Tag Archives: red sox

the amazin’s

I’ve been to only one World Series game. It was in 1986, the year that Bill Bucker let the grounderuowg09cy0feav91xfkud roll between his legs in a game in which the Red Sox were just one strike from ending their World Series drought, from ending the misery of long-suffering Red Sox fans everywhere.

Who inflicted that unbearable pain? Why, my New York Mets.

I was working for the Daily Hampshire Gazette at the time, a small daily newspaper in Northampton, MA. As a Bay State paper, we were given passes to the games at Fenway Park. The sports reporters each took a turn attending a game and I was asked if I wanted to go. The caveat was that if the series ended while I was at Fenway, I’d have to work: get quotes and write a color piece to go in the next day’s paper.

Of course I said yes.

I brought along my friend Doug Cho, who grew up in Maine and was a Sox fan. Luckily for us, the series sat at 2-1 in favor of the Red Sox. Meaning I wouldn’t have to work, since there was no chance for either team to take the Series that night. I could simply enjoy the atmosphere.

Doug and I sat pretty far down the first base line. Fenway looked the way it always does. Intimate and quirky, visually dominated by the Green Monster in left.

Ron Darling, who actually pitched in an exhibition against my small division III college while I was there and he was at Yale, was on the mound for the Mets. Al Nipper, a journeyman, was given the ball for the Red Sox.

The Mets shelled Nipper – Lenny Dykstra, the Mets diminutive centerfielder, hit a home run to right that bounced out of Dwight Evans glove and over the fence, and Mets catcher Gary Carter clubbed two homers. While Darling pitched shutout ball for 6 innings.

The final score was 6-2. It was not a great game by most standards – the Mets seemed to have the game under control by the fourth inning. Still, to see my beloved Mets in the World Series was a thrill.

Later, of course, Buckner made his error that is seared into the memories of the Red Sox faithful. I watched that game with friends on the lower East Side of Manhattan, saw the ball dribble through Buckner’s legs, watched as Ray Knight raced home with the winning run. Afterward, after that miraculous game 6 when the Mets came back from the dead, my friends and I wandered out onto the street.

We were all – and in New York City, “all” is a lot of people – deliriously happy. Random screams. Honking horns. Singing-In-The-Rain-style dances around lampposts. We walked into a bar and free drinks were being served. Free drinks? In New York City?

It was like it was New Year’s Eve. Or Armistice Day.

In that one moment, our belief that anything is possible was confirmed.

Those Amazin’ Mets.

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all-star game, 1977

As long as the World Series lingers (thank you, Phillies), I’ll continue to give myself permission to post about baseball.amd_77asgprogram

In 1977, the All-Star game was played at Yankee Stadium. My brother Sam and I, along with my friend Kurt Nunez, decided to get bleacher tickets. So we hiked up to the Bronx in the middle of the night to be one of the first people on line. To make sure we got seats for what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

The plan worked.

I don’t remember much of the game (though I do remember those long droopy mustaches, like the pitcher is sporting in the poster to the right). But I do recall batting practice. We got to the stadium early enough to watch the players hit moon shots into the stands.

I remember in particular Fred Lynn, the often-injured but perennial all-star center fielder for the hated Boston Red Sox. During his batting practice hacks, Lynn lofted a ball that seemed to be coming right at me. It landed a few rows in front of where I was sitting, close enough for me to rush to the spot, close enough to spot the ball on the cement floor, close enough to see someone’s hands wrap around the ball, then hold it aloft like a trophy.

Lynn was a defensive standout and had an amazing rookie year in 1975 for the Red Sox, winning both the Most Valuable Player award and Rookie of the Year. What I remember most about Lynn, though, is not his grace or his power, but the formidable outfield he was part of, an outfield that included Jim Rice, one of the great and consistent power hitters of our generation.

