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Blige returns to Series stage; Yaz back at Fenway

Singer performed anthem at 2009 Fall Classic; Red Sox legend throws out first pitch

BOSTON -- In advance of her debut Christmas album, appropriately titled, "A Mary Christmas," singer-songwriter and producer Mary J. Blige opened the World Series with a rousing rendition of the national anthem during an elaborate pregame ceremony Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

Blige, a Grammy Award-winning singer, isn't a stranger to the World Series. The New York native performed the anthem in 2009 at Yankee Stadium, and she expressed an appreciation to be back in the same capacity for the opener this time around.

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"I feel so honored and so grateful to be here," Blige said. "I am so glad I was asked to do this. It means so much to me."

Blige's first Christmas album, which she compiled with legendary producer David Foster, includes duets with A-list names such as Barbra Streisand, the Clark Sisters and Marc Anthony. Describing it as "an amazing piece of work," Blige said she has always wanted to record a Christmas album, and she jumped at the chance to work with Foster, with whom she's collaborated in the past.

"When David Foster approached me about it, I was like, 'Yeah, why not?'" she said.

Pregame ceremonies are always special during the World Series, but on a cold, crisp October night with the delicious scent of Fenway Franks floating among a frenzied, pennant-happy crowd, the anticipation for the start of the 109th World Series seemed just a bit more palatable. There was certainly enough star power and heart-tugging moments to add to the drama of the start of the Fall Classic between two teams considered to be the very best in baseball, both by record and sheer position-by-position talent.

The Red Sox dug into the very best part of their long history when arranging their ceremonial first pitch, turning to Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. An 18-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, "Yaz" won the Triple Crown in 1967 after batting .326, hitting 44 homers and driving in 121 runs.

Following the pitch, he shook hands with three living Medal of Honor recipients -- Salvatore Giunta, Clinton Romesha and Williams Swenson.

The first-ball delivery was made by 14-year-old Deon Singletary from the West End House Boys & Girls Club in Allston, Mass. Singletary, a freshman at Another Course to College in Brighton, Mass., was joined by three-time MLB All-Star and Red Sox legend Luis Tiant in delivering the ball to the mound.

One lucky kid will shout "Play Ball" before the first pitch of each game, and the Game 1 honor went to 5-year-old Jacoby Miller, son of U.S. Air Force Capt. Garrett Miller, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

The seventh-inning tradition of the singing of "God Bless America" was scheduled to be performed by retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dan Clark.

The Beantown-themed pregame ceremony tradition will continue Thursday night before Game 2 (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, 8:07 p.m. first pitch), when Boston-born singer-songwriter James Taylor will perform the anthem.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Boston Red Sox