MLB Regular Season Ends

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yet More Slappy Schadenfreude

The New York Daily News reported today that Alex Rodriguez took more steroids than just the stuff he admitted to in Texas, as the new book coming out next month from Selena Roberts (I've got to read it) states that Slappy was using the juice in high school, and in 2004 with the Yankees.

Roberts, in the new A-Rod bio, says that an unnamed major leaguer says that Slappy and Kevin Brown were seen with HGH in 2004 (a lot of good that did Brown that year). And two Yankee teammates say they believe Rodriguez was doing steroids by the side effects they saw.

Roberts also says in her book that a high school teammate of Slappy believes that their high school coach knew he was on the juice, that he put on nearly 25 pounds of muscle between his sophomore and junior years.

And even more embarrassing stuff, which we never tire of: Anonymous Yankee teammates referring to Slappy as "B**ch T**s." (Not hard to figure out what I left off, but that's they way I saw it in the News, saw I thought I'd leave it as is.)

The book, "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez," comes out May 12th.

Ah, more Slappy schadenfreude. It always picks up any dull day. BTW, seeing that News cover, don't you think that picture of Slappy and the headline, "Golden Girl" sort of go together?

Van Everyman

I had a sneaky feeling when Jonathan Van Every stepped into the batter's box in the tenth inning last night in a 5-5 tie game. "Wouldn't this be a great time for him to hit his first major league home run?"

And sure enough, Van Every hit a towering blast off Jensen Lewis into the trees in dead center, and the Red Sox came all the way back from a 5-0 deficit to win the series from the Cleveland Indians, 6-5.

JVE made two sparkling plays in right field, including a diving catch in foul territory. He was getting the start as J.D. Drew was back on the bench with the usual muscle strain. Van Every also had a key hit in the eighth that made the score 5-3, an inning where the Sox scored three and tied the game.

The Red Sox could do little again the Indians' Fausto Carmona for the first five innings, but finally got two in the sixth, on RBI doubles by Jason Bay and Mike Lowell.

Jon Lester struggled again, but like last season, he's off to a slow start. He allowed two home runs and five runs in six innings. He was behind hitters almost the entire night.

The bullpen picked him up, but they had their moments too. Manny Delcarmen loaded the bases in the 8th after getting two outs, but got Grady Sizemore to line out to Van Every. Hideki Okajima walked two in the 9th but got a called third strike to send the game to extra innings. Jonathan Papelbon continued to send the pulse racing, as the Indians got the tying run to second before striking out Sizemore to end it.

The Sox now head to St. Pete to play the struggling Rays, with Josh Beckett taking the hill tonight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What in the Wide World of Sports is Lopez Still Doing on the Sox?

As soon as I saw Javier Lopez on the mound instead of Jonathan Papelbon (or anyone else still available for that matter) last night, I knew the Red Sox' 11-game winning streak was sunk. Terry Francona rolled the dice going with Lopez, thinking that with the heart of the Sox order coming up in the 10th he could save Pap for the bottom of that inning, and it came up craps. Big time.

Lopez can't get lefties out, and he can't field his position. In spring training, it's a play that practiced thousands of times. Groundball to the first baseman, pitcher covers first. And yet last night, Lopez covers first as Kevin Youkilis makes a fine play in the hole and feeds him a perfect lob to end the ninth.

Nope.

Lopez muffs an easy toss, Mark DeRosa scores from second and the winning streak is kaput, 9-8. I would bet if you have "Javier Lopez" in your "The First Red Sox Player to be Designated For Assignment" pool, you are currently at the top. And if you have "Brad Penny," you aren't far behind either.

Another lousy start from Penny, whose ERA is now rapidly approaching 9.00.. He's been getting all kinds of support from the Red Sox offense (38 runs in four starts), and they staked him 7 runs in the first three innings. But he gave it all back in 2 2/3 innings (although three of the runs were unearned). Clay Buchholz is waiting in the wings, and Penny's subpar performances is putting added strain on the bullpen. (Although Hunter Jones was impressive again, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings last night. Another reason why Lopez maybe hitting the road soon.)

Julio Lugo returned from the DL and promptly cost the Red Sox a run, muffing an easy throw on a DP ball from Youk. (Where have I written that before?) He drove in a run later in the game to make it 8-7, but that's what you expect from Lugo.

The Red Sox had leads of 5-1 and 7-3 in this game, but Penny let the Indians back in the game, and it remained 7-7 until the eighth. After it was 8-7 Sox, Takashi Saito (who has also been less than impressive) gave up a homer to DeRosa to tie it again. Then Tito made his fateful decision, and the Sox winning streak came to a disasterous conclusion.

Jon Lester takes the mound tonight to try to get the Red Sox back in the win column against the Indians' Fausto Carmona.

Trivia Q&A: April 28

It was a very busy night at Professor Thom's on Tuesday night, as we had a Red Sox game as well as a Celtics playoff game, Game 5 against Chicago. We decided that we couldn't start until the Celtics game was concluded, so there would be a delay from the usual 9 PM start. (My apologies to everyone, as I didn't realize it when I posted the Sneak Peek on Monday.)

Well, as my luck would have it, the game went into overtime, and would not end until 10:15 PM, with a Celtics victory. We finally did get going and had to bump a category because of the late start. So, The Q Train category "5-6-7-8 Trivia" has been moved back to May 12. (We'll be having another round of True or False next week.)

13 teams took part, and we had an unusual occurrence after the second round, a five-way tie for first. The scores were strong for Celebrity Real Names Trivia, but a lot less for General Knowledge (so they balance I guess).

The winning team, Joel is a Fallopian Dude, got the second highest score in IQ Trivia, getting 4 of the 5 questions right, and squeaked out a two-point win, coming from second place to win. Congratulations to Matt and friends for returning to the winners circle for the first time in a few weeks.

Next week we will be having Trivia Night on a special night, Wednesday, May 6th at 9 PM. There is a Red Sox-Yankees game next Tuesday night, so Trivia Night has to be moved to accomodate it. We will return to the regular Tuesday night slot on May 12th at 9 PM.

Current Events
1. This American newspaper won 5 of the 14 Pulitzer Prizes for journalism last week, which included online news outlets for the first time.
2. Diplomats walked out of a UN conference in Geneva last week after the president of Iran referred to this country as "totally racist."
3. A tribe in New Guinea is suing this magazine for $10 million over an article recently written that they claim describes a couple of tribesmen of committing serious criminal activity and murder.
4. A judge rejected an attempt by this man , who is facing trial later this year, from appearing on an NBC reality show because the judge felt he wasn't taking his own criminal case seriously enough.
5. Doc Blanchard, a running back who won the 1945 Heisman Trophy from this school not known as a major football power today, died last week at the age of 84.
6. 11 members of the Justice and Equality Movement were sentenced to death on Sunday for an attack on this African country in 2008 that killed more than 200 people.
7. GM announced on Monday that they are phasing out this storied brand of car, 83 years after the first model was introduced.

Answers: 1. New York Times; 2. Israel; 3. New Yorker; 4. Rod Blagojevich; 5. West Point (Army); 6. Sudan; 7. Pontiac.

Celebrity Real Names Trivia
1. Reginald Dwight: singer, songwriter, Oscar and Grammy winner
2. Caryn Johnson: actress, comedienne, Oscar winner in 1990, TV personality
3. Gordon Sumner: singer, songwriter, Grammy winner
4. Declan McManus: London-born singer, songwriter, first album released in 1977
5. Cherilyn LaPierre: singer, actress, Oscar winner in 1987
6. Eric Bishop: actor, singer, comedian, Oscar winner in 2004
7. Jonathan Leibowitz: actor, comedian, TV show host

Answers: 1. Elton John; 2. Whoopi Goldberg; 3. Sting; 4. Elvis Costello; 5. Cher; 6. Jamie Foxx; 7. Jon Stewart.

General Knowledge
1. The Edgar Awards are given annually for what genre of writing?
2. On the TV show "Happy Days," what fraternal organization did Howard Cunningham belong to?
3. From where did the NHL's Devils move in 1982 to New Jersey?
4. What US president signed the Panama Canal Treaty, which turned control of the canal to Panama in 1999?
5. Yokozuna is the highest achievable rank in what field?
6. In what film does Sommy and Cher's song, "I Got You Babe" play on the soundtrack nine separate times?
7. A bongo is what type of animal?

Answers: 1. mystery; 2. The Leopard Lodge; 3. Colorado; 4. Jimmy Carter; 5. sumo wrestling; 6. "Groundhog Day;" 7. antelope.

IQ Trivia
1. Dick Dale's classic song "Miserlou" is the opening theme to what film? ( 3 points)
2. Originating from France's Provence region, aioli is mayonnaise with what distincy flavor? ( 4 points)
3. The ship "The Flying Dutchman" is said to haunt what part of the world? ( 5 points)
4. "Streamline" and "zigzag" are two different types of what architectural style? ( 4 points)
5. What is the current name for the nation that was known for almost 200 years as New Holland? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. "Pulp Fiction;" 2. garlic; 3. The Cape of Good Hope (South Africa); 4. Art Deco; 5. Australia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Boston Red Sox and The Meaning of Life"

Earlier this month, I received a very interesting book from MVP Books called "Boston Red Sox and The Meaning of Life." It is a book of wonderful photos of the rich history of the Red Sox, and it is combined with many great quotes that accompany each photo.

