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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Ladies and Gentlemen, the World Champion Chicago Cubs

Posted by Kelly on November 3, 2016

I haven’t posted here since the Red Sox lost game 1 of the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians. I figured I’d wait until a Sox win, which of course never happened. So I decided to root for the Cubbies, in solidarity with their long-suffering fans. The Cubs won the NLDS, then the NLCS, before falling behind 3 games to 1 in the World Series against those very same Indians. As a Red Sox fan from long before they actually won stuff, I knew that anything could happen. And, indeed, it did. The Cubbies came roaring back to force a game 7, which I watched with great interest. They took a commanding lead, then gave up the lead, sending the game into extra innings. Oh yeah, then there was a rain delay. Because of course.

But never mind all of that. I am thrilled to be able to say…

The Triumphant Red Sox fan enthusiastically congratulates the 2016 Chicago Cubs for their first World Series title since 1908. Their championship drought now stands at… zero years. How about that?

Feel free to right-click on that image to save it. Also, you can grab this one (or left-click for a .pdf you can also download):

Have a fun year, Chicago. Take it from me: it’ll be a blast.


Posted in history | Leave a 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.

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 »

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, 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 »

What’s This “Expansion Era Committee?”

Posted by Kelly on December 6, 2010

Blue Jays World Series banners

The Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series titles on Pat Gillick's watch

Just in from the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

Pat Gillick, who built three World Series champions and has served baseball for nearly 50 years, has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee, it was announced today.

[ . . . ]

Gillick presently serves as senior adviser to the Philadelphia Phillies and has spent nearly 50 years in Major League Baseball, with 27 seasons as a major league general manager. Gillick, who built playoff teams with the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, began his major league career with the Houston Colt .45s/Astros from 1963-73, before joining the New York Yankees as scouting director from 1974-76. Gillick joined the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, building five division winners from 1985-93 and consecutive World Series championships in 1992-93. In three seasons with Baltimore from 1996-98, the Orioles made two postseason appearances. In four seasons shaping the Mariners from 2000-2003, the Mariners won 90 games each season, including an American League record 116 in 2001, with two postseason appearances. In building the Phillies from 2006-2008, Philadelphia won the NL East twice and the 2008 World Series.

Those are indeed Hall of Fame credentials, and Gillick deserves the recognition. I know at least one baseball fan north of the border who was particularly happy about those back-to-back Blue Jays championships.

Not to take anything away from Gillick’s accomplishments, but why do we have an Expansion Era Committee? As the Hall explains it, it is the result of “[restructuring] the procedures to consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players for election to the Hall of Fame.” The two other Era Committees are Pre-Integration (1871-1946) and Golden (1947-1972). The Expansion Era Committee considers candidates from among players from 1973-1989 and non-players from 1973 to the present.

The only advantage I can see to the new system is that it allows committee members to more carefully study the eras they are charged with considering, something that is helpful in cases where a player’s worthiness is apparent only through the lens of time. There are indeed players who fit that description, not acknowledged as superstars when they played because they played for small-market teams that didn’t win, or because they were overshadowed by a larger-than-life teammate, or perhaps even because they quietly went about their business while avoiding the limelight. In the past, they were considered by the Veterans Committee, itself originally established to review the careers of players who were barred from the major leagues by segregation but achieved greatness in the Negro leagues, as well as players who had retired before the establishment of the Hall and were therefore ineligible to be considered in the customary process.

On the other hand, I have to wonder why we are considering managers, executives, and umpires by “era,” especially candidates with recent careers. I can’t think of a convincing reason why Pat Gillick couldn’t or wouldn’t have been selected in the same manner by which, say, Whitey Herzog or Bowie Kuhn were in the last couple years.

I suppose I’m less inclined than most to embrace changes like this, being rather traditional where baseball is concerned. I detest the designated hitter on the grounds that every player ought to be required to play the whole game, not just half of each inning. I abhor the playoff system, believing that any team that isn’t in first place after playing 162 games (more than in any other team sport) shoudn’t be allowed another 5 or 7 games to make up for it. And I hate, hate, hate artificial grass.

