Shake hands first, pupils urge sport's biggest rivals
By Douglas Belkin, Globe Staff | March 23, 2005
ACTON -- It took a group of fifth- and sixth-graders to push a radical idea: Why can't the most intense rivalry in Major League Baseball be put on hold, at least long enough for a handshake?
Their plan -- to get the Yankees and Red Sox to shake hands just before Fenway's Opening Day game on April 11 -- has been endorsed by the Boss himself, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he ''found it fascinating." And Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he liked the pupils' initiative.
But whether the schoolchildren from the Merriam School in Acton get their wish, which they have pushed with letters and a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation, remains squarely in the hands of the players.
Why is this even an issue?? In little leaugue's all over the country, kids shake hands at the end of the game. At the end of every one of my daughters soccer games last fall, they walked by and slapped the hands in a high five manor of every player on the opposite team. You have to be kidding me.
The handshake idea started slowly, but grew as more students talked about it, said Maddie Freeman, a sixth-grader. ''You don't want to end up hitting each other just because someone is on the other team, like they do," she said.
The PowerPoint show begins with an image of students saying, ''We look up to you." A series of photos follows, with one showing Varitek going at it with Rodriguez and another portraying children shaking their fists at one another. One is dressed as Zimmer. Beneath that image, a caption reads, ''We follow your example."
Next is a professional example: a photo of a Los Angeles Dodger shaking hands with a St. Louis Cardinal after the National League Division Series. The caption reads, ''Why can't you?"
There is a rule against the handshake, though it has rarely been enforced. Rule 3.09 of the official playing rules says: ''Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform."
That did not stop Cardinals player Larry Walker from organizing the team handshake with the Dodgers last fall, said Jim Anderson, the Cardinals' assistant director of media relations. ''In hockey they beat their brains in for seven games and then shake hands," Anderson said. ''Larry wanted to know why baseball players couldn't do something like that?"
And a young child shall lead them.