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.

SEPTEMBER FANTASY BASEBALL

The Red Sox are playing the Phillies. Winning. They haven’t won often this year, compiling a record so awful I thought they had an unbreakable lock on last place in the American League East.

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I was wrong. They actually have been playing well enough — while other teams play badly enough — to possibly, maybe slide into fourth place before the season is over.

The Home Run
The Home Run

Such a warm, cozy thought that, as the quiet day continued, I got to drifting into fantasy, thinking … What if they just keep winning? And suddenly, it’s the end of September and they have the wild card spot. And they go on to win the series …

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It would leave the baseball world stunned. Probably leave Red Sox fans the most confounded of all …

I’m not saying it’s likely, but it could happen. Stop laughing. It could!

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 -19: NIGHTMARE ON YAWKEY WAY

This week’s Frisbee Wednesday is about beisbol, the most American of pastimes in that most American of baseball stadiums, Fenway Park. 

This has been a sad, bad year for the Sox. To say they are playing poorly doesn’t begin to cover it. They are playing so badly they would have to win something like 20 games in a row to not be in last place. Pathetic. Awful.

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Nonetheless, Garry was not going to miss an opportunity to spend a night at Fenway. Win or lose, an evening at the ball park is a great thing. Even if your team stinks.

You are welcome to use any of the included pictures, or of course, pick and write about any of your own photographs.

May your team be more succesful than ours in this 2015 season.


NIGHTMARE ON YAWKEY WAY by Garry Armstrong

Photos by Garry Armstrong

The title is just a grabber. I ventured, courtesy of a good friend, to my first game at Fenway Park in over 15 years.

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It was a steamy hot, muggy Monday afternoon into evening and night. It was just two days removed from the Red Sox back-to-back massacre of the Seattle Mariners. I was hoping, in this wretched season, they could continue their offensive fireworks for at least one more night. For me, the ultimately faithful fan.

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The ball park looked wonderful. Just seeing it up close made me temporarily forget lots of things that clog our daily lives with angst. That’s the beauty of baseball and the cathedral known as Fenway Park.

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Many of the fans attending the game only know the post-millenium team who won three world series in nine years. Younger fans expect  success and feel downright entitled express their anger over the team’s failure to perform.

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History is related to ESPN highlights and not the decades of passionately embracing a team that always came up short, usually at the hands of the dreaded Yankees.

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The curse of the Bambino is a blurred legend for many. Too bad.

On this night, as the Sox struggled against the Cleveland Indians, it was time just to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of baseball’s oldest major league ball park.

Time to look at the young players who hopefully are writing the prologue for a brighter future in Red Sox nation. They make wonderful plays to offset the mediocre efforts of the veterans.

The Home Run
The Home Run

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There was even a home run by one of our new guys that briefly gives “the Olde Towne team” hope for victory. The applause was deafening and carried the faithful at least part way through what was to be another disappointing evening.

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Strangers become instant friends during the game, sharing memories about other games, other years. Grandfathers become children remembering their first game. When? Where? Who started?

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Sure, the game was different then, but Fenway transcends time. Mookie Betts or one of the other young players could one day have people talking about them, the same way people reminisce about Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Pedro, Pesky, Fisk and all those heroes from our collective past.

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On this night, it’s all about being there and enjoying OUR game.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Fenway Park.

A SEASON OF PAIN

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The look of sudden shock and pain on Garry’s face was alarming.

“What’s wrong?” I cried. He was obviously hurting.

“I just saw the score,” he said sadly. Which is when I realized he had turned on the Red Sox game. They were playing the Angels, the first game of a double-header on the left coast. “It’s eleven-to-one,” he explained.

The agony of defeat!
The agony of defeat!

“Ouch,” I said. “I don’t suppose they’re going to stage a come from behind victory.”

“Actually,” he replied, “I was wondering exactly how bad they’re going to be in the second half of the season.”

There seems to be no bottom for this year’s Sox. No pitching, no bottom. No hope. (Houston put the seal on the deal. If you don’t know what I mean, maybe it’s best you don’t find out.)

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Indeed, I had seen correctly. It was pain. Mental, not physical, but the look of agony on his face will stay with me a long time.

There’s no medication that can take away the pain of your team in the dumpster. This will be a season of pain in New England. It’s not our year.


 

If you follow baseball and especially, the Red Sox and Fenway Park, check out Fenway Park 100.

WINNERS OF THE 2013 WORLD SERIES, RED SOX DO IT AT FENWAY IN 6!!!

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It’s only been 95 years … just a blip on the monitor of history. But it’s been a long wait for Red Sox fans, to see them win a World Series in Fenway Park. Tonight the magic worked. The third series in a decade and the first clinch of the Series at home. WE DID IT!

GO SOX! UP THREE TO TWO AND BACK TO FENWAY!

WAY TO GO!

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Back to Fenway on Wednesday!

