It was just like any other game between the Red Sox and archrival New York Yankees except for the bench-clearing donnybrook in the third inning and the armored SUVs parked outside with "official business" tags on the windshield.
"The most coveted ticket of the week is to Fenway Park," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of many out-of-town dignitaries performing "official business" Saturday afternoon in a roof box seat. Richardson, a former amateur pitcher, was wearing a Red Sox jacket and joined by a host of politicians, media and fundraising types who are flooding the nation's oldest ballpark this weekend for a three-day series as well as one of the nation's oldest cities for the Democratic National Convention.
The intersection of sports and politics has transformed Fenway Park from mere baseball icon -- dubbed "the lyric little bandbox" by John Updike -- to a sandbox of celebrity schmooze.
"Thirty-six years ago, when the Democrats went to Chicago, protesters chanted, 'The Whole World Is Watching! The Whole World Is Watching!' " sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote in Saturday's Boston Globe. "That's what it feels like at Fenway Park this weekend."
Unlike the convention, the results of the baseball games are actually in doubt. It's also impossible to predict when a good brawl will erupt, as one did in the third just as Richardson was completing a soliloquy to a seatmate about how Fenway's storied left field wall -- the "Green Monster" -- is the "ultimate symbol power" and thus "a dream come true for politicians."
The fight began as a shoving match between Boston catcher Jason Varitek and New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez and flowered into a full-on melee, complete with side fights, cheap shots, vulgar chants from the crowd and bad blood all around -- in other words, a possible preview of the general election campaign.
It all made for a great spectacle -- Boston won, 11-10 -- to a point where some people were even joking that the brawl was staged for the benefit of party donors by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who also was at the park Saturday. (McAuliffe denies any involvement.)
"Some of the best political minds turn out to be baseball fans," said CNN's Jeff Greenfield, who was milling around Friday night in the press box, where space is coveted during a Red Sox-Yankees game and generally restricted to essential personnel such as beat reporters for the Boston and New York media (and reporters for The Washington Post Style section). Yet Greenfield, a Yankees fan, insisted he had good reason to be here, for journalistic purposes.
"And they say they're worried about terrorism in Boston," said Mike Murphy, the Washington state treasurer sitting next to Richardson and looking down at the scrum of players Saturday.
Democratic officials are worried about a lot of things in Boston this week -- protesters, logistics and potentially embarrassing speeches by Hollywood types, among other things.
But chief among frivolous concerns is a ticket to Fenway, which will host 10 convention-related events, receptions and tours, said Chuck Steelman, Red Sox senior director of business affairs.
Bill Clinton is said to be attending Sunday night's nationally televised game on convention eve, one that's expected to draw several dozen Democratic lawmakers, governors and mayors. The Red Sox are hosting a barbecue Sunday afternoon on the right field roof for the national media. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is offering tickets to the game for $5,000 a couple, and the Democratic Governors Association will host a reception Wednesday night where donors and dignitaries can take batting practice.
NBC's Maria Shriver posed for photos for Friday's papers with Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, and before Saturday's game CNN's Wolf Blitzer cavorted on the field with the umpires, at least two of whom proclaimed themselves big fans of his. (Umpires apparently love Wolf Blitzer in the same way Germans love David Hasselhoff -- the things you learn.)
"Garcia, pa, gar -- I have no idea how you pronounce his name," CNN's Judy Woodruff was saying as Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra walked to the plate in the second inning Friday night. She was sitting in a corporate box on the first base side, next to her CNN colleague and Democratic operative James Carville, sipping from a can of lite beer. Woodruff hosted "Inside Politics" and Carville hosted "Crossfire" from a pavilion on the right field roof.
"Just say Nomar," Carville said. "Or Nomah, as they pronounce it here," although Carville's Cajun drawl makes it sound more like "Nomaw."
If you're scoring at home, this is a native of Louisiana trying to affect a working-class Boston pronunciation of the Red Sox Mexican American shortstop -- who, if anyone noticed, just beat out an infield single.