Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Win it for Kent 

Readers will know my love of the Red Sox. �It was the most bizarre weekend for me, watching them lose to the Rays. �A loss in Game 7 of an ALCS five years ago -- back when Dan Shaughnessy was still selling copies of The Curse of the Bambino --�would have devastated me for a week. �I would not watch the World Series. �I would not talk baseball. �People who see me would talk about anything else and then get away from me as soon as politely possible. �This year, not the same. �Remember, until Sunday night my three favorite teams in the world -- Red Sox, NY Giants, and Celtics -- were simultaneously world champions of their sports. �If I complained at all about the weekend series, would you not want to hit me in the head? �So would I.

About twenty months ago a good friend and colleague here passed away, known often in the earlier days of this blog as "my liberal lunch friend." �Sports was one of the things that united us. �Kent and I had gone together to Philadelphia to see our two teams play each other in the Phillies' last year in Veterans' Stadium. �It was my first trip to Philly; Kent had been a fan since childhood, though he was raised in the Rochester, NY area. �He had basically "sat with the family" after I suffered the Aaron Boone Sudden Death funeral. �We had always said that, if our teams ever got in the World Series we'd root for the other guy's team. �"What if we're in it against each other?" �That would be cool, we decided, but we couldn't talk to each other but maybe ten minutes the day after each game. �I'm sure we would have been friends after that, but it would have been weird. �Last fall, when the Red Sox had won their second championship in four years, there was some sadness over missing lunch with my baseball friend. �The discussions last winter would have been full of Sox and Phillies, teams we both thought were being run the right way. �We each tracked the other team's substitutes, farm systems, free agent moves. �(Same was true of football -- he rooted for the Redskins. �Unfortunately, we never got Kent into the NBA because he likes college basketball too much. �He went to D-I schools; I went D-3.)

So when Sunday night started I wondered: �If the Red Sox win, they play the Phillies. �How do I feel about that? �I would have rooted for the Sox, of course, but it would have been weird. �Fridays was our day to have lunchs, and I still don't have lunch in our place there. �Would I have gone back there like some bad movie, having an imaginary discussion? �I don't know.

I do know what I'll be doing in a couple hours, though. �I've got a Phillies hat and no dilemma. �No offense, Tampa, but I'm rooting for the NL for the first time ever.

In 2004 as the Sox came back from 0-3 against the Yankees, on a fan bulletin board there was a long thread called "win it for..." �For me it was a cousin who was shut in, mentally challenged -- "oh, he had a bad drug experience, what a waste" -- but who one day turned me on to some mimeoed home-published book of weird baseball stats that he bought with his meager income each winter. �My cousin seemed to most people a lost soul, but through him I got back into baseball and learned about some guy in Kansas named Bill James. �From him came Roto and a life of baseball as something more than just the fate of the Sox, but who also reminded me it always came back to your team, your player, your hero. �He died in the early 2000s. �So in 2004, "win it for Gary." �And they did.

Sharing that love with someone is important, and for about ten years that guy was Kent. �Yes, Tampa is miraculous and a great story, but they've only been a team for ten years. �A team from a city that has won nothing in 28 years is fit to carry a baseball wish: �Win it for Kent.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Real men don't bunt 

Thanks for playing, Los Angeles/Anaheim/Dana Point/San Ysidro/whatever. We'll see you next year.

Tampa? You're next.


Thursday, April 10, 2008


On October 25, 1986, the Red Sox stood at the doorstep of championship. In St. Cloud, a young man stood at the bar of the Americana Inn and, as the bottom of the 10th inning started, leaned over to the bartender, who he knew from the local university, and said "we're about to witness something special." Calvin Schiraldi got the first two outs and the young man said "let's make sure everyone in the bar has something to drink to salute the Sox if they win." Almost immediately the man, young but first steeped as a lad in the Red Sox during the Impossible Dream season of 1967, knew he had done something wrong, as Schiraldi gave up two hits.

The rest of the story you know. Bob Stanley came in, dueled Mookie Wilson for ten pitches, and then got a ground ball that looked like an out. Except it wasn't. It went through Bill Buckner's legs.

