Saturday, June 30, 2007

What Exactly is Julio Lugo Using For Brains?

It was a perfectly wretched night at Fenway Park on Saturday night, after getting off to what looked like a great start, and it had all the makings of an early rout by the Red Sox. Robinson Tejada started for Texas, and he allowed just two hits to the Sox back in April in a game he outdueled Tim Wakefield, 2-0. But whoever was that pitcher wasn't at Fenway on Saturday, as he had nothing but trouble. He walked the first two hitters, then David Ortiz singled in the first run, and it looked like it was the Red Sox night. They scored two runs, and added two more in the second, and it was 4-0 through three, and Josh Beckett looked superb. Jacoby Ellsbury was called up from Pawtucket before the game and played CF for Coco Crisp, who is nursing a sore thumb. Ellsbury went 1-for-4 in his MLB debut.

But there were omnious signs, as once again the Red Sox continue to waste opportunities to score runs. They left five men on in the first two, and the bases loaded in the second. They simply couldn't put the death blow on Tejada, as he escaped much bigger damage. He went just four innings, as men were left everywhere.

Throughout the game, David Ortiz continues to look lost at the plate (he hasn't hit a home run at Fenway in an absolutely staggering 26 games), and struck out his last two times in the game, including in the ninth. Manny Ramirez continues to struggle as well. Papi has just 13 homers, and Manny 11. Where has their power strokes gone? When are either of these guys going to go on the superhuman rolls we know they are capable of?

And the walls caved in on Josh Beckett in the fourth, as he allowed four runs. His fastball kept missing the corners and catching the middle of the plate, and the Texas hitters weren't fooled. Brad Wilkerson hit a ball to center that would have been out of any other park in the majors, and Sammy Sosa belted the game-winner off Beckett in the fifth, as Texas won, 5-4.

But after that, the Texas bullpen shut down the Red Sox, and they could do nothing until the eighth. Dustin Pedroia doubled with two outs, and wanting some speed on the bases, Terry Francona sent in Julio Lugo (on the bench a second straight night) into run for Pedroia (the one part of Dustin's game that is lacking is the fact he has very little speed). At least going into tonight, Lugo was a perfect 20-for-20 in stolen bases.

With Kevin Youkilis at the plate, Lugo pulled one of the bonehead moves of the season. He was clearly on his own when he tried to steal third base, but Texas catcher Gerald Laird gunned him down. Lugo didn't even bother to try to slide, and was still tagged out (he might have made it if he tried to slide). As the old saying goes about stealing third, "You better make it." And especially, if there are two outs. (Lugo has enough speed to score on just about any single at Fenway, so stealing third makes even less sense. If there was one out, the gamble might be worth trying.)

That killed the inning, and as it turned out, the Red Sox last threat of the game. (They went down without a fight in the ninth, the combo of Youk, Papi and Manny.) If Lugo thought he was going to hear boo-birds the next time he started at Fenway, he's really in for it now. Lugo continues to be a high priced failure, a $36 million bust. Alex Cora had a fine night at the plate, with a double and triple in four plate appearances, so I see no reason to sit him now.

I frankly see no reason to play Lugo now. And I really don't care how much money he's making. He's a black hole in the lineup, and now he's one on the bases, too. And sure as hell is no Gold Glover in the field either.

Wow, what a trifecta. And the Red Sox are stuck with him.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Night of Pulling Teeth

The Red Sox opened their homestand against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park tonight, and throughout it I felt like I was strapped to a dentist chair.

It was another night of leaving men everywhere, wasting opportunities and hitting into double plays. Fortunately, Julio Lugo did not extend his 0-for-31 slump, as he and his lousy attitude were gratefully left on the bench. (Alex Cora didn't look much better at the plate, but I'll take him for now.) The Red Sox left a total of 12 men on the bases. They left the bases loaded once and two in the eighth, when the game could have been salted away. They actually got the deciding run on a ball hit off the pitcher, and the third baseman tagged David Ortiz for the third out, but Kevin Youkilis hustled home before the tag to get the run. It was that kind of evening.

But the pitching bailed them out. Tim Wakefield was solid, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run, as the knucklers were dancing tonight. Manny Delcarmen came in and promptly walked the first hitter to load the bases and was on the verge of walking Sammy Sosa and tying the game, but came back from 3-1 to strike him out. Hideki Okajima was superb, and Jonathan Papelbon got the first two hitters before Kenny Lofton hit an infield single (replays were rather inconclusive), Jerry Hairston was hit by a pitch, and then he caught Michael Young looking to end it.

It was the kind of night where there would be no easy end, but the Red Sox got the seven-game homestand off to a good start.

