A TERRIBLE WONDERFUL YEAR – TWO ARE WON! – Garry Armstrong

And tonight, minus the rain and the lightning, game two commenced … and we won. Two down, two to go. 

No power outage and there will be a day off, then they will be off to L.A. It was 47 degrees (8.3 Celsius) in Boston. It will be hot in L.A. It was a good day. 

Maybe the Sox really ARE the superpower team?

Yes, we won. Again. So far, and even better!!


I’ve asked my “Uncle Louie” to supply the music for this piece.  So much of what we’ve shared and written this year has been tinged with negativity.  It’s the state of our nation and world – greeted by dawn tweets and midnight White House tantrums.

Baseball has been my salvation.  It has been for most of my life. I’ve escaped to the field of dreams from youth, rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to the 20 something years cheering for Casey’s inept New York Mets, to retirement years yelling for the Red Sox to exorcise decades of futility.

This year, the sons of Teddy Ballgame have produced perhaps the best team ever to play at Fenway Park, exceeding even those early years when Babe Ruth was our Mr.October. Regardless of how the Sox fare in the upcoming World Series, they’ve already given us a season about which we can ponder for years to come.

This piece has a different feel for me.

There’s no “David Versus Goliath” theme for our hometown team.  For decades, we could point to the Bambino curse and generations of despair marked by garish plays like “… the ball went right through Buckner’s legs,” and “… there’s a long drive outta here. The Red Sox lose — thanks to the bat of Bucky fuc##ng Dent.

I could sprinkle images of past stories with snapshot memories of music, movies, politics. Iconic stories covered along with personal interviews with major players.

Not this year.  We’re on the outside, looking in. Like regular fans.

Our TV baseball package has precluded us from watching Sox games live.  We’ve been able to follow all the other teams — except the Sox.  Ironically, I’ve seen more games of our blood rivals, the New York Yankees than the Bosox. It’s reduced my nightly high anxiety where I frantically reach for my blood pressure meds as another game lurches on the high cliff of danger.

Marilyn is the score updater with reports from her computer as we watch Aussie melodramas or our favorite procedurals.  It’s a different feel.

Marilyn tells me, “We won again.”  I allow myself a sigh of satisfaction and look forward to reading the sports section online the next day. It’s a new world!

Pundits outside New England are pointing out that the Red Sox are seeking their 4th World Championship in 14 years.  It’s the national attitude faced by the Bronx Bombers for so many years.  There’s no underdog love for our Red Sox in small towns and big cities across the country as the World Series fervor begins.

I look at this year’s Red Sox and smile. A paternal smile.  A grandfather’s pride.

I don’t have any inside anecdotes. I appreciate the growth and maturation of the players.  There’s an irony to how this team is constructed.  Mookie Betts, the frontrunner for “Most Valuable Player” honors wasn’t the first choice to be the franchise player he is.

When the talented Jacoby Ellsbury bolted from the Red Sox to the Yankees for a mega contract 6-years ago, we felt betrayed again. We wondered how Boston would revive its outfield.

The Sox Suits said they had a youngster with huge potential. He was an infielder with an impressive minor league career. Fine, but how does an infielder help us with the outfield gap and power loss with Ellsbury’s flight to Gotham?

The question rippled with tsunami-like waves across Red Sox Nation.

I remember watching a spring training game with a young — very young –Red Sox outfield. Who were these players? Too young to shave and, certainly, not ready for prime time baseball!  There was Jackie Bradley Jr. who roamed centerfield like a young Willie Mays. The aforementioned Mookie Betts seemed okay in right field, but there was more interest in his first name than his player bonafides.

Many of us wondered if he was related to Mookie Wilson,  the one-time Mets star who hit the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the ill-fated 1986 World Series.

Our brave, new world was just beginning.

The next five years included a World Series triumph,  3 Eastern Division crowns and 2 (3?) last place finishes. These guys were definitely the spawn of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, the Yankees were overhauling their team and presenting baseball with an intriguing collection of young sluggers.  We were scared out of our retro Red Sox.  I admit to angst and anxiety all winter as I watched the video and stats of these youthful Pin-stripers. Aaron Judge,  Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and the newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton who’d come close to 60 home runs as the National League MVP last year.

Surely, New York would crush the Red Sox like Rob Gronkowski plowing through a defensive line of mortal defense players.  It didn’t look good as the 2018 season rolled around. I avoided reading pre-season predictions, something that was a rite of spring for most of my 76 years.

The Yankees were the flavor of the year team, biding their time to acquire their 28th World Series title.

2018 Red Sox Team

My anxiety ramped up when I realized our baseball TV package excluded live Red Sox games.  Surely, that was a sign. I wouldn’t be able to see the Sox doomed chase of the Yankees.

A funny thing happened along the way.

The Red Sox won the regular season opener. An olive branch, I thought with cynicism creeping through my fevered fan’s brain. But the Sox kept winning. Game after game. Injuries and illnesses, they kept winning.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Yankees stumbled off to a mediocre start. A month into the season, the Red Sox were in first place and had established a nice distance from New York and every other American League Eastern Division team.

