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Boston Strong: Why This Title Is the Best So Far

Posted by Kelly on October 31, 2013

Edited to correct spelling and grammar errors because, hey, I wrote the original in the middle of the night! —TRSF 11/01/2013 15:30 EDT

Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series ChampionsIt almost doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. The Boston Red Sox are 2013 World Series Champions.

The September 2011 collapse that ended Terry Francona’s managerial career in Boston, the Bobby Valentine Era, and last place duds that were the 2012 Red Sox feel like ancient history.

As I drove home from the sports bar where I watched Game 6 with friends and family, I heard a question posed on 98.5 The Sports Hub: Of the three championship teams in the last ten seasons, how would you rank them in terms of favorites? The first thing I thought was, WE’VE WON THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE LAST TEN SEASONS! (The first team, by the way, to do that in the 21st century, is all.) Then I set my mind to the question.

Each championship has been special in its own way. The 2004 title removed from the Red Sox organization and its long-suffering fans the weight of generations of disappointment. The 2007 title was proof that 2004 was not a fluke and allowed us to enjoy the team’s success as normal fans not starved for enjoyment. But this one is something else entirely, the rare achievement of a front office determined to atone for last year, a manager committed to restoring order and dignity to the team, and players who learned very quickly that each of them had a part to play and did so enthusiastically—on the field and off.

At this point, I feel like I should say something about last April’s marathon bombing. I haven’t written much about it, not only because it was small compared to other terrorist attacks like 9/11 or Oklahoma City, but also because it was so intensely Boston. Generally thought of as a big city, it’s really quite small population-wise, which makes it a much tighter community than places like Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. Its citizens (and those in the surrounding area, like me) are fiercely proud of its past and present importance in history, arts and culture, and sports. The Boston Marathon is one of those sports, and when it was attacked, it was personal in a way that people not from here probably don’t understand. The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was targeted because it was a federal facility. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Capitol were targeted because they were representative of American business, military power, and politics. While the dead were overwhelmingly from those areas, they were killed not because they were Oklahomans or New Yorkers or Washingtonians or Virginians, but because they were Americans. But the Boston Marathon is at the heart of Boston. It is a quintessentially local event that outsiders are allowed to join.

Red Sox players realized this immediately after the bombing, even before they returned to Boston from the road trip on which they were just embarking when the explosions went off. Not only the veterans who had been here for years realized it, but the new guys did too. David Ortiz was the one who verbalized it (“This is OUR fucking city!”) but even the most recent additions to the roster got it. They decided among themselves, independent of the larger organization and deliberately without the organization’s help, to reach out in a coordinated way to survivors and to victims’ families, to show the community that has stood by this team through the decades that the team has the community’s back. Each and every player participated, voluntarily and without fanfare. Though I’m sure they didn’t realize it at the time, the bombing became, probably more than any other single factor, what united this group of athletes and gave them common purpose and direction. Having developed that bond as people, they continued it as teammates. The players led and the executives followed, using traditions and special ceremonies before and during games to support and honor survivors and first responders at home games all season long, and giving the fans a vehicle to do so as well.

And that’s the final reason why I think this championship is special. It was accomplished by a group of men who came from all over the world but who felt at home enough in Boston to treat the city, particularly those who bore the worst of the attack, as a family to whom they were devoted. Then when it came to baseball, the “work” they do which is really play and for which they get paid ridiculous amounts of money, they behaved as a family devoted to one another.

Sure, some players did better than others. But there was not a single one of them who did not at one time or another, by his actions and efforts, take the rest of the team on his shoulders and do what the others, for that moment, couldn’t. They didn’t do it merely because it was their job to win games. They did it in the spirit of cooperation and perseverence that manifested itself after the bombings and was so perfectly expressed in the motto “Boston Strong.” They did it because they genuinely love this city and each other.

It may sound melodramatic, but trust me, it’s reality. I couldn’t be prouder to be a fan of this particular team, these 25 men who did something so important to so many people, and then went onto the field and won a championship.

