AS PART OF my lifelong goal to chow down in every major-league ballpark in America, I recently ate at Boston's historic Fenway Park. There is talk in Boston of building a new ballpark, a replica of the old one. Nothing has happened yet, but I wanted to get there and eat in the original structure before anything is improved.
Fenway is the oldest major-league park in the country, and it shows its age, especially in the concourse where the concessions are sold. Compared to the concourse at Baltimore's Camden Yards, Fenway is dark, cramped and quirky. I liked it.
Yes, the clam chowder -- mild, milky and dotted with clam bits -- could have been hotter. Yes, the beer selection lacked local representation. I roamed from beer dispenser to beer dispenser looking for Harpoon or Samuel Adams, suds brewed in the community. I found none. And, yes, I did have to wait a long time and traipse to four different stands before I finally got an Italian-sausage sandwich with peppers and onions. But the sausage had good flavor. And the saga of my search for the sausage could have unfolded only at Fenway.
It began when I got in the wrong sausage line. I wanted Italian but had lined up for Polish. Polish sausage was sold at one of the concession operations tucked under the first-base stands. The Italian was sold at another type of operation, a small portable grill that was located in front of the men's room. That is what a woman in the Polish line told me and two other misplaced guys, who were seeking Italian.
Sure enough, when the three of us wandered over to the men's room, there was the Italian-sausage stand. We got in line. But when we moved to the front of the line, the guy working the stand announced that he was sold out of cooked sausages and it would be "10 minutes" before another batch was ready.
We bolted. I say "we" because even though I didn't know the names of my fellow refugees from the Polish-sausage line, we were bonding after getting shut out at the Polish and Italian sausage stands. We were guys seeking sausage -- Italian, with peppers and onions.
We spotted another Italian-sausage stand. Once again, we got in line. Once again, we made it to the front of the line. Once again, we were told there would be a "10-minute wait" for cooked sausages.
We went to a third Italian-sausage stand. Here, there was no line, but there weren't any cooked sausages either.
By now tempers were flaring, bad words were being uttered, and the guys seeking sausage were getting pretty hungry.
My companions abandoned their quest. As the only remaining member of guys seeking sausage, I walked to the original Italian-sausage stand, the one near the men's room. I stood at the end of a long line.
Occasionally, I would hear the roar of the crowd. But it wasn't much of a roar. The Red Sox were getting clobbered by the visiting Oakland Athletics, the A's were ahead 6-0 after the first inning. Unlike Camden Yards, where TV monitors showing the game are positioned over virtually every concession stand, there are few televisions in the bowels of old Fenway, and they are often hard to see. Besides, I had more important things to watch. Namely, how many cooked Italian sausages were left on the grill. As I inched my way to the front of the line, I kept a running tally comparing the number of sausages on the grill with the number of customers in front of me.
The supply was getting tight. When I was second in line, there were six sausages left. Then the guy in front of me ordered four.
I got the second-to-the-last sausage. It was hot and juicy. The onions and peppers were cooked to perfection, slightly limp yet still moist.
Three innings of baseball had come and gone, but at last I had a sizzling Italian-sausage sandwich.
It tasted terrific, and getting it had been an epic, maybe even historic, undertaking.