As if the 2020 season wasn’t strange enough, an unusual incident occurred at Fenway Park during a late-season Sunday afternoon game against the visiting New York Yankees.
The announced attendance for the game was 0 – yes, zero – as it was for every game all season long at the Boston ballpark. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full effect and fans were not allowed to attend games. The faces one saw on television were those on cutouts set in the seats which reproduced photographs supplied by fans, many of whom had donated money to charity so that at least their images could look out on the field during games. The cutouts were printed on corrugated plastic like that used on lawn signs.
There were people in the park – the players, the umpires, those who worked for the teams such as medical personnel, clubhouse workers, and the like. Television camera operators were present, but broadcasts from Fenway Park were done remotely, from the NESN studios several miles away in Watertown, a Boston suburb.
The official scorer worked from home. There was no press-box steward.
There wasn’t a large media presence at Fenway in 2020. A typical game drew perhaps six or seven people to socially distanced seating in the press box. Being a Red Sox-Yankees game, and if memory serves the author right, there may have been as many as 10 people in the press box that afternoon.1
Games at Fenway Park that season – and at all other major-league parks – were unusual, to say the least. Crowd sounds were artificial, played over the public-address system in order to simulate the game experience for the players. (Otherwise the fan-less games would be enveloped in eerie silence.) Recorded fan sounds from prior games were played – often with a one-second or so delay – after each pitch or other action, as the sound engineer tried to respond to action on the field: a swing and miss, a called strike, a foul ball near the Pesky Pole, a single to left.
The season itself was cut from 162 games to 60, 30 home games and 30 on the road.2
The Red Sox (19-34) were in last place heading into this day’s game, 16 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. They were only three games behind the Baltimore Orioles, however, and so had a shot at avoiding the ignominy of last place.
The Yankees were playing for something more. They had a shot at first place. With eight games left on their schedule, they were only 3½ games behind the Rays and were riding a 10-game winning streak, including a 6-5, 12-inning win at Fenway Park on Friday and an 8-0 shutout the night before.
The game itself, as it unfolded, would have thrilled the Fenway faithful – had there been any. Though Houck hit a batter in the first inning, saw one reach on an error in the third, and walked two batters, he kept the Yankees hitless through the first five innings.
The Red Sox scored twice in the second on a leadoff double by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. followed by a home run by left fielder Michael Chavis. The ball was hit to straightaway left and cleared the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high left field wall. In the fourth, they added four more runs on a single by third baseman Rafael Devers, a one-out single into left field by first baseman Bobby Dalbec, a single to center by Bradley that drove in Devers, and Chavis’s second homer of the game, a three-run blast.
New York finally broke up Houck’s no-hitter when second baseman Tyler Wade led off the sixth with a double. He took third on a passed ball and scored on a 6-4-3 double play hit into by first baseman Luke Voit, cutting the deficit to 6-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox added three more runs, making it 9-1. The Yankees were on their third pitcher, Jonathan Holder. Garcia had given up the first six runs. Luis Cessa had worked a scoreless fourth and fifth.
Dalbec led off the seventh with a home run to deep left-center. Bradley singled through the hole to left. Chavis walked. Right fielder Cesar Puello – playing in just his second Red Sox game – grounded out third to first, advancing both runners.3 Red Sox second baseman Tzu-Wei Lin hit a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Bradley to tag and score. Shortstop Jonathan Araúz singled to center and Chavis scored.
Phillips Valdéz had pitched an uneventful seventh (one base on balls) for Boston. Ryan Brasier took over in the top of the eighth. He got groundouts from Gary Sanchez and Tyler Wade and had a count of 0-and-2 on DJ LeMahieu when the game was interrupted.
“We love New York! Boston loves New York!” The shouts came from a somewhat beefy and grizzly bearded man in center field who had somehow gotten himself onto the television camera platform suspended above the bleachers, just to the left of the flagpole. He had a mask on, but it was pulled down beneath his mouth, the better to yell.
Plate umpire Jansen Visconti called time. Jackie Bradley Jr. turned around to watch the man and his antics.
The fan sailed a blue baseball cap onto the field, yelled something about Michael Jordan, and then sailed another cap he had had underneath his Red Sox jersey. His shirt wasn’t a Nomar jersey. It wasn’t a J.D. Martinez one, or one honoring Ortiz, Ted Williams, or Yaz. For reasons perhaps only known to this fan, it was a number 64 shirt with the name Webster on the back. Right-hander Allen Webster pitched for the Red Sox in 2013 and 2014, appearing in 19 games with a 6-5 record and a combined 6.25 ERA. (As a member of the 2013 team, Webster does own a world championship ring.4)
“He was yelling that I’m no Michael Jordan because I wear 23 and my name’s Michael,” Chavis, who witnessed the intrusion from left field, told reporters after the game.5
Security showed up. There weren’t that many security personnel at the park, of course, with no crowd to control. Naturally, given the pandemic, they were reluctant to get too close to him. The man did have a cloth mask hanging below his chin.
The assumption was that he had somehow climbed up the back of the wall – there was, of course, basically no one outside the park to have noticed.