This book was right up my alley, as I am a great lover of quotes, as you can see by the top of my blog. I feature a famous quote which I change every once in a while. There are quotes not only from Red Sox players, many whom you would expect, like Bill Lee, Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar, but it also includes some from such immortal names as William Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dale Carnegie. (As John Cheever once said, "All literary men are Red Sox fans.") The quotes run the gamut, from the ones that make you laugh out loud to the special and poignant.

The book chronicles the long history of the club, going back to its founding in 1901, with many great pictures from the Red Sox dynasty of the 1910s. Every quote and photo also includes a brief synobsis. (And I am glad it was pointed out that the trade of Babe Ruth in 1920 to finance a play called "No No Nanette" was a myth.)

"The Meaning of Life" not only chronicles the superstars of Red Sox history, but also some of those overlooked players in the team's history, like Harry Hooper, Larry Gardner and Ernie Shore.

There are over 200 photos in the 400 page book that was edited by Mark Rucker. It will be released May 15th and will be available in bookstores everywhere (it maybe in some stores now). Check out the web site www.mvpbooks.com for more information. This is definitely a terrific book for fans like myself who treasure not just the team history, but the many characters that have passed through the portals of America's Most Beloved Ballpark.

And watch the top of my blog for more of their great quotes throughout this season.

11

Jason Bay continued his absolutely amazing late-inning clutch hitting and Tim Wakefield continued his renaissance as the Red Sox won in Cleveland last night, 3-1.

Bay connected on a three-run bomb in the ninth, after the game remained scoreless. Wake and Cliff Lee were both outstanding, and Wake allowed just one hit in seven innings. Lee went eight and gave up just five hits.

Bay's bomb was of the no-doubt variety, and the extra runs were needed as Jonathan Papelbon struggled, giving up a run on three hits before slamming the door and giving the Red Sox their 11th straight win, their longest winning streak since they won 12 in 2006.

Toronto's loss last night combined with the Red Sox win but the Red Sox just percentage points out of first place.

Jason is now batting .500 (10-for-20) with 4 HRs and 10 RBI from the seventh inning on. He continues to be "The Quiet Man" who lets his bat do his talking. (And who was he traded for again?)

And Tim Wakefield continues to eat up valuable innings, going seven scoreless last night in a remarkably fast game, as it hadn't reached the two-hour mark by the time he was done (suck it, Wallace Matthews). Although he walked four and hit one batter, Wake was never really in any serious trouble all night.

Manny Delcarmen pitched a solid eighth and got the win. Julio Lugo was activated last night and should be in tonight's lineup, if the weather cooperates. It has been raining in Cleveland today, but hopefully they can get the game in, as the last thing the Sox need or want is another rescheduled twin bill.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mike Francesa is a Big Fat Idiot

I couldn't wait to put on WFAN earlier today and hear what the pompous blowhard of drive-time radio, Mike Francesa (pictured), would say about the just-concluded weekend series from Fenway Park.

I do my best to avoid him, as I believe he's everything I hate about Yankee fans: obnoxious, arrogant and entitled. The New York Daily News' TV and radio critic Bob Raissman calls him "The Sports Pope" as Francesa believes everything he says is the law and the gospel truth. And he's become ten times more arrogant and obnoxious since his longtime partner, Chris Russo, split for satellite radio.

Francesa opened with a complete rip job of his beloved Yankees, and actually went to great lengths to compliment the Red Sox for the way they've gone about building a winning team. But that wouldn't last very long, especially when the subject turned to Mike Lowell, and Jacoby Ellsbury's steal of home last night.

Francesa went on and on about how "lucky" the Sox were when it came to Lowell, and about how they tried to get rid of him "at least 10 times" since he came from the Marlins in 2005. This is where Fatso has little respect from me. The Sox have NEVER actively looked to trade Lowell since he came from the Marlins. Lowell had a bounce back year in 2006, after the disaster of 2005. In 2007, he led the Sox to the championship, and won the MVP award in the World Series. That led to a new three-year deal that winter. And in 2008, his bad hip started slowing him down late in the season, until Lowell was finally shut down before the ALCS.

But to hear Big Mouth tell it, it's like the Sox did their best to get rid of him and couldn't do it. The only time Lowell was mentioned in any kind of trade was during the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes last winter, which the Sox didn't win, of course. Typical crap from an empty head with an agenda.

And what he said about Ellsbury is the rantings of a loony Yankee fan who can't accept the Sox are just a better team than New York. He called Jacoby "classless" for stealing home last night, and then for acknowledging the crowd after they went ape when he pulled off the theft of home. He also said the Sox were laughing at the Yankees after it happened.

First off, it was a 2-1 game in the fifth, Sox leading, with two outs and the bases loaded and the struggling J.D. Drew at the plate. Ellsbury saw an opening, as Andy Pettitte was caught napping, and Ellsbury took advantage. It wasn't an 9-0 game in the eighth when doing something like that really would be classless. The fans went absolutely stir crazy, as a straight steal of home hasn't happened since 2007 (ironically against Pettitte by Aaron Hill). So it's a play that happens even less frequently than a triple play, and the fans, as well as the Red Sox players reacted to it. The Sox players weren't laughing at the Yankees, they were as surprised and as disbelieving as the fans were (me too). They kept standing and applauding and Ellsbury acknowledged them. (Fatso has his nerve ripping the curtain call, as who does those "curtain calls" more than those Yankee fans in The Bronx these days? And for the most inconsequential of home runs.)

And let's face it, if the roles were reversed, if say, Brett Gardner had done the same thing to the Sox in the Bronx, do you think the fans would have done the same thing, along with the Yankee players? I bet my life they would have. And Francesa would be complimenting Gardner, and those fans.

And to top it off, Francesa practically demanded the Yankees retailiate against Ellsbury when they meet again next Monday at The Wind Tunnel (aka The New Yankee Stadium), that they knock him on his butt the first time he comes up. Excuse me, pal, but I did not see or read even ONE Yankee player or coach complain about what Ellsbury did or its aftermath.

It never surprises me to hear Mike Francesa being a total horse's ass on the radio.

Suck it, Fatso.

Stars With Phony Names Trivia

This Tuesday night for our special category we will have "Celebrity Real Names Trivia." I will give the real name of a current celebrity (no dead ones), and also a clue as to what they do (the field they gained their fame), and you will tell the star's name.

The picture is of one Paul Hewson, aka Bono. And as you might have guessed, said lead singer of U2 will not be one of the seven real names in this week's quiz.

The Q Train lightning round will be another round of "5-6-7-8 Trivia," where the answer to each will be the number 5, 6, 7 or 8.

This week's Sneak Peek question is: "In what film does Sonny and Cher's song 'I Got You Babe' play on the soundtrack nine separate times?"

We will get going around 9 PM, as there will be a Red Sox game against the Indians going on at the same time. (Have I mentioned they've won 10 straight and swept the Yankees this past weekend?) So I hope many of you can come out and brave the gorgeous weather and join us.

I Love Fenway So Much That I Ate It

I was at Professor Thom's watching the Red Sox game last Friday and the game was going into extra innings (thanks again Jason Bay). And in the middle of it, I saw a cake being brought out that totally blew me away.

It was a birthday cake in a perfect shape of Fenway Park!

My friend and BLOHARDS member Peter Collery was having his 50th birthday at the bar, and they rolled out this tremendous cake. I can only imagine how much it cost and how long it took to make. It was made by a place over in Chelsea (Ruthy's at 16th Street and 9th Avenue). They should be very proud of themselves. (My thanks to my friend Meryl Pearlstein for the cool photo.)

And I had a piece of it, and it was delicious.

Never thought I'd see the day when I could say that I actually ate a piece of Fenway...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No Better Than This: Sox Sweep NY

Jacoby Ellsbury: a man among men. A player with the guts of a burglar.

And for his sake, thank God he made it home safely in the fifth last night.

And J.D. Drew had the good sense and stepped aside while Jacoby came roaring in.

For the first time in two years, a player pulled off a straight steal of home last night. Ellsbury saw that Yankees third baseman Angel Berroa was playing far off the bag with two outs. He got an enormous lead off third and broke for the plate. He stumbled as he made his dive at the plate but was still ahead of Jorge Posada's tag.

And I thank the NYC subway system for getting me home in time to see it, as I walked in my door about two minutes before Jacoby pulled off his heroics. (That maybe the first and probably last time I thank them for anything in my lifetime.)

The Red Sox drove the stake into the MFY's hearts last night, and completed a sweep of the weekend series, 4-1. And in a brilliant move last night, the Sox called up Michael Bowden to pitch out of the pen, and reired all six hitters he faced in the seventh and eighth. And this was after Hunter Jones got out of the top of the sixth by retiring two batters with two on. (Bowden went back to Pawtucket after the game, and Julio Lugo will be activated tonight in Cleveland.)

