Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It's the end of the world as we know it

Sadly, the World Series has not shaped out to be the series most people expected. From my angle, it appears as if the Cardinals' pitching has broken down. After a long season -- and without their top pitcher Chris Carpenter and an extremely ineffective Matt Morris -- the Cards look whipped.

Worse, the middle of the Cardinals' tough offense has been reigned in. Albert Pujols has picked up a few hits, but hasn't been able to leave the yard. Meanwhile, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds are 1-for-22. Throw in Reggie Sanders and the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters are 1-for-31.

Forget Jeff Suppan's base-running blunder, the hitting and poor starting pitching are the reason for the Red Sox being ahead 3-0.

Then again, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or baseball writer to figure that one out.

Now, all of New England is on edge like Bahgdad the day before the bombs dropped. It's like Apocalypse Now up there. After 86 years of waiting, living and dying, suffering with their Olde Town Team, it seems as if the inevitable is going to happen.

The better story, of course, will be a big fold, but there is no way that can happen now.


Dan Shaughnessy, the so-called inventor of the Curse of the Bambino, on a program aired by my employer, said: "This is the end of the Red Sox as we know them." He added that this story has become the biggest thing in the history of Boston (I beg to differ, but whatever) and that it has transcended sports in New England.

As far as that is concerned, he's right.

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening? Can it be true? Are the Red Sox really poised to win the World Series? Can they get much closer than this… well, yes, they have, but that’s a different story. In fact, they were one pitch away six different times in Game 6 of the 1986 series and we all know what happened there. Still, there are a lot of people who never thought they would be alive to see the Red Sox finally win the World Series. Is this a sign of the Apocalypse? Is this how the end of the world looks? Geez, it feels really weird. I thought I was going to see it once before and was robbed, it almost feels anti-climatic.

Either way, the planets are aligned… literally. There is a full lunar eclipse tonight, which has never occurred during a World Series game. Oh yes, there are more signs than can be seen in the stars and the moon. How about a leadoff home run by Johnny Damon? Does that work for you?

Maybe it’s true what Dan Shaughnessy said on Comcast SportsNet today: “The Red Sox as we know them no longer exist.”

Top of 1
Damon, as mentioned above, laced the fourth pitch of the game from Jason Marquis into the bullpen in right field. As Damon circles the bases, the Sox poured out of the dugout. It looks like they can taste it. After Manny Ramirez walks and most of Marquis’ pitches miss the strike zone badly, Tony La Russa calls down to the bullpen to tell Dan Haren to be ready.

Damon’s homer is the only run, but it was a big one. The dye has been cast. Statues of Terry Francona and Curt Schilling are in the works. Nineteen-eighteen is starting to become just another number.

The Sox are 27 outs away.

Bottom of 1
Tony Womack lines Derek Lowe’s third offering into left-center for a single. He moves up on a sacrifice bunt by Larry Walker that probably wasn’t meant to be a sacrifice. So desperate are the Cardinals to conjure any semblance of a rally that their most productive offensive threat in the playoffs attempts to get it started by laying down a bunt.

Who would have guessed that the offense would have been reduced to this?

Womack goes to third on a groundout by Albert Pujols and the inning ends on a swinging bunt by Scott Rolen in which the big third baseman attempted a sprawling dive to avoid Lowe’s tag at first.

The Sox are 24 outs away.

Top of 2
Trying to find significant moments in history that occurred in St. Louis leaves one grappling for answers. Of course, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started their great expedition from St. Louis. After that it was pretty quiet, especially during the Civil War when St. Louis and its home state claimed they were part of the Union but more or less straddled the fence. It kind of sounds like St. Louis and the Midwest of today – milquetoast, non-offensive, polite… you know, boring.

Anyway, the Dred Scott trials happened in St. Louis, and so did the 1904 Olympics, which coincided with the World’s Fair. Scott Joplin came from St. Louis and the ice cream cone and iced tea were introduced at the fair of 1904. Chuck Berry and Yogi Berra come from St. Louis as well.

In 1967, the Gateway Arch was opened, and besides having good Italian restaurants, riverboat gambling, a Super Bowl champion and some pretty good baseball teams, not much has really happened in St. Louis. Excluding Chicago, St. Louis is the hub of “flyover America.” I can’t count the times I had layover at Lambert Airfield.

Anyway, the Sox put two on with one out in the frame, but Marquis wiggled out of it.

Bottom of 2
Lowe retired the side in order on just 10 pitches. None of the balls hit into play by Jim Edmonds (1-for-12 in the series), Edgar Renteria and John Mabry were hit especially hard.

The Sox are 21 outs away.

Top of 3
Marquis gets himself into trouble again. Ramirez singled to push his post-season hitting streak to 17 games, but was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to first. It seemed as if Marquis was about to dance away from another jam when he walked Bill Mueller to load the bases before Trot Nixon pounded one that came a few feet away from a grand slam.

The two runs made it 3-0.

Due to bat second in the bottom half of the inning, it seemed as if La Russa was trying to get through the inning without wasting an arm in his bullpen. Still, he is going to have to mix-and-match with his pitching the rest of the way regardless. It’s all hands on deck for the Cards.

Bottom of 3
Oddly, Marquis stays in the game to hit. Not unusual, he grounded out. Lowe retired the side in order again, this time on just nine pitches.

The Cardinals look whipped. The fans at Busch Stadium look as if they are at a funeral. In some sense, I guess they are.

The Sox are 18 outs away.

Top of 4
Maybe Marquis has finally settled down. He sat down the Sox in order on 15 pitches, but it wasn’t without incident. Mental midget Manny Ramirez – and we don’t mean to offend dumb people by comparing them to Ramirez – seemed to get into a verbal joust with catcher Yadier Molina. Apparently, Ramirez didn’t like how tight Marquis was pitching him. Molina must have told him to stop being a girl.

Bottom of 4
Between innings, La Russa went out to tell home-plate umpire Chuck Meriwether that he was doing a shitty job. According to the broadcasters, La Russa looked at video of the pitches Lowe was throwing for strikes and pitches Marquis was throwing for strikes and determined that his guy was getting pinched.

Either way, La Russa’s hitters are doing a good job of making Lowe look like Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. Walker flied out to right, Pujols whiffed on a chintzy curve, and Rolen popped out weakly on a first-pitch.

Very, very poor.

Lowe retired 12 in a row.

The Sox are 15 outs away.

Top of 5
Marquis walked Ortiz to start the inning, but rallies to retire the side in order after that. Still, La Russa finally got Haren up.

Bottom of 5
After retiring his 13th hitter in a row, Edgar Renteria lines a double to left-center. He advanced on a wild pitch, but was left stranded when John Mabry whiffed on what he thought was a foul tip. An argument ensued, but it got nowhere with Meriwether. I seem to recall players’ saying they thought Meriwether was one of the worst umpires in the big leagues in a Sports Illustrated.

Anyway, Lowe continues to deal. Through five innings, he’s thrown just 54 pitches.

The Sox are 12 outs away.

Top of 6
Johnny Damon picks up a two-out triple, but the Sox appear to have put it in cruise control. Like us, they are just counting outs now.

Marquis, likely, has pitched his final inning. He rebounded nicely, but the rough start appears have done him in. Baring something dramatic, the Cardinals are going to lose.

Bottom of 6
Quickly, just as he’s done all night, Lowe got ahead of every hitter and retired the first two he faced. However, Walker drew a walk to bring up the mighty Pujols. But Pujols appears to have caught the anemia that has plagued the Cards’ bats. After working an 0-2 count to 3-2, Pujols popped weakly to second base.

The Red Sox are nine outs away.

Top of 7
Haren finally gets in the game after Marquis threw 121 pitches – 58 for strikes – and blows away Ramirez to start the inning. He continues the solid pitching by getting a ground out and fly out to retire the side in order.