The scorn heaped on Buckner by bitter Red Sox fans is of course legendary. (My favorite story is the person who tied a baseball to a string and the string to his back belt loop and wearing a Sox jersey went to a costume party. When asked who he was he bent over and looked between his legs and announced he was Buckner.) Buckner apologists insist that the fault laid at the feet of manager John McNamara for not pulling the injured Buckner -- he had had a horrific post-season due to his bad ankles, and Dave Stapleton was on the bench specifically for replacing Buckner in the field and was available -- but few will note that the Red Sox still had a Game Seven, where Schiraldi gave up a bomb to Ray Knight that broke a tie in the seventh inning.

But it wasn't Buckner's fault. He didn't buy the drinks in the bar in St. Cloud. (A few years ago Michael Keaton was in a movie called Game 6 as a playwright missing his opening night to watch that game. I ruined it for him too.) And he didn't hang a slider to Ray Knight.

Buckner has had real difficulty coming to grips with the angst of Red Sox fans over that night, As most will know, he went to Idaho and didn't talk about the event for years. Even when he started signing photographs on tour with Wilson, he would not discuss the night, or the reaction of the fans.

Until Tuesday, when after the World Championship rings were handed out, the first pitch belonged to Billy Buck:

After all the ceremony, the handing out of rings and hoisting of the championship banner and introducing of Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics legends, there was Buckner walking out from left field to the mound. He walked slowly, perhaps a remnant of those aching ankles and knees that marred his career. And as he walked, the fans cheered.

They stood, their ovation carrying him from the outfield through the infield to the mound, where he acknowledged them and clapped. They stood after that, still cheering, as he looked around, as he readied himself, as he threw a strike to Evans at home plate.

"Just seeing him walk out, I couldn't have been happier for him," Evans said. "This guy had tremendous numbers, total stats, and I don't even know if he got a couple votes for the Hall of Fame, which I really think is a shame.

"No one played harder than Bill. No one prepared themselves as well as Bill Buckner did, and no one wanted to win as much as Bill Buckner.

I saw him at the Metrodome once after 1986. He was with the Royals then, and as he walked to the plate I felt myself first getting a little angry, the frustration of the '86 Series still right there below the surface. Glad I was in Minnesota, where you don't boo players much. That probably kept it in check.

He grounded out, laboring up the line, running it out even though at his age and in his hobbled state it would have been fine for him to trot 50 feet and turn right to the dugout. But no, that wasn't the right way to play. He played the right way. He always had played the right way.

And one young guy from St. Cloud stood up and clapped.

And silently apologized for buying those drinks.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No excuses 

As sure as it is warming up outside (or getting to the busy season of an academic schedule, which is the period between the end of 'spring' break and commencement), it's time for baseball again. I keep reading how it's harmful for Boston and Oakland to be required to play meaningful games in Japan and then travel back to the States. I have two answers for this. First, it's silly to have them stay in the country this long for two nights' work. If I go overseas for three or four days, my answer is simply to keep myself on US time as much as I can. Even if I time-shift, it doesn't take me a week to shift back when I get home. There are other adjustments you can make, such as using a scrub player for your Japan game and then send him to the minors, or play your next exhibition games in L.A. to take off three hours from the shift.

But I'm sorry, there's no reason for bellyaching about the Red Sox being penalized by the schedule. If the Sox don't win the pennant, nobody is going to go back and say they lost it somewhere over the Pacific. Besides, ownership has to be happy selling all that swag.

We went on the road, we're 1-1. If they get back to Boston a game over .500, it's all good.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Walk like a champ, talk like a champ 

I am working in my Jason Varitek road jersey today. (If you don't know, he's that guy with the finger in the air. He wears the 'C' on his jersey.) Tired, but almost as happy as these guys.

