Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Did Anyone Else Catch This?

As I was suffering through last night's Red Sox debacle, something happened at a baseball game I've never seen and something I've never heard before. A Blue Jays player in the seventh inning hit a pop up in short center that fell between Alex Gonzalez, Coco Crisp and Alex Cora for an apparent single. But Cora picked up the ball and fired to a heads-up Rudy Seanez covering second base that just nipped Gregg Zaun trying to get to second. The replays backed up the umpire's call.

I've never seen a 4-1 putout at second base. I have at first many, many times.

But what happened next really floored me. As the next Blue Jay hitter stepped in, the Toronto fans let the umpire know exactly what they thought of that call. "Bleep You!" "Bleep You!" "Bleep You" rang out from the stands, and it wasn't from the many Red Sox fans in attendance. It was loud, and there was no mistaking what they were saying.

I was, to say the least, shocked to hear such vulgarity, especially from fans in Toronto. Fans in the SkyDome (yeah, I know, it's the Rogers Centre) have a reputation for being rather laid-back. The crowds there have been called "library-like" on many occasions.

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy on NESN must have been equally shocked, as for a few seconds they were silent. Then Orsillo piped in, "The crowd tonight is a little more raucous than last night." To say the least. The Toronto fans were in a foul mood all night, despite the fact their team led nearly from start to finish. They were also heaping abuse at Manny Ramirez all night with some vulgar chants at him as well, on his 34th birthday no less.

This morning I checked both Boston papers on-line, and there was not a single mention of any of this in either paper. I have never seen Yankees or even Phillies fans chanting such an obscenity at a rival player or team. Those Toronto fans ought to be ashamed of doing such a thing, especially with families being in attendance.

David Pauley goes for the Red Sox tonight, having just been called up from AA Portland for the start to replace David Wells, who will be put on the DL tonight. I saw Pauley pitch in an exhibition game in Philadelphia this past April 1, and he got banged around for 5 runs in 4 innings.

I'd pray for rain but the game will be played in the SkyDome (oops, the Rogers Centre. Yeah, I know).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Time To Admit A Mistake

The Red Sox did a valiant job coming back from a 6-0 deficit last night in Toronto to tie it at 6, only to see the Blue Jays get a run back in the eighth and win it 7-6. Homers by Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, and Coco Crisp (his first in a Red Sox uniform) got them back after yet another disasterous outing by Matt Clement (who's ERA is now 6.91).

More and more it looks like signing Clement was a big mistake. The Sox are still on the hook for him to the tune of two more years and $18 million. Clement seems to get rattled whenever things get rough. He constanttly nibbles around the plate, and when he's finally forced to challenge hitters, he leaves pitches in the middle of the plate and gets whacked (Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay last night). If he's hurt, he should go on the DL and get better. The liner he took off his ankle by Bernie Williams last week may still be giving him trouble. He's not doing anyone any good by trying to pitch through it.

To his credit, Clement is a stand-up guy and a good citizen and teammate. He points no fingers, makes no excuses and takes the heat from the media. But he has all kinds of trouble getting major league hitters out. If it's not an injury, could it be from the time last season he got hit by the liner in the head by Carl Crawford? The Red Sox are just not getting what they expected from a guy they signed to a $36 million contract. But as of now, Clement and the Red Sox are stuck with each other. I would bet they will make a more concerted effort to move him after this season than they did last winter. (They had already moved Edgar Renteria, and moving Clement also would have been too much money for the Sox FO to eat.)

At least by trading Renteria, the Red Sox managed to land Coco Crisp. Clement more and more looks like Theo Epstein's biggest mistake.

If Clement's struggles weren't bad enough, David Wells has been scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday, due to his sore knee. Another DL visit is a possibility. Who replaces him? That's not yet known.

Happy Birthday Manny

Today Manny Ramirez turns 34. In today's New York Daily News, in Susan Miller's "Astrology Zone Today," our beloved Mr. Ramirez is featured as the celebrity birthday. For some odd reason, the Daily News has a different astrologer on their web site, so here is what Ms. Miller wrote about Manny, taken directly from the paper:

Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez grew up in Washington Heights, but only became a U.S. citizen in 2004. A native of the Dominican Republic, Manny has his sign ruler, Mercury, in Gemini with the sun and Saturn. Saturn provides him with the self-discipline to play baseball professionally. Fortunate Venus, the natural ruler of money, falls in Manny's natal sector of finances. In 2005, Manny was the fourth-highest paid player in Major League Baseball. His natal moon in managerial Capricorn reveals that he's a fine money manager. With his progressed moon and Mars in a positive aspect now, look for Manny to have an exceptionally good 2006 season.

Sounds good to me.
Have a great birthday, big guy.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006

Please take a moment on this Memorial Day to say a prayer for all of our brave military overseas who are defending our freedom, that they all get home safe to their loved ones. But especially remember those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our country, wherever it was: Gettysburg, Normandy, Okinawa, Vietnam, Iraq or at The World Trade Center.

They will be in our hearts forever.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

April 8,1974

I was 12 years old. The Atlanta Braves were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It was a Monday night, the ballpark was packed and NBC was broadcasting the game live, with Curt Gowdy doing the announcing with Tony Kubek.

A huge audience tuned in, as they awaited to see history being made. Henry Aaron, nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank" had one home run in his first three games, and was currently sitting on 714 career home runs, tied with the immortal Babe Ruth. The opposition pitcher was Al Downing, a left-hander.

The game was 3-1 Dodgers when Hank came up for the second time in the third inning. Downing threw Hank a fastball down the middle of the plate, and he struck hit hard, and as soon as it left the bat you knew where it was going. The Dodgers' left fielder, Bill Buckner, made an attempt in vain to climb the wall to catch it. It cleared the fence, landed in the Braves bullpen where it was caught by relief pitcher Tom House.

Aaron ran the bases relieved the pursuit of the Babe was finally over. Opposition players greeted him warmly as he rounded each base. Two guys jumped out of the stands to greet Hank as he headed for third. After he crossed home plate, Hank was mobbed by his Atlanta teammates and by his mother. He could finally smile, as the record finally belonged to him.

It was finally over for Aaron. He had reached immortality. He would hit 40 more home runs and play two more seasons. The chase had taken its toll on him. Many people didn't want him to break it, and let him know with the vilest of racist hate mail. Aaron handled it all with grace and dignity. I rooted for him all the way. Back when I was 12, it didn't matter to me that Hank Aaron was black. He wasn't breaking a white man's record in my mind. He was breaking a YANKEE'S record, and that was good enough for me.

Hank Aaron has held the home run record for more than 32 years now. In all the nonsense that has gone down regarding illegal drugs the last few years, people have come to appreciate Hank Aaron, as well as Roger Maris' home run records a little more, and that's a good thing.

What happened today in San Francisco didn't move me one bit. But it brought back memories of a special night back when I was still a young boy, a night when baseball history was made.

What will remember from this day? Two things: it was my nephew's first communion, and the Red Sox almost blew a five-run lead in the ninth inning, but held on and won.

And that's all.

Bonds Homers To Pass Babe

An instrument has not yet been devised to measure my indifference to the headline you just read.

A Sweep...Just Barely

The Red Sox swept the Tampa Bay Devil Rays today four straight games with a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park, but not before there was a little high drama in the ninth.

Tim Wakefield pitch eight solid innings, gave up just five hits and left with a 5-0 lead. Coco Crisp returned from the DL and went 1-for-5. Mark Loretta had two hits and three RBI and Trot Nixon had two hits and an RBI.

Unfortunately, Wily Mo Pena was placed on the 15-day DL with the continued problem he has with his injured left wrist. Manny Ramirez also sat out today's game with back stiffness. It is believed he will play tomorrow night in Toronto.

But the drama was in the ninth. Rudy Seanez walked the bases loaded with two outs, and Julian Tavarez came in and struck out Greg Norton, but the ball got passed Doug Mirabelli and he reached base and a run scored. Tavarez walked the next two hitters to force in two runs, and then Carl Crawford singled to left. Willie Harris threw to the plate to cut down Joey Gathright easily to preserve the victory.

Thank God I was at my nephew's communion in Bay Ridge and missed that ninth inning.

An easy win turned into a squeaker due to the bullpen again. Just when you thought it was safe to trust Rudy Seanez, he gives you a performance like this. More and more he looks like a candidate to be DFA'd (designated for assignment). Tavarez has been handling a heavy workload, and also has a guaranteed two-year deal. The Red Sox were also handed another blow when Mike Timlin was put on the 15-day DL today with a right shoulder strain. Manny Delcarmen was recalled from Pawtucket. You have to wonder if Terry Francona will trust Seanez in clutch situations. He seemed to be giving the Sox some good innings, but lousy outings like today might have him turning to Delcarmen more. We'll see.

Not all the medical news was bad. David Wells worked out on the stationary bike and his knee looked a lot better. It is not yet known if he will make his next start in Toronto on Wednesday night.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Congratulations Curt

Curt Schilling won his career 200th game tonight as the Red Sox beat the Devil Rays, 6-4 at Fenway Park. I only caught the last inning of the game, as I was out having dinner with a friend tonight. Curt gave up 4 earned runs and 8 hits in seven innings of work.

Terry Francona sat Manny Ramirez tonight because of back stiffness, and he put Kevin Youkilis in left. It was Youk's first career game in the outfield. Wily Mo Pena also sat because of the soreness in his wrist, so Willie Harris played center.

Youk had two hits and two walks, and Mark Loretta continued his torrent hitting, going three-for-five and Trot Nixon had 3 RBI. But the star of the night was Schilling, who became the 104th pitcher in major league history to win 200 games. He also became the fourth pitcher to win his 200th game in a Sox uniform, joining Lefty Grove, Ferguson Jenkins and Luis Tiant. Curt was called out by the fans after the game for a standing ovation. He also revealed that his son Gehrig asked him to get it for him tonight, as it was his 11th birthday.

