The Buffalo Bisons were in Syracuse preparing for batting practice when a radio announcer approached Bob Stanley with some horrific news.
“Did you hear what happened up in Boston? Two bombs blew up at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stanley said.
The Bisons’ pitching coach ran into the clubhouse and plopped in front of a television. Boston is Stanley’s town, so he blew off batting practice. What he learned remains shocking and sad: During the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded on the sidewalk near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 280 others.
For Stanley, Boston has been home ever since he tossed his first sinker for the Red Sox as a rookie in 1977. He remains the franchise’s career leader in appearances and until five years ago was the career leader in saves. A popular figure in Boston, Stanley was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2000.
On April 15, bombers inflicted pain on Stanley’s city.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Stanley said on Wednesday at Coca-Cola Field while rain fell, postponing the game between the Bisons and Pawtucket Red Sox. “Boston is pretty resilient, they really haven’t had any problems, especially on a day like the Boston Marathon, it’s a big thing. You get sick to your stomach. Seeing that little 8-year-old boy dying ... it’s just a sick world.”
The third Monday each April is Patriots’ Day and considered a holiday in Maine and Massachusetts to commemorate the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord. It’s also the “up early game” for the Red Sox, and players have to be at Fenway Park by 8 a.m. First pitch is at 11.
“A lot of guys didn’t like that but it’s tradition and no one else does it,” Stanley said. “It’s Boston and it’s pretty cool. You have the game and the game is usually just about over when they finish. It was an early day but Sunday was usually a day game and you got your rest. It was always a lot of traffic coming in there because there were so many people there to watch.”
Patriots’ Day is also the day of the annual Boston Marathon and this year was the 117th edition. Whenever helicopters hover near Fenway, that meant the good runners were close to the finish line on Boylston Street.
“It was kind of exciting that it was almost over but it wasn’t over for a long, long time because of all the runners,” Stanley said.
But the festive mood was disrupted by terrorists.
“You think about New York and D.C. but you never really think it would happen in Boston, but nowadays it can happen anywhere,” Stanley said. “Look at what happened up here with the train up in Toronto. I was shocked when it happened.”
A few day later, Stanley’s thoughts turned to the people who ran toward the explosions to help others instead of running away. That’s the Boston way.
“There are a lot of heroes and I watched the ceremonies on TV while we were in Lehigh Valley and I got teary eyed just looking at that, people that just came from nowhere to save people’s lives” Stanley said. “Boston is a friendly town, a great city, and they all stick together. You always have your bad parts of town, but most of it is New England people, friendly. The fans aren’t friendly if you’re not doing good, but most of all everyone looks out for everybody.”
Stanley lives an hour’s drive from Boston in southern New Hampshire. He became a part of the Red Sox family in 1974 in the minor league system, moved up to the parent club in 1977 and retired in 1989.
“Only one team, never played for anyone else,” Stanley said. “I love Boston, they have a good school system there. I lived north of Boston in a town called Wenham. I probably could have gone someplace else and made more money but I didn’t want to take my kids out of school and put them in a different school like a lot of guys do.”
Playing in Boston was a natural fit. It was always Stanley’s dream to play for the Sox. He was born in Maine but was raised in New Jersey and grew up hating the Yankees.
“I got to hate them even more when I had to play against them,” said Stanley, a two-time All-Star in 1979 and ’83.
It’s a town that knows how to party. After winning Game Five in Anaheim against the California Angels during the 1986 playoffs, the Red Sox returned to home at 5 a.m. greeted by 30,000 fans at the airport. There were “We Believe” signs posted along the ride through Callaghan Tunnel and another 30,000-plus waiting at Fenway. Even after the Red Sox lost to the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series, Boston threw a parade.
“That’s the way Boston is,” Stanley said. “It’s a sports town. The way Boston is the Marathon will be bigger and better.”
Wednesday’s rainout will be made up as part of a doubleheader beginning at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon at Coca-Cola Field (Radio 1520). Starters for the Bisons will be Dave Bush (2-0, 0.82 ERA) and Bobby Korecky (2-0, 6.23 ERA).