Friday, October 17, 2014

a brand-new book to see you through the winter! FROM THE BABE TO THE BEARDS

The World Series? Without the Red Sox this year? Don't fret - there are plenty of great memories you can rely on for right now - and over the winter.

Jim Prime and I were thinking of you. Here's a new book to see you through October, and the winter.

We recommend it!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

with David Ortiz's 35th home run, he passes the "halfway point"

With David Ortiz's 35th home run tonight, he passes the "halfway point" - he's got 35 this year and now only needs 34 more to reach 500.

If he can hit two or three more before the season's over, that will reduce the remaining number accordingly.

He just might be able to reach 500 in 2015.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Boston Red Sox biographies, 1901-1925 complete

With the biography of Ike Boone that I turned in today, SABR's BioProject now has a biography of every Boston Red Sox player from 10-1 through 1925 - complete.  There are a dozen or so still in the editing phase, but before too long every one of them will be on the website.  Most of them already are.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Butler did it!

"The Butler did it!" It was Elimination Day – the day a loss would officially eliminate the last-place Red Sox from postseason possibilities. And the first-place Orioles jumped out to an 8-0 lead though five. In fact, Bruce Chen has a no-hitter going. The redeeming Red Sox moment in the game came when catcher Dan Butler (0-for-11 prior to the game) connected for his first big-league base hit –a double – in the bottom of the sixth. Butler doubled again in the eighth, and singled in the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Rivero hit his first major-league home run, a three-run homer. Final score? after a five-run bottom of the ninth: 10-6. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

the fourth #7 of the season - Jemile Weeks

Now that Jemile Weeks' Red Sox debut is official, we note that he's the fourth player to wear #7 just this year:

Stephen Drew              2013-14
Ryan Roberts               2014
Kelly Johnson               2014

Jemile Weeks               2014

And the 33rd in Red Sox history.

What a debut: picked off first base in the top of the 10th.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Which former Red Sox player was once called "the most conceited chap in the world"?

You can read about Bill Piercy here:

Red Sox players with unique first and last names

Which Sox players have both a first name and a last name, neither of which are shared by anyone else in baseball history? Nope, not Rusney Castillo. Not Hipolito Pichardo. Not Josias Manzanillo. Not George Stone. Not even Covelli Crisp. These are the ones we came up (with three of them from just 2006). If you find another one, be sure to let us know.

Elden Auker
Truman Clevenger
Gar Finnvold
Kason Gabbard
Creighton Gubanich
Devern Hansack
Smead Jolley
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Dustan Mohr
Hideo Nomo
Tomokazu Ohka
Arquimedez Pozo
Osee Schrecengost
Heathcliff Slocumb
LaSchelle Tarver
Ugueth Urbina

One might think Nomar Garciaparra would belong on the list, but Kiko Calero’s full name was Enrique Nomar Calero. Admittedly, that’s pretty obscure.

Signing the one and only Rusney...

There's never been another Rusney in the majors.

Signing Rusney, and what comes next? With all the other signings the Red Sox have had recently, they - seriously - have about 20 players more than they can fit on the 40-man roster. That means LOTS of players to package in trades. Not just players they have available to trade - players they actually HAVE to trade. Who they MUST trade.

"Stanton? We want 10 prospects." "Sure, here you go - take your pick."

Or whatever. And the thing is, they really do HAVE to trade all those guys, or just plain lose them. It's going to be a busy time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why David Ortiz no longer spits on his hands before he bats

When I wrote the article "Ritualistic Behavior" for Red Sox Magazine (it ran in June 2011), I asked David Ortiz about spitting on his batting gloves before gripping the bat.

His answer?

 “I just do it to make sure I get a good grip - make sure my glove is sticky. The pine tar will dry up, so once you put something wet on it, then you get a better grip. I didn’t even know that I did that until people told me!” 

Now he doesn't do it anymore?  Why not?  A new product on the market - Lizard Skins.  Peter Abraham tells the full story in today's (March 11, 2014) Boston Globe.  Here's a link (hope it works for you):

Has David Ortiz really been so far this year as some people seem to suggest?

Has David Ortiz really been so bad this year as some people seem to say?

His batting average is off significantly - .245 compared to .284 lifetime.  That's a real decline. It's the lowest it's ever been in any of his years with the Red Sox.

His on-base percentage is .338, more than 40 points below his career average .379.  And his slugging is down, too, to .490 compared to a career .545.

With the team as a whole hitting so poorly, it's not surprising that the number of runs he has scored is down significantly as well.

But there are two areas where he doesn't come off too poorly. Not at all.  As far as driving runs in, he's driven in 84 already.  It would be surprising if he didn't surpass 100.  Math genius that I am, I have to ask: doesn't 84 RBIs at this point in the season, project to about 116 RBIs?   

That would be the most since the 117 RBIs he had in 2007.  That's pretty good, isn't it?

Second on the Red Sox this year is Pedroia, with 43 RBIs.  Ortiz had almost double the second-closest contender.

Home runs are a big part of RBIs, of course, for a slugger like the Large Father. He's got 26 so far this season.  Does that project to 36?  Even in 2007, he didn't hit many (he hit 35). The last year he hit more was in 2006 when he set the franchise record with 54 homers.

Maybe it's fashionable to pooh-pooh RBIs, but runs can make the difference between wins and losses. I don't know how well-timed his run production has been this year - did many of them come in games where the Red Sox were losing?  Still, to have more than twice the RBIs of almost anyone else on the team has to count for something, and to be driving in runs at a faster pace than any year since 2007 also has to count for something, too.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Members of the Red Sox who played on other professional sports teams

It’s fairly well-known that Sox pitcher Gene Conley also played pro sports as a center for the Boston Celtics of the NBA, Bill Russell’s backup. Make that the World Champion Boston Celtics. Conley was on the 1959, 1960, and 1961 champion teams. Because he’d also been on the 1957 World Champion Braves, Conley remains the only professional sports player on champion teams in two sports. He also won the 1955 All-Star Game (in baseball). Conley had played for the Boston Braves before the team relocated to Milwaukee, thus making him also the only pro to play for three professional teams from the same city -- Braves, Red Sox, Celtics.

On April 27, 1963, for at least a moment in the fourth inning, two NBA players (Gene Conley of the Celtics and Dave DeBusschere of the New York Knicks) each pitched for their respective Sox (Conley for the Red, and DeBusschere for the White). It was a 9-5 game, and Boston won it. Conley was half of the December 1960 trade that still stands as “the biggest trade in history” -- the Red Sox traded 6’6 1/2” pitcher Frank Sullivan to acquire the 6’8” or 6’9” Conley.

Infielder John Reder’s obituary from the Fall River Herald News states that he “was also considered one of the top professional soccer players in the country and was named a soccer All-American.” Reder played first base and third base for the Red Sox in 1932. In the world of soccer, he had been a goalie for the New York Marksmen (1929-30) and for the New York Yankees (!), who were also called the New Bedford Whalers, in 1931. Reder of the Red Sox batted .135 in 37 at-bats, with one double and three RBIs. He was born in Lublin, Poland.

Sam Dente also played some professional soccer, with the Kearny Americans in the American Soccer League.

In the offseasons, Cliff Brady had played for the Scullin Steel Football Club of St. Louis and, as it happened, in March 1922 the team was up to play in the national championship competition against Todds Ship Yard of Brooklyn. The Boston Herald explained, “Brady is a star forward on the Scullin team and has received permission from George Stallings to return to St. Louis for that game. Stallings evidently figures that it will be a good chance for Brady to get all the boots out of his system before returning to baseball.”   Scullin won, 3-2, in St. Louis on March 19, starting the game in heavy rain but in front of 9,000 fans. Todds leapt out to a 2-0 lead, but Brady scored one goal just before the end of the first half. Elmer Schwartz kicked in the tying and winning goals. Brady was thus a national champion for the only time in his sports career.

It’s with pro football, though, that the greatest overlap occurred. A full six Sox also played in the NFL:

1921: Jack Perrin played for the Red Sox for two days in 1921, but appeared in four games. The outfielders played in back-to-back doubleheaders on July 11 and July 12, batting .231 (3 for 13, all singles; he also struck out three times) with one RBI. He was the Big Ten All-Star left fielder for Michigan that year, but he only got one chance in the field for the Red Sox. He recorded a putout. It was his only time in major league baseball -- but five years later, he got into six NFL games as a blocking back with the 1926 Hartford Blues. He kicked one field goal and also kicked for three extra points.

On April 20, 1923 Dick Reichle hit his one and only major league homer off Waite Hoyt, a two-run bounce home run to left field, part of a three-run first inning for the Red Sox. Babe Ruth’s double with the bases loaded in the ninth gave the Yankees the win. Reichle appeared in 122 games that year, but the next time he played major league ball it was in the NFL -- as an offensive end for the 1923 Milwaukee Badgers.

Hoge Workman had his major league debut with the Red Sox on June 27, 1924. Workman walked one Yankee and surrendered three hits in 1 1/3 innings and then was lifted for a pinch-hitter. He threw 18 innings in 11 appearances in 1924, but by year’s end was playing in the National Football League for the Cleveland Bulldogs. His 11 MLB games were overshadowed by his 19 NFL games. Workman’s best work was for Cleveland, where he threw nine touchdown passes in nine games in 1924. He put in time as a quarterback, end, fullback, and halfback. After six years out of major league sports, he resurfaced for nine more games with the 1931 Cleveland Indians NFL team, and the following year he played in one game for the New York Giants, gaining one yard in one attempt.

Charlie Berry might have played football against either Perrin or Reichle, or both. It was a busy year for the MLB/NFL nexus. In 1925-26, he played in 20 games as an offensive end for the NFL’s Pottsville Maroons, 10 games in 1925, and nine in 1926; he scored nine touchdowns -- four receiving, four rushing, and one off a fumble. Berry also kicked three field goals and 29 extra points during his gridiron career. In baseball, Berry was a catcher for the Red Sox for several years, from 1928-32, and played in 709 major league games for the Athletics, Red Sox, and White Sox, from 1925 through 1938, batting .269. Babe Ruth might have known better than to have tried to bowl over Berry, attempting to score on a sac fly on April 22, 1931. Later in the same inning, after he’d taken his place in the field, Ruth strained a ligament and ended up being carried off the field. Cause and effect? Perhaps not. Berry’s post-playing days saw him a two-sport man as well: he was an American League umpire from 1942 through 1962, and also served as a referee in the NFL for 24 seasons.

