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A Sports Reporter's Notebook

2004 Red Sox Columns

The following columns were penned in October 2004 during the historic comeback and World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox.


October 13, 2004


Deja vu all over again? Not yet

 So, here we are again.


 The American League Championship Series is underway – Red Sox versus Yankees – and New York has taken a one-game lead after lighting up Curt Schilling, perhaps the best starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.


Where have I seen this picture before?


From the moment I walked up the ramp on the third base side of Fenway Park in the spring of 1960 and was stunned by the strangely fluorescent green grass (so green it hurt your eyes) and the massive 37-foot high olive drab wall looming roughly 305 feet down the leftfield line, I've been in love with a Major League Baseball team that has endlessly broken my heart.


More often than not the Sox have raised my hopes and expectations to the stratosphere akin to that atop Mount Washington only to dash them against the rocks and shoals of the New England coastline.


Throughout my youth the only professional sports team in Boston that enjoyed success (and more than a modicum of success, at that) were the Celtics, featuring basketball players such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Satch Sanders, and Sam and K.C. Jones. And that list goes on and on and on.


Aside from the Celts however, throughout most of my youth the Bruins were the weak sisters of the (six-team, at the time) National Hockey League. And the only pro football franchise in town, the Boston (later, the New England) Patriots, gave new meaning to the term underachievers.


The Bruins finally came into their own when they obtained stars such as Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield, Wayne Cashman and Ken Hodge who joined Bruin cornerstone Bobby Orr, along with the few aging veterans worth keeping from the early Sixties – predominantly John Bucyk, Johnny McKenzie and Teddy Green. Lo and behold, the day my high school hockey team was knocked out of our playoffs in May 1970, the Bs won the Stanley Cup over the St. Louis Blues.


For the Pats, we had to wait until my first year in Griffin to celebrate a world championship, as they eked out a last-second Super Bowl win over the St. Louis Rams in February 2002. Aside from the victory itself, the best part of it all for me was the fact that I was responsible for laying out the sports section for the following day. As I told J.J., my Griffin Daily News compatriot, their 2003 Super Bowl repeat performance was simply icing on the cake. But...


But the ultimate losers in Boston have always been the Red Sox, ever since 1918, when my Dear Old Dad was three years old. (He used to like to tell people he saw Babe Ruth play – for the Yankees, of course.)


I mean the team's franchise player from 1939 through 1960 was a guy named Ted Williams, now better know as Teddy Freeze Pop, but that's another story. Yet in spite of the addition of players the caliber of Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Tiant, Tony Conigliaro, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dennis Eckersly, Fred Lynn, Wade Boggs and Rogers Clemens, among others, and we still haven't completely scaled Mount Everest again – yet.


Consider however Boston's response to being down 8-0 to the vaunted Yankees Tuesday night as indicative of the heart this team has. The ballplayers have adopted the ultimate unselfish attitude. Personal achievement seems secondary to the good of the team. The Sox organization appears made up of innumerable individuals who actually are striving for one, single goal: A world championship.


So, even though the team's late-inning rally fell just short, drawing to being down by a single run, 8-7, before dropping the contest, it really doesn’t bother me.


This club has wonderful chemistry to go along with a very talented group of ballplayers. Whether or not the individual players are as talented as the Yankees is not an issue, in my humble opinion.


Because this season the Sox have an aura about them, and I don't think the Red Sox Nation will be denied again. Not this year.


So in spite of Tuesday night's loss, along with the possibility Schilling may be sidelined for the remainder of the ALCS due to the tendonitis in his ankle – which I doubt, knowing the man's heart, desire and determination – “Hope still springs eternal in [this Red Sox fan's] breast."


This is the year the Olde Towne team wins it all. Even many of the most-respected sports prognosticators in America assert the Sox are going to go all the way this time around.


Frankly, it matters not to me what they say.


Because the circle that began when the Red Sox last won the world championship is about to close and come full circle.


This is it. For real.


Jerry Gutlon, named sports editor of The Griffin Daily News in the summer of 2004, grew up in metropolitan Boston and went to college several blocks from Fenway Park. He is a lifelong Red Sox fan, and has spent most of his adult life in the broadcast and print media. He's worked in Griffin, Ga., as assistant sports editor, county beat reporter and sports editor since July 2001.


More of Gutlonıs columns, stories and photos, along with other assorted rantings and ravings, may be seen on another of his professional web sites at




October 14, 2004

Quick! Find a lifeboat!




own two-games-to-none in the American League Championship Series, it's already happening.



Red Sox apologists, naysayers and handwringers are making excuses why the Olde Towne Team is – once again – on the verge of packing it in for yet another season.


