"I had one moment of glory in Little League," Brian said.
"I was in the All-Star game, I think in fifth grade. I started off as a shortstop, but for some reason the coach told me he wanted me to pitch an inning. And I thought, 'hey, whatever, let's see what happens. I'll pitch an inning, fine'.
"So," he dragged some french fries through the pool of ketchup on his plate, "I walk the bases loaded."
He paused for our laughter to subside. His casual tone in relating that part had been pitch-perfect. Brian is good at telling stories.
"Then, this kid, Ryan Falzano, I throw him a fastball, because, well, I mean what else do you throw in Little League. Anyway, he hits a come-backah--"
He says this with the most exaggerated, nasal dropped r possible, widening his eyes to get my attention. Brian is from Chicago and likes to needle me about...well, everything, but one of the things he does to get my goat is disparage or mock Boston in some way.
"--to the mound, and I caught it, totally by accident."
Another pause for laughter. More french fries.
"Then I turned around and looked at second base, and the guy's already gone around the base, so I flip it to the shortstop and he tags the guy out trying to get back to second and the guy who started running toward second from first and didn't stop, either.
"So I turned a triple play!"
We laughed and shared our appreciation appropriately, and then I said, affecting the kind of deadpan I use for joking with Brian--every pair of people will have their own unique language with one another--"Wow. All the little elementary-school girls must have been all over you."
"Oh, yeah, totally," Brian said, making a grand gesture. "Swimming in training bras."
I let out a bark of laughter that startled people at tables nearby. What is it with me and this Uno's?
I was surprised, anyway, that we'd gotten in there in the first place. I guess the place goes into a kind of DEFCON-IV mode on game days, serving only a reduced menu of stuff they can hurry out to you in the shortest amount of time possible and carrying a mighty battalion of wait staff.
Once we actually got into the ballpark, the day was, as the Globe's Amelie Benjamin put it, "Slow -- though beautiful," her words referring to the day's news becoming an unintentional Emily Dickinson poem to describe the weather.
There were many runs scored today--twenty in all. Mike Lowell hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning, but John Lester gave the lead right back, but then we took a three-run lead again, but then they came back within a run...
And yet, though it could easily be described as a barn-burner, there wasn't the kind of tension in the air required. The Orioles kept nibbling at our lead but never overtook us. There was just strong encouragement from the crowd, grim, resolute, but unworried. It wasn't win this game but keep winning this game.
And keep winning they did, in that slow and beautiful fashion, waiting two frames before plating another three runs on a Kevin Youkilis no-doubter to deepest center.
The breeze was cool, the sun bright but mild. Brian and I, stuffed into the grandstand seats right behind home plate, bickered good-naturedly and joked as we had at Uno's, stopping to join the "Let's Go Red Sox" chants.
"Swimming in training bras," he said at one point, trying to make me laugh with the reference.
"I don't think you should really be saying that out of context," I pointed out.
The only time I really started to feel fear in this game was in the top of the ninth, in which a dullened Jonathan Papelbon struggled to hold the line. I remember earlier in the season I thought of him as seeming sharp, in a literal sense--like he was slicing through his work with frightening ease, that he was a new, fresh thing right out of the box and was working perfectly in a way we knew could not last (I believe back then I coined the term "new-phenom smell" which made Sam go ewww).
Now is the feeling I was anticipating--the sense that he has been worn down, maybe only slightly, but still: he's being broken in. He's just ever so slightly dullened. Could be the workload wearing on him or the big leagues catching up with him or a longer season or all of the above.
Or maybe he's just lost without Jason Varitek. It could be we really, majorly haven't given the Captain enough credit this year.