Mission accomplished. Happy Birthday, Gehrig.

Just Wondering

When Derek Jeter got his 2000th hit on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium, did the hometown fans chant: "2000", "2000", "2000" ????

In some ways I'm sorry Jeter didn't do it at Fenway on Wednesday night.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Simple Solution

I got an interesting email from Dennis McKeon from about the World Trade Center Memorial mess I thought was worth sharing. The Gothamist, a New York-oriented web site, has a "simple solution" to it:

Plans, Plans, and More Plans for Memorial Cost Cutting

This is an interesting idea.
Leave the slurry wall exposed.
Create a nice Memorial Park.
You could add features to this basic idea.
Names of Victims on the Wall
Bring back artifacts. The Facades and the Globe or even the Staircase
This would also solve many of the issues especially the cost.
It would bring the Memorial above ground.
Respect the footprints
Make available access to the Slurry Wall.
Allow for the elimination of the random placement of names.
Allow for the return and display of artifacts.
Give the families 24/7 access to the Memorial.
It would also eliminate the safety and security issues associated with the current plan.
The landscaping of the area could also create a buffer between the park and the surrounding streets.
This could also be done at a fraction of the cost.
Something to think about.

His Head's In The Game

The Red Sox beat Tampa Bay last night, 4-1, behind six sharp, shutout innings from Josh Beckett (pictured). Beckett picked up his seventh win, allowed just four hits and his ERA is now at 3.80. But the play of the night happened in the sixth inning.

Julio Lugo hit a double high off the wall in center, and when the throw from Wily Mo Pena got away from Alex Gonzalez, Lugo tried to stretch it to third. What Lugo didn't realize was that Mark Loretta was trailing the play, picked up the loose ball and flipped it to Mike Lowell to cut him down. It prevented what could have been a big inning for the Devil Rays.

It also shows what a terrific, smart player Loretta is. When he was struggling in April, I knew that was just a bump in the road for him. I told other Sox fans that he'd come around and be an infield staple for the Red Sox this season. And he sure is. His defense has been rock solid. He made another sterling play at second on a hot shot by Russell Branyan. Loretta is part of what could be the best infield defense the Red Sox have ever had.

Loretta's been red-hot this month. On May 1st, he was batting .217. Since then, his bat has been smoking. He went 2-for-5 last night with an RBI to raise his average to .303. He seems to be that perfect number 2 hitter the Red Sox have not had for a long time. Loretta also seems to have earned the "Professional Hitter" moniker that Bill Mueller carried so well for the Red Sox for the past three years.

Jonathan Papelbon got four outs to earn his major-league leading 16th save. David Ortiz went to 2-for-4 with an RBI after a terrible night on Wednesday, and Kevin Youkilis went 2-for-4 and made another sparkling play at first.

David Wells returns from the DL tonight, and hopefully he can go at least five innings. He'll be facing Sox nemesis Scott Kazmir, who's going for his eighth win. Coco Crisp played an extended spring training game down in Florida, with no ill effects. He still on course to play at Pawtucket on Saturday, and with the Sox in Toronto on Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Al Leiter Is Now Officially A YES Network Hack

Thank God this three-game series between the Red Sox and Yankees is now over. The Red Sox may have lost two of three to The Evil Empire, but that's not the important thing. I can watch the Red Sox again without having to listen to the broadcasting team from "Al-Yankzeera."

I've never been happier to see and hear Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy in my life.

Last night's Red Sox-Yankees game on the YES Network infuriated me like no other Yankee broadcast has in recent memory. (By the end of the game I was actually doing something I almost never do: yelling obscenities at the screen.) We all know about Michael Kay and what a Yankee shill he is. But he and his broadcasting cohorts hit a new low last night. Before I get into Kay, I'll start with the newest member of the gang, Al Leiter.

It's with a bit of sadness that I titled this article calling Leiter a hack. I've always had a great deal of respect for Leiter. He's a genuinely good guy, and was always very accessible and likeable with the press in his playing days. When he pitched for the Mets, he was their equivalent of Tim Wakefield: one of baseball's better citizens and a great man with the community. He was very easy to root for, and a very gutsy and gritty player.

He did a very credible job as the third man in the booth during the 2004 ALCS with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. It was easy to see he would end up in the broadcast booth with someone. I wasn't so bothered to hear the Yankees signed him to do some YES telecasts.

But last night, his defense of yet another Randy Johnson putrid performance (his sixth straight, as Kay pointed out to him) left my head spinning. Kay asked him what grade he'd give Johnson for this game, a game where Johnson gave up 5 runs and 9 hits in five innings. "I'd give him a 'B'", Leiter said. Even Kay and Ken Singleton couldn't believe that and demanded an explanation. (They both gave him a "C". Personally I'd give him a "D", and had the Yankees lost, he'd get an "F" from me.) Leiter went into full spin doctor mode, and his explanation seemed right out of Al-Yankzeera 101.

Leiter seemed to have been indoctrinated into the Yankee Propaganda Ministry way of thinking. It's a shame, as he showed some real promise once.

But Michael Kay was the real "star" last night. Literally from the time that YES went on the air at 7 PM, he was absolutely fixated on the Manny Ramirez "pose" at home plate after his home run off Scott Proctor on Tuesday night. He seems to have a real fetish in disliking Manny. A couple of friends last night told me that they heard his radio show on 1050 AM and he just ranted about it all show long. Even after Manny's first home run in the first inning (which Manny didn't pose and just ran to first, which Kay totally ignored), he couldn't shut his fat yapper about it. Hey, I've made it known I don't like ANY player who does that crap. But Kay seems to think Manny's committed some act of heresy here. He sure isn't the first one to do this, and won't be the last. Could someone point out to Kay that one of his idols, namely Reggie Jackson, started that nonsense back in the 1970s? Not one word from Kay or anyone else in the YES booth about that last night.

(A friend also told me that the radio side of the Yankees, namely John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, didn't make a big deal over the Manny home run pose, and that for the Yankees it wasn't that big a deal either. Interesting.)

Manny hit another home run in the seventh off Proctor that made the score 8-6. In the top of the next inning, Kay went off on another ridiculous rant about how Manny was "an embarrassment" and embarrassed Proctor with his second home run. Huh? Proctor threw Manny a nice meatball over the plate that Manny killed over the Monster in left. (And there was no posing again.) So is Manny supposed to let that pitch go? I know Kay hates Manny with a passion, but his ranting sounded like a frustrated Yankee fan loose in the booth. Kay should ask both Proctor and Joe Torre why he served Manny such a fat pitch on a silver platter rather than blame Manny for it. Kay also talked like the Yankees should have thrown at Manny as well.

Kay thoroughly embarrassed not only himself and his boothmates, but the Yankee organization with his childish BS last night. He's proved why he is so absolutely disliked not only by Red Sox fans but by YANKEE fans as well. A few dedicated Yankee fans I know wish Kay would just disappear from the YES booth altogether.

I actually caught part of a Yankee game last week with Singleton and Jim Kaat, and it was far better to watch that Kay was MIA. Singleton is one of those broadcasters who seems to get caught up in the "web" of his play-by-play partner. (I call it "The Phil Rizzuto Syndrome.") But when he's away from Kay and with Jim Kaat, he's actually a decent listen. I still have a lot of respect for Kaat, as he doesn't talk down to his audience, and usually has something of interest to say.

I never thought I would write this, but last night he actually made me want to listen to John Sterling instead, and God help me, Ken Harrelson, the notorious homer from the White Sox. I'm officially done with any Yankee games that involve Michael Kay.

That is, until June 5th, when the YES network is shoved down our throats again when the Sox return to the Bronx.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Classic From 1999

This afternoon I watched what I consider to be the best pitched game I have ever seen in my life. It was a game I remember originally watched at home on TV. ESPN Classic showed the September 10, 1999 game between the Red Sox and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It was Andy Pettitte versus the immortal Pedro Martinez.

It was a big game for both clubs, as they were both fighting for the AL East title. There was a full house in the Bronx. Pedro hit Chuck Knoblauch, the first batter, who was then thrown out stealing by Jason Varitek. In the second inning, Chili Davis hit a home run into the bleachers to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

And that was it for the Yankees. No other Yankee reached base the rest of the night.

Pedro was completely and totally dominating the rest of the way. Mike Stanley hit a two-run homer for the Red Sox in the sixth to give the Sox the lead. In that same inning, Tim McCarver, who was doing the game with Bobby Murcer for the Yankees on TV, launched into his "Red Sox history" lesson, basically telling his audience the entire Red Sox story since their previous title in 1918. It's why every Red Sox fan despises him and every announcer who ever did that previous to October 27, 2004. And of course, they had to show a banner along the stadium wall that said: "The Bambino's Curse Lives."

Tee-hee. Yeah, right.

In the bottom of the sixth, Scott Brosius lined out to Troy O'Leary to start the inning. That would be the last ball hit to the outfield, and the last FAIR ball hit by the Yankees that night. Pedro went the rest of the game and couldn't be touched. He struck out 12 of the last 15 hitters he faced, and retired the last 22 Yankees in a row to end the game. It was also so cool to see all the Dominican fans in the bleachers wearing Red Sox jerseys and Dominican flags rooting for Pedro and the Sox.

Just watching the game again got me so pumped up. I'll never forget the great feeling watching Pedro give it to the Yankees and their fans.

The best pitched game I have ever seen. Period.

The Red Sox won, 3-1. It was Pedro's 21st win of the season. He would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award, and should have won the MVP Award if it hadn't been for a jackass writer from the New York Post named George King who kept him completely off his ballot. It went to Ivan Rodriguez instead.