In the wake of the Red Sox loss to the New York Yankees Tuesday night – and prior to the franchise's second consecutive loss Wednesday night  (3-1, Jon Lieber over Pedro "Who's Your Daddy?" Martinez) – the loyal (and perhaps not-so-loyal) Red Sox Nation learned that the club's seemingly invincible post-season ace, Curt Schilling, isn't suffering from tendonitis after all, but from a a tear on one of the tendons in his right ankle along with the sheath surrounding the tendons.


And, if the Sox physicians can't stabilize the tendons, The Schill (note: not The Shill) is done for the post-season, not just the ALCS. At this writing, early on October 14, Schilling has been scratched as the starter of Game 5, slated for Sunday night at Fenway, but not for the remainder of the post-season.


Knowing the kind of fierce competitor the man is, he must be going bananas. Just take a look at the photos of him during his Tuesday night Waterloo.


That said we're still a long way from bowing out of the post-season. We face the Yunkees (not a typo, but a deliberate slur, mind you) thrice in the next three days. We've still got a shot at beating them. Frankly, I'm not ready to declare the season toast yet.


For one thing, every pitcher can be magnificent once in a while. Not to take anything away from Lieber, but face it, nine out of ten times the Sox bury him. Mike Mussina pitched well into the seventh inning Tuesday night, in fact hurling a perfect game, but the Sox have long had his number.


And Mariano Rivera – who gave up two hits in the top of the ninth to Sox batters Tuesday night despite several days off – lost to the Sox one night last July, when they lit him up big time. I was in Massachusetts at the time, even though to my disgust, Boston had blown a lead to the Yunks the evening before they decimated the Marianomeister the next night.


Tom Gordon, New York's bridge between their not-so-effective starters and their not-so-effective middle relievers and Mr. Riviera (again, a deliberate slam), was a favorite of mine when he wore the red hose. But Thomas hasn't really been all that great versus the Sox, either.


Also, please note the way Pedro pitched Wednesday night was solid, if not above all expectations. Sure he isn't the overwhelming dominator he was several years ago, but he was still hitting 95 mph or so as late as the sixth inning.


News flash: The Yankees aren't his Daddy. He knows it and they know it. I loved his quote following his 3-1 loss Wednesday night: "Even if they are going to say, ‘Pedro lost,’" said Martinez, "I had an opportunity to show everybody that I believe in God. The chanting about 'Who's your Daddy?' My biggest Daddy is the one that brought me over from the mango tree to the biggest stage in the world at this moment."


Another point... Everybody's hammering Johnny Damon, along with the rest of the Sox mainstays, acting as if they can't hit their weight. Please. We're talking Johnny Damon, not Matt Damon.


Damon is perhaps the best all-round leadoff hitter in baseball. He can spray the ball and hit for extra bases, and has enough power to clout his share of homeruns. He generates more than double his share of RBIs and steals bases to boot, always a Red Sox weakness.


To have the majority of the nation's sportswriters portray the remainder of the Red Sox hitters as pitiful is likewise a laugh. Folks, we're talking about Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller, hitters of such caliber that the Sox traded away a disgruntled franchise player, Nomar Garciaparra, last summer. (I'm not knocking Nomar's summer of discontent, either, as I think Sox management really went the extra mile to alienate the guy.)


Again, in a short series anybody can become a hero. Remember Aaron ("Bleeping") Boone?


So, Sox fans, don't count out the loonies yet.


October 17, 2004


Seeking a fireside sale on rusty razor blades




y God.


Here I am at The Griffin Daily News and it's rapidly approaching midnight with the Boston Red Sox down – what is it now, 17-8? – nine runs, as we speak.

I filed the last sports page of Sunday's paper about an hour ago (it's now 12:05 Sunday morning), and the presses are running.

So here I sit, stunned at the horrendous performance of the club I predicted would go all the way to Major League Baseball's world championship this season, 86 years after the franchise recorded its last one. Having gone way out on that very shaky limb I sit here like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of a rushing, oncoming vehicle.

And, lo and behold, look! The license plate reads, "Yankee Express."

Hmmmm. Too many letters for a normal license plate. Maybe that's because George Steinbrenner has persisted in buying pennant contenders ever since he illegally donated to Dick Nixon's reelection campaign when Ol' Tricky Dick was positioning himself to be declared "Emperor of the Universe."

(It seems odd to me to be railing about Nixon now, even though I campaigned for McGovern while the Dickster was employing rogue agents to burglarize anybody who might've doubted his godhood. You see, now I'm a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Please don't inquire about Kerry. My 17 years in the military made me MORE conservative. And I actually covered Mr. Moneybags ['cause I marry only wealthy women'] Kerry when he ran for Senate to begin with.)

The score now, ladies and gentlemen, is 19-8, as the Yankees Japanese import, Hirohito Sushi, just clocked a two-run shot out of the friendly confines of Fenway Park.

Let's see, single, homer, single, single, strikeout and a lineout into a double play. Bottom of the ninth – 19-8, Boobers. Ain't life grand?

