Actor and comic genius Denis Leary grew up near Boston, on baseball—and as Dani Shapiro finds, Fenway Park is his first true love.
Credit: Courtesy of Phoebe Sexton/Boston Red Sox & Julie Cordeiro/Boston Red Sox

The first time I went to Fenway Park, I was a kid—it was 1967. That was the year that the Red Sox went from last place to first. They called it the Impossible Dream season, after that song from Man of La Mancha. I had scarlet fever, but I wasn’t going to miss the game, so my dad gave me a special Red Sox pillow and I watched the game that way—with my head tilted against the pillow.

Summers, I worked with my dad doing painting and landscaping, and sometimes the people he worked for would give us tickets for that night’s game, and at five o’clock we’d head over to Fenway and sit in the bleachers. There’s nothing like Fenway, that feeling when you walk out at field level into the park and it’s so intensely green, because of the Green Monster. I don’t think I appreciated it as a kid, because it was the only ballpark I’d been exposed to. It’s like a cathedral.

Three years ago, I threw out the first pitch, along with Lenny Clarke from Rescue Me. It was August; this ended up being the season the Sox won the World Series, and Lenny is convinced that we turned them around that night. Now, I’ve been doing gigs in front of ten thousand people all my life. I’m supposed to be used to public performing. But this—this was terrifying. Earlier that afternoon, I had taken Lenny over to Boston Common to practice pitching. I counted out ninety feet. Lenny kept saying, ’I know this is more than sixty feet.’ I figured we’d be more confident if we could throw it the ninety. We both ended up throwing those first pitches high and hard over home plate."

By Dani Shapiro and Denis Leary