Posted in accomplishments, attitude | 1 Comment »

Boston Sports: It’s Good to Be Us

Posted by Kelly on October 23, 2013

Boston StrongIn case you live outside North America and/or in a cave, you probably know that the Red Sox are going to the World Series for the third time in 10 years. Before 2004, such an achievement was unimaginable.

The Red Sox aren’t the only local team that has enjoyed recent sporting success. Our professional sports franchises have had a tremendous collective run in the last 12 years, with three Super Bowl wins by the Patriots (2002, 2004, 2005), an NBA Championship by the Celtics (2008), and a Stanley Cup by the Bruins (2010) to go along with the Red Sox wins. It hasn’t always been like that. When our teams have enjoyed success, it was usually one at a time, while the other teams floundered. I got thinking that it would be interesting to look at the entire history of our major sports franchises and see exactly what they have and haven’t done for us over the decades. The results surprised me.


Boston is one of several cities that has teams in all four major team sports: baseball, hockey, basketball, and football. So let’s start at the beginning.

  • Boston Braves were the city’s first major professional sports team. A charter franchise of both the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (1871-1875) and its successor, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (1876-1953), they were previously called the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers. After the 1953 season, the franchise moved to Milwaukee and and then to Atlanta.
  • Boston Red Sox were a charter franchise of the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs (1901-present). Previously called the Americans, they are one of only four original AL teams to still play in their original city.
  • Boston Bruins were the first U.S. team in the National Hockey League (1924-present) and are considered one of the “Original Six” teams that comprised the league when it reorganized in 1942.
  • Boston Redskins, National Football League (1932-36), were originally called the Braves, after the baseball team at whose stadium they played. The franchise moved to Washington, DC, after the 1936 season.
  • Boston Yanks were another Boston NFL team (1944-48) that didn’t last. The franchise moved to New York City, where it operated for three more seasons. Finally, it moved to Dallas, Texas, and played for a season before folding.
  • Boston Celtics were a charter franchise of the Basketball Association of America (1946-1949), later called the National Basketball Association (1949-present).
  • New England Patriots, a charter franchise of the American Football League (1960-1969), were originally known as the Boston Patriots. They joined the National Football League (1970-present) when the two leagues merged. The team soon moved to Foxboro, Massachusetts, and changed their name to the Bay State Patriots and then the New England Patriots. Although no longer in Boston, they are widely considered to be a Boston team.
  • New England Whalers were a charter franchise of the short-lived World Hockey Association (1972-1979). When the league folded, the Whalers joined the NHL and moved to Hartford, Connecticut. The franchise is now the Carolina Hurricanes.

That’s a total of eight major professional teams that have played in Boston. Six of them have won championships. Only one team, the Yanks, failed to even make it to a championship game/series, so they’re excluded from the following chart showing championship performance decade by decade.

    F = First place finish, no championship game/series played
    L = Played in but lost the championship game/series
    W = Won the championship game/series
    * = The 2013 Red Sox will end up with either an “L” or a “W”
    indicates that the team either didn’t yet exist or had left the Boston area
Braves Red Sox Bruins Redskins Celtics Patriots Whalers TOTAL
1871-1880 6F 6F
1881-1890 1F 1F
1891-1900 5F 5F
1901-1910 1W, 1F 1W, 1F
1911-1920 1W 4W 5W
1921-1930 1W, 2L 1W, 2L
1931-1940 1W 1L 1W, 1L
1941-1950 1L 1L 1W, 2L 1W, 4L
1951-1960 3L 3W, 1L 3W, 4L
1961-1970 1L 1W 8W 9W, 1L
1971-1980 1L 1W, 3L 2W 1W 4W, 4L
1981-1990 1L 2L 3W, 2L 1L 3W, 6L
1991-2000 1L 1L
2001-2010 2WL 1W, 1L 3W, 1L 6W, 2L
2011- * 1W, 1L 1L 1W, 2L, *
TOTAL 1W, 1L, 12F 7W, 4L, 1F 6W, 13L 1L 17W, 4L 3W, 4L 1W 35W, 27L, 13F

The leanest decade (and having lived through it, it sure felt like it) was the 1990s, when the Patriots were the only team that even got close to a championship, losing in the second Super Bowl appearance in their history. The 1881-1890 period was a bit dry too, with only one first place finish by the Braves, at that time the only team in town. In every other decade, at least one team won a championship (or, in the case of the 19th century Braves, the closest thing to it).