The weekend makes it clear that the Sox have New York beat in one major gigantic category: pitching, especially the bullpen. It was a disaster for New York, as their so-called greatest closer of all-time gave up a 4-2 lead with one out to go, and their newest mercenary on the mound coughed up a six-run advantage. They are now dead last in the AL in ERA and next-to-last in bullpen ERA. And remember, even if what happened to Mariano Rivera is just a bump in the road, he can't pitch every day.

The Red Sox have now won ten in a row. Justin Masterson was again terrific last night, and with the performances by Jones and Bowden, it shows how much depth the Red Sox have in their farm system as far as pitching goes. takashi Saito got his second save, as Jonathan Papelbon got the night off. And I haven't mentioned the Sox don't have Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard or John Smoltz on their roster. Yet.

We've got a long way to go in this baseball season, but the Sox sent a message last night. My thanks to Surviving Grady for the above photo of Jacoby and Tito. Tito has that look on his face like, "Boy, did we catch you suckers napping." The Yankees are in serious trouble today, no matter what type of "It's only April" spin they try to put on the mess they are in right now.

And there are fewer beautiful words in the English language than this: Red Sox sweep New York.

Tech: 30 Years Later

Over the last few years, whenever I hear someone say "Tech", it usually is a Red Sox fan rooting on Jason Varitek. But for me, I always think of something else when someone yells that out as well. The high school I graduated from: Brooklyn Tech.

On Saturday, I took a walk back in time and I went to my 30th high school reunion, at Brooklyn Technical High School.

It's not a "reunion" in the way most high school reunions are. Tech invites all of its alumni back every year, and honors the 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 40th and 50th classes especially. It is more of a "homecoming" and it is held inside the school itself.

I had been to my 10th reunion in 1989, and was a little disappointed in the turnout. I graduated in a class of over 1200, and I met very few of my old friends. I didn't go to my 20th or 25th reunions (for different reasons), so I made it a point to go, and I was certainly glad I did.

For those who don't know, Brooklyn Tech has been one of the elite high schools in not just New York City, but in the United States since its founding in 1922. It always is in the Top 100 high schools in the country, and in 2008 they were 62nd (I believe). For me, it has always been one of the proudest accomplishments of my life that I graduated from such a great school. (Not my all-time proudest accomplishment. That is for a discussion on this blog in the future.)

I'll never forget the first day I was there, in September 1975. I was scared to death, and wondered just what the heck I had gotten myself into. I struggled academically the first three semesters I was there, as I had to take classes like technical drawing, freehand drawing, machine shop, pattern making and foundry. It was really tough, like nothing I had ever done before in school. I actually flunked three classes the first three semesters, and wondered if I'd make it to graduation in 1979.

But my grades got much better, and I made up the classes, and made it on time with an 84 average (I think). I went on to college, to Baruch College in Manhattan, and did well there and got my degree. But it was nowhere near as difficult as Tech was.

As the years have gone on, I have come to appreciate the education I got there, and how much weight saying you're a Brooklyn Tech graduate is. I am the only one in my family who went there.

I really had an enjoyable time seeing some old friends yesterday. When I got there, I bought three Brooklyn Tech t-shirts (which I will wear proudly). I appreciated everyone who said that I hadn't changed much since graduation. When I got there I was given a button with my yearbook picture, one I have always thought to be truly hideous! So I was forced to wear it yesterday, and it will be put away in my house, hopefully not to see the light of day again.

Seriously though, the moment I walked into the school's first-floor gym, I started to get a little emotional, as I spent so many fun times there running track and playing volleyball with my close friends. There was a huge crowd from all the classes, and we had a small breakfast and I ran into a few old friends. We then moved over to the school auditorium, which is a magnificent room, and reminds me a bit of Radio City Music Hall or Carnegie Hall. All the honored classes had a film made for them, and 1979 included Star Trek, disco, and the fact the Yankees finished fourth that year(?)

School principal Randy Asher made a speech, as did many members of the Alumni Association. There was a nice rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by one of the current Tech students, and three Tech alumni from the 1930s were introduced and received a lengthy standing ovation.

We then moved to the 7th floor cafeteria (after hiking up six flights of stairs) for lunch, and then my friends and I toured the school from floor to floor. I found my first homeroom class from 1975, at 6N4, which was a pattern making class back then. I found the exact table I sat on then (yes, we sat on heavy wood tables). that room also brought back memories of that first day, when I remembered seeing the Empire State Building from one window, and the World Trade Center from another. Another emotional moment.

After checking some more classrooms, we again gathered in the gym for our class picture. There were about 60-70 of us, and we stood on the gym steps. It was a lot of fun and I'll be getting a copy of it soon from the people who took the picture.

And the capper of the day. When I was heading for Professor Thom's after the reunion, what song comes on my iPod just as I arrive, "My Old School" by Steely Dan. Oh, the synchronicities. (Although a line from that song is "And I'm never goin' back, to my old school...")

It was a really fun day to return to a special place that I spent four years of my life at three decades ago. My thanks to John Russo, Angelo Cervone, Tod Davis, Rita Comes, Penny Vassilakis, Patricia Hoffman Brady and everyone else I met up with yesterday. I'll always treasure the day I spent with you, and it makes me even prouder to be a Brooklyn Tech alumnus.

The Comebacks Keep Coming

Another Yankees series at Fenway, another marathon, headache-inducing game.

But at least the Red Sox won this one.

Josh Beckett had nothing, giving up 8 runs in 5+ innings. And what in the name of Grady Little was Terry Francona thinking when he left Beckett in to face Judas when he walked Derek Jeter to start the sixth with a two-run lead? I love Tito, and I always think he's the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime, but that left me scratching my head.

But A.J. Burnett also had nothing, and also gave up 8 runs in five innings. The Yankees bullpen is beat up and Joe Girardi left him in to take a beating. Burnett was great for the first three innings, and the Yankees gave him a 6-0 lead. But Jason Varitek took him deep for a grand slam to make it a ballgame again. Burnett got really rattled after a couple of close pitches on J.D. Drew were not called strike three and he wound up walking him.

After Tek's blast, the slugfest was on. The Sox took the lead, and then New York tied it at 8. the Red Sox got the lead back at 9-8, but then Dustin Pedroia made two mistakes that cost the Red Sox runs. He tried to tag up from first on David Ortiz' sac fly and was thrown out easily, and then he let a grounder go through his legs in the seventh that gave New York the lead again at 10-9.

But then, Mike Lowell (pictured) took over.

He blasted a three run shot into the Monster seats in the bottom of the seventh to make it 12-10, and then with the score 13-11 in the eighth and the bases loaded, he cleared the bases with a shot off the Monster to put the game away at 16-11. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth to close it out, a 4 hour and 21 minute game that never seemed to want to end.

That makes two straight devastating losses for the Yankees in Boston. It was the first game the Yankees have blown a six-run lead against the Red Sox since 1968. They have now allowed a staggering 38 runs in the last two Saturday games they have played (both for a national TV to witness). They are also the bottom team in the AL in ERA, at a truly putrid 6.41.

The Red Sox have now won nine straight, and go for the sweep tonight at Fenway with Justin Masterson taking the mound.

BTW, to read yet more Mariano Rivera-ass kissing from the Daily News' Mike Lupica, go here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"He's Not Infallible..."

Holy mackerel.

It was a night of pure frustration. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights were I wouldn't get much sleep going into tomorrow. The Red Sox were leaving runners everywhere (13 left on base), banged into four double plays to kill rallies (and J.D. Drew turned the trick twice). They had Yankee villain Joba Chamberlain on the ropes all night, and The Nebraska Drunk Driver kept finding ways to escape (mostly on groundballs hit right at infielders who turned it into two outs).

They drove Chamberlain out of the game in the sixth, but he wound up getting just a no-decision. By the eighth it was 4-2 with Mariano Rivera on and he struck out Dustin Pedroia with two on to send the game to the ninth, and it felt like doom was on the way.

When the Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth, I said to my pal Eric at Professor Thom's something I had said to him on a few occasions before with Rivera in the game and it seemed to work: "He's not infallible. We beat him before, and we can beat him again." I had said this first back in 2004 when we were together at the Riviera Cafe, and the Sox staged a great ninth inning comeback in September of 2004. I've done it a few times since, and it had worked (but not every time of course). So I said it again as the inning started, and with two outs, a man on and Jason Bay coming up, Eric asked me to say it again. I did, and Eric said it would be something if Bay put one into the Monster seats. And lo and behold...

BAM! Bay hit a blast to center field that made it to the first row of seats to tie the game, and hang the 12th blown save that Rivera has committed against the Sox in his career. The walls at Professor Thom's shook with the biggest celebration of the 2009 season so far.

The game went to the bottom of the 11th, with Yankee lefty punching bag Damaso Marte (he of the 18.00+ ERA so far in 2009) in the game, and you could just sense something big was going to happen. Kevin Youkilis stepped to the plate. And lo and behold...