Thanks for the memories, Pedro.

Frustrating Night At The Fens

Tough night at Fenway Park last night. Judas led off the game for the Yankees with a home run, and it just seemed to get worse from there. Tim Wakefield had spurts when he looked good, but he was just too hot and cold all night. Terry Francona blew it in the seventh by leaving him in to face to Alex Rodriguez, after Wake had clearly lost it by walking two straight hitters on four pitches. The score was 4-1 at the time, and Slappy's homer was the eventual difference as the Yankees won, 7-5. I generally like Tito and his managerial ability, but that wasn't one of his better decisions.

Manny Ramirez continued his mastery of the Yankees by hitting a monster home run to center in the seventh off Scott Proctor with two on. But I guess I maybe in the minority by saying this, but I do not like it when Manny just stands there at home plate admiring the ball after hitting a home run, as he did last night. Manny is one of the worst offenders in this area, along with Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey. Reggie Jackson was the one who popularized this crap, back in the early 1970s in Oakland. I find it unprofessional and it shows up the pitcher.

I remember when Bonds pulled that crap in the 1991 NLCS in Pittsburgh and the ball hit the top of the wall and he ended up with just a double (it could have easily been a triple if he ran hard out of the box). He wound up stranded at second (the next hitter flied out for the second out, negating a possible sacrifice fly if he'd been at third). The Pirates lost that game by a run, and the ultimately the series.

I know Manny's not Mr. Hustle, but I wish he'd knock the nonsense off. I only hope one of his "admiration acts" doesn't come back to bite him, and ultimately cost the Red Sox an important game.

Last night's loss was ultimately on the offense, who left 13 men on base, and had Jaret Wright on the ropes for a good part of the five innings he pitched. I think it's also time to relegate Willie Harris to the bench, for pinch-running and late inning defense. Dustan Mohr seems to have been left to rot on the bench, and I don't understand why Francona hasn't started him in Wily Mo Pena's absence.

Wily Mo should be back tomorrow, and Coco Crisp should be back on Monday in Toronto. David Wells will start Friday against Tampa Bay, so at least the Sox are getting healthier.

Great comeback by the Mets last night, as they were down 6-2 and 8-5 before tying the Phillies 8-8 on Jose Reyes' homer in the eighth, and eventually winning in 16 innings on Carlos Beltran's home run. Ryan Madson pitched an amazing seven shutout innings in relief for the Phillies, but ruined it all by throwing one bad pitch to Beltran.

I'm An Uncle Again

Last night at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, my fourth niece, Sofia Marie Mazzola, was born to my sister Barbara and her husband John. It is their second child, and second daughter. Sophia weighed in at 9 pounds, 8 ounces, just a half-ounce less than when I was born. My sister and my niece are doing fine.

I am now an uncle for the eighth time. Four of my sisters now have two children apiece, and they each have two of the same sex.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

7 World Trade Center Opens

An important step in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan takes place today when 7 World Trade Center opens. The 52-story building is actually across from the World Trade Center site on Greenwich Street and replaces the former building that collapsed late in the afternoon of September 11, 2001.

There won't be many tenants when the building opens, but developer Larry Silverstein thinks it will be at full capacity by this time next year.

In news about The WTC Memorial, it appears that many New Yorkers are as confused as most of us. Only slightly more than $137,000 has been collected from New York State taxpayers regarding the Memorial this year.

This was reported by New York 1 over the weekend:

When it comes to the World Trade Center memorial, most New Yorkers weren’t in a very charitable mood this tax season. Of the 9.5 million taxpayers who had a chance to make a donation as part of their return, fewer than 15,000 actually did. According to the Daily News, which says of the seven charities listed on the tax form, the memorial ranked sixth when it came to donations, bringing in around $150,000. Only the Olympic training center at Lake Placid received fewer dollars. Fundraising efforts for the memorial were recently put on hold amid concerns regarding cost and design. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki had put a $500 million budget cap on the project, however some estimate the memorial could cost as much as $1 billion to complete under the current plan.

The road ahead for the Memorial continues to look rough. More and more it looks like New Yorkers are saying they don't like what's going on, and they are saying it with something that makes all politicians sit up and take notice: their pocketbooks.

It may be back to the old drawing board for the Memorial.

Schilling, Manny, Papi Dominate Yankees

Curt Schilling pitched eight strong innings for the Red Sox, and Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz continued to terrorize Yankee pitching as the Red Sox rolled on to an easy 9-5 win at Fenway Park last night. The Red Sox have now won the four of the first five meetings with the Yankees in 2006, and have gotten this three-game series off to a good start.

Schilling allowed only one run, struck out six and did not walk a batter in getting his career win number 199. It was first strong outing in nearly one month. He had only one shaky inning, the third, when he gave up an RBI single to Johnny Damon, but struck out Jason Giambi to end it.

Manny hit his career home run number 443, and went 2-for-3 with 3 RBI. he now has an amazing 43 lifetime home runs against the Yankees. Papi went 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run single in the third, ahead of Manny's center field blast.

The Yankees scored four runs in garbage time, the ninth inning when the Sox had an eight-run lead. Mr. Clutch, Alex Rodriguez, padded his stats with a two-run homer off Keith Foulke, who was in to mop up for Schilling. The crowd at Professor Thom's could only give Slappy some derisive cheers as he circled the bases. As the Yankees were scoring these four runs, Ken Singleton said something on YES that absolutely had my head spinning. "The Yankees are sending a message to the Red Sox that they'll be back tomorrow," or some such YES Network nonsense that Red Sox fans have come to know and despise. However, the Yankees have the pleasure of facing Tim Wakefield and his collection of dancing knuckleballs, as opposed to Foulke and his down-the-middle-of-the-plate, let's-get-this-game-over-with meatballs.

Damn those rules that blacks out NESN in favor of the YES network in New York when the Red Sox play the Yankees.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

In today's New York Post, there is a column about how the Bronx Borough President wants to keep Boston firms from bidding on developing the new Yankee Stadium. It's really a very silly story(and someone should tell the boro prez that "Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone highlights" don't bother Red Sox fans anymore), but my favorite bartender in the world, Professor Thom's very own Jim McGuire, was quoted in the piece.

Red Sox fans said they're happy to leave the job to a New York company. "They'll overpay and be disappointed - just like having A-Rod on their team," said Jim McGuire, co-owner of Professor Thom's, a Bosox-friendly bar in Manhattan.

Words of wisdom from my buddy Jim. The Legend of Professor Thom's continues to grow.

Here's the complete article:

Great Weekend For Sox, Mets

The Red Sox took two of three from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, while the Mets also took two of three from the Yankees at Shea. Billy Wagner's meltdown in the ninth on Saturday was particularly disturbing, as it practically handed the Yankees the win. But then the Yankees gave one to the Mets last night, leaving 15 men on base during a 4-3 loss. I guess the games balance each other out.

I had a great time in Philadelphia on Saturday night. There was a huge crowd there (but there were also many empty seats). Red Sox Nation was out in full force yet again, as the park was about 50-50 in terms of fan support.

I never would have guessed that the two homers hit by the Sox on Saturday would have been by Josh Beckett and Alex Gonzalez. Gonzo's shot was really some blast, over the 401 sign in dead center. (I'll have more on the game Saturday night in my next column at in the next few days.)

Sunday? Well, let's hope that was Lenny DiNardo's last start of the year for the Red Sox.

Now the Yankees come back to Boston for the latest three-game death match.

See you at Professor Thom's tonight.

Monty Python's Back on PBS

After tonight's Mets win over the Yankees, I was surfing my TV and came across an old favorite on Channel 13, the PBS affliate here in New York. "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is back on Channel 13 after an 18-year absence! (It has been on BBC America here in the US, but I do not get that cable station on my TV. I wish I did.) I'm so glad to have it back, as in my youth I got hooked on it back in the mid-to-late 1970s. It turned me into a huge fan, and I still am today. I never get tired of watching it. Back in the 1970s, Channel 13 showed a Monty Python episode every Sunday night at 10:30 PM, and it followed a number of other great British sitcoms that were broadcast at 10 PM, like "Fawlty Towers," "To The Manor Born," and "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin."

Channel 13 has brought it back on Sunday nights at 11:30 PM for one hour (two episodes). Tonight I caught the second episode, "Crunchy Frog."

"Monty Python's Flying Circus" brings back such fond memories. Glad to have you back, guys.

The official Monty Python web site is: Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bonds Hits Home Run 714

It's been done before.
And it's been done by two far more classier players.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

The evening of May 20, 1986 was a very historic night in my life. It was the very first time I walked into the hallowed ground that is Fenway Park. I took Amtrak from New York to Boston and went to that night's game, which pitted the Red Sox against the visiting Minnesota Twins. I'll never forget walking down the ramp and into the park and seeing the green grass of the field and The Green Monster up close for the very first time. It was a beautiful night and I sat in the upper level seats between home and first base. There was a great pitching matchup that night, as Roger Clemens, who had his historic 20 strikeout game just three weeks earlier, was facing Frank Viola.

That sounds like it would be a low-scoring game right? Wrong.

The first hitter I ever saw bat at Fenway was none other than a future Hall of Famer: Kirby Puckett. (He was the Twins leadoff hitter back then, just his third season.) He flied out to right. The Red Sox came up in the bottom of the inning and the first six men who faced Viola all scored, and he was pulled without getting even one out. The Red Sox led 9-2 after three innings, but Clemens labored, giving up homers to Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne, and he gave up five runs in seven innings.

