Posts Tagged 'Boston'

Two Trophies and a Side of Rice

A ‘7th Inning Stretch’ with Jim Rice and the World Series Trophies

New York City is great!  No, I really mean it.  I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost 3 years now, and as much as I love New England (and my New England sports), I really enjoy the energy of the City as well as the opportunity to experience so many activities, sites, and events within minutes across the entire NY metropolitan area: world class museums, parks, on and off Broadway shows, live music, and an array of dining options reflecting the City’s diversity.  And in April, I had the good fortune of coming face to face with former Red Sox great and Hall of Famer, Jim Rice, and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies right here in NYC.

Back in mid-April, in recognition of Fenway’s 100th anniversary festivities, MLB Fan Cave and the Sox, set up a rare opportunity for fans to meet the Red Sox HOF’er and to check out the trophies in Manhattan.  Even Wally The Green Monster made the trip.  I found out about it on the day of the event on Twitter and proceeded to re-arrange my schedule to swing by for a ‘7th inning stretch’ with the Red Sox HOF’er.  No way was I going to miss out!  And as luck would have it, my son and I were both home that day, so fortunately I was able to take him with me to share the experience.

Although I was too young to enjoy Jim Rice’s finest years, I remember seeing him play for the Sox in the late 1980s and appreciate his contributions to the game.  And as an avid fan, it would be really cool to meet a Hall-of-Famer who once played for my favorite team.  I even dug up one of my old Jim Rice baseball cards.

Jim Rice, Topps, 1990

Within 30 minutes, including a few stops on the F train and a few blocks’ walk, we were at MLB Fan Cave, located at 4th Street and Broadway, right in the heart of Greenwich Village.  And being that it’s Manhattan, and not Boston, we had only to wait a couple minutes to meet Jim Ed and the trophies.

My son and I with Jim Rice and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies.

It was a real honor to meet Jim Rice and to check out the World Series trophies up close–and to share that experience with my son was priceless.  My little guy wasn’t yet born when the Sox came back to defeat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.  And he was only 2 1/2 when the Sox swept the Rockies to win the 2007 WS.  So to be able to high five Jim Rice with him while checking out the World Series bling was a bonding experience with my son that I’ll never forget.  And the best part–it happened in NYC!  Thanks Mr. Rice, MLB Fan Cave, the Red Sox, and NYC!  Go Sox!

‘A Lyric Little Bandbox’ Turns 100: A Photo Album Tribute

On April 20, 2012, Fenway Park–‘a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark’, as Updike described her in his 1960 classic tribute to the great Ted Williams, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu“–turned 100.  Since serving as host to the New York Highlanders one Spring afternoon on April 20, 1912, this Grande Dame of Baseball Ballparks has seen it all.  From the triumphs to the theatrics, from the heroics to the heartaches, from the legends to the rivals… And the roar of the Fenway crowd is only topped by the sound of The Standells singing “Dirty Water” over the loudspeakers after the home team records the final out…

Over the years, I have been blessed to have enjoyed many a great game at this asymmetrical-cut emerald ballpark.   Seeing Pedro toe the rubber when he was at the peak of his game.   And enjoying the at-bats of such sluggers as Mo, Nomar, Papi, Manny and Pedroia.  And having the good fortune to see a young Clay Buchholz pitch a no-hitter on a cool September evening…  Not to mention the countless memories I’ve shared with family and friends at Friendly Fenway, especially taking my son to his first ball game at the Old Ballpark…  Such memories will be forever etched in the ‘Green Fields’ of my Mind.

While the names of the players and managers have changed, and the Park has undergone a few facelifts over the years, the majestic red brick and evergreen walls filled with the echoes of history and the hope of a passionate fanbase remain constant.   Happy 100th, Fenway Park!  Thanks for the memories!

As a tribute to Fenway, I have selected a few photos taken recently to honor the Old Ballpark.

On Yawkey Way, April 14, 2012, Opening Day Weekend.

The iconic Citgo sign. Fans file along Brookline on their way to catch an 'Old Ballgame.' Though not structurally connected to Fenway Park, no gallery of Fenway images is complete without the Citgo sign. Before the Monster Seats were added, on TV, the Citgo sign stood out like a beacon, appearing to hover atop the Green Monster. It remains itself a Boston landmark.

View of the retro-modern Gate B entrance at the corner of Van Ness and Ipswich.