BAM! A rocket off Youk's bat sailed into the Boston night and the Red Sox had a simply thrilling 5-4, 11-inning win over their hated rivals. The bar shook once again, with friends and strangers jumping on me. It felt so good to let it all out again after a night of extreme frustration.

The Red Sox take the first of 18 games between the teams this season. Chamberlain was terrible, and Youk wound up the hero. The Red Sox have now won eight straight.

Score one for the good guys.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looie

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Tribeca Film Festival showing of "The Lost Son of Havana," the documentary made by the Farrelly brothers about Luis Tiant's journey back to Cuba after 46 years in exile.

It is a beautiful, touching and extremely well-made movie. There was a full house on hand for the showing, which included an introduction of the film (it was the world premiere, the first I have ever attended) by the Farrellys and Looie himself. (But before the film began, I had an obnoxious Yankee fan sitting behind me, and I got to talking to him a bit. He talked about "hearing too many Boston accents" and then said something about the Red Sox "not winning World Series." Which led me to ask him we'd been the last five years. To which he replied something about those last two "not counting." "Clueless putz" was the perfect description for this guy, and he was the dictionary definition of why I so despise the Yankees. Because of their "fans.")

The film was a tremendous account of Looie's trip back to his homeland, which he had not been to since May 1961. He went to America to pursue his dream, and could not return to Cuba. The film interweves his trip back home and his big league career seemlessly. Looie returns to find the incredible poverty of his home island, and meest some folks he knew before he left, including some relatives. He brings them ordinary, every day items like candy, gum, toothpaste, knitting needles and thread, that sort of thing. His relatives are living in total poverty and it is very sad to see and it clearly has an incredible effect on him.

The movie also documents his father's pitching career in Cuba and the USA, where he played in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and '40s. It also beautifully marks his return to the US in 1975, with the help of Senator George McGovern, who personally went ot bat for him on a trip to Cuba where he met with Fidel Castro. His parents were able to see him pitch in the World Series, and they both stayed with him before both passed away within days of each other in 1976.

Looie gets a sense of closure by his journey back to his home, and it is something he was very glad he was able to do. It is a special journey that the Farrellys have taken the moviegoers on, tagging along with Looie, and showing us all what a state Cuba is in right now. But we are all better for taking the journey with him. Thanks for bringing us along, Looie. (Here is my previous post about the film.)

One thing I have to say about the crowd at the Tribeca Film Festival. Everyone seemed to enjoy the film very much, and it got a standing ovation after it was over, and Luis Tiant got another after he came back for a Q&A session. (He also got emotional after the first question when someone asked him about his first moments being back in Cuba.) But there were people around me who were laughing at the wrong moments, like when Looie was giving out the simple gifts to his relatives. I was a bit put off by that.

After the film ended, my friends and I returned to Professor Thom's. I was there until midnight, and I was contemplating calling it a night. But just before my departure, who should come into the bar but Luis Tiant, the Farrelly brothers and many others associated with the film. For the next hour, my friends and I were having a few drinks and chatting with Looie and his friends. He is quite a gentleman, very approachable and a really nice guy. I told him how much I enjoyed the film, and I also made it a point to tell him that I believed he belonged in the Hall of Fame. I'll never forget his response: "Well, it's been 21 years, and I hope I make it in before I die."

We all enjoyed his company, and we took pictures with him. He and his family and friends couldn't have been any nicer.

Thanks for letting us go with you on your journey back to Cuba, Looie. It was an evening I'll never forget.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

At First Glance, I Thought He Was Out

It was terrific to see Dave Roberts throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park last night before the second game of the doubleheader. And it was a pleasure to see him with Don and Jerry during the third inning of the game.

Dave will be an icon in Boston and among Red Sox fans forever. And he doesn't seem to mind at all. (See the current quote at the top of this blog.)

I have no doubt that in the current poll on Redsox.com, The Steal will be voted the number 1 moment in Red Sox history. It is the moment when Red Sox history was changed forever. It is the moment when the myth of so-called Yankee superiority was shattered for all time.

And at the moment it happened, I thought Dave Roberts was out.

I had a candle burning in my living room with my St. Therese medal out and I was praying for a miracle. It was the only game I was home for in the 2004 postseason. (I spent 12 of the 14 games at the Riviera Cafe in the West Village among a slew of Red Sox supporters, and the other at my buddy Matt's place.) Everyone on earth knew Roberts would be attempting to steal second. Jorge Posada's throw was very good, but until I saw Joe West signal safe, I thought he was cooked. I was ready to yell out a colorful epithet until I saw his call. It was like a reprieve from the governor. And none of us could imagine where it would ultimately lead to: Dave carrying the 2004 World Series trophy on top of Mike Timlin's shoulders (pictured) in St. Louis ten days later.

(And whenever I see the film "Major League" when Willie Mays Hayes steals second in the ninth, I can't help think of the real "Steal." Willie makes it by an eyelash, and the Yankee shortstop is even wearing number 2. And that was filmed 16 years before the swipe.)

My pals at Surviving Grady have a terrific post about Dave Roberts on their site today.

Dave Roberts is now in retirement, and I am not surprised his next career is in the media. He's done some work with the Padres pregame show, and will be working with the MLB Network this summer. And he may even be doing some work with NESN as well.

If we ever meet, Dave, the drinks are on me.

ABC Bringing Back "Millionaire" in August

I read on Mediabistro.com this morning that ABC is bringing back "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" for a limited run this summer, as it will mark the 10th anniversary of the start of its phenomenal success in America.

It sounds like Regis Philbin is on board with it. The plan is that it will run for 11 nights over two weeks, beginning on August 9th. They are planning on making the show a "hybrid" of both the original and the current daily edition that Meredith Vieira hosts. Here's more from Mediabistro.

As many of you know, it is one of my life's ambitions to be on that show, to take my shot in the Hot Seat. I tried out for the daytime show four times over the last few years, passing the test three times. I was never accepted as a contestant. (I can only imagine they are afraid of The Trivia Maven taking them for the big money.)

The Omnipotent Q will find a way to get on this primetime series. Somehow.

Double Your Pleasure, Day and Night

The rain created all kinds of havoc this week in Boston, as the Red Sox were forced to play a day/night doubleheader on Wednesday against the Twins, one beginning at 12:30 PM and the other at the normal time of 7:05 PM.

The Sox came out flying, as they blasted Scott (Home Run) Baker for three straight two-run shots in the first, second and third innings. Kevin Youkilis, Nick Green and Mike Lowell all provided the firepower, with Green's the furthest shot, going across Lansdowne Street. (It's a good thing Green's hitting well, as he's starting to pile up the errors. He made three in the doubleheader.) It was 6-0, and then the wet stuff started falling, and by the seventh inning it was 10-1. The Sox were pouring it on and the skies were pouring down. The tarp rolled on the field and a short time later the first game was called, and the Sox had the win. Tim Wakefield was credited with a second straight complete game, as he went all seven innings. He once again spared the pen, as Wake continues to prove he is The Man.

By 7 PM, it was raining again, and it looked like Game 2 would not be played at all. But after a 47-minute delay, the game was able to get going. And fortunately, for the Sox, it did.

Jeff Bailey, who was just called up with Rocco Baldelli's hamstring injury, played first in the nightcap, and on his first at-bat of 2009, took Francisco Liriano deep into the Monster seats to make it 3-0 Sox. Bailey had a terrific spring and it's great to see him back in Boston. (He had already hit 4 HRs at Pawtucket.) The Red Sox added two more in the third, and eventually wound up chasing Liriano after he gave up a total of 7 after four innings. Brad Penny allowed three runs in six innings, and was definitely sharper than his last time out. It was all over but the shouting for Minnesota, as the Red Sox went on to a comfortable 7-3 win, on Terry Francona's 50th birthday. (It was funny seeing David Ortiz talking about Tito's birthday on tape from NESN: "I thought he was 70," he kidded.)

It was an historic doubleheader, as Don Orsillo said it was the first time since July 4, 1913 that a doubleheader's first game was shortened by rain, and that the nightcap was completed in nine innings. (I'm still trying to figure that out. Since they didn't play night games back then, I can only guess the first game back then was played in the AM, and they waited around for a window to play Game 2 in the PM, and got lucky.)

The Red Sox also wore green uniforms in the second game, and my first thought was "It's not St. Patrick's Day" and then "The Celtics aren't playing today." Then I remembered that April 22nd is Earth Day. (But for me, April 22nd will always be the day Tom Seaver struck out 19 San Diego Padres to tie the then-record in 1970.)

The Red Sox have now won seven straight, are now in second place, and have Thursday off, and the You Know Whos come to town for a three-game weekend series, with Jon Lester opening the series against That Crazy Drunk Driver From Nebraska Who's Knows He's Much Taller Than Yogi Berra.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Trivia Q&A: April 21

We had 16 teams in for Trivia Night, and we had a good crowd despite the fact the Red Sox game at Fenway against the Minnesota Twins was rained out. We got going at the normal time, and had a good evening of Trivia, with a number of folks who joined us for the very first time.