The Yankees won tonight, so they stay 11 back, and the Blue Jays are playing out in Seattle tonight. Now if they could only get the bats going in the clutch situations, everything would be hunky-dory. Josh Beckett goes for a MLB-leading 12th win tomorrow against Texas.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally Got a Name To This Guy

I was channel-surfing late last night when I came across a story on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show. It was about the new Apple iPhone, and a guy who is currently the first person in line in front of the 5th Avenue Apple Store wanting to be the first person in New York to get Apple's new iPhone on Friday (as if that's such a big deal). He's been there since Monday, camped out. And as soon as I saw him, he instantly struck a chord with me, and not a good one at all.

This guy's name is Greg Packer, and he's been called "The Most Popular Man on the Street," as he's been quoted dozens of times in newspapers, and has met people as diverse as President Bush, Mariah Carey and Ringo Starr. He's a professional publicity seeker, a highway worker from Long Island, one of those guys who turns up everywhere, in the great need to get his mug all over the media. He turns up at media events like book signings and other personal appearances by famous people.

He's even got his own page at Wikipedia:

I found it interesting last night when Olbermann said that the Associated Press told their reporters to avoid quoting this guy, because he was turning up everywhere, like the character of Zelig in that famous Woody Allen film. (He's got his publicity from this little stunt, as he's been shown in the NY papers waiting for the iPhone to go on sale.)

And people call me a media whore.

I have seen this Greg Packer before. I never knew his name, but I had seen him at a number of World Trade Center remembrance gatherings I've been to. One of my friends, who runs the WTC support group I belong to, would see him and get angry, as he would see him wearing a certain shirt that he had no business wearing, as he probably knew that this Packer was nothing more than a publicity hound just looking to get on TV or in the papers. I saw him at the Ground Zero remembrance on September 11th two years ago in the actual site, and I haven't got the slightest idea how he got in, as you need a special pin number to get into the services. (My friend saw him that day, and got angry he was present yet again.) He probably found some way to weasel his way past security, which isn't an easy thing to do.

And I also saw him nearly three years ago, and this one has a Red Sox connection to it.

On October 27, 2004, I was at the Riviera Cafe for Game 4 of the World Series, the game the Red Sox were up 3-0 and going for the title. The bar was of course swamped with Sox fans, wanting to be together there to see the Red Sox win it all. I got there nearly three hours in advance, as I knew it would be a mob scene. And it surely was, as there was a line around the block, and the bar was closed about an hour before the game began, so no one else could get in.

The people from Fox Sports were at the bar, to do a live remote as the pregame show began, and at select times during Game 4. (They were at the Riv because the mayor of Boston asked them not to film in any Boston bars due to the tragic death of Victoria Snelgrove after the Red Sox won the pennant.) Kenny Albert was there, and they did the first remote not far from the table I was sitting at. A few minutes later, who do I see in the bar, but Zelig himself, Greg Packer. (How he got in, I'll never know, as I didn't see him in the bar until the pregame show began.) I did a double-take, and instantly remembered he was the guy who my friend despises, and turns up at those 9/11 remembrances. I was really tempted to walk over and say something to him, but I was too involved in the game to really say anything.

Another couple of innings passed, and Packer seemed to have disappeared. But when the cameras set up for the next remote from the Riviera, who pops out of nowhere: Packer. As the remote begins, there he is right behind Kenny Albert, waving and mugging for the camera and wearing a Red Sox shirt. (I don't remember if Albert talked to him or not, but I bet he did.)

As soon as the remote ended, I recall him asking another person in the bar for their cell phone, and he was practically yelling into the phone that he had been on TV or something. As the game got going again, Packer was gone. And I did not see him again that night, not when the game ended, or when all the wild celebrations at the Riv began. In fact, I never saw Packer at the Riviera once before that night, not once after that night, or at any other establishment the Red Sox fans go to in New York. In fact, if you read his page at Wikipedia, he's not a Red Sox fan at all, he's a Yankee fan.

Talk about selling your soul for publicity.

And if all that wasn't enough, Packer is actually asking people on his web site he created for this occasion to make donations to him via PayPal to help him while he waits on line to get all the way to Friday's iPhone debut. Talk about colossal gall. He's actually asking people to donate money to him so he can be the first person to buy an iPhone in New York for $600. I guess he really believes he's some kind of real celebrity. And he must really believe he has fans out there, people he must think are stupid enough to cheer him on and pay him for the "privilege." Talk about balls.

My thanks to Keith Olbermann last night for the report on this guy. Some people will do anything to get their names or faces on TV or in the papers, but calling yourself a Red Sox fan when you're not, or worse, using September 11 remembrances to further an unyielding desire for publicity, is simply beyond low.

