Bombing became part of Red Sox fabric

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
2:59
PM ET
BOSTON -- The Red Sox, having walked off the Fenway Park diamond as winners less than an hour before, were in the process of making final preparations for their trip to Cleveland when the bombs went off. They heard the myriad sirens screaming as their buses took them to Logan Airport, followed the reports on their cellphones and iPads, exchanged text messages with anxious family members, some of whom lived only a short distance from the Marathon finish line.

When they landed in Cleveland, they went out to dinner as a team, the horror of the day enfolding their conversations. And the next day, they began to craft their response.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsThe "Boston Strong 617" jersey that hung in the Red Sox dugout was the brainchild of Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Hours before that night’s game, clubhouse manager Tom McLaughlin was approached by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jonny Gomes.

“Salty and Jonny came up to me with an idea to get a jersey to hang in the dugout,” McLaughlin said. “I said, ‘What do you guys want to put on it?’”

Gomes plays with the 707 area code of his northern California home, Petaluma, etched on his glove and cleats. “I know I get lot of positive feedback back home for doing that,’’ he said, “so I kind of went coattails on that idea. I said, ‘The first thing we need is ‘617’ as the number.”

By then, the “B Strong” logo was everywhere. Someone sent a “B Strong” poster to the clubhouse for all the players to sign. McLaughlin was told the team would be wearing a “B strong” patch on their uniforms when they returned home that weekend. The three men decided that they would frame the “617” on the back of the jersey with the word “Boston” on top, “Strong” on the bottom.

That night, they hung the jersey in their dugout, and did so for every game that followed in 2013. McLaughlin instructed equipment manager Edward “Pookie” Jackson to make a similar home white jersey for the dugout at Fenway.

The team arrived back home from Cleveland in the early hours of Friday morning, plans already hatched for the players to split up into groups of five and visit victims in area hospitals without fanfare. When they turned on their phones upon landing, they learned that a police officer on the MIT campus had just been shot.

“By the time we got to Fenway,” Gomes said, “we found out that shooting was attached to the bombers, and Boston was on lockdown.”

The Sox had commissioned special home jerseys with “Boston” stitched across the front to wear for their first game back. Andy Davis, who coordinates Sox equipment issues for MLB, drove through the night from Easton, Pa., to make sure they had arrived by Friday morning. But there would be no game that night, as the manhunt for the bombers continued and the city was on lockdown.

The next day, the Red Sox and Kansas City Royals played. This was the first public gathering in Boston since the apprehension of one of the alleged bombers and the death of the other Friday night.

“I just remember everybody in the clubhouse was anxious to play,” McLaughlin said. “It was like, ‘Let’s go out and do this.’”

David Ortiz doesn’t remember who asked him to address the crowd before the game, someone in the front office, but a year later, the passion he felt that day remains fresh. “This is our f------ city,” he had said, and the crowd roared at the defiance.

“I was mad,” he said. “I was upset. Devastated. I wanted to say more.”

On Tuesday in Chicago, he glanced at a TV set that was showing the anniversary ceremonies of commemoration taking place on Boylston Street. “Even when I watch it now,” he said, “I’m on fire.”

[+] EnlargeDaniel Nava, Jonny Gomes
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesDaniel Nava's three-run homer in the eighth brought a lot of smiles in the Sox's return to Fenway.
The Red Sox were losing by a run in the eighth inning. Gomes, who had doubled, was on third base. Ortiz had just hit into a double play. Mike Napoli had drawn a four-pitch walk. Up to the plate came Daniel Nava. His pregnant wife, Rachel, was in the stands. Rachel’s brother, a Marine, was awaiting deployment overseas. Neil Diamond, who had flown in unannounced, had just sung “Sweet Caroline.”

Nava swung and drove a ball toward the Red Sox bullpen. Rachel, watching, prayed. Prayed for the city, prayed that in some small way, a home run -- and victory -- would ease some pain, even for a moment. The ball landed in the pen. The Sox had a 4-2 lead, but the game was not yet over.

Lorenzo Cain of the Royals homered to lead off the ninth against Sox closer Andrew Bailey. Jeff Francouer singled. Salvador Perez, the Kansas City catcher, crushed a ball down the right-field line.

“What stands out in my mind,” Gomes said, “is that some weird stuff went our way that game. Their catcher hit one right down the line, just torched it. That ball’s gone. Then that thing took a right-hand turn and woof, foul.”

Perez struck out, and Bailey induced a ground ball to short from Alex Gordon to end it. The Red Sox had won. So had a city.

“I think it's critical that we never forget the victims that have fallen,” Farrell said Tuesday, on the anniversary of the bombings. "I think we're all proud to be part of the healing process, how small it might have been, and (it) makes us further proud to be part of an incredible city, a very strong community that I think became even stronger when we unified in response to it.”

Jonny Gomes looked a visitor in the eye. “The things that happened in that game,” he said, “I’m not trying to get all spiritual on you, but if you’re not a believer, that game made you a believer.”

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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