Commemorative red bricks gather 'round Eck's outstretched hands, myself included.

From within the ancient cavernous walls around her, Fenway beckons you to enter her lush, palatial green courtyard...

View of Pesky's Pole from the bleachers during warm-ups. The foul pole is a mere 302 feet from home plate, making it the shortest home-run in baseball if you can hit it. Sox 2B Mark Bellhorn hit the Pole in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series helping the Sox win.

The Lone Red Seat.

View of the seating rows located in the RF Grandstand before the fans file in.

Black & white image of all of the retired Sox numbers along the RF facade (L to R): Ted, Cronin, Doerr, Yaz, Fisk, Pesky, Rice, and, of course, Jackie Robinson whose #42 was retired by MLB. Some day #45 will join the venerable facade...

A favorite Fenway tradition: Here's to one fine century and to another, Fenway!

The 7th Inning Stretch, of course! Across, is the famous Green Monster, standing 37' and 2" high and boasting a manually operated scoreboard. The left field wall wasn't actually painted green until 1947.

Sunlight majestically graces the Green Monster. To the right is the infamous outfield Triangle, and the bullpens can be seen in the foreground, just in front and below the fans, who sit in the bleachers.

The Green Monster at dusk.

Outside, The Teammates at twilight on Van Ness. Red Sox legends, Ted, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, stand tall beside the Park. These four statues honor the enduring friendship they enjoyed throughout their lives. Together, they would lead the Sox to the '46 AL pennant, the team's first since 1918. The Sox would lose the '46 World Series to the Cards in 7 games, however. One of the endearing highlights from Fenway's 100th anniversary ceremonies was seeing elder statesmen, Pesky and Doerr--the only surviving members of the old Quartet--being led onto the fine green grass by recently retired Red Sox heroes, Varitek and Wake.

Evening settles over the Ancient Ballpark with Pesky's Pole in the foreground and the Fisk Foul Pole in the back. The LF foul pole was made famous by Fisk's epic home run to win Game 6 of the '75 World Series, one of Fenway's many classic moments.

Here’s to many more magical Fenway moments! Go Sox!

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What are your favorite Fenway moments?  Please share your thoughts and comments.  Thanks for visiting and cheers!

Wraps or Cuban Sandwiches?

No, this is not a competition for the next Top Chef.  This is about Bobby V vs. Ozzie G for MLB’s coveted Mana-Jeer of the Year Award.  It’s the modern wrap vs. the traditional Cuban sandwich.  And the question right now is which skipper will stuff his sandwich (or his foot) in his mouth more often this season: the self-proclaimed inventor of the wrap or Fidel’s former BFF?  And with the blistering pace these guys have already set, it’s really not too early to consider this race a statistical dead-heat.

Ozzie with mouth already open. Courtesy: StarTribune.com (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Let’s take a look at some of the highlight mana-jeerial moments:

-In Feb., Bobby caused a ‘big bang’ in Yankee universe, or whatever its called, insulting mytique and aura twice: first, by praising Tek on his decorated career for essentially “beating up” A Rod (with his mask on–the horror!); and second, by offering an unsolicited critique of St. Jete’s fabled “flip play” in the ’01 ALDS (blasphemy!).  Tongue in cheek or not, why even go there, Bobby?  Save that stuff for your autobiography or for filling airtime during your future ESPN gig. (Oh, wait!)

Bobby V sizing up his vocal counterpart in Miami?
Courtesy: NYPost.com

Early edge: Bobby.

-In March, Bobby V waved ‘bye bye’ to Ozzie after Castro’s biggest Miami booster was tossed from a ST game for arguing a foul call.  (Really, Ozzie? Was that one of those feeling the affects of a day game coming off a road game thing?)  Of course when Ozzie learned about the wave later, he told the media he would’ve “told [Bobby] to go and [expletive] himself” had he seen it.  ‘Cause, you know, “[t]hat’s the way Ozzie Guillen is,” referring to himself in 3rd person.

Hey, Hey, Good-bye! Courtesy: LarryBrownSports.com

Edge: Ozzie + bonus points for referring to himself in 3rd person.  Then Ozzie went on a roll:

-Before even his infamous praise for Fidel became public, Ozzie proclaimed that he gets drunk after every road game and has had the same routine “25, 28 years.”  Obsessive-compulsive glove adjustments and toe taps between every pitch is so yesterday.  It’s the Land of Oz and we’re just living in it.