But what are you going to do. Some people have to have their 15 minutes, and will do anything to get it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How to Steal The Red Sox Money Without Really Trying

Wednesday's 2-1, extra-inning Red Sox loss to Seattle was an incredibly frustrating thing to have to witness. David Ortiz continues to slump, Manny's not hitting either (they went a combined 0-for-10 today), and Daisuke Matsuzaka was simply brilliant over eight innings, allowing just one run on two hits, but the Red Sox couldn't do anything against some guy named Ryan Feierabend, who only had an ERA of 8.20 coming into the game.


And for the Love of Mike what the hell was Terry Francona thinking letting Julio Lugo, who's only been 0 for his last 30(and is now hitting .189, the lowest BA of any regular player in MLB), bat in the eighth inning with two on and two out and the game tied? I know what he'll tell the reporters after the game, words to this effect:

"If I pinch-hit either Eric Hinske or Alex Cora (the two best options off the bench and both left-handed hitters), Mike Hargrove would have brought in the left hander, so I thought I staying with Lugo would have been the better option."

Good God. The lefty in the pen was some rookie named Rowland-Jones (sounds like he should be playing cricket or something), and I'd rather take my chances with a veteran hitter against a raw rookie lefty than put up some guy who's stealing the Red Sox money right now and can't hit his hat size. Really bad decision on Francona's part. I really like him as a manager (he maybe the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime), but this wasn't one of his better moves. (And when Francona did pinch-hit Alex Cora for Lugo in the 11th, Lugo was actually miffed about it. Talk about a clueless tool.)

And Joel Pineiro continues to be a huge disappointment. As soon as I saw him warming up in the top of the 11th (Jonathan Papelbon was done after the 10th, after a great performance getting the Sox out of the 9th), I thought that the Sox better score at least two runs here, or this game would soon be over. They went down one-two-three in the eleventh.

And sure enough, Pineiro coughed it up, walking Ichiro Suzuki and giving up a game-winning double to Jose Lopez. Well, at least the Sox didn't commit to this bum beyond one year.

But they are stuck with Lugo for three more seasons. I am now convinced that this will go down as Theo Epstein's worst move as general manager (so far, that is). And it makes me angry every time I see the numbers Orlando Cabrera is putting up with the Angels (4 HRs, 44 RBI, .332 average) and it just makes me sick. (I love OC and wish him all the best though.) It is now apparent to me that not signing him was the worst move the Sox made after winning the World Series in 2004. He was asking for a similar deal that Lugo got, but the Sox passed and signed Edgar Renteria (and I wouldn't go there about that mess).

And as bad as signing Matt Clement was, at least he made the All-Star team in 2005.

I wish someone would chain Lugo to the bench for a while, and let Alex Cora have a go at SS for the forseeable future. But I bet Francona still has faith in Lugo, that he's ready to bust out any day now. He's probably the only one who feels that way.

Well, you wanted Lugo, Theo. You got him.

No do-overs on this one.

Trivia Q&A: June 26

We had just seven teams take part on the special Tuesday edition of Trivia Night last night. The switch in days plus the weather probably kept many away. We got going close to 9 PM, and completed just as the Red Sox-Mariners game got going. (The bar really started to fill up after the game started, but most of the bar patrons weren't Red Sox fans. And the bar stayed hopping past 1 AM. Strange for a Tuesday night.)

We had a close contest throughout, but a team named It's A Shame About Ray emerged victorious. They had a tremendous final round, running the table in IQ Trivia and getting all 25 points. They won by a whopping 20 points.

My thanks to all who participated last night. Next week we will return to our regular day and time of Trivia: Monday night at 9. (The Red Sox have a game against Texas that night, so it may begin slightly later.) We will also have a special category of Independence Day Trivia in honor of the upcoming holiday.

Current Events
1. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which Asian nation has surpassed the US as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses?
2. Saddam Hussein's cousin, better known by this nickname, was recently sentenced to death for his role in the murders of Iraqi Kurds.
3. Tony Blair held talks with this American governor today about the environment and climate change, on Blair's last day as Prime Minister.
4. A plane crashed in this Asian country on Monday with 22 people on board. So far efforts to locate its wreckage have turned up nothing.
5. Chris Benoit, his wife and their son were all found dead in their Georgia home on Monday, in an apparent murder-suicide. What did Benoit do for a living?
6. This actor, best known for the films "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down" was sentenced to 16 months in prison for a probation violation on Monday.
7. The International Atomic Energy Agency is heading to this nation to make sure a nuclear reactor in that country has been shut down.
8. This female rap star, who had just blown off a meeting with her probation officer, was robbed and beaten by a trio of women in Brooklyn last week.
9. Three people died in this European country as a result of heavy rains and flooding on Monday.
10. Fossils of what are believed to be a species of giant penguins were found recently in Peru. How many feet tall were they believed to have been?