It was very close throughout the night, and we had some strong scores in both April 21 Trivia and True or False. But IQ Trivia proved to be a lot harder, as we had only three of the teams getting as many as three of the five questions right. But one of those teams, Aashray Kannan (who was in second going into the final round) wound up winning by just a single point.

It was their first night at Trivia Night and I congratulate them on their win.

Current Events
1. This standup comedian/actor was ranked number 7 on California's "Top 250 Tax Scofflaws" list just released, as he owes 42.6 million in state taxes, making him the top celebrity on the list.
2. Alberto Fujimori, former president of this country, was recently convicted of human rights abuses and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
3. This legendary rock star, who died in 2001, received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week, the second time he's been so honored as his band received one many years ago.
4. Angel Cabrera became the first man from this country to win the Masters golf tournament recently.
5. It was recently announced that the first clone of this animal, who was named Injaz, was made in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
6. This country's navy captured 11 Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya last week.
7. This media star created a firestorm last week when he talked about his divorce and invoked the name of O.J. Simpson and he said he "gets it" as to why Simpson may have killed his ex-wife.

Answers: 1. Sinbad; 2. Peru; 3. George Harrison; 4. Argentina; 5. camel; 6. France; 7. Hulk Hogan.

April 21 Trivia
1. On this date in 1898, Congress recognized that state of war existed between the US and this nation.
2. In 1918, German fighter ace Manfred Von Richthofen, better known by this nickname, was shot down and killed in France.
3. On this date in 1960, this city in Brazil becomes the new capital of the country.
4. This actor, who won two Academy Awards for his roles in "Viva Zapata" and "Lust For Life," was born on this date in 1915.
5. San Jacinto Day is an official holiday today recognized by what US state?
6. What European capital is celebrating its birthday today, of more than 2700 years?
7. Francois Duvalier, who was dictator of this country for more than 13 years, died on this date in 1971.

Answers: 1. Spain; 2. The Red Baron; 3. Brasilia; 4. Anthony Quinn; 5. Texas; 6. Rome; 7. Haiti.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. A standard business card measures 2" by 3.5."
2. Iron is not considered to be a precious metal.
3. Isaac Stern is famous for playing the piano.
4. The interior of a fiber-optic cable is usually made of copper.
5. WWI began in 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Germany.
6. A spyglass is a small type of telescope.
7. Cycling is usually the first event in a triathalon.
8. Rochambo is another name for the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors."
9. The Snake River forms a border between Oregon and Washington.
10. A goldfish has a memory span of just three seconds.

Answers: 1. true; 2. true; 3. false, violin; 4. false, glass; 5. false, Serbia; 6. true; 7. false, swimming; 8. true; 9. false, Oregon and Idaho; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. Leatherneck is a slang term for someone who served in what branch of the armed forces?
2. What US president survived two assassination attempts by women?
3. A capo is a device used to change the pitch of what musical instrument?
4. Burl Smith is the name of a well-known TV character better known by what nickname?
5. What is the only US state that touches two oceans?
6. "When you care enough to send the very best" is the longtime ad slogan of what company?
7. What US state has the word "quadricentennial" on its state quarter?

Answers: 1. Marines; 2. Gerald Ford; 3. guitar; 4. Gopher; 5. Alaska; 6. Hallmark; 7. Virginia.

IQ Trivia
1. What former football player drove O.J. Simpson in the Ford Bronco in the infamous slow speed chase in 1994? ( 4 points)
2. Dr. Seuss wrote what book after being challenged to use fewer than 50 different words in the story? ( 4 points)
3. before going bankrupt in 2001, Sabena was the national airline of what country? ( 4 points)
4. A roadrunner is a member of what family of birds? ( 5 points)
5. Only once in history has both England and France had a king with the same name at the same time. What was the name they shared? ( 3 points)

Answers: 1. Al Cowlings; 2. "Green Eggs and Ham;" 3. Belgium; 4. cuckoo; 5. Henry.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Day That Made the Patriots Proud

When you have a game that is completed by rookie pitcher Hunter Jones, you know you've had either a very good day or a very bad day.

It turned out to be a VERY good day for the Red Sox.

Justin Masterson was superb for 5 1/3 innings, Dustin Pedroia had four hits, David Ortiz had a triple and two RBI, and Jason Varitek went deep again, as the Sox busted out the brooms and swept the Orioles in the wraparound four-game series, 12-1. They now have won five straight, with the Minnesota Twins in for two games beginning tomorrow.

In shortstop news, Julio Lugo will begin his rehab assignment tomorrow, and maybe back shortly. But Terry Francona said after the game that it appears that Jed Lowrie will need surgery on his ailing wrist, and that might end his season. A decision is expected to be announced in a few days. (UPDATE: Lowrie had the surgery on Tuesday morning, and now the Sox say he may miss just 6-8 weeks. But Rocco Baldelli is now heading to the DL with a hamstring injury, and Jeff Bailey will be up to replace him.)

Extra Bases today revealed that Capt. Richard Phillips, the skipper who was rescued from Somali pirates on Easter Sunday, has been invited to Fenway by John Henry for a Capt. Richard Phillips Day. Capt. Phillips is from Vermont and is a big Red Sox fan, and proposed to his wife at Fenway Park.

April 21st Trivia on Tuesday

Trivia Night on Tuesday will feature "April 21st Trivia," seven questions about stuff that happened on the day in history. It's not a monumental day in the history of the world, but I think I've got some good questions anyway.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
"What is the only US state that touches two oceans?"

The Red Sox have a game with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, but we should get going around the normal time of 9 PM. I hope many of you can come out for it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Even Steven

The Red Sox won their fourth straight game on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Orioles. Jon Lester was back to his old form, pitching seven shutout innings, with Ramon Ramirez pitching a perfect eighth (he continues to be a find), and Takashi Saito got his first save of the year. Tito Francona decided not to use Jonathan Papelbon three straight days, and Saito allowed the Orioles a run before shutting the door by striking out Gregg Zaun to end it. It was the first series the Red Sox have won this season.

The win also gets the Red Sox back to .500, the first time since they were 1-1 last week.

Lester struck out nine and dominated the Orioles all day. He was in trouble only once, in the fifth, when Baltimore had two on with no out. Japanese import Koji Uehara was Lester's opponent, and he pitched well, allowing both runs over six innings.

The Orioles were the perfect opponent for the Sox, as they have dominted them at Fenway Park the last four seasons, going 26-6 against Baltimore since September 2005.

The Red Sox will wrap up this four-game series tomorrow morning at 11 AM with their annual Patriot's Day game. Justin Masterson will make his first start of the season for the Red Sox.

Josh Beckett had his six-game suspension reduced to five games and began serving it today. His next start will be Saturday instead of Friday against the Yankees, and Jon Lester will start Friday in Beckett's place.

They Still Want Swisher (And Not For His Bat)


As you all probably know by now, the Cleveland Indians hung two touchdowns on the Yankees today at their new ballpark in the second inning, and coasted to a 22-4 stomping of the home side. The top of the second lasted nearly 40 minutes. The last time I remember a team scoring 14 runs in an inning was the Red Sox against the Marlins in the first inning of a game in June 2003.

Here is Chien-Ming Wang's line for the day:
1.1 IP 8 H 8 ER 1 BB 1 K (1 HR)


And for the 2009 season so far, Wang has made 3 starts and lasted 5 2/3 total innings. He has a 34.50 ERA and 4.83 WHIP, and has allowed 23 hits in less than 6 innings.

There is something radically wrong with this guy. Anyone remember Steve Blass?

As my friend Adam pointed out: If Wang 44 straight scoreless innings after today (and that five straight shutouts), his ERA will still be 4.14.

The "We Want Swisher" chants were back again on Saturday, and it sure wasn't for his bat.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy Record Store Day


Yes, today is Record Store Day.

I was at Tower Records when they used to sell that "round thing with the hole in the middle." Makes me miss the old place (pictured) all the more.

Remember the Last Time the Sox Were Down 7-0?

It was one wacky night at Fenway last night.

Brad Penny was awful in his first Fenway start this season, as he walked in two runs, allowed a grand slam to Nick Markakis, and gave the Orioles a 7-0 lead in the top of the second.

He allowed a total of eight runs in just 3+ innings. And incredibly, he wound up with a no-decision.

The Red Sox came storming back with four runs in the second, which included a Jason Bay two-run shot that nearly made it into the right field bleachers. A Baltimore error plus a ball hit up the middle by Jason Varitek that looked like it might be a double play but hit the base instead and kept the inning going the Sox scored two more runs.

J.D. Drew added a home run in the third, and the Red Sox bullpen took over in the fourth and did not allow the Orioles a run the rest of the way. Ramon Ramirez continued his sparkling relief, and got the win. The offense came alive, with Drew getting on base five times (three walks and two hits) and scored three times. Dustin Pedroia also had three hits, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Nick Green had two. But David Ortiz continued his early season funk, striking out three times (but did have a sac fly in the second).