Bill McWilliams got into two games and had two at-bats for the 1931 Red Sox (see his story elsewhere in this book). He never got a hit. He got into five NFL games in 1934 as a wingback and halfback for the Detroit Lions, where he recorded 16 yards rushing in six attempts.

Carroll Hardy played for the Sox from 1960 through 1962. He’d been a halfback, appearing in 10 games for the 1955 San Francisco 49ers, recording 37 yards rushing on 15 attempts, with 12 receptions for 388 yards, an average of 28.2 yards per reception, scoring four touchdowns. With Boston, Hardy is best known as the only man to pinch-hit for Ted Williams. He also pinch-hit for both Carl Yastrzemski and Roger Maris (with Cleveland). After baseball, Carroll Hardy served a stint as director of player personnel and assistant general manager for the Denver Broncos, spending 20 years in the Broncos front office.

After John Burkett finished 15 seasons of major league baseball, he finally achieved his first sports ambition -- to become a pro bowler. Burkett told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he’d worked at a bowling alley for $1.50 per hour during high school. “I wanted to turn pro out of high school. Baseball just kind of came along. I was drafted in the sixth round (out of high school) and they gave me 13 grand and I thought I was rich and wouldn’t have to work. I gave baseball a shot thinking I could always come back to bowling later if it didn’t work out.” It was bowling that didn’t work ouy, but he finished 32nd in the 2000 Brunswick Pro Source Don Carter Classic, while still pitching, winning $1,040. In 18 games he averaged 217.28. After his final season, 2003, he tried to go pro full time, but in January 2004 he fell short of making the first cut at the American Bowling Congress Masters.

Golf? Ken Harrelson broke his leg in spring training 1970 and missed almost the entire season. In mid-1971, he decided to take up pro golf. He told biographer Alex Edelman, “I just lost my desire to play baseball. I was still a competitor…but I didn’t want to play baseball anymore.” Harrelson sadly announced that he would quit the game he had loved for so long to pursue a professional golfing career. That pursuit ended badly, and Harrelson turned back to baseball once more in 1975, coming back to Boston -- this time as an announcer.” Harrelson spent three years on the Tour, even competing in the British Open. He found that golf was much tougher than baseball. “In baseball, you react to the pitcher,” he said. “In golf, it’s just you. The mental part is what gets you.” (

Researcher Brian McKenna found two Red Sox players appearing in National Basketball League games, Ernie Andres (1939-43 for Oshkosh) and Lou Boudreau (playing briefly for the NBL’s Hammond, Indiana Ciesar All-Americans prior to World War II). In his autobiography, Boudreau wrote, “I was pretty good, though I wasn’t very tall, and I probably could have continued to play in that league for a few years.” But the Cleveland Indians asked him to concentrate on baseball and give up the hoops. Other pro basketballers before World War II who have Red Sox connections are: Bucky Harris, Bucky Walters, and Negro Leagues and Red Sox farmhand Piper Davis. Wayne McElreavy points to a 1929 Washington Post article which shows that future Basketball Hall of Famer Bennie Borgmann was on the Red Sox roster of the day, although he never played for the team.

Al Kellett faced all of two batters as a member of the 1924 Red Sox, walking them both, but he played several seasons in the American Professional Basketball League – including a team in Boston, the 1934/35 Boston Trojans. Kellett was a high-scoring center in his day, and also played for the Philadelphia Warriors, the Chicago Bruins, and a couple of other pro teams of the 1920s and 1930s.

In the winters of 1967 and 1968, Ferguson Jenkins kept in shape playing for a while with the Harlem Globetrotters. They were always in a league of their own.

Jimmy Piersall was not only signed by the Red Sox right out of high school, but drafted by the Boston Celtics as well.

Harry Agganis was another player with two-sport potential. Billy Consolo roomed with Agganis the year before Harry’s Red Sox debut. Consolo recalls the Cleveland Browns calling him up. They told him, “Otto Graham has retired and you’re our number one draft choice. You don’t want to play baseball.” Consolo says, “I heard all those conversations, man. He could have been a professional football player, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.” But Agganis did want to play baseball and was off to a strong start before his tragic death.

There were two Sox players with two-sport potential on the 1929 team: Bill Barrett and Ed Morris. In the off-season, both applied for licenses to box professionally -- hoping to cash in on some of the money that White Sox infielder Art Shires was earning in the ring. A match at the Boston Garden, pitting Barrett or Morris against Shires was contemplated. Commissioner Landis stepped in and announced that “any ball player engaging in the so-called manly art of boxing would be considered retired from baseball.” That was that, other than the Benevolent Association of Boxers retaliating by banning boxers from playing professional baseball.

A two-sport man signed by Boston but who never made the team. There are bound to be a few of them. Perhaps the first was reflected in this brief note in the April 10, 1901 edition of the Washington Post: “The Boston American League team has signed Dr. Harley Parker, the Chicago billiard expert and ball player.” Billiards was another sport that tracks play by innings. Parker had appeared in 18 games for the Chicago Colts (precursor to the Cubs) in 1893, 1895, and 1896, pitching in 17 of them. He was 4-2 in 1895 but fell to 1-5 in 1896. He did play in one major league game in 1901, but it was for Cincinnati on June 21. He pitched eight innings and gave up 21 runs, 14 of them earned. Apparently, Boston made the right choice not throwing him out there on the mound. Later in the year, Parker wound up pitching for Buffalo. He later umpired 28 AL games in 1911, but none involved the Red Sox. Parker was active in billiards tournaments for at least the next couple of decades.

In 1941, former Red Sox farm director Billy Evans (1936-40) was the general manager of the NFL’s Cleveland Rams. But maybe we’re getting too far afield here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Worst to first ... to worst? And then to first again?

OK, it's a stretch to think the Red Sox are likely contenders for another World Championship in 2015. But they could well contend.  Stranger things have happened.

And I haven't given up on this season yet. I wouldn't do that until they are mathematically eliminated.  I think most of us recall great finishes such as the Rockies had in 2007, when they were 15-1 from September 16 on.  They were in fourth place when their streak began.

(Then they swept the NLDS and the NLCS - only to run into the Red Sox, and get swept by Boston.)

That aside, it's kind of interesting to notice the Red Sox pattern of ups and downs in recent years - If the Sox fail to make the postseason this year, it will be five times in 11 years they have failed to do so:

2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014

But they won the World Series three times (and I don't even need to write out the years - everyone reading this post can recite them from recent memory.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

dismantling the 2014 Red Sox, with an eye toward a stronger team in the years to come

Jake Peavy is the first to depart.

It takes courage to start dismantling any Red Sox team these days, when the team is expected to remain competitive throughout.  But GM Ben Cherington is starting to put a new plan into effect, acting decisively (as he did back with the Carl Crawford/Adrian Gonzales/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade at the end of August 2012).

How'd that work out?

Well, it's not like quid pro quo but we can note that the Red Sox won the World Series the very next year.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the moves that are made, before the trading deadline and throughout the rest of the year and the offseason.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good column by Nick Cafardo in today's Globe about Jon Lester

Basically, he says the Red Sox have generally adhered to a new philosophy in the Cherington era - one that John Henry outlined earlier this year in Bloomberg Business Week, which said that almost all the overpaid players in baseball (overpaid by what they produce on the field) are over 30.  So you don't give out long-term deals to players who are 30 or over.

To me, the most telling line was in answer to the question Cafardo himself posed:

"Will the Red Sox make an exception on Lester?  If they do, you have to question whether they really have a philosophy."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tibetan leader still rues Grady Little's failure to pull Pedro in 2003

Tibetan Leader, a Red Sox Fan, Knows the Value of Taking the Long View
JULY 18, 2014 New York Times

Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay has embraced the Dalai Lama’s so-called Middle Way, a policy intended to draw China into dialogue by softening Tibetan demands. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
The Saturday Profile