Answers: 1. China; 2. Chemical Ali; 3. Arnold Schwarzenegger; 4. Cambodia; 5. WWE wrestler; 6. Tom Sizemore; 7. North Korea; 8. Foxy Brown; 9. England; 10. five.

Quantity Trivia 1-10
1. This is the number of interlocking rings in the Olympic Games symbol.
2. This is the number of nations that make up the United Kingdom.
3. This number was worn by baseball players Reggie Jackson and Roger Maris.
4. This is the number of sides found on a heptagon.
5. This is the smallest and first prime number.
6. This is the number of the British prime minister's address at Downing Street.
7. This is the atomic number of carbon.
8. This is the number of Abrahamic religions.
9. U2 and Creed both had hit singles with this number.
10. In astrology, Scorpio is this number sign of the Zodiac.

Answers: 1. five; 2. four; 3. nine; 4. seven; 5. two; 6. ten; 7. six; 8. three; 9. one; 10. eight.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. The color of traditional Manhattan clam chowder is red.
2. Author Tom Wolfe dubbed the 1960s, "The Me Decade."
3. The USS Constitution was nicknnamed "Old Ironsides."
4. Senator Hillary Clinton is a graduate of Wellesley College.
5. C-SPAN was the first cable channel to operate in the United States.
6. The travel book series "Let's Go" is written primarily by Harvard college students.
7. Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Georgetown are all neighborhoods in Seattle.
8. The TV series, "Hogan's Heroes" took place during the Korean War.
9. On a standard computer, the space bar is the longest button.
10. "Fresh and clean as a whistle" was the slogan of Irish Spring soap in the 1980s.

Answers: 1. true; 2. false, it was the 1970s; 3. true; 4. true; 5. false, it was HBO; 6. true; 7. false, they are in Washington DC; 8. false, it was WWII; 9. true; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. What automobile manufacturer used the ad slogan "I love what you do for me?"
2. In what type of office do the wheelings and dealings of David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross" take place?
3. What was the final destination for European merchants travelling the trade routes known as The Silk Road?
4. In the musical piece "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," what does the apprentice want the broomstick to do?
5. In the 1950s, which TV hero launched a craze for coonskin caps?
6. What is the better known name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation?
7. In 1986, what group attempted to create a human chain from New York City to Los Angeles?
8. What comedian's longtime theme song was "Thanks For The Memory?"
9. The Solomon Islands are located off the coast of what continent?
10. What is the appoximate circumference in inches of a Major League baseball?

Answers: 1. Toyota; 2. real estate; 3. China; 4. fetch water; 5. Davy Crockett; 6. Amtrak; 7. Hands Across America; 8. Bob Hope; 9. Australia; 10. nine inches.

IQ Trivia
1. What was the full name of the first human "test-tube" baby born in 1978? (5 points)
2. Mistral, levanter and Fremantle Doctor are all types of what? (6 points)
3. What was the name of the US Supreme Court justice who administered the oath of office to George W. Bush at his 2001 inauguration? (4 points)
4. In the 2000 movie "Almost Famous," the girls who follow the band call themselves what instead of "groupies?" (5 points)
5. In 1963, which world leader was made an honorary citizen of the US by an act of Congress? (5 points)

Answers: 1. Louise Brown; 2. winds; 3. William Rehnquist; 4. "Band Aids;" 5. Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Trivia Tonight, Then The Red Sox

Trivia Night returns to Professor Thom's tonight, at a special time of 8 PM, as the Red Sox play the Seattle Mariners out west at 10. It is on Tuesday just for this week, and it will return to its usual Monday night slot next week, July 2, at 9 PM. I hope many of you can make it in for the night.

There will be five categories: Current Events, General Knowledge, IQ Trivia, True or False (Q Train), and Quantity 1-10 Trivia. Here's today's Sneak Peek question:

What comedian's longtime theme song was, "Thanks For The Memory?"

See you tonight.

Manny Ramirez: Our Lovable Loon

Sorry I was delayed in completing my posts on my trip to San Diego, but I ran into some technical difficulties on my friend Ken's computer on Monday morning, so I had to wait until my return to New York, which occurred at just about midnight on Monday night. (The trip back was fine, and I got a chance to watch the entire Mets-Cardinals game on ESPN, as JetBlue carries most of the ESPN channels. I saw Shawn Green's game-winning homer somewhere over Western Pennsylvania.)