My most everlasting memories of the game were the booing the Red Sox fans gave to Bob Stanley in the eighth, as he was really struggling as a closer then. He promptly gave up another homer to Gaetti, and the crowd REALLY let him have it. The score was 15-7 in the bottom of the eighth when Wade Boggs came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He was 5-for-5 and need another hit to tie the record for hits in a nine-inning game. He promptly hit a ball right through first baseman Mickey Hatcher's legs that scored two runs, and the official scorer ruled it an error (as he should have). The Fenway faithful booed loudly, but the Red Sox went on to win, 17-7.

(Bob Stanley and a ball going through the first baseman's legs. They would be featured prominently in a game later that October.)

A few other interesting notes: Kirby Puckett left the game in the eighth, and was replaced by none other than future Oakland A's GM and supergenius Billy Beane. Bill Buckner did not play, and Dave Stapleton played the whole game at first, and future Fox analyst and resident knucklehead Steve "Psycho" Lyons played center for the Red Sox.

When I got back to my hotel after the game, I called my dad back in Brooklyn to tell him all about the night. I had to start off this way: "I think I now have some idea what it was like to see a game at Ebbets Field."

I can't believe it's been twenty years since my visit to Fenway Park. I honestly don't know where the time has gone.

Here is the complete boxscore of that historic night, courtesy of Retrosheet:

Boston Red Sox 17, Minnesota Twins 7
Game Played on Tuesday, May 20, 1986 (N) at Fenway Park

MIN A 0 0 2 1 0 1 1 2 0 - 7 11 5
BOS A 6 1 2 0 0 4 4 0 x - 17 20 1

Minnesota Twins
Puckett cf 4 0 1 2 0 0 0 0
Beane cf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bush lf 5 0 0 0 0 2 2 0
Hrbek1b 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Hatcher 1b 3 0 0 0 0 0 6 1
Brunansky rf 4 0 0 0 0 0 7 0
Smalley dh 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Woods ph,dh 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gaetti 3b 4 3 3 2 0 0 1 2
Lombardozzi 2b 4 1 1 0 0 2 1 2
Salas c 3 1 2 2 0 0 5 0
Laudner c 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gagne ss 4 2 3 1 0 0 0 3
Totals 38 7 11 7 0 4 24 9

E: Puckett (1), Bush (1), Hatcher (2), Gaetti (7), Salas (4).
PB: Salas (3).
2B: Hrbek (11,off Clemens); Gaetti (8,off Clemens).
3B: Lombardozzi (1,off Stanley).
HR: Gaetti 2 (11,6th inning off Clemens 0 on 1 out,8th inning off Stanley 0
on 1 out); Gagne (3,7th inning off Clemens 0 on 0 out).
SF: Salas (2,off Stanley).
Team LOB: 5.

Boston Red Sox

Barrett 2b 5 1 2 1 1 0 1 5
Boggs 3b 6 3 5 3 0 0 1 0
Romero pr,3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Stapleton 1b 5 1 1 0 1 3 11 1
Rice lf 5 2 2 1 0 1 1 0
Stenhouse lf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Baylor dh 5 3 2 3 1 0 0 0
Armas rf 6 2 4 2 0 1 2 0
Quinones ss 4 1 0 1 1 0 2 4
Lyons cf 5 1 1 1 0 1 4 0
Sullivan c 4 3 3 2 0 0 4 0
Totals 46 17 20 14 4 6 27 11
E: Quinones (1).
2B: Barrett (11,off Viola); Baylor (4,off Viola); Armas (4,off Viola); Stapleton
(1,off Jackson); Boggs (15,off Jackson).
HBP: Sullivan (2,by Agosto).
Team LOB: 10.

Minnesota Twins
Viola L(4-4) 0 5 6 6 1 0 0
Jackson 2.2 6 3 2 0 2 0
Atherton 3 2 2 2 2 3 0
Agosto 1 6 6 5 1 0 0
Davis 1.1 1 0 0 0 1 0
Totals 8 20 17 15 4 6 0

Boston Red Sox
Clemens W(7-0) 7 9 5 5 0 4 2
Stanley 2 2 2 2 0 0 1
Totals 9 11 7 7 0 4 3

Viola faced 6 batters in the 1st inning
WP: Clemens (5).
HBP: Agosto (2,Sullivan).
Umpires: Jim McKean, Al Clark, John Shulock, Dan Morrison
Time of Game: 3:16 Attendance: 20880

A Fine Friday Night

Nights just don't get better than this. The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on home runs by Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and David Ortiz, and coasted into a 5-3 win. Matt Clement pitched six solid innings, and it was perhaps his best outing of the year so far. The bullpen was stellar as usual, although Keith Foulke allowed a two-run double to Chase Utley that was charged to Clement. Jonathan Papelbon was outstanding in getting his major league leading 15th save.

I watched the game at Professor Thom's, and the Mets-Yankees game was on the TV next to the Red Sox game. Just about everyone was paying as much attention to that game as well. The Yankees jumped all over Mets starter Jeremi Gonzalez for four first inning runs, but Randy Johnson was going for the Yankees, so I knew the Mets had a chance. The first two Mets reached before Carlos Beltran hit a three-run bomb to left to put the Mets right back into it. The Mets tied it at 5 in the fourth on Xavier Nady's homer, and they tied it again in the sixth to chase Johnson. The Big Unit is just a shell of his former greatness, and the Yankees are in big trouble if he doesn't get his act together.

Aaron Heilman was the player of the game, as he pitched three perfect innings to shut the Yankees down. In the bottom of the ninth, David Wright launched a game-winning double off loser Mariano Rivera (who's been less than stellar as well) over Johnny Damon's head to give the Mets a huge come-from-behind win. The bar erupted in joy over the Mets win.

You can't beat nights like this. The Red Sox are now 1 1/2 games in first, and take on the Phillies with Josh Beckett facing Brett Myers in a terrific matchup tonight. I will also be one of the thousands of Red Sox Nation who will be in attendance.

My next post will be Sunday night. See you then.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hype, Hype and More Hype

It's that time of the year again. Interleague play is back. And this weekend sees many of what they call "the natural rivalries" being played. So here it is the Mets vs. the Yankees in "The Subway Series," "The Battle For New York," or whatever you want to call it. The hype in the New York tabloids has reached sickening levels, as it does every time these teams meet.

We have to have a breakdown at every position and which team has the advantage. And of course every sportswriter has to give their prediction how this three-game death battle will turn out. You'd think both teams were replaying the 2000 World Series.

I'm of the position that interleague play has run its course, and that these games are just more games outside of your division that takes away from the pennant race. For the Mets, games against the Phillies (who they play on Monday) and Braves are much more important, as for the Yankees the games against the Red Sox (new series starts Monday also) and Blue Jays are as well. Interleague also plays havoc with teams' schedule (as well as the travel schedule), and many players have wanted to get rid of it for that reason.

But of course you hear all the reasons why it has to stay, like because the fans are so into it. But the real reason is that in places like New York and Chicago, they are guaranteed sellouts. (And do they HAVE to play each other six times? Isn't one series a year enough?) I maybe in the minority on this, but I think the games played inside their own league mean more than the overhyped interleague games.

Good news for the Red Sox. Coco Crisp (pictured) will be returning soon. His agent says he has begun swinging a bat, and his rehab assignment may begin next week. Coco has so far missed 33 games with the broken bone in his hand, and then he had a tough case of kidney stones. The Red Sox are still optimistic that he will be back in a Red Sox uniform by the end of the month.

This weekend in Philadelphia, the Red Sox will be playing David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell on a rotating basis, as there will be no DH because the series is in an NL city. Papi will play first base twice, while Lowell will play third twice and Youkilis will play third one game and first the other. Terry Francona will decide who plays which day.

Yet another reason to get rid of interleague play.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

All Good Things Must End

The Red Sox' 13 -game winning streak over the Baltimore Orioles came to an end when Baltimore won, 4-3, at Camden Yards last night. Erik Bedard pitched seven strong innings to earn the win. (I have Bedard in one of my fantasy teams and kept him on the bench last night after the beating the Sox gave him in Boston a couple of weeks ago. Oh well.)

Old friend Kevin Millar hit a two-run homer to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead off Tim Wakefield. They added two more before David Ortiz hit a two-run homer off Chris Ray in the ninth to make the score closer. Bedard just shut the Sox down, allowing only two hits and one first-inning run.

The Red Sox now head to Philadelphia to start the interleague series with the Phillies on Friday. I am now going to the game on Saturday night instead of Sunday. At least I'll get to see Josh Beckett pitch that night, instead of seeing Lenny DiNardo again, who goes on Sunday.

Some People Just Don't Get It

This morning I picked up the New York Daily News and I found myself reading their "Voice of the People" column. It has always been an 'entertaining" read over the years. I am convinced that some of the dumbest people in the United States write letters to the New York Daily News. Some of them have been real beauties, and I've written responses to them over the years (and the News has printed a few of them).

Today I read a letter from some guy in Manhattan named Steven Davies, who wrote a scathing letter in response to The Cross at Ground Zero being part of the World Trade Center Memorial. (And I wrote a response back to the Daily News about it. I'll let you know if they print it.) Before I give you my response to his letter, I'll let all of you read it:

How dare they put a Christian religious symbol in the WTC memorial? The victims hailed from almost all the world's religions. If they include a cross, they should include symbols for Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs. They should even include a bowl of marijuana for Rastafarians. What was the miracle this cross represented, anyway? It was one of hundreds of crossbeams used to build the towers. After it "miraculously" appeared, were people suddenly rescued from the rubble? Was Osama suddenly caught? It has been there for more than four years; have the toxins disappeared from the Deutsche Bank? The people who venerate the cross as a miracle are weak-minded, and the people who acquiesced to religious threats and pressure are even weaker. Steven Davies

This letter is beyond ridiculous, from somebody who clearly doesn't "get it." Finding a steel beam in the shape of a crucifix at 6 World Trade Center on September 14, 2001 has nothing to do with favoring one religion over another. In the midst of the worst catastrophe in American history, an incredible symbol of hope was discovered. If the rescue workers had found any symbols that were distinctly say, Jewish or Muslim, they too should have been preserved as well, and been part of the permanent memorial. But they didn't. Finding those steel beams in the shape of a cross absolutely transcends and goes beyond religion.

