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Published:April 8th, 2009 12:29 EST
Cancer Hasn't Stopped Sen. Ted Kennedy from Enjoying His Favorite Pastime

Cancer Hasn't Stopped Sen. Ted Kennedy from Enjoying His Favorite Pastime

By Christopher HIllenbrand

After being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, Sen. Edward Kennedy has had many close call since. When he collapsed during President Obama`s swearing into office, it didn`t look good for the tried politician for the downtrodden that suddenly needed as much help as he gave in all his years in public office.

But Tuesday found him jovial, in front of the Boston Red Sox faithful at Fenway Park, before his favorite team was scheduled to face the Tampa Bay Rays, the team that slighted them from reaching the Fall Classic the previous year.

Sen. Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox home opener in a packed stadium welcome to seeing their beloved senator able to enjoy the moment.

Kennedy`s catcher was Jim Rice, former Red Sox slugger and newly elected inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sen. Kennedy and his wife, Vicki, were driven onto the field in a golf cart by Rice to the applause of the spectators. After exchanging a couple congratulatory grins, Sen. Kennedy and Jim Rice walked off the cart,into foul territory beyond the first base line where Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner and team manager Terry Francona waited to greet Kennedy before he took the mound. They all shook hands with the 77-year-old politician before Terry Francona and a Red Sox employee escorted him to his rightful place.

Fans cheered as the senator steadily paced across the first-base line, over to the pitcher`s mound, with a cane in his left hand and a member of the Red Sox that came to his side. Kennedy handed his cane over to his assistant, and ascended the pitching rubber.

Kennedy was all smiles for Rice as he hurled the ball within a few feet from home plate.

Without uttering a single word, Rice raised his index finger at the senator to which Kennedy understood all too well. With another ball in his hands, Sen. Kennedy tossed one more pitch which Rice caught.

Safely back beside his wife in the backseat of the golf cart, Kennedy waved goodbye to fans as Rice chauffeured him off the field. Fortunately, the senator may have been the Red Sox` lucky charm as Josh Beckett pitched superlatively in 5-3 win oer their inter-division rivals.

Surprisingly enough, the tradition means much more in Kennedy`s family history than his day in the limelight. 97 years earlier, his grandfather, Boston`s mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first MLB game ever played in the newly constructed Fenway Park on April 20, 1912.

Times have changed in the past 97 years though. Back then, the "Royal Rooters", a group of fans of which Kennedy`s grandfather was a part, regularly marched across the outfield before game. If a politician engaged in such activity these days, he certainly wouldn`t hold office for very long.

In a comment about the splendor of the day at perhaps the greatest venue in baseball, Sen. Kennedy said: "It`s the thrill of a lifetime. I know how proud (his grandfather) was to be a loyal member of the famous `Royal Rooters` and o be a part of Red Sox history that day."