Red-eyed for Red Sox
Dave Mandel, Melissa Conners and Sal Miciotta enjoy the early morning
game at Professor Thom's, a safe space for Red Sox fans in Gotham. Below,
bartender Jim McGuire wears his Red Sox pride. (Andy Martino)
The first batter of the 2008 season approached the plate, bent his knees and waited for the pitch.
He watched the ball all the way into the catchers glove. Strike one.
He waited for the next pitch. This time, the ball made contact with the bat, and the batter dashed to first. He was safe, and the crowd in the Manhattan sports bar erupted into cheers and applause.
A typical scene? Hardly. For one thing, it was 6 a.m., and the game on the screen was being televised live from Japan, 11 time zones away. For another, the fans cheering this batter may have been New Yorkers but they were loyal Red Sox fans.
Enemy forces last occupied New York from 1776 to 1783, when the Redcoats drove Washingtons army from the city.
This morning, however, evidence of a more insidious enemy invasion was apparent at Professor Thoms pub in the East Village, where, nearly 100 Red Sox faithful turned out before dawn to watch their team defeat the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo, Japan, in the first game of opening season.
Jim McGuire, co-owner of the bar, was also a founder of the Riviera, a Red Sox-friendly pub in the West Village. He opened Professor Thoms in 2005, and said that in the wake of Bostons two recent World Series titles, hes seen Boston fans increasingly willing to come out into the open, even though theyre living in Yankee- and Met territory.
People have more confidence to stick it in the Yankees face, he said.
Dave Mandel, 25, of Manhattan, is one of them. Though Yankee fans have thrown peanuts at him at Yankee Stadium, the life-long Boston fan has felt more comfortable of late in his Red Sox gear.
"It wasn't out and about as much before they became a Cinderella team," he said while enjoying a Bloody Mary while watching yesterdays gamehe was not due at his job at a television station for three hours. "A lot of people jumped on the bandwagon then. Now that the Sox are doing well, you can administer the taunting, rather than have to take it."
As the team has become more successful, the psychology of their fans has changed, Mandel says. "As a Red Sox fan, it is inherent to be nervous. The difference now is, you've seen that they can [win], so you think they can."
Melissa Conners, 22, of Washington Heights, says she lives in Yankees territory but proudly displays her Sox hat around town. Last week, she passed an old man on the sidewalk who was also wearing a Boston hat. Without speaking, they high-fived and continued walking.
"It's like being part of a club," she said.
Sal Miciotta, 35, of Brooklyn, said he has cheered the Red Sox for decades -- a stance that began with his Yankee-hating family, who were Brooklyn Dodger fans. It has been easier lately to root for the Sox in New York, he says. But the pessimism born of Boston's many losing seasons has been difficult to shake.
"The best way to describe us now would be cautiously optimistic," he said, also enjoying a Bloody Mary before work.
But there seemed nothing cautious about the enthusiasm at Professor Thom's. At 7:57 a.m., Boston's Manny Ramirez doubled to tie the game 2-2. The crowd yelled in piercing unison, clapping and chanting "Let's go Red Sox."
When Brandon Moss launched a dramatic ninth-inning home run to tie the game, people stood on chairs, raised their arms in the air, and chanted again.
Earlier, Miciotta pulled out his cell phone to display a picture of his infant son smiling behind a Red Sox bib. Carlo Miciotta, five months, is already a proud member of Red Sox nation, Brooklyn chapter.
-- Andy Martino