It was a sign. A sign of hope among despair, death and destruction.

The letter just reeks of someone so consumed by that dreaded disease: political correctness. And Davies sounds like one of those people who finds any religion incredibly offensive. The Cross is like the phoenix rising from the ashes, and that shortly after the worst day in our history, a little shining glimmer, some light at the end of the tunnel was discovered.

No, Davies, we haven't found that murdering bastard Bin Laden, and no, we unfortunately didn't discover anyone else alive after we found The Cross. But I deeply resent you calling people like me "weak-minded" for thinking we found a miracle the day we made the discovery of The Cross.

I lost a dear friend at the World Trade Center that terrible September day. And I am pleased that The Cross will be preserved for all time as part of the World Trade Center Memorial (where it belongs).

You have a problem with that, Davies?

Too bad. Go find another PC cause to rant to the New York Daily News about.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Schilling Struggles But Wins Number 198

Curt Schilling won his career 198th game and his sixth of the 2006 campaign as the Red Sox defeated the Orioles, 6-5 in Baltimore last night. Schilling pitched well for the first four innings, but once again ran into trouble in the fifth, as Jay Gibbons and rookie Brandon Fahey (his first career home run) both hit two-run homers that gave the O's a temporary 5-4 lead.

The Sox got two back in the top of the sixth to grab the lead back. Schilling got the first two men out before being lifted by Terry Francona. The bullpen was flawless, as Mike Holtz, Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon held the Orioles hitless the remaining 3 1/3 innings to give the Red Sox their 13th consecutive win over Baltimore. They are two away from the team record, which is 15 straight wins over the Seattle Mariners from 1977-78.

For the second straight start Schilling has squandered an early lead the Sox hitters have given him. In New York last week he had a 3-0 lead before the Yankees came back to beat him and the Red Sox, 7-3. Last night it was a 4-0 lead that evaporated, but this time the Red Sox came to his rescue, and got Schilling his win. Seeing Schilling struggle in the mid-innings is certainly a cause for concern. He seemed to rely on his fastball last night, and threw very few split-finger pitches.

Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon hit solo homers, and David Ortiz had a clutch run-scoring single in the sixth. It was a night to forget for Jason Varitek, as he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and hit into a double play. Tek's struggles continue, and I wonder if maybe he could use and additional day off to help him get out of his funk and more importantly, stay sharp for September.

Yesterday there was also a mini-firestorm, as rumors were running rampant that Josh Beckett left Monday's game after the seventh inning because his blister problems had returned. The Red Sox assured everyone that it was a slight twinge in Beckett's back, and nothing more. A web site that I will not name seemed to imply it was Beckett's blister acting up again, and seemed to want to make it a big deal, and showed pictures of the Sox' training staff looking at Beckett's fingers. Beckett reacted angrily when the press asked him about it, and showed the reporters his right hand to assure them that wasn't the problem.

Most Red Sox fans know this web site, that it's a guy who tries to stir up crap, as he sees himself as some kind of sportswriter and news-breaker. Really lame.

And as far as last night's Yankees-Rangers game goes, it shows one thing VERY clearly. Neither team has the pitching to make a serious run at winning a pennant.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trivia Champion Again

Last night I regained my Trivia Night championship at Professor Thom's. This is the fifth one I've won this year. Last night was a small turnout at the bar, probably due to the upcoming bad weather. I went solo last night (as "The Omnipotent Q"), and won by three points. The wild card round was "Disaster Films" and that was my bonus round. I did really well in it, and it was a catalyst to my victory. I will of course, defend my title next Monday night, and before it's all over, I will be the sole owner of Professor Thom's!!

The Red Sox won a laugher last night over the Orioles, 11-1. Josh Beckett gave up a solo homer to Miguel Tejada in the first inning, but then settled in to allow only one other base runner over the next six innings. He improved his record to 5-1. Wily Mo Pena, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell all hit homers, and Terry Francona won his career 500th game. The Red Sox now have beaten the Orioles 12 straight times, dating back to last September.

Curt Schilling will take the mound tonight in Baltimore in search of his 198th career win, weather permitting of course.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Weekend Washout

It was a weekend in Boston that was neither fit for man nor beast. After a horrible Friday that saw a game that shouldn't have been attempted at being played, the Red Sox and Rangers were rained out on both Saturday and Sunday. That will mean that they will have to play a five game series when Texas returns to Boston the weekend of June 9th. That will probably mean two doubleheaders that weekend (of the "day-night" variety of course).

We were supposed to get the same rainy weather here in New York, but it never turned up. New England got the full brunt of it. All three days here were rather pleasant. I had a nice Mother's Day with my family, and got to see my nieces and nephews. We watched both the Mets and Yankees lose on TV.

This rotten weather also killed me fantasy baseball-wise, as I have some Red Sox and Rangers players on my teams.

The Red Sox now head down to Baltimore, with Josh Beckett scheduled to take the hill tonight. And guess what? Rain is in the forecast, as well as for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I hope we can finally see some decent weather by the time I get to see the Red Sox play the Phillies in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Spam Vultures

One of the best World Trade Center memorial sites on the Internet is "September 11, 2001 Victims," a site that was founded right after the terror attacks of that horrific day. It is run by a nice man named Alex Spektor, and I've had the pleasure of speaking to him and exchanging emails with him on a few occasions. He's done a fabulous job with the site, and there's a link to it in my "September 11" section. (And here if you'd like to check it out:

I periodically check on the site to see the remembrances left there. (My poem and memorial for my late friend Joyce is there on her profile.) Recently I discovered in their "recent comments" section that some spammers have been trying to leave their junk at the profile of a September 11 victim named Richard Blood. I noticed one day they tried to leave about three separate "remembrances" that were nothing more than ads for viagra, xanax, diet pills and other stuff. I went back to check and they've been doing this for the last few weeks. At least three or four times a day (and as many as eight some days) they attempt to leave their crappy nonsense on this poor man's profile, which is suppose to be for those people who knew him or want to leave some words of condolence for Mr. Blood's family.

This must be driving the webmaster crazy, as he filters out such nonsense ahead of time so it can be kept off the site. It really makes me angry that some people have absolutely no heart whatsoever and do this kind of thing. Every email they have attempted to leave there has an address, and I've tried to write to them and tell them to knock it off, but every one I sent out got bounced back to me. (Every one was a different address, and probably a phony one too.)

I'm just glad none of their junk can be seen on the site by the general public. Some people just have no conscience, even when it comes to a place to remember those beautiful souls we lost on the worst day in our history.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Cross Finds A New Home

The Cross at Ground Zero will most likely end up at World Trade Center Memorial Museum, the NY Daily News reported today.

It was originally feared that it would end up in storage at a hangar at Kennedy Airport, but the WTC Memorial Foundation has decided that it will be a part of the permanent memorial at the site.

All I can say is: Thank God.

The Cross is a symbol of hope that was found in the rubble of one of the fallen buildings just days after the terror attacks. It was a cross beam shaped in the symbol of a crucifix. It was immediately blessed by a chaplain at Ground Zero. It is very much like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

It has also been at the WTC site since it was found, and can clearly be seen as you walk up Church Street.

In October, the Cross will be moved temporarily to the front of St. Peter's Church at Church and Barclay Streets, just one block north of the site. It will be moved back before the memorial's scheduled opening on September 11, 2009.

Finally a correct decision was made at Ground Zero. Let's hope there's more to come.

Liverpool Reigns Supreme

Liverpool won the FA Cup for the seventh time in their glorious history, defeating underdog West Ham United, 3-1 on penalty kicks, after a thrilling 3-3 draw through 120 minutes, before over 74,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

I witnessed the contest at a bar here in New York called The 11th Street Bar in the East Village. It is the headquarters for the Liverpool Supporters Club of New York. An enormous crowd turned out for the mid-morning (in the USA) kickoff. I got to the bar at about 9:15 AM and I was one of the last people let in, as the crowd turned out even earlier than I thought. There was a sea of fans wearing Liverpool red, and as soon as the coverage began, the singing started. The bar played a version of Elvis Presley singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is the Liverpool supporters official song. The whole bar was singing it in unison, while waving Liverpool scarves, and it really sent chills down my spine.

The crowd in the bar was really into every part of the game, and absolutely went into shock when Liverpool's Jamie Carragher accidently knocked the ball into his own net to give West Ham a 1-0 lead after 21 minutes. Six minutes later they were even more horrified when West Ham scored again to put Liverpool into an even bigger hole. The fans were of course not throwing in any towels, as the memories of last year's three-goal comeback in the Champions League final against AC Milan were still fresh. (And I thought of a certain baseball team that came all the way back to win the 2004 AL pennant as well.) Liverpool then had one goal called back because of offsides, but shortly after that got on the scoreboard in the 32nd minute through Djibril Cisse's goal.

It stayed 2-1 until halftime. Many of the bar folk went outside to take a break, and one guy tapped me on the shoulder as he was walking by and said, "That's a brilliant hat you've got on." I was wearing my Red Sox 2004 World Champions hat on and he was wearing a Red Sox hat as well. Funny hearing that coming from a guy with a Liverpudlian accent!

Just goes to prove that Red Sox Nation is truly everywhere.

