November 2007

I Fake A Smile November Until Opening Day…

Some November thoughts from the Vice President of Red Sox Nation:

1. First of all, let it be known that the VP of RSN became a dad for
the fifth time on the same day that Mike Lowell re-signed with the Red
Sox (Novembedrew-bledsoe.jpgr
19). When my new little daughter is grown up we’ll still be talking
about what a great day November 19, 2007 was in Red Sox Nation! (I
lobbied my wife to name her Lowell, but to no avail…. just as I
lobbied hard to name my second son Drew when he was born during the
second quarter of the Patriots’ AFC Championship victory vs. Pittsburgh on January 27, 2002
Bledsoe came off the bench to win that game…. but, alas, our son had
already owned a different name for an hour by the time the game ended.)

2. What Curt Schilling and Mike Lowell did (signing contracts to
stay on a team they love for fewer years and less money than they could
have received elsewhere) is unbelievably rare in professional sports.
How many players can you name who have done this? mo-vaughn.jpg99%
of the time, the player complains "my team doesn’t respect me" and
"doesn’t want me as much as the other team does" and then they say it
has nothing to do with money, but with "respect" when they take the
extra year and the extra $15M. All of us in Red Sox Nation need to
appreciate these guys for choosing US over millions of dollars
that were available to them elsewhere. And I congratulate Curt and Mike
on seeing the big picture. There actually aren’t many people who have
retired as certified Red Sox Legends (and who see the priceless value
of doing so) and these two have put themselves in a position to do just
that.

3. I am THRILLED that the Yankees have re-signed Posada, Rivera, and
A-Rod for the same reason I’m thrilled the Sox have re-signed Schilling
a-rod-and-varitek.gifand
Lowell. The Sox-Yanks rivalry is such a gift to us sports fans in
Boston, and having the same players involved over a long period of time
gives the rivalry real substance. The distinctive story lines that have
already developed involving these players and many of their teammates
will get carried over to another season and now there will be another ending to this particular rivalry’s story.

In my late-’70s childhood, we learned to boo Chambliss, Randolph,
Dent, Nettles, Munson, Piniella, Jackson, Guidry, and Gossage. And
these guys stayed together for a stretch that was long enough that they
were THE YANKEES of their era.reggie-and-bucky.jpg
I’m happy for the children of Red Sox Nation — that their childhoods
will be enriched by a consistent set of Sox/Yankees rosters. This is
part of the reason I was distressed when the Sox traded Nomar, and when
Damon signed with the Yankees. I’m really happy that, for at least the
next three years, all of us in Red Sox Nation will get to witness the
thrill of ninth inning comebacks vs. Mariano, and we’ll get to watch
A-Rod’s daunting figure in the on-deck circle, and we’ll be graced with
the emotion that Posada brings to big games — and that all these great
athletes we love to boo will be wearing the hated pinstripes. It just
makes life better that way.

Manny Being Magnanimous

About a week ago, my dad wrote an email to an unknown person who had left some great comments on this blog during the Red Sox Nation campaign. He wanted to say "hello" and "thanks for the support." This "mystery commenter" immediately wrote back, revealing herself to be an old friend of my father’s and telling an amazing story about an encounter with Manny Ramirez on the day of the Rolling Rally. The story is too good to not share with Red Sox Nation on this blog. Here are excerpts from that email…

Dear Jim,
Whoo Hoo!  Yes, c’est moi!  Some communications are best kept secret until they aren’t secret any more!  And here is a story for you!  There is something in the wind …

I am a Red Sox fan, but "one step removed," not having frequented a game for some twenty years, if truth be told … however, I am a total fan of sport as a way of building character, sense of fair play, earnest and skilled competition, and a profound sense of the holy AND totally identify as a member of Red Sox Nation. A number of people who are my clients for consultation, etc. are wildly active members of Red Sox Nation … and for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, on Tuesday [the day of the Rolling Rally], I wore a Red Sox tee-shirt given to me by one of my clients who knew I was watching every single game during the playoffs and World Series.

So, continuing my story … to my dismay, due to work obligations and deadlines re: a written project, I wasn’t really able to go to THE PARADE. But I did wear my Red Sox tee-shirt all day!  And, at 4:30 p.m yesterday [the day of the parade], I had an appointment to provide consultation for a colleague who has significant vision problems, so I go to her home for our meetings. Her home is located in the Ritz condo building off Tremont Street.  Arriving 15 minutes early, I sat for a bit in the (ever so nice) lobby, wearing my Red Sox tee-shirt.  And, while reading there, wearing my Red Sox tee-shirt, in walked none other than Manny Ramirez (this is the building where he lives), who noticed me sitting and wearing my Red Sox tee-shirt, came right over, sat down in the seat right across from me and struck up a 15-MINUTE conversation with me!!! 