DHARAMSALA, India — FROM his office in the hill station of Dharamsala, where Tibetan exiles have spent the past half-century waiting for the seismic changes that could restore Tibet’s independence, Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay was reminiscing, a bit wistfully, about a world he had left behind.
Specifically, he was reminiscing about the Boston Red Sox. These were not the vague remarks of someone faking expertise for diplomatic purposes. Rather, he was recalling the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when the Red Sox manager took a disastrous gamble by allowing the team’s star pitcher, Pedro Martinez, to remain on the mound late in a deciding game against the New York Yankees.
Behind his desk, a magnificent life-size, silk-draped photograph of the Dalai Lama hangs from the wall, and outside his window, the Himalayas rise like a great wall into the mist.
Mr. Sangay, 46, recalled the agitation as he watched Boston’s lead slip away, perhaps the most calamitous in a history of heartbreaks for those who persisted in believing in the Red Sox. The suffering would all be washed away by the next season, but in 2003 no one knew that. “Normally, I am quite a patient guy,” Mr. Sangay said. “But he brought him back after 118 pitches.”
Mr. Sangay likes sports. He can explain why: You win, or you lose. Then you close the book on that episode and start over. This could not be more different from the mission that he took on in 2011, when he left a comfortable life at Harvard to begin a five-year term as sikyong, the leader of the Tibetans’ exile administration. This coincided with a momentous decision by the Dalai Lama, the exiles’ head of state since 1959, to devolve his political power to the new prime minister.
Since Mr. Sangay took over, it has been difficult to close the book on anything. China, which once gave lip service to negotiations on Tibet’s status, has refused to meet with him or his representatives. Western countries are increasingly squeamish about getting involved. With the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday a year away and no clear plan for succession, anxiety has settled like a pall over Dharamsala. Some activists criticize Mr. Sangay for being too rigid with China, others for watering down Tibetan demands in an attempt to bring Beijing to the table. Meanwhile, it is his job to inspire confidence when there is little sign of progress.
Considering all this, Mr. Sangay is surprisingly even-keeled. Asked why, he says he falls back on the Buddhist notion of impermanence. He also uses what he learned as a fan of the Red Sox, during the long years before the team’s luck turned.
“There is this unfulfilled desire, unfulfilled aspiration,” he said. “That keeps you going.”
TALL and imposing like many men from eastern Tibet, Mr. Sangay grew up in a refugee camp near Darjeeling, in eastern India, poor enough to wear sandals through the bitter winter.
He comes from a long line of fighters. His father was in charge of arms and ammunition for the Chushi Gangdruk militia, formed in the late 1950s to defend Tibet. One particular story accompanied Mr. Sangay’s birth: His mother suspected he was the reincarnation of her brother, who had been trained by the Central Intelligence Agency and airdropped at the Tibetan border, in one of the most secret programs of the Cold War. He never returned.
“When I was born in 1968, my mother, because of her closeness to her brother, she said, ‘Hey, maybe he is my brother, the freedom fighter,’ ” Mr. Sangay said. A sense of expectation developed, he added. “You parents say that, your relatives say that, your teacher says that: ‘Hey, Lobsang, you’re going to be someone special, you are going to be a great freedom fighter.’ ”
By the time he ran for the highest office in the exile government, known as the Central Tibetan Administration, Mr. Sangay had a smoother image, one that developed over 16 years at Harvard, first as a Fulbright scholar and later as a research fellow at Harvard Law School, his salary provided in large part by a private foundation. In a suit and tie, he could easily be mistaken for an investment banker, and he has an American politician’s knack for campaigning that, coupled with the reverence accorded to Harvard, has helped him leapfrog older and more established Dharamsala-based candidates.
The biggest change was that he dropped his insistence that Tibet gain independence, instead embracing the Dalai Lama’s so-called Middle Way. Introduced in 1987, the policy is intended to draw China into dialogue by softening Tibetan demands, calling for self-governance and “genuine autonomy” within China. Last year, Mr. Sangay told the Council on Foreign Relations that the goal was to see ethnic Tibetans installed as party secretary and in other important posts in the Tibetan autonomous region.
“We don’t question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party,” he said.
Some activists denounce Mr. Sangay for scaling back the movement’s demands. Jamyang Norbu, a prominent writer who recalled Mr. Sangay as a natural politician and a “good wheeler-dealer” when they became friends in the 1990s, dismissed the current policy as “a fruitless exercise.” He blamed the influence of Harvard, saying young Tibetans who spend time in the United States often develop an unrealistic reliance on “the old, old European tradition of diplomacy and negotiation.”
“The problem is that they see China through the eyes of the West,” said Mr. Norbu, who now lives in Tennessee. “The sheep doesn’t see things from the point of view of the wolf that is gobbling her.” With his bodyguards in dark suits and sunglasses, he said, Mr. Sangay is focused on burnishing his image at a moment when Tibetans are desperate for a way forward.
“We just can’t afford it; we are getting to the end of our tether,” he said. “The whole Tibetan world is falling apart so fast.”
IN Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s word remains sacrosanct, and Mr. Sangay seems untroubled by the criticism. In a recent interview, he was cheerful for another reason: His wife and 7-year-old daughter, who remained behind in Medford, Mass., when he began his term, were finally preparing to move to Dharamsala. He was buying his daughter a puppy.
As the leader of an unrecognized government, he earns 26,000 rupees a month, or about $430. He makes exhausting whistle-stop tours of exile communities, listening to petitions and complaints. Last week he paid a condolence visit to a Tibetan family that had lost a brother to a stampeding elephant. During trips outside India, he holds secretive meetings with government officials, often in hotel rooms or cafeterias to avoid attracting the attention of the Chinese.
In the presence of the Dalai Lama, his status seems to melt away. Addressing a crowd last year, the Dalai Lama affectionately mocked Mr. Sangay’s spoken Tibetan, saying it is “like a schoolboy talking,” and then laughed heartily. The prime minister, in the background, bowed his head. Asked about it, he smiled a little ruefully.
“It was a privilege,” he said. “It means he really knows me well. For him to say such a thing is obviously a bit embarrassing, but mainly, what a privilege, because he was saying, ‘I know this guy well.’ ” He added, “I worked very hard on my Tibetan.”
But the subtext is that it will not always be this way. The Dalai Lama has been evasive about how his spiritual successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, will be chosen, saying only that he will reveal his intentions in 2025, when he turns 90. The political transition, however, is in place. Asked what would happen if the Dalai Lama died unexpectedly, Mr. Sangay said, “The plan is the devolution of political authority.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Sangay offers evidence that Tibetans are opening their hearts to him. In his office hangs a thangka — a traditional painting that usually features Buddhist deities — that has been custom-made by an admirer in China to include his face. He sends out links to worshipful songs that have been written in his honor and posted on YouTube. Asked where he falls in the hierarchy of leaders, he described himself as “a secondary voice,” but added a postscript.
“I am a secondary voice,” he said, “who will someday be a primary voice.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

There is precedent for the Red Sox winning the World Series this year

There is precedent for the Red Sox winning the World Series this year.  The precedent dates back precisely 100 years.

On July 17 and 18, 1914 - and for almost every day of the 1914 season to that point, the Boston Braves were in last place.  Eighth place, since there were no divisions and all the teams had to battle for the pennant without any hopes of winning via a wild card.

The Braves were 11 1/2 games out of first place on the morning of July 18, 1914.

The Red Sox will be 9 1/2 games out of first place on the morning of July 18, 2014.

The 1914 team was called the "Miracle Braves" for good reason.  They went from worst to first in 38 days, largely thanks to a stretch in which they won 22 games against three losses, beginning on the 18th.  They took first place on August 25.  They took it for good on September 5.

Could it happen again in Boston, exactly 100 years later?  Of course, it could.

You can read the full story of the 1914 Braves in a book written by SABR members and published by SABR. It is THE MIRACLE BRAVES OF 1914: BOSTON’S ORIGINAL WORST-TO-FIRST WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS edited by Bill Nowlin (SABR, 2014).  It's available on Amazon, among other places.  (It's free to all SABR members as an e-book, as are all SABR publications.  For non-members, it's reasonably priced.)

There is always hope (until there can't be.) 

Here is a good part of Bob Brady's foreword to the book:

Once a dominating franchise during baseball’s early days, the Braves had been in a serious state of decline for many years prior to 1914.  Some of that deterioration could be attributed to the birth of the American League in 1901 and the introduction of the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) as a neighboring competitor.  Weakened by the junior circuit’s player raids, frequent changes in ownership, and an obsolete ballpark, the Braves struggled both on the field and at the gate.  Even their band of loyal followers, the Royal Rooters, had shifted their allegiance to the Red Sox.  The Braves’ new owner, James E. Gaffney, a New Yorker with ties to Tammany Hall, sought to reverse the team’s fortunes.  After residing in the National League’s basement for four consecutive seasons, Gaffney’s Braves surprisingly ascended to fifth place in 1913, led by the irascible George Stallings in his first year at the Tribe’s helm.  Gaffney also laid out plans to construct a state-of-the-art concrete and steel ballpark at the site of a former golf club a little over a mile away from Fenway Park to replace the Braves’ antiquated South End Grounds.  Still, expectations for the following season were modest: a return to the senior circuit’s first division – a feat not accomplished since 1902.

Mired in the National League cellar in mid-July, the ragtag ’14 Braves not only rose from eighth to first place in a little over two months, this legendary team played .781 baseball (50 wins, only 14 losses) from July 1 to season’s end and finished atop the National League standings an amazing 10½ games ahead of its nearest rival, John McGraw’s New York Giants.  Much of the credit belonged to the tough and often profane Stallings, who once described his team as comprising “one .300 hitter, the worst outfield that ever flirted with sudden death, three pitchers, and a good working combination around second base.”[i] To capture the pennant in the face of his roster’s limitations, Stallings deftly refined the art of platooning to capitalize upon strengths and mitigate weaknesses.  The eminent baseball writer, historian, and statistician Bill James regards Stallings’ skillful maneuvering in 1914 as having an “almost revolutionary impact” on baseball managers.[ii]  However, despite such adept leadership and a half-season of heroics, the Braves were given little chance of besting the mighty Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.  Their fall classic sweep of the highly favored Mackmen was the final piece needed to forever brand this team the Miracle Braves.

The Tribe’s extraordinary achievement 100 years ago perennially gets dusted off by the media during the dog days of summer whenever a bottom-dwelling ballclub exhibits some signs of life.  An unexpected winning streak that ignites a spark of hope among a franchise’s heretofore frustrated followers often leads them to ask themselves: If the Miracle Braves could do it, why not us?  The front offices are challenged not to throw in the towel and begin rebuilding efforts while the team still retains the glimmer of a chance of replicating the Braves’ legendary 1914 climb to the top of the standings. 

[i] John C. Skipper, A Biographical Dictionary of Major League Baseball Managers (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003), 298.
[ii] Bill James, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today (New York: Scribner, 1997), 46.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

not the best offseason for signing veteran players

Not the best offseason.  Sizemore - gone.  Capuano - gone.  Pierzynski - gone.

Mujica remains (with his 5.51 ERA in what's looking like another "year of the pitcher" in MLB.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mookie Betts and Uncle Terry Shumpert

Mookie Betts and Uncle Terry Shumpert

Infielder/outfielder Terry Shumpert appeared in 894 major-league games over 14 seasons. He played in the field in 698 of them (mostly second base, third base, and left field), and the other 196 as a pinch hitter or pinch runner. As a batter, he hit for a career .252 average, with a .315 on-base percentage. He hit 49 homers and drove in 223 runs. He scored 295 times. Shumpert began his career with Kansas City and played for them from 1990 through 1994, coming to the Boston Red Sox for 1995. He hit .234 for the Red Sox in 51 plate appearances; he played in 35 games in Pawtucket (.271) and entered free agency after the season. He did not play in Boston's 1995 postseason.

Come the 2004 season, Shumpert was signed by the Red Sox on February 3, but tore his hamstring and was released on the last day the team was in Fort Myers at the end of spring training, on March 31. He played for the Nashville Sounds in 2004, in the Pirates organization. It was his last year in pro ball.

Mookie Betts was born in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood in 1992. His mother Diana had played high school softball, and Mookie was given the name Markus Lynn Betts, specifically to give him the initials M.L.B.  

In 2004, the year Mookie turned 12, Uncle Terry was able to bring him into the Nashville Sounds clubhouse and let him have a taste of the game from the inside. He's kept working with Mookie as he grew as an athlete. Shumpert told Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, “For my family, I was the pioneer, I was the first one to journey towards those steps. So I was able to teach him and talk to him about some of the pitfalls that I believe were obstructions to my career.” (June 6, 2014).

