MLB Regular Season Ends

Monday, June 30, 2008

USA Birthday Trivia Tuesday

In honor of our great nation's 232nd birthday this coming Friday, we at Professor Thom's Trivia Night will be marking the occasion on Tuesday night with a round of "July 4th Trivia." It will be questions on all kinds of stuff that are connected in some way to July 4th.

We will have the other four regular categories, plus "Spell the Word" will return to "The Q Train" lightning round.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
"In the 1989 movie 'Field of Dreams,' what baseball player is the first to appear in the cornfield?"

We had a record-breaking number of teams last Tuesday, and I hope many of you can come out this Tuesday night at 9 PM.

Falling Into Second

The Red Sox fell into second place yesterday as they lost the series (as well as interleague) finale to Houston, 3-2, as Tampa Bay defeated Pittsburgh, 4-3. The Rays this morning now sit atop the AL East standings by a half game.

It was a discouraging loss yesterday by the Red Sox. The score was tied, 2-2 in the 8th when Terry Francona brought Hideki Okajima into a situation with a man on base for the first time in over a month, as Okie has struggled terribly in that situation. With two outs and a man on second, Mark Loretta once again had a big hit against his old club, a pinch single to give Houston the lead, and eventually the win. It seems as though MLB has finally figured out Okajima, and more and more he seems to be losing his hold on the 8th inning setup situation.

Dustin Pedroia and Manny Ramirez hit home runs (it was Manny's 16th, and 506 overall), but it wasn't enough to aid Josh Beckett, who pitched seven solid innings. The bullpen let yet another one get away.

Who would have thought when the schedule came out earlier this month that tonight's series would be one of the biggest of the season so far. But it is, and those who aren't taking the Rays seriously (certain New York sports radio hosts come to mind) are ignoring this team at the own peril. The Rays are hanging tough, and don't appear to be folding their tents any time soon.

It was revealed also that the Red Sox received a mailed threat from Memphis from someone who threatened at least two players, who were not identified. The person threatened the black and Latin players, and MLB security and the Red Sox have tightened security for the series that starts tonight in St. Petersburg. It has nothing to do with the dustup the clubs had earlier this month, and the FBI does have a suspect in mind, who has not yet been caught.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blame It On the Bullpen

The Red Sox let one get away last night, as they saw leads of 4-0 and 9-6 go down the drain in Houston, as the Astros won a shootout, 11-10.

Jon Lester was given a 4-0 lead in the third, but it quickly disappeared on a Carlos Lee two-run single and a three-run homer by ex-Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta. Lester gave up six runs total in five innings for his first rough outing in some time, but actually left with the possibility of getting the win.

The Red Sox rallied for five runs in the sixth, capped by a two-run double by Kevin Youkilis.

But the bullpen couldn't hold it. David Aardsma put two on in the seventh, and they both scored on a single and a passed ball. Manny Delcarmen came in with a 9-8 lead in the 8th and promptly gave up a home run to Ty Wigginton, and Houston added two more in the inning for a 11-9 lead.

Mike Lowell hit a solo shot with one out in the ninth, but it wasn't enough, as Houston held on for the win. Delcarmen has been terrific in his last few outings, retiring the last 14 hitters he had faced, but had almost nothing last night and got tagged for the loss.

Native Texan Josh Beckett takes the hill today in the final interleague game of the season for the Red Sox. And thank heavens for that.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mets-Yankees? It's Just Not Special Anymore

Today I went to my first Mets-Yankees game in 34 years, and the first one ever that's ever meant anything in the standings. I went to the Mayor's Trophy Game back in 1974, when the Mets and Yankees would play a meaningless exhibition game in midseason and it was eventually discontinued many years back. (My only memory of that game was some stiff on the Yankees named Celerino Sanchez hit a grand slam that won the game for the Yankees that night. I couldn't tell you what the score was if my life depended on it.)

I wore a special t-shirt for the game, my "got rings lately?" shirt I got from the BLOHARDS earlier this year. That's the one they made up in response to those obnoxious "got rings?" shirts that those brilliant Yankee fans came up with after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. (I saw a couple of Yankee fans wearing those antiquated "got rings?' shirts. I could only think to myself: "You're wearing the wrong 'rings' shirts, guys!")

When I came off the subway at Shea I saw a guy that looked a little like my friend Chris, who bears a striking resemblance to Big Papi. And he was wearing a Big Papi jersey also. But it wasn't Chris. I walked up to him and said I loved his jersey, and he saw my 2007 World Champions hat I had on, and said he liked it too. But then he saw my shirt, and flipped over it. He read the back on the shirt and busted out laughing, and shook my hand and said, "You just made my day!" His girlfriend who was with him laughed too, and she was wearing a Yankee jersey. I gave him the address of how to get the jersey online (at Blohards.com).

For the rest of the day I got almost no reaction from anyone about the shirt, which was a bit of a surprise. I sat in the upper level of Shea near the right foul pole, in the fifth row. A good seat, and there was a mixture of Mets and Yankees fans there. There was a slight delay in the game beginning, as the tarp was on the field at the start with a threat of rain possible. After 25 minutes, the game got going. The Yankee fans were their usual obnoxious selves, trying to do the "Hip Hip Jorge" chant when Jorge Posada came up, and were hooted down by Mets fans, with chants that decorum prevents me from mentioning here. And naturally, there was the usual Yankee fan sitting next to me who simply couldn't keep his mouth shut during the game. (BTW, the announced attendance was over 56,000, but they had nowhere near that. There were thousands of empty seats all over the park, and total crowd in house was about 45,000.)

There were few fights, only one that I could see. There wasn't much tension in the crowd, as it almost had the feel of an exhibition game to it. Yankee fans chanted "Let's Go Yankees," as the Mets fans followed it with "Yankees Suck!" By the sixth inning, the rain returned, and by the time the Yankees were out, it really began to pour, and it didn't look like it would subside anytime soon. This is the third game I have gone to this year, and all three times there has been a rain delay (one was postponed and never started). So once it started pouring I called it a day, jumped on the subway and headed home. The combination of rotten weather and Yankee fan mushmouths was enough for me, and the Red Sox-Astros game at home seemed like a better alternative. (When I was crossing the Manhattan Bridge I discovered the game had just resumed.)

And, oh yeah, the Yankees won, 3-2.

I've said this 100 times, so I'll say it again. It's time to junk interleague. It's not special anymore, it ruins teams schedules and causes havoc in travel. Games the Mets play against their NL opponents are far more relevant. If you really want to make it special again, have the New York teams play each other just one series every other year. But that won't happen, as the teams don't want to surrender the six guaranteed sellouts.

It was my first game between the New York teams that's ever meant anything. And it felt as meaningless as those Mayor's Trophy games.

Dice-K Bounces Back

Six days after he took the worst beating of his Red Sox career, Daisuke Matsuzaka bounced back nicely in his first start ever against the Houston Astros. He struck out the side in the first, and you knew it was going to be a long night for the Astros.

He went only 1+ innings against St. Louis last Saturday, and allowed seven runs. But last night, he went five shutout innings, walked three while striking out four. Dice-K improved his record to 9-1 with the win. All he needed in offensive support was provided by J.D. Drew.

Drew was 0-for-14 before he blasted a three-run home run off losing pitcher Runelvys Hernandez in the third inning. It was Drew's 15th home run of the season. He now has as many home runs in June (11) as he had in all of 2007. He also has an MLB-leading 26 RBI for June.

The bullpen took over and shut Houston down the rest of the way. Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen were sharp, but Hideki Okajima continues to struggle, as he allowed a long pinch-hit home run to Reggie Abercrombie.

Jonathan Papelbon came on to get the last four outs to get his 24th save of the season to cap the 6-1 Red Sox win.

For me, today I am off to Shea Stadium for the Mets-Yankees game, the first time I have seen the two teams play since the 1974 Mayor's Trophy Game.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vote For John

Since 2008 is a year to get out and vote, why not support more members of Red Sox Nation? ESPN is currently having a contest called "Battle of the Bands," with ten different artists recording the classic "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

One of those 10 artists is none other than John Pizzarelli, the jazz artist who is probably best known to the general public as the guy who did those "Foxwoods" commercials a few years back ("The Wonder of It All"). He is also a huge Red Sox fan originally from New Jersey. But John is a very talented jazz guitarist who has recorded over 40 albums and I've had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions at the BLOHARDS meetings at the Yale Club in Manhattan. John also performed with his group at one of the meetings. John's official web site is here.

The voting for the "Battle of the Bands" begins on Sunday night at 8 PM, and the top 3 vote getters will be announced on ESPN on July 6. The winner will be announced on July 13. John is in competition with such notables as Branford Marsalis and Gretchen Wilson. To check out more about the "Battle of the Bands," and vote, go here.

Let's hope John can bring home the title here for Red Sox Nation, so get out and vote for him!

Congratulations Victoria

Congratulations go out today to Victoria, a young 10-year-old girl from Massachusetts who many of you may remember was in the running for the position of "Red Sox Kid Nation captain." I put up a post for her many weeks ago, encouraging people to vote for her.

Well, the word came down this week that Victoria was indeed elected a captain, and got to go on the field at Fenway and got to yell "play ball" with some other kids before Wednesday's game. (Being on the Fenway field is just awesome, isn't it Victoria? I did it earlier this year, too!)

Here is a video of Victoria's memorable night at Fenway. Her blog is here.

Once again, congratulations Victoria. I know you'll make a great captain, and I'm glad that I was able to help get the vote out for you!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kevin's Goin' Deep Tonight. Really.