With the rainout Friday night, and potentially encouraging news on Curt Schilling's status, I honestly believed we still had more than a reasonable chance to take this series without my requiring a whole lotta nitroglycerine (I have a heart condition that requires it on occasion).

But – now? Final score: Yankees 19 Red Sox 8.

Tim Wakefield got hammered tonight, along with the rest of Boston's bullpen – former Yankee Ramiro Mendoza, Curtis Leskanic, Alan Embree and Mike Myers.

The Hose also stranded 18 runners on base, although the Yankees left 20 on board. Sick. Just sick.


No, make that sickening.

Contrary to my optimistic prediction that Johnny Damon would start producing like he is able to, and pointing out that he isn't Matt Damon, maybe I ought to go in another direction, and petition the Sox to sign Matt, along with Mike Myers of Saturday Night Live fame. And perhaps we can unearth the cadaver of Richard Nixon and prop him up in right field to take Trot Nixon's place.

It's that grim.

Maybe I'll feel better in the morning – but I doubt it. Where is that Hemlock?


October 18, 2004


Not quite a corpse




Here's the deal.


In the wake of Boston's near-miraculous comeback 6-4 victory over the detested New York Yankees in the wee hours of the morning today, the ever-hopeful Red Sox Nation finally has something to grasp onto aside from (Yankee-struck) baseballs flying out of Fenway Park.


Because, three outs away from elimination, trailing the Boobsters 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning – and with tears seeping from the corners of my eyes (I'm a sucker for a sob story) – the somnolent Red Sox offense finally stirred.


At least, stirred enough to score one run, a la the Los Angeles Dodgers of the early 1960s. That is, two walks, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt, an error and one, measly, run scoring single by third baseman Bill Mueller.


However (and it's one helluva however), Mueller's line drive single was allowed by one Mariano Rivera, Yankee closer extraordinaire, the same charitable relief pitcher who served up a Mueller moonshot July 24 to lose a touch-and-go slugfest while I was visiting my family just outside of Beantown.


And, most important of all, his early morning single drove in the run to tie the game.


Even at that, being the fatalist I am (it's sort of a prerequisite for Red Sox fans), I figured they'd figure out a way to lose the contest. Especially since I actually predicted the Sox would go all the way this year. (Don't fear, my children, I still may end up wearing an entire two dozen eggs on my face afore this thang is over.)


But, be that as it may, the Sox are alive for at least anudder day. (Milk, it helps make a body grow...)


So, with Springsteen blasting on the DVD player in honor of Daveed Orteeez ("Rosalita," of course!), I am reminded of the age-old Gutlon whammer curse, introduced by my late Dad, who was late for everything but meals.


His 1967 rally cry went like this: Whammy! Whammy! Hit 'em in the fanny!


(Hey, whatta ya want? He was a photographer and camera/record/hobby shop owner, not one of the old crones from MacBeth. And I still be Jerry, son of Irving. Also, remember por favor the Sox won the 1967 pennant out of nowhere after finishing in ninth place in 1966.)


I started today's column around 3 a.m. after Ortiz's rocket shot but hadda go nighty-night. I went back to the keyboard again after my lovely wife (an unbelieving Phillies fan) toddled off to the skule where she teaches.


In spite of Springsteen's political proclivities (which reside just to the left of Ol' Joe Stalin), his music really could serve as rallying anthems for the Olde Towne Team.


For those of you uninitiated who are ignorant of my "Ode to Ted Williams," a/k/a "Teddy Freeze Pop," since Springsteen has been the only rock musician who has played in the hallowed confines of friendly Fenway Park, and since Lansdowne Street was renamed Ted Williams Way, I decided to rename it again in honor of both the gentlemen in question.


One of Springsteen's early favorites was a song called, "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," depicting the difficulties he had in getting a recording contract.


Well, by utilizing the revisionist history tactics of certain left wing politicians we can extrapolate the potential of marrying up Bruce 'n' Ted by renaming Ted Williams Way "Ted Avenue Freeze Pop." Hey, Bruce, so sue me! God knows, between the wages of a sports editor and those of a teacher you better not hold your breath...


Anyway, I digress. (What else is new? It's great being an editor again!)


So, tonight's the night. Pedro can reiterate who his real Daddy is, and Ortiz can reaffirm that figuratively he's the Big Papi to the Sox.


Sure, every team down three-games-to-none in the history of Major League Baseball have failed to win four-in-a-row to overcome the deficit. But there's always gotta be a first in everything.


An infinitesimal chance? Obviously..


Impossible? Not a chance.



October 19, 2004


Make Room for Papi




uestion: How do you top Game 4 of the American League Championship Series?



Answer: Game 5.


That said, the Boston Red Sox, still one game away from elimination, are heading back to New York for Game 6.


Red Sox 5, Yankees 4 in 14 innings. I love it!


Excuse me. I must pinch myself.