I scratched my head, watching a Yanks game.  The young sluggers were struggling. The pitchers were inconsistent. I laughed at the Yankee broadcasters who smugly made excuses for the team which, they said with enormous confidence, would right itself and catch the runaway Red Sox who they referred to sneeringly as “that other team.”

I dared to wonder.

Soon, the Sox, aka “The Sawx” to sports journalists outside New England,  were highlighted nightly on the national sports outlets. Old beisbol-wise guys were marveling over J.D. Martinez who was everything and more as our big-ticket free agent slugger.  Boston’s “3  Bee” outfield — Andrew Benintendi, JBJ (Jackie Bradley, Jr.), and **MOOKIE** Betts were making highlight-reel defensive plays and mashing the horsehide with incredible regularity.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As the regular season unfolded, the Sox kept winning.  The Yankees improved and gave chase, providing a little drama … but the Sox never fell behind. Not once. Their longest loss was three games.  “YES,”  the Yankees Broadcast Network, relentlessly told fans that the Sox would fold and succumb to the mighty pinstripers.  Yes. I believed “YES.”

Marilyn wasn’t so sure and kept commenting, “We are playing really well, you know? Like … all the time.” We, the skeptics, were exposed as the Sox continued to roll through the regular season, spiced by a late August sweep of the Bronx Boys that left us giddy in Red Sox Nation.

I noted, with surprise, that the Sox were doing all “the little things” that mark a championship team. They were disciplined and aggressive at the plate. They ran the bases with abandon and played defense like never seen before, at home and on the road. They even BUNTED – something akin to walking on water in New England.

Rookie manager Alex Cora, a former utility player and member of past Sox teams, pushed all the right buttons. He utilized all the players on his roster.

Cora had the respect of players who “dissed” previous managers. He didn’t shirk from pulling pitchers who were tiring but nonetheless argued to “get one more inning.”  That argument had severely cost previous managers and Sox teams. Cora was honest and straightforward with players as well as upper management and media.

He was a breath of fresh air from the “Bull Durham” baseball clichés of the past.

The pennant at Fenway

Boston, to almost everyone’s disbelief, in and outside of Red Sox Nation,  swept past the Yankees and defending World Champions Houston Astros, to await the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their opponent. The Dodgers soundly defeated the stubborn Milwaukee Brewers to advance to baseball’s biggest stage.

It’s going to be a very interesting series.  Many of us have a tinge of Dodger Blue from our childhood days as Brooklyn Dodger fans.  The Boys With Mics are calling the Dodgers underdogs because they haven’t won a World Series in 30 years. Not since Kirk Gibson’s iconic home run off Dennis Eckersley.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open for business!

A moment remembered with Vin Scully’s perfect line:  “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.” Here’s hoping the now-retired Vin Scully graces Boston and offers a few more memorable game descriptions.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open.  It’s diverting our attention from a world gone crazy.

Here’s to the Boys of Summer who’ve made this Autumn our field of dreams.

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

52 thoughts on “A TERRIBLE WONDERFUL YEAR – TWO ARE WON! – Garry Armstrong”

  1. Loved this! Field of dreams, such perfection! Loved the recap and look at how it’s gone down, spectacular tbh. I’ve watched sports forever and loved (Canadian, hey) hockey, football baseball..drew the line at the little white ball sailing through cerulean blue skies though…but it’s always exciting to read something written by someone well versed. Awesome! The pics were spectacular too. A real feel for the moment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Covert, thank you. Hopefully, the World Series will dominate the news locally, pushing the smarmy political news down a peg. It’s a week’s respite.

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  2. Thanks for sharing Satchmo this morning. He too was a breath of fresh air in a world going mad. My brother, who lived in L.A., and recently moved to Cour d’ Alene (Northern Idaho)…is a Sox fan. You never know where they’ll pop up and I’d bet he’s gleeful right now. Thanks for providing me (the non-sports fan) with a little information on the Sox. You may have been a great broadcast on air personality sir, but you missed a calling too…the journalist (in written form). You’re great at writing..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Louis Armstrong’s funeral was one of the first stories I did on Boston television. We shot at the venerable Chateau D’Ville in Framingham, Ma. It was one of Satch’s favorite places in Massachusetts. The TV station may have played the “relative” angle just a bit too much. Hey, back then, I was happy with it.

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    1. MELANIE, thank you. It’s so easy to write about baseball and the accompanying side bar stories. When you recall baseball’s past, you also remember all the other things going on in your life and the world around you.

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    1. It should be. Especially since there are so many interesting connections between the teams. I remember when Dave Roberts played for the sox. He was part of the team that won the series in 2004.

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    2. Just in answer to your last comment which for some reason I can’t find a way to answer? I think most fans DON’T go unless their company pays for tickets. Channel 7 used to have a block of seats and sometimes, we got one. Otherwise, you need money. Lots of it.

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      1. Of course — I forgot that retirees also give up some of the perks of the job, game tickets being one of those. They are atrociously expensive, which is partly why I haven’t been to a game recently.

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        1. Slmret, hope you’re right about Vin Scully. I’d so love to meet him. But what the heck would I say that doesn’t sound foolish?