If you had no idea how the Red Sox scored their last three runs last night, and I said to you that a player on the Sox blasted a three-run shot over the Green Monster and the ball landed in the parking lot across Lansdowne Street, who would you have guessed hit it? Manny Ramirez? Mike Lowell? J.D. Drew?

I would have guessed Dan Shaughnessy before the man who was the correct answer: Kevin Cash. Yep, he hit his first home run since June 21, 2005, a full three years ago. And it was no cheapie, either. He hit a slider from Juan Cruz that was in the same league with Manny and Big Papi's tape-measure shots. It appeared like it was just insurance, but the Sox needed it, as Craig Hansen struggled in the ninth, loading the bases. Jonathan Papelbon came on to get the final out and his 23rd save to preserve the 5-0 shutout win over the Snakes of Arizona.

Tim Wakefield was Tim Wakefield last night, as he had the knuckler dancing, allowing just 2 hits in 7 innings. Coco Crisp had three doubles, all three with Mike Lowell on first (and wound up on third all three times). Brandon Moss drove in Lowell twice to give the Red Sox their first two runs, and that's all Wakefield needed.

Wake faced Randy Johnson last night, and it was the oldest pitching matchup at Fenway (85 years) since 1965 when Bill Monbouquette (29) faced the immortal Satchel Paige (59).

And the news on David Ortiz is getting better, as he now estimates he will return in 2-3 weeks from the wrist injury. He took 25 swings off a tee yesterday and will be with the Red Sox on the coming road trip. Unfortunately, he won't be activated for the Yankees series, but it looks like a return by the All-Star break is still possible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Late Night Lightning

Going into the eighth inning last night, it looked like the Red Sox were on their way to their second straight defeat against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The bats once again looked pretty sluggish all night. Doug Davis, who had thyroid surgery earlier this year, pitched seven strong innings, allowing just one run, a home run in the first to Dustin Pedroia.

But the Sox showed some of that late inning magic that seemed to have disappeared lately. Pedroia singled one run to chase Davis, and Mike Lowell doubled in two runs off Chad Qualls to tie the score at 4, and then Jason Varitek (pictured), who was mired in a horrific 1-for-31 slump, singled to right to give the Red Sox the lead, 5-4.

Jonathan Papelbon sealed the deal in the ninth for his 22nd save of the season to put the Red Sox back in the win column. Chris Smith got his first win in the major leagues, as Justin Masterson had a tough night, and allowed all four Arizona runs, including a three-run homer by Chad Tracy.

You didn't think they were going to lose on Jerry Remy Day, now did you?

Carlin Tributes This Week on HBO

HBO is paying tribute to the late George Carlin by showing 11 of his 14 HBO specials he did from 1977-2008. Starting today, they will air five of them on HBO2, and tomorrow six of them will air on the same network. On Saturday, HBO Comedy will air a complete 11-hour marathon of them all, beginning at 4 PM. Click here for more info.

George was also the first host of "Saturday Night Live" on October 11, 1975, and NBC will pay tribute to him by airing that classic episode this Saturday night at 11:30 PM. (That is also the show that Andy Kaufman made his network debut with his "Mighty Mouse" sing-along.)

I was checking out some classic George bits on YouTube last night, and came across two of my favorites: George on "Sports," and his lampoon on the PC crowd and environmentalists: "Saving the Planet." Both are worth the time to check out and laugh. Thanks George.



Trivia Q&A: June 24

We had a new record of 25 teams take part in Trivia Night on Tuesday night, back to its old night and time. It was great to see so many regulars and others back on the regular Tuesday night, especially my friends from The BLOHARDS, who came out for the festivities. The numbers were fairly strong throughout the contest, and I got back some positive feedback about the "Movie Characters Trivia" category. (I will bring it back sometime down the road, but I'll make them harder!)

The numbers were really good for that category, as well as for General Knowledge. But IQ Trivia is where we separated the contenders from the pretenders. There were 15 teams within five points of the lead going into it.

Only three teams got as many as three of the five questions correct, and We Thought PacMan Was Yellow came from five points behind to get 18 in the IQ Trivia round to pull out the victory by three points. (Nice job by my buddy Alex, who was solo, getting 16 in the round to finish second.) Congratulations to them on a great finish and win.

Current Events
1. This American comedienne was kicked off a British TV talk show last week for uttering two expletives live on the air.
2. This Hollywood actor apologized last week when it was revealed that he used racist language in a voicemail sent to his now ex-wife.
3. Martha Stewart was banned from visiting this country because of her obstruction of justice conviction in 2004, but she got a warm welcome last Friday in Poland.
4. Former Giants defensive lineman George Martin completed a 3,000 mile journey last Saturday as he walked across the us from NYC to San Diego. For whose benefit was he doing it?
5. Militants in this African nation blew up a Chevron oil pipeline last Saturday, which stopped Chevron's oil production cold.
6. This longtime staple of NBC News was picked to replace the late Tim Russert as host of "Meet the Press" through this November's election.
7. Typhoon Fengshun struck this Asian country last weekend and capsized a ferry off its coast with hundreds of people still missing.

Answers: 1. Joan Rivers; 2. Charlie Sheen; 3. England; 4. Ill 9/11 first responders; 5. Nigeria; 6. Tom Brokaw; 7. Philippines.

Movie Characters Trivia
1. Tony Montana
2. Holly Golightly
3. Gordon Gekko
4. Nathan Detroit
5. George Bailey
6. Hedley Lamarr
7. Sarah Connor

Answers: 1. "Scarface;" 2. "Breakfast at Tiffany's;" 3. "Wall Street;" 4. "Guys and Dolls;" 5. "It's a Wonderful Life;" 6. "Blazing Saddles;" 7. "The Terminator."

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. By definition, a Black Hole is invisible.
2. Kugel is a type of baked noodle pudding.
3. Adlai Stevenson once lost two consecutive presidential elections.
4. Author and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock once won an Olympic gold medal in sailing.
5. Fisherman's Wharf is a popular tourist site in Seattle.
6. Oakley is best known for making fashionable sunglasses.
7. John Nash, the inspiration for the film "A Beautiful Mind," was a philosophy teacher.
8. Just 5 MLB players have ever hit as many as 600 home runs.
9. The Basque people live in a region that lies in the countries of Spain and Portugal.
10. In 1986, Ivan Boesky paid a $100 million fine after pleading guilty to insider trading.

Answers: 1. true; 2. true; 3. true; 4. false, rowing; 5. false, San Francisco; 6. true; 7. false, mathematics; 8. false, six players have; 9. false, Spain and France; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. What is the first word of the first verse of the Old Testament?
2. What currently circulated US coin shows a president on the front and his memorial on the back?
3. What religious group is best known for putting Bibles in hotel rooms?
4. The video for what 1986 song features a young woman who enters a black-and-white comic book world?
5. In the 1994 movie "Pulp Fiction," Uma Thurman and John Travolta do what dance at the theme restaurant?
6. In times of war, the phrase "the fifth column" refers to what group of people?
7. What legendary musician had a groundbreaking album called "Kind of Blue?"

Answers: 1. in; 2. penny; 3. Gideons; 4. "Take on Me;"5. the twist; 6. enemy sympathizers; 7. Miles Davis.

IQ Trivia
1. John Chapman was the real name of which legendary American folk hero? ( 4 points)
2. Guitarist Brian Setzer played what 1950s late musician in the 1987 movie "La Bamba?" ( 5 points)
3. After oxygen, what is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust? ( 3 points)
4. Noted medical school professor Dr. Joseph Bell was the inspiration for what fictional character? ( 4 points)
5. In 1976, a court ruled that George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord" infringed the copyright of what 1960s pop song? ( 4 points, and 1 bonus point for knowing the artist)

Answers: 1. Johnny Appleseed; 2. Eddie Cochran; 3. silicon; 4. Sherlock Holmes; 5. "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Last Night at Fenway

I was watching the Red Sox game last night, when field reporter Heidi Watney was chatting with actor Michael Chiklis, star of the TV series "The Shield." He's also a huge Red Sox fan, and she asked him about villains on TV. He came out with a great line:


"I don't dislike any person, place or thing. But God, do I hate the Yankees!"

I guess the Yankees don't qualify as a person, place or thing. 

Two championships this decade haven't mellowed Mr. Chiklis, or me, for that matter.

The hatred never ends.

Every RemDawg Has His Day

Congratulations to Jerry Remy, who is being honored at Fenway Park tonight for his 20 years as a broadcaster of Red Sox baseball games on NESN. It's a real pleasure listening to the RemDawg on any given night with his buddy, "The Announcer Boy," Don Orsillo.


Rarely does a game go by that I don't laugh at some observation he comes up with. Whether it's his self-deprecating humor, or his opinion on a couple being filmed for "Sox Appeal" at Fenway, it's never a dull moment when The RemDawg's in the house. And he's a damn good analyst to boot.

And I can't tell you how much I miss him when I'm forced to have to be subjected to the shills over at the YES Network for a Red Sox-Yankees game, or when the Sox games get highjacked by the national networks. And when I'm back watching the games on NESN, I feel like I'm back home after being behind enemy lines.

All the best RemDawg, on 20 years at NESN. He's hoping we get at least 20 more years with you and Don behind the mikes at the Fens.

Tim Russert's "Guarantee"

I was checking out the "Blessed! Still We Believe 2" video last night, when I remembered that the late Tim Russert made a brief appearance in it. Mike Barnicle, the writer and broadcaster, is one of the principal people the film is centered around (along with my buddy Chris from Professor Thom's) and he sits in a box seat at Fenway talking to various people of note who are Red Sox fans or connected to them in some way.

