In Tuesday night's All-Star Game, Papelbon had a chance to help set up the man he holds in the highest esteem.
And the box score will serve as permanent proof that Papelbon was the winning pitcher on the same night Mariano Rivera racked up the save. This, on a night the American League extended its All-Star Game unbeaten streak to 13 games with a 4-3 victory.
"Things like that will probably be at the top of my memory list throughout my career, for sure," said Papelbon. "Obviously, for me to be the winning pitcher and him to lock down that save, that's pretty special. I think I'm going to get the lineup card and get that one framed and put it up in the game room, for sure."
The night finished a lot better than it started for Papelbon, who has been an All-Star in all four of his seasons as Boston's closer.
He came into the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, amid the pressure of a 3-3 tie.
First pitch? Brad Hawpe smashed it so deep to left-center field that Carl Crawford had to reach over the outfield wall to pull back what would have been a homer. It was such a spectacular play that Crawford was awarded the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet.
"I thought it was a for-sure out, and it kept carrying and carrying, and I said, 'Wow, man, this ball is carrying. Now it's going to have a chance to get out.' Carl made the play and, obviously, it was a pretty amazing play," Papelbon said. "That just goes to show you defense wins championships and defense wins All-Star Games, too."
Miguel Tejada lofted Papelbon's second pitch, but right fielder Adam Jones caught it on the warning track.
From there, Papelbon blew a fastball by Jayson Werth to end an eight-pitch at-bat and also a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning.
Once the AL forged in front for good on a sacrifice fly by Jones, Papelbon was able to escape St. Louis with what pitchers refer to jokingly as a "vulture" win.
"I'm sure I'll hear I vultured a win from somebody," Papelbon said. "Hey, a win is a win and I'll take it."
Especially because the victory for the AL means the Red Sox will have home-field advantage if they make it to the World Series for the third time in six years.
Boston entered the All-Star break with an AL-best 54-34 record.
"Obviously this victory is going to help somebody's ballclub in this clubhouse," Papelbon said. "Hopefully it's ours."
It was a good night all around for the Red Sox's representatives in St. Louis. Jason Bay made his presence felt right away, belting a solid smash up the middle that loaded the bases for the AL in what wound up a two-run first inning. If someone other than Twins catcher Joe Mauer had been running from second on Bay's hit, he might have even had an RBI.
Was Bay thinking RBI?
"Off the bat, yeah," said Bay. "But as I was getting to first, I noticed Joe was running, and there was a pretty good chance we weren't going to push him at this point. Maybe I'll get on him for squashing my MVP chances. No, it really doesn't matter."
Bay finished 1-for-2, flying to right in his second at-bat.
Kevin Youkilis pinch-hit for Papelbon in the eighth and scorched a single up the middle, giving the Boston first baseman a short and sweet night.
Youkilis went 0-for-2 as a starter in last year's All-Star Game, the first of his career.
"It was a good [experience]," said Youkilis. "To get in there and pinch hit is always tough, but it was good to get my first hit in an All-Star Game, and I hope it's not my last. You have to go up there and swing, and I was just trying to see the ball and hit it and stay aggressive."
Ace Josh Beckett and veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield didn't participate in the game because they had been lined up by AL manager Joe Maddon to pitch only if the game had gone to extra innings.
Wakefield, who came into the game with five days of rest, was held back as the emergency pitcher, meaning he could have gone several innings if there had been a repeat of last year, when the Midsummer Classic went 15 innings. To the knuckleballer, who was making his first All-Star appearance at the age of 42, the experience meant as much or more than any mound work would have.
There Wakefield was in the clubhouse before the game, giving President Barack Obama a crash course on knuckleball grips.
"He walked around," said Wakefield, "and shook everybody's hands, and he got to me and I said, 'Mr. President, it's really nice to meet you.' He said, 'Oh yeah, you're the elder statesman here.' Afterwards, he was like, 'Hey, how do you hold that thing?' I showed him, like this. He said, 'You're going to have to teach me how to throw that thing one day.' I said, 'I will.' Then he was on his way."
The time in St. Louis was full of surreal experiences for Wakefield.
"Just during BP and looking over at shortstop and seeing [Derek] Jeter ... and seeing all the names on the same field," said Wakefield. "Partaking in that, and then the parade earlier today, it's been a lot of fun."
If it had been up to Wakefield, the festivities probably would have lasted a few more days.
"It was an experience I'll never forget the rest of my life and I'll cherish it forever," Wakefield said. "It's just awesome being in this clubhouse with the greatest players in the world and being able to partake in my first All-Star Game at 42 years old. That's pretty cool."
Beckett, who pitched a complete-game shutout Sunday vs. the Royals, agreed with Maddon that he would only be used as a "safety valve." In other words, he would have gone maybe an inning if the game had gone to extras.
After pitching and winning his first All-Star Game two years ago at San Francisco, the Boston ace was fine with being a spectator this time.
"It's not every day you get to stand in the outfield and shag baseballs with Roy Halladay and Josh Hamilton," said Beckett. "To have all of them here at one time, that's pretty nice."
The right-hander tried to take to heart the advice of Maddon.
"The most difficult thing here is you get too much stuff going on, it's very hard to enjoy all of it," Beckett said. "I thought Joe Maddon did a really good job in the meeting yesterday. He said, 'Every once in a while, you just need to stop and just look around and think about this experience, and the reason I'm telling you guys this is I'm telling myself that, too.'"
Though it was Bay's third All-Star berth, it was his first as a member of the Red Sox, and first playing for the AL.
"For me, I've done this a couple of times in the National League, and I feel like I know all of those guys over there a little bit and now it's been nice -- it's basically like you're going through all of it again for the first time," said Bay. "I've played against these guys before, but I've never really met them. It's kind of a first-time-again feeling, which is pretty cool."
And Papelbon's first All-Star win is definitely one he's not going to forget.
"Obviously, for me to be the winning pitcher and [Rivera] to lock down that save, that's pretty special," said Papelbon.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.