Kevin Youkilis was struck in the side of the helmet by a Danys Baez fastball in the sixth, but shook it off and stayed in. There was no intent to it, as Baez was clearly rattled in the moments after the pitch struck Youk.

Last night's comeback brought back memories of two recent games. "The Mother's Day Miracle" of May 2007, when the Red Sox came from 5-0 down in the ninth to win, 6-5. And incredibly, that game was started by Jeremy Guthrie, last night's starter. And who came in to relieve him first that day in 2007? Danys Baez, the same guy who was brought in to take up for Guthrie in the fifth last night.

And of course, the last time the Sox were down 7-0 at Fenway was Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS, when they staged the thrilling 8-7 win to keep the series going against Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox could have some potentially bad news, as Jed Lowrie could be out for the season, if they opt for surgery on his wrist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Still Brainless After All These Years

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid some Yankee fans can be.

I caught part of the replay of the YES coverage of today's opening game of the new ballpark tonight, and I saw the nine-run seventh inning when the Cleveland Indians gave the Yankee bullpen an ass-hammering. It was 5-1 when Grady Sizemore went deep for a grand slam to put the game out of reach, and the Tribe went on to a 10-2 win.

Sizemore's slam landed in the right field seats, and YES showed a moron in that crowd throwing back the home run and raising his arms in the air to the applause of the cretins around him. Now think about what this doofus just did.

He threw back a piece of history. It was the first grand slam in the history of the new ballpark. If I caught that ball, it would be residing in my trophy case, regardless of who hit it. But instead, this guy would rather get five seconds of fame in the "look what I just did, ain't I cool" model.

Talk about a nitwit. Like I said a few days ago, blame it on those Cubs fans for starting this stupid trend.

And later that inning, Victor Martinez also hit a home run into the left field bleachers, and that ended up back on the field. Again, a home run hit in the first game of the park is still historic, no matter who hits it. It left me shaking my head again. (How much do you think Babe Ruth's first home run at Yankee Stadium in 1923 would be worth? Or any other homers in that first game would be worth?)

And BTW, I actually heard a media person the other day call this park, "The New House That Ruth Built." Let's get one thing straight folks. Babe Ruth has nothing to do with this ballyard, like he had nothing to do with the previous rebuilt stadium.

"The House That George Built Because He Needed Luxury Boxes" would be much more accurate.

Anfield: April 15, 2009

30,000 Liverpool fans filled Anfield on Wednesday for the 20th anniversary remembrance of the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy. It was broadcast live all over Great Britain, but here in the United States I was only able to catch the highlights on Sky Sports News on the Fox Soccer Channel.

What I saw was very moving. The names of the 96 victims were read, and that immediately brought tears to my eyes, as it brought me back to all the September 11 remembrances I've been to at Ground Zero, when all the victims names are read as well.

A member of Gordon Brown's cabinet was there to represent the government, as was heckled by the fans there. There is a still a movement to bring those responsible for the disaster to justice, but that still hasn't happened.

After the service, a man named Trevor Hicks was interviewed, as he is the head of the Hillsborough families group, as Mr. Hicks lost two daughters in the disaster. Mr. Hicks spoke eloquently about how it never gets easier every year, and that also brought the comparison to 9/11 back home for me.

Here is a YouTube clip from the Anfield ceremonies, which included 150 seconds of silence for the victims. It includes shots of people around the UK observing it.

May The 96 rest in peace.

Wake to the Rescue, Once Again

Tim Wakefield pitched one of the best games of his career yesterday, going 7 1/3 hitless innings before it was broken up by a clean single by Kurt Suzuki in the eighth.

A no-hitter would have been something special, but Wakefield put the Red Sox back in the win column, something the team, as well as the fans, needed as the Red Sox pounded Oakland, 8-2.

Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew both went deep, and it was 2-0 going into the 8th. The Sox put it away with six runs, all with two outs. Nick Green sparkled in the field, making two terrific plays that kept the no-hitter going.The failures in clutch that have haunted the Sox this season seemed to be a thing of the past as everyone concerned seemed to let out a sigh of relief.

But the star of yesterday was of course, Wakefield. He told Terry Francona before the game, "I just want you to know whatever happens, don't take me out. Let me keep going," in reference to a bullpen that had been worn out over the two previous games. Wake was going to have to give the Red Sox some innings yesterday, and boy did he ever. He was perfect for the first six innings until Mike Lowell's error ended the perfect game bid. Wake tired in the last two innings, allowing two runs on four hits, but stayed around to complete the job.

He was so economical yesterday, allowing just 39 pitches into the sixth inning. He wound up throwing 111 pitches, but gave the pen a much needed day off.

Once again, it was Tim Wakefield to the rescue for the Red Sox. He's the consummate team player, doing whatever the team needs. From becoming a closer, to taking a beating in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS to help out the bullpen. Tim Wakefield continues to be one of the classiest guys to ever wear a baseball uniform.

Every Red Sox fan should always thank Dan Duquette for rescuing Wake from the scrap heap in 1995 and bringing him to the Red Sox.

Thanks Duke. And more importantly, thanks Wake. We needed that yesterday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's Not Going According to Plan

I'm not panicking, I'm not panicking, I'm not panicking.

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched just one inning last night, as the Red Sox broke out to a 3-0 early lead. But he gave it right back, allowing five runs, five hits, and was gone. The Red Sox say he's got "arm fatigue" but he insists he's fine. It sounds more and more like there is a growing disconnect between player and club. Was this fatigue caused by his starts in the WBC? Maybe. But Daisuke said he needed it to build up his arm strength. I fear the DL is looming.

The game ended with a brutal 12-inning loss, on three walks and a infield chopper. (Bloody hell.) The bullpen was sensational last night after Matsuzaka departed, as Justin Masterson pitched four solid innings. He was followed by good work from Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. 10 shutout innings until Javier Lopez and his walk parade gave it away. Tito Francona really in a tough spot, as Tim Wakefield will have to give the Sox innings today, as only Takashi Saito wasn't used last night.

The Red Sox are now 2-6. The clutch hitting is still AWOL. You can sum it up in the 10th last night, as David Ortiz came up with the bases loaded, two out and the score tied. And once again, he popped up to end it. It has to get better, and soon.

And the injury news gets worse, as Jed Lowrie may have to have surgery on his ailing wrist, and that could shelve him for the year. The Red Sox haven't made a decision yet on whether he will rehab it or go the surgery route. And I also just heard that Clay Buchholz pulled at a hamstring at Pawtucket, so if Dice-K hits the DL, he may not be an option for recall.

No, I'm not panicking. No, I'm not. I promise you I'm not...

UPDATE: Daisuke Matsuzaka was just placed on the 15-day DL this afternoon, and reliever Hunter Jones was called up to take his place. I would guess that Justin Masterson, off his stint last night, will move to the rotation.

Remembering The 96

Today is a very solemn day in the history of sports, as it was 20 years ago today that 96 Liverpool soccer fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.

The day will be marked all over Great Britain, but especially in Liverpool. (Last night I wrapped my Liverpool scarf around the microphone stand at Trivia Night in memory of The 96.) On April 15, 1989, Liverpool was facing Nottingham Forest in the F.A. Cup semifinals, on a neutral site at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

England was in the middle of its worst bouts of hooliganism, and most stadiums in the country put up fences to keep fans off the playing field. An estimated 5,000 fans tried to get in at the section reserved for the Liverpool fans, as opposition fans are segregated at all soccer matches in England. Many fans without tickets were able to get in in the ensuing surge of fans entering the stadium.

As the match began, the fans were packed in so tight in the terraces, or standing area behind the goal, that they began to suffocate and die. When the referee noticed fans trying to climb the fences to escape about six minutes into the match, it was stopped and emergency personnel entered the park, and the disaster was witnessed by the entire country, as it was to be broadcast on "Match of the Day" later in the day.

It was a tragic day of incredible carnage, as 96 fans died, with nearly 800 injured. The youngest death was a 10-year-old boy. I can remember being incredibly horrified by the pictures in the newspapers the next day, and I almost got physically ill by what I saw. I can still recall a photo of a young fan's face being pressed up against the fences. I'll never forget it.

Here is more on the Hillsborough tragedy from Wikipedia.

It was around that time that I became a Liverpool fan. (I've always thought there was a connection between Liverpool and Boston, and that's among the reasons I support them. But that's a discussion for another time.)

There was some controversy in the last few weeks, as Liverpool's match with Chelsea was originally scheduled for the 15th, but it was wisely switched to April 14th when the outcry from Liverpool and their supporters about not having to play on such a solemn day. (Liverpool would play to a 4-4 tie on Tuesday and were eliminated from the Champions League.)

So to honor those fans who lost their lives 20 years ago today, here are two YouTube clips sent to me by my friend Eddie. The first is a set of clips of the disaster and its aftermath, with a roll call of the 96 fans who perished at Hillsborough. The second is a stirring singing of "You'll Never Walk Alone," Liverpool's song, in honor of the fallen fans.