Yet I have to remind myself that the game has survived all these changes, most of which were driven by love of the almighty dollar, so why not a change in the way Hall of Famers are chosen? There is no purer institution in baseball than the Hall of Fame, which safeguards its reputation for integrity so stridently that it has kept two of the all-time greats, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, out. (I agree in the Rose case but not the Jackson one, though I blame Judge Landis and successive commissioners rather than the Hall for the gross injustice done to Jackson; the Hall simply applied its standard evenly based on decisions not its own.)

All of which is to say that I will give the benefit of the doubt to the good people who run the Hall of Fame and do outstanding work as custodians of the game’s history. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.

And again, congratulations to Mr. Gillick.

Posted in awards, history | 1 Comment »

Let’s Play…Wheel of Free Agent Fortune!

Posted by Kelly on November 4, 2010

Roulette wheelIt’s that time of year, when guys who make anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars playing a game put themselves on the market to see how much more they can rake in next year. We’re only a few days into the process, but already a handful of players have filed for free agency and the right to negotiate with any team in baseball.

Free agency has it roots in the old practice whereby ball clubs had virtually total control of their players. Once a team signed a player to a contract, the team essentially had that player locked up for as long as they wanted him. The contractual provision that allowed this—and it was in every contract in organized baseball—was known as the reserve clause. Once a team had the rights to a player, they reserved those rights for as long as they chose. Sure, they could trade or release him, but short of that, if the player didn’t want to play for that team or if he didn’t like the contract they were offering him, his only other option was to refuse to play.

Curt FloodThe reserve clause was challenged by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood, whose legal case against baseball reached the United States Supreme Court. Even though Flood lost, his suit turned out to be the beginning of the end of teams’ absolute ownership of players’ services. A few years after Flood retired, players bargained for the right to salary arbitration, and a few more years later, the free agency system came into being.

So here we are, post-World Series, and players not under contract who either have six or more years of Major League service or were undrafted can become sell their services to the highest bidder. Since the end of the World Series through today, the following players have declared themselves to be free agents:

  • Cory Aldridge – OF (LAA)
  • Greg Dobbs – 3B (PHI)
  • Chad Gaudin – P (NYY)
  • Gabe Gross – OF (OAK)
  • Casey Kotchman – 1B (SEA)
  • Ryan Langerhans – OF (SEA)
  • Jeff Larish – 1B (OAK)
  • Jamie Moyer – P (PHI)
  • Guillermo Quiroz – C (SEA)

There are several other players who previously filed for free agency after being released by their teams. More filings are coming down the pike, to be sure. Among the biggest names rumored to be headed down the free agent road are Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre.

The free agent filing deadline is a minute after midnight, Eastern time, this coming Sunday morning.

Posted in history, players, transactions | Leave a Comment »

Hall of Fame Paradox

Posted by Kelly on January 7, 2010

I’d like to offer congratulations to the newest electee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, erstwhile Red Sox Andre Dawson. Then I’d also like to point out an article from‘s Sky Andrecheck that suggests Dawson and one of last year’s inductees, Jim Rice, perhaps aren’t quite Hall of Fame material. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the article, but it raises some very good points and illustrates the danger of voting based on gut feelings instead of careful analysis of a player’s career.

Even statistically minded folks like myself have trouble putting mind over matter. Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines don’t feel like Hall of Famers to me. Andre Dawson and Jim Rice do. But a look at the numbers shows the opposite. Raines and Dawson have nearly identical OPS numbers in about the same number of games. Add in Raines’ incredible speed and he is probably the better Hall candidate. Meanwhile, the numbers show that Martinez (OPS+ 147) was a vastly better hitter than Rice (OPS+ 128) in about the same number of plate appearances. Granted, Martinez was mostly a DH, but Rice wasn’t exactly known for his defense, either.

Ignoring the gratuitous slam against Rice, Andrecheck gets to the heart of the matter: what makes a player Hall of Fame worthy? If you are of the mind of Worcester sports writer Bill Ballou (who likes to say that it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Skill), then it makes sense that Dawson and Rice would outpoll other players who may have been better by statistical standards. Every player is judged in comparison to his peers, and when the comparison is subjective, perception often overshadows fact. That would also explain why someone like Dominic DiMaggio never got into the Hall; even though he was one of the preeminent center fielders of his era, he got lost in the shadow of the teammate to his right and his brother to the southwest.