Could this really be the year? Can the Red Sox actually set the baseball world on its head, and overtake the Yankees in seven games? Will New England once again hear in absentia the equivalent of a British Army band playing, "The World Turned Upside Down" as it marches away in abject defeat?


(Editor's Note: After the American Army defeated Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown to secure the country's freedom from Great Britain in 1781, the British band played a song entitled, "The World Turned Upside." The ultimate rout of the British began in Boston in 1775, when citizen-soldiers inflicted countless casualties on a British occupation force while it was marching back to Boston following the battles of Lexington and Concord.)


Will my beloved Olde Towne Team actually take me off the hook and beat the Yunks? I should've known better than to pick the Sox as the next world champions of Major League Baseball, even though I'm one-for-one in picking a world champion (the Cardinals over the Yankees in seven, back in 1964, when I was in seventh grade).


O.K., limb, here we go. The Red Sox WILL BE the world champions this year after 85 years of (mostly self-) denial. And, no, denial is NOT a river in Africa. Hoo-ah. (Sorry. It's my Army background.)


All right. Now back to the task at hand.


Perhaps it was well that I waited until this afternoon to complete this column, since the predicted heavy rain for New York City tonight allegedly won't be a factor after all. According to the National Weather Service, the storm front is moving off as I speak and, at worst, we're talking 40-degree temperatures and a chance of drizzle tonight. A far cry from a potential rainout, and a potentially crucial setback for the Sox.


Here's why: Having used 26 pitchers over a 26-inning span in the past two days both teams’ staffs must be exhausted. The two teams combined pitching totals traverse 10 hours and 51 minutes of playing time, with pitchers hurling a grand total of 887 pitches.


But the Yankees pitching staff is totally spent, even more so than the Red Sox pitching contingent.


New York closer Mariano Rivera threw again (and again) Monday night, and may not be available for more than two or three batters this evening. Set-up man Tom Gordon looked like krep again, and middle reliever Paul Quantrill aggravated a knee injury he's suffered from all year. Esteban Loaiza, the tough-loss loser Monday night probably won't be able to make an appearance either.


So who are they left with? Left-hander Felix Heredia should be available out of the bullpen, and El Duque, as well, assuming the Bronx Boobies will go with Kevin Brown Wednesday night in Game 7.


The Sox staff isn't rested much better than that of the Yankees. Except we've got momentum, and (in the words of Willem Dafoe from the movie "Platoon"), "The worm has definitely turned."


Boston closer Keith Foulke should be available for an inning, and Mike Myers, Curtis Leskanic, Alan Embree and Mike Timlin should likewise be able to throw in limited capacities.


But, as long as Curt Schilling's new boot actually works and holds his bad tendon in place, I'm willing to bet we're not going to need a platoon of relievers. Not after Schilling only worked six innings a week ago.


Of the 25 previous teams to fall behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, 20 were swept, three lost in five games and the other two lost in six.


In other words, never before has a MLBB team rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to go beyond a Game 6.


Until now.


October 20, 2004


Ready for the



ho'd have ever thunk it?




The Boston Red Sox are poised to pull off the greatest sports upset since a guy named Namath buried the vaunted Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Because, once down 3 games to 0 and six outs away from elimination in yet another American League Championship Series, the Rot Hosen have evened it up and once again face the Darth Vaders of Major League Baseball tonight in Game 7.

And, for the first time in MLBB history, a team down 3-0 in a championship series has forced a Game 7. Against the Yankees, no less.

Be still my heart.

At this point, there is still a possibility (many prognosticators actually believe a probability) that the Sox will take Game 7 this evening and complete a rout with the impact just this side of Sam Houston's rout of Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto. Remember the Alamo!

O.K., New York!

Remember Aaron ("Bleeping") Boone?


Well, this one's for you!


Gee, maybe my kids won't have to endure 52 years of life without a World Championship Red Sox team. Lord, let me have paid their penance in full, once-and-for all.

In perhaps the gutsiest pitching performance in playoff history, Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, a/k/a "The Gimp," took the mound Tuesday night, the post-season at stake. And proceeded to handcuff the Yunksters for seven solid innings. The Schill, bad right ankle and all (bleeding through his sock, no less!), didn't make a mistake until giving up a solo homerun to Bernie Williams in the bottom of the seventh inning.

After the game, Schilling gave credit where credit is due: "I became a Christian seven years ago but never felt God touch me as much as He did tonight."

Meanwhile, several Red Sox regulars who haven't really produced all series sure produced when it counted.

With the score knotted 0-0 in the fourth inning, Kevin Millar hammered a double, then scored on a single off the bat of Jason Varitek. Then, with two runners aboard, second baseman Mark Bellhorn hit a three-run dinger into the left-centerfield bleachers.

At first, the umpires called Bellhorn's hit a ground rule double but after holding the MLBB version of the Yalta Conference, the crew determined the drive didn't deflect from the field into the crowd. Perhaps most critically, the collaboration among the members of the umpiring squad proved to be a portent of things to come later.