Later in the film, Barnicle is sitting chatting about baseball and the Red Sox with Lenny Clarke, the Boston-born comedian and Sox fan. Tim Russert is sitting to the left of Clarke watching the game. The game in question is the September 12th contest against Tampa Bay. The Red Sox are down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with a man on and David Ortiz coming up.

Russert looks at both Barnicle and Clarke, stands up out of his seat and says just three words to them: "home run" and "guaranteed" with a smile on his face. And sure enough, Papi goes deep and belts one into the seats, the one Delmon Young turned the wrong way on in right field to give the Red Sox a 5-4 win. It was Papi's first "walkoff" home run in 2007.

And Tim Russert called it, with the cameras catching it for the film.

God bless you, Tim.

More Lethargy

Josh Beckett pitched another terrific game at Fenway Park last night, and it was a great pitchers duel with Dan Haren of the Diamondbacks. It was scoreless until the seventh, when Arizona scored their two runs.

The Red Sox got only one hit through the first six innings, a double by Jason Varitek. They got their only run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Drew with the bases loaded. But that's all the Red Sox could muster in a rather listless 2-1 loss. Take nothing away from Haren, who was terrific in seven shutout innings, and continues to be one of MLB's best pitchers.

The Red Sox just look rather sluggish and lethargic at the plate over the last few games. Jacoby Ellsbury is struggling at the plate, and hopefully once he gets going it will jump start the offense once again.

The Sox lost Kevin Youkilis before the fifth inning started to a fluke injury. A ball thrown in the warmups before the inning by Mike Lowell bounced strangely and hit Youk in the right eye. His eye immediately began to swell. He wanted to stay in the game, but he left to get precautionary tests taken, which turned out to be negative. The Sox put Brandon Moss at first, as Sean Casey dropped his appeal of the suspension from the fight he was in with the Rays earlier this month and will sit the next two games.

The word on Curt Schilling's operation was better than expected. The damage in his right shoulder was not as bad as first feared and the doctors believe he could possibly be throwing off a mound by January. I would bet money right now Schilling will give it one last shot next spring training.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie Characters Trivia on Tuesday

Trivia Night makes a triumphant return to its normal Tuesday night slot with a round of "Movie Characters Trivia." I will give you the name of a famous movie character, and you will have to tell me from which film the character is from.

We also return to the normal 9 PM time as well. The Red Sox-Diamondbacks game will be going on, but we will get going before it concludes.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
In the 1994 movie "Pulp Fiction," Uma Thurman and John Travolta do what dance at the theme restaurant?

My friends from the BLOHARDS are scheduled to make an appearance at Trivia Night tomorrow, and they've done exceptionally well in the rare times they have taken part. So it should be an interesting night tomorrow. I hope many of you can come out for the festivities.

George Carlin Dies at 71

I was shocked and terribly saddened to pick up the newspaper this morning and learn of the death late last night of one of the greatest standup comedians of all-time, George Carlin. He died in Los Angeles of heart failure, after years of heart-related problems, at the age of 71.

Mr. Carlin was born in New York, and brought that smart alecky-street wise persona to his act. I was a big fan of his HBO specials, and I'm glad that the HBO Comedy Channel runs them frequently. He began his career as a "regular" standup guy, doing shows like "The Ed Sullivan Show" with his famous "Hippy Dippy Weatherman" routine.

But by the early '70s, Mr. Carlin had changed his act considerably, growing a beard and doing sketches about harder edged things like war and racism. He gained a whole new following, and in 1972 was arrested for doing his "Seven Dirty Words" routine in Milwaukee.

Mr. Carlin was also the first host of "Saturday Night Live" on October 11, 1975. He actually retired from standup for nearly five years, but his HBO specials put a new jumpstart to his career. He also appeared on TV and in movies, such as "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," "Dogma," "Thomas the Tank Engine" and "The George Carlin Show."

He went into rehab in 2003, but he was limited by heart problems in recent years. I want to close my post about the great George Carlin with a YouTube clip that I put on the blog many months ago. In tribute to him, I will always think of this routine when I think of George Carlin. Of course, it's "Baseball vs. Football."



I know he wasn't a believer in God, but I'm sure George Carlin has been rewarded by The Almighty.

And thank you for rewarding all of us with all the laughs and memories, Mr. Carlin. I'll always treasure them.

An Agonizing Way to Avoid a Sweep

Yesterday's Red Sox game may have been the most frustrating and agonizing game they played this season. And it's a game they actually won.

The offense was silent for 6 2/3 innings against Cardinals pitcher and former Red Sox stiff Joel Pineiro. They looked sluggish and lethargic, with many of the main players mired in slumps (like Ellsbury, Varitek, Lowell and Youkilis). It looked like they might get shutout until Kevin Youkilis broke up the shutout with a solo homer. Then in the eighth the Red Sox got a break when Rick Ankiel slipped and fell and Coco Crisp got a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game. They got another on a bases loaded walk to grab the lead, 3-2.

But Jonathan Papelbon couldn't seal the deal, as with two outs he walked Chris Duncan and gave up an RBI double to Adam Kennedy to send the game to extra innings.

And here's where the real fun began.

In the tenth inning, the Sox got a leadoff double from Jacoby Ellsbury, but left him on third. Frustrating, and I wanted to punch the wall.

In the eleventh, they got a leadoff double from Mike Lowell. Again they didn't score, after having the bases loaded and one out, and it included one of the worst at-bats of the season, from Alex Cora. He actually swung and missed at a ball that hit his left knee for strike three. I wanted to put my fist through the wall at that point.

In the 12th inning, Dustin Pedroia led off with a double. Again no runners scored. I wanted to put my fist through the television set by then.

St. Louis was equally adept at leaving runners everywhere, including the bases loaded in the 11th. In the 13th inning, Duncan was gunned down at the plate by J.D. Drew. In the bottom of the inning, they were running out of pitchers, and brought in a rookie named Mike Parisi, who's record indicated the game would soon be over. After a Lowell single, Youkilis ended the agony by slamming a pitch into the Monster seats for a 5-3 Red Sox win. Hallelujah.

I've always said the Red Sox have taken about five years off my life. I think yesterday's agonizing win, which narrowly avoided a sweep, may have doubled that.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alex Minasian Trio at Thom's Wednesday

Wednesday night, June 25th, Professor Thom's will be having a free concert featuring my buddy and excellent softball and trivia player Alex Minasian, who will be with his Trio doing the best of jazz classics all night, in a free jazz jam session from 8-11PM.

It will be taking place in The Loft, which is located on the second floor inside of Professor Thom's, on 2nd Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. Alex is a very talented jazz piano player and I have seen him on many occasions doing some of the great jazz standards from such immortals as Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson.

Alex is putting together a nice jazz resume, as he's previously played such great places as Birdland, The Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Alex has also studied under the great Hank Jones and James Williams, and also interned on Saturday Night Live under musical director Leon Pendarvis.

Alex will be playing with Nameer Shukri on drums, and Zaid Shukri on bass. On Wednesday night there will be no cover, and it's all free. Fellow musicians are also encouraged to sit in with the band as well. There will be $3 Bud Lights served, and there will also be the Red Sox-Diamondbacks game on downstairs as well.

I will be there and I hope many of you can come out to hear Alex play. For more information, you can call Professor Thom's at: 212-260-9480.

Ugly

I guess Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't ready to return yesterday.

From the start it was butt ugly. After the first batter reached on a walk, he gave up a two-run home run to Aaron Miles, who had not hit one all year. You knew it wasn't going to be his day.

He allowed two more runs in the first, and left two more in scoring position when he got the last out. Dice-K then loaded the bases with none out in the second and Terry Francona pulled the plug on him for the day. It was his worst start in a Red Sox uniform. The Red Sox were trying to spin it positively, saying after the game that Dice-K felt fine before and more importantly, after it was over. It was Dice-K's first loss in nine decisions in 2008.

It was a truly brutal outing: 1 inning, 7 runs, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 1 home run.

Chris Smith, in his major league debut, came on and struck out Rick Ankiel. But he gave up a grand slam to Troy Glaus, which put the game away at 8-0. Smith actually pitched well, going four innings and allowed just three hits and allowed no more runs.

J.D. Drew hit his 14th home run of the season, and his 10th in June, but it was all for naught, as the St. Louis won the series, 9-3, behind some guy named Mitchell Boggs. The Red Sox look to avoid getting swept in the finale with Jon Lester on the mound looking for his 7th win of the year.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

George Martin Completes an Historic Journey

Former New York Giants defensive lineman George Martin completed an historic journey on Saturday, as he walked completely across the United States to bring more awareness and raise money for those ill first responders from the World Trade Center disaster.

He was originally going to walk from the George Washington Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge, but altered the route and finished in San Diego instead. He began his 3,000+ mile trek across the country last September 16th, and in the process, lost 41 pounds, went through 27 pairs of sneakers and dozens of pairs of socks.

He encountered driving rain storms, heat, driving winds and freezing temperatures. But he also raised over $2 million dollars for those sick 9/11 responders.

George Martin is truly one of America's heroes, and someone the NFL can really be proud of.

His web site for the walk is: http://www.ajourneyfor911.info

Congratulations George, on a job well done.

Curt Schilling: An Appreciation

Yesterday's announcement that Curt Schilling would have to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery was in many ways not a surprise. He had done his best to rehab it and avoid the knife, but he had a few setbacks along the way and it became clear that Schill had no choice but to opt for the surgery.

And with Curt turning 42 this November, Game 2 of the 2007 World Series (pictured) might very well have been the final game Curt Schilling pitches in the major leagues.

So now let the debate begin. Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

But before that, a look back at the man's career. One that will be remembered in Boston baseball lore forever.

