Fenway Park is a 110-year-old baseball shrine whose signature landmark, the Green Monster, dates to the renovation of 1934.
In the estimable 88-year history of the Wall, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there had been 189 grand slams hit to left or left-center, including 127 by the Red Sox entering Friday. None was remotely comparable to the one that Trevor Story hit off of Seattle ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray in a 7-3 Red Sox victory over the Mariners.
“You feel like you show up to the ballpark every day and see something that you’ve never seen before,” said Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha. “That was [the case] today, for sure.”
In the bottom of the third inning, with the bases loaded and two outs in a scoreless tie, Story fouled off a 1-2 fastball to earn another pitch. Ray tried to sneak a slider by Story. But the scorching Sox second baseman hammered a liner to left-center that just cleared the Wall — his fourth homer in two days, an achievement that Story now shares with exactly one other Red Sox second baseman: Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, who hit four homers in two games in 1950.
The sizable Friday crowd — announced at 30,842 — erupted in celebration. But one burst of exuberance stood out from the rest.
In left field, atop the Green Monster, former Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes was taking in the game. Any reason?
“Watching a game, man,” pronounced Gomes. “I’m a baseball rat. Best seats in America.”
The erstwhile Sox leftfielder — a signature personality and contributor in the 2013 championship season — was no stranger to either playing balls off the Wall (in his one and a half seasons with the Sox, Gomes mapped caroms with cartographical precision) or to grand slams hit over the Monster.
In his post-playing career, Gomes has made a point of coming back to Fenway. Friday marked the fourth or fifth time that he’d sat in the Monster Seats. He dreamed about the possibility of catching a homer, even spending time in the seats during batting practice on Friday to prepare.
When Story ripped his liner to left, Gomes stood in an aisle in the front row of the Monster Seats, just to the right of the light tower. He recognized imagination transforming into reality.
“I was hot on it,” beamed Gomes, who claims to have almost caught Story’s third homer in Thursday night’s game. “Hot bat, hot guy, I was ready for it.”
His gloveless attempt was not flawless. Gomes — beverages conveniently placed on the shelf in front of him — reached down in an attempt to make a barehand grab with two hands. The ball hit his hands and bounced off his right bicep.
“Did not touch the ground. Did not touch the ground,” Gomes insisted, though a video replay cast some doubt on his recollection. “Brief bobble off the right bicep, but it was a full catch.”
Regardless, the ball was in Gomes’s hands. He hoisted it in triumph, and then a man who by his own account is “never at a loss for celebrations” deliriously pulled his shirt over his head.
“As a baseball junkie, as a baseball rat, I’ve literally been begging for that moment since I was 8,” said Gomes, who’d never before caught a ball at a game. “It’s a Red Sox homer, a Red Sox grand slam, but at the end of the day it’s a homer inside a museum. It’s a homer inside of a national monument. It’s legendary baseball history here. It’s like no other.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. — Gomes’s teammate in 2013 and 2014 — did a double-take when he saw the replay.
“I saw the shirt come off. I was like, ‘Oh, I know that guy,’” Bradley chuckled. “That’s J.G. for you.”
Gomes marveled at the memento, but then recognized what such a first meant to Story. He offered it to the Sox second baseman, and Story accepted, on one condition.
“I saw a clip of it and I saw Gomes just going nuts,” said Story. “I just had him sign it for me because first grand slam as a Red Sox. That’s something I thought was pretty special and a cool moment, so I had him sign the other side of it.”
Of course, it now appears likely that it won’t be Story’s last opportunity for a memorable keepsake in his Red Sox career. The 29-year-old has left his slow start behind with a volcanic 10-day stretch, erupting for a .324 average, 1.247 OPS, and six homers. In that stretch, he’s boosted his average 37 points (.194 to .231) and his OPS by 201 points (.545 to .746).
“Literally a man on fire,” said Bradley.
(For the sake of accuracy, it is worth noting that Story was not literally on fire as Bradley offered the assessment.)
Still, no matter what other memorabilia Story produces or collects over the duration of his time in Boston, it’s hard to imagine a repeat of a grand slam hit to a former Red Sox player — a moment of unlikely magic, tying a player who is hoping to chase a championship in Boston with one who won a ring nine years earlier.
“It’s a [keepsake] I’m glad he has and I’m glad I was really able to get it to him,” said Gomes. “I’m probably the first Red Sox ever to master playing in front of and behind the Wall.”