Liverpool tied the match nine minutes into the second half through Steven Gerrard's goal, but West Ham got the lead back shortly thereafter. The Liverpool fans were singing and encouraging their team, and with two minutes to play it looked like West Ham would pull off the upset. But Gerrard struck a cracking shot that tied the game and set the bar into an absolute frenzy. It reminded me of Bill Mueller's single that tied Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, and put the Red Sox on their way. I just had the feeling Liverpool would once again find a way to win.

After a full thirty minutes of extra time, the game went to penalty kicks to decide the champion. Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina made three brilliant saves, and Liverpool took it after four rounds, 3-1, and the 125th FA Cup belonged to them. The bar went into an absolute frenzy, and it brought back wonderful memories of seeing the Red Sox pennant and World Series wins at the Riviera Cafe. I was shaking hands and congratulating the English expatriates who were there and enjoying Liverpool's thrilling win. Overall, it was one of the best soccer matches I have ever seen.

For more on the match:

Liverpool came from two down to win The Cup.
The 2004 Red Sox would be proud.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Sox Go Up As Matsui Goes Down

Watching the Red Sox roller-coaster win at Yankee Stadium last night reminded me of something I told a friend not long ago: "The Red Sox have definitely taken about five years off my life."

Last night's game seemed to take about five years to play, but in the end the results were worth the aggravation. I watched the game at Professor Thom's and before the game began, I got to talking to a fellow named Neil, who was from North London and managing a rock band currently in town named White Rose Movement. He was a really pleasant guy, and we got to talking about his band, and then we got to talking about sports. He was a big soccer fan, and a huge Arsenal supporter. He was in the bar waiting for a friend, and I was telling him that that night's Red Sox-Yankees game was the American equivalent of Arsenal vs. Manchester United. He hung around as all the Red Sox fans entered the bar, and my friends and I gave him a crash course on Major League Baseball. It was an interesting experience teaching Neil how Tim Wakefield throws his knuckleball. He seemed to be catching on a bit, but I could tell from his reactions that he'd rather be watching an Arsenal match!

In the first inning, Hideki Matsui slid for a fly ball hit by Mark Loretta and suffered a devastating wrist injury (even Neil could tell it was bad). It was a break that may sideline him for the year. The replays of it were absolutely brutal to watch. And already, the speculation has begun about who the Yankees will go out and get to replace him. I've heard the names Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter and even Bobby Abreu mentioned. Don't these people realize that as soon as Matsui got hurt that the cost of a possible replacement just went right through the roof? Teams will know the Yankees will be desperate for a replacement, and will hold out and drive the price up. And as we all know, the Yankees don't have a good farm system. They might be better off getting a second-tier guy (how about giving Bubba Crosby a shot?) instead of further draining a barren farm. It will be interesting to see what they do.

The Yankees jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead against Tim Wakefield, and then the Red Sox started to really drive me up the wall. They began leaving runners everywhere, including the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth innings. Bubba Crosby and Johnny Damon robbed the Sox of extra-base hits with fine catches. Shawn Chacon was in trouble all night, and the Sox simply couldn't put runs on the board. I felt really badly for Wake, as he settled down nicely after giving up another run. He seems to be the pitcher the Sox struggle to score runs for. But the Red Sox finally broke through in the seventh. With runners on second and third and two outs, Loretta hit a ball to SS that Derek Jeter threw from his knees that Miguel Cairo had to come off the bag for and when he went to tag Loretta, the ball came out and two runs scored. The Sox now had a 4-3 lead on a play that should have been a Jeter error but was ruled a hit.

Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon pitched scoreless relief, as the Sox added a run off Mariano Rivera in the ninth to give then a hard fought 5-3 win. The Red Sox left 15 men on base, but still came away with the win. Before the series began, I was hoping the Red Sox could take 2 out of 3, and they did just that. Mark Loretta had four hits and three RBI last night, and went 9-for-16 in the series to raise his average to .280. I was glad to see Wakefield get a gutty victory. The Red Sox head back to Boston back in first place, and face the Texas Rangers (weather permitting) tonight to start a three-game series.

As I got into the Union Square subway station to head home after the game, I saw two police officers writing out tickets to two guys there wearing Yankee paraphernalia for some offense that I couldn't really tell what it was. They sure weren't happy about it.

I guess that about sums up the night if you were a Yankee fan on Thursday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who Are They Kidding?

I heard today that both Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have come out and defended Barry Bonds and more or less said that Bonds is a victim of "racism" in his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record.

Talk about insulting our collective intelligence.

Jackson, a washed-up media whore, and Sharpton, a racist hustler of the highest order, should keep their mouths shut about this issue and concentrate their efforts of fights they have a chance of winning. Calling Bonds some kind of racism victim is an insult to legitimate victims of racism, and is a slap in the face especially to Hank Aaron.

It is well-known that Hammerin' Hank got death threats and incredibly vile racist hate mail in his pursuit of Babe Ruth's record in 1973. (Aaron always kept it as a reminder of what he went through.) He had to hire bodyguards during the 1973 season. When Aaron hit home run 715 in April 1974, he was more relieved than anything that the chase was finally ended.

Hank handled himself with class and grace through the whole deal. Unfortunately, his accomplishments have been terribly overlooked by many. If there is any good thing to come out of the whole Bonds fiasco, it's that Aaron is more appreciated now for how he played the game. And especially, how he played baseball without any "help."

The public has basically rejected and ridiculed Bonds for many reasons, none having to do with racism. For his entire career, Bonds has been perceived as surly, arrogant and obnoxious to the press, fans, coaches and teammates. Granted, baseball has a history of great players who've been like that, going back to guys like John McGraw and Ty Cobb. But the biggest reason of all why Bonds has endured this treatment is because he is seen as a "cheater."

He has yet to refute the charges in the book "Game Of Shadows," and is doing his best to ignore it and hopes it will go away (but it won't, and he knows it). Bonds' defenders say he's never failed a steroid test. That means nothing. Beating those tests was a joke (read the book). So now his only hope is to hide behind some charges that there's some kind of "racist conspiracy" against him, that the American public doesn't want him having the home run record because he's black. (So what race is Hank Aaron then?)

Bonds seems especially fixed on Ruth, and reaching him seems more important than reaching Aaron. He thinks that people are so upset that another black player has reached The Babe. The average fan doesn't care that someone else has reached Ruth, because Ruth no longer holds the home run record. But Major League Baseball doesn't want Aaron's record broken by Bonds, as they know the public will NEVER accept it.

Why? One word (and it's not racism): STEROIDS.

The baseball public has never embraced Bonds, because he's never done ANYTHING to embrace them. I remember when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris' record in 1998, one commentator (can't remember who) said that both were great guys and were easy to cheer for. He ended it by saying, "Can you imagine having to root for Barry Bonds if he were in the middle of it?"

I don't believe that if it were say, McGwire going after Aaron's record, he would get a free pass that Bonds isn't getting. If McGwire had a book written about him and had steroid allegations thrown at him and just denied it and was just as obnoxious as Bonds, the public would revile him also. McGwire's legacy was destroyed last year when he absolutely refused to testify about his own past and steroids before Congress. The public has largely ignored and forgotten him, and his Hall of Fame candidacy is in serious doubt.

I absolutely hate it when the "usual suspects" come crawling out of the woodwork to defend a creep like Bonds simply because he's the same race as they are. ("When all else fails, blame racism.") They serve no purpose than to get their names in the papers and their faces on TV.

And insulting our intelligence.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I Love These Nights

It was a dream evening.

The Red Sox scored early and often.

Randy Johnson had nothing, could barely find home plate, was gone by the fourth inning, and was roundly booed by the Yankee fans as he departed. He'll be 43 in September, but he's pitching like he's turning 63.

Josh Beckett (pictured) gave up two early runs, then settled in and retired the next 12 batters before departing in the seventh with an eight-run lead. It was a big time performance by Beckett, who returned to the site of his greatest triumph, the 2003 Game 6 World Series win over the Yankees for the Florida Marlins that got him the MVP award for that series.

Alex Rodriguez, who was voted the 2005 AL MVP and is allegedly one of the best third baseman in the league, made two critical errors that cost him team four runs. He also hit into a double play and went o-for-4. Mr. Clutch strikes again.

2005's REAL MVP, David Ortiz, broke out of his slump with a big double and scored two runs. Once again the Yankee pitchers tried to be too careful with him, not taking the advice of a moronic New York scribe to "Drop Papi!"

Manny Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez both hit long home runs. Gonzo had a big night, with 2 hits, 2 walks and three runs scored. Mike Lowell continues to crank out the doubles, as he had two more to up his AL lead with 19. Mark Loretta continued his hitting recent surge, adding three hits.

Professor Thom's was crowded and rocking all night long, and when E-Rod made his two errors, the bar sang out with the derisive chant, "MVP!" "MVP!" During the game there was also a camera crew from NESN and the Red Sox, filming the bar and the fans enjoying the game. The bar's rep continues to grow.

The Red Sox thoroughly humiliated the Yankees, 14-3, on their own home turf in the Bronx.
Rarely do nights get better than this.
I need more of them in my life.

Monday, May 08, 2006

We Owe It To The Memory Of Those Who Died

I received another great email from Dennis McKeon of about the latest news regarding the memorial at Ground Zero. This was also printed on the Put It Above Ground web site as well.

Below is a quote from the Press Release from the WTC Memorial Foundation and is either from John Whitehead or Gretchen Dykstra. It is in response to the escalating costs of the current memorial plan.

“These issues need to be dealt with in a responsible way. This project is too important to undertake without clarity and confidence. We owe it to the memory of those who died to ensure that the Memorial and Museum can be constructed and properly funded.”
For the past four years we have been asking them to deal with this in a responsible way.

We asked them when they first made it known that the names of the victims would be placed three and a half stories underground.

We asked them to reconsider a memorial that was filled with safety and security issues.
We asked them when we saw that it would cost $300,000 for a heating system to assure the waterfalls would not freeze and that energy costs for heating and air conditioning would be about 1 million a year.