Schilling was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 1986, in the second round. In 1988, he was traded to Baltimore with outfielder Brady Anderson for pitcher Mike Boddicker. He made his debut that September, in Baltimore against the Red Sox. He pitched seven innings that night, allowed just 3 runs in what was a 4-3 win Orioles win. (His first strikeout was Todd Benzinger and his first home run allowed was to Ellis Burks.) Schilling spent the next year in the minors for the most part, but in 1990 was used out of the pen by the Orioles in a setup role.

In 1991 he was traded to Houston as part of the Glenn Davis deal, and was used in a variety of bullpen roles, including closer (he had 8 saves). In 1992, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, and here was where Schilling's life took a complete change for the better. It was here that legend has it that Roger Clemens, who saw Schilling's untapped talent, had a talk with him about how he was wasting his talent and should be more focused as a baseball player. And even more important for Schill was who his new pitching coach was: Johnny Podres, the legendary Dodgers pitcher and well-respected coach. The Phillies put Schilling back into the rotation after he began the year in the pen, and he achieved immediate dividends. Schilling went 14-11 with a 2.35 ERA in 226 innings.

The next season is when Curt Schilling began to make a name for himself. He won 16 games in leading the Phillies to the NL championship and the World Series for the first time in 10 years. He pitched extremely well in the NLCS against Atlanta, and beat Toronto in Game 5 of the World Series, throwing a 2-0 shutout. But the Phillies would lose that series in six, on Joe Carter's Series-winning homer in the ninth.

The next three years were almost lost years for Schilling, as he was hit with injuries and won just 18 games over that stretch. But in 1997 he regained his 1992-93 form, winning 17 games and finishing fourth in the Cy Young Award balloting. And his new manager there was a guy named Terry Francona. In 1998 and 1999 Schilling would win 15 games each year and be named to the NL All-Star team both years.

By 2000, Schilling had become a lightning rod for controversy, as he always spoke his mind, no matter how much it pissed off teammates, coaches or fans. Phillies GM Ed Wade had once said that "Schilling was a horse every fifth day, and a horse's ass the other four." He hadn't pitched well in 2000, going just 6-6 with the Phillies after 16 starts. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for four players that July, and could be close to his home in that state. In 2001, he became a 20-game winner for the first time, going 22-6 and finishing second to teammate Randy Johnson for the Cy Young. But he and Johnson would share the World Series MVP trophy, as Schilling started Game 7 against the Yankees and former mentor Clemens. The D-Backs would win it in the ninth, scoring two runs off Mariano Rivera that included the memorable single by Luis Gonzalez.

Schilling was even more dominant in 2002, going 23-7, but once again fell short in the Cy Young balloting to Johnson. 2003 was a season to forget, as Schill had various injuries that caused him to miss a third of the season, including an appendectomy. But after the 2003 season, the D-Backs were in a cost-cutting mode, and made it clear that Schilling was available. So Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and a few of his assistants spent Thanksgiving Day with Curt and his family in an attempt to get him to agree to come to the Red Sox. The teams had worked out a deal and Schilling had the right to approve it or say no. After a few days, Schilling agreed to a new deal with the Red Sox and the trade was completed.

It would be one of the best trades in Red Sox history.

Schilling would win 21 games for the Sox and supplant Pedro Martinez as the club's ace. He was just what the Sox needed to get them over the hump they couldn't the year before in the ALCS loss to the Yankees. Late in 2004, Schilling had a problem with his right ankle but figured it would dealt with after the season. But during Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS against the Angels, Schilling hurt it worse, and was banged around badly in Game 1 of the ALCS against New York. It really appeared he (and the Sox as well) were done for the year. But the Red Sox team physician, Bill Morgan, did a procedure on the tendon in the ankle that made it possible for Schilling to continue pitching. In Game 6, he took the mound shortly after the procedure, and there was some blood dripping from the wound. This led to the legend of "The Bloody Sock." Schilling pitched seven gutty innings, allowed just one run on four hits, and got the win as the Sox went to win that game and the next night complete the greatest comeback in sports history against the hated rival Yankees.

Schilling went on to pitch Game 2 of the World Series, once again after another procedure to relieve the pain in the ankle. He pitched six solid innings as the Sox won that game, 4-2 and took the World Series in St. Louis three nights later and capture their first championship in 86 years.

Curt had a solid 2006 season, winning 15 games for the Red Sox. But the 2005 and 2007 were marred by injuries, including his recovery from ankle surgery after the World Series. He did close for the Sox in 2005, saving 10 games.

Schilling maybe a controversial figure to many, but he has shown his compassionate side on many occasions. He was worked tirelessly for the eradication of ALS, the neuromuscular disease better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He has been so devoted to the cause he named one of his sons Gehrig in honor of the immortal Yankees first baseman. He founded "Curt's Pitch For ALS" to raise money for the cause. And with his wife, he founded SHADE, which works to better inform the public about melanomas and skin cancer, which his wife Shonda was struck with many years ago.

So this may very well be it for Curt Schilling. He's had a great career, and depending on how the surgery goes on Monday in Philadelphia, we may have seen him on a pitching mound for the last time. Is he a Hall of Famer? He's a borderline one at best, as he has 216 wins, a 3.46 ERA with 3118 strikeouts. But what he accomplished in the postseason will surely be his baseball legacy. In 19 postseason starts, he went 11-2 with 120 strikeouts and a 2.23 ERA, which is one of the best resumes of any pitcher in postseason history.

He pitched with a lot of heart and a lot of guts, especially when all the chips were on the table.

If this is it, thanks for the memories, Curt. Thanks for giving all of us Red Sox fans the 2004 postseason.

And thanks especially from me, for making my life in New York City so much more bearable.

"Blame It On The Rain Delay"

During last night's rain delay at Fenway, a new video debuted on the JumboTron courtesy of Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen. They did their best Milli Vanilli impression and did their song "Blame It On the Rain," with Wally in the background dancing in a raincoat.

It lasts just under two minutes. Boy, when will Jonathan Papelbon ever come out of his shell?

Wearin' of the Green Brings No Luck

The Red Sox honored the NBA champion Celtics before last night's game at Fenway Park. As the game was being held up by rain, the Celtics came out on to the field from the centerfield garage door in the duck boats to thunderous applause. And the victorious players gathered on the mound before the game with the championship trophies (why did they have four of them?) and Paul Pierce threw out the first pitch to Jason Varitek.

The Sox wore the green jerseys in honor of the Celtics. They also did so last season to remember the late Red Auerbach before an April game with the Yankees (remember that stunning eighth inning comeback?). But the green jerseys didn't bring much luck this time as the Red Sox lost to St. Louis, 5-4.

Tim Wakefield looked solid for the first four innings, but then allowed home runs to Jason LaRue and Skip Schumaker. He also wasn't helped by the defense, specifically Julio Lugo. The weak link in the Red Sox' infield defense made two errors in the sixth inning that cost the Red Sox a run. He now has a mind-numbing 16 errors to lead the majors. Lugo also hit his first home run of the year in the bottom of the inning to tie the score.

But Lugo wasn't the only one responsible for the loss. Manny Ramirez came up twice with the bases loaded and struck out looking in the third and then bounced into a DP in the seventh that scored one run but torched what could have been a big inning. Hideki Okajima continued to struggle as he allowed a home run to Yadier Molina in the eighth that proved to be the difference in the game. The Red Sox rallied for one in the ninth, and had first and third with two out, but Kevin Youkilis flied out to end it.

The loss dropped Wakefield to 4-5, and Daisuke Matsuzaka comes off the DL today to face the Cardinals this afternoon at Fenway.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't Order the Plaque Just Yet


No, Joba Chamberlain has not yet earned the right to have a plaque in this Hallowed Hall just yet.

However, if you read the New York papers, you would believe he already has. (Somehow, his 5 2/3 inning no-decision against the Padres merited a front-page picture in the New York Daily News. That's how nauseating it's getting.)

My friend Adam sent me an interesting email about Chamberlain earlier this week, and I thought it merited sharing with you, my loyal readers.

Congratulations, Joba Chamberlain went 6 innings the other night and only gave up 1 earned run(against Houston). According to the NY Post's George King, "When the Yankees' brass decided to take the best set-up man in baseball and turn him into a learn-on-the-job starter, they fantasized about games like last night's." Why? He allowed 10 base-runners in 6 innings and only struck out 2. The end result was good for the MFY, but a 1.67 WHIP is pretty ugly. If Joba pitches like he did last night to a team that has seen him before (or a solid AL team with a decent DH), he'll get lit up.

As Buster Olney notes "an evaluator with a rival team who has seen Chamberlain recently thinks he would make more impact as a set-up man, or eventually, as a closer. I asked the evaluator for an e-mail assessment, and this was his response: 'He has a good arm, but it is straight and the hitter picks up the ball. Slider is decent, but doesn't control it well enough, yet. I think he would be a lot more valuable as set-up or eventually a closer. If he is throwing 180 innings a year, his velocity will come down much more quickly.'"

George King believes the MFY brass see Chamberlain as a potential Josh Beckett-type ace. "Three starts in the middle of a season don't mean Chamberlain is ready to be Beckett. He still has to work on holding runners, and only with more experience will he know what's working that night and what isn't." I think Joba need to work on more than just holding runners on before he can be compared to Beckett.

Also, anyone who thinks Chamberlain will have a huge impact this year is crazy. He has thrown 36.1 innings so far this year. His innings cap is around 140-150. The MFY have played 68 games. That means Joba will make about 19 starts if he takes a regular turn. The MFY would have to hold him at 5 innings a game to keep him under his cap. Assuming they did that, Joba would finish the season with 131 IP--ready for one post-season start before the annual MFY October first-round exit (if they make the playoffs).