Hey, where was he earlier in the game? Then again, where have the Cards’ bats been?

Bottom of 7
It seems like this could be the last chance for the Cardinals. With the way Lowe and the Sox bullpen has been pitching, it doesn’t seem as if the heart of the biggest run-producing lineup in baseball will get a chance to hit again.

So it looks like Rolen will go hitless in the series after popping out to center. Edmonds will go 1-for-14 after doing the same thing. Though Renteria lined another hit to right, Mabry ended the inning by striking out again. This time there was no claim that he tipped the ball.

Lowe is dealing. A writer in Boston wrote that he had earned $8 million by beating the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. My guess is that he got an extra $2 million for beating the Cardinals tonight.

The Red Sox are six outs away. The clouds are moving in… the night is eerily quiet.

Is this the end?

Top of 8
Haren stays in and gives up a single to Mueller to start the frame. Fox has started comparing life in America in 1918 compared to now. They have also started to show all the near misses by the Red Sox through the years.

But after Nixon laces his third double of the game to make it second and third with nobody out, it appears as if the party has begun in New England. La Russa calls on Jason Isringhausen to relieve Haren in a double switch which brings Reggie Sanders and his 0-for-9 hitting display into the game.

Interestingly, Isringhausen, the closer, gets into the series for the first time. He marks his debut by issuing a walk to Mark Bellhorn. But with the bases loaded, Isringhausen bounces back to blow away Kevin Millar. With Damon up, Isringhausen gets a grounder that Pujols fields going to his right, which causes him to make an off-balance throw to the plate to get the force.

After a nine-pitch battle with Orlando Cabrera, Isringhausen strikes out the shortstop with a high fastball.

Wow. The Cards made a stand and got out of a major jam.

Can it carry over to the offense?

Bottom of 8
Francona goes with Arroyo to pitch after a great job by Lowe. If the Sox hold on to win, Lowe will have pitched in all three of the team’s clinching victories as well as have earned himself some dough on the free-agent market.

Arroyo gets the first hitter out, but walks Sanders before Francona brings in the left-hander Alan Embree to face lefties Womack and Walker. However, despite some serious post-season experience, La Russa uses Hector Luna to hit for Womack.

Luna whiffs and Walker pops up to end the inning.

Just like that and the Sox are three outs away. Boston is now on alert.

Top of 9
Pretty easy for Isringhausen in his second inning of work. Wonder if he could have started for the Cardinals?

With two outs, Fox showed the Buckner play. I don’t think people in Boston care about that any more. It’s just a happy footnote now. Nothing more than part of the lore.

Here it comes…

Bottom of 9
Keith Foulke enters. Flashbulbs pop and I have pulled my six-month old son out of bed to watch the last three outs.

Amazingly, he opens his eyes from deep sleep and watches Pujols single. For a moment it appears as if the Cardinals have a little life in them. But Rolen flied to right and Edmonds whiffed before Renteria slapped one back at Foulke. As he calmly gloved it and trotted toward Doug Mientkiewicz at first, I felt chills go down my spine. The hair on my arms felt prickly and my heart skipped two beats.

Wow. So this is what it looks like to live in a world where the Red Sox are the champions.

As soon as Mientkiewicz squeezed it and the pile up started on the green infield grass, my thoughts raced a mile a minute. I felt as if I should cry or something like that as I thought about my grandfather and all the time we spent together watching games and hanging out at the track or his restaurants or at sportswriters banquets with who I thought were my heroes. Who would have guessed that the man I was with was really my hero instead of those ballplayers?

I thought about my old pal Johnny Pesky and all the years he spent wearing that uniform, never wanting to do anything else but contribute to his team and make the Red Sox world champs. I thought about how nice he was to me when I was a boy and how his patience with me and his devotion to the game made me love it as much as I could. I thought about how his devotion to the game made me want to do the same thing. How could I have a life that didn’t include baseball? Seriously, I would have to be crazy to want to have a job that didn’t include the game.

I thought about Bob Costas standing in the tiny visitor's clubhouse at Shea Stadium with two outs in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Bob was getting ready to hand the World Series trophy over to club owner Jean Yawkey and the MVP trophy to Bruce Hurst. Soon after the big scoreboard in center field flashed the "Congratulations Red Sox... 1986 World Champs" message, all hell broke lose and Costas had to shuffle Yawkey out of the clubhouse and have the podium torn down and the World Champs t-shirt hidden before the shell-shocked Red Sox made it back from watching the ball squirt through Bill Buckner's legs and into right field.

I wonder how often Costas thinks about that, because the whole image of it freaks me out. Someday I hope to ask him.

I also thought about myself as a little boy and other little kids who are now the way I was and how they will never know a world like the one I lived in. The 1986 World Series will mean nothing to them. It will just be another footnote in Red Sox and baseball history. Another bump in the insignificance of people playing games and making too much of a big deal about them.

I thought about Terry Francona and walking into his office for the first time during the summer of 2000. Even though everyone was taking shots at him and questioning his ability while writing him off as a loser, he never sold out his players nor stopped being a gentleman. It’s funny to see what happened when old Tito was given a good team to manage. Throughout the whole thing, he never let his players feel the heat. He took all of the arrows and never stopped treating people with dignity.

I thought about Bill Buckner and the hell he went through because he made a mistake in front of so many people. I thought about how his life must be different now. Perhaps he will be remembered as the guy who nearly collected 3,000 hits and won a few batting titles. Maybe people will remember that he was once recognized as one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Maybe they’ll find out that he was one of the game’s greatest competitors and not the guy who made a famous error.

And while were at it, who cares about Bucky Dent anymore either.

What about Nomar Garciaparra? I guess it looks like the Red Sox had to get rid of him if they wanted to win the World Series. Maybe his moodiness and arrogance just didn’t fit in with a team hell-bent to win a championship.

Then I thought about Johnny Pesky’s friend Ted Williams and how he never saw the Red Sox win a World Series. Then again, all of those great Red Sox players never saw their team win it. The list of names is endless.

And that racist Sox owner and the whiny, woe-is-us fans… what must they be thinking? What do they all do now?

Most of all, I thought about my boy, who was sitting on my lap watching it all unfold. He’ll never remember what he saw or that I got him up so that he can watch along with his dad something that had not occurred in neither his grandmother nor great-grandmother’s life. At one point he looked up at me with those beautiful blue eyes as if to say, “I know why you’re doing this dad, and no, you’re not crazy. One day when I’m older I’ll brag that my dad sat me on his lap when I was six months old to watch the Red Sox do something that was a big deal at the time. Thanks dad.”

I hope that there will be many more times that my son and I get to sit together and watch a game. That part feels better than any championship.

WP: Lowe
LP: Marquis
HR: Damon
Series MVP: Manny Ramirez

The Boston Red Sox have won the World Series.

We were all here to see it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

10-4 Good Buddy

This blog sucks because I think I should save my really good stuff for the people who pay me to write. Besides, people aren't interested in reading long stories or fiction any more, are they?

That aside, I actually read a story in Newsweek today that held my interest. Most times, that magazine is like the unabridged version of USA Today -- "sports" writer Mark Starr is agonizingly boring and trite -- however, I like Fareed Zakaria. I must admit, sadly, that he is so precise that I sometimes don't have the capabilities to understand what he's writing.

Yes, I'm dumb

That said, I enjoyed (and agreed with) his column in the latest issue of the magazine.

Other than that, the pictures and charts and maps all had really shiny colors.

Game 3 is tonight. The Cardinals could be in big trouble if they can't solve Pete Martinez.

Buddy Bell is my new choice to get the Phillies managerial opening. I doubt general manager Ed Wade and I share the same feeling on this matter, but Bell seems like a good choice to me. This afternoon, we got to listen to Bell talk about his interview for the job. I even wrote about it.

