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All's quiet in Boston except for Sox talk

All's quiet in Boston except for Sox talk

BOSTON -- You'll learn a lot on a dreary morning between Lansdowne and Boylston Streets, a 500-foot, two-block radius that spans the epicenter of Red Sox Nation.

Here, where fluctuating fan temperament registers first -- in tremors that expand slowly, then across Boston and New England at light speed -- life continued as usual after the Red Sox swept the Angels in the American League Division Series on Sunday. Bar employees swept the patios beyond closed front doors, cyclists zipped by under the morning rain and automobiles poked around slowly, continuing their permanent pursuit of parking.

A closer look revealed just how much life revolves around the Sox and their fevered fans.

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Anthony Cipoletta is the manager of Gold's Gym, a squat building in the shadows of the Green Monster. Four years ago, after the Red Sox came from three behind to beat the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, partiers danced on the building's balcony, which overhangs Lansdowne.

On Monday morning, only the occasional tourist or coffee-carrying local walked by.

"A lot of people like [the proximity to Fenway Park]," Cipoletta said. "But I tell you, some people start to hate the Red Sox. Because it's hard for them to get in the gym. They say, 'I can't wait for the season to end,' you know?

"It's weird. People who like the Red Sox, but don't like them when they live here."

Such disdain, it seems, is the exception. Steph Paquette, a student at nearby Simmons College and a desk clerk at Gold's, is awed by the complete strangers who pass on the street outside the front door on game nights, giving hugs and celebrating wins.

"Just being so close to something that passionate," Paquette said, "I can't really describe it."

Around the bend, a nexus between Brookline Avenue's most popular sports bars, stretched Yawkey Way. The bars hadn't opened yet on Monday morning, and the food stands, which fuel Yawkey's cheery atmosphere on game days, were nowhere to be seen.

Tourists strolled down the promenade, peering up at the championship banners -- 1915, '16, '18 and so on -- that hung from the side of the ballpark.

Bob Lewis, next to his wife, Maria, held a bag that was stuffed full of Red Sox merchandise. He was making his first visit to Fenway Park in more than 60 years, and he had a good excuse -- he and his wife live 3,000 miles away in Oregon.

"Red Sox Nation's doing well out there," Bob said, a familiar refrain in parts west and south. "We went to the Seattle game. There were almost as many Red Sox fans as there were Seattle fans."

"We've got the sports channel," Maria said, "so he can watch every Boston game."

Lying beyond Yawkey and a corner Brooks Pharmacy, where framed Red Sox jerseys hung from the ceiling, was Boylston Street. Around the corner, a sign in front of Howard Johnson Inn enticed customers with promises of high-definition television.

"Watch Game Here," it read.

The right-field deck of Fenway Park rose above the horizon, just a block past the trees.

Boylston Street, many fans will know, is the home of The Baseball Tavern, a 2-year-old sports bar that claims the lineage of Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevey's famous Third Base Saloon -- "the last stop before home."

Third Base was shut down in 1920, at the beginning of Prohibition. Until then, it played host to the first and most fanatical baseball fan club in the nation, the "Royal Rooters," whose members included Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy. McGreevey, a descendant of Irish immigrants, modeled the tavern after the soccer and hurling pubs of Ireland.

On Sunday night, after the Red Sox beat the Angels, 9-1, to advance to the ALCS, Tavern employee Brian McDevitt was tending the bar.

"All the people in here -- everybody -- was jumping around, excited, slapping hands," said McDevitt on Monday morning. "Somebody ran out of the back with a broom and ran around with it."

Hanging upstairs at the Tavern was a collection of original and replica photos from the original Third Base, which once was located near the Huntington Grounds on Columbus Avenue and then Tremont Street, near present-day Northeastern University. Many of the pieces arrived at the current location by way of the Boston Public Library, the original inheritor of McGreevey's collection.

"Most people think it's pretty cool," McDevitt said, pacing past the photos. "A lot of people kind of do the slow meander. They look at everything."

Before patrons leave, they typically enjoy a relic of a different kind. On the wall, next to the bar entrance, hung a likeness of Roger Clemens, smiling in a Boston uniform. It was turned upside down.

Back at Yawkey Way, a middle-aged tourist and his four daughters walked into the Red Sox's Original Souvenir Store. Inside, an immense and crowded showroom belied the smallness of the surrounding buildings and street.

Outside along Yawkey, only a few tourists wandered about. Inside, dozens of customers clamored for the latest merchandise, even stopping to take photographs. The next Red Sox game, Game 1 of the ALCS, wasn't to set to take place until Friday.

"You know, it's funny, because normally, if this was last season, it would be dead right now," said Brian Maurer, a store manager. "But obviously, with the postseason going on, people are right here. It doesn't hurt that it's also Columbus Day."

"People have the day off," Maurer said, shrugging. "So people are spending their day at Fenway."

Maurer worked behind the cash register in front of a collection of Red Sox jersey T-shirts, which blanketed the wall behind him. The jersey tees, he said, sell at a brisk rate, some faster than others.

"The great thing about this business is," Maurer said, "it's based on how the players perform. Everyone talks now, you know, in our generation, about fantasy baseball. We're kind of living the same way. It's however the players perform -- that's how we sell."

The top seller, he guessed, is David Ortiz. The night after Friday's electric walk-off win, capped by a three-run blast that landed in a dumpster by Gold's Gym, the team store had to restock Manny Ramirez shirts.

Other top sellers, Maurer said, are Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell and Jonathan Papelbon.

But "the biggest story," the one that he estimated might not just be the best-selling Red Sox shirt over the past week but the best-selling team shirt in the country, bears the name of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

"We've had a huge run on Ellsbury," Maurer said. "Last week, we couldn't even get them on the shelf in time."

Outside, fans began to cluster outside Gate D at Fenway, which was visible through the glass doors of the souvenir store. The rain, meanwhile, began to fall thicker and more steadily.

"The nine o'clock tour [of Fenway] was the first tour of the day, and there were still at least 25 people on it," Maurer said, shaking his head. "So, you know, people are still around the ballpark, rain or shine. You can say that about Red Sox fans in general. They're still going to be around the ballpark."

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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