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Red Sox fans go belly-up
10/24/2004 7:04 PM ET
BOSTON -- Although it's five hours before game time, Boston Red Sox fans have plenty of items on their "to do" lists as they pack the streets surrounding Fenway Park.

Most of these fans don't have tickets to Game 2 of the World Series, but that doesn't stop them from partaking in the electricity that a Fall Classic brings to a city, especially one like Boston, where baseball isn't a sport as much as it is a lifestyle.

Unlike many of today's modern ballparks, Fenway is small, cozy and unassumingly perched in the middle of a neighborhood, where fans, vendors, security officers and baseball players -- yes, baseball players -- all share the same small amount of space.

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Players drive their cars into a parking lot, if you can call it that, just outside of the entrance to the clubhouse. It's fenced in, gravelly and, on rainy days, muddy. If you didn't know it was there, you'd obliviously walk right by it. But this is Beantown, and Red Sox fans know their ballpark. And from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a typical game day, plenty of fans lay low -- literally -- with hopes of catching a glimpse, or better yet, an autograph, of a Red Sox player.

Between the ground and the bottom of the fence that encloses the player's parking lot is about four inches of open space -- plenty of room for fans to squeeze balls, hats, posters and paper underneath with hopes of luring a player. These fans lay flat on their stomachs, side by side, sardine style, and yell. And beg. And plead. Often, it works.

"Manny! Manny! Please sign my hat! I'll do anything! Please, Manny! Just one autograph!" a male fan yells toward Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, one of the last arrivals to Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.

For Bostonians, this method of obtaining autographs is nothing unusual. It may appear odd to an outsider to see a dozen or so people laying flat on their faces on the street, but for the locals, you just step over them and go on your merry way.

After all, more often than not, these autograph seekers are successful.

"Last Sunday, Johnny Damon was out here for maybe a half an hour, going down the line," 21-year-old Jim Meegan said. "Johnny's the best one. He signs all the time."

Meegan, his sister, Michelle, 17, and brother, Bryan, 13, didn't have tickets to Game 2. The Burlington, Mass., natives just wanted to be around the ballpark, and if they were lucky, see a player or two and maybe even get an autograph.

"I was just on my way to Best Buy," said Jim, a student at nearby Emerson College who lives down the street from Fenway. "I saw people here getting autographs. I didn't have anything on me at all (for players to sign). Sometimes it's just fun to see the players even if you don't get their autographs."

That philosophy changed as soon as Keith Foulke pulled into the lot. The Red Sox closer walked over to the small contingent of autograph seekers and signed until the last fan walked away happy. Michelle Meegan clutched her newspaper, damp from the Sunday afternoon drizzle, and beamed as she showed off the page now occupied by Foulke's signature.

Their parents surely would be proud.

"Our mother would be here, too," Bryan Meegan said. "But the Patriots are playing."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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