Sports lead the Patriots' Day charge

Gordon Edes
Yahoo! Sports

BOSTON – Jimy Williams, the former Red Sox manager, not only knew why they commemorated Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, he could from memory recite the inscription on the famous Minuteman statue in nearby Concord.

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.''

Not bad for a kid who grew up in a farm town in central California.

Even for many locals, the origin of Patriots' Day – the anniversary of Paul Revere's 1775 ride ("The British are coming, the British are coming") and the battles of Lexington and Concord that started the American Revolution – has become obscured by the activities for which the day has become best known. That would be the running of the Boston Marathon and a morning baseball game played by the Red Sox, which allows for fans to flock after the game into Kenmore Square to catch the final mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard race.

First pitch for Monday's game between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. ET, which is 5½ hours after redcoats and minutemen will clash on Lexington Green for a reenactment of their battle, with the scene shifting to Concord later in the morning.

Justin Masterson, a 24-year-old rookie, will start Monday's game for the Red Sox. Masterson didn't draw the short straw; customarily a reliever, he has been pressed into service to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has gone on the 15-day disabled list with what the team is calling a mild shoulder strain.

"I'm sure I have at some point in time,'' Masterson said when asked if he'd ever had a sporting event begin earlier. "But it doesn't disrupt the routine I don't have [as a starter], so it just fits right in with my schedule.''

Masterson said he expects he'll rise at 7 a.m. and get to the ballpark by 8:30 or so. "Get over here, relax,'' he said.

One advantage of the early start? Less time for the nerves to build. "Get it in, get it out of the way,'' he said.

Since 1903, there have been morning baseball games played on Patriots' Day, which officially became a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine in 1894. The marathon has been run on Patriots' Day since 1897, the year the Boston Beaneaters, Boston's National League team, lost its home opener on that day.

The holiday used to fall on April 19, the day the battle was actually fought, but in 1969 it was shifted to the third Monday of the month. The Red Sox and the Beaneaters' successors, the Braves, used to alternate playing on Patriots' Day, and until 1966, split doubleheaders were often scheduled, allowing fans to see the race between games.

Morning games anywhere else are a rarity. The Minnesota Twins have had morning starts on a day that the University of Minnesota football team was playing the same night in the Metrodome.

"I remember going to morning doubleheaders in Pittsburgh when Three Rivers Stadium first opened,'' longtime Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione said. "The Pirates would play them on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day. The idea was to get people home for their cookouts.

"My first year here, 1983, we played the Brewers on Patriots' Day and lost 14-0. I think they had something like 18 singles.'' Castiglione has a pretty good memory – the Brewers had 22 hits that day, five of which went for extra bases. The other 17 were singles.

But overall, Patriots' Day has been good to the Red Sox. They're 65-48 overall on the day and have won the last five in a row, including the 2006 game in which newcomer Mark Loretta hit a walkoff home run, duplicating the feat of Frank Malzone that beat Ryne Duren and the Yankees in 1959.

It was the first walkoff Loretta had hit at any level, including Little League, and was witnessed by his father, Dave, an international banker who had brought the family out for a week of sightseeing from California.

''My daughter Kelly said to me, 'Does California have any historical stuff like this?' We took the Duck Tour, so the guy pointed out the Old North Church, the lanterns, 'one if by land, two if by sea.' She said, 'Anything like that in California?,' '' Dave Loretta said after the game.

''I said, 'Kelly, California was colonized by the Spanish. No major battles. A lot of Franciscan monks going up and down, establishing missions. That's the history of California. There were no wars, no revolutions for independence, no Bunker Hill, no Boston Massacre, no Boston Tea Party. All that stuff happened here.' "

The first Fenway Park employees are expected to arrive Monday at around 6 a.m. – clubhouse equipment managers, security and other stadium operations personnel will be the earliest arrivals. The grills outside Yawkey Way figure to be serving up Italian sausages and hot dogs by 8:30, and the ballpark gates open at 9, two hours before game time, when the beer taps will open for business.

Breakfast of champions, indeed. The suds will be flowing much earlier than for a Sunday day game, when the state's blue laws prohibit beer purchases before noon.

The lead runners in the 113th Boston Marathon should come into sight for the fans sitting in the Coca-Cola Pavilion, located on the rooftop level in the left-field corner, shortly after noon. Chances are, the first runner they'll see is Robert K. Cheruiyot, a Kenyan who has won the last four Boston Marathons and ran a course record 2:07:14 in 2006. Another Kenyan, Margaret Okayo, set the women's record (2:20:43) in 2002.

Tom Guilmette, who operates the left-field camera for the NESN network that televises Red Sox games, said he plans to swing his camera toward the race periodically. "If I hit it just right, I may get the leader," he said. "But the biggest thing is just showing the crowds. They're huge.''

The most famous of the Boston marathoners was a local, Johnny Kelley, who competed in the race a record 61 times, winning twice and finishing second seven times. Even though his last win came in 1945, Kelley, an electrical maintenance man for Boston Edison, remained a beloved character, his last race coming in 1992 when he was 84.

"He was the Boston Marathon,'' said Bill Rodgers, another favorite son and a four-time winner of the race, after Kelley died in 2004 at the age of 97.

Orioles catcher Gregg Zaun figures he's played in two or three Patriots' Day games for the other side.

"It's a little early,'' he said, "but you know what, it's not really a big deal. I'm at the ballpark early, anyway. It messes up your routine a little bit, but not that much. The only real difference between an 11 o'clock game and 1 o'clock game is no BP.''

Tom McLaughlin is the visiting clubhouse manager. He expects to arrive around 6. "We'll have breakfast for them,'' he said. "An omelet station, cereal, bagels.''

McLaughlin has found that most visiting players don't mind the early start. "I think they like it," he said. "Plus, it's a travel day, so you get to where you're going a lot earlier. The Orioles will be home for dinner.''

Several Red Sox players have had motivation to go from the ballpark to the race finish line – their wives were running. Kathyrn Nixon, wife of former outfielder Trot Nixon, used to be a race regular. Shonda Schilling, wife of former pitcher Curt Schilling, was another participant, and Dawn Timlin, wife of former reliever Mike Timlin, continues to run and is entered in Monday's race. Her husband threw out the first pitch before Sunday's game.

Other club employees have entered as a team and run on behalf of the Red Sox Foundation, the team's charitable arm.

Dana DeMuth, an umpire for 26 years, said he had never worked a Patriots' Day game before. None of the umpires knew the origin of the holiday, but DeMuth showed an insider's grasp of the occasion. "I know that Paul Revere never finished his ride,'' he said.

Revere, immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem ("Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere'') sounded the warning as far as Lexington, but then was arrested by the Brits, as was another rider, William Dawes. A third man, Dr. Samuel Prescott, a resident of Concord, made it all the way to his hometown, but got no lasting ink for his efforts.

Concord, by the way, is the birthplace of Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, the 300-game winner. The Red Sox have had a player born in Concord – one Casper Asbjornson, who broke into the majors as a 19-year-old catcher in 1928 and lasted a total of 23 games over two seasons with the team. The Braves had an outfielder from Lexington, Dinny McNamara. He, too, lasted just parts of two seasons.

Late Sunday afternoon, after the Red Sox had beaten the Orioles 2-1, workers were in left field preparing a massive American flag that will be draped over the Green Monster. Before Monday's game, members of families that lost a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan have been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. For at least that moment, the running of a race and the playing of a game will take a backseat.

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