Is that a sandwich wrap stuck in your throat, Ozzie?
Courtesy: MORNING JOURNAL/DAVID RICHARD

With those 2 comments, Ozzie surged ahead for the coveted award. But his substantial lead would fizzle faster than Rick Perry’s support for the Republican nomination for President…

-Last Sunday, following the team’s 3rd straight win at home, Bobby V dropped this little nugget on the Knights of the Keyboard: “I don’t think [Youks is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”  Ozzie who??  Honestly, whether you really think that or not, Bobby, publicly calling out fan fave Yooouuuuks on it just 1 week into the season?  Can you imagine if this guy was managing Manny?

Result: statistical dead-heat.

For those of you leaning towards Bobby V right now, when an ‘innocuous’ comment threatens to jeopardize the manager’s control of the clubhouse, you do have a point.  For me, I still have to go with the Great and Powerful Oz with the slight edge.  As much as us Sox fans take umbrage with anyone insulting our local heroes and institutions (yes, I’m looking at you, Luke Scott!), declaring so much as admiration for Castro’s beard follicles is not exactly the wisest way to endear oneself to Miami’s politically passionate Cuban-American population.  (Fear the Beard, Ozzie!)

Fidel Castro. Courtesy: Antonio Milena - ABr

I give Ozzie the slight edge because the people he offended literally lost homes and loved ones and hold Castro directly responsible.  They bear deep-seated wounds which understandably do not heal easily, if ever.  So while Bobby, Youks and Pedey might not be singing kumbaya around a campfire together any time soon, I’d like to think the team will get over this and other inevitable Bobby V gaffes and focus on the big picture: winning.  But, hey!  It’s early, Bobby V haters!

Just when you think the race is over, Ozzie, Bobby V might just have a trick up his sleeve. Courtesy: AP Photo/ESPN

In all seriousness, the more I hear these guys talk, the more I ask myself WWTD (Tito)?  For all of his alleged faults (you know, like successfully managing a team to 2 WS championships), Terry Francona sure handled the media like a pro.  He kept most of the BS in-house where it  belongs, publicly protected his players, and kept the focus, not on himself, but on the games.  While we’ll never really know the whole story abut what went down last year, the Sox had a pretty damn good manager in Tito.  Blowhards like Bobby V and Ozzie could learn a thing or 2 from him about media relations.  Unfortunately, they may never learn…

So who do you think will win this year’s Mana-Jeer of the Year Award?

-Bobby Valentine?                                                                                                                                -Ozzie Guillen?                                                                                                                                       -Someone else?

Thanks for visiting and commenting.  Cheers!

Say it Ain’t So, Tito!

Somebody’s Heiney is crowning my icebox.  
Somebody’s cold one is giving me chills.  
Guess I’ll just close my eyes.  

Flip on the tele… Wrestle with Jimmy.  
Somethin’ is bubblin’ behind my back.  
The bottle is ready to blow.  

Say it ain’t so.  
Your drug is a heartbreaker.  
Say it ain’t so.  
My love is a life-taker.

Weezer, “Say It Ain’t So”, Copyright 1994, Geffen

Say It Ain’t So

The word on the street is that Terry Francona will be a “no show” at Fenway’s Anniversary festivities scheduled next Friday when the Sox face the New York Yankees–the very team against whom Boston faced on Fenway’s debut, a mere century ago.  (The Red Sox would properly christen their new ballpark on that day by defeating the then-New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings.)  According to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, former Sox skipper Terry Francona wants “no part” of Fenway’s centennial festivities.  A mere six months removed from his unceremonious departure, the wounds are still fresh for Francona.  Without rehashing the dirty details, the bane of his bitterness stems from a scathing Boston Globe article that was published just days after his departure last October citing Francona’s purported “personal issues” as a contributing factor to the team’s infamous collapse.  The article’s sources included a series of interviews the Globe conducted with individuals “familiar with the Sox operation at all levels”.  Naturally, nearly all of the article’s sources requested anonymity.  What a way to kick a guy when he’s down…

Courtesy Tefaye/ AP

Above: Former Sox manager Terry Francona pauses as he speaks to the media during a press conference, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in Boston. The Sox announced they would not pick up the option on his contract in the wake of the team’s collapse.