Betts was a fifth-round selection by the Red Sox in the 2011 draft. He rose quickly in the system and debuted on June 29, 2014 in a game at Yankee Stadium. His first time  up, he grounded into a double play, but singled his next time up, and later drew a walk and scored a run. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Baseball at midnight - without lights! The Midnight Sun Game, not too far south of the Arctic Circle

One of the advantages of a Summer Solstice visit to Fairbanks, Alaska is to see the Alaska Goldpanners play the Midnight Sun Game - a tradition that started in 1906. Last night, I got to see the 109th annual Midnight Sun Game, and the Goldpanners beat the Lake Erie Monarchs, 13-6.

The day before I had flown with four other passengers to Coldfoot, Alaska, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and then we drove back to Fairbanks. We got back to town in time to see the sun set (only because the mountains provided a place to hide behind for a while. It never really gets dark; you can definitely sit outside and read a book 24 hours a day.

Last night, for the game, it was cloudy and there was a little spitting of rain that caused a delay of a few minutes before the Goldpanners themselves went out on the field to remove the tarps and get ready to start the game.

There were a few thousand people in attendance. The game is played with wooden bats and truly represents the highest level of amateur baseball in America. For those who have seen play in the Cape Cod League, it's a very similar experience - but there aren't any Cape Cod League games played at midnight without lights.

Two bits of information that provide a good idea of what a high level of play is represented:

More than 200 former Alaska Goldpanners have gone on to play in the major leagues.  Among them are (in no particular order): Tom Seaver, Dave Winfield, Barry Bonds, Rick Monday, Dave Roberts, Dave Kingman, and Adam Kennedy.

The very first player ever selected in the draft, when Major League Baseball instituted the draft in 1965 was Rick Monday, the #1 pick in the nation. The Kansas City Royals drafted Monday.

To date, 1,164 Goldpanners have been drafted by major-league teams.

Last night's game at Growden Park in Fairbanks began about 10:37 PM and ended at about 1:14 AM.

I was pleased to spend dinner beforehand with Evan Petty, a Newburyport, Massachusetts recent graduate of Syracuse interning with the team this year as a sports journalist. Then it was a pleasure to climb two flights of wooden stairs and join Evan in the press box for an inning, and then spend a couple of innings talking about SABR and baseball in general with GM Todd Dennis, in between him announcing players. The GM is also the PA announcer.

Partway into the game I had asked Evan who was selecting the music because I thought it was first-rate. That turned out to be Todd, too.

A base on balls in the later innings prompted Patsy Cline's, "Walking After Midnight."  You don't often get to hear Bo Diddley sing, "I'm A Man."  The seventh-inning stretch song was "Happy Boy" by the Beat Farmers.

Todd's father Don Dennis talked before the game. He's been running the game since 1967. He talked about the history, letting us know this was personally his last year. The game, of course, will continue.

The game itself paused in the half-inning closest to midnight for a rendition (by Hurricane Dave) of the Alaska state song, and a second ceremonial first pitch.  This was thrown by a dedicated traveler whose thing was to make first pitches in as many ballparks as he could - he's over 200.  The ball made it most of the way to the plate.

The earlier first pitch was from Allan Simpson, founder of Baseball America and former sports editor of the Fairbanks News-Miner.

At age 61, Bill Lee (no longer a college student, admittedly) won that year's game. He himself had first pitched in Fairbanks in 1967.

I'm hoping Evan will write a book on the history of baseball in Alaska, and the Midnight Sun Game in particular. It would be a good complement to Lew Freedman's Diamonds in the Rough.

Now, for me, time to head to Denali National Park for two nights.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jackie Bradley Jr. on defense

·        After that great play last night, it's worth noting that his six assists lead all major league rookies and are tied for the ML lead among center fielders (also ARI’s A.J. Pollock)...He has the most outfield assists by a Red Sox rookie since Bob Zupcic turned in 11 in 1992.

·        His 4 double plays top all ML outfielders, the most by a Red Sox rookie OF since Faye Throneberry in 1952 (5) and most by a Sox rookie CF since at least 1914.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

it's another one-game winning streak!

Let's hope they can extend this one.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Last night's game-winning homer by David Ortiz

The three-run homer that boosted the Red Sox to a 5-3 lead and proved the winning runs was Ortiz’s 16th career game-deciding home run in the ninth inning or later during the regular season (11 walk-offs at home, and his fifth on the road).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Red Sox seem to be stocking up on high school players in this year's draft

Very interesting. Let's see how it all plays out by the time the draft is over.

Red Sox draft picks of the past 50 years

TOP RED SOX DRAFT PICKS 1965-2014 YR PLAYER Round/Pick 1965 OF Billy Conigliaro 1/5 1966 LHP Ken Brett 1/4 1967 RHP Mike Garman 1/3 1968 OF/C Tom Maggard 1/20 1969 OF Noel Jenke 1/13 1970 3B Jimmy Hacker 1/16 1971 OF Jim Rice 1/15 1972 SS Joel Bishop 1/16 1973 SS Ted Cox 1/17 1974 SS Eddie Ford 1/20 1975 1B Otis Foster 1/15 1976 LHP Bruce Hurst 1/22 1977 RHP Andrew Madden 1/13 1978 3B Edward Connors 4/102 1979 C Marc Sullivan 2/52 1980 RHP Mike Brown 2/48 1981 OF/SS Steve Lyons 1/19 1982 1B Sam Horn 1/16 1983 RHP Roger Clemens 1/19 1984 C John Marzano 1/14 1985 RHP Dan Gabriele 1/21 1986 OF Greg McMurtry 1/14 1987 RHP Reggie Harris 1/26 1988 LHP Tom Fischer 1/12 1989 OF Greg Blosser 1/16 1990 RHP Frank Rodriguez 2/41 1991 RHP Aaron Sele 1/23 1992 OF Tony Sheffield 2/56 1993 OF Trot Nixon 1/7 1994 SS Nomar Garciaparra 1/12 1995 RHP Andy Yount 1/15 1996 RHP Josh Garrett 1/26 1997 LHP John Curtice 1/17 1998 SS Adam Everett 1/12 1999 OF Rick Asadoorian 1/17 2000 LHP Phil Dumatrait 1/22 2001 C Kelly Shoppach 2/48 2002 LHP Jon Lester 2/57 2003 OF David Murphy 1/17 2004 SS Dustin Pedroia 2/65 2005 OF Jacoby Ellsbury 1/23 2006 OF Jason Place 1/27 2007 LHP Nick Hagadone 1C/55 2008 RHP/SS Casey Kelly 1/30 2009 OF Reymond Fuentes 1/28 2010 INF Kolbrin Vitek 1/20 2011 RHP Matt Barnes 1/19 2012 SS Deven Marrero 1/24 2013 LHP Trey Ball 1/7 2014 SS Michael Chavis 1/26 * Players in bold played in MLB with the Red Sox. List includes players selected in the June draft.

The top three Red Sox draft picks

Club Also Takes Right-Handed Pitcher Michael Kopech in First Round
And First Baseman Sam Travis in Second Round on Day 1 of the Draft

BOSTON, MA—The Boston Red Sox selected shortstop Michael Chavis out of Sprayberry High School Marietta, GA with their first-round pick (26th overall) in the 2014 June Draft on Thursday night.  The club also took right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech from Mt. Pleasant High School in Texas in the first round (33rd overall, compensation for Jacoby Ellsbury), and first baseman Sam Travis from Indiana University with their second-round selection (67th overall). 

Red Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye made the announcement.

Chavis, 18, hit .580 (47-for-81) with nine doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 37 RBI, and 21 stolen bases in 28 games, leading Sprayberry High School to an 18-11 overall record and this spring’s 7AAAAA regional championship.  A 5-foot-10, 190-pound right-handed hitter, he was named the 2014 Georgia Gatorade High School Player of the Year and also earned Southeast All-Region First-Team designation.  Named a Perfect Game First-Team All-American, he won this year’s Home Run Derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic.  Baseball America identified him as the top potential third base prospect available in the draft.  He was also named to the Perfect Game Underclassmen First Team in 2013.  Chavis is just the second high school infielder Boston has selected with its No. 1 pick since 1983, with the other being right-handed pitcher/shortstop Casey Kelly in 2008.  Notable major leaguers that attended Sprayberry High School are right-handed pitcher Kris Benson and outfielder Marlon Byrd.

“Our approach each year is to select the best players available to us and we believe Michael fits that description,” said Sawdaye. “He was undoubtedly one of the best high school hitters in this this year’s class, and we were fortunate to have him.  In addition, we believe his athleticism and defensive versatility will also be an asset to us.”

Kopech, 18, went 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA and a .115 opponent batting average over 11 appearances this season for Mt. Pleasant.  He allowed only four earned runs, 25 hits, and 18 walks all season, and tied for the lead Division 4A pitchers with 129 strikeouts in just 64.0 innings pitched.  The 6-foot-3, 195-pound native of Mt. Pleasant also played shortstop for the Tigers.  This year he was named a First Team Perfect Game All-American and also earned a spot on Perfect Game’s Texas-Region First Team.  He struck out all three batters faced in his only inning of work during the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field and was named the exhibition’s Player of the Game. 

Travis, 22, hit .347 (85-for-245) as a junior this season with 16 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 58 RBI, and 25 walks in 59 games for Indiana University.  A First-Team All-Big Ten selection and Second Team Louisville Slugger All-American in 2014, he led the team in hits, doubles (tied), and RBI, and helped the Hoosiers to the Big Ten Championship and their first College World Series appearance.  As a sophomore in 2013, the right-handed batter ranked second on the team in on-base percentage (.419), home runs (10), and RBI (57), and hit .316 (77-for-244) with 39 walks in 65 games, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Big Ten Tournament as well as the NCAA Bloomington Regional.  The 6-foot, 210-pound first baseman played in 19 games for Team USA’s Collegiate National Team in 2013 and was a Cape Cod League All-Star with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the summer of 2012.  Travis, a native of Orland Park, IL, was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in 2012.  He was named The Chicago Tribune’s Illinois Player of the Year as a senior at Providence Catholic High School in 2011 and was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 40th round of the 2011 June Draft but chose not to sign.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

two debuts, both getting hits

ALEX HASSAN and GARIN CECCHINI became the first pair of Red Sox to make their major league debut in the same game since 9/5/93 (Greg Blosser, Jeff McNeely).

They are the first pair of Red Sox to make their ML debut and record a hit on the same day since 9/28/75 (Steve Dillard, Andy Merchant).

--per Red Sox.

and then there's this thing about Jon Lester in 2014....

He's had a decision in every single start.

