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Nostalgic celebration toasts Fenway's 100th birthday

By Larry Fine

BOSTON (Reuters) - An outpouring of nostalgia swept over Fenway Park for the 100th anniversary of the stadium on Friday with over 200 former Red Sox players participating in a pre-game love-fest at the Boston landmark.

From Johnny Pesky, 92, and Bobby Doerr, 94, who were brought onto the field in their wheelchairs, to entrances by more recent players Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra, a packed crowd soaked in the loving atmosphere prior to Friday's game against the New York Yankees.

With the Boston Pops orchestra playing the haunting theme music from the movie "Field of Dreams," Hall of Famer Jim Rice was first to emerge on the field, entering from left field to take his old place in front of the Green Monster wall.

He was followed on a gloriously warm, sunny day by Dwight Evans, who emerged from a gate in center field by the 420-foot mark and strode to his old, familiar spot in right field.

Then came Bill Buckner, who had been labeled the goat of the 1986 World Series for allowing the winning run to score in Game Six against the New York Mets when a routine grounder went between his legs at first base.

On this rosy occasion, Buckner was showered with cheers.

Current Red Sox and Yankees players watched the ceremonies from their respective dugouts, dressed in throwback uniforms hearkening back to the April 20, 1912 inaugural game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and the New York Highlanders, who one year later were renamed the Yankees.

Then the parade of old-timers began flowing through the center-field gate to take up their positions around the field. Loud cheers went up for former pitcher Luis Tiant, catcher Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley.

The biggest roar was lavished on former manager Terry Francona, a last-minute addition to the roster after initially saying he was not ready to return to Fenway so soon after being relieved of the job following a Red Sox collapse last September.

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A big roar at the end came for Carl Yastrzemski, the Hall of Fame left-fielder, whose retired No. 8 graces the face of the upper deck in right-field.

In all, 212 former players, all wearing Red Sox jerseys over black dress pants, participated and then heard John Williams lead the Pops musicians gathered behind home plate through his musical piece "Fanfare for Fenway," composed for the occasion.

Before the game, the current managers talked about how special a day it was at the venerable stadium, the oldest venue in major U.S. sports.

"It takes you down Memory Lane," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "For whatever age you are, you can go back and think about the players that you watched as a kid.

"You can think about when you were a kid again. It's the same place. It's the same feel."

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said he had friends drive to Boston on Thursday for what he called "an incredible" open house for fans to get to walk out on the field.

"This park has a life, a magic to it. It's the baseball Land of Oz. People dream about this place."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in Boston; Editing by Frank Pingue)