Let’s look at those totals again. Thirty-five outright championships is an astounding number. Sure, almost half of those came from the Celtics, the most successful pro sports franchise of all time, having won championships in slightly more than 25% of their seasons. But our other teams aren’t crap, either. By my count, the only city that exceeds our total championships won is New York (in which I have included Brooklyn), which has consistently hosted multiple teams in each sport.

What our teams have done is quite remarkable. Sure, we’ve suffered through periods in which one team or another sucked badly (think the Red Sox of the 1950s, the Celtics of the 1990s or the Patriots before 1996). Most fans feel very fortunate to have enjoyed our teams’ recent run of success. But the fact is since the advent of professional sports, Boston has been royalty.

Here’s hoping we soon add one more jewel to the crown.


(Notes:
1. In case you’re wondering why I have separated the decades as I have, remember that there was no year 0; the year after 1 B.C. was 1 A.D.. Thus, historians consider a new decade to begin on January 1, XXX1.
2. Baseball had no formal championship series in the 19th century. Though there were so-called championship series, they were considered exhibitions and not analogous to the World Series that began in 1903. Before that, the team that finished in first place was considered the league champion.
3. For purposes of compiling these numbers, I placed the championship in the year when it was won. For example, the 1980-81 Celtics won the NBA championship in 1981, so that victory goes in the 1981-1990 decade, not the previous one. Also, keep in mind that since the 1969 NFL season, the pro football championship game has taken place in the next calendar year, though that wasn’t an issue in compiling Patriots wins by decade.)

Posted in history, other sports, postseason | 1 Comment »

Sox Fail to Close vs. Tigers

Posted by Kelly on June 21, 2013

John Lackey got his job done last night (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 5 K) but the starter has no control over what happens after he leaves the game. What happened after Lackey and reliever Koji Uehara (1 IP, 0 H, 1 K) were done was that Andrew Bailey gave up a walk-off homer in the ninth inning to blow the save and the game. It’s Bailey’s first loss of the season but his fourth blown save in twelve save opportunities. That is unacceptable for a purported closer.

Posted in game recaps, pitching | Leave a Comment »

Sox-Tigers Pitching Matchups

Posted by Kelly on June 20, 2013

I originally wrote this for my BlackBerry Messenger Channel (pin:C0001DAD7 for you BBM users!) and am just now posting it here.

Starting pitching probables for the upcoming series seem to favor Detroit:

  • Tonight – Lackey (4-5, 3.08) vs. Alvarez (1-0, 1.50)
  • Tomorrow – Lester (6-4, 4.37) vs. Fister (6-4, 3.21)
  • Saturday – Webster (0-1, 11.74) vs. Scherzer (10-0, 3.08)
  • Sunday – Doubront (4-3, 4.38) vs. Verlander (8-5, 3.72)

Alvarez and Webster have a combined three starts, so they might not be as good and bad, respectively, as the numbers suggest.

Posted in pitching | Leave a Comment »

Sorry I’ve Been AWOL – I Was Busy Being Waterboarded by the IRS

Posted by Kelly on June 16, 2013

But seriously, I’M BACK! Sure, it’s 2½ months into the season, but better late than never, right?

Let’s jump right into the middle of the pool. The Sox are currently 42-29, leading the AL East and tied with Oakland for the best record in the American League. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we just dropped 3 out of 4 to Baltimore, and as one would expect, pitching was the problem. As I wrote Friday on the TRSF channel on BBM (more about this when it’s out of Beta!), of our three weekend starters (Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Jon Lester) I was least confident in Lester. He’s been inconsistent and unable to go deep into games. Sorry, but you can’t keep throwing 100+ pitches in five innings.

I didn’t actually watch today’s game—I spent the afternoon (Father’s Day!) watching the US Open with Dad. But a quick perusal of the box score suggests that I was right to feel squeamish about Lester. Five earned runs on 106 pitches in 5 innings isn’t what we should be getting from our #1 starter.

