Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.
Last night's Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway was the kind you tell stories about. On a warm September evening, with playoff dreams on the line, a crackling energy was shared by a sellout crowd during Sunday night baseball. But my favorite moment of the night came early, before Hanley Ramirez blasted two home runs, and well before Mookie Betts wowed us in right field.
It was when a photo of my friend Steve appeared on the jumbotron, accompanied by the words "We Remember."
For so many of us, the first step in becoming a Fenway Park tour guide was very simple: Follow Steve Meterparel around the ballpark and try to keep up.
My first Meter masterclass came in April 2008. High off the previous season's World Series title, giddy about the return of a strong team, crowds descended upon Fenway to see for themselves the park that Ted, Yaz, and Papi had called home. Having moved to Boston the previous September, I was living out a dream as a brand-new member of the Red Sox front office on the weekends. And Steve was our ringmaster, the self-proclaimed "Matt Damon at 77" who would round up crowds of 100 people every hour and welcome them to the park with a stand-up set of puns, quips, and old-man humor.
What did one hot dog say to another hot dog at Fenway Park? CATCHUP. What? You're not RELISHING any of this are you? Man, I thought I was on a ROLL here.
If at first you don't succeed ... if at first you don't succeed ... skydiving may not be for you. No, let me say it how Vickie says it. If at first you don't succeed ... try playing second.
The second step in becoming a Fenway Park tour guide was very simple: Realize that you would never be able to get away with 75 percent of what Steve was doing every hour of every day.
The jokes were terrible. They were marvelous. By June, I could perform every bit in his routine. I knew well that the crowds absolutely adored groaning their way through every line that he had in his arsenal. And my fellow tour guides and I knew that he had each joke written on a carefully maintained, folded piece of paper that he carried with him every day. He took the work seriously, and he was brilliant at it. The stories he told were nuanced, informative, and delivered with an incredible energy and panache, and the crowds were mesmerized.
(See here for a sample. It's no surprise that Steve dominates the Fenway Park tour YouTube videos.)
I worked at Fenway for four years, from that first spring through summers, falls, and winter mornings with heavy snow and light crowds. He rarely missed a day. During that span, I became one of the innumerable people who came to love Steve. I became part of his Fenway family, and he came to know mine. And when my tour guide tenure came to a close, I continued to stop by when I could.
He was a treasure. And when he passed away last October, at the age of 84, one of the most remarkable and distinctive voices within Fenway Park—a place that has been home to more than its fair share of characters—was lost. And I hope he does become what he always joked about with his tour groups: the first Fenway tour guide immortalized in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. The man has got my vote, and hundreds more.
Last night, the Red Sox said thank you to Steve. And while the game was one for the books, that moment was the greatest of them all.