I also wrote about the ex-Phillies tearing it up in the playoffs and World Series. My lede zoomed in on Curt Schilling's blood-stained sock. Wade didn't seem too excited to offer up any type of analysis on the play of Curt Schilling or Scott Rolen.

I imagine if I screwed up I wouldn't be too excited to talk about how well the guys I let go were playing, either.

Anyway, when I was a kid and learning about all of the players through my card collection, Buddy Bell was one of my favorites. He had stark white blonde hair that resembled that of little Tanner Boyle in the Bad News Bears movies. He also played for the Indians during a time when they wore maroon uniforms. Later he was traded to the Rangers where he wore those goofy powder-blue unis with the state of Texas on the breast.

The fact that he was an All-Star and his son is currently one of the better guys to talk to in the Phils' clubhouse is just icing on the cake. Throw in the fact that he seems to be an easy-going guy with a good sense of humor and a friendly demeanor cinches it for me.

Hire that man now.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Petula Clark and the Dreadlocked guy

Though I once pronounced that I wanted to be Tom Wolfe, it should be noted that the claim was only for occupational purposes. Truth be told, all I ever wanted to be was Bob Dylan, you know, as in that trite lyric from that one-hit wonder band from the mid-'90s whose name escapes me -- you know, the white boy with the faux dreadlocks -- shit, you know the guy.

Anyway, the lyric was: "I wanna be Bob Dylan... "

Who doesn't? I remember reading that this group often changed that lyric to pander to the specific audience they were performing in front of. For instance, if they were touring with Big Star, they would change it to: "I wanna be Alex Chilton... "

That's cool if it was the original lyric, but it's not. Aspiring to be Bob Dylan is a big job and if you're heart is truly in to it, you can't sway off course. Who is going to stop those geeks from singing "I wanna be Jeff Tweedy... " or "I wanna be Zack de la Rocha... "? Nobody, and that's the problem. Immediately this band is exposed as a fraud because they don't really want to be Bob Dylan. They just want to be cool like Justin Timberlake wants to be cool.

Maybe that's why I can't remember the name of the white boy with the extensions or what he called his band.

Anyway, I've been reading the first installment of Bob Dylan's memoirs, which I am enjoying very much. Obviously, that cat can really write. Based on Tarantula: Poems – a stream-of-consciousness tome that puts even Jack Kerouac and Thomas (not Tom) Wolfe to shame – and now Chronicles: Volume One it’s clear that ol’ Bobby D could have been an influential writer or novelist.

Like Bob writes in his memoirs, I too am a “traditionalist with a capital T.” He was talking about folk music with that line, but I sense that he’s talking about other things too. Like I bet Bob gets his hair cut in a barbershop that has a red, white and blue pole spinning out front with the old-fashioned chairs and old-timers who use talc, thinning shears and let you hold the mirror so you can check out how they snipped up the back.

I don’t think Bob goes to the Wal-Mart, Olive Garden, Home Depot, Best Buy or Barnes & Noble. Then again, maybe he does. Thanks to those stores, the suburbs have its exurbia. Even the backwoods folks can get vice grips, a CD, Pasta Primavera and a mocha latte at any time of the day.

Who knows, maybe that’s progress? After all, as much as Bob (and me for that matter) is a traditionalist he is also quite progressive. In fact, I imagine he’s more broad-minded than anything. Shit, maybe he goes to Home Depot all the time. Maybe he’s a mall rat.

So I went to the barbershop on Queen St. in downtown Lancaster this week for a haircut. As far as I can tell this joint – called Segro’s – is one of the few traditional (or “old-school” in the popular parlance) barbershop remaining in the area. I used to go to the College Barbers, which was a joint with three chairs, a long mirror and a leather bench built into the wall for people to sit and wait their turn. I used to like waiting so I could sit and read the paper or bullshit with Tom the barber. But apparently Tom wasn’t as into as much as I was, because he sold out and went to work at one of those blow-dry salons. Now, instead of regular old shears, clippers, talc and warm shaving cream, Tom has to shampoo, rinse and repeat.

So now I go to Segro’s, which like Tom’s old joint, is a throwback. I’m convinced the old-timer who cuts my hair was there at the beginning because he says he knew my grandfathers and talked knowledgably about seeing them around town in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Therein lays the point. Those old timers remember when the downtown flourished. It was a place where one went to be seen, to see and to take part in community life. But like urban centers all across America, the cultural shift and white flight placed the centers in the suburbs. The center of commerce in Lancaster is at the mall beyond the edge of town, not the city center.

Needless to say, there have been many groups and organizations – both public and private – designed to get people to come downtown. Sadly, these groups have been miserable failures. The ideas produced lack inspiration or innovation and the city leaders are arrogant in accepting ideas that are not their own and in how they treat the constituency.

In a nutshell, the downtown leaders and the groups associated with them are trotting out the same tired ideas from the same old tired people. They fear progress when it is progress that they must embrace or die.

Oh they have their ideas. One of them – and perhaps the only one at that – is to build an upscale hotel and convention center smack dab in the town square. OK, sounds good. Now how come I called around and couldn’t find a single group or organization that would want to hold a convention in downtown Lancaster, Pa.? How come it has been nearly 10 years since the project first came together and not a single minute of construction has been performed? How come the image of the state of the downtown sector has gotten worse, not better?


Yeah, right.

In Lancaster, Pa. the downtown resembles one of those old west ghost towns by 5:30 p.m. every day. Who would want to bring a convention to a town with nothing to do? Maybe the smart thing to do is to try to get people to come downtown instead of hanging out at the mall. That way outsiders will see the area as lively and want to bring conventioneers so they drop some expense-account cash in local restaurants and stores.

Good idea, huh? Well, not to the Downtown Investment District folks. In fact, it seems as if the Lancaster D.I.D. prefers the ghost town look. All that’s missing in downtown Lancaster is tumbleweed blowing across the main drag.

Now I’m not the smartest dude in the world. That one is pretty easy to figure out. However, I’m smart enough to know that if people like going to the mall, maybe other businesses should copy what the mall does. In fact, in Boulder, Colo., a town similar in size and population to Lancaster, the downtown leaders did just that. When the suburban malls started popping up, the smart folks in Boulder paved over a section of Pearl St. and turned it into an outdoor pedestrian mall. Not only is the mall popular with merchants, and consumers, but it is also a tourist destination.

When I suggested the Boulder model to the folks with the Lancaster D.I.D., they literally scoffed at me. They may have even rolled their eyes, for all I know. But it was definitely a scoff. It wasn’t that they hated the idea, they didn’t even want to consider it.

But when I asked why I saw more people at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night at the Pearl St. Mall than I would in the entire downtown district of Lancaster for an entire week, they had no answer. Maybe I was asking the wrong questions. Maybe I should have asked why they were so lazy or what they were afraid of.

The point of this that the traditionalism we all love and miss is still there. We just need to be a little less lazy and we can make it return. That means we might have to challenge civic leaders to look beyond the tiredness of bureaucratic and political thinking.

Until then, I'll see you at the Orange Julius.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

World Series Game 2

Good old Johnny Pesky was a part of the pre-game show on the Fox telecast. He also threw out the first pitch with his former teammates Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio.

Pesky’s story, of course, is well known by Red Sox fans. But in the late 1950s, he managed the Lancaster Red Roses, who were a farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time. It just so happened that my grandfather was a front-office type with the team and a local restaurateur, who catered to the town’s politicians, media types and athletes.

Essentially, my grandfather was the Toots Shor of Lancaster, Pa.