First Night at KeySpan & a Strange Delay

The New York-Penn League is back in full swing for 2008, and I went to my first Brooklyn Cyclones game at KeySpan Park last night.

It was the final game of a three-game series with the archrival Staten Island Yankees. The Cyclones opened the season with two wins over Staten Island, 3-1 and 9-4. There was a big crowd on hand at KeySpan (announced at over 8,600, but it was more like 6,000).

I have a partial plan of seven games, and my seat is behind home plate, about 10 rows off the field. I've been going to Cyclones games for eight seasons now, and it's a great atmosphere there in Coney Island. Lots of kids and families on hand, and before the game, they had literally hundreds of Little Leaguers on the field with the players for the National Anthem.

It was a close game most of the way through. Cyclones jumped out 1-0 in the fourth, but Staten Island scored two in the fifth and four in the seventh to put the game on ice.

As the score was 7-2 with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the ninth, I saw something I've never seen at any baseball game. The Cyclones hitter, Ralph Henriquez, stepped into the right side of the batters box, and then moved over into the left one, and then stopped at the plate. Turns out that the Yankees' pitcher, a guy named Pat Venditte, is ambidextrous, and is a "switch pitcher." He has an ambidextrous glove, he can switch easily on the mound. (I had never heard of such a glove.) Henriquez, who is a switch hitter, continued to move from box to box until the managers came out to talk to the umps about what to do.

We had a 5-7 minute delay as the umps talked to both managers. According to baseball rules, a player can switch from one side of the plate to the other, but only once an at-bat. Finally, the umps made Henriquez commit to one side of the plate, which was the right. Venditte pitched to him righthanded (which he did to every hitter that inning) and wound up striking him out on three pitches to end the game.

I've seen some unusual delays at KeySpan (like fireworks, fireworks smoke and fog), but I've never seen a game held up because the hitter and pitcher couldn't decide which way to hit and pitch.

Schilling Maybe Done For Good

Curt Schilling revealed today on WEEI radio in Boston that he will undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. He's had a number of setbacks in his attempts to pitch again just by doing rehab, so he made the decision to have surgery on it next Monday.

This could also be the end of Schilling's career, as he turns 42 later this year. Well, if it does shut Schilling down for good, I will never forget this moment when I think of him:


Good luck with the surgery Curt. If this does end it for you, thanks for the memories. And especially for 2004.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Most Overrated Player in Baseball Is...

This guy (pictured), according to a Sports Illustrated poll of 495 players, to be published next week. More from the NY Daily News.

You know you'll hear the howls of protest from Yankee fans about Derek Jeter winning this "honor." They will rattle off the litany of Jeter's accomplishments: four World Series rings, team captain, World Series MVP, eight time All-Star, two Gold Gloves, etc. And also about the average major leaguer is just secretly envious of the fact he's adored in the nation's biggest media market and all the babes he dates, that sort of thing.

It will be just like last winter, when Jeter was picked as the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. Yankee fans screamed he wasn't, even if the numbers seem to bear it out. Listen, Jeter is still a terrific hitter, and the one guy I hate to see come up in a game against the Red Sox in a late inning situation with men on base. There's no doubt he's on his way to the Hall of Fame, barring some unforeseen circumstance.

It's just that he's not a good shortstop, and it is there where Jeter is clearly overrated. (Gold gloves are little more than a popularity contest and a joke of an award.)

The rest of the poll found Barry Zito finishing second with 9%, Alex Rodriguez and J.D. Drew tied with 7%, and David Wright and Kevin Youkilis (Youk overrated, really?) at 4%. Should be an interesting article to read, when it comes out next week.

It Wasn't the Worst Experience of My Life

Last night I did something I thought I would never do in my lifetime: I sat in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

I've been to about 40 games there in my life, and I have been all over the park. I even sat right behind home plate back in the 1980s when Tower Records had two box seats one season. But I had never been out there with those individuals known as the "Bleacher Creatures." As you may know, their reputation has always preceded them for their chimp-like behavior.

But my friends Peg and Ken were in town on vacation and they had tickets for the first two Padres-Yankees games. The second was through a friend of theirs who had leftfield bleacher seats. So I decided to take a chance and go out there.

Like last Saturday, the night started with a rain delay. But thankfully, the rain passed and the game began after a 75-minute delay. We were sitting in the second section from the end in left field, and it was mostly filled. (There were some bench seats that were unoccupied.)

The game wasn't much, as Jake Peavy didn't pitch well and the Yankees got four runs off him in three innings. But once the fourth inning began, all of a sudden people began departing. In masses. It wasn't terribly late (about 9:40 PM), but for the next inning or so, one section of the bleachers almost seemed to empty out. We wondered if security ordered people to vacate it, but that wasn't the case.

I have to admit that the fans weren't terribly obnoxious (although every time Jorge Posada came up they did that "Hip Hip Jorge" chant, which was really annoying after the first time), and that might have been because it was a Padres game, and there's no rivalry there. (I can only imagine what it's like out there for Red Sox games. And I have no interest in discovering what that's like.) I couldn't help but laugh every time Johnny Damon came up, when some fans behind me chanted "Johnny Damon." All I could think of was Judas' grand slam in the same park on October 20, 2004 that put the choker tag on their beloved team.

The view of the park from our seats was actually pretty good, although the pitcher and batter feel like they are in another zip code.

The Yankees ended up winning, 8-5. The Padres made an effort to get back in the game with three home runs, but they fell short. Kyle "The Mop" Farnsworth gave up a leadoff homer to Chase Headley and the folks behind us got awfully nervous (and for good reason). But that's as close as the Padres would get.

I have to admit I saw very little anti-Red Sox paraphernalia. (Although I saw a young girl wearing the newest anti-Red Sox shirt they've come up with: "There was never a curse. Boston just sucked all those years." My, how clever these fans are.) I actually saw about 5 different people wearing Red Sox hats, and a smattering of Padres hats and shirts. I even saw a few brave souls in the bleachers wearing Mets shirts. (That's courage, especially after this week's events.) I also saw a Yankee fan wearing a Yankee shirt that said on the back: "COSTANZA 0". That gave me a good laugh.

And coming home on the subway, I actually saw a fan wearing a "Yankees Universe" t-shirt. It was the very first fan I've ever seen wearing that shirt. I thought Yankee fans had the good sense to avoid that cheap ripoff of "Red Sox Nation." Well, at least most have.

It was my first game at Yankee Stadium in three years (that was the third game of the season in 2005 when Mariano Rivera melted down in the ninth against the Red Sox, was taken out and booed off the mound), and my first in the infamous bleachers. It was great being with my dear friends, even if their club didn't win.

I've had worse experiences in my life, but it will be my one and only time there. When the Red Sox march into town in two weeks, I'll be at the safe haven known as Professor Thom's, thank you.

No Manny, No Youk? No Problem

Yesterday in Philadelphia, the Red Sox fielded a lineup without Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis, and Coco Crisp left early in the game with a sore hand. And they still whipped the Phillies, 7-4, to take the series and end the interleague road trip 4-2.

The Sox scored four before the Phillies even got an out. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia both singled, and J.D. Drew continued his amazingly hot hitting by launching a three-run shot over the right centerfield fence to make it 3-0. Mike Lowell then hit a solo shot into the leftfield seats to make it 4-0. (It was also the ninth time the Sox have hit back-to-back homers, most in MLB.)

Justin Masterson pitched five good innings, and allowed two runs. Drew went 4-for-5 with 4 RBI and fell just a triple short of the cycle. Brandon Moss singled in two when he pinched hit for Crisp, and that was all the offense the Red Sox needed.

Craig Hansen allowed two runs and didn't get an out, but Manny Delcarmen bailed him out and pitched two excellent innings. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to get his 21st save and Masterson his fourth win in five decisions.

The Red Sox are off today and play the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend at Fenway, with Daisuke Matsuzaka coming of the DL on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lester and Coco Carry the Night

Jon Lester pitched seven solid innings and Coco Crisp belted a two-run shot and stole two bases as the Red Sox shutout the hot-hitting Phillies, 3-0, at Citizens Bank Park last night.

Lester was rarely in any kind of trouble last night. And the two times the Phillies had a serious threat going, Lester got double plays to get himself out of it. He won his sixth game against three losses. A very good sign for Lester is that in his last three starts he has walked just two batters (and one last night). Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon (who struck out the side) shut the Phillies down in the final two innings.

The Red Sox also tied a team record stealing six bases in a game. Even Sean Casey got into the act, stealing his base in nearly a year. Crisp continued his power surge by hitting his third home run in four games, to give the Red Sox a lead they would hold the entire rest of the way.

The series ends this afternoon in Philadelphia, as Justin Masterson, who will be in the Red Sox rotation for a while with Bartolo Colon going on the DL yesterday, takes the mound.

17

Congratulations to the Boston Celtics, and to all of my friends who are loyal fans of theirs. The Celtics wrapped up their 17th NBA championship with a 131-92 humiliation of the Los Angeles Lakers at the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday night.

It was never a contest, as the Celtics blew them out by the second quarter. The Celtics just missed the record for the largest win ever in the NBA Finals, which is 42 points, set the by the Chicago Bulls in 1998 over Utah.

The Celtics completed the greatest one-year turnaround in NBA history with their first championship in 22 years. They also became the first Boston team to win a title in the city since they won that title in 1986.

I believe it also marks the first time the same city has held both the World Series title and the NBA title at the same time since the Dodgers won the World Series and the Lakers won the NBA title in 1988.

Once again, Boston is truly the City of Champions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Omar Minaya is a Big Fat Idiot (& a Clueless Putz)

The wrong man got fired on Tuesday morning.