While they were watching him, the man climbed over the railing at the front of the TV camera platform – with nothing to break his fall should he slip and land on the triangle of bleacher seats below. He then climbed back onto the platform and, for some reason, did a few pushups. A Boston police officer arrived – perhaps Scott Lucas, the officer named on the police department incident report – and the intruder was taken into custody.6
Peter Abraham quoted a department spokesperson in the next day’s Boston Globe as saying that the man “appeared emotionally disturbed and was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. He was not arrested and no charges have been filed pending the evaluation.”7 The man was taken to Beth Israel Hospital for evaluation by Boston EMS Unit A-22.8
In a statement issued after the game, the Red Sox said, “During today’s game, a fan scaled the back of the Green Monster wall to access the ballpark and caused a stoppage to the game. Red Sox security and BPD quickly apprehended the fan who is now in police custody.”9
Asked for comment a little more than a year after the incident, the Red Sox replied, “Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the incident, we cannot provide any further information.”10
When play resumed, LeMahieu struck out.11
Catcher Erik Kratz, at age 40 in the final weeks of his 11-year major-league career, pitched the bottom of the eighth for the Yankees. Making his sixth career major-league pitching appearance, Kratz tossed eight knuckleballs, clocked between 55 and 68 MPH, in 21 pitches.12 The second batter up, the DH, J.D. Martinez, homered for the 10th Red Sox run.
In the ninth, Jeffrey Springs relieved Brasier. Voit led off with a home run. Springs struck out two Yankees before giving up a walk and a single. He then struck out Jackson Frazier13 and the game was over.
After the game, manager Roenicke said, “It delayed us for a long time. So just some guy climbing over the wall out there and getting into the camera well [in center field]. And it becomes a hard thing for security to figure out what to do because you don’t want that guy falling off of there. So that was what the delay was. They couldn’t really go in and grab him because of where he was.”14
The Red Sox victory snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Yankees, which had begun on September 7, 2019. It was the last matchup between the two teams in 2020. Had Boston lost, it would have been the first time either team swept the other over the course of a full season.
The season ended a week later, on September 27. The Yankees finished second, seven games behind Tampa Bay. The Red Sox remained in last place, 16 back – pretty far back in a season of only 60 games.15
This article was fact-checked by Carl Riechers and copy-edited by Len Levin.
Photo credit: Trading Card Database.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and a few video excerpts on You Tube.
Thanks to Andy Andres and David Laurila, the Boston Police Department, and the Boston Red Sox.
1 The press box at Fenway Park is on the fifth floor and media were asked not to use the elevators for fear of spreading germs in an enclosed space. Media members attending games walked the five flights up and down the ramps. The windows to the press box were left open for air circulation. There was no media dining; complimentary prepacked box meals were available, one level down, at an outdoor concession stand that provided them to the much-reduced number of security and other personnel at the park. All pregame and postgame interviews were done via Zoom.
2 The Toronto Blue Jays never went home once, since the US-Canada border was closed; they played their home games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field.
3 Puello had played at Fenway Park once before, on September 9, 2017, as a member of the New York Mets.
4 Webster’s one win in 2013 was at Fenway Park on July 4 against the San Diego Padres. The Red Sox won 8-2. Webster worked six innings, giving up the two Padres runs. One suspects that Webster jerseys were not among the best sellers at Twins Enterprises, across the street from the ballpark. It is possible – since we do not know the man’s name – that he himself was named Webster and had requested one custom-made.
5 Christopher Smith, “Boston Red Sox Fan Scales Back of Green Monster, Enters Fenway Park During Game vs. Yankees; Now in Police Custody,” MassLive.com, September 20, 2020. https://www.masslive.com/redsox/2020/09/boston-red-sox-fan-scales-back-of-green-monster-enters-fenway-park-during-game-vs-yankees-now-in-police-custody.html.
6 The person was not placed in handcuffs, at least initially while seen on existing video. Scott D. Lucas, badge number 4186, held the rank of patrolman. He had been a Boston Police Department officer for 11 years.
By pure coincidence, one of the broadcast technicians – working in the truck compound outside the ballpark – was also named Scott Lucas – in this case, J. Scott Lucas. He watched the events in what he called the “camera basket” as they were shown on television. He said the understanding of those he was working with was that the intruder had somehow climbed the wall to get in. Electronic communication to author on December 18, 2021.
7 Peter Abraham, “Play Stops as Fan Causes Disturbance at Fenway,” Boston Globe, September 21, 2020: C4.
8 Per Offense/Incident Report #20268922, the time indicated as 16:02. The “fan” was characterized as “White/Not of Hispanic Origin.” His name, home address, and estimated age range are redacted from the report provided by the Boston Police Department’s Office of Media Relations. There was no indication that he was ever arrested. The “offense” was not given as, for instance, trespassing, but was described as “sick/injured/medical – person.” A brief narrative said the officers “responded to a radio call for an emotionally disturbed person.” It continued: “On arrival officers were advised that the victim … suffered a mental health issue and was attempting to climb on top of a wall inside the park. Officers and security were able to get him off the wall and safely secure him on level ground. He was escorted out of the park and transported to Beth Israel Hospital for evaluation by Boston EMS Unit A-22.”
9 Christopher Smith.
10 Email to author from a representative of the Boston Red Sox on November 17, 2021.
11 It was on the third pitch he saw after play resumed.
12 Bryan Hoch, The Bronx Zoom: Inside the New York Yankees’ Most Bizarre Season (Chicago: Triumph, 2021), 186.
13 Jackson Frazier also played under the name Clint Frazier.
14 Christopher Smith.
15 One Twitter user commented, “Congratulations to the Red Sox being #1 in fan attendance this season.”