Friday, July 29, 2011

Of Hit-streaks and Nostalgia

Yesterday afternoon, in the eighth inning, Dustin Pedroia came to the plate hitless after his previous three at-bats (he did, however, have a walk).  The crowd, aware of his 24-game active hit streak, got to its feet and cheered, and were then rewarded when Pedey took a neck-high 3-2 offering from Greg Holland and deposited it in the Monster Seats, successfully extending his streak to 25 games.

The longest such streak in the majors this year belongs to Pedroia's close friend, Andre Ethier, with 30 games.  One can only imagine the ribbing Ethier will get if Pedey manages to notch hits in the next 6 games.

The most special part of the situation, in my opinion at least, was the fan reaction, and Terry Francona agreed: "I do think our fans are pretty special. They do react to things like that. It's part of what makes Fenway so great," he said. "We don't need to have President races or mustard racing ketchup. Our fans like our baseball. I actually really think that's cool. Nothing against mustard."

 This is part of why I find Fenway Park so special - we don't need the gimmicks that other teams depend on to draw and keep fans.  The new Yankee Stadium, for instance, felt to me like I was in a shopping mall and a baseball game broke out - it was plastered with technicolor ads and gimmicks, there were games and giveaways every half-inning on the scoreboard, almost like a minor-league stadium.

While Fenway does have a big new high-def scoreboard, it also hangs onto nostalgia with it's manual scoreboard under the very same Monster Pedroia homered into yesterday, as well as the same wooden grandstand seats in which your father and grandfather might have sat.  And the fans are just as knowledgeable and vociferous as they were when Teddy Ballgame was swatting homers from that very same batters box.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tim Wakefield: Ironman

Yesterday afternoon, during a typical day game/Mariners beat-down at the Fens, Tim Wakefield continued his solid march toward Red Sox immortality, notching his 2,000th career strikeout with the team, and his 199th career Red Sox win.

Wakey had a bit of a shaky start, giving up three two runs in the top of the first inning, but his teammates were there to back him up, putting a five up on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the first - a nice change, since Wakefield traditionally hasn't enjoyed great run support.

The streaking Sox blew the thing open in the fifth, tacking on another five runs, allowing Wake to stay in the game for the sixth, where he struck out Mike Carp to tally his 2,000th strikeout in a Red Sox uniform.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia was catching, and he headed out:

"I knew it was the 2000th. I gave him the ball and gave him a hug to congratulate him...  Not that guys watch their stats, but that’s a pretty big number so I assumed he knew he was getting close. When I told him, he was like, ‘Congratulations for what?’ I was like, ‘Crap, did I get this wrong?’ I wanted to make sure," he said. "I looked at the [video] board and it said 2,000. He looked up and saw it and just started smiling."

I've made my feelings about Wake pretty clear on this blog: I LOVE HIM.  Over the years, he's done it all for the Sox, from eating innings in the bullpen, to starting, to closing, and though there were some minor hiccups last season with his role, he's been relatively flexible over the years.  Timmy's next win will be his 200th (186th as a Red Sox), and he keeps marching his way toward the team wins record of 192, currently held by some guys named Cy Young and Roger Clemens.

Wake lacks the pure electricity of either of these pitchers, and his status in the record book is a testament to his longevity and tenacity.  Tim Wakefield is Boston's own Ironman, and I for one am extremely proud of him.

[Quotes in this post are from the Boston Globe's Extra Bases Blog.]

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jason Varitek Celebrity Putt Putt

As any of you who follow me on Twitter know, my friend Soni and I attended Jason Varitek's Celebrity Putt Putt on Thursday evening.  Why am I just posting about this now? MY COMPUTER IS FINALLY FIXED [also, I love Apple for extending my warranty for no extra charge!].  So I hope to close out July with a lot more entries to make up for the terrible job I've been doing so far this summer.  So, without any further ado, I present a flurry of photos from the event, with a little bit of commentary:


The entire event was awesome - I only wish more players had come.  Those in attendance included Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jed Lowrie, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and, of course, Varitek himself.  Tek and Salty each signed two baseballs for me (well, one was for my brother-in-law).  Autograph seekers were aided and abetted by none other than Tek's fiance, Catherine Panagiotopoulos (bet she can't wait to change that name).