By now the world knows that Willie Randolph was fired as Mets' manager in one of the most appalling ways ever known. He got bounced after a Mets' win in Anaheim, and after winning 3 of their last 4 games. He got fired after beginning a trip out west by a general manager who was too afraid to do the dirty work in New York.

As far as I'm concerned Omar Minaya, errand boy for the Wilpons, was the one who should have been bounced on Tuesday. He put together this underachieving, appalling mess that is the current state of the New York Mets. I watched the press conference from Anaheim this afternoon and he comes across to me as not just totally clueless, but a liar and a backstabber as well. It was clear that Randolph wasn't going to survive the season unless the Mets got hot and back in the race. Minaya, with his absolutely absymal timing, has succeeded in turning Randolph into a sympathetic figure.

He tries to make it sound like he was Willie Randolph's "buddy," when in fact nothing could be more opposite. Randolph was forced upon him back in 2005 by the Mets' owners. Just this past Friday he gave Randolph a vote of confidence (not the strongest one in the world, but one nonetheless). So the Mets take 2 of the 3 from Texas and win in Anaheim, and just after midnight in California last night he decides THAT is the right time to cut Willie loose.

Minaya has not only run this franchise into the ground, but he has made it a laughingstock. I had the radio on this morning and one of the hosts, who was a Mets fan, summed it up perfectly for all Mets fans by this simple statement: "I am embarrassed to be a Mets fan this morning."

Truer words were never more spoken.

So why in the hell would Minaya wait until the opening of a West Coast trip to fire Randolph? He didn't want to fire him on Father's Day? He'd rather do it out west so he wouldn't get the wrath of the Mets fans if he did it while they were home? Minaya in the press conference says the decision was his alone, and not the owners. He let Randolph twist in the wind for weeks (or as he said in the press conference that he never said Randolph would be there the whole year) while the speculation was running rampant and Willie was asked about it for nearly a month by the press. Minaya seems to have his head in the sand on that, almost like he was oblivious to all the press speculation.

This season is now beyond saving for the Mets. This team now needs a serious overall, as they have gotten too old in places, thanks to Minaya and his stupidity. He's handled this whole situation with absolutely no class, and has done nothing but embarrass this once-proud franchise. (And it brings back bad memories of the M. Donald Grant days of 1977 when he ran Tom Seaver out of town. It's THAT bad.)

Yep, the wrong man got fired on Tuesday. Minaya's lying ass should have been the one out the door.

Best News Was Away From the Field

The Red Sox got whacked in Philadelphia last night, 8-2, as Bartolo Colon and Mike Timlin got raked over the coals, as Colon gave up two first inning homers. Just an awful night all around.

The better news last night was away from Citizens Bank Park.

David Ortiz had the cast removed from his wrist, and reported no pain. He had a removable splint put on in place. It isn't known when he can begin baseball activities, but it is still hoped he might be back for the Red Sox series at Yankee Stadium during the July 4th holiday weekend.

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched five solid innings for Pawtucket last night in a rehab start against Lehigh Valley. He pitched five shutout innings, allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five. Daisuke is now on target to pitch this weekend at Fenway Park against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mets Pull the Plug on Randolph

In a stunning move in the middle of the night, not unlike the Colts bolting Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984, the Mets finally put Willie Randolph out of his misery, as he was fired, along with coaches Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto.

It was just a matter of time before it happened, but it happened one day into a West Coast trip and after a Mets win in Anaheim last night, 9-6. Jerry Manuel takes over on an interim basis for the rest of the season, and Ken Oberkfell, the club's manager at Triple-A New Orleans, and Dan Warthen, pitching coach for the Zephyrs, will join the major league staff along with Luis Aguayo, a Mets field coordinator.

Randolph was under the gun since the season began, as the Mets could never get on track this season, and are 34-35. I'm sorry to see this happen to Willie, who's a good baseball man as well as a good person I met many years ago on two occasions.

This situation has been handled extremely poorly by Mets management, and the sports radio yahoos got their wish. This was Omar Minaya's decision to fire Randolph, and now all the heat's on him, and in reality he's the one who really should have been fired first, as he's responsible for putting this total mess on the field. (Last Friday, Minaya insisted that Randolph was his manager. The Mets go out and win 3 of 4, so it's time to bounce Randolph. Unbelievable.) Making the move now looks like they are putting a Band Aid on a gaping wound.

Good luck Willie. At least you're away from the embarrassing mess that is the New York Mets.

Trivia Q&A: June 16

We had 10 teams in for Trivia Night on an evening when we had to move Trivia to Monday night due to the Celtics playoff game on Tuesday night. That move plus the threat of severe storms in the New York area kept the crowd down. But I am grateful to all of those who rearranged their schedules to be in on Monday.

We brought back "Spell the Word" for "The Q Train," and it will be a recurring category for the future. I made the words a bit tougher than a couple of weeks ago, but the numbers were still quite good. We had three of the teams get perfect scores in "Sports Venue Trivia," and the numbers for General Knowledge were excellent as well.

It was a close contest going into IQ Trivia, with six teams within three points of each other. But Trivia Ninjas ran the table with five correct answers, and wound up winning by five points. (I was surprised that the scores weren't better in that round.) My congratulations to them on their win.

My friends Peg and Ken, who were in New York for the week from San Diego, finished in 5th place in last night's Trivia. As I announced the scores, they got a very warm reception from the Trivia Night regulars. It was one of the best ovations anyone has ever gotten on Trivia Night, and they really appreciated it. I can't remember a 5th place ever warmly applauded like that before.

Trivia Night will return to its regular day and time next week, Tuesday night, June 24th, at 9 PM. And hopefully it will stay there for the forseeable future.

Current Events
1. This media star topped Forbes' list of the richest celebrities of 2008, grossing nearly $250 million and topping the list for the fifth time.
2. This country now has the highest life expectancy age in the world: 83, according to the World Health Organization.
3. Congressman Anthony Weiner of NY raised eyebrows last week by suggesting that the government set 1,000 immigrant visas for this group of people.
4. Eliot Asinof, who wrote this book about the 1919 Black Sox scandal that was made into a movie in 1988, dies last week at the age of 88.
5. President Bush and French President Sarkozy warned this country last week not to side with Iran, and stated they won't allow to get nuclear weapons.
6. This American actor was named a Visiting Professor at Oxford University for this fall last week.
7. This 1998 Vince Vaughn film was recently chosen by Moviefone as "the worst movie remake of all time."

Answers: 1. Oprah Winfrey; 2. Japan; 3. models; 4. "Eight Men Out;" 5. Syria; 6. Kevin Spacey; 7. "Psycho."

Sports Venues Trivia
1. Turner Field
2. TD Banknorth Garden
3. Arrowhead Stadium
4. Citizens Bank Park
5. Lambeau Field
6. United Center
7. Heinz Field

Answers: 1. Atlanta; 2. Boston; 3. Kansas City; 4. Philadelphia; 5. Green Bay; 6. Chicago; 7. Pittsburgh.

Spell the Word ("The Q Train")
1. PIACULAR (adj.) sinful or wicked
2. RESCINDABLE (verb) to annul, revoke, repeal
3. GENDARME (noun) a police officer in several European countries, especially France
4. PREMIATE (verb) to grant a prize or award to
5. SHIATSU (noun) a Japanese message technique that includes the use of acupressure
6. EUCALYPTUS (noun) any of numerous tall trees native to Australia having evergreen leaves that are the source of medicinal oils
7. BRUMOUS (adj) filled or abounding with fog or mist
8. FERRUMINATE (verb) to solder or unite, as metals
9. WILLET (noun) a large North American shorebird
10. POLONAISE (noun) a slow dance of Polish origin, consisting of march in couples

General Knowledge
1. President George W. Bush has twin daughters named Jenna and what?
2. A "hi-hat" is a part of what instrument?
3. The world's first atomic explosion took place in what US state?
4. Paul Bendict played an eccentric neighbor named Harry Bentley on what TV series?
5. On the children's TV series "Teletubbies," how many Teletubbies are there?
6. The Houghton Mifflin Company specializes in what?
7. In the comic strip "Peanuts," what character consistently addresses Peppermint Patty as "Sir?"

Answers: 1. Barbara; 2. drums; 3. New Mexico; 4. "The Jeffersons;" 5. four; 6. book publishing; 7. Marcie.

IQ Trivia
1. Peter Tchaikovsky was the conductor at the 1891 opening of what New York City music venue? ( 4 points)
2. The French-Canadian folk song "Alouette" is about what? ( 5 points)
3. In 1938, what world leader erroneously claimed to have achieved "peace for our time?" ( 4 points)
4. How many horizontal rows of stars appear on the US flag? ( 3 points)
5. What retail chain purchased Sears for over $11 billion in 2005? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Carnegie Hall; 2. plucking a bird; 3. Neville Chamberlain; 4. nine; 5. K-Mart.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bombs Away in Cincy

After a close shave on Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox flexed their muscles on Sunday afternoon, and got four home runs, three from unlikely sources, as they took the interleague series from the Cincinnati Reds without much difficulty, 9-0.

Josh Beckett pitched seven solid innings in getting the win. He struggled a bit the first two innings, but he settled in after Cincinnati couldn't get to him early. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to open the game, stole two bases and scored on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly. Ellsbury went deep later in the game, and was joined by Coco Crisp (second in two days), Pedroia and J.D. Drew (11th of the year).

The Red Sox were without Manny Ramirez, who was sidelined for the second straight game with a slight hamstring strain. He figures to be back tonight.

Ellsbury also set a new record for stolen bases for a Red Sox rookie with 33, having broken the old record of one Amby McConnell, who swiped 31 in 1908.