Anyway, because of the family connection, I got to know Pesky pretty well. In fact, the first time I met him was at the Cross Keys hotel in Baltimore where the Red Sox were staying during an important September series against the Orioles. Little did I know that Pesky’s Sox – he was the first-base coach – were in the middle of a colossal collapse that would culminate with Bucky Dent knocking one into the screen above the Green Monster in a special playoff game. All I knew was that I got to hang out in the hotel lobby with Don Zimmer, sat in a hotel room with a real big leaguer, got to go in the clubhouse before the game where I got a ball signed by the whole team, and then got kick-ass seats behind home plate for the big game. I remember Jim Rice blasting a home run that seemed to carry out of Memorial Stadium and little-used Larry Harlow hitting two homers to add to the Sox’s September woes.

Throughout my teens I wrote letters to old Johnny and he always wrote back and sent me autographs of the players. Yes, I still have them all.

One summer he called me at home from the clubhouse in Pawtucket, where he was managing, to answer questions for a story I was writing.

This past June, Pesky and I had a chance to catch up in the clubhouse before a game against the Phillies. Needless to say, that conversation is one of the highlights in all of my time covering Major League Baseball. I heard enough stories during that short time with Pesky in the Red Sox clubhouse to fill a couple of chapters of a book. It was a great, classic moment that I quickly ran upstairs to the press box to tell all of the other scribes, but won’t relate in here for obvious reasons.

Lets just say that neither Pesky nor I were too bashful about passing along information.

If the Red Sox win the World Series, I hope Pesky is on the bench so that he can take part in the celebration on the field. He deserves that much.

Game stuff
Joe Buck talked about how starter Matt Morris has had a very inconsistent season and a very shaky playoffs. In my opinion, Buck is being kind. Morris just plain stunk this season. A former 22-game winner, who seemed poised to become a perennial Cy Young Award candidate, Morris has battled nagging injuries and bad outings during the last two seasons. After winning 39 games through 2001 and 2002, Morris won just 26 games during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Set to be a free agent at the end of the World Series, Morris really could pushed his financial worth to the level it was in 2001 with a strong postseason. Instead, he is 0-1 in three starts, and has a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings. Worse, opponents are hitting .270 against him, which about how well the opposition hit him during the regular season. It would be hard for a general manager to justify paying him more than the $12.5 million he’s making this season when more consistent pitchers will also be available in the free-agent market.

Once an automatic win for the Cards, Morris’ starts are similar to Derek Lowe’s for Boston.

Top of 1
Curt Schilling and his balky ankle don’t get into much trouble in a drizzly, chilly opening frame. Albert Pujols laces a two-out double in the left-center gap, but Scott Rolen gets robbed by third baseman Bill Mueller to end the inning.

It could be the first really good swing Rolen has had since the big homer off Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the NLCS.

Edgar Renteria started the game with a 12-pitch at-bat before grounding out to short.

Bottom of 1
Morris got the first two hitters to quickly ground out before suddenly losing all knowledge of the strike zone. He issued back-to-back walks to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz before catcher Jason Varitek blasted a long triple to the triangle in center.

Just like that and it’s 2-0. Oh, those bases on balls.

Morris walked Kevin Millar but rediscovers his magic ground-out pitch to end the inning.

Top of 2
Knowing that the TV cameras will zoom in his cadaver-sutured right ankle, Schilling wrote “K ALS” with silver marker near the injury. That, folks, is Curt Schilling in a nutshell. He knows where the cameras are at all times.

Schilling gets a lot of help when Mueller makes another nice play by turning a sure RBI double for Mike Matheny into an inning-ending, unassisted double play.

Good pitching is fifty percent good fielding.

Bottom of 2
Morris gives up a leadoff single to Mueller and appears to shake off Matheny on two straight pitches before settling on one he likes and coaxing a double-play grounder out of the Game 1 hero Mark Bellhorn. When he strikes out Johnny Damon, Morris looks like his old self.

Top of 3
Schilling retires the side in order on just nine pitches. Believe it or not, it looked easier than that.

Bottom of 3
It didn’t take nine pitches, but Morris tore through the Sox hitters to retire the side with just 14 pitches. Interestingly, Morris had stuck with his fastball and changeup instead of his bread-and-butter curve. Either way, he ahs retired six in a row.

Top of 4
Pujols leads off with another double and smartly moves up to third when Trot Nixon tumbled to catch a flare by Rolen. If Pujols had not moved up, he would not have been able to score when Mueller booted a slow roller by Sanders.

The defense giveth and it taketh away.

Schilling is starting to find his groove. Aside from Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds had some sloppy looking swings. It appears as if Schilling’s two-seamer has a lot of bite.

Bottom of 4
Just as quickly as Morris found his good form, he lost it. A curveball got away from the right-hander and plunked Kevin Millar. Then, with two outs, Morris gave up back-to-back doubles to Millar and that wily Bellhorn.

There are two more RBIs for Bellhorn and a 4-1 lead for the Sox. So far, the unsung second baseman is the MVP of the series.

Top of 5
Schilling gives up a first-pitch single to Matheny, but quickly strikes out former teammate Marlon Anderson before coaxing a 6-4-3 double play from Renteria.

Yeah, Schilling is starting to look tough to solve. Since he has only thrown 73 pitches (48 strikes), the big righty will probably be out there for a while.

Bottom of 5
The unraveling of Morris continued with a leadoff walk to Orlando Cabrera. Though he almost plunked Ramirez before retiring him on a fly, Morris gets the hook in favor of Cal Eldred. But while Eldred is making his way in from the bullpen, the folks at Fox are too busy talking to Tom Hanks and Jimmy Fallon atop the Monster.

Hanks is cool and is an admitted Oakland A’s and American League fan, but Fallon could be doing more with the tiniest bit of talent than any man in America. For that he deserves kudos, but we don’t want to watch him shill a shitty movie while Cal Eldred is on his way in… come on. Think of how hard Eldred worked to get to the World Series only to have it ruined because a talentless actor is doing a faux Southie accent.

When Eldred finally gets the stage, Ortiz slams a long and loud foul past Pesky’s Pole for a scary strike before getting the big fella to fly out. Then he drills Varitek on his elbow armor to put two on with two outs.

However, Eldred gets out of the jam with a nasty hook to catch Millar looking on a 3-2 count.

Come to think of it, as far as stars go Tom Hanks could be as big as they get. Who cares about Cal Eldred?

Top of 6
Schilling gets Walker to whiff on a splitter that was neatly set up by a four-seam fastball. He moves that four-seamer in and out to Pujols, getting him to fly weakly to right. Then with two strikes, Rolen reaches on another error by Mueller though Schilling had his old teammate on his heels using a mix of two and four-seamers.

Nevertheless, Mueller tied a World Series record with three errors in one game.

When Rolen reaches, lefty Alan Embree starts warming up in the ‘pen. The reliever looks on as Bellhorn boots one to give the Sox their fourth error of the game, but Schilling pitches around it by getting Sanders to ground out to Mueller.

That’s eight errors in 15 innings for the Red Sox. Surprisingly Mueller, who I remember as a pretty good fielder and someone I talked to about various types of infielders gloves when he was with the Giants, is struggling out there.

Bottom of 6
Fox showed Terry Francona huddling with Schilling when the inning ended, which allowed Buck and Tim McCarver to speculate whether or not big pitcher was finished for the night. Embree, the Civil War officer look-alike, is ready to go in the ‘pen.

Chatty Ray King looks loose and ready to go, but he is most likely going to face Ortiz. Perhaps La Russa should have used him earlier because Eldred gave up a pair of two-out singles to plate two more runs. After Ramirez collected a wind-blown single, King finally got to face Ortiz.

King gets a strikeout on Ortiz, but the Cards are in a hole because they can’t get that elusive third out. All six of the Red Sox’s runs have come with two outs. Because of this, it would make sense to pull Schilling and let the bullpen take care of the five-run lead.

Top of 7
Stonewall Embree enters for Schilling and so does Pokey Reese to shore up the Sox defense. But the fielders could have taken a seat on the grass after Embree whiffed the side in order to send the game into Donna Summer’s rendering of “God Bless America.”

