Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Bostonians at Fenway Cheer for the Out-of-Town Team's Big Bats Major League Baseball's New Interleague Play Reminds Sports Fans That, 44 Years Ago, Beantown Was the Home of the Braves

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Bostonians at Fenway Cheer for the Out-of-Town Team's Big Bats Major League Baseball's New Interleague Play Reminds Sports Fans That, 44 Years Ago, Beantown Was the Home of the Braves

Article excerpt

Sure, Boston already had the edge on historic "oldies." It's the home of the oldest public school, the oldest public library, and the oldest public garden.

But this weekend it pulled out another. In a throwback to the first half of the century, Boston's first baseball teams returned as if through the cornstalks in the movie "Field of Dreams." Forsaking spandex for billowy shirts and pants like 1910s legend Shoeless Joe Jackson used to wear, the Atlanta (former Boston) Braves and Boston Red Sox played a three-game series that meant much more to hometown fans than just box scores and batting averages.

For many tried-and-true Bostonians, the Braves had finally come home. After 44 years of separation, the Braves played its first games in Beantown since leaving for Milwaukee in 1953 and then moving on to Atlanta in 1966.

The three-game series - which the Braves easily swept - was made possible by Major League Baseball's newest experiment to spur falling attendance - interleague play. For the first time, teams from the American and National Leagues are facing each other during the regular season, and baseball's schedule maker saw the golden opportunity to bring the National League Braves back to play the American League Red Sox. So far, the interleague dates have improved attendance on those dates leaguewide, and this long-sold-out series was one of the most eagerly awaited matchups of the season.

It didn't matter that the Atlanta Braves are headed for the post-season in October while the Red Sox will be on vacation. This was a time for celebration. Fans flew "Welcome home Braves" banners over the bleachers. T-shirts and hats stamped with "Braves" were as abundant as those with Red Sox logos. Players congregated collegially in pre-game batting practice, chatting and slapping one another's backs. Team managers - the Braves' Bobby Cox and the Red Sox' Jimy Williams - stood behind the home plate batting cage talking about the days when they played, interleague play, and the differences in the two leagues' rules. Mainly, pitchers in the National League bat themselves, while designated hitters bat for American League pitchers.

"Things come full circle sometimes," Williams muses, referring to both the rules and the Braves returning to Boston.

As the Braves were introduced for the first time Friday in the damp late summer air, fans cheered wildly. …

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