We were ignored by the LMDC, the WTC Foundation and unfortunately most of the press.
Below please find another quote. This one is from the Urban Development Corporation Act 174/68. The Act under which the LMDC and the WTC Foundation were formed. It pertains to any project and states:

“That adequate provision has been, or will be made for the payment of the cost of the acquisition, construction, maintenance and upkeep of such project”.

We now ask four years into this project how you could have authorized the start of construction last week when it was obvious to all here that you had neither the money or a plan to cover the cost of construction or maintenance of this project.

We owe it to the memory of those who died to have a safe and secure, respectful and dignified memorial at ground level where their families can visit at any time to pay their respects.
Something does not have to be expensive to be significant. The Viet Nam memorial only cost $8 million.

We hope you will listen now.

We lost nearly 3000 beautiful souls on the morning of September 11, 2001. We can't disrespect their memories by putting a memorial at the World Trade Center site that is either dangerous, or something we will end up regretting.

I pray it all ends up right in the end. But the fight goes on.

Memo to ESPN: We Don't Care About Bonds

After yesterday's Red Sox win, I returned to New York and caught the end of the Giants-Phillies game on ESPN. Turns out Barry Bonds hit his 713th home run in the game. And ESPN made sure you knew it! I saw the last two innings, and the home run was replayed at least 20 different times from every angle imaginable, and then once SportsCenter began, they continued to fall all over Bonds and replay the homer at least another 20 times. I also noticed that every time Bonds comes up, they take the score graphic off the screen and they put up their "ESPN" logo, just to remind the world that "you saw it here first on ESPN." Ugh.

ESPN badly compromised their credibility by signing Bonds for that infomercial he does every week, "Bonds On Bonds." It seems all the SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight anchors have taken a dive for him. It's gotten to the point I just don't watch Baseball Tonight anymore, as all the slobbering over Bonds is just too much for me.

The baseball public is tired of Bonds, and just doesn't care about his pursuit of the home run record. I remember as a kid Hank Aaron's chase of Babe Ruth's record was exciting, as you knew baseball history was being made. But American baseball fans have come to the conclusion that Bonds' records are a fraud, and that he's a product of what will forever be known as "The Steroid Era." ESPN keeps trying to shove him down our throats, but baseball fans are reacting to it with a collective yawn.

If that's not bad enough, now it turns out that Bonds' creepy persona has struck again. The guy in Philadelphia who caught his home run ball last night asked Bonds to autograph the ball for him, as he's actually a Bonds fan. The man is actually an Air Force serviceman, based in New Jersey. Bonds refused his request with a smirk, but later broke down and took a picture with the fan. And in another act of total nonclass, they forced the serviceman to sign a waiver so he could appear on Bonds' inane reality show. For more on the story: http://

Just another reason to despise Barry Bonds.

I was watching Bob Costas' interview with Willie Mays this past weekend, and he asked Mays about Bonds. He had told Bonds a number of times that he should enjoy the game more, and be more open with the fans. Coming from Willie, who was a beloved figure with all baseball fans in his day, you'd think it would sink in with Bonds.

If Willie Mays can't reach an arrogant jerk like Bonds, I guess there's no hope for him. Willie had more class and style in his little finger than Bonds has in his whole steroid-ridden body.

We don't care, Barry.
We don't care, ESPN.
And we never will.

God, I Love This Ballpark

I spent a very enjoyable day at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. Every time I have ever been there has always been a great experience. I took an early morning bus, the Chinatown express from the Fung Wah company. It was a nice trip up, and it took just over 3 1/2 hours. And the best part was that it only cost $15 one way. I would definitely recommend them as a less-expensive alternative to get to Boston.

It was simply a gorgeous day in Boston, with the temperature at 62 degrees and bright sunshine. I met up with two of my friends and we took our seats in section 4 down the right field line. From the picture above, we were just to the right of the Pesky Pole, and we were in the very last row. It was still a good seat, but the only disadvantage was that we couldn't see the big scoreboard in right, but we had a perfect view of the scoreboard along the Green Monster. And from my vantage point, I could not see an empty seat ANYWHERE in my view.

Fenway continues to be the most beautiful ballpark in America. I liked the new changes, putting seats behind home plate that replaced the 406 Club. I also like the new roof seats along both the left and right field lines. Hopefully one day before I die, I can sit in those sections, as well in the Green Monster section.

I was dreading a Lenny DiNardo start, as I figured the Red Sox would have to score a LOT of runs. He got the first two hitters to begin the game, but then walked the next four hitters in a row, giving the Orioles a cheap run. Then Kevin Millar came up. He got a nice reception from the crowd (no standing ovations, but generally polite applause), and then DiNardo struck him out on three pitches.

The Red Sox hit Kris Benson hard in the first. The first two outs were deep fly balls to center, and then with the bases loaded, Jason Varitek tagged one that sailed into the Orioles bullpen, a grand slam giving the Sox a 4-1 lead. DiNardo settled down, and allowed just one more run in his remaining four innings.

The Red Sox put the game out of sight in the fifth when they knocked Mr. Anna Benson out with a five-run rally, capped by yet another Mike Lowell double that drove in two runs. Lowell is proving that he is tailor-made for Fenway Park, and he now has 17 doubles, leading the American League.

The Red Sox coasted into a 10-3 win to sweep the series from the struggling Orioles. Millar struck out for the second time in his last at-bat in the eighth, and I wished him good luck for the rest of the season as he headed to the dugout.

The Red Sox are now 11-5 all-time at Fenway Park when I've been there, and the Red Sox are now 22-12 in the 34 games I have seen them live in since 1980. I will see them for the 35th time on May 21st in Philadelphia.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Millar Returns & Papi Breaks Out

Kevin Millar made his return to Fenway Park last night, and was greeted with a standing ovation in his first at-bat. He then promptly singled to left off Curt Schilling. It was another memorable night at Fenway, as the man who was affectionately called "KFC" by many Red Sox fans (for his Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials) had two hits, including scoring the tying run in the fifth inning. Millar was very happy to come back, and was seen hugging and chatting with his former teammates during the pregame workouts. Before the game with reporters, Kevin compared the early morning flight to Boston on Friday to the time he returned from St. Louis with his triumphant teammates the morning after winning the 2004 World Series. "There's a lot of memories," he said.

It was nice to see the ovation Kevin got from the Fenway Faithful, and he acknowledged it by waving to the crowd. Compare that to the reception Johnny Damon got last Monday night. Granted Millar returned under a whole different set of circumstances, but he also returned with a very different team.

Curt Schilling went seven innings last night, giving up three earned runs and getting his fifth win. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a quick 1-2-3 ninth for his 11th save. David Ortiz broke out of an 0-for-11 slump with a huge bases-clearing double in the sixth to give the Sox the lead they would not relinquish. Mike Lowell continues to be a doubles machine, getting three last night to raise his total to an AL-leading 16, and his batting average is now at .350. And it was also good to see Alex Gonzalez getting a clutch double in that sixth inning that tied the game and led to Papi's heroics later that inning.

I'm off to Fenway Park for tomorrow's game. This will be my 16th game live at Fenway Park (my first being in 1986). I'll be sitting in the right field grandstand with a couple of friends. I'm looking forward to giving Kevin Millar a standing O in his first at-bat (I hope he plays and doesn't get the day off). My next posting will be on Monday, and I'll let you know how it all goes then.

A New Home For The Memorial?

The New York papers are all reporting today that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing that the museum and visitors center that will be built at the World Trade Center site be put in the lobby of the Freedom Tower, the 1776-foot building that will be built on the site and owned by the Port Authority.

Bloomberg is attempting to get the rebuilding at Ground Zero jump-started, and is also attempting to get the costs of building the memorial down. On Thursday, he, along with Governors George Pataki and Jon Corzine, announced a construction cap of $500 million to build both the memorial and museum at the site.

The 9/11 family groups are certainly not going to go with the idea of putting the memorial and museum inside of The Freedom Tower. We were all promised a "world class" memorial, but it seems like the City and Port Authority are doing all they can to cut costs. Money of course, is a big consideration, and so far the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation has raised just $130 million of the targeted $500 million.

The struggle to properly remember those loved ones and heroes of September 11, 2001 goes on. It is certainly time to get moving with more speed at the site. But it's going to take the wisdom of Solomon to solve this problem.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Happy Birthday Michael Palin

A very happy birthday to Michael Palin, who turns 63 today. He's one of the founding geniuses behind "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and an intrepid world traveller. I've enjoyed his world trips very much, in such programs as "Pole to Pole", "Full Circle" and "Around the World In Eighty Days." Michael's also a genuinely nice man, as I've had the pleasure of meeting him on three separate occasions, at book signings here in New York. I was even able to chat with him very briefly all three times.

On the morning of September 11, 2002, I was preparing for one of the toughest days of my life to begin, as it was the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks and I was going to the ceremonies at Ground Zero. I was staying up all night, as I didn't want to risk getting up late. So, at about 2 AM, I had to do something that would make me laugh, as I knew the rest of the day would be one of the saddest days of my life (and it was). I pulled out my Monty Python videos, and I watched the show that included "The Spanish Inquisition," my favorite of all Monty Python sketches. It felt good to laugh at that time.

A few months later, I wrote Michael a letter to his office in London, thanking him for playing a small role in getting me through an extremely difficult day. I received back an almost instantaneous reply from his assistant. It was very nice, and I really appreciated the nice response from him.

Michael's always been my favorite member of Monty Python, and I hope he keeps on travelling around the world!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Game of Shadows"

We all know he was doing it. The change in his body was so remarkable that it couldn't have been just from working out and a healthy diet. His numbers by the late 1990s were beginning to decline, but by 1999 they took a turn in the other direction, despite the fact that he had just turned 35.