Probably the most interesting part of the game so far was an interview with a 79-year old fan sitting in the bleachers named Annie. Old Annie really knew her stuff and was scoring the game when Chris Myers started talking to her.

Bottom of 7
La Russa brings in the probable Game 4 starter Jason Marquis to give him some work and calm his World Series nerves. Buck says he likes the move, but forgets to mention that Marquis pinch ran and scored a run in Game 1.

Still, it doesn’t stop Varitek to bash another one to the triangle that Edmonds had to make a tough over-the-shoulder catch to save extra bases. After two walks, Marquis’ maiden is officially broken with a scoreless inning.

Top of 8
It’s do-or-die time for the Cardinals. If they are going to make a dent into the lead it better happen now or it’s going to be a 2-0 series.

With that in mind, Renteria draws a leadoff walk off reliever Mike Timlin and Pujols gets his third hit with a one-out single. But Rolen lifts a sacrifice fly for the second out to make it 6-2 as Timlin gives way to Keith Foulke.

That’s bad news for the Cards. Foulke comes in and quickly strikes out Edmonds to end the minor threat.

Bottom of 8
Al Reyes sits down the Sox in order – Damon, Cabrera and Ramirez. Buck points out that Reyes was the pitcher who plunked former Sox’s star Nomar Garciaparra on the wrist that started a string of injury-filled seasons for the star-crossed shortstop.

It was also noted that Reyes was left off the roster for the first two rounds of the playoffs and was only added when Steve Kline was deemed too hurt to pitch in the series. Needless to say, Kline was pretty pissed off.

Top of 9
The cardinals appear to be in some real trouble. Down 2-0, they now must go to St. Louis and beat Pedro Martinez to avoid an insurmountable 3-0 deficit. That’s going to be tougher than normal because these Sox can feel it. They know they are just two more victories away from finally doing it.

Yessir folks, maybe the world really is coming to an end.

Still, no one has mentioned that the Red Sox had a 2-0 advantage over the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

We all remember how that one ended, don’t we?

WP: Schilling
LP: Morris
HR: none

Saturday, October 23, 2004

World Series Game 1

I can think of only two World Series that have piqued my interest as much as the 2004 matchup between the Cardinals and Red Sox. Oh sure, I’ve been interested in all of them and probably have watched every single series since 1978, but I get the feeling that something great is going to happen this season. Maybe it’s because my favorite former Phillie player and manager are involved.

Then again, there is a very real chance that the Red Sox could finally win the World Series. I thought I was going to see it happen back in 1986 as I sat on a reclining chair at my parent’s house on Woods Avenue in Lancaster, Pa., but that life-changing 10th inning of Game 6 unfolded like a bad horror movie.

That game from that anticipated series between the Mets and Red Sox is probably my favorite ever. Yes, I rooted for the Red Sox, but there was so much drama, plot twists and turns and fateful plays that I have rehashed it and re-played it in my head so many times.

I can’t help but think about Bob Costas and Jean Yawkey standing on a makeshift platform every time I walk into the visitor’s clubhouse in Shea Stadium. How surreal must have that been?

I believe there should be a historical plaque marking the spot in the Shea Stadium turf behind first base where the ball skipped through Buckner’s legs. Looking out at that spot from a close vantage point is like examining the crack in the Liberty Bell or something.

More than the 1980 series and the 1993 series, which I attended as an employee of the Phillies, the ’86 series stands out. Forget Buckner, what if Clemens hadn’t got that blister in Game 6? Or what if the manager John McNamara had gone with another reliever instead of Calvin Schiraldi to pitch the ninth? Better yet, what if McNamara had put in Dave Stapleton at first instead of leaving Buckner out there so he could be on the field for the celebration?

Like he wouldn’t be able to hobble out to the pile from the third-base dugout.

What about our friend Pesky? Was he there? Did he see it? What did he think? (Ed. Note: nice touch by the Red Sox for including him in the pre-game introductions. This group of Sox management gets it.)

So many questions. So many answers. It never ends.

Anyway, more on other memorable series’ later. First, however, a note: the Sox and Cards have both gone to the seventh game in all of their recent appearances in the World Series. The Red Sox went to seven in 1986 against the Mets, in 1975 against the Reds, and in 1967 and 1946 against the Cardinals.

For the Cardinals, they went seven games in 1987 against the Twins, in 1985 against the Royals, in 1982 in a win over the Brewers, in 1968 against the Tigers, the winning 1967 season, the breakthrough victory over the Yankees in 1964, and the victory in ’46.

The Red Sox are 5-4 in the World Series, while the Cardinals are 9-6. From 1903 to 1918, the Sox were the Yankees before the Yankees were the Yankees. They won five titles before anyone even knew what the hell the World Series was.

Now, here’s Game 1.

Top of 1
Tim Wakefield has the knuckler knuckling. Edgar Renteria whiffs to start the game, but Wakefield recovers after Larry Walker’s double to the right-field corner by getting Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen to weakly pop up.

I guess Rolen didn’t follow his adage for hitting a knuckle ball. He once told me, “If it’s low let it go – if it’s high let it fly.”

Wakefield gets out of the first on 18 pitches.

Bottom of 1
Johnny Damon pokes a double down the line in left to start it off for the Red Sox on what Tim McCarver called “an exquisite” at-bat. Damon fouled off three 3-2 pitches in a row before dropping his bat head on a low and outside pitch from Woody Williams.

It was “exquisite” indeed. Damon made Williams throw 10 pitches, which gave his teammates a good chance to see Williams’ repertoire.

Orlando Cabrera attempted to bunt Damon to third, but was drilled on a 0-2 pitch that got away from Williams. The fans at Fenway booed, but they’re idiots. The last thing Williams wants to do is put runners on base.

Clearly Williams is rattled. Manny Ramirez lines a screamer toward Pesky’s Pole in right that Walker somehow grabs. Then David Ortiz wrapped one around the pole for a loud and long three-run blast. Before Ortiz could find his seat in the dugout, Kevin Millar pokes one high off the Monster for a double.


As if that wasn’t enough, Bill Mueller laced one inside the third-base bag for an RBI single. Mercifully, Doug Mirabelli – the No. 8 hitter – strikes out to end the inning after four runs, four hits and 28 pitches.

None of those pitches were more important than the 10 Damon saw to set up the inning.

Top of 2
The Red Sox employed the old over shift for left-handed hitting Jim Edmonds, so the slugger dropped a bunt down toward third for a single.

“If he would have bunted it harder he would have had a double,” McCarver quipped.

After Reggie Sanders walked, Tony Womack bunted both runners over to set up Mike Matheny’s sacrifice fly. Talk about a National League run.

Wakefield ends the threat with another strikeout and keeps the 4-1 lead.

Bottom of 2
Mark Bellhorn drops in a flare to left for a single and makes me think that he could turn out to be the wild-card player of the series in the mold of former light-hitting middle infielders. Brian Doyle, Bucky Dent, Mark Lemke, Buddy Biancalana and David Eckstein spring to mind as players who often had a difficult time at the plate but smashed the ball all over the place in the series.

Then there is Marty Barrett, the old Red Sox second baseman who got 12 hits in the 1986 World Series. Maybe Bellhorn will turn out to be Barrett. Then again, maybe he won’t get another hit and give way to Pokey Reese.

Williams gets into some two-out trouble when Ramirez singles and Ortiz walks. Millar comes up and takes a vicious cut with the sacks juiced. Looks like the Sox are on to Williams. No worries though, Millar grounds to Rolen and Tony La Russa gets Danny Haren up in the ‘pen. Then again, he should – Williams has thrown 48 pitches through two frames.

Top of 3
Walker homers around the pole in right to cut the lead in half. It appears as if Walker has figured out Wakefield.

How tough is the Cardinals’ lineup if Larry Walker is hitting in the two-spot?