The Red Sox now head into Philadelphia, and take on the NL East-leading Phillies.

Watch out Citizens Bank Park, here comes the Red Sox Nation "Hoards!"

The Assassination of RSN by the Coward Bob Ford

I came across a column from a sportswriter in Philadelphia named Bob Ford, and it's about the Red Sox and their fans coming to Citizens Bank Park for the three game series this week. And it's titled: "Red Sox Nation: Scourge on the Country."

Talk about a column loaded with envy and jealousy.

Ford writes in a town where its baseball team hasn't won a championship since 1980 (and just one at that), and the city of Philadelphia hasn't had a championship in any sport since 1983, when the Sixers took the NBA title. And this column is one I've seen in plenty of places before: "We liked the Red Sox and the fans more when they were really underdogs to the Yankees and it seemed like they would never win a title in our lifetimes so we can feel better about ourselves and could make all kinds of fun of them."

Typical garbage, you know, that "lovable losers" BS the Red Sox fans had to swallow for years and years. Here is Ford's column.

Yes, we knew things would change when the Red Sox finally won a championship. We'd get a whole of bandwagon jumpers (you can't avoid that, no matter how many titles a team has won or how long they've gone without winning one) who've claimed to be fans forever. And yes, the Red Sox aren't underdogs any more, and I can't emphasize this enough: THANK GOD FOR THAT. Only the most naive (or delusional) of Red Sox fans still think of us as underdogs.

Two things jumped out at me about this column especially. Ford doesn't do his homework. Two statements he makes are completely WRONG. He states:

"The Red Sox struggled to draw one million fans under the penurious final seasons of Yawkey family ownership." I don't know what numbers Ford has been looking at, but the Sox have drawn 2 million or more at home every year since 1986 (except for the strike year of 1994). They have not drawn under one million since 1966. And the Yawkey group gave up the club to John Henry and company in 2001.

The other:
"This season, the Sox trail only the Yankees in road attendance." Again, wrong. As of yesterday, through 37 games away from home, the Sox are averaging over 35,000 per road game, while the Yankees are averaging just over 30,000 in 33 away games. (Actually the Mets lead the MLB in average attendance on the road, having drawn over 36,000 in 34 away dates so far.)

A sloppily written column for sure. But Ford also fails to mention how the Phillies fans didn't grab all the tickets for the games when they first went on sale, and since Red Sox fans can't either get tickets due to the high demand or exorbitant prices, Philadelphia is the next closest to New York for road games, so fans will make the trip to see them. But Red Sox fans are going EVERYWHERE to see their team, even to places like Seattle and Kansas City.

I love these so-called writers who see the Red Sox fans coming to their town and refer to us as "hoards." Hey, the opposition team owners certainly won't say it, but they are privately smiling over the army of Red Sox fans coming for the games, as they fill up their ballparks and spend money, which ends up in their pockets. (Note the empty seats in places like Baltimore and Tampa Bay when the Red Sox aren't the opponent.)

The Red Sox fans are just so devoted to their team, they will go to the ends of the earth to see them. That's called "loyalty," Mr. Ford. The two championships of 2004 and 2007 just put it more into concrete. (For years, so-called experts predicted that a Red Sox title would "mellow" Sox fans to the point that the Red Sox would become "just another team." Ha.)

You want to keep Red Sox fans away? Tell the Phillies to do a better job keeping the tickets away from the opposition fans. (Pretty ludicrous idea, no?)

We're not going away, Mr. Ford. Get used to it.

Lakers Win; Trivia on Monday Night

The Lakers avoided being eliminated on Sunday and defeated the Celtics, 103-98, and forced a Game 6 in Boston on Tuesday night. So that means that Trivia Night will indeed be held tonight, Monday night, June 16th, at 9 PM. (It could begin slightly earlier, around 8:30, but that will depend on the size of the crowd that can make it.) Once again, I do apologize that we have to move it to Monday, but we simply can't have it on Tuesday with the large number of Celtics fans that will be in Professor Thom's this Tuesday.

This week's special category for Trivia Night will be "Sports Venues Trivia." I'm going to give you the name of a famous current American pro sports venue, and you are going to tell me what city it is in. We will also have the usual four categories, plus a return to "The Q Train" of "Spell the Word," which was a success a couple of weeks ago, so it will returning on a regular basis.

The Sneak Peek question this week is:
On the children's TV series "Teletubbies," how many Teletubbies are there?

I hope to see many of you for Trivia Night tonight.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Night of the Tarp Divers

Last night I went to Shea Stadium with two dear friends of mine who were in New York, and we were going to take in the Mets-Rangers game. It was "Stadium Replica Night" as everyone who came in got a small replica of the ballpark. (It's actually pretty cool.)

But the weather just wouldn't cooperate. We spent the afternoon in Lower Manhattan, and it started to rain, and it barely let up. As I was getting off the train at Shea, I checked my cell phone to see that Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home run to Edwin Encarnacion to tie the Red Sox-Reds game in Cincinnati. I had a feeling this would be a rough night. (But hometown boy Youk came to the rescue and hit a home run to give the Sox the win. It made me feel better to see the "6" on the scoreboard as I got to my seat at the park.)

It was raining steadily as we got there, and it picked up as we waited. Then a stadium announcement said the storm would pass in about 30 minutes, so that gave us some hope. My friend Ken and I went to the concession stand and I heard a roar from the crowd. It sounded like the ground crew might have been on the field ready to take the tarp off the field. When we got back to our seats, not only was the tarp still on the field, the rain was picking up in intensity, and by 8 PM, it was coming down in torrents.

The warning track looked like a new river had just formed, and you could see the huge puddles in the outfield. And then, five players on the Texas Rangers came out of their dugout, and began running and diving across the tarp. I figured they must have been bench guys or something, but it turned out to be five starters, according to Roger Rubin of the Daily News: Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Gerald Laird and Milton Bradley (Milton Bradley? Really?), and pitcher Josh Rupe. (Not "Ryan," Roger.) They were out there having fun and the fans really got into it. I even heard some chants of "Let's Go Rangers" and there was no hockey game going on. At the time I was wondering what Texas manager Ron Washington was thinking seeing some of players doing that. (Imagine if one of them got hurt? I can hear it now: "He's been placed on the 15-day DL due to 'a tarp diving injury suffered at Shea.' ")

Turns out the game had just been called when the Texas players did their tarp diving. A few moments after it concluded, the announcement was made and a single-admission doubleheader (wow, what a concept!!) is scheduled for today.

I felt badly for my friends from California as they couldn't see the Mets play, but as my friend Peg said after we left, "At least we can say we've been to Shea Stadium." On Wednesday the three of us will be going to see their beloved San Diego Padres play the Yankees in the Bronx, and it will be the first time I have ever been in the bleachers in that dump before it gets leveled after this season.

The Red Sox and Mets paraphernalia stays home that night.

Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there, and especially my father. He's one of the better dads you'd ever want to meet.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Haranged

The Red Sox ran into a buzzsaw in Cincinnati last night, as Aaron Harang, who's had a rough season, pitched seven solid innings and allowed just one run as the Reds went on to win , 3-1. Harang, who went into the season as the ace of the staff, is now 3-9.

Jay Bruce hit Justin Masterson's second pitch of the game for a home run, and Adam Dunn also added a home run in the fourth off the Red Sox rookie. Masterson pitched another splendid game, going 6 2/3 and allowed three earned runs while striking out 9. It was his first road start this season and his first loss. It continues to impress with his poise and pitch selection. He pitched well enough to win, but Harang was just a bit better.

Manny Ramirez left the game in the seventh with a sore hamstring, and will get the day off today as the Red Sox play the Reds this afternoon in a Fox Saturday game. Tim Wakefield takes the mound today against hotshot rookie Edinson Volquez.

It was nice to see the Reds fans (as well as the many Red Sox fans) give Sean Casey a standing ovation in his first at-bat last night. Classy move, and Casey acknowledged the applause by removing his cap to the fans. The Mayor is still a beloved figure in the city he played seven years of his career in.

Trot's Back in the Bigs With the Mets

The Mets acquired longtime Red Sox fan favorite Trot Nixon from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization for a player to be named later last night. Trot had been playing at AAA Tuscon since the start of the year, where he was hitting .309, with 10 HRs and 31 RBI in 58 games.

Nixon's acquisition is a good move for the Mets clubhouse, who could some of Nixon's legendary fire and enthusiasm. And it's great to see him return to the majors. And another "One of the 25" is back, and this time with the Mets.

I'll be at the Mets-Rangers game tonight, and it will be great to see another 2004 World Series champion on the field, as Pedro Martinez gets the ball tonight against another ex-Red Sox pitcher, Kason Gabbard.

For more on Trot's move to New York, go here.

Welcome to New York, Trottah. Glad to see The Original Boston Dirt Dog back in the Bigs.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dies at 58

I was saddened today to hear the sudden death of Tim Russert, the NBC newsman and longtime host of the Sunday morning NBC TV staple "Meet the Press." Mr. Russert suffered a heart attack in his office in Washington D.C while he was doing a voiceover for "Meet the Press." He was 58 years old.

Mr. Russert had hosted the "Red Sox Nation Presidential Debate" earlier this year (pictured), and was a devoted sports fan, and his favorite sports team was his hometown Buffalo Bills. He had become something of a Red Sox fan, as well as the Boston College sports teams.

He also made a brief appearance in the documentary that I appeared in as well, "Blessed! Still We Believe 2." He was seen at Fenway in one of the scenes with columnist Mike Barnicle.