Two losses

Two wins

Two losses

Two wins

Two losses

Two wins

So, now he's 6-6.

2 major-league records in one game

Not only did the Red Sox win their record-tying seventh consecutive game after a 10-game losing streak, but Brock Holt hit four doubles.  That, too, tied a major-league record.

Maybe Tampa Bay shouldn't have thrown at David Ortiz?

Ya suppose?

winning streak after a losing streak

The major league record for the longest winning streak after a losing streak of 10 or more games is 7.

The Red Sox could match that today.

The 1942 Pirates and the 1989 Tigers share the record.The 1989 Tigers won 7 in a row from September 1-8, 1989 after losing 12 consecutive games, and the 1942 Pirates won 7 in a row from June 5-13, 1942 after losing 10 in a row.

Go Sox!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

here's the link to the discussion in PLAYBOY...

After thrills, chills, and Schill, Manny's role was no biggie - Saul Wisnia's latest from Fenway Reflections

Saturday, May 31, 2014

After thrills, chills, and Schill, Manny's role was no biggie

Wednesday was about everyone -- not Manny.

The way the vitriol has been exploding on sports talk radio the past few days, you would think Manny Ramirez threw a basket of kittens into the Charles River rather than the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday night's Red Sox-Braves game. Talk about the fellowship of the miserable.

As someone who was standing close to the field during Wednesday's 2004 team reunion at Fenway, I can tell you that Ramirez's role during the ceremony was really no big deal. 

Yes, Manny was introduced last. Yes, he threw out the first pitch. But by the time Ramirez emerged from inside the Green Monster (a funny touch in my opinion, not over the top) and sprinted across the field, the crowd was already so pumped up that his "honor" didn't even register much with the masses.
Manny in the Monster -- cute, but not epic.

Once the intros were over and the '04 team huddled around the pitcher's mound back-slapping and hugging each other, it was hard to tell exactly who was throwing out the first pitch anyway. With his ridiculous Mohawk haircut, it's a good bet some people didn't recognize that it was Manny tossing the ball.

Besides, there was no way Ramirez was going to top the powerful events that preceded his entry. Huge ovations had gone up several times already during the festivities: 

  • When the 2004 World Series championship banner dropped down over the Green Monster, evoking memories of Opening Day in '05; 
  • When the Varitek-A-Rod fight was shown on the Jumbotron (immediately after which Tek emerged from underneath the banner); and 
  • When other top-tier heroes like Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, and Tim Wakefield made their walks in from left field.
THIS was epic.

The loudest cheers by far, however, were when Curt Schilling was introduced and strolled slowly across the grass with the help of his son, Gehrig. Schilling has been mute for months as he has battled a serious bout of cancer, and his appearance Wednesday was up in the air until the last moment. Seeing him there, getting a long hug from David Ortiz as his eyes welled up, was the emotional highlight of the night -- hands down.

I also know from a very reputable source that it was Schilling who was initially asked to throw out the first pitch, but he didn't feel strong enough to do so. Granted, I would have picked Pedro or Keith Foulke as a second choice over Manny, but Dr. Charles Steinberg and the event planning committee can't bat 1.000 every time. They were likely so excited that Ramirez, one half of the greatest one-two power punch since Ruth-Gehrig, was finally coming back to Fenway, they wanted fans to share in that excitement.

In the scrum, the first pitch was confusing.

Plus the way Damon jumped out and "cut off" Ramirez's throw before it could reach home plate, it wasn't really much of a pitch anyway. Damon's move was apparently done to rib Manny about the '04 game when Ramirez cut off a Damon throw that looked capable of nabbing a baserunner at home plate, but I didn't get the joke -- and I'm guessing most other fans had no idea what we going on either.

Manny was definitely not a model citizen or teammate during his time playing in Boston. I'm not going to start listing his mistakes here -- we all remember them. Whether or not the apologies he offered up in press conferences this week were sincere is open to speculation; I guess we'll have to wait and see how he conducts himself moving forward. Maybe he'll finally get over to the Jimmy Fund and visit some kids.

But Wednesday night was not about Manny -- it was about a team. A team that pulled off a Miracle at Fenway and ended 86 years of pain. It was about Jimmy Anderson, Pokey Reese, and every other guy who put on a Boston uniform in 2004. All the talk about whether Ramirez deserved to get the focus he did just takes away from the magic of the night.    

Nothing should do that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nice review of DON'T LET US WIN TONIGHT! on Fenway Fanatics

OK, this is officially bizarre - the proprietor of ends up in PLAYBOY magazine.