On the other hand, as the New York Times writer Tyler Kepner points out, Dawson’s election may help the cause of another overlooked but qualified player, Dwight Evans. A strong hitter in his own right—and that’s what Kepner looks at—I believe what really set Evans apart throughout his long career was the outstanding defense that led to eight Gold Gloves for the right fielder. Alas, defense, like walks and other less glamorous skills, is undervalued by BBWAA voters.

Posted in accomplishments, ex-Sox, history | Leave a Comment »

And Then There Were Two

Posted by Kelly on May 8, 2009

If you have read the late David Halberstam’s The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, you know that from the Red Sox teams of the 1940’s emerged a quartet of players who, despite their many differences, forged a friendship that would last all their lives. Bobby Doerr got to the Red Sox first, in 1937, and was perhaps the most mild-mannered. Ted Williams was the last to retire, in 1960, and the most volatile. Johnny Pesky (né Paveskovich) was the youngest, the last of the group to join the team, and the only one who didn’t play his entire career with the Red Sox. Dominic DiMaggio was the oldest and the only one who left baseball entirely after his playing days were over.

The men met through the Red Sox and remained a foursome of dear friends until the 2002 death of Williams. And early this morning, DiMaggio became the second of the teammates to die.

I had the pleasure of interviewing DiMaggio in 1996 while working in television production. Among the topics we discussed was the Hall of Fame, in which his friends Williams and Doerr were enshrined. Many (including Williams) believed that DiMaggio deserved to be in the Hall as well, and probably would be if his career hadn’t been overshadowed by that of his older brother, Joe. So I asked him if he thought the Veterans Committee would ever select him. His straightforward response, delivered without so much as a chuckle, was that he didn’t know, but if they did, he hoped it would be before he died so he could enjoy it. (It was a better question that what my mother wanted me to ask him, which was, "What was it like being Marilyn Monroe’s brother-in-law?") When Williams, who sat on the Veterans Committee, passed, so probably did The Little Professor’s shot.

Now, after 92 years of living, Dom DiMaggio follows Ted Williams into our memories, but without having received the accolades that his three friends got — Williams and Doerr with plaques in Cooperstown, Pesky joining the other two with his uniform number retired). DiMaggio was one of the inaugural members of the Red Sox’ team Hall of Fame, but it doesn’t seem quite enough.

The Veterans Committee should give serious consideration to admitting DiMaggio, who meets their criteria. Fans can submit their input via the Hall of Fame web site or to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, 25 Main Street,
Cooperstown, NY 13326. But regardless of what they do, the Red Sox, having dispensed with their erstwhile rule that only players enshrined in Cooperstown could have their numbers retired, should afford the honor posthumously to DiMaggio and retired number 7.

Ask Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, the two surviving teammates. They’ll agree.

Posted in history, memorials | Leave a Comment »

Water under the Bridge

Posted by Kelly on April 8, 2008

I can scarcely find words to express my thoughts about the ceremonial first pitch preceding today’s Red Sox home opener. But this being a blog, I’ll try.

World Series bannersLet’s start by saying that the pre-game ceremonies—from music by the Boston Pops and the unfurling of banners to delivery and presentation of championship rings—was a slightly toned-down version of the ceremonies that marked opening day 2005. The most notable difference was the absence of Red Sox stars spanning the generations. It was a comfortable ceremony, one to which we seem to have grown accustomed, in a good way. Yeah, this is cool. Let’s do it again. And again and again. It will never be as intense, as cathartic, as what followed the 2004 victory, but that’s good too. Despite the inane prognostications of people way too self-important for their own good, we Red Sox fans haven’t been dealt some existential blow from which we can never recover. We used to be devoted followers of a losing team; now we’re devoted followers of a winning team. No one amongst us—NO ONE—wants to go back.