Here is more on Mr. Russert's untimely death, from AOL News: http://news.aol.com/story/_a/nbcs-tim-russert-dies-at-58/20080613154109990001

My sympathies to all the family and friends of Tim Russert. He was a terrific newsman, and he will be deeply missed.

The Mets May Need a Heart Transplant

I don't think it's a stretch to say the New York Mets are the most disappointing team in the majors in 2008. After the devastation of the way last season ended for them, it was imperative that the Mets get off to a good start in 2008.

It just hasn't gone that way.

Where to begin? The Mets look like an old, lethargic team. They are currently the oldest team in the majors, and some players seem to be playing like old men. Carlos Delgado has absolutely no range at first, and Luis Castillo (who was just signed to a four-year deal last winter) has clearly lost a step playing on a bum knee. Jose Reyes has made too many errors at short, and too often plays like is head isn't in the game.

The Mets made another mistake last winter by bringing back Moises Alou, who can't stay healthy, and is going back on the DL. In his place, the Mets have gotten almost no production out of the left field slot. Ryan Church was a very pleasant surprise, but his two concussions have put him on the DL and the Mets have no idea when he'll be back.

The Mets were counting on their starting pitching to bring them back to the playoffs but it has been too inconsistent. Johan Santana has been everything he was advertised to be, but the bullpen has blown it for him too often (and the loss yesterday was criminal). Pedro Martinez went down with a hamstring injury in his first start, and missing two months really hurt the team. Oliver Perez has been maddeningly inconsistent. When things go a little wrong, he collapses and they go wildly wrong. John Maine has been so-so, and Mike Pelfrey belongs back at AAA, as he just isn't ready.

The bullpen has been mostly a nightmare. Billy Wagner was nearly unhittable the first two months, but has slumped badly and blown his last three save opportunities. Scott Schoeneweis has done better than last year, but like Aaron Heilman, has been too hit or miss lately.

There are no easy answers for the Mets. They were picked by most pundits to either win the division or Wild Card. Willie Randolph has taken plenty of heat this season, some of it deserved and some not. But I believe most of the blame for the mess the Mets are should be placed at the feet of Omar Minaya, the GM. He put this lackluster product on the field, and he's made some really lousy decisions in the last few years (signing Alou and Castillo, trading Brian Bannister, for example). He's made some good moves (Ryan Church trade, John Maine trade, signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran), but the Mets have way too many holes that can't be fixed quickly. They don't have a lot in the farm system, especially at AAA. (They traded away some of their better prospects in the Santana deal also.)

Too often this season, the Mets look like a team that is 20 games behind in September playing out the year. They look old and rotten, and the collapse of last season seems to be hovering over this team like a black cloud. It is now 65 games into the season, and they are 31-34, and 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies. The season is 40% gone, and if they just stand around waiting for something to right this ship, they maybe in for a long wait.

I can't say I know what will make the Mets a better team. I'm not going to be one of those sports-radio yahoos who call radio stations and suggest trades, because that is just stupid. I fear that Randolph will fall on the sword for this underachieving bunch, and that would be a shame. I've met him on a few occasions and I think he's a good baseball man. But like the old baseball adage goes about managers: "You're hired to be fired."

It will take a herculean effort for the Mets to get back in the race and save Willie Randolph's job. They may want to start by giving this club a heart transplant. They could sure use a new one.

Miracle Comeback for Celtics

The Boston Celtics pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NBA Finals on Thursday night when they came from 24 points down in the second quarter to humble the Los Angeles Lakers, 87-81, and are now one win away from their first NBA title since 1986.

And even more important than that is that a win by the Celtics on Sunday means that we will have Trivia Night on our regularly scheduled day and time, Tuesday night, June 17, at 9 PM.

If the Lakers force a Game 6 with a win on Sunday night, we will have Trivia Night on Monday night, June 16, at 9 PM. (Game 6 will be on Tuesday night, and it would be impossible to have Trivia with the game going on that night.)

Once again, to all the Trivia Night regulars, stay tuned to my site for updates regarding next week's Trivia Night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lowell Slams Sox to Victory

Mike Lowell hit his second grand slam of the season on Thursday night, his 10th ding dong of the year, in the fourth inning to lead the Red Sox to a 9-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles and give them the series win after taking the second game on Wednesday, 6-3. (Remember when Mike entered May with no homers and no RBI? Seems like an eternity ago.)

Lowell hit his second homer in as many nights, and J. D. Drew continued his torrid hitting, with his 5th home run in this homestand that just concluded to ice the game in the eighth inning.

Jon Lester looked sharp, and pitched seven innings to get his 5th win of the season. He allowed just two earned runs. Jason Varitek missed the game due to a strep throat. Kevin Cash filled in for him. Kevin Youkilis also hit a home run, and appears to becoming out of his slump.

Sorry to see old friend Kevin Millar leave the game in the second inning after hitting a ball off his knee. He was in considerable pain as he departed. X-rays were negative, and he is listed as day-to-day.

Get well soon, KFC.

Trivia Q&A: June 11

Wednesday night brought out a fine crowd to Professor Thom's for another delayed edition of Trivia Night. We had 17 teams take part, and many of the regulars were on hand. We had some very good scores for Current Events and for Basketball Trivia as well. I would say overall that the scores were higher than normal all around, and 12 of the 17 teams were within six points of the lead going into IQ Trivia.

Two of the leading teams managed to get four of the five IQ questions correct, and The Tornadoes, who have won Trivia Night on several occasions, came out on top by five points over Why'd You Start Without Us?, who did remarkably well, finishing second despite missing the first round. Congratulations to The Tornadoes on their win.

Just a reminder that we have not as yet determined what night we will have Trivia Night next week. If the Celtics win the NBA Finals in five games on Sunday night, we will have Trivia on Tuesday night. But if the Lakers win one more game to force a Game 6 next Tuesday night, we will have Trivia on Monday night. Stay tuned to my site for more details as they become available.

Current Events
1. This former heavyweight champion's $10 million estate in Atlanta last week went under foreclosure and he's being sued for child support and by a landscaping company for a half million dollars.
2. This southern state is becoming the first in the nation to offer a license plate to drivers with a Christian cross on it.
3. This Hollywood actor/director told Spike Lee recently to "shut his face" over Lee's criticism of the lack of black actors in two of most recent films.
4. The Governor's Mansion in this US state was struck by a fire on Sunday, and arson is strongly suspected.
5. Seven people were killed and ten were injured when a man went on a stabbing spree in this city on Sunday.
6. This singer apologized to reporters on Sunday after a video of her was posted on the Internet singing a song with racial epithets in it.
7. This tennis star was routed at the French Open last Sunday and still has never won that Grand Slam event.

Answers: 1. Evander Holyfield; 2. South Carolina; 3. Clint Eastwood; 4. Texas; 5. Tokyo; 6. Amy Winehouse; 7. Roger Federer.

Basketball Trivia
1. In which US state did James Naismith invent the game of basketball? a. MA; b. NY; c. NJ; d. PA.
2. How many titles have the Boston Celtics won in their history? a. 12; b. 14; c. 15; d. 16.
3. What year did the New York Knicks win their first NBA title? a. 1968; b. 1970; b. 1973; d. 1975.
4. In which Olympics did the Soviet Union controversially defeat the US, 51-50 to win the Gold medal? a. 1976; b. 1968; c. 1972; d. 1980.
5. Which superstar player holds the NBA record for scoring 100 points in a single game? a. Michael Jordan; b. Wilt Chamberlain; c. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; d. Magic Johnson.
6. How many titles did Michael Jordan win with the Chicago Bulls? a. 4; b. 5; c. 6; d. 7.
7. Which NBA team has won the second-most titles after the Celtics? a. Los Angeles lakers; b. Chicago Bulls; c. San Antonio Spurs; d. Detroit Pistons.

Answers: 1. a; 2. d; 3. b; 4. c; 5. b; 6. c; 7. a.

True or False ("The Q Train")

1. The Bering Strait connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
2. Cryogenics is concerned with the behavior of materials at very low temperatures.
3. Massachusetts' state motto is "Live Free or Die."
4. The novel and film "Like Water for Chocolate" are set in Mexico.
5. The Carob plant is commonly used as a chocolate substitute.
6. A housefly has compound eyes.
7. A male beetle is called a drone.
8. "Serapes" are traditionally worn in India.
9. Shrimp is normally deveined in preparation for eating.
10. The giant tortoise has a longer average lifespan than humans.

Answers: 1. false, the Strait of Magellan does; 2. true; 3. false, New Hampshire; 4. true; 5. true; 6. true; 7. false, male bee; 8. false, Mexico; 9. true; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. What fictional character befriends a two-headed creature called a "pushmi-pullyu?"
2. What country did Japan fight during the Sino-Japanese Wars?
3. Who was known as "The First Lady of Country Music?"
4. In the US, on a three-prong electrical plaug, the circular prong is referred to as what?
5. The 17th century novel "Don Quixote de la Mancha" is primarily set in what country?
6. By trade, a picador takes part in what event?
7. The music video for Nirvana's 1991 song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is set in what high school location?

Answers: 1. Dr. Doolittle; 2. China; 3. Tammy Wynette; 4. ground wire; 5. Spain; 6. bullfight; 7. gymnasium.

IQ Trivia
1. Which American filmmaker was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2001? ( 4 points)
2. Who first said, "Religion without science is blind"? ( 4 points)
3. Gertrude Stein wrote, "There is no there there," in reference to what California city? ( 5 points)
4. Techno recording artist Moby is the great-great-grandnephew of what famous author? ( 3 points)
5. In which US state is the smallest Zip Code, 00501, found? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Steven Spielberg; 2. Albert Einstein; 3. Oakland; 4. Herman Melville; 5. New York (Holtsville).