Tomorrow is an off day. Next up: the Rays for 2 on Tuesday at Fenway.

Posted in game recaps, pitchers | 1 Comment »

Fantasies

Posted by Kelly on June 29, 2012

In my fantasies, the Red Sox are managed by someone other than Bobby Valentine, don’t have two teams’ worth of outfielders on the disabled list, and are in first place. In my fantasies, I am also a size 8 and recently won the lottery. In other words, you can’t always get what you want.

Fantasy baseball is a slightly different story. You can get what you want, most of the time, especially in the private league to which I belong, which enjoys rather lax rules.

The Triumphant Red Sox Fan’s 2012 Llamas had a good run for several weeks, holding first place (albeit in an admittedly weak division). Then things started to fall apart.

Now, I’ve always run my fantasy teams a lot like a real major league team, in the sense that I didn’t make frequent wholesale changes. The same isn’t true of some of the other team owners. I’ve seen owners do a daily dump of starting pitchers and add the best currently available starters who were scheduled to pitch next. That’s an easy way to boost your team’s total innings pitched (one of our stat categories) and always have the hot commodities on your roster. In response to such people, the league’s commissioner limited the number of players who can be added to a roster in a week—12, still a substantial number, and one to which I’ve never come close.

But in the last few weeks, my team has tanked. Previously reliable pitchers have imploded in not only one but sometimes three or four consecutive starts. Consistent bats have gone inexplicably cold. The Llamas sank to last place, which they now hold by a significant margin.

So yesterday and today, I blew up the team. I got rid of players who started out strong but have trended dramatically downward. I got rid of players who started out week and haven’t pulled themselves up. I even ditched one of my “keeper” players. I took a roster of 25 and replaced nine of them.

Llamas transactions, last 2 days

That’s nine moves (I count a drop and an add as one move) in two days. I had made 21 moves in the previous 12 weeks of the season.

(A side note for those of you who might be wondering: The picture beside my name on the transaction list isn’t me. It’s Effa Manley, the only woman inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.)

As you will note by the waiving of Felix Dubrount, I try not to let my Red Sox fanship affect my fantasy team decisions. My Yankee hatred is a different story. When the computer drafted Derek Jeter on my behalf back in March, I decided to stick with him initially but cut him loose at the first bump in the road. I do have standards.

Even with the recent surge of activity, I’m still in the lower half of the league in terms of moves made this season. But I don’t intend to stay there. I pledge to be less patient and more aggressive. I plan to spend more time on statistical analysis and trends. I pledge to make this the first season of my fantasy baseball career in which I do not end the season firmly entrenched in the cellar.

Will my new free-wheeling management style produce the desired results? I’ll let you know after this weekend. But I am optimistic. I figure things couldn’t get much worse.

Posted in fantasy baseball | Leave a Comment »

Farewell, Friend

Posted by Kelly on May 10, 2012

CBSBoston: Fenway Park PA Announcer Carl Beane killed in one-car crash: http://cbsloc.al/Kn3pkC

Received on my BlackBerry at 4:17pm yesterday

Carl Beane lets the Triumphant Red Sox Fan try on his 2004 World Series ring, June 21, 2005.

Carl Beane was the kind of person who felt like a friend even if you had never met him.

To listeners of the Massachusetts radio stations where Carl was a broadcaster for the past 40 years, he was the guy who brought them the sports reports, covering everything from high school to the pros with sincerity and professionalism. Others knew him as the mellifluous voice welcoming them to Fenway Park and introducing each batter who came to the plate. To the men who played at Fenway, whether for the home team or the visitors, he was someone who went out of his way to learn the correct pronunciation of each player. The NESN and WEEI game broadcasters in the booth next to his and the beat writers down the hall considered him a respected colleague.

Some of us had the good fortune to become personally acquainted with Carl. In my case, it happened through his wife, who works for the same company I do and brought him into work one summer day in 2005 so her co-workers could get a peek at his 2004 World Series ring. She booked a conference room and spread the word that anyone who wished was welcome to stop by and see it, try it on, have their picture taken with it. Carl must have spent an hour and a half entertaining a steady stream of people, but he was every bit as excited to share the symbol of long-awaited victory with them as they were to touch it for a few magical seconds.