He was as nice and interesting and conversationally engaged as a person could be and we talked about a range of related topics including: my congratulations to him and to the team, my appreciation for all they give to so many of us who just love the team and Red Sox Nation, what Red Sox Nation means to children, how wonderful it is to "get lost for three hours+" in a GREAT game in a world where so many tragic and terrible realities occur, how important it is for skill and practice and fun to be combined in people’s minds and experience, when the players will get their World Series Champion rings, how great it is that there is a President and Vice President of Red Sox Nation, what Manny finds interesting about Boston, how Boston is different from Cleveland, and how he feels about his fans.  (He told me he loves them — "it’s all for the fans!")  He talked about the parade and the reaction of the fans and the whole of Red Sox Nation.

Then, after fifteen minutes of chatting, I had to get to my meeting and he had to get going too, and as I headed toward the elevator, the concierge said to me: "Unbelievable!  Manny never does that — you just had a fifteen minute private audience with Manny!" And I said, "Yes, and what a delightful, very nice, sweet, and interesting person he is!"

WOW! Life is full of surprises!  And how wonderful!
Shalom/Sallam/Peace

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Rich Gedman, a Clutch Single, and a Balk…21 Years Ago

rich-gedman-and-roger-clemens.jpgAfter the triumphant ride through Boston on duck boats, I followed Red Sox personnel into a post-parade reception at Fenway. The place was crawling with familiar faces, but the one I was most eager to meet belonged to former Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman. Gedman played for the Sox from 1980 to 1990, right in the prime of my Red Sox childhood, when I was between the ages of 12 and 22. I walked up to Gedman because I wanted to tell him that he had the key hit in the greatest baseball game I ever witnessed in person – and to ask him what he remembered about it. Rich was happy to talk.

After introducing myself, I told Rich that I remember attending an extra-innings game at rob-and-rich-gedman.jpgFenway in my youth and, when it was over, I proclaimed, "I will never see a game more unbelievable than that for the rest of my life," and I recall that the opposing team made a couple of big blunders in the last inning to aid a Sox comeback, and that Gedman had the game-winning hit. But that’s all I recall.

Rich said, "Yes, that was 1986, and it was against California, and we fell behind by three runs in the 12th or 13th inning, and I didn’t get the game-winning hit, I got the game-tying hit – a line drive to right field – then we won the game on a balk." YES! I said, THAT WAS THE GAME!

We then recalled that Angels 3B Rick Burleson dropped a pop-up that, had it been caught, would have ended the game. Rich tried to remember the name of the pitcher who balked, but he could not. (Further research reveals that his name was Todd Fischer… more on him later.) And Rich said that part of the reason he remembers the game is that, when the Sox made their miraculous comeback against the Angels in game 5 of the 1986 ALCS (thank you, Don Baylor and Dave Henderson), everyone in the Sox dugout was saying, "This is just like that game we played against them back in July!"

Thanks to Google, I discovered that this game took place on July 10, 1986 (I was 17 years old), and the Red Sox won, 8-7. The entire box score and play-by-play detail is available here. And after reviewing how the game ended, I see why I knew I’d never see a more exciting game. In the 12th inning, the Angels and Red Sox scored a combined total of 7 runs with two outs. Here’s how it happened.

In the top of the 12th inning, with the score tied, 4-4, Sox pitcher Steve Crawford retired the first two batters of the inning (Ruppert Jones and Gary Pettis) and then gave way to lefty Mike Brown to face left-handed hitting Wally Joyner. Mike Brown proceeded to implode. Joyner stroked a triple, then scored on a wild pitch. Unnerved, Brown then walked George Hendrick and Brian Downing in succession and gave up R.B.I. singles to Rick Burleson and Bobby Grich. Tim Lollar relieved Mike Brown and got **** Schofield to pop out to Gedman, but the damage had been done: three two-out runs for California and an almost certain loss for the Sox.

As a kid, whatever tickets got my hands on were almost always standing room (and that was fine with me). I remember after that three-run burst, Fenway emptied and my little brother, Ben (16 at the time), and our friend, Sam (13 at the time), and I moved down to the front row behind home plate. We didn’t stay for the end of the game to see a Sox comeback, we stayed because we wanted to experience even a half-inning of Red Sox baseball from the good seats. We were sad the Sox were about to lose, but we were jacked to be sitting in the best seats in the house. Little did we know, we were about to witness history.

rick-burleson.jpgMarty Barrett led off the bottom of the 12th against Angels pitcher Mike Cook with a single to the second baseman, Bobby Grich. In the box score it’s called a single, but in my memory, it was a botched play – perhaps it was a bad hop, I don’t know. Wade Boggs then did something he almost never did – he struck out looking. And after Bill Buckner flied out to left field, with the Sox down to their last out, Jim Rice did something he did frequently – he hit a ball into the screen above the Green Monster for a two-run homer. But when Don Baylor hit a pop-up above third base, it looked like the game would end — until the ball bonked off of Burleson’s glove and Baylor ended up on first. I remember that well – and I remember that Ben, Sam and I went nuts. Are we going to win this game?? And when Dwight Evans walked, putting the tying run on second base, the 1,000 or so of us left at Fenway jumped and screamed with anticipation. Number 10, Rich Gedman, shook the donut off of his bat and strode to the batter’s box with an expression of total calmness.