Barry Bonds was not content to be just on his way to the Hall of Fame for everything he accomplished up until 1999. He was so jealous of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa that he had to prove he was the best player in baseball again. But he needed help. Lots of it.

I finished reading "Game of Shadows", by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who are investigative reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle. And once you finish it, you can come to only one conclusion.

Barry Bonds wasn't just doing steroids. He was a steroid factory.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams have done an exhaustive study into the whole steroid mess that is currently haunting baseball. It is a fascinating book. While Bonds is the central figure in this book, it actually revolves around Victor Conte, the founder of the BALCO laboratories of Northern California. Conte is portrayed as a "jock-sniffer", someone who is so star-struck to be around athletes and will do anything to make himself famous. Conte is also portrayed as a fast-talking hustler who could charm the pants off anyone. The book chronicles his rise as a "steroid svengali", and how his dream was to build "the perfect athlete" through steroids.

The book details those who got caught up in his world, from trainers to coaches to the athletes themselves. "Game of Shadows" shows Conte's relationships with track stars such as Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones (whose careers have been destroyed by their steroid revelations) and later his hookup with Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' personal trainer.

But of course, Bonds gets most of the attention in the book. It chronicles his life as the son of a famous ballplayer, his life of privilege and the reasons why Bonds eventually chose to go on the juice. He's portrayed as a man consumed with envy and jealousy at the assault of Roger Maris' home run record in 1998 by Mark McGwire (some of which appears to be racial in nature). The authors, like most of the baseball world, also points fingers at baseball and its upper management for looking the other way while players got bigger, while the fans returned in huge numbers that summer. Baseball got healthier after that disasterous strike of 1994, but was at the same time shooting themselves in the foot and creating massive troubles that have finally come home to roost.

The authors have laid out their case about steroids and their abuse with some damning evidence, from the records kept at BALCO, to the agents who eventually arrested Conte, to Bonds' longtime mistress. I find it interesting that when the book came out that Bonds didn't sue the authors for libel, but for the fact that much of his grand jury testimony in 2003 about his steroid use (which he totally denied under oath) was leaked out. (The suit was thrown out.) Bonds knows that if he were to sue for libel, EVERYTHING would come out in open court for everyone to see.

Bonds hopes that this book will simply go away, as does Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, who have refused comment about it. They are simply mistaken. Both Sheffield and Giambi are also portrayed as serious steroid users, but their stories are secondary compared to Bonds. When Victor Conte was released from jail last month, he promised to expose "Game of Shadows" as nothing but a bunch of lies. We haven't heard a single word from him since.

I would recommend "Game of Shadows" to anyone who wants the lowdown on the huge steroid mess that baseball is currently in. The book simply connects the dots and reaches an unmistakable conclusion that most of the general public has come to: that Barry Bonds wouldn't be anywhere near Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron in terms of home runs without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

This book, and the scandal that is steroids, has one very positive aspect about it. It should make the reader appreciate more the accomplishments of players like Roger Maris and Hank Aaron, and the players of their era.

Is it any wonder that Bonds is sitting on 712 home runs right now, and no one outside of San Francisco seems to care?

P.S. I have NO interest in watching that weekly Bonds "infomercial" on ESPN every Tuesday night. Shame on ESPN for jumping into bed with him and further tarnishing their credibility. When I heard that Bonds also has "creative control" over the program, I said "no thanks."

Last night in Milwaukee, Bonds was hit in the head in a freak accident when a Giants player hit a ball through the batting cage. He was down for five minutes but wasn't seriously hurt. Has "the Curse of the Bambino" hit Bonds? Remember all that trash-talking he did about The Babe not long ago, about how he hoped the public would forget about what he once did? (Yeah, right Barry.)

Don't mess with The Babe, buddy. He has his ways of getting even.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Moussaoui Gets Life

The jury in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial in Virginia has recommended life imprisonment without parole, and not the death penalty, in his case.

Moussaoui's life is spared.

He gets to rot in jail for the rest of his life and think of himself as a hero.


I Hate Front Runners

I was at Professor Thom's last night, waiting out the rain delay at Fenway. The game ended up getting rained out, and at that point the bar switched over its main TVs to the Mets-Nationals game. About midway through the game, the Mets TV reporter was seen interviewing that noted loudmouth/showoff/publicity-hound film director Spike Lee. The sound was off on the game, so I had no idea what he was saying (but I bet he was probably yapping about his latest movie). But what set me off was what he was wearing on his head: a Mets hat.

I remember back in 1986 when Lee first became famous, he was shown at Shea a number of times with his Mets hat on. OK, he a Mets fan. But by the time the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, there he is at Yankee Stadium wearing a Yankees hat. And throughout the Yankees run of success later in the decade and into the 2000s, he was seen frequently there. That automatically puts people in my doghouse. In my book, you either root for one New York team or the other. (You don't have to hate the other. I've known many people who were dedicated fans of one without being a sworn enemy of the other.) People who say, "I'm a New York fan, so I support both teams" are generally either casual fans or "fair-weather" fans, and will support whichever team is on top.

So there's Lee last night, taking in the Mets game with his Mets hat on. And what place are the Mets in? First, last time I looked. Lee has never been one of my favorite people, as I find his act rather tiresome. His "crazy man" act at Knicks games, especially back when he was going at it on the floor of the Garden with Reggie Miller, was really embarrassing. And in real life, a friend told me his dealing with him on a personal level was nothing short of excruciating, and how he pulled a real prima donna act and treated people around him like dirt.

In the book "One Day At Fenway", Lee was interviewed for it and went out of his way to not only badmouth not only the city of Boston, but the Red Sox and their fans as well. (I've never read that book and never will.) You can guess the reasons why. But, one of my favorite pictures from the historic Game 7 win by the Red Sox over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS was a glum-looking Lee (adorned in his Yankee gear) standing with his buddy P.Diddy and together they stood watching their "beloved" Yankees pull the biggest choke in the history of American sports.

I can't comment on any of his movies, as I've never seen even one of them, either in the theater, home video or on TV. And I'm proud to write that.

I have more respect for people who stick by their teams, in good times and in bad, then those who root for whichever team is currently on top. I know many good Yankee fans, and many good Mets fans. I guess if the Mets have a great summer, we'll be seeing more of Spike Lee around Shea Stadium.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not A Bad Night At All

I took in all the festivities of the Johnny Damon/Doug Mirabelli Fenway returns at Professor Thom's in Greenwich Village on Monday night. The bar was packed, and the crowd was as big for a sporting event as I have seen since it opened back in December. The crowd was overwhelmingly against Damon and really happy that Mirabelli was back with the Red Sox. One of my friends brought in a Johnny Damon/Yankees bobblehead doll (that was quick), and my friend Chris did some "alterations"to it. He put a dollar sign of the doll's chest, changed the letter "a" to an "e" on the bottom of it (hence "Damon" became "Demon"). Chris also put a dollar bill on the back of the dollar, like the cape Superman wears. My other friend Leah, who originally brought in the doll, made up signs to put next to the doll, like "Show Me The Money" and "Traitor". The finished product was really funny, and it sat at the front of the bar all night. A few people even pulled out there cell phones and took pictures of it.

Before the game, Jason Varitek was penciled in as the Red Sox starting catcher, as it looked like Mirabelli wouldn't make it to the game in time. But as it turned out, the police gave Doug an escort to the park, and he dressed in his uniform in the car, and was shown later running into Fenway and made it onto the field just in time. (Did anyone else notice the game started nearly 10 minutes late? Hmmm...)

Well, when it got going, you could feel the anticipation in the bar. It almost felt like one of those playoff games from 2004, when we were together in "that other bar." As Damon was introduced, most of the bar booed him, but there was a smattering of applause. You could hear most of Fenway was booing him too, but many of the fans behind him were applauding. Damon handled it all with class, tipping his cap to the fans just before he entered the batter's box. I was glad his first at-bat ended with him flying out to Trot Nixon, and the bar cheered when he did.

The Fenway fans were ready for Damon, with such signs as "JUDAS DAMON" (although some fans in right field had a sign: "TRADER." Back to public school, guys!). The fans have every right to react the way they did. I was glad to see some fans applaud him on the first at-bat. As he took the field in the bottom of the first, some of the fans in the center field bleachers threw what looked like real money down on the field. That reminded me of the reaction Alex Rodriguez got when he returned to Seattle in 2001 with the Texas Rangers. The fans serenaded Damon with "trai-tor" and other chants all night, and by the end they finished with "Joh-nny." You could see Damon actually smiling out there in center, as he could clearly hear it all.

It was a tight game all the way through, but by the eighth, the Sox broke through and took charge. David Ortiz hit a monster three-run homer into a stiff wind off Mike Myers (who was signed by the Yankees to get Papi out) to put the Red Sox ahead for good, another big time clutch home run by the REAL 2005 AL MVP. Professor Thom's went absolutely bananas. Jonathan Papelbon came on for a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out The Ersatz 2005 AL MVP and Jorge Posada in an impressive inning.

The best parts of the night was the fact that Damon took the collar, went 0-for-4. Mirabelli also went 0-for-4, but the important stat of the night was that there were no passed balls. It was a big win for the Red Sox, coming off a terrible road trip where they went 3-6. The Red Sox are back in first place, but it is just May 2. But whatever time of the year it is, beating the Yankees is always special.

OK, Damon's a Yankee now. Let's move on.

After the game, Professor Thom's had their Monday "Trivia Night." My buddies Alex and John and I reclaimed out Trivia title easily, winning by six points.

It was quite the night. The Red Sox beat the Yankees, Damon does nothing, and I won Trivia for the fourth time. I need more nights in my life like this.