Over the next seven years, I met up with Carl from time to time. There were spring training vacations to Fort Myers during which he was there to do the public address honors at City of Palms Park. Or the time I ran into him during a Fenway tour and introduced him to some out-of-state friends who were big Sox fans. My mother met him for the first time after we attended a game and almost literally ran into him afterward in the concourse, when we were leaving and he was rushing from the public address booth to the clubhouse to do post-game interviews for his radio job. Even when in a hurry, he took a few seconds to be friendly and gracious.

But my favorite Carl Beane story unfolded at a minor league hockey game in Worcester. I was sitting a row in front of Carl and Lorraine when a small group of teenage boys a few seats down noticed the flashy jewelry on Carl’s finger. Seemingly without a thought that these young men were complete strangers and this was a $15,000 ring, Carl slipped it off, handed it to one of the boys, and invited him to pass it around so everyone could check it out.

When I attended last Friday evening’s Red Sox game with my mother, my friend Karen, and Karen’s family, I had no way of knowing it would be the last time I would hear Carl’s voice in person. I didn’t see him, but Karen did, meeting him at the park three hours before game time for a previously arranged personal tour in honor of her son’s birthday and her granddaughter’s first visit to Fenway. In addition to getting their pictures taken with Carl’s ring (the 2004 version, that night), they were also invited to step out onto the field during batting practice. In talking about what a great job he did in his role as the voice of Fenway Park, Karen told Carl that, if he wanted it, he would have the job for the rest of his life. And he did.

The Red Sox left on a brief road trip after Sunday’s game. Carl was going about his other business around mid-day yesterday when he suffered some sort of attack—a heart attack, the reports are saying—while driving, lost consciousness, and drifted off the road. He probably never knew what hit him.

People who were much closer to him than I was—his wife, daughter, grandchildren, step-children, neighbors, professional colleagues, and close friends—are mourning in ways that the rest of us aren’t. But for every person on Carl’s Christmas card list, there are countless others who associate his voice with some of the most entertaining moments of their lives and will miss it.

The Red Sox are preparing to pay tribute to Carl Beane before tonight’s game. I hope they will continue the tribute throughout the evening by leaving the announcer’s booth empty and the microphone still, so the fans in the stands, the “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” Carl greeted en masse before every game, can hear him in their memories one more time.

Posted in ballpark moments, media, memorials, world series rings | 1 Comment »

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Posted by Kelly on April 20, 2012

Fenway Park facade

Fenway Park's Yawkey Way facade as captured with my phone October 18, 2010

It isn’t every day that you get to celebrate a 100th birthday. As rare as it is with people, it’s even rarer with ballparks. Unprecedented, in fact. Today we wish a happy 100th birthday to Fenway Park.

Today could have been a day of twin celebrations in Major League Baseball. On this date in 1912, when the first game was played at Fenway (after two days of rain-outs) Detroit’s Navin Field, later renamed Tiger Stadium, also hosted its first game. But after the 1999 season, Tiger Stadium was torn down while still a spry 87.

B logo earring

Wearing my pride

So now, Fenway stands alone. It’s big deal in a country where shiny new stadiums are increasingly popular, where historic buildings of all types often don’t survive unless local ordinances mandate preservation. In Boston, the preservation was mandated by the fans, who rose up against the former owners’ determination to tear it down and start fresh, and affirmed by new owners who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars not refurbishing and enhancing it.

Even as I wear my “B” logo earrings as a personal tribute, other commendations to the old ball yard abound on the web:

  • Yahoo! Sports ranks history’s 10 most historic stadiums (of any sport) and even though the Roman Colosseum came in first, Fenway was right behind it.

    Two World Wars, The Great Depression, nothing stopped baseball and the park was always bustling with loyal fans. No other stadium compares to Fenway Park and no other baseball stadium stands today that was built before it.

  • Fenway’s jealous younger sibling weighs in.

    My name is Wrigley Field. And I’ll try not to be resentful and jealous this week.