In the eighth, Alex Rodriguez blatantly knocked his batted ball from the glove of Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo, then threw a tantrum when the umpires correctly called him out, and forced Yankee captain Derek Jeter to return to first. Jeter and NY manager Joe Torre also began waving the crying towels. The Bronx cheers accompanied another Bronx tradition – burying the playing field in refuse, twice.

By then, Schilling was gone, exiting after seven, and replaced by Arroyo, who was effective Monday night after hosting a Fenway Park slugfest Saturday night. Although he gave up one run (making the game 4-2, Good Guys), the karate chop A-Rod delivered to Arroyo's left wrist ultimately knocked the wind out of the Yunks' sails.

Then Sox closer Keith Foulke did his bit to keep my blood pressure at about 1,620/2,342 when he walked a couple of Yankees sandwiched among two outs, but struck out Tony Clark swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

"Did I make it interesting?" he cracked to his teammates.

Oy vay, Keith. Not prone to understatements are you, eh? Remember 1967's Cardiac Kids? Well, this bunch has gotta be the Cracked Cranial Crew (too old to be called kids).

So, the ball is in the hands of Derek Lowe, a 21-game winner several years ago, but a disappointment this season, who will face the hated Turks for all the marbles.

Lord, once and for all, let's show those Yankee Dogs there is a God. Period.

Red Sox in Seven.



October 21, 2004


No grim fairy tale



ejoice, Red Sox Nation!




For the first time in 18 years – and for only the fifth time since 1918 – the Olde Towne Team is going to the Really Big Show, i.e., the World Series.


As I pen this column, only several hours have elapsed since the Sox drubbed the most despised – and revered – team in American pro sports, the New York Yankees, to win an unprecedented seventh game in the league championship series after falling behind the vaunted pinstripers three games to none.


Never before in the history of Major League Baseball has a team won a deciding seventh game after falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. It was particularly delicious icing on the cake for the much-maligned Sox since no team has even forced a seventh game after rebounding from a 3-0 deficit in a league championship or World Series, ever!


And to crush the smug, snotty Yankees by doing so? Donny, my former college roommate, who still lives in Boston, and I spoke very, very early Thursday morning after the conclusion of Game 7, final score Red Sox 10, Yankees 3.


My learned former collegiate associate, who knows more about sports on his thumbnail alone than I'll ever know, said perhaps the dumbest thing he's ever said to me. (Editor's Note: That does not include statements he made during our college daze.)


"You know," he opined, "I really don't care now if we win the World Series or not. Not after beating the Yankees like this."


Obviously, Boston’s smog is getting to him.


Sure, Bucky ("Bleeping") Dent's banjo pop fly homerun in the one-game playoff in 1978 was a very big, very bitter pill to swallow. And last year's nosedive in the Bronx when the Soxmeisters had the seventh game in hand before Pedro ("Who's Your Daddy") Martinez imploded, was an awful experience I'd prefer not repeating.  (Rumor has it that Satan forces non-believing Sox fans to watch it on an endless video loop in Hell.)


That's not to mention all the other milestones in their joint history that these two franchises each wear on their sleeves. Playoff losses 50 years ago to the Bronx Bombers still rankle Red Sox lovers the world over. Since January 1920, when the Sox sold a lefty pitcher and pseudo outfielder named Babe Ruth to New York, true fans of the Red Hose have detested their Bronx-based American League brethren.


But, the Sox also have a couple of scores to settle with their World Series opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals. You see it was the Cards' Enos Slaughter who raced around third base to score the winning run against Boston in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, when Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky allegedly "held the ball." (For the record, he really didn’t.)


And when the 1967 Red Sox broke our hearts by falling short in seven games in that World Series, the victorious team was ... yep, you guessed it, the Cardinals. Truth to be told, I never really held that against St. Louis, because the Sox had no business getting into the Series that year anyway, having finished in ninth place the year before (in a single-division, 10-team league).


Oh, sure, I cried when they lost in 1967, although I was much more stoic when they collapsed in seven games versus the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and, to my utter horror, to the New York Mets in 1986. So many horrid memories of those seasons still linger it's amazing.


I would have perceived playing Houston as a sterling grudge match, since former Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens would have faced them one last time. Clemens laid down on the job his final two seasons with the Sox after they wouldn't acquiesce to his money demands. But, c'est la vie, I 'spose.


As far as those proverbial New York whiners go, it was extremely gratifying to see some of the top goats from the Soxers stick it to them. Johnny Damon, who had hit about as well as Kerry Struggs in the series, smashed a grand slam and a two-run homer. And Mark Bellhorn homered for the second straight night. Boston catcher Jason Varitek, whose bat had cooled of late, got a couple more hits, as well.