May God bless the victims and their families, and all supporters of the Liverpool Football Club.

May they all never walk alone.

Trivia Q&A: April 14

We had 20 teams in for Trivia Night, with a huge crowd turning up, and a Red Sox game going on in Oakland that started about midway through. Before we got going I wrapped my Liverpool scarf around the house mic, in memory of the 96 fans who were killed in the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989, which will be marked with the 20th anniversary remembrance on Wednesday.

We had a mixed bag of scores for "Lincoln Assassination/Titanic Sinking Trivia." But they were much better for both The Q Train lightning round and General Knowledge.

We had five teams separated by five points going into IQ Trivia. It would prove to be a tough round, as no teams got the Joanne Woodward question correct. We had only one team that got as many as four of the questions correct, and that would be the team of Don't You Think Jim and I Would Make a Cute Couple. They were in sixth place going into the round, but the 15 points they got would propel them all the way to the title, as they won by just two points.

My congratulations to Rob and Melinda and their team on a terrific comeback in getting the win.

Current Events
1. Malaysia, the Philippines and this Central American nation were blacklisted recently by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development as non-cooperative tax havens.
2. A group called 24/7 Wall Street named this company "The Top Greenwasher in America," ones who say they've gone "green" but still are bigtime polluters of the environment.
3. Nick Adenhart, a pitcher on this MLB team, was killed along with two companions last Thursday when his car was struck by a drunk driver just hours after he pitched his 4th game in the majors.
4. A NJ businessman claimed in recently filed papers that his wife had an ongoing affair with this mega rock legend and that he is responsible for their divorce.
5. This New England university officially changed the name of the Columbus Day holidat at the school to "Fall Weekend" due to the insistance of some students who did not want the school honoring the 15th century explorer.
6. Dave Arneson, who created this fantasy game into a huge hit that was spawned into a video game, as well as books and movies, died last week at age 61.
7. This filmmaker filed a $10 million lawsuit against clothing manufacturer American Apparel over the use of his image in advertising billboards, which he called "sleazy" and "infantile."

Answers: 1. Costa Rica; 2. General Electric; 3. Los Angeles Angels; 4. Bruce Springsteen; 5. Brown; 6. Dungeons and Dragons; 7. Woody Allen.

Lincoln Assassination/Titanic Sinking Trivia
1. Edwin Stanton, who said the immortal line, "Now he belongs to the ages" at the moment of Lincoln's death, was what secretary in Lincoln's cabinet?
2. What city did the Titanic begin its maiden and doomed voyage from?
3. Lincoln's assasin, John Wilkes Booth, was caught 12 days later after the killing and shot dead by Union troops in what US state?
4. What book by Walter Lord about the Titanic sinking was made into a successful movie?
5. How many co-conspirators were executed in July 1865 in connection with Lincoln's murder?
6. In what Canadian city were a number of Titanic victims whose bodies were recovered buried?
7. How many years were there between the Lincoln assassination and the Titanic sinking?

Answers: 1. Secretary of War; 2. Southampton; 3. Virginia; 4. "A Night to Remember;" 5. four; 6. Halifax, Nova Scotia; 7. forty-seven (1865 and 1912).

5-6-7-8 Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. This was the number worn by MLB Hall of Famers George Brett, Johnny Bench and Brooks Robinson.
2. This is the atomic number of oxygen.
3. The number of stars in the constellations of The Big Dipper and Orion.
4. In the Bible, it was on this day that God created Man.
5. Within the walls of Rome there are these number of hills.
6. In Islam, there is this number of basic pillars.
7. Scorpio is this number sign of the Zodiac.
8. The number of points on a Star of David.
9. The number of basketball players allowed on the court at any one time for one team.
10. The shortstop in baseball is this numbered position.

Answers: 1. five; 2. eight; 3. seven; 4. six; 5. seven; 6. five; 7. eight; 8. six; 9. five; 10. six.

General Knowledge
1. "I Got Blisters on My Fingers" is the last words of what famous rock song?
2. "Adeste Fideles" is the Latin title of what Christmas carol?
3. In the board game Clue, Mrs. Peacock is represented by what color token?
4. Wal-Mart's headquarters have been located in what US state since its founding?
5. In humans, the ulna is a bone located where?
6. The Rio Grande river originates in what US state?
7. "Made in Great Britain" appears on the packaging of what popular mint?

Answers: 1. "Helter Skelter;" 2. "Oh Come, O Ye Faithful;" 3. blue; 4. Arkansas; 5. forearm; 6. Colorado; 7. Altoids.

IQ Trivia
1. Captain Hastings is the well-meaning sidekick of what fictional detective? ( 4 points)
2. What 1986 movie is based on David Mamet's play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago?" ( 4 points)
3. Phalaenopsis is the scientific name for what popular type of flower? ( 4 points)
4. What Oscar-winning actress was the first person to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960? ( 5 points)
5. In American casinos, a roulette wheel is divided into how many slots? ( 3 points)

Answers: 1. Hercule Poirot; 2. "About Last Night;" 3. orchid; 4. Joanne Woodward; 5. thirty-eight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beckett Suspended Six Games

Hide the knives and other sharp objects, everyone. Josh Beckett has been suspended six games (actually just one start) and fined for his actions last Sunday in Anaheim, for buzzing Bobby Abreu with a close pitch to his head.

No word yet if Beckett will appeal. Angels coach Mickey Hatcher was also suspended for one game, and Mike Scioscia, Justin Speier and Torii Hunter, who were all tossed from Sunday's game, were fined.

Here's more from the Boston Globe.

Jody Gerut?

Citi Field had its first regular season game last night as the Mets took on San Diego Padres. The Mets christened their new ballyard in style, as they brought back Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, who closed Shea Stadium last September. They both entered from center field and walked to the mound, where Seaver fired a perfect strike to Piazza waiting at home plate.

Mike Pelfrey threw the first pitch to Jody Gerut for a strike as the flashbulbs went off. But on third pitch, Gerut lined a fastball into the right field seats to give the Padres an early lead.

And I saw an interview in today's Daily News with the guy who got the home run ball, a guy from New Jersey named Wayne Westerfield. As he was clinging to the ball for dear life (as it's a piece of history and the gentleman realized that), he explained that there were actually people around him telling him to throw the ball back. Holy mackerel, are those fans actually that stupid? It was the first hit, the first run, the first home run, in Citi Field history, and these imbeciles actually wanted that man to toss it back. Why, so he could get about 5 seconds of applause? I have always hated that "tradition" that Cubs fans started in Wrigley Field years ago. (I have always said that if I ever get a ball at a ballpark I will guard it with my life. If it's an opposition homer at any ballpark, you'd have to kill me to get it away from me.)

Anyway, it was the start of a long night in the Citi Field opener for the Mets, as the Padres added more runs and eventually took a 5-2 lead by the fifth inning. A cat ran on the field during the game as well (a tabby, not a black one, as the Cubs weren't the opposition). David Wright hit a three-run shot to tie it at 5, but a Pedro Feliciano balk brought in the go-ahead run for the Padres in the next inning (the batter singled anyway so it didn't matter much), and they went on to a 6-5 win.

It was a night for the Mets and their fans, but now Jody Gerut will forever be linked with Citi Field, and a night he can tell his grandkids about someday.

A Shooting Star Disappears

MLB suffered another tragic loss yesterday as Mark Fidrych was found dead on his farm in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in what appears to be an accident while he was working on his truck.

Nicknamed "The Bird" because of his curly hair and goofy grin, Fidrych exploded onto the baseball world in 1976 with the Detroit Tigers, winning 19 games and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He is best remembered for a Monday Night Baseball game, which I remember watching, that June against the Yankees in which the country got to see him go through his rituals of talking to the ball and grooming the mound himself. He electrified the crowd in a 5-1 Tigers win.

He was definitely a character. He was the starting pitcher for the AL in the All-Star Game that year, and I'll never forget what he said when someone asked him about Thurman Munson, who was the starting AL catcher.

"Thurman Who?"

He was just a likeable, affable guy who no one had a bad word to say about. Unfortunately, injuries took a toll on The Bird, of his pitching shoulder and knee. He threw an amazing 250 innings in 1976 and that workload probably helped contribute to his short stay in the majors. By 1980, the Tigers released him after he won just 29 games. He tried to make a comeback with the Red Sox, pitching at Pawtucket in 1982 and 1983, but he never got back to the majors and called it quits midway through 1983. He went back to his farm in Massachusetts.

Here's more about Mark Fidrych from the Boston Globe.

Mark Fidrych was just 54 years old, and those of us who saw him play will never forget him. Thanks for the memories, Bird.

Stinko

I know, I know. Only 1/23rd of the season has concluded so far.

But another lousy effort all around by the Red Sox on Monday night. They barely showed up and the 2-4 Oakland A's beat them handily, 8-2.