    You realize what Friday is, right? Yeah, the 100th birthday for that insufferable cousin of mine in the northeast, Fenway Park.

    They’ll be going all gaga the next few days over the little twerp. He thinks he’s so cute, there with his Green Monster. I hope he has a power outage.

  • CBS News gets the perspective of comedian, Worcester native, and lifelong Sox fan Denis Leary.

    Leary said, “That’s the thing about Fenway Park. Even in these seats or those seats, you feel like you can reach out and choke the opposing players with your bare hands at any given moment. And sometimes you feel like choking a Red Sox player.”

  • Over at ESPN.com, Jim Caple pays tribute.

    I hope Fenway Park lasts to celebrate a second full century in baseball. Although I shudder to think what ticket and beer prices could be there in 2112.

    [ . . . ]

    “What a cathedral. It’s like going to church,” said Tim Wakefield, who pitched 17 seasons at Fenway before retiring this spring. “The stadium is the star here. Fenway is the star.”

  • The New England Sports Network, the cable TV station that is partially owned by the Sox and carries all their games that aren’t nationally televised, marks the 100th birthday with 100 interesting ballpark facts.

    10. The Green Monster was originally blue and featured many white advertisements.

    [ . . . ]

    17. The [grandstand] seats at Fenway are made out of Oak wood.

    [ . . . ]

    59. Fenway Park is 20 feet above sea level.

    [ . . . ]

    81. Earl Wilson no-hit the Angels on June 26, 1962, becoming the first african-american pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the American League.

    [ . . . ]

    95. [Boston Mayor] John. F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of John F. Kennedy, started the tradition of tossing out the first pitch.

  • A Christian Science Monitor correspondence and Orioles fan now living in Massachusetts expresses her appreciation of the role the old ball yard will play in her young daughter’s life.

    [A]s parents, we have come to accept that when our daughter grows into her team — when she starts memorizing on base percentages and ERAs, when she insists on showing up early for batting practice and the chance to get a player’s signature, when she becomes aghast that we (or her grandparents) have tossed out old dusty boxes of baseball cards that were cluttering up a basement — we will root along side her.

    So happy birthday, Fenway Park. We’ll learn to love you. Or at least accept that you’ll give our daughter happiness.

There are many more accolades and others will come. The Red Sox held a free open house for the public yesterday and will mark the actual anniversary this afternoon with special ceremonies and a game against the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees), the same team that played at the grand opening. Both teams will wear vintage uniforms. It isn’t quite the same as logo earrings, but it will do.

Posted in ballpark moments, history, milestones | 1 Comment »

The Joy of Fanship

Posted by Kelly on February 1, 2012

When I arrived at work this morning, I had an email from my friend and co-worker, Karen, who typically arrives at least 90 minutes before I do. The message said only to come over because she had something to show me.

Karen is a big Red Sox fan. We have gone to a few games together (wins, thanks to Karen’s magic fairy dust, but that’s a story for another time) and have enjoyed the February ritual in Boston known as Truck Day a few times as well. Since we’re planning another Truck Day celebration this year (Saturday, February 11—mark your calendars), I presumed that’s what she wanted to see me about.

Instead, she had a picture to show me from a function she attended last evening with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. Karen is a bit of a political junkie, a big fan of Evangelidis, and most recently a reserve deputy sheriff (which I tell her will be humanity’s last line of defense at the zombie apocalypse). Last night, Karen watched politics meet baseball.