Big Papi was okay on first … surprise! What a great series this is turning out to be. Who really thought we’d take two out of three in St. Louis? Wonders never cease.

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Garry Armstrong’s Wonderful Broadcast Life – by Roger Lyons

His obstacles were many. Some might have said insurmountable. He was a painfully shy black man with a hearing problem, trying to break into major market radio and television in the ‘60’s. Yet Garry Armstrong went on to accomplish amazing things in his illustrious broadcast career.

Garry and I at a “thank you to the press” party at the end of President Clinton’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. It was a great party!

Whereas racism was certainly a factor in Armstrong’s career as a person of color, it was never really a defining issue to him. ‘I was just so driven to succeed, racism was never a major thing on my radar,’ he says. ‘I was much more aware of my hearing difficulties. It was more personal.’ Armstrong worked hard on his diction, taking speech therapy in college, to counteract his hearing deficiency.

The Brooklyn, NY native cut his broadcast teeth at Hofstra College radio station. He was a terrific writer, but his shyness made him hesitant to attempt on-air work. But that was overcome by his ability to conduct interviews with major celebrities, such as Johnny CarsonArthur GodfreyMerv GriffinFrank SinatraSammy Davis, Jr.Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Griffin told the young reporter, ‘Well done. You have a future in the business. You listened to me!’

Garry with Tip O’Neill. He is not trying to sell him something, he is showing Tip a watch he had just bought!

After college, at ABC radio network news, he transcribed radio interviews from news legends such as Ted Koppeland Bill Beutel and became the youngest producer at the network. He edited the copy of biggies such as Paul HarveyEdward P. Morgan and Howard Cosell.

In 1968, ABC sent Armstrong out to cover major events, such as the iconic Democratic National Convention inChicago and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. His most memorable ‘war story’ was when he sat around a campfire in Vietnam, chatting and eating beans with then President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Shortly thereafter, he landed an on-air job at a small TV station in Hartford, CT. ‘It was so small that there were only 2 on-air people,’ explains Armstrong. He became the all-purpose news reporter, and learned how to shoot and edit film. Once, however, Armstrong learned a humbling lesson when he returned from scoring a scoop to discover he’d forgotten to load film into the camera.

Ultimately, Armstrong was hired as a general assignment reporter at Boston’s Channel 7, where he flourished throughout his 31-year tenure. He established a rapport with both the black and white communities during Boston’s divisive school desegregation period. Yet his reporting career was certainly not without incident.

For example, while covering a story in South Boston, he was accosted by an angry crowd. His first thought was to get the film back to the station, so he made sure it got into the news van.

But the crowd was chanting racial epithets at him, including the N-word. Armstrong defused the situation in Mel Brook-sian fashion. He turned to the crowd and said, ‘I’m not an ‘N’. I’m a Samoan!’ And the crowd backed off.

One time, as Armstrong was covering the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day at Fenway Park, people behind him were getting rowdy, swearing and hitting him on the head just before he went on air. ‘I lost it,’ reveals Armstrong. ‘I was swinging at the guy as we went back live.’ He thought he’d surely lose his job, but when he got back to the station, General Manager Sy Yanoff approached him exclaiming, ‘Garry, way to go. That’s such great stuff. You went with the moment. That’s what’s so great about you.’

Another time, a radio station reported that Armstrong had been seriously injured in a race-related mêlée. When he called the newsroom to say he’d be back soon with the film, the assignment editor was shocked. He thought Armstrong had been taken to the hospital, and stopped the station from going on the air with a bulletin reporting on his reporter’s alleged beating.

Despite all the celebrities, political leaders and newsmakers he covered, Garry, the seasoned reporter, turned into an awed beginner when he interviewed his movie idol John Wayne during the Duke’s visit to Boston in the early 70’s. Afterwards, Garry repeatedly asked his Channel 7 colleagues if they knew who shook his hand until they suggested he calm down and get back to finishing his story.

The 3-time Emmy-winning, Silver Circle inductee has had a wonderful broadcast life. ‘We were so fortunate to have been in radio and television in that era,’ Armstrong opines, ‘because you could do long-form television news. You could have as much time as you needed to tell the story.’ Now, when he tells young journalists how it was, all they can say is, ‘Boy, you were lucky!’

, Boston Television Examiner

Roger Lyons is a veteran of the Boston television market. He has worked at many stations in news, public affairs, promotion and advertising. Roger has numerous Emmy nominations, many other industry awards and has served for over 20 years on the Board of Governors of the Boston/New…

A personal note: I talk about Garry a lot, so I thought it might be nice if I put something here for you to actually know a little more about my terrific husband. I wish I could get him to do a little blogging of his own! He has some absolutely wonderful stories of the people he met during his years as a reporter, the changes he saw both in the news business and in the world and so much more. But, so far, no dice. I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, this is a lovely piece by Roger Lyons that was published at the beginning of this year.

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