They were an interesting combination, Lynn and Rice – who both came up in 1975 as rookies. One white (Lynn), the other black (Rice). In Boston, players have said, being black was not always conducive to kind treatment. Boston, after all, was the last team to integrate, and that came about in 1959, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

That was the narrative I knew as a kid – that Lynn somehow received favorable treatment compared to Rice because he was white.

Rice later claimed none of this was true. So maybe the New York media got it wrong, played a racism angle to stoke our hatred of Boston, which Mayor Ed Koch once derided as “that town.”

All that was forgotten, though, in the moment that Fred Lynn’s ball arced into the sky and then grew larger as it – much to my amazement – headed right towards me.

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yankees in 7

I grew up a Mets fan, but as any of my friends will tell you, I bleed New York. So I’ll root for the Yankees over basically anyone but the Mets.

This is surprising to many, as loyalties come out during the World Series. The current accepted narrative is that the Yankees are The Man and represent the team money can buy, with the highest payroll in baseball while everyone else is the Underdog.

Let me tell you, baseball has almost always been about money, for just about everyone involved. Just watch Eight Men Out if you don’t believe me. The Phillies as little guy? Please.

The only people not in it for the money are the fans, it seems to me. Their loyalty can run deep. I have tremendous respect, in fact, for geographic loyalty.

Your team is your team – win or lose – because that’s who you grew up with. It’s a concept that seems to be eroding in the era of globalization. Evidenced by all the Red Sox logos I see in the Bay Area (there can’t be THAT many transplanted Bostonians, can there?).

Here’s a mathematical illustration to recap how, as a New Yorker, I see the World (and by extension, the World Series):

Mets>Yankees>Everyone Else>Red Sox

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athens v sparta

My friend Evan and I went to the Giants game Saturday night. We were given great seats by our friend and co-worker Brent, who has season tickets but couldn’t make it. We sat close to the field, so close in fact that we almost caught a foul ball. A young kid a few seats down from us in our row wound up with the ball, which is how it should be. (At one point later in the game I walked past the kid and he was running his fingers over his souvenir absent-mindedly. I’m sure he’s sleeping every night with the ball stuffed into his pajamas.) Even if we didn’t have great seats, it would’ve been fine – AT&T Park is a beautiful stadium, with its gorgeous brick wall in right field and a view of the bay from the cheap seats.

photo courtesy of antman

photo courtesy of antman

After the game (which the Giants lost – shocker), we took Muni to the Haight. And on the Muni were tons of Cardinals fans. Co-existing peacefully with Giants fans.

Clearly, I am too recent an East Coast transplant because it seemed incongruous to me that Cardinal fans could be allowed to ride Muni unheckled. The last baseball game I’d been to on the East Coast was Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway Park. I kid you not, actual blood was shed, both during the game – a fight broke out right next to me – and afterward, on Lansdowne Street. The SF Muni is not unlike the Green Line trolley in Boston and I can’t imagine Yankees fans after a game riding without deep fear of being dismembered and sold for parts while crammed alongside Sox fans.

Yankees-Red Sox, I realize, is to some extent a special case because it carries the weight of a long-standing historical rivalry between cities. It’s basically our modern day Athens v. Sparta. Baseball is just one of the stages upon which the psyches of these two cities – Boston was once dismissed as “that town” by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch – duke it out for supremacy.

If you’re interested in reading a lyrical, engaging essay about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, a piece that elevates their annual battles to that of Greek tragedy by one of the best baseball writers of our generation, then pick up a copy of Why Time Begins on Opening Day. Author Thomas Boswell is a sports writer for the Washington Post. The essays in this book are somewhat dated, but if you love the game or if you love great prose, you’ll love this collection. I read this and Boswell’s other essay compendium, How Life Imitates the World Series, in the mid-80s and fell in love with baseball writing.

Someone once said baseball must be a really boring game because people spend so much time trying to convince us how beautiful it is. Maybe. But before you decide one way or the other, read Boswell. Or Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, the late John Updike’s piece about Ted Williams’ final game. And then let me know what you think.

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