And Red Sox starter Derek Lowe, who was cuffed around earlier in the series, and sported an earned run average of more than five runs allowed per nine innings pitched during the season, mesmerized the Yanks in the rubber game of the ALCS.


Last but not least, Pedro pitched the seventh and, although they touched him for three hit and two runs, I think the Yunks are learning they're not really his Daddy.


The absolutely perfect underscore occurred when Boston fans remained in the stands after the Boobsters went to their clubhouse to whine, chanting, "Who's your Daddy?" again and again and again, with the Fox Sports broadcasters interviewing the American League champions all the while.


Having fallen behind 3-zip, ESPN statisticians stated the Sox had little more than a three percent chance to pull this one from the fire. Specifically, they put the odds at .03125.


No problem.


A number of really precious statements were tended after the contest, as well.


First, from Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who asserted, "We've been playing Game 7 since Game 4."


From general manager Theo Epstein,  "I hope Ted Williams is having a cocktail upstairs."


Williams died in July 2002, having starred for the Sox from 1939 through 1960 (sans five years of military service). He never won a World Series, playing only in the 1946 classic against the Cards, and performed poorly, at that.


Sox president Larry Lucchino seemingly relished making this statement about the fall of the Yankee's Evil Empire: "All empires fall sooner or later."


So bring on the Redbirds.


We'll call it "Red October."


October 24, 2004


For Whom the Bellhorn Toils



t figures.




After blowing leads of 4-0, 5-2 and 9-7, the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of the 100th World Series, 11-9, on Mark Bellhorn’s two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.


It was the third consecutive game in which Bellhorn hammered a homer for the Olde Towne Team. He hit a three-run shot to provide the Sox with the margin of victory over the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.


The second baseman also smacked a solo shot in the seventh and deciding game of the ALCS to put some additional breathing room between the Sox and the seemingly hapless Yankees.


But Boston once again also proved that nothing comes easy for them.


Perhaps the closest a Bosox effort on the part of a Sox starter came to having it easy in the World Series, at least in my memory, was in 1967, when ace Jim Lonborg hurled a one-hitter against these same St. Louis Cardinals, coasting to a 5-0 victory.


Or, in 1975 against the Cincinnati Reds, the exquisite Luis Tiant, a/k/a El Tiante, threw a gem as well, baffling the Redlegs with an array of pitches from an array of angles, winning the first game, 6-0.


Yet I can’t help but believe the circle is closing.


In spite of the initial three-game debacle against New York in the ALCS (particularly the 19-8 embarrassment one week ago Saturday night), the Red Sox neither folded their tents nor lost heart. I can honestly say that, although I was dispirited and discouraged, I wasn’t ready to concede the season, myself.


Perhaps it’s a heightened sense of my mortality, as I suffer from a heart condition and, truth to tell, it’s been particularly troubling lately. For years I’ve been telling folks that I’d die happy as long as the Sox won a world championship first. However, both calls are in the Hands of a Power infinitely greater than myself. At the same time, I must admit that more than once during the Yankees series I asked the Lord to allow Boston to prevail.


(Editor’s Note: Hey, if Jesus said that the Father knows every hair on our heads – a stretch for me, mind you – and knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, I’m absolutely sure He was fully aware of the predicament the Olde Towne Team found itself in.)


Now, permit me climb off my soapbox and get back to the matter at hand. (Or, paraphrasing a line by Mel Brooks while portraying King Louis XIV in "History of the World, Part One," “It’s good to be the editor.”)


This World Series is, as most baseball fans already realize, the 100th World Series in the history of Major League Baseball, and the predecessors of the Rot Hosen (Red Sox in Deutsch) were the American League representatives in the very first Series in 1903.


Although Fenway Park wouldn’t be built until 1912, and the Red Sox were then known as the Pilgrims (Get it?), the incomparable Cy Young threw the first pitch in that Series at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Pilgrims beat the Pirates in the initial foray into interleague baseball by major leaguers in the U.S.


Boston won the first five World Series it played in, the last three with Babe Ruth, who was sold to New York after the 1919 season. Since then, the Sox have lost four World Series, all in seven games, to the Cardinals (1946, 1967), the Reds (1975) and the Mets (1986).


Again, as I wrote two weeks ago, this will be Boston’s year.


Perhaps a harbinger of things to come were the 20 runs scored by the Cards and Sox, setting a World Series record for the most runs scored in Game 1 of a World Series.


Did anybody really expect anything different?



October 25, 2004


Bring on the fat lady




rue Grit




In the wake of a convincing Red Sox win in Game 2 the Olde Towne Team returns to St. Louis for the first time since 1967, when the Cards and Floppers last faced off in a World Series.


(Editor's Note: In a sense, the term Floppers, is one of endearment with a single caveat – they always seem to come up a day late and a dollar short. However, that will NOT be the case this year.)