And this is what I remember most about that game: seeing Gedman walk to the plate and thinking, "When this half-inning started, there is no way Gedman thought he’d be walking back onto the field again tonight." And I remember just praying, praying, praying for Rich to get a hit and continue this amazing comeback. And he did! Line drive, base hit to right field, Baylor scores. YES! YES! YES! TIE GAME! TIE GAME! Again, the loyal few of us left at Fenway, all crammed into the front five rows, romped and cheered like lunatics. RICH GEDMAN IS CLUTCH became a new fact in my baseball-encyclopedic head. And the winning run, in the person of Dwight Evans, stood at third base with two outs.

gene_mauch_autograph.jpgAt this remarkable juncture, with the ever-dangerous Rey Quinones (lifetime batting average of .245) coming to the plate for the Red Sox, Angels manager Gene Mauch removed pitcher Mike Cook from the game and replaced him with rookie reliever, Todd Fischer. It was Fischer’s 9th major league appearance, and it turned out to be his last. And what a way to end a career – before even throwing a pitch, Fischer balked, Evans scored, and the Red Sox won.

As Evans ran down the third base line, most of us in the stands didn’t know what had happened for a few seconds, but as the news spread, bedlam ensued. Gene Mauch argued vociferously while the Sox players and fans reveled all around him. As Ben, Sam and I walked out of Fenway that night, we all said to each other, that game will never be topped.

How rare is it for a winning run to cross the plate as the result of a balk? According to Jayson Stark, it’s only happened three times in the last 33 years.

Another interesting postscript to this story: soon after Mike Brown pitched like dog doo vs. the Angels and Rey Quinones stood there while the game-winning balk occurred, the Mariners traded 1986 heroes Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to the Sox for Rey Quinones and Mike Brown (and the immortal Mike Trujillo)! Thank you, Rey and Mike! And thank you, Rich Gedman, for the chance to reminisce about an extraordinary moment we both witnessed and participated in 21 years ago…. and that we’ll never forget.

Delirious on a Duck Boat

rob-on-duck-boat-cropped-10-30-07.jpgAhalf-hour before the Red Sox’ World Series Rolling Rally began, I
received an email at work from the Red Sox inviting me to ride one of
the 20 duck boats that would drive through the city. (Are you kidding
me???) 30 minutes later, I was aboard the white duck boat carrying
Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, their families, and the medical staff.
(Getting there on time was no simple matter… but that’s a story for
another day…)

What an honor! To be included among the Red Sox family riding
through the city amidst a sea of overjoyed, proud Sox fanatics was an
experience of a lifetime. And I didn’t just stand there and wave.
Knowing I’d probably never be there again, I got into it: pointing,
pumping fists, whooping it up for two straight hours. A lifetime of Sox
passion poured out of me and I felt an intense kinship with the crowd –
that’s the only way I can explain it. The next day, my voice was gone
and my whole body was sore. Like I said, I’d really whooped it up for
two hours….

I looked into countless faces as we cruised through
Boston, and each one was filled with tremendous joy and excitement.
Thousands and thousands (it seemed like millions to me, actually) of
people skipped work or school and braved enormous, dense crowds to
experience this glorious conclusion to a banner Red Sox season. And
while I could try to wax poetic about it all, I think these photos of
Red Sox Nation, taken by me from the duck boat, speak for themselves
about the incredible experience I had and that all those satisfied Sox
fans had, as well.

rolling-rally-crowd-13.jpeg

rolling-rally-crowd-31.jpeg

rolling-rally-crowd-30.jpeg

rolling-rally-41.jpeg

rolling-rally-crowd-17.jpeg

rolling-rally-38.jpeg

rolling-rally-crowd-4.jpeg

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rolling-rally-crowd-27.jpeg

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Thanks to my former fifth grade student, Morgan Pierson
(who’s now graduated from college), for taking that photo of me on the
duck boat as I passed him on Boylston Street (top of page). I quote
from his email to me: "To be honest, Mr. C., I don’t think ANYONE on
ANY of those Duck Boats showed as much sincere jubilation as you did."
Couldn’t help it. I was just mirroring the emotions of my fellow fans
in front of me, and they were going absolutely berzerk…. After all, we did win the WORLD SERIES, BABY!

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