It was a smorgasbord of nostalgic moments at Fenway Park on Thursday, as former Red Sox stars Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Roger Clemens were inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. They were enshrined along with Joe Castiglione, the beloved radio broadcaster who called many of the memorable on-field triumphs that earned these legends this very honor.
In a somewhat cramped venue that looked similar to an event at Barnes and Noble, each inductee was given the chance to sit in a chair next to NESN broadcaster, Don Orsillo, and someone important to him and his career while talking about what an honor it was to play for the Red Sox.
While sitting next to broadcasting partner Dave O’Brien, Castiglione reflected on the many memorable moments of his career, which began in 1983 and is still going strong. He recalled announcing both of Clemens’ 20 strikeout games, described Garciaparra’s plays at shortstop as Larry Bird-like, and spoke of the electricity Martinez ignited at Fenway whenever he took the mound. For many, Castiglione’s voice recalls memories of the 2004 World Series, as his call of the final out of the decisive Game Four is one of the most famous in history. If you’re like me and own not one, but three bottle openers that blare the call whenever you even slightly touch them, you get to relive that magical moment every single time you open or close the silverware drawer.
For a fitting tribute to Castiglione from someone who is certainly familiar with the man behind the voice, I direct you to Rob Bradford’s most recent column on WEEI.com. Here, Bradford describes the Castiglione he knows from working with him in the booth and offers fascinating insight into his strong work ethic behind the scenes. Bradford also writes of all the summer nights he spent enjoying Castiglione’s radio broadcasts as a listener—an experience many Red Sox fans share. It was often Castiglione’s voice that lulled me to sleep from childhood through college and there is a comfort, or as Bradford writes, a “security blanket,” in the familiarity. It is because of Castiglione’s vivid announcing that each time he asks, “Can you believe it?,” the answer is yes. And we can picture it too.
When Clemens, who pitched for the Red Sox from 1984-1996, took his seat, he described the first moment he laid eyes on the field at Fenway and the colors of the ballpark came to life. He recalled that when pitching at Fenway, it was easy to make the batter feel uncomfortable because of the small, or quaint, rather, size of the park and the closeness of both the backstop and the fans to the field. Clemens also described Garciaparra as “always ready to play” whenever he showed up at the ballpark, and he remarked on how electric (a word commonly used on this day in reference to Pedro) the crowd was whenever Martinez pitched.
After Orsillo aptly described him as “the brightest star in the Red Sox constellation,” Garciaparra took the stage next to his best friend and fellow Red Sox alum, Lou Merloni, and said he was “blessed and honored to be inducted into this [Red Sox] Nation.” As if on a dating show, Orsillo asked the two former infielders to describe how they met. It turns out this bromance began in 1995 when their families became close and Merloni’s Massachusetts family embraced Garciaparra, who was far from his California home.
And it was Garciaparra who put the whole experience of joining the likes of Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams in the team’s Hall of Fame into perspective. He emphasized the fact that his achievements would not have happened without the help of others, including those two legends with whom history now groups him. Garciaparra also visualized the connection between every player to ever wear a Red Sox uniform when he spoke of putting his own dents in the Green Monster alongside the multitude of others created by players who make up the rich history of the team. Garciaparra then talked of his close relationship with Ted Williams and the bond they formed based on their shared Mexican background and California roots. He also recalled sitting with Johnny Pesky in the dugout and learning from him how to be a member of the Red Sox.
With the advice of Williams and Pesky, Nomar went on to be arguably the greatest shortstop to ever play for the Red Sox. He holds the fourth best career batting average (.323) in the history of the team and is the only player in Major League history to hit two grand slam home runs in a single game at his home ballpark. Even though he departed from the Red Sox on rocky terms on July 31st 2004, he retired as a member of the organization in 2010 after signing an honorary one-day contract with the team.
Because an event at Fenway Park is not complete without an appearance by David Ortiz, he was there too, supporting his “compadre” Martinez and wearing sunglasses indoors. He joined Martinez on stage to remember highlights from Martinez’
brilliant pitching career in Boston, which spanned from 1998-2004. As a young baseball fan, Martinez made watching the game fun and it was his commanding fastball that made me realize how beautiful a pitch can be.
For all of Martinez’ accomplishments with the team, including a 1999 game in which he struck out 17 New York Yankees, a feat completed by no other opposing pitcher at the old Yankee Stadium, the one highlighted on this day was his recruitment of David Ortiz to Boston, which occurred at a dinner the two shared that ended up changing the course of Red Sox history.
The ceremony continued before the Red Sox-Astros game Thursday night when all four men capped off the day by throwing out the ceremonial first pitches. It was a day dedicated to the appreciation of the proud history of the Red Sox, full of montages of highlights from the inductees’ careers accompanied by the signature nostalgia-invoking music that makes every triumph seem even more awe-inspiring.
The most star-studded induction class to date walked off the field with their plaques and matching jackets, forever enshrined in the halls of Fenway Park and the hearts of generations of fans.