And, although it appears Curt Schilling has been put in stitches for the last time this season, I still believe.


Believe the Sox will take it all this year, that is.


Because as soon as Boston closer, Keith ("Fokker-Wulfe") Foulke slammed the door on the Cards in Game 2 Sunday night at Friendly Fens, Schilling became the first starting pitcher in history to win World Series games for three different teams.


So, now the scene changes, and the Boys in Red play Game 3 this evening on the banks of the Mississippi, featuring Pedro (Martinez) versus Jeff Suppan, an interesting match-up.


The sports pundits have consistently railed about Martinez not being a particularly effective cold weather pitcher. But, guaranteed, it'll be a lot milder in Missouri this time of year than it is in Beantown.


The other interesting note is the fact that Suppan is very well known to the Sox, having spent a good part of his career in their organization.


Of course, programming Suppan for a critical appearance isn't the only odd thing (Cards manager Tony) LaRussa & Co. have done pitching-wise. For, they left left-hander Steve Kline off the World Series roster, as well as starter Chris Carpenter, although Carpenter had been injured, coming back in mid-September.


By leaving Kline off the WS roster, the Cardinals are limited to a single lefty pitcher, not a real bright move considering the left-handed power hitters the Red Sox sport. And Carpenter has had a good year for the Cards, going 15-5.


The Sox cannot afford a drop-off in offense, even though David Ortiz must start at first base in place of Kevin Millar since there's no designated hitter in the National League ballparks.


Defensively? Hah!


Considering the fact the Red Sox have bollixed more baseballs in two games then the Peewee team I used to coach did in an entire decade, the addition of Ortiz in the field could mean even more trouble.


But, although I am much too experienced as a Red Sox fan to count my groundballs before they're hit, I must again go with Boston. Pedro will be the Pedro of old.


So, ultimately, my prognosis for this evening's contest is thus, in accordance with the Dionne Warwick Psycho Hotline: Sox win.



October 27, 2004


Still no joy in Mudville



wenty-seven outs.




As inconceivable as that may sound to a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, ultimately that's what stands between the Olde Towne Team and the franchise's first world championship since 1918.


Twenty-seven outs.


A lifetime of near-misses, also-rans and should've-beens flash through my mind as I sit stunned at this fairy tale of a reversal.


Twenty-seven outs.


After Boston cruised to a sweep of the anemic Angels in the best-of-five game divisional series, 10 days ago I was attempting to formulate some type of rational rationale in order to explain why I had the unmitigated temerity to predict the Soxmeisters would take it all this year. Down 3-0 to George Steinbrenner's hated Evil Empire it certainly looked like the Floppers had tanked it – again.


Twenty-seven outs.


Then, I sat stunned as the never-say-die 2004 edition of the Sox roared back, refusing to once again cash it in, roll over and assume their seemingly everlasting role of bridesmaids. And the turnaround occurred with breathtaking speed.


Twenty-seven outs.


Staring another l-o-n-g hot stove season flush in the face, Boston was facing the No. 1 closer in modern times, Mariano Rivera, in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Sox were, once again, three outs away from ignomity.


Twenty-seven outs.


Then God declared, "Enough is enough."


For, after a small-ball Sox rally to tie the score, big David Ortiz slammed a 12th inning walk-off homerun to keep our hopes alive. Yankees up, 3-1.


Twenty-seven outs.


Then the big man hit a seeing-eye single to seal another Sox comeback in Game 5 of the ALCS, this time in the 14th inning. Red Sox down, 3-2. Back to Gotham, where pitching ace No. 1 (or, is he No. 2?) Curt Schilling took the mound, stitched up tendons and all, ready to yank on Superman's cape, and don it himself.


Twenty-seven outs.


Behind second baseman Mark Bellhorn's three-run homerun and, in spite of Alex Rodriguez's karate chop-like whack to Red Sox reliever Bronson Arroyo's left arm (Cheater! Cheater!), Boston emerged as 4-2 winners, forcing a Game 7.


Twenty-seven outs.


Enter Derek Lowe, Boston's forgotten man, a 21-game winner three years ago, the guy the Sox have essentially written off (with reason) since that stellar performance, along with his All-Star 2000 season when he saved 42 games for the Olde Towne squad.


Well, Derek delivered the Lowe-down, shutting down a hapless buncha Yunks to nail down the American League championship.


Twenty-seven outs.


So, here we are. After the Sox have steamrolled the Cardinals in this year's Fall Classic, we are ONE GAME AWAY from a world championship, and Lowe once again takes the mound this evening. In St. Louis. For all the marbles.


Now, being the fatalist Red Sox fan, inured by years and years of watching the Sox fall just short, I can't help but having the fleeting thought that it could all still come crashing down. Sure, no MLBB team had ever come back after being down 3-0, but, wouldn't it be typical for Boston to have it boomerang on them?


Twenty-seven outs.