An Embarrassing Blemish

And what an embarrassment for the Sox.  On a day when the organization and its fans should be celebrating Fenway’s finest, Francona’s absence at the festivities will be a major blemish on this ancient gem which has long served as a pendant to the Back Bay’s emerald necklace.  Francona deserves a rousing ovation before the fans for his efforts and it seemed only fitting that that would occur during the Ballpark’s centennial celebration–a celebration made extra special by the accomplishments of the team the past 8 years under Francona’s stewardship.  This man accomplished twice what no previous manager in Red Sox history had been able to accomplish since Ed Barrow led the Olde Towne Team to its last Championship in 1918.  (Incidentally, Barrow would leave Boston in 1920 to join the Yankees’ front office, serving as GM of the Bronx Bombers until 1944.  During that ensuing 24 year span, the Yankees would go on to win 10 championships while the Sox would slowly slip into mediocrity… Curse of the Bambino? Pffft.  More like the Curse of Ed Barrow!)

Look, plenty of players and managers come and go in sports, and sadly, many of the greats have left on less than gracious terms.  Boston is certainly no exception in that department.  Francona deserved to go out with his head held high.  It’s truly a shame that his name was dragged through the Muddy River on his way out of the Fens, and it’s obvious that he’s still–understandably–upset by it.

“Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I Had My Share” 1

Since buying the team, John Henry and his crew have made some terrific decisions as well as enjoyed an extraordinary run of on the field success.  This is, after all, the ownership group that must be credited with making Fenway’s centenary celebration possible, having eschewed the original plan to build a brand spanking new ballpark in favor of preserving and expanding historic Fenway while improving the fan experience.  They collectively deserve to be commended by the fans for these accomplishments.  At the same time, however, the organization deserves the ire of the fans for the handling of Francona’s exit, an ugly affair standing in stark contrast to the team’s fine accomplishments.  There’s no direct evidence that the Sox were responsible for the smear campaign that followed Terry’s exit.  Moreover, Henry has gone on record denying he or Red Sox upper management had any role in the Globe article.  Regardless, I am left feeling that the entire team, from the ownership right down to the players, could have done a much better job of displaying some respect towards the man and his extraordinary accomplishments in Boston.  Instead, the entire organization was collectively left found wanting…

The Makings of a Dumas Novel

Courtesy BostonHerald.com Sports.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the fans have grown impatient these past few years.  Despite lavish spending and high expectations the Sox have come up far too short on the field.  And Francona, of course, deserved a fair share of the blame for those results.  However, the picture that many fans increasingly see at the top, and the one the media has increasingly painted, is something right out of an Alexandre Dumas novel.  For many, Henry, a modern day King Louis XIII, has seemingly become more focused on his racing team and English football club toys than on his ‘old hat’ Boston Red Sox.  Over the past few years, he has seemingly leaned ever more heavily on Chief Minister Larry “Cardinal Richelieu” Lucchino to handle the reins of Red Sox Nation, to the chagrin of Theo’s d’Artagnan.  And fresh from the ashes of the team’s September collapse, the apparent schism between Theo and “Cardinal” Lucchino finally grew too wide for the two to bridge resulting in Theo’s decision to ultimately get out of Dodge.

Photo by Chitose Suzuki, BostonHerald.com Sports

As we continue to try to turn the page on the team’s 2011 demise, Francona’s recent decision serves as a curt reminder that the manner in which his departure occurred remains an ugly chapter in this Dumas-esque novel.

Closing Thoughts–A Hero’s Welcome

Although I’m disappointed that Terry Francona has decided to skip Fenway’s celebration, I completely understand his decision.  His absence as well as his accomplishments will not go unnoticed, however.  And who knows?  Maybe he’ll change his mind.  If not, surely any video footage of Tito on Fenway’s shiny new HD video board next Friday will be met with a resounding roar of appreciation by the fans.  Through the good times and the challenging ones, Francona handled the Red Sox admirably and with class.  He at least deserved the same on his way out.  Clearly, last season, the pressures had worn on the man and it was probably time to part ways.  I only wish it had been handled differently.  Terry Francona will forever be missed and respected by the fans in Boston and across Red Sox Nation.  It’s a real shame that he won’t be in town for the festivities honoring Fenway, an ancient baseball shrine with which he will forever fondly be remembered.  I look forward to the day he returns to the Old Ballpark and gets the hero’s welcome he so rightfully deserves.

Source: 4sportboston.com

Thanks for the great memories, Tito!

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1 Led Zeppelin, “Good Times, Bad Times”, Copyright 1969, Atlantic Records