Jon Lester again had nothing, giving up six runs in six innings, including five in the second. Nomar Garciaparra also hit his first home run of the season in his first ever game against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox simply look lethargic, and some of their best hitters (Pedroia, Ortiz, Lowell, Ellsbury) are struggling mightily. And more bad news on Monday as Jed Lowrie is now on the 15-day DL with a sore wrist, the wrist he had surgery on over the winter. Nick Green takes over SS (with Gil Velazquez called up to back him up) until either Lowrie or Julio Lugo return.

The starting pitching has been no great shakes either. They've only had two quality starts in the first seven (Beckett on Opening Day and Brad Penny last Saturday). Once again, there's no reason to panic or make silly moves. But I can't help think of that immortal line from Cher in "Moonstruck" when it comes to the Sox' early season malaise:

Snap out of it!!

BTW, Justin Masterson has a new blog you may like to check out, "A Call to the Bullpen."

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Classic Voice is Gone

I was saddened today to learn that we lost a great voice in the sports world, as Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed in the broadcast booth as he was preparing to call today's Phillies-Nationals game in Washington and died shortly after that. He was 73.

Mr. Kalas had a very distinct, mellow and fluid way of calling a game. I wasn't a Phillies fan but I can remember in my youth listening to games on the radio at night and hearing Phillies games on WCAU-AM as clear as a bell. He did games for the Phillies since 1971, and won the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.

Mr. Kalas also did lots of voice over announcing, as well as for NFL Films during the football season. But I guess his most famous call was of Mike Schmidt's 500th home run in 1987:

"Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!"

I offer my condolences to all the Phillies fans who grew up with him. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Kalas.

Two Events That Shook the World on April 14

April 14th is the anniversary of two monumental events in world history. It is the day Abraham Lincoln was shot, and it was also the day the Titanic had an encounter with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. (And ironically enough, both Lincoln and the Titanic died the next day, April 15th.)

So to remember these two events, the special category for Trivia Night on Tuesday will be "Lincoln Assassination/Titanic Sinking Trivia." It will be seven questions on either one.

And this week's Q Train lightning round will be "5-6-7-8 Trivia." We had been doing "1-2-3-4 Trivia" every other week but I thought about doing something a little different, so it will be 10 questions where the answer will be the number 5, 6 , 7 or 8.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
In humans, the ulna is a bone located where?

We should get rolling at the usual time of 9 PM, so I hope you can come out and join us Tuesday night.

You Call That a Brawl?

Well, all that goodwill from Friday night seemed to be a thing of the past in the first inning of yesterday's Red Sox-Angels game.

Josh Beckett took exception to Bobby Abreu calling time out just before a pitch was about to be thrown, and Beckett launched one that came very close to Abreu's noggin. The replays clearly shown that Beckett was taking way too long staring out at Chone Figgins leading off second and Abreu asked for time and got it. This set off both benches, and there was a lot of yelling and posturing, but no punches were thrown. (I saw a few media outlets call it a "brawl." How could it be a brawl if no punches were thrown?)

Mike Scioscia, Mickey Hatcher, Justin Speier and Torii Hunter were tossed from the game, all for running their mouths off at the umps. Overall it wasn't a good day for Beckett, as he allowed 4 runs in 6 innings, but it was even worse for the Red Sox offense.

It looked promising early, as Kevin Youkilis and J. D. Drew went deep in the second. But L.A. came back to score three. But the Sox squandered way too many opportunities, as they had the bases loaded in the eighth with one out and didn't score. Vladimir Guerrero went deep off Hideki Okajima (who continues to be less than stellar so far) to make it 5-3 in the 8th. But the Red Sox made it 5-4 in the ninth on David Ortiz' single. And with two on and two out, J.D. Drew looked at a call third strike to end it, and a second straight series loss.

I saw in today's Globe that the Red Sox are an astounding 3-fo-30 with two or more runners on base in the first six games so far. Yikes. The clutch hitting just isn't there so far.

Now it's off to Oakland for three games with the A's, and a reunion with an old friend named Nomar, who the Red Sox haven't seen since July 31, 2004.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rappers Keep Mets Off the Air, Briefly

You all may know that Fox has an exclusive window on all baseball from the 4-7 PM ET on Saturdays. Teams can schedule games from 1 PM on Saturdays and the games can be shown in their own home markets.

But yesterday, the Florida Marlins scheduled their game at 6:05 PM, because of a rap concert taking place later in the evening. So that meant the Mets and Marlins could not show their game to their audiences until 7:05 PM when the Fox window ended.

So SportsNet New York, the Mets station, did a very smart thing yesterday. They had a split screen with their regular programming, and had a statement on the screen telling fans that because of MLB rules they could not begin showing the game until 7. But they also put as much info about the game going on as possible: the score, who was up, who was pitching, the count, the runners on base.

At 7, the first two innings were just completed with no score, so the fans fortunately did not miss too much. But you have to wonder what the Marlins brass was thinking scheduling a game during the Fox exclusivity time (which I think is silly, but that's another story). But I would bet the Mets' radio numbers picked up for a brief time yesterday.

Walking the Tightrope

Jonathan Papelbon had one of those games that drives any fan totally up the wall. He entered with a 4-3 lead in the eighth with two outs, and got the final out. Jason Bay hit his second home run of the game to add some, as it turned out, important insurance.

Pap gave up a leadoff homer to Torii Hunter, and then loaded the bases with two out. Up stepped Howie Kendrick, and he had the at-bat of the season so far. He fouled off seven straight pitches, before lining out to Rocco Baldelli to conclude a hard-fought, 5-4 Red Sox win. All relievers have games like this, but let's hope they are few and far between. Papelbon wound up throwing 39 pitches and will probably be given today off.

Brad Penny pitched six gutty innings in his Red Sox debut. Mike Napoli hit two home runs off him, but I'm sure Terry Francona is pleased with what he saw. Mike Lowell blasted a two-run shot, and Mr. Bay blasted his first to give the Red Sox their first lead of the afternoon.

Josh Beckett takes the hill today and the Sox attempt to get back to .500. He'll take on Dustin Moseley of the Angels.

Let me also wish all of you out there a Happy and blessed Easter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering a Fallen Angel

It was an emotional night at Angel Stadium on Friday, as the Angels remembered their fallen teammate, Nick Adenhart. There was a brief ceremony before the game with the Red Sox, as Torii Hunter (above) and John Lackey held up his number 34 jersey in front of the pitcher's mound as both teams lined up along the foul lines. There was a moment of silence. It was very touching and well done.

With the number 34 etched at the back of the mound, the Red Sox and Angels took the field, as there was a game to be played. It was another night when the Red Sox offense did not show up, and they fell behind 3-0 in the second. Tim Wakefield got off to a rotten start. He loaded the bases in the first but got out unscathed, but had no such luck in the second. To his credit, he settled down and pitched six innings, allowing just three runs.

But with the score 3-1, Justin Masterson came in and had nothing, and the Angels expanded their lead to 6-1. Jered Weaver pitched very well for the Angels, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just the one run. The Red Sox tried to fight their way back into it, scoring two runs on Chone Figgins' throwing error to make it 6-3.

But that was as close as the Red Sox would get, as the Angels prevailed on a very difficult and emotional night for everyone involved.

This morning, the Red Sox find themselves 1-3 and looking up at everyone in the AL East. Today, Brad Penny makes his debut for the Red Sox in a nationally televised game on Fox against Joe Saunders.

BTW, just wondering: Why did the Red Sox debut those new "alternate" jerseys before the regular new road jerseys last night? Wouldn't make more sense to debut them today, when today's game will be seen nationally? Can't say I'm crazy about those alternate ones, and I like thos "hanging sox" hats even less. But I do like the hanging sox on the sleeve of the new road uniforms.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Not the Best of Afternoons

The Red Sox dropped 2 out of 3 to the Tampa Bay Rays to open the season, a 4-3 afternoon loss. If they had opened last season like this against the Rays I'd be much more concerned, but now the Rays have the moniker "defending league champions" on their resume, so I can sleep a little better at night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up three home runs yesterday, to Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria and Shawn Riggans. He threw 100 pitches in just over 5 innings, which brought back bad memories of "Evil Daisuke," the one that drives fans (as well as Terry Francona) crazy. He nibbles, walks batters and is vulnerable to the gopher ball. The bullpen was good overall (although Hideki Okajima struggled in the ninth), pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings. (Ramon Ramirez continues to impress.)

The Sox did their best to comeback late in the game after falling behind 4-0. In the eighth it was 4-2 when Jed Lowrie came up with two men in scoring position and two outs. And for the second straight day in that position in the eighth, he struck out. Lowrie was terrific in spring training, batting .343, but he is struggling out of the gate when it counts, and so far is 1-for-12 with six Ks.

Kevin Youkilis had three hits yesterday, and Jason Varitek, who is 2-for-12 overall so far, hit his second HR in the ninth to make it 4-3. David Ortiz walked with two outs when the guy you want up there, Youk, stepped in. This had game-winning home run written all over it, but he hit a deep fly to center to end the game.

The Red Sox head to California for six games with the Angels and A's. It will be a somber night in Anaheim tonight as the Angels play the Sox in their first game since Nick Adenhart's tragic death.