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            1. That’s what Marilyn thinks. the cross country flight might be too much for him. Plus he would be pursued by fans like me.

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                    1. Well, I wish he’d make ads for the Democrats who seem to be somehow shooting themselves in their own feet — which is SO democratic. He has the voice American trusts. I felt that way about Walter Cronkite, too. When he said it, I KNEW it was true.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yes — he would be effective on behalf of the Dem candidates. And it is good to hear his voice, as true as always, and as effective a commentator as always. But Prop 4 is one of the few GOOD props (out of 12) this time, providing funding for children’s hospitals. Others take contracted $ away from private dialysis centers, repeal gs tax $ because the State is not using it for roads as intended, require continued pay for EMT’s on their mandatory breaks so they are always available for emergencies, etc. Most are things the legislature should be dealing with rather than the public.

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                    1. We are in a complete battle about prop 1 – mandatory nursing. The problem continues to be we don’t have the nurses we need OR any mandate to help the hospitals pay for them. If they pass it, they will be closing a LOT of hospitals and mostly in places where they can least afford the closures.

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        1. Slmret, that would be a hoot if Vin Scully remembers me. An absolute hoot. It’d be like when I met Jimmy Cagney and he told me he’d seen me on the tube. My jaw dropped.

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  3. A total tour de force, Garry. I long for the days of TV, of radio games in the afternoons, of TV you could watch without having to be in thrall to the cable company….and in my heart I root for the Sox as hard as I ever did. Just because.

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    1. Judy, baseball in the afternoon is so rich with intangibles. Hopefully, sunshine splashed over the ballpark with shadows lurking here and there. And, all those kids — playing hookey to watch their favorite team in the biggest baseball drama of all. Energy levels are off the chart in day games. Too bad the suits caved to the almighty dollar of TV revenue with spin stories about making the WS available to everyone. The pre and post game shows are as long as ball games and monumentally dull.

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      1. And the ‘team” announcers. One does ‘color’, tells bad jokes and laughs a lot. the other one is just dreadful. Neither of them shuts up, so you never hear the crowd, the ‘swing and a miss’ or the crack of a bat. I have actually heard announcers say, “well that looks like it went outta here, first homer of the game.” They aren’t even paying attention….(bangs head on desk. sobs.)
        When I was a little girl my Dad took me to Fenway, and for that one day, it was magic. Ted Williams was still playing, but I was too young to even be sure who he was, or why everyone had to stand up and roar all at once, but at least I went. Once. =)

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        1. The network guys are really awful. Garry especially loathes Arod. For some reason, he thinks he’s a liar and a cheat. They just babble endlessly. Maybe those are the order from the bosses, but it is really annoying. Sometimes, we turn off the sound.

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          1. I think it’s the old radio training, that horror of dead air where there should be noise. someone has told them to keep it light, keep it lively, *don’t worry about the stats, no one notices anyway”. and keep it moving. No one has told them they are NOT the show, they are NOT the reason anyone sits there staring at the screen…

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        2. Judy, you’re so on target about the lack of quality in the broadcast booth. The jokes are awful, too “inside”. Plus, the mic boys are forever tossing bouquets at each other. As for all the jabber about “exit velocity”, “launch angle” and “barreling the ball up”, yikes — shut up and let us watch the game, you wankers!

          I envy you that “Teddy Ballgame” Fenway experience.

          One of the first games I ever saw at Ebbets Field– back in the early 50’s. My Gramps took me. We had pretty nice seats behind home plate and I got a closeup view of my hero, “Duke” Snider. He looked larger than life when he emerged from the dugout and took his practice swings. He was fairly close in the “on deck” circle. he smiled as he turned to observe the crowd. Always wanted to believe Duke was smiling at me. We had a portable radio and heard Vin Scully’s throaty delivery as the Duke of Flatbush hit a home run over the “Robert Hall” Clothing sign in right field and out onto Bedford Avenue. I was in pubescent heaven!!

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  4. Garry: I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. We have a very similar past of rooting for our favorite teams. When we moved to Boston, it was very easy to root for the Sox, because he grew up hating the Yankees. I apologize for taking so long to respond to you, but I was on vacation. I need to catch up on my sleep, due to the late west coast games. Friday night’s game was a killer and I watched it all from a motel in SC. (Les Hanson was probably laughing in his grave – he was from SC). Best to you and Marilyn.

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    1. Hi, Ed.

      Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to respond.

      We do have similar rooting habits. When we graduated from Malverne High in ’59, I was still reeling from the Dodgers abandoning us. I used to listen to Les Keiter’s transcribed games but it wasn’t the same as Vin Scully. We were still 3 years away from the birth of the New York Metroplitans. I had an APBA board game I played incessantly. The game became lost at our old Lakeview home which was put up for sale this year by my two brothers who now live in Minnesota.

      Ed, we have our fingers crossed for tonight’s game 5. It’s been quite a ride this year for Red Sox Fans. I still haven’t really absorbed what they’ve done.

      It’s great staying in touch with you, Ed.

      Here’s to good health, happiness, and sanity for you and your family.

      Garry

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