BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Boston Red Sox season opener on Tuesday.

With fans cheering, Kennedy, diagnosed last May with a malignant brain tumor, walked across the first-base line and toward the mound with a cane in his left hand, then gave it to a Red Sox employee and climbed onto the dirt.

Standing in front of the pitcher’s rubber, a smiling Kennedy bounced the ball to newly elected Hall of Famer Jim Rice, who stood a few feet in front of the mound.

The Red Sox former left fielder than raised one finger as if to say “one more.” Kennedy, 77, then threw a ball that Rice caught.

Afterward, near the Red Sox dugout, Rice, wearing his No. 14 white Red Sox jersey, handed him the ball. Kennedy, wearing a red jacket with “Red Sox’ across the front, thanked him before tossing it into the stands.

The pitch preceded the game between Boston and the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the Red Sox in the AL championship series last year. The opener had been scheduled for Monday but was postponed because of rain.

The ceremony came 97 years after Kennedy’s grandfather, Boston mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, threw out the first pitch at the first major league game played at Fenway Park on April 20, 1912. Fitzgerald was a member of the “Royal Rooters,” Red Sox fans who paraded in the outfield before games.

“It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I know how proud (Fitzgerald) was to be a loyal member of the famous ‘Royal Rooters’ and to be a part of Red Sox history that day.”

Kennedy entered the field from the left-field corner, riding in a golf cart driven by Rice.

The senator waved to fans with his right hand before he and Rice got off in foul territory along the first base line where Kennedy shook hands with Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner, and manager Terry Francona.

Francona put his left arm around Kennedy’s shoulders and they walked toward the mound.

After his pitches, Kennedy returned to the golf cart. A Fenway employee drove Kennedy off the field with Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, seated on a back cushion.

Earlier, Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus performed the national anthem.

“This is my first opening day, but it’s not my scariest time in this ballpark,” Lockhart said. “My scariest was watching the Red Sox almost lose (the ALCS) to the Yankees in 2004.”

AP-ES-04-07-09 1723EDT

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