Wakefield follows the homer by plunking Pujols with a curveball, but Rolen grounds into an around-the-horn double play to end the threat before it even got started.

Bottom of 3
After coaxing a groundout to start the inning, Williams loads the bases on a pair of walks and a single high off the wall in left by Mirabelli.

“He’s in a ton of trouble,” McCarver says.

After Damon’s RBI single, La Russa gives Williams’ trouble to 24-year old Danny Haren. Cabrera greets the kid with a hard single to left, and now the right-hander is knee-deep in the mess. Ramirez grounds sharply into a fielder’s choice to drive home his first run in two weeks. After Ortiz walks on four pitches, Haren got Millar – the ninth hitter of the inning – to ground out.

Fox showed Williams blowing a bubble in the dugout, which is funny because it had already popped.

Geez, it’s 7-2.

Top of 4
Went downstairs to get something to eat so I missed Wakefield walk the bases loaded on 14 pitches. However, I saw Matheny lift a sacrifice fly to right to score Edmonds and Millar’s throwing error on the cut-off to score Sanders. Then I saw So Taguchi hit a chopper to third that Mueller fielded cleanly, but couldn’t get out of his glove in time to throw Womack out at the plate.

Then I saw Wakefield walk Renteria on five pitches, and get the hook before Bronson Arroyo came in to give up a single to right to Walker. Oddly enough, the Cards tacked on three more runs on just Walker’s hit. Wakefield’s four free passes more than Millar’s throwing error helped St. Louis get back in it.

Bottom of 4
Pretty freaking cool… Fox just aired a miked conversation between Sanders and Cabrera where Sanders said: “I know you weren’t trying to throw elbows (on a takeout slide in the third), but it looked like you were trying to throw elbows.”

How’s that for a polite, “Don’t do that shit again, or we are going to come gunning for your scrawny shortstop ass.”

Good work by Fox.

Not so cool, at least as far as the Cards are concerned, was the pair of walks Haren dished out to start the inning. But he got three straight flies, including one snagged by Walker that got hung up in the wind, to wiggle out of trouble.

Top of 5
Hey what happened? Bronson Arroyo is dealing. He retired the side in order with two whiffs, but still looks like he needs a pair of glasses when peering in to see the signals.

Bottom of 5
Haren still in there and throwing OK. The Red Sox are getting some pretty good swings at him, but good pitching comes thanks to good fielding. Where the Cardinals might have the edge in this Series is with the leather – they can really go get it. Rolen, Matheny and Edmonds will win the Gold Glove at their positions, while Renteria and Walker have won a few in they day as well.

Top of 6
It was 49 degrees at game time and it’s starting to get a little windy. During the past few innings, balls hit to right field are a bit of an adventure.

More of an adventure has been Arroyo. Clearly the Cardinals appear to be baffled by his sweeping, high leg kick and breaking pitches. Still, Taguchi beats out a bleeder and takes second when Arroyo’s boneheaded throw to first skips past Millar and into the seats.

Still, Arroyo made Renteria look uncomfortable with his breaking pitches, quickly getting two strikes on the shortstop. But then Arroyo leaves one out over the plate and Renteria, savvy World Series vet that he is, laces it in the gap for a double. Not to be outdone, Walker gets his fourth straight hit and second double to drive home another run.

Suddenly, just like that, it’s tied.

Lucky No. 7 for both clubs.

Bottom of 6
Haren is still in there. In fact, he retired the side in order. Since entering the game with one out in the third, Haren has allowed just a pair of walks and hits. He’s also retired nine of the last 10 hitters he has faced.

I just thought of something: the announcing team of Joe Buck and McCarver has some tight St. Louis ties. Buck, as everyone knows, is the play-by-play man during the season for the Cardinals, while McCarver played for the Cardinals from 1959 to 1969 and then again from 1973 to 1974.

McCarver also played parts of the ’74 and ’75 seasons for the Red Sox so I guess that evens it out.

Top of 7
Mike Timlin relieves Arroyo and faces Rolen to start the inning, who, coincidentally, were traded for one another. Timlin, obviously, got out of Philadelphia after an unhappy half season there. He was very bummed out about being traded from St. Louis to Philly. I think he got into a fight on the street on his first day in town.

Yeah, fun guy.

Either way, he retired the side in order so that Kelly Clarkson could sing “God Bless America.”

Bottom of 7
La Russa yanks Haren after 69 pitches in favor of right-hander Kiko Calero, who immediately walks Bellhorn. Lefty Ray King is warming up in the bullpen, presumably to face Ortiz. The cameras show King (big friendly and chatty guy) standing there with his hands on his hips ready to come in, while Calero walks Cabrera and then allows Ramirez to belt a run-scoring single to center.

Edmonds had a chance to nail Bellhorn with a good throw, but he airmailed it. So with runners on the corners, King finally comes in to face Ortiz, who promptly hits a grounder at Womack at second that takes a weird hop and nails the Cardinal square on the sternum just below his throat.

Womack has to leave the game, they give Ortiz a single and moody Marlon Anderson enters. Had the ball not taken such a nasty bounce, King and the Cardinals would have escaped the inning trailing by just one run. Instead, King had to give way for Cal Eldred after Millar popped out and skipper Terry Francona called for right-hander Gabe Kapler to pinch hit for Trot Nixon.

After Kapler whiffs, Fox shows Ramirez celebrating on his way to first after his hit instead of digging hard for second. What they didn’t say is that it was a typical Manny move. To call Ramirez dumb would be an insult to dumb people.

It’s 9-7 with the bottom third of the lineup coming up for the Cardinals.

Top of 8
Matheny singled with one out and as I was marking it in my book I noticed that he has two sacrifice flies in the game. I bet that’s a World Series record.

From here on out, both managers will be making moves based on matchups. As soon as La Russa sends pitcher Jason Marquis to run for Matheny and Roger Cedeno to hit for Taguchi, Francona pops out of the dugout to hook Timlin and bring in lefty Alan Embree.

Is it me or does Embree not look like a Civil War officer with his droopy mustache and big chaw of tobacco? Either way, Stonewall Embree gives up a flared single to right and exits as quickly as he entered. Interestingly, Francona taps closer Keith Foulke to get the final five outs. Still, if Foulke is going to earn the tough save, he’s going to have to do it against the meat of the Cardinals’ order… with two on, no less.

Nevertheless, Foulke has not allowed a run in his last 11 outings (since Sept. 22), and has only given up five hits over that same span. Still, that doesn’t stop Renteria from slapping a single to left that somehow got Marquis home.

Marquis made it to third easily enough, seemed content to stop there, but then appeared to have run through a stop sign and head home. He would have been out by a step if catcher Jason Varitek had been able to get the tag down.

TV replays didn’t show what happened, but Ramirez was charged with an error on the play.

TV replays did show Ramirez’s next error. As the absent-minded left fielder was attempting to slide to catch a fast-falling fly by Walker, his knee got stuck on the turf causing him to lurch forward as the ball bounced off his glove and toward the corner.

Just like that, it’s all tied again.

Bottom of 8
Julian Tavarez enters and his fastball seems to be moving all over the place. Unfortunately for him, and perhaps a water cooler and bat rack a bit later, he stuck one over the inside portion of the plate and Bellhorn crashed it off the Pesky Pole for a two-run donger. If this series is going to continue to be played this way, there are going to be a lot of nervous and sick people at the end of next week.

Geez. What was it that I wrote about Bellhorn? Am I a sage or what?

Top of 9
Tavarez quietly sat down in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway, but you know he wants to firebomb the place. Instead he gets to sit there and watch Foulke whiff Sanders on three pitches. Moody Marlon’s double to left forced the tying run to the plate, but Foulke got Yadier Molina to pop up and Cedeno to fan to end the game.

The Red Sox are three wins away.

