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