·         Red Sox Nation: An Oral History
by Kevin Cook  
·         May 20, 2014 : 04:05
This is the story of a long-suffering franchise. Not the Cubs, Pirates, Padres, Bengals, Jaguars, Wizards, Nuggets or once-mighty Ducks of Anaheim but a baseball team born the Boston Americans in 1901.
Last year that franchise, now known as the Red Sox, won its third World Series since 2004. That sensational run makes up for (or does it?) a tradition of losing that stretches back through the 1990s and 1980s to the disco years, and before that to the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World War II, the Great Depression, the Roaring Twenties and earlier. Long before Neil Diamond ever burbled “Sweet Caroline” and even before Neil Diamond was born, the Red Sox chased the American League pennant year after year for almost a century and always lost, usually to the New York Yankees.
Here’s the story of how Boston’s team reversed a curse that was almost as old as modern baseball.
In 1918 the Red Sox ruled the game. After Boston won the World Series to claim its fifth championship, former mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald—John F. Kennedy’s grandfather—declared, “The Red Sox dynasty lives, and there is no end in sight!”
The dynasty was dying as he spoke.
DENIS LEARY, actor, comedian, Sox nut: Yeah, dying because they sold Babe Ruth. Not traded him, sold him. To the New fucking York fucking Yankees.
MIKE VACCARO, New York Post columnist, author of Emperors and Idiots: The Hundred-Year Rivalry Between the Yankees and Red Sox: The Sox wanted to unload Ruth, who’d gotten too loud and obnoxious. And Ruth was a pitcher then—a pitcher who went 9–5 in the Red Sox’s lousy 1919 season. Sure, he also led the league with 29 homers, but to the Sox he would always be a pitcher first. And a jerk.
DOUG VOGEL, Society for American Baseball Research: Ruth could drive a baseball out of any park, but he sucked at driving a car. He swerved around corners, bumping pedestrians, going through cars as fast as he went through women. After one debauched night he tried to drive between two trolleys near Fenway Park and totaled his car. The Babe walked away without a scratch, but his female companion wound up in the hospital.
VACCARO: The day after Christmas 1919, Boston owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 plus a loan for $300,000. Do you know what he put up as collateral for the loan?
LEARY: Fenway Park!
VACCARO: Fenway Park. And the “curse of the Bambino” was on.
BILL NOWLIN, author of 17 books on the Sox: Boston was called “baseball’s hometown,” but after the Sox traded Ruth, the losing began. Generations of fans grew up feeling cursed.
VACCARO: The next year, Ruth hit 54 homers for the Yankees. Harry Hooper led the Red Sox with seven. In the next 83 years the Yanks would finish ahead of the Sox 66 times and win 26 World Series titles to the Red Sox’s zero.
The Sox reached the 1946 World Series, only to lose when Enos “Country” Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals dashed all the way home from first base on a single. Boston was known for chowder, baked beans and bad baseball.
NOWLIN: My father was a hot-dog vendor at Fenway during the Great Depression. Bad work for a fan, because the game’s going on behind you. The bosses counted the hot dogs every day but not the buns, so the vendors would grab two or three buns and slop them with ketchup and mustard for a free “Depression lunch.”
My father loved Jimmie Foxx, the great slugger the Red Sox traded for in 1936. Foxx hit 198 homers in five years, but the Sox never finished better than second. Then came the Ted Williams era. Was Williams the best hitter ever? He’s sure the only one to win a Triple Crown without winning the MVP award. Twice. There were two reasons: Williams didn’t play in New York, and he didn’t butter up the writers who voted for the award. In 1942 he led the league in every department—a .356 batting average, 36 homers, 137 RBIs. The Yankees’ Joe Gordon hit .322 with 18 homers and 103 RBIs. Gordon also led the league in bad stats—strikeouts and grounding into double plays—and Gordon won the MVP.
Williams was edgy, touchy. Ballplayers always wore ties on road trips, but he refused to wear a necktie. He’d spit at fans who booed him. But he was a war hero—39 missions as a fighter pilot, shot down over Korea. He spent nights at the Children’s Hospital of Boston. He’d finally get up to go and the kid would say, “Ted, stay with me!” So Williams would have a nurse bring a cot and he’d sleep there, then play the next day. Nobody knew because he had a deal with reporters: “If you write about this, I’ll never do it again.”
LESLEY VISSER, Hall of Fame sportscaster: As a Boston child of the Kennedy years, I was seven when JFK was inaugurated. His first words—“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration”—made me think he was talking about the Red Sox. We’d stumbled through the 1950s with a manager named Pinky Higgins [third place in his best year]. Even with Williams in left, our team ranged from mediocre to lousy. But the Kennedy era promised passion, sparkle, new life. Alas, the Sox stayed awful. They once drew fewer than 100 fans to a game against Cleveland.
My brother and I sat in the bleachers and thought, Well, we might be losing, but we’re getting to see Frank Malzone and Bill Monbouquette and my beloved Ike Delock, who won two games in 1963.
NOWLIN: Then there was Jimmy Piersall, whose psychiatric problems were immortalized in a movie, Fear Strikes Out. Piersall would use a water pistol to wash home plate for the umpire. When he hit his 100th career homer, he ran the bases backward.
Led by Carl Yastrzemski, another Triple Crown winner, the lowly Sox shocked the world by winning the pennant in 1967. But again they lost the World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.
LEARY: My dad became a baseball fan when he came over from Ireland, and I inherited his Red Sox DNA. Their miracle run in 1967 got me hooked. But I didn’t know how disappointing it would be. Sometimes they lost in bizarre circumstances; sometimes they just lost.
NOWLIN: Even in that “Impossible Dream” season they lost Tony Conigliaro. He was 22, the youngest ever to hit 100 home runs. Then that August he got hit in the face, almost killed by a fastball at Fenway. Tony C. was never the same again.
DICK FRIEDMAN, Sports Illustrated baseball editor, Sox fan: Something else symbolized the futility: the black players they didn’t have. The Sox were, infamously, the last big-league team to integrate. A decade after Jackie Robinson, they were still 100 percent white.
When Boston dumped pitcher Earl Wilson in 1966, it was rumored he was banished for sleeping with white women. Wilson went on to win 22 games for Detroit.
FRIEDMAN: They gave Willie Mays a tryout and didn’t sign him. Imagine Mays in the Red Sox outfield with Ted Williams and later with Yastrzemski.…
LEARY: Yaz was my guy. I played left field in Little League with my Yaz Triple Crown glove. I ate Yaz bread. Really, he had bread. Yaz never had Williams’s talent, but he worked his ass off. I’ll never forget the day he came to my school. Carl Yastrzemski walks into my eighth-grade classroom. Total hush. He says, “Kids, stay in school and don’t do drugs.” And leaves. A man of few words.
NOWLIN: In the 1970s they had a great team coalescing: Yaz was at first by then, Carlton Fisk behind the plate, Rico Petrocelli at third, Rick Burleson at short.…
CONAN O’BRIEN, TV host, Sox fan: As a Sox-crazed kid I waited hours at a car dealership to get Burleson’s autograph. He probably got a new car out of it. I said something smartass like “Nice Eldorado you’re getting,” and he’s like, “Move along, kid, so I can get the fuck out of here.”
NOWLIN: Best of all, that team had two phenomenal rookies: Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.
O’BRIEN:You know how you remember snapshots from adolescence? If you say music, I think of the Cars in the 1970s, guys in Ray-Bans on a car hood. My baseball snapshot is Yaz, Rice and Lynn, my hero. I was no athlete, but one day I made a catch, and the Little League coach says, “You looked like Fred Lynn out there.” It’s still the best compliment I ever got.
FRED LYNN, Red Sox center fielder, 1974–1980: The Yankees drafted me out of high school and acted like I was supposed to be flattered. “We’re the New York Yankees. Sign here.” Instead I went to college, and the Red Sox signed me out of USC for a $40,000 bonus. At first Boston was a culture shock for a southern California boy like me. I’d go out to eat and they’d bring me a lobster and a hammer, and I’d say, “Do I have to kill it?”
FRIEDMAN: Lynn and Rice were a godsend. I once saw Rice smash one off the Green Monster so hard the shortstop had a play on the carom back to the infield.
LYNN:How strong was Jimmy Rice? I was 165 pounds and he was 215, big for those days. He looked like he lifted anvils. The ball made a different sound when he hit it. I saw Jimmy break his bat on a checked swing without making contact with the ball! Making me feel bad. I’d check my swing and look at the bat. Is it cracked? No? Damn, I’m a mere mortal.
NOWLIN:That team had bigger stars, but Fisk, the catcher—a tough New Englander known for his run-ins with the Yankees’ Thurman Munson—really defined them.
LYNN: Pudge Fisk was my first roommate. I loved him, but I was a loner, so I paid $1,000 to have my own room on the road. Not per night—$1,000 for the whole season.
Yaz was the senior guy on our team. He and I were similar left-handed hitters. There was no video to study in those days, so I’d stand in the on-deck circle, watching how they pitched him. Game after game they pitched me the same way.
Lynn batted .331 with 21 home runs and 105 RBIs in 1975. Rice hit .309 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs but hurt his wrist and missed the postseason. Still, the Sox swept Oakland in the American League Championship Series, earning a trip to the epic 1975 World Series against Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine.” Boston’s game one starter was muttonchopped junkballer Luis Tiant, who had fled Cuba just before Fidel Castro came to power.
BILL LITTLEFIELD, WBUR radio host: I loved Tiant’s intensity and sheer love of pitching. He’d been terrible in 1969, his last year in Cleveland, and terrible his first year in Boston. Then he reinvented himself as an off-speed pitcher. A lovable reclamation project who smoked a big Cuban cigar and horsed around in the clubhouse. One time he was stopped for speeding, and when the officer asked what he was doing, he said, “Bringing some heat.”
Other players would hang their heads during losing streaks, but Tiant said, “Give me the ball.” I saw him throw 170 pitches one day when he had nothing—nothing but guts and his crazy windup.
PETE ROSE, 1975 World Series MVP with the Cincinnati Reds: Tiant liked to screw with hitters’ heads.
LITTLEFIELD: His motion was a triumph of illusion, the illusion that he could still throw hard. He’d go through crazy contortions, cocking his hip to the point of dislocation, his back to the plate.
ROSE: He’d mess you up if you watched his head spin backward like The Exorcist. But his contortions didn’t bother me. Hell, his head could fall off and roll over to first base, and I’d never notice because I’m not looking at his head. I’m looking at his release point.
MARK FROST, co-creator of Twin Peaks, author of Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: For me, Tiant and his father were the emotional center of the story. Luis Tiant Sr., a once-great star of the Negro Leagues reduced to poverty in Cuba, finally got a visa thanks to Senator George McGovern. McGovern hand-delivered a letter to Castro, making a passionate case for why the baseball-loving presidente should allow Tiant to be reunited with his aging, ailing parents.
After an emotional reunion at Logan Airport, Luis Sr. watched his son pitch a masterful shutout of the mighty Reds in game one of the World Series. Later that night, during a joyful celebration at the Tiant home, Luis came through the door and saw his father looking up at him, a sweet proud smile on his face. They held each other without saying a word, both weeping. The dream, passed down from father to son, had come all the way home.
In game four, Tiant nursed a 5–4 lead into the ninth inning. With two on and one out, the Reds’ Ken Griffey sent a rocket to left-center. Lynn made an over-the-shoulder catch. Joe Morgan popped out on Tiant’s 163rd pitch, and the series was tied, two games apiece.
ROSE: That series really helped the game of baseball. The NFL was catching up as the real national pastime, but the 1975 World Series helped baseball take off again. We got rained out three straight times, so these vivid personalities—me, Johnny Bench, Yaz, Fisk, Tiant, Bill Lee—entertained the writers for three days of hype.
Fenway got so wet we had to work out in a gym at Tufts University. But we got lost on the way. Our bus pulls into a gas station and the attendant’s eyes bug out, seeing the Cincinnati Reds in full uniform. The guy’s got a Red Sox cap on, and he gives us bad directions. We rode around Boston for an hour looking for Tufts University.
VOGEL: Game six was one of the great battles in baseball history—tied 6–6 in the 12th inning.