Karen and Luis Tiant

Karen with El Tiante and his famous mustache

I don’t mind telling you that I love Luis Tiant. I loved him during his time with the Sox, eight years in the prime of his 19-year career. His appearance and demeanor were like a sort of Cuban Santa Claus. I loved his wind-up, the way he would twist around until he was almost facing the second baseman—quite a feat for a rightie—before finally letting loose. (Karen also reminded me about what she calls the “Tiant wiggle,” where he’d hold the baseball in both hands in front of his face, then lower it to belt-level, sort of rocking the ball as it went down.) I loved how more than 38% of his career starts were complete games, something that today’s coddled superstars can’t even imagine. To this day, Tiant is either first or second in most pitches thrown in a postseason game for game 4 of the 1975 World Series, a 5-4 victory over the Reds. (This page from the Cincinnati Enquirer gives his count as 163, but NBC Sports says 155. The unofficial pitch count shown at Baseball-Reference.com also goes with 155. Either way, it’s a lot of pitches, especially considering that he was going on three days rest.) I was heartbroken when he went to play for the MFY but couldn’t bring myself to hate him. I was thrilled to see him, years after his retirement from the major leagues, at the 1996 Olympics where he was the pitching coach for the Nicaraguan baseball team. I was annoyed when I learned that he bought his cigars at the same liquor store where DMF often buys wine but DMF never once got his autograph for me. (And that, after I met Bobby Brown at a charity even and got him to autographed a Yankees hat for DMF. Bah.) I continue to be incensed that he still isn’t in the Hall of Fame but should be.

Tiant autographAll that love and Karen didn’t even call me when she found out Tiant was at the event. I have no particular affinity for the sheriff, but I’d have gone over there in a heartbeat. Yes, she has been scolded for her omission, as she has been for the unspeakable sin of asking him (Tiant, not the sheriff) to autograph a piece of flowered paper.

Me, I’d have gotten him to autograph an article of clothing instead. It would have been more dignified.

I have met many a player, past and present, and I was more excited about some than others. As fans, we tend to build these guys up in our minds, often to be disappointed that they aren’t as friendly as we might like. Tiant is the rare player who was and is universally liked by fans, widely respected in the game, and a seemingly all-around nice person. All envy aside, I’m glad Karen had a chance to meet him.

Posted in ex-Sox, pitchers | 1 Comment »

Bobby Valentine, How Great Thou Art

Posted by Kelly on December 1, 2011

Bobby Valentine, ballroom dancer (photo from YankeeAnalysts.com)

Photo from YankeeAnalysts.com

With the hiring of Bobby Valentine as the new Red Sox manager, now seems as good a time as any to jump back into this blog. The 2011 season never did grab me, plus I bought a house and moved and just didn’t have much time to spend on baseball, besides listening to the games on the radio while I spackled or painted or did little fix-it jobs. Believe me, I was glad I had so many other distractions when September rolled around and blogging, if I had been doing any, would have consisted of various permutations of “This team sucks.”

But back to Valentine. I’ve never been a big fan—what’s the guy done, anyway?—and I was utterly underwhelmed with the news of his signing. It isn’t that I don’t think he knows his baseball. I realize he’s smart. But he also has an ego the size of Cape Cod Bay and doesn’t mind showing it. The last Boston manager or coach who thought this much of himself and let everyone know it was Rick Pitino, and we all know how that turned out.

Sometimes, though, it takes someone else to show you the error of your ways. And I have been properly chastened by ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, who earlier this week informed me and the rest of the world that Bobby V. can do it all.

[H]e sees what others don’t. He never misses a thing — and no one, but no one, is going to fool Bobby Valentine.

[ . . . ]

I can tell you that no one knows the game better than Bobby V. He can be smug and he can be arrogant, but he has a right to be. Bobby Valentine has thrived at most things he has done in his life. He was a great football player; he once scored six touchdowns in the first half of a game at Stamford (Conn.) High School. He was heading to USC to replace O.J. Simpson at tailback, but he chose baseball over football after then-Dodgers general manager Al Campanis asked him, “What would you rather do, play against the best football players in the Pac-10 or against the best baseball players in the world?”

[ . . . ]

There have been few ballroom dancers better than Bobby Valentine…

[ . . . ]

Valentine managed seven years in Japan. He won a championship, but he did much more. In some ways, he changed the way they played baseball in Japan.

[ . . . ]

Humanitarian? Ballroom dancer? Science fair guy? Gourmet chef? Restaurateur? Director of Public Health? Valentine is all of these things. How? Where does he find the time? He told me 25 years ago, “Sleep is overrated,” and it must be, because I don’t know when he sleeps.

To God’s ears from Kurkjian’s lips, which I understand are soon to be surgically affixed to Valentine’s left cheek. And I don’t mean the one on his face.

Posted in manager/coaches | 4 Comments »

 
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