come and go, some to retirement, most to trades or free agency. As I write this, I cant help but think of all of the players that I watched depart since that 2003 season - Garciaparra, Lowe, Nixon, Millar, Renteria, Mueller, Damon, Lowell, Ellsbury, Foulke, Arroyo, Damon, Youkilis, Ramirez, Drew, Crisp, Varitek, Schilling, Papelbon, Bay, Crawford, Bellhorn, Gonzalez, Lester, Cabrera and the list goes on. But while the roster evolves season over season, one thing that hasn't changed is the presence of the Citgo sign in nearby Kenmore Square. Since 1965, it's been just off in the distance over the Green Monster in left field, peaking into the stadium, day in and day out. Every time a fly ball sails towards left center, the sign comes into frame - the big red triangle and blue block lettering over a bright white neon screen in the shape of a giant iPhone app. And even though it's a few blocks away on the top of a building that sits on the other side of the Mass Pike, it feels just as much a part of the stadium as anything else that's within the walls of the park.
Then, back in October, shortly after the building changed hands, it was announced that negotiations between the new owners and the Citgo Petroleum Corp. had commenced, and that the future of the sign was uncertain. Boston residents, who have always been vocal in their support of the sign, rallied behind preserving its presence - its historical significance highlighted by the Boston Preservation Alliance's online petition and the accompanying hashtag #savethecitgosign. In addition to serving as a backdrop to Fenway, the sign looms over Boston Marathon runners as they hit the 23rd mile and according to Citgo, its pulsing flash has been used by mothers-to-be at nearby Beth Israel Hospital to time their contractions. While opening day at Fenway rapidly approached, and a deadline to make a deal loomed, the two sides recently reached an agreement in mid-March for the sign to stay put - a cultural and historical crisis averted. This means that when baseballs go sailing over the left field wall this season, the familiar sight of the Citgo sign will remain, with the only difference being the players that are hitting them.