The Red Sox Go International

Editorial Notebook

Among the sea of Dominican flags at Fenway Park Friday night, a few of the more traditional Red Sox fans in attendance were getting their first lesson in Spanish. Pedro Martinez, Boston's new ace, was on the mound against the Cleveland Indians, and a large contingent of the city's Dominican population had arrived to lend him their vociferous support. Long before the first pitch, as Martinez warmed up in the bullpen, the chanting and cheering began, and it didn't stop until Pedro's final pitch retired David Justice to end the ninth.

Initially, the old guard Royal Rooters seemed a little hesitant to get caught up in the moment. But after four inning's worth of beer, at which point Martinez already had eight strikeouts, the suspicious reserve of most English-speaking fans had evaporated, and they joined in the cheering. Luckily, the vocabulary of baseball is fairly simple in any language: by inference, ponchalo means "strike him out," jonrUn, Moe means "homerun, Moe," Yanquis, when inflected properly, means "somebody please kill that bastard," and of course Medias Rojas means Red Sox.

And so throughout the game, whenever Pedro ran the count to two strikes, twenty thousand voices chanted ponchalo, ponchalo Pedro, nineteen thousand of us mispronouncing the words. The fans holding the ubiquitous red, white and blue Dominican flags which vendors sold on Yawkey Way before the game were not exclusively Dominicans, either: a good deal, perhaps a majority of them, were white.

Baseball has this strange capacity to blur nationalities. Perhaps because it has no international competitions (aside from the largely ignored Olympics) to inflame nationalistic prejudices, or perhaps because some of our best players are foreign-born, baseball fans heartily embrace players from Japan, Mexico, Korea, the Dominican Republic, and all over the world, without a hint of xenophobia or prejudice. The increasing international flavor of the game is the most exciting trend in baseball of recent years, and if the behavior of the fans at Fenway is any indication, we are more than just accepting of foreign players, we're even willing to learn their language.

This can only be good, especially for Boston, a city which fairly or unfairly suffers from a reputation of intolerance. The Red Sox were the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate, twelve years after Jackie Robinson, and their treatment of minority players has been suspect ever since. The city itself has had its own problems, especially with school integration. If something as relatively unimportant as baseball can help erase whatever sort of intolerance still exists, the Red Sox have done Boston a great service by signing Pedro Martinez.


Pedro struck out twelve batters through nine innings Friday night. He walked off the mound after the ninth inning losing 2-0 (the Red Sox would end up winning the game in 10 innings), but nevertheless received a standing ovation from the crowd at Fenway. It's not very often that fans call for a losing pitcher to come back out for a curtain call, but Pedro is different: He has captured all of Red Sox Nation's heart.

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