WP: Foulke
LP: Tavarez
HR: Ortiz, Walker, Bellhorn.

Fox just showed that 13 of the last 16 World Series winners have taken the first game and 59 of the 99 World Series winners have taken the first game. What they didn’t show was that the Red Sox have won Game 1 in 1986, 1975 and 1946. They lost all three of those.

The didn’t forget to mention that the 20 runs are the most ever scored in a Game 1, or that Ortiz tied a club record with four RBIs in a World Series game. Carl Yastrzemski drove in four against the Cardinals

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Amongst sports fans -- if I can even be considered a sports fan -- I am rare in that I feel no sympathy for the Boston Red Sox, their whiny fans and their damned curse. As far as I'm concerned, the Red Sox and their fans deserve all the agony that has been dealt their way. Want to know why? The phrase, "Get that nigger off the field," sums up my ambivilence toward the Olde Towne Team.

Check out my friend Howie's book Shut Out, better yet, buy it, if you want to understand the real history of the Red Sox. Contrary to popular media mythology, the real curse has nothing to do with Babe Ruth. Instead, the fact that the Red Sox refused to integrate for more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color line screams volumes.

Sometimes, I even root for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox. To me that means that everything is OK in the world. If the Red Sox were to somehow figure out how to win it all, the earth might spin off its axis and prople itself into the sun.

For good measure, screw the Chicago Cubs too. Real teams figure out how to get it done.

Anyway, the magnitude of the Red Sox's victory in the ALCS still has not sunk in. Rarely are two extremes even contained in the same variable in that the victory was both the greatest comeback and greatest collapse in baseball history. The fact that it happened with two of the most mythologized francises in the sport just makes it even more immense and legendary. However, there are a few things that a lot of people are forgetting about the two teams.

Firstly, the Red Sox were actually favored to win the series. After the Sox swept an Angels team that was much better than the Yankees, the consensus was that the Sox would win the ALCS in six games... maybe even five. But when the Sox lost the first two games and then were embarrassed 19-8 in the third game, it was the same old, same old for Red Sox Nation.

Nice try. Hurry up and lose so we can move on.

So when they came back from three games down and three outs away from a sweep against one of the best three closers in the history of the game, it was easy to see that something was up.

Interestingly, the Red Sox also overcame a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series deficit with just one strike to go before they were eliminated the last time they went to the World Series. And we all know how that one ended.

I'm sure Fox will have a blast playing and replaying the ball that went through Bill Buckner's legs. That image still sends chills up and down my spine every time I see it even to this day. But we'll chat about that later.

Anyway, back to why I don't like the Red Sox.

Surely, I should be able to ignore the idiocy of the whiny fans, egghead literati and elbow-patch blazer wearing professors as well as the knee-jerk media that obsess over the Sox, but I can't. I'm shallow. I'm also one of those people who is too cool to be attached to common fandom because I get to go into the clubhouse. Yeah, that's right. I'm so cool.

But when I was boy and easily influenced by the media -- especially television, newspapers and those jock-sniffing tell-all books -- I loved the allure of the Red Sox. Johnny Pesky is a family friend, so how could I not root for the Sox. Since they are the lovable losers always knocking on the door but never getting an answer, how could a young kid not be influenced by that? Enticing it even more was the fact that the were always so close to it finally being the year. They always did the right thing by adding the piece that they needed, and always had a band of complex and complicated stars.

Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Jimmy Rice, Wade Boggs, Oil Can, the Rocket, Freddie Lynn, Boomer Scott, Eck, Fisk, Remy, el Tiante, Nomah, Mo Vaughn, Dewey Evans, Zimmer, Steamer Stanley, Dave Henderson and Billy Buckner. Who couldn't like those guys?

Well, they couldn't, I would later find out. Much later, I learned that that 25 cabs for 25 guys ethos that had defined the team and was later embraced by Nomar Garciaparra doesn't work. The Golden Boy had to go if they were going to make a serious run.

Regardless, I find myself curiously interested in these Sox because of an unappreaciated element called Terry Francona. Old Tito, of course, was the first manager I ever dealt with on an everyday basis. Tito is a guy who I associate with my dream of covering a big league team. His office was the first place I went when I finally became an insider. I'm sure if it had been anyone else other than kindly and classy Francona that I would not want to have anything to do with baseball. By being a good guy -- which to me is more important than being a good player or manager -- my love of the game and desire to be near it was enhanced. So for that, I hope Francona wins the World Series every single season.

I don't even care that he manages the Red Sox.


· One name missing from everyone's lips as the Red Sox go to the World Series is Nomar Garciaparra. Apparently, the deal to send him to the Cubs to get Orlando Cabrera from Montreal and Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota worked out pretty well.

· Check this out: My grandmother was born on Jan. 10, 1918. She was nearly eight months old when the Red Sox won their last World Series in Sept. 1918. My son was born April 15, 2004. If the Red Sox win the World Series this week, he'll be close to the same age as my grandmother was when the Sox won their last title.

Crazy huh?

I wonder if my son will have to wait as long as my grandmother did to see another Red Sox title... yes, I just assumed the Sox will win. Now they're really jinxed.

· Lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox-Yankees series has been a marvelous NLCS. Tonight is Game 7 of that series, which has had much better ball and even closer games than the ALCS. If the Cardinals win, the World Series will be a former Phillies convention.

· Along the former Phillies line, wdid all the Philadelphia fans know that Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling and Francona would one day make it to the World Series. Now ask those same Philly fans if they are surprised that they did it with St. Louis and Boston.

· How cool would it be to see Roger Clemens pitching in the World Series against the Red Sox?

NLCS Game 7

Plenty of hype during the pre-game, but not as much as one would expect… especially for a Game 7 started by Roger Clemens. Psycho Lyons related a funny comment by our boy Scotty Rolen, which I’ve heard and seen him say thousands of times.


Why did the Phillies have to trade him?

Top of 1
Craig Biggio leads off with a homer tight to the line in left. He quickly circles the bases with his head down, but when he gets back to the dugout and sits down with his helmet off, he suddenly looks old.

There’s one for Astros.

Bottom of 1
Clemens retires the side in order, but reaches a three-ball count on each hitter. Rocket throws 18 pitches in the inning – nine balls and nine strikes. Bob Brenly points out on the telecast that Clemens always battles against a high pitch count.

“Sometimes he throws 100 pitches by the fifth inning,” Brenly exclaimed, as if it were an in-depth point.

And sometimes he likes to wear women’s underwear, mince around the house and be called “Sapphire,” but no one ever mentions that.

It’s still 1-0 for the ‘Stros.

Top of 2
That Thom Brenneman has a wonderful speaking voice. It’s forceful, yet kind. No one should feel annoyed when he announces that Jeff Suppan walked leadoff hitter Jeff Kent. Nor does anyone mind that he spells his first name “Thom.” To me that spelling says that Thom is willing to take the extra step. He’s not going to cheat anyone by hiding the “H” like all those sissy boys named “Tom.”

I like that.

I recall seeing Thom walk into the bathroom in the press box at Citizens Bank Park between innings when his Arizona Diamondbacks were in town last May. Thom took a urinal next to his broadcasting partner Mark Grace, who, as everyone knows, might be the funniest of all the good guys in the history of the game. Anyway, Grace and Thom were taking a leak as I was washing my hands when one of their cronies came into the room and started giving Grace a hard about taking a whiz between innings.

“Do you have time for that? What happens if you don’t make it back in time for the start of the inning? Aren’t you worried? You better hurry up,” the crony chided Grace.

“Doesn’t take too long to drain something this small,” Grace laughed back.

What a gem.

Jim Edmonds made a fantastic diving catch to rob extra bases from Brad Ausmus. Edmonds often is accused of hot-dogging and intentionally taking a slow route to the ball in order to make diving, highlight-reel catches because he loves the attention that comes with being on ESPN. However, in the seventh game of the NLCS, Edmonds isn’t going to pull such a stunt. He truly made a dynamic catch.