So without further ado, here is the final installment of my last full day in San Diego.

Sunday was a fabulous day to wrap up the three game series at Petco Park. I went out to breakfast with Ken and his buddy Dave, another huge Padres fan. We got to Petco at about 12:30 PM, and three of us had separate seats not far from each other in the Terrace Level behind first base. I was pleased to see the Mets had a big lead against Oakland when I got there, and wound up sweeping that series. (It was still weird to me getting to the park and seeing MLB games completed or just about done. I guess you get used to it if you live on the West Coast.)

Another houseful of Red Sox fans were on hand, and again there had to be about 20,000 of them in the building. Josh Beckett took on Jake Peavy, and it was a really special matchup. Both pitchers may face each other as starters in the All-Star Game at San Francisco in a couple of weeks: Beckett at 10-1 and Peavy at 9-1. The Sox got three runs off Peavy early, in the third inning, and the Padres got two back in the fifth on a pinch-hit double by Terrmel Sledge. Peavy lasted only five innings, as he threw over 110 pitches and struggled, even in the innings he didn't allow any runs. Beckett had only one rough inning, the fifth. He went eight innings, striking out eight.

Jason Varitek hit a bomb of a home run off Scott Linebrink in the eighth, into "The Beach," over 422 feet away in right center. It's all the Sox needed, as Jonathan Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and looked overpowering in getting the save. It was a great series, and I had a wonderful time at Petco. But it was far from over once the game ended.

After the game, Ken suggested we go over to the players' entrances, to see the players leave on the buses taking them to the airport. I'm certainly glad he did, as we saw something that cracked us up, and made me wish I still had pictures in my camera. (I finished it at the last out of the game.)

We saw players from both teams coming out, to two buses apiece for each team. The players came out slowly and generally by themselves (and every player had to show a photo ID before getting on the bus, as I never knew that was a requirement). Many Sox players waved to the crowd of fans (about 100 in all), like Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kevin Youkilis. But the guy who gave the fans the most spirited hello was none other than Manny Ramirez.

Manny was dressed in a sharp suit, gave the fans a big wave, and then got on the bus. A few fans called for him to come out and sign a Manny/Japanese jersey (first one I've ever seen), and he obliged, and autographed another fan's hat. I was just a few feet away from Manny when he came out, then I walked away. But then I heard someone honking the horn on the bus, and it was none other than our beloved loony Manny!

Manny was sitting behind the wheel of the bus and generally seemed in great spirits, waving to the fans while occasionally hitting the bus' horn. Some of the other players got a kick out of it. Kyle Snyder got on and made a motion with his fist up and down, like he was operating a train whistle, so Manny copied that as he was hitting the horn. All told, Manny was behind the wheel for nearly 10 minutes, even shooing the laughing bus driver away so he could do it some more. I was absolutely in hysterics, and couldn't believe Manny was doing it. ("I guess he wants to grow up to be a bus driver," I told someone.)

Finally Manny let the driver on, and waved again at the fans as he took his bus seat. It was simply one of the funniest things I've ever seen an athlete do, and naturally it involved Manny Ramirez. He truly is a loon, but it was cool to see him have a good time with the Red Sox fans.

Hey, it was just another case of Manny being Manny, or maybe Manny secretly wanting to be Ralph Kramden. It sure was a memorable way to wrap up a great weekend in San Diego.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Trivia On Tuesday This Week

A quick reminder to all of you trivia players of Professor Thom's that Trivia Night will be held on Tuesday night this week, June 26, and at a special time, 8 PM. I won't be back from San Diego until very late Monday night, so the switch was made necessary. And there will be a special time of 8 PM due to the late Red Sox game in Seattle at 10.

Trivia will return to Monday night next week, July 2, and at the regular time, 9 PM (or right after the Red Sox game concludes that night).

I will have the Sneak Peek question up on Tuesday morning. See you Tuesday night.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Controversy at Petco

It was a tough night for the Red Sox at Petco last night, as Tim Wakefield pitched four solid innings before the Padres tagged him for six runs, and the Padres went on to win, 6-1, before a spirited crowd of Red Sox and Padres fans last night.

There was plenty of controversy, as it appeared to me sitting in the stands (I was sitting in the top deck behind third base) that Manny Ramirez made a diving catch, but the umps got together and reversed it, and it led to a San Diego run. The next inning was more controversial, as Josh bard hit a ball that appeared to be a home run but was called foul. Again, the umps got together and reversed it, giving the Padres a 5-0 lead. I turned