What I didn’t realize, though, was how much unfinished business there still was after 2004. Up until today, it had felt like that victory, with all the drama of the unprecedented ALCS comeback and ease of the World Series sweep, erased all the agony of seasons past, like we were at last free to do what other teams’ fans do, look forward to what our club can do next rather than back at what they couldn’t do before.

Apparently I was wrong. There was one wound that still festered, at least for one person, and probably for all the rest of us, though we probably didn’t realize it. So as I sat in front of the television at 2:00 this afternoon listening to Carl Beane Joe Castiglione announce that the ceremonial first pitch would be thrown by Bill Buckner, it was as if I was watching the last piece of a puzzle fall into place, a piece no one even realized was missing until it was there. THIS was last remaining loose end.

Buckner baseball cardBuckner—who ironically wore the same number as a Red Sox player that was worn by the "goat" of a prior Red Sox World Series loss, Johnny Pesky—was introduced as a player who amassed Hall of Fame numbers during his 21 year major league career, one without whom the Red Sox would not have won the American League pennant in 1986. That characterization is not an understatement. A career .289 hitter, the 15-year veteran came to Boston in 1984 and proceeded to hit double digit home runs in his first three seasons here and had an impressive .990 fielding percentage at first base for the Sox. He was also a stabilizing influence on a team that included several young players. So respected was he that John McNamara decided to leave him in the game that night in New York—when he should have been on the bench with an injured ankle—because he wanted Buckner to be on the field to savor victory.

I was thinking about all of that when I saw and heard on TV the thunderous, prolonged, and unanimous ovation given to Buckner by the fans in attendance before today’s game. They must have known, like all of us know if we’re honest, that we overreacted back in 1986. Seriously. The Sox didn’t lose that year’s World Series because of Bill Buckner. They lost because of many people and many failures, not only before that most memorable play at first but in the entire next game, in which Boston had a chance to reduce Buckner’s game six error (and Evans’ error, and Gedman’s error, and Clemens’ giving up a two-run lead, and Schiraldi’s giving up a one-run lead, and Stanley’s wild pitch, and of course manager McNamara’s sentimental decision) to a mere footnote in what would otherwise have been a tremendous series for the Sox. They lost because the Mets played better. The ensuing years of piling on Buckner as if he alone held victory in his hands and let it slip away like sand always was ridiculous.

Frankly, I’m surprised Buckner agreed to come back. He said back in 2004 that he didn’t think he’d ever set foot inside Fenway Park again, and who could have blamed him if he had stayed away? After the way some of the fans held a grudge, he would have been justified in saying, with bitterness or without, "good riddance" to the lot of us. I would be very surprised if he didn’t fear in the back of his mind, or perhaps even in the front of it, that the announcement of his name might elicit a chorus of boos from which he would have no escape.

Buckner at Fenway 2007So when the boos didn’t come, when he was greeted warmly and genuinely and with enthusiasm and affection, Buckner wiped away a few tears. The fans had an opportunity to collectively make things right with Buckner, and he seemed happy to accept the gesture. Have you ever had a falling out with a family member or best friend, one that lasted many years? It becomes tiring, and tired. Eventually, you just have to fix it and move on.

Which seems to be what happened this afternoon at Fenway Park. I can picture sitting at a ball game a couple months or a few years down the road and, at the point when that game’s occupant of Fenway’s Legends Suite is introduced, being happy to see that the guest that day is Bill Buckner. I’m sure he’ll never forget how shabbily he was treated by some of the faithful, just like we’ll never forget that error. But there’s an understanding between us now. We have all come to terms with the ugly past and have mutually decided that it doesn’t matter any more.

It feels good.

UPDATE: Here is the full transcript of Joe Castiglione’s introduction of Bill Buckner:

Now it’s time to welcome the star who will throw our ceremonial first pitch on this day that we honor champions. And how happy we are that amidst this celebration and joy, this Red Sox alumnus has come back to join us. He amassed Hall of Fame caliber credentials in his 21 year major league career, and the Red Sox would never have won the 1986 American League pennant without him. Won’t you please welcome back to Boston and let him know that he is welcome always. Number 6 — Bill Buckner.

Posted in ballpark moments, history | Leave a Comment »