Thom exults it and it is replayed from three different angles and varying speeds before the Cardinals come up in the bottom half of the inning.

Bottom of 2
Rolen leads off and flies to center on the second pitch. After Clemens threw 18 pitches in the first, shouldn’t Rolen make the old man work a little more? Making matters worse, Edmonds grounded weakly to second on the first pitch. That’s two outs on three pitches for Clemens.

Reggie Sanders only takes a pitch before grounding to third.

Six up and six down for Clemens on 23 pitches

Top of 3
Missed the first part of the frame, but saw Carlos Beltran swipe second after drawing a walk. The stolen base coupled with an aggressive tag up on a routine fly to center helped Beltran score his record 12th run of the series when Edmonds’ throw skipped past Rolen at third.

Beltran has yet to be caught stealing in 38 attempts as a National Leaguer. Too bad he won’t keep the streak going next season when he’s making $20 million with the Yankees.

Bottom of 3
Tony Womack works Clemens to 2-2 before legging out a double to left-center. Mike Matheny smartly moves him over to third before pitcher Suppan lays down a perfect squeeze bunt. Great call by Tony La Russa. Womack timed it well by waiting for Clemens to commit to the plate before digging to the plate. Suppan can handle the bat pretty well for a pitcher. The only play was to first.

The squeeze makes it 2-1

Top of 4
I need to go for a run. Maybe I’ll hit the road at 9:45 or 10 p.m.

My son Michael had a bath and spent the evening at the Barnes & Noble with my wife. He’s going to have a bottle and go to bed while I contemplate running and watch Game 7.

Jeff Kent, the hero in Game 5, leads off by getting hit by a pitch. Meanwhile, the commentators are talking about La Russa’s uncanny ability to steal signs. Pretty fascinating. Sometimes, they say, La Russa will stand behind the cameras at the end of the dugout so he can get a clean view at his target without getting caught.

Morgan Ensberg singles to make it first and second with no outs. This gets the bullpen stirring for the Cardinals. Luckily for Suppan, he is able to get a ground out and a whiff from Brad Ausmus with runners on the corners. He gets Clemens to strikeout to wiggle out of the jam.

I recall writing a bunch of deadline stories about Suppan in 2003 and noting that making a deal for him would be a good move both financially and with the rotation. Apparently, general manager Ed Wade did not see what I wrote. In case he stumbles on here, I’ll re-post those old stories here and here.

Bottom of 4
Clemens sits down Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and Rolen in order. Of the 13 hitters he has faced, Clemens has thrown a first pitch strike to 11 hitters. Incidentally, Rolen is the only hitter he started with a pitch out of the zone.

Through four innings, Clemens has thrown 53 pitches (36 strikes), while Suppan has hucked 77 pitches.

Still 2-1.

Top of 5
Beltran hits a screamer to Rolen, but the big boy gobbles it up for the second out. Bagwell skies one to the track in left to end a pretty uneventful frame. Suppan really needed an easy one, especially against those big bats.

Bottom of 5
Thinking about that run but it’s raining. I hate running in the rain.

Edmonds leads off with a single for just the second hit off Clemens. The commentators just pointed out that the last time the Red Sox made it to the World Series, Clemens started Game 6 and won his first Cy Young Award. As soon as this is pointed out, the big right-hander strikes out Sanders.

Clemens, of course, was something of a novelty that summer of ’86. For those of us who didn’t live in New England, he kind of came out of nowhere. Actually, we knew about him because he struck out a record 15 hitters as a injury-riddled rookie in ’85, and had been the star pitcher for the College World Series-winning University of Texas, but he wasn’t a household name.

It’s funny what a 24-win season followed by 18 more seasons of averaging 16 wins a year does for a guy.

Anyway, Womack reached and was picked off by Ausmus thanks to a bad call by first-base umpire Eric Cooper.

I wonder what that Jim Wolf is doing?

Top of 6
Still raining. Looks like the run is off unless this game ends before midnight. I’d like to get one in sometime today.

Now Thom is talking about the Astros’ crazy run to the playoffs. I think the run is best described by Paul Hagen in the Daily News.

Wait a second… what happened to that inning? Looks like Suppan got out of it with 12 pitches. He’s up to 98 through six, but should be out of the game because he’s slated to leadoff the sixth.

Bottom of 6
Roger Cedeno singles for Suppan. Good choice in a hitter, because Cedeno is 11-for-25 against Clemens. Try to figure that out. Edgar Renteria bunts him to second and good old Larry Walker, cut from the same cloth as Mark Grace, hits a dribbler to Clemens for the second out.

Coincidentally, Walker and Biggio used to have some sort of communication via the bathroom in the visitor’s dugout at Veterans Stadium.

I took a picture of it.

How good is Albert Pujols? So good that he knows that Clemens is going to eventually throw him a fastball. He waits for it and laces a double to left to tie the game. Then, Rolen lines a first-pitch fastball over the fence in left to put the Cards up by two.

Anyone who knows me knows what I think about Rolen. Don’t get me started on him, because I’m not allowed to root.

It would interesting to hear what Rolen will say about his homer after the game. It will be even more interesting to hear what he says if his homer is the last hit Clemens allows in his career. I’m sure Scotty will tell his daughter about it. She’s due to arrive in January.

Top of 7
Orlando Palmeiro pinch hits for Clemens with two outs and reliever Kiko Calero hits him. It’s the only hiccup in the inning as the Cards hold on to the 4-2 lead.

Bottom of 7
Simple organ for the stretch. Sure is a far cry from Ronan Tynan at the Stadium. Meanwhile, the cameras zoomed in on Rolen during the playing of “God Bless America.” If the game holds with the current score, he’s the big star and Pujols is the MVP.

Smartly, astros’ skipper Phil Garner taps 20-game winner Roy Oswalt to relieve Clemens. His first pitch bounces five feet in front of the plate, but he impressively retires the side in order by striking out two.

Maybe Oswalt should have started in place of Clemens?

Top of 8
Here comes crazy Julian Tavarez, the John Holmes of Major League Baseball. Yeah, that’s right. He’s also a bit crazy, but that’s pretty well documented.

Renteria makes back-to-back good plays at short to retire Beltran and Jeff Bagwell. The Cardinals can smell it. Just for good measure, Renteria makes another stunning play, but when he rifles it to first, it smacks Tavarez on his glove-covered broken hand.


Bottom of 8
Old Phillie Marlon Anderson smacks a pinch double to start the frame. He comes around to score on Larry Walker’s single with two outs. The cardinals are so close they are starting to breathe heavy. You can see their hearts race.

Top of 9
Jason Isringhausen takes the ball and quickly retires the first two hitters. La Russa looks like he needs oxygen. When the final out is recorded, the Cards look relieved and like they are going to break into a group cry. Why not, there are tons of guys on that team who have played a long time and never made it to the World Series.

Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds are the old boys who are getting their first shot, while Rolen and Pujols are the kids who are stepping onto center stage. Then there are Sanders and Renteria, who seem to get to the Series every year.

Good for them.

For Rolen, he is getting what he left Philadelphia for. I wonder if all the headaches, arguments, back stabbings, name-calling, booing and mistreatment was worth it for Rolen.

From the way his face looked when his pregnant wife Nikki ran out onto the field to join in the celebration, it looked like everything was worth it. A man saw his dream come true by smacking a homer. His wife, pregnant with his first child, came onto the field to hug him, all of the TV people wanted to talk to him and his teammates wanted to pour champagne on his head. How cool is that?

Yeah, Philadelphia is a million miles away.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More on Jon Stewart's groundbreaking appearance on the now irrelevant Crossfire in today's New York Times.

Here it is.

© 2006 - John R. Finger - all rights reserved