Here's something a little weird. I am watching the game last night. We are ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth, and our best middle relief pitcher, who's a little gassed from his workload the last three games, is on the mound. A single, an out, and a Garrett Atkins home run later, and it's 4-3. In the years past -- say, any time between 1918 and 2004, for instance -- my reaction would be "we're dead. We're so dead. We are Tom Tancredo Campaign dead. How do we die this time?" And you'd sit and watch with that Eyes of the Dead look like that guy with the word "Risk" tattooed on his fingers in that commercial.

This time? I say to Littlest, "hey, it's 4-3 and Paps is coming in the game. Pitched a lot this series, but he's a horse. I like our chances."

That's when I realize the curse is dead and gone forever. We could have even lost that game last night and it would still be dead. So Mitch is right; give the 86 years a rest, send it to the same history books where we discuss the Hundred Years War. Now it's our turn, and even if some gloryhounds can't even wait for the end of the series:

...we don't have to say Bambino or Yankees suck any more.

We are Red Sox Nation. Our team is World Champions for the second time in four years. We belong here.

Don't like it? Come beat us.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

This is just sad 

Hey Duane. Your team gets bounced in the first round because they don't believe they can beat the Red Sox, so you jump onto the Indians bandwagon with the boss. And now this?
Go Rocks. You are a team of destiny. Do not let that big, ugly green wall bother you. Sorry, Tribe. The bandwagon started losing the air out of the tires in game 5.
Pathetic. Are you going to help pick the Game 5 National Anthem singer next?

Hugh pulls his head up from Terry Pluto's behind long enough to wish us well. I thought they were the better team going in, but they could not solve their pitching problems as well as the Sox solved theirs. That's what makes October great. You left a team for dead on Tuesday, and less than a week later they are -240 to win the Series.

Two words: Dave Roberts. If you saw that coming, stop reading this blog and go to Vegas now.

But that doesn't stop the excitement.

It is a little weird this time; this team hasn't been to the WS without the Curse thing hanging over us. We always expect to win; without the Curse we don't have the "we're owed" thing going any more. That was paid up in the 90 feet from first to second.

Who's Dave Roberts this time?

UPDATE: Fraters delenda est.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Yes indeed, it feels like fall 

The leaves are falling.
The chilly winds blow.
I grab my sweater.
In Bemidji, snow?

Outside, my paper,
Overhead, a duck...
Ah, the sports section!
The Yankees still suck.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Test the sock 

That's the only way to answer the question of whether Curt Schilling really bled red that night in 2004. The sock is on display in Cooperstown. This suggestion came up on Mike and Mike, and it seems only reasonable. If it's positive for blood and not paint, Gary Thorne apologizes, and the Orioles can decide whether or not he keeps his job.

Lots more coverage linked from The Boston Sports Media Watch.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

I got it bad 

(A weak explanation for light work this afternoon.)

Matsuzaka 7.0 6 1 1 1 10 1 1.29

Dice-K Fever, baby. Catch it! Ha, Nate Silver.

Behold the Kaibutsu.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Opening to the oldies 

Yesterday was Opening Day for my Red Sox, a sad affair in which the team lost at Kansas City, 7-1. I turned on the radio at the office to listen while I worked and, as is my wont, had it on early enough for the National Anthem. To my shock and horror, the anthem was performed by REO Speedwagon, a band that had one decent album in my college years and hadn't been heard from since. I walked down the hallway to a colleague's office who, being of similar age and musical taste, I thought would appreciate the mildly humorous appearance. (Lo and behold, they also performed on the national TV opener the night before. Turns out they are issuing a new album.)

After the loss, my friend wrote to me:
Because the Kansas City Royals won the first game of the season, the following policy will be implemented:
(1) whenever the Royals steal a base, the song "Take It on the Run" by REO Speedwagon will be played
(2) whenever the opposition's starting pitcher is replaced, the song "Time for Me to Fly" by REO Speedwagon will be played
(3) whenever there is a rain delay, the song "Ridin' the Storm Out" by REO Speedwagon will be played and
(4) the circle road around the parking lots will be changed from Dubner Circle to Riverside Avenue, so we can play "157 Riverside Avenue" by REO Speedwagon as people exit the stadium.
The Hideki Okajima era has started in fine form. You might say Our Time is Gonna Come.

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