I really can't say enough nice things about Catherine: she was beyond friendly to everyone crowded around, and even carted armfuls of baseballs, photos, and memorabilia from the fans to Varitek, making it her personal mission to assure that everyone who wanted an autograph received one. (She's pictured above, signing a T-shirt for a staff member, and golfing.)

Overall, I would call the event a HUGE success - Soni and I certainly had a wonderful time - and it was extremely affordable, as Sox charity events go, at just $50 per person.  Proceeds from the event went to Journey Forward, an organization looking to improve the lives of people who have suffered spinal cord injuries through participation in sports. 

I'll close this post with a sentiment from Thursday night, which I stand by still, even three days later:

And he thanked me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Basebrawl at the Fens

So if you somehow missed what happened last night, the bottom of the eighth inning featured some fireworks, though the Fourth was over on Monday.  It started when Orioles pitcher Kevin Gregg hurled a few pitches in tight to David Ortiz - one coming so close that Papi took a few steps toward the mound, brandishing his bat at the O's righthander.

With the count at 3-0, Ortiz took a hack at the next pitch, which he popped up toward shallow right field.  Big Papi, obviously disgusted, began to jog slowly toward first base, when Gregg decided to take this opportunity to teach the Sox slugger about "baseball ethics," shouting and geturing at him to run out the play.

Needless to sat, Big Papi took exception to this, and charged the mound, just missing Gregg's face with a vicious uppercut before the benches (and bullpens) cleared and Demarlo Hale restrained him.  Papi, Gregg, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (from the bullpen), and Baltimore relief pitcher Jim Johnson (also from the pen) were all ejected for their roles in the scrum.

I know it's not exactly professional to reveal my glee at baseball fights, but I just LOVE the way it causes teams to come together.  Remember in 2004? There are a lot of people who credit Tek stuffing his glove in A*Rod's face as the catalyst that turned that season around for good.  And don't even pretend you weren't impressed with Coco Crisp's Matrix-impression against James Shields in 2008.

After the game, Papi's teammates certainly had his back, though Gregg and the O's uttered their share of tough talking.  Josh Beckett took the opportunity to express his confidence in the Red Sox's productive lineup: "Maybe they saw something they didn't like or whatever. But if it's just because we scored eight runs in the first inning and they start throwing at our ... guys, it's going to be a long year."

Hell. Yes. There's a lot more baseball to be played, and I am beyond excited to see this season to the end.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Religion: Boston Red Sox

 "Fenway Park is a shrine. People go there to worship." -Bill "Spaceman" Lee

I just got totally validated by a NESN commercial.  [Add that to the list of things I never thought I would have a reason to say.]  You've probably all seen it, they show a bunch of shots of fans at Fenway, and say things like "This isn't a fan club, it's a Nation," and "being a Red Sox fan is something you're born with," blah blah blah.

But then comes a statement that I will agree with until the day I die: "it's more than devotion; it's like a religion." [Possibly slightly misquoted. But that's the gist.]  I'm a secular person.  I haven't been to a church (in the traditional sense, at least) since I was a small child, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

On Facebook, my religion is listed as "Boston Red Sox," and though some people might think that's downright blasphemous, I think sports fandom often falls within the realm of religious.  One of Webster's definitions for religion is as follows: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

If you look at it objectively, the "cause" for Red Sox fans is the team, and we certainly follow them with ardor and faith.  Personally, I know more about the Red Sox (and baseball generally) than many church-goers know about their religious tract of choice, and I while some people wear a cross around their neck, I wear a Boston "B."

Hopefully my more religious readers won't be offended by this post; please know that was not my intention.  But for those of you who find themselves feeling out of place at traditional churches, you can come with me to Fenway - my personal Baseball Mecca.