Remember Bob Gibson of these same Cardinals in 1967? Bucky Dent’s banjo shot in 1978? Bill Lee's eephus pitch to Tony Perez in 1975? Bill Buckner in 1986? Flash Gordon's implosion in 1998? Aaron ("Bleeping") Boone's homerun in 2003?




But, it doesn't matter.


Because, folks, this is it.


Red Sox sweep the Cards.




Twenty-seven outs.



October 25, 2004


To hell with (the
curse of) Babe Ruth




ighty-six years after the Red Sox last brought the whole bag of marbles back to Boston theyıve done it again.

Because Boston finally "eighty-sixed" the pall that has hung over its head since a guy named Ruth went to the Yankees.


Over the last 20 years pundits have termed their annual swan dive "The Curse of the Bambino," referring of course, to Babe Ruth, as his leave taking allegedly saddled the Sox with a cloud darker and more persistent than the one that hung over that cartoon character in Lil’ Abner.


Erroneously believing that slandering American icons would infuriate our troops in the Pacific during World War II, Japanese attackers would assault Allied positions screaming, "To hell with Babe Ruth!"


Well, "To hell with the curse of Babe Ruth!"

Because in the wake of Bostonıs Game 4 world championship-clinching victory, one thing must be made perfectly clear: There never was a curse.


Or, in the words of Red Sox right fielder, Trot Nixon, "To us, it was just a five-letter word."


That specter was first raised by Boston Globe writer Marty Nolan, who years ago theorized that perhaps there was a connection between the sale of Ruth and Bostonıs yearly swan dive. Globe writer Peter Canellos also alluded to a curse. And then it was mentioned by New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey after the Sox tanked the 1986 World Series versus the Mets, a series Boston had all but won.

Finally, Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy picked the ball up and ran with it all the way to the bank, in his 1990 fairy tale, "The Curse of the Bambino."


Since then, the story has taken on a life of it’s own.

Until now.

I must admit I took Shaughnessyıs book to heart even though I shouldıve known better.

However, the facts surrounding Ruthıs sale to the hated Bronx Bombers actually puts the lie to virtually everything reported thus far in the mainstream media. As chronicled by astute baseball historians, the fable is a child of prejudice, pure and simple.


Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth because he was a problem child. Constantly jousting with management, he was in the process of being converted from a pitcher to an outfielder.


Sox manager Ed Barrow, a disciplinarian of the first order, tried his best to keep the exuberant lout on a short leash, another matter Ruth incessantly whined about. (Ruth had no serious rivals in the whoring and drinking departments, then or later.)

The Babe didn't want to continue pitching since he hammered 29 homeruns for Boston in 1919 as a part-time outfielder. But the Sox were in decline and desperately needed him to pitch on occasion. And despite having a lucrative multi-year contract he’d just signed, the Babe decided he wanted another one for even more filthy lucre.


A theatrical producer, Frazee did not sell Ruth to underwrite a play as legend has it. Nor did he die broke. Nor, for that matter, did he own Fenway Park when he sold off the Baltimore-born Bambino-to-be, although he later did obtain a second mortgage through Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert once Frazee purchased the stadium.

In actuality, the theatre magnate hit the jackpot with Broadway productions several times and his biggest hit, "No, No Nanette," was an overwhelming success in 1925, two years after he sold the Boston franchise.


And baseball historians assert a vast number of the "stars" Frazee shipped to the Yankees were "stiffs" until they blossomed after traveling 180 miles south. Conversely, a large number of the players he obtained in return later bottomed out or got hurt.

Yes, the so-called curse is nothing more than a myth, and a rotten one at that. Because the truth is much uglier. It's a dirty little secret that needs exposing.


For American League President Ban Johnson was a major league bigot, one who used his position to defame people and do his level best to ruin those who crossed him. And ultimately it was Johnson who drove Frazee out of ownership.

Because he believed Frazee was a Jew.


Then the foul rumor was nationally disseminated by Johnson’s pal, Henry Ford, later a close buddy of Adolf Hitler, through Ford's Michigan-based weekly newspaper. And the rancid rumor was further perpetuated by Fred Lieb, a longtime baseball writer whose assertions over the years have repeatedly proven to be ... well ... untrue.


One of the ultimate ironies is that Frazee was a Presbyterian – and a Mason, to boot. Another interesting note is that Ruppert was the only American League owner who'd deal with him at the time.


And it's deliciously ironic that the current Red Sox management is at least in part Jewish. The "Boy Wonder," general manager Theo Epstein, sure ain't Irish Catholic, folks. And outfielder Gabe Kapler and third baseman Kevin Youklis are also Jewish.

So while the Red Sox Nation remain caught up in ecstasy they’ve never before experienced, let's close this sordid saga with a paraphrase from the movie, "Scarface," immortalized by fictional drug lord Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino: "Say goodbye to the bad guy."

Forever and ever, amen.

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