ROSE: I go to bat and there’s Fisk behind the plate. I said, “Isn’t this fun, Carlton? Isn’t this as good as it gets?” He says, “Yeah. Yeah, this is fun.” Maybe I relaxed him.
Bottom of the 12th: Fisk up against rookie pitcher Pat Darcy, a sinkerballer who had allowed only four homers in 130 innings. Reds catcher Johnny Bench called for a low-inside sinker. Fisk sent a towering fly down the left-field line.
NOWLIN: I had an SRO ticket to the game. The ushers let us sit in the aisle between sections 18 and 19, so I’m looking right down the line, following the flight of Fisk’s long fly ball.
TV cameras were supposed to track the ball’s flight too, but NBC cameraman Lou Gerard, distracted by a Fenway Park rat running past his foot, lost the ball. Gerard kept his camera on Fisk and captured an immortal sports moment: Fisk trying to wave the ball fair.
NOWLIN: Fair ball! Sox win!
ROSE: Game six—that was the only loss I ever had fun in.
NOWLIN: After the game, all over Boston, cars honked their horns for hours.
ROSE: But we could still win game seven.
BILL “SPACEMAN” LEE, Sox pitcher, 1969–1978: So could we. The Reds’ lineup was stacked, but I shut ’em out for five innings in the last game.
ROSE: As tough as Tiant was, we thought of Lee as their best pitcher—the Spaceman, the famous flake.
DON NATHAN, Sox fan: One day I was at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, waiting out a rain delay. Rick Dempsey entertained the crowd with a Babe Ruth impression. He stuck a pillow under his jersey, took a big left-handed swing, ran the bases and finished by belly flopping into home. Then Bill Lee came out with a bat, ball and glove. Without a word or a look at the crowd, he placed the glove at his feet, flipped the ball in the air and fungoed it straight up. Leaned down, jammed his hand into the glove and caught the ball. A nice trick.
Then he tossed the ball again. Hit it almost straight up but a step to his left. Hand into glove, one step over, catches the ball. Steps back to where he started and hits one a step to his right. This went on, each pop-up taking him a little farther left or right, till he finally hit one too far away to run and catch. He gathered up his ball and glove and left the field, never acknowledging the cheering fans. That was Lee: skillful, entertaining and completely baffling.
VOGEL: Bill Lee claimed he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes in the morning.
LEE: Some reporters asked me about a so-called drug problem on the team, and I said, “Yes, the Red Sox have been abusing alcohol, caffeine and tobacco for years.” Then they asked about marijuana. I said I used it. So Commissioner Bowie Kuhn calls me into his office and says, “Bill, it says here you smoke pot.”
“Read the story, Bowie. It says I use it.”
“Well, how do you use it?”
“I make my breakfast, add an ounce of marijuana and then run six miles to the ballpark. The pot makes me impervious to bus fumes along the road.” And he believed me. The commissioner said, “I’ll buy that.” Pretty soon I got a letter informing me I was fined $250 for using marijuana “as a condiment.”
ROSE: Yeah, Lee was a flake. But he could get you out.
LEE: Prophets in their own time are seldom embraced.
ROSE: Lee had us down in two games that series until we came back against their bullpen. Now he’s shutting us out in game seven.
And then the Spaceman uncorked the craziest pitch in baseball history.
LEE: Well, I was rolling along till I got a blister. I was what they called a cunny-thumber, a guy who uses his thumb to put spin on the ball. In the fifth inning I got a blister. I’d have been okay if we had somebody who could cauterize a blister, but our trainer was this little SOB who couldn’t give a massage to the Pillsbury Doughboy. The blister pops; now I’m getting blood on the ball. Blood makes the ball rise. I still get Johnny Bench to hit a double-play ball. But our manager, Don Zimmer—“the Gerbil,” so named by me—had told second baseman Denny Doyle to play farther from the bag. Doyle’s late covering; he throws the ball away. Yaz almost snagged it, but he stretched too soon. So instead of being out of the inning, I’ve got one on, two out, Tony Pérez up. That’s baseball—it’s always a cloud of contingencies.
LEARY:I loved Bill Lee, but about once a month he threw an eephus pitch, a big, slow blooper.…
LEE:I threw Pérez a slow curve. A very slow, very high curve. Okay, it was an eephus. Or a leephus, as I called it.
LEARY: That pitch took so long to get to the plate that if you play back the tape you’ll hear me yelling, “Don’t throw that pitch to Tony Pérez!”
LEE: And he hit it hard.
FRIEDMAN: For a two-run homer. The ball reached orbit somewhere over Newfoundland, and the Sox went on to lose.
Lynn was named 1975 rookie of the year. Along with a Gold Glove for his defense in center, he was also named MVP, becoming the first player to win all three awards in the same year.
LYNN: There was no ceremony in those days, no nothing. I found out about the MVP while I was driving from Boston back home to California. Stopped into a motel, flipped on the TV and saw my picture. “Hey, that’s me!” I was thrilled—beyond the honor, it got me a $20,000 bonus.
Three years later, the Sox and Yankees went down the stretch tied in the standings. Both teams won every day for a week, leading a Boston newscaster to announce, “Pope dead, Sox alive, details at 11.” In a one-game playoff for the division crown, the Sox led 2–0 in the seventh—until light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent’s three-run homer sank them. The Yankees went on to win the World Series.
CARL YASTRZEMSKI, Sox left fielder, 1961–1983: [Postgame] Those bastards always have a little extra.
LEARY: I was at Emerson College, totally caught up in the Sox. After the 1975 series I thought we could win five World Series in a row. Until Bucky Dent. That’s when I realized the curse was real—and considered offering my left testicle for a championship.
O’BRIEN: Next thing you know, they trade Lynn to the Angels. It was my first experience with a Red Sox leaving. Pretty soon my hero’s in a Fantasy Island segment. It was upsetting, a very un-Sox thing to do.
LYNN:I faced Radar from M*A*S*H. His fantasy was to face Steve Garvey, George Brett and me, and strike us all out. I went last. My line was “And I thought Nolan Ryan was tough.” So much for my acting career.
O’BRIEN: A few years later I was at Harvard. Being a Sox fan wasn’t cool, but then nobody’s cool at Harvard. If you’re cool you drop out and start a social media empire.
TOM VERDUCCI, Sports Illustrated writer: My first pilgrimage to Fenway was on opening day 1985. I arrived early and walked out to the Green Monster. Seeing it up close, after years of knowing it only from NBC Game of the Week cameras, was a shock. The surface was dented like the dimples of a golf ball. And like a celebrity, the Monster was taller and more imposing than I imagined.
In 1986 the Sox made their fourth World Series since 1918. In game six, leading the New York Mets by two in the 10th inning, the Sox were about to win at last.
LYNN: Late in the game, Johnny McNamara usually brought Dave Stapleton in to play defense at first base. But now he lets emotion creep in. Johnny Mac was a players’ manager, and he thinks they’re about to clinch, change history, reverse the curse. He wants his regulars out there for the big moment. So he made an emotional decision. He left Bill Buckner at first base.
Three singles and a wild pitch brought Mookie Wilson to the plate. Wilson hit a dribbler to Buckner.
VERDUCCI: At that moment Theo Epstein, who would grow up to be the team’s boyish general manager, was 12. He was standing on the back of his sofa, waiting to jump for joy when the Sox won. He had to skulk back down when the ball went through Buckner’s legs.
NOWLIN: Buckner’s error crushed Boston. We were poised to celebrate, then all of a sudden the wind went out of the whole town. I went for a walk and passed three or four other despondent people with their heads down, nobody saying a word.
LEARY: You know what nobody talks about? Bob Stanley, the pitcher, didn’t run to cover first. Buckner’s so far from the bag they wouldn’t get Mookie even if he fields the ball. Everybody blames Buckner and forgets Bob Stanley.
TIM WAKEFIELD, Sox pitcher, 1995–2011: My college roommate and I watched the 1986 series unfold, the ball going through Buckner’s legs. So I knew about the curse before I ever got to Boston.
I was a first baseman when Pittsburgh drafted me. But I was never gonna make the big leagues as a hitter, so I became a pitcher, a knuckleball pitcher.
Wakefield reached the big leagues in 1992. He went 8–1 down the stretch for the Pirates, beat the Braves twice in that year’s National League Championship Series and was set to be the series MVP. Atlanta scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game and the series. Wakefield’s career crumbled. The Pirates released him in 1995.
WAKEFIELD:I signed with Boston, got my confidence back. Had a great year in 1995 [16–8, 2.95 ERA] and loved being there. Fenway’s one of the last remaining citadels of baseball.
FRIEDMAN: Wakefield could be excruciating to watch. If his knuckler didn’t knuckle, it was batting practice. He went 6–11 in 1999, 6–10 in 2000, with hideous ERAs. We’d say, “How can they start fucking Wakefield?” And then, when you least expected it, he’d pitch a gem, and we’d be high-fiving and saying, “Yeah, fucking Wakefield.”
In 2002 a group led by Boston businessman John Henry and former Padres owner Tom Werner bought the team.
WAKEFIELD: Not that the previous owners did a bad job, but the real turnaround came when Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner took over. We got a bigger weight room and a players’ lounge. They even fixed the field. The infield at Fenway had always been crowned for drainage. They paid extra to make it flat, which helped the fielders. You could feel a new time coming. We were proud to be Red Sox, ready to go to war.
O’BRIEN: I lived in New York during my SNL and Late Night days, and it felt like being a Union spy in the Deep South during the Civil War. There always seemed to be a giant parade with Derek Jeter going past the coffee shop I was sitting in.
Before the final game of the 2003 ALCS, a Manhattan water main flooded the George Washington Bridge. The Yankees’ Jason Giambi was sure he’d be late—until police officers saw the steroidal slugger stuck in traffic and gave his Porsche a lights-and-sirens escort. Giambi hit a pair of homers to keep the Yanks close that night. Mariano Rivera pitched three shutout innings, and Wakefield faced Aaron Boone in extra innings.
WAKEFIELD: My confidence was all there because I’d been getting him out.
He owned Aaron Boone. They had faced each other five times in the series; Boone was zero for five, with three lazy flies and two strikeouts. But Yankees manager Joe Torre had noticed Boone stepping in the bucket, pulling balls foul.
JOE TORRE, Yankees manager, 1996–2007: [Pulling Boone aside]Try hitting to right field. That’ll help you keep it fair.
WAKEFIELD: First pitch, I let it go and—
LEARY: Boom! Boone launches a home run and joins an elite club. There are four Sox-killers in the club, all with the same middle name: Babe Fucking Ruth, Harry Fucking Frazee, Bucky Fucking Dent and Aaron Fucking Boone.
AARON BOONE, Yankees third baseman, 2003:[Mobbed by teammates and reporters on the field] What I want to know is, what are all these people doing in my dream?
WAKEFIELD: It was over so fast. You’re totally in the thick of it, and a second later it’s over—the game, the season. That’s when I really felt the curse.
As Boone touched the plate, the loudspeakers at Yankee Stadium began playing “New York, New York”—14 times in a row. Not exactly what the Sox wanted to hear.
WAKEFIELD:A media guy told me I would have been MVP if we had won. Instead I was the goat. In the clubhouse, Nomar Garciaparra came over to me. Trot Nixon and Doug Mirabelli too. They hugged me and said, “Hey, man, it’s not your fault.” When the reporters came in, I apologized to our fans.
VACCARO: Roger Clemens and David Wells lugged some champagne out to Monument Park, beyond the left-field fence, and drank to Babe Ruth’s plaque. Wells said, “He’s shining on us. The curse lives!”
LEE: I had a big rat in my house in those days. He dug through Sheetrock, lived in the refrigerator, ate all our cat food. The cat wanted nothing to do with him. That night I put some peanut butter in a trap, and at the very instant of Boone’s home run, snap! Got him! And I realized that rat was a Sox fan. When Boone connected, he didn’t want to live anymore.
VISSER: I wailed as if my dog had died. I had spent so many years in Fenway, so many years listening to Curt Gowdy on cheap transistor radios, so many years covering games, yelling in bars, caring too much. And we were never going to win a World Series.
The day after Thanksgiving 2003 the Sox traded Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and two minor leaguers for Yankee-killer Curt Schilling. Asked about the Yanks’ mystique and aura, Schilling had scoffed, “Mystique and Aura? Those are dancers in a nightclub.”
CURT SCHILLING, Sox pitcher, 2004–2008: [Trying on a Sox cap]I guess I hate the Yankees now.
O’BRIEN: The doorman in my building taught my son to say “Go Yankees,” which troubled me. One day I’m in a hotel elevator with Ben Affleck. I knew Ben a little; he’d been on the show. But he’s a busy man, probably running late to make an Oscar-winning film, so I just nod and say, “Hey, Ben.” He says hey and then, just as he’s getting off the elevator, I mention the doorman who taught my son to say “Go Yankees.” And Ben stops, spins around, blocking the elevator door, and says, “That’s fucked up. You gotta get that guy fired.”
VACCARO: The hate was real. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees baseball’s “evil empire.” Yanks owner George Steinbrenner called Lucchino’s comment bullshit. “That’s how a sick person thinks,” Steinbrenner said. After that he wouldn’t even say the Red Sox’s name. He called them “that team from north of here.”
WAKEFIELD:I spent the winter in Florida, didn’t read Boston papers or listen to sports radio, so I didn’t know where I stood with the fans. Then I went up for the Baseball Writers’ Association dinner, an annual event full of Sox fans. Was I still the goat? Well, they gave me the longest standing ovation I ever heard. Brought me to tears. That’s when I thought there might be better times ahead.
The Yankees opened the 2004 ALCS by beating the Red Sox three times in a row. No team in baseball history had ever come back from a 3–0 deficit to win a postseason series.
NOWLIN: At batting practice before game four, Kevin Millar went around to the Yankees, warning them, “Better not let us win tonight.” He had a feeling the Sox weren’t done. Sure enough, they got even. Schilling won game six, the famous bloody-sock game, despite pitching with a stitched-together ankle tendon that bled through his sock. One more victory might reverse the curse. Before game seven, I asked Sox fans, “What if we beat them?” Would it ruin us? Would the city fall apart?
LEARY:I got so nervous I had to sit on the same spot on my couch, night after night. I said, “They’re winning. I can’t move.”
LEE: It was sweet, watching the Yankees fold.
FRIEDMAN: David “Big Papi” Ortiz homered in the seventh game. Johnny Damon hit two. The Sox won 10–3—on to the World Series.
WAKEFIELD: It was so cool celebrating on the same mound where I’d given up the Boone home run. We kept the party going in the clubhouse. Champagne’s flowing, guys are yelling, when one of the clubbies [clubhouse attendants] taps my shoulder and says, “You got a phone call.” It was Joe Torre, calling from the other clubhouse to congratulate me. “You deserve it,” he said. “Just make sure you enjoy it.”
VACCARO: Sox fans stuck around Yankee Stadium after the game, chanting, “Thank you, Red Sox! Thank you, Red Sox!” Steinbrenner told his people to leave the lights on for them. He said, “They’ve earned it.”
O’BRIEN: I watched the game on TV and then ran into Central Park, weeping, screaming, jumping up and down. My dog doesn’t know what’s going on, so he starts jumping up and down, barking. And there is nobody else in the park. I’m thinking, I am in the wrong fucking city. Imagine Boston tonight!
LEE: The Red Sox faced St. Louis in the World Series. The Cardinals were the National League version of the Yankees, Boston’s nemesis in 1946 and 1967, the supreme National League power. But it was our year. Naturally the Sox swept the series. Fabulous! All curses off.
LEARY: It was only after we won that I realized something: There was never a curse. It wasn’t Babe Ruth. It was bad bounces, jittery infielders, bad choices, bad luck.
VERDUCCI: I got assigned the story explaining why the Red Sox were SI’s sportsmen of the year. I’d spent weeks writing about “the Idiots,” Manny Ramirez being Manny, the bloody sock, the curse of the Bambino, Johnny, Papi and the greatest comeback story ever. So I turned to the fans. I found the grave of a man named Napoleon A. Blouin, whose headstone read 1926–1986, darn those socks.I found fans who filled cemeteries on the night they won the World Series to share a toast with dead loved ones. Only then did I understand that the Red Sox weren’t about Ted and Pesky and Louie and Dewey and Rice and Lynn and Manny and Big Papi. They are about the people who hold them dear, not just as a sports team but as a civic treasure. It was always true but never more than in 2004.
LEARY: I did a commercial spoof where a guy with hedge clippers comes to claim my left nut. People have thanked me for that sacrifice. I’d like to see the Sox display it at Fenway—not the real thing, a wrinkled grape or something. I would attend the ceremony and have my picture taken next to it.
VISSER: One night I found myself on a red carpet next to Johnny Damon, who’d left in 2005 to join the dreaded Yankees. I said, “Am I supposed to speak to you?” He smiled and said, “Well, I did help bring you a World Series.” Sigh.
Boston swept Colorado in the 2007 World Series, then lost in the playoffs the next two years. In 2011 they swooned down the stretch as pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester ate fried chicken, guzzled beer and played video games in the clubhouse. In 2012 they finished last.
NOWLIN: The big move the Sox made in the disastrous 2012 season was, at first blush, a salary dump: a late-August trade with the Dodgers, swapping three huge contracts—Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez—plus Nick Punto for, essentially, some prospects. Freeing up about $250 million while ridding the clubhouse of some perceived misfits was the kind of deal most GMs only dream of. Does chemistry matter? The Sox repopulated with “team players” Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Jake Peavy and Mike Napoli.
Then, last spring, the Red Sox and their city were staggered by the Boston Marathon bombing. Before their next home game David Ortiz stood on the field at Fenway and unofficially announced the “Boston Strong” era.
DAVID ORTIZ, Sox designated hitter: [To the crowd and the world] This is our fucking city, and nobody’s gonna dictate our freedom!
LEARY: People said the Sox were ugly—even Ortiz in his baggy uniform. But I like the baggy look. If it’s good enough for Big Papi, it’s good enough for me, which is a philosophy I try to follow in all of life.
JONNY GOMES, Sox outfielder: I was a journeyman. I joined them last year and saw that core group—Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz—with a chip on their shoulder. Guys like that are the rock of the organization, and they wanted to bury the last couple of years. Once we got going, it happened quickly. We went from a team to a brotherhood. That’s what the beards were all about. We had one rule: Don’t shave. Your face gets so itchy you hate it, but you want that man cred—we were a bunch of salty vets getting the team back on track.
NOWLIN: Last year, for the first time in a decade, Fenway wasn’t sold out for every game. But you know what? I never got that old feeling that we were bound to lose. It wasn’t overconfidence—I mean, I didn’t turn into a Yankees fan—but it was like a cloud had lifted.
GOMES: Were we conceited? No. Cocky, yeah. We’re part of something big. I mean, you don’t hear about Cardinal Nation or Yankees Nation, do you? With Red Sox Nation there’s a lot of eyes on you, a lot of accountability. You gotta respect the uniform.
O’BRIEN: I watched the playoffs with my son, Beckett, who’s eight. I used to tell people he was named for Josh Beckett till Josh misbehaved, so I went back to Samuel Beckett, who was never seen drinking beer in the clubhouse. Anyway, playoffs—Detroit had the Sox down by four runs in the eighth inning. Ortiz comes up with the bases loaded. Beckett says, “He should hit a home run. Then they’ll be tied.” I said, “Beckett, baseball isn’t that easy.” Papi hits a grand slam, and Beckett looks at me like, “It’s so simple, you fool.”
LEARY: Last season I wasn’t all that emotionally invested till September. Suddenly it’s the World Series.
LEE: Against the Cardinals—who else?
BEN AFFLECK, actor and director: [On Twitter] I’m filming #GoneGirl in your neck of the woods. Go @RedSox!
In game four, the Cardinals had a chance to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead. Gomes came up with two on and two out in the sixth inning.
GOMES: Everything’s exposed in the World Series. You may not think about the stage you’re on till later, but you don’t want to be the guy who loses the series.
He worked the count to 2–2, then jumped on a Seth Maness fastball.
GOMES: At contact I thought, That one’s got a chance. A couple of their guys had hit balls that looked gone for sure but stayed in the park. I was watching Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, and he’s looking up like he’s got a bead on the ball, but it comes down a little past his glove—and the fence.
Three nights after Gomes’s three-run homer helped the Sox even the series, they had a chance to clinch at Fenway.
LEARY: It was my first World Series in the ballpark with my son, Jack. He got his Sox DNA from me and my dad. We get to Fenway and wind up in the Yastrzemski Suite, with pictures of Yaz all over the walls. A good sign.
FRIEDMAN: And of course they win. Papi’s MVP and all’s right with the world.
CHRIS EVANS, actor: [On Twitter] CHAMPS!!!!!!! AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!! The last 12 years have been an embarrassment of riches as a Boston sports fan. Thank you, Boston. #spoiled
ELIZABETH BANKS, actor: [On Twitter] Congrats BOSTON!! #RedSox #BostonStrong #beardsbegone
TROY AIKMAN, Dallas Cowboys quarterback, 1989–2000:[On Twitter] My Little League team in the 70s was Red Sox…grew up watching Fisk, Lynn, Yaz, Rice, Tiant…congratulations to the Boston Red Sox.
GEORGE LOPEZ, actor, comedian and TV host: [On Twitter] Papi @davidortiz felicidades #Chingon
ELI ROTH, director: [On Twitter] ALL THE WAY TO LANDSDOWNE STREET!!!!!!! Go @RedSox!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!! You made this Bear Jew very very proud to be from Beantown.
JOHN KRASINSKI, actor: [On Twitter] Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! #Red-Sox Nation#WorldSeries#BostonStrong!!!!!
O’BRIEN: Now you look in the dictionary under championship, and there’s a picture of Jonny Gomes.
GOMES: I did my part, contributed some things. There are journeymen who get bitter and ones who know they’re lucky to be in this game. I’m the kind that stays grateful and keeps truckin’.
O’BRIEN: My only problem with the new, winning Sox is their song. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” what’s that about? They couldn’t get the rights to “Afternoon Delight” or Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow”? But I like the beards. These are real, hardcore old-school men. They look like they’re going whaling. In the offseason, they shovel coal. Meanwhile, I’m rubbing moisturizer on my hands.
LEARY: So yeah, we’re winners now. My dad went to his grave wishing for a Red Sox championship, and now, my God, my son and I got three!
You still gotta hate the Yankees. That’s why you’ll never see me wearing a Yankees hat on Rescue Me. I have never put one on my head and never will. If you see me in a Yankees hat, you’ll know I’m either dead or being held hostage—call the authorities.
With boyish GM Theo Epstein rebuilding the Chicago Cubs, his boyish successor, Ben Cherington, has the Red Sox on top of the baseball world.
ROSE: Cherington’s done a great job puzzling that team together with secondary guys like Gomes and Shane Victorino.
O’BRIEN: Other than Papi, they’re not superstars. They’re guys who want to win, guys who’d go through rifle fire, bandage up their wounds and take the guy out at second.
NOWLIN: Cherington was there before Epstein. He, Theo and [former GM] Dan Duquette all valued the Moneyball approach that focuses on on-base percentage. The Sox work the count, grind the pitcher down until they beat him or get to the bullpen.
ROSE: But it’s hard to see them winning again this year. They lost their catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. They lost Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
LYNN: Ellsbury could have taken a few million less to stay in Boston. But he’s a Yankee now, and the Sox have Jackie Bradley Jr. in center at Fenway, where Jacoby and I used to play. Bradley can play center, but will he hit? As for Ellsbury, he’ll do okay in New York if he gets off to a good start. Johnny Damon had the personality to handle New York, but I’m not so sure about Jacoby. And it’ll sure be interesting when he comes back to Boston.
GOMES: Red Sox Nation would throw rocks at me if I said we weren’t gonna win again. But there’s no chance we will do it the same way again. Our center fielder is gone; we’re all a year older. That’s what hits you on the last day, when some of your teammates have to strip their lockers. You can never really win again because it’s never the same team from year to year. It says red sox on your shirt, but some of the guys are different. So our mind-set’s not “Let’s go back-to-back.” It’s “Let’s turn the fuckin’ page.” One year at a time, one win at a time.
LEE: And life goes on. These days I make maple bats, and they’re beauties. Robinson Cano uses my bats. I’ve also got a wine called Spaceman Red, and now that laws are changing, I may start my own brand of marijuana. Spaceman pot! Believe me, it’ll be out of this world.
O’BRIEN: We’ve won so much that it almost doesn’t matter what happens this year. But talk to me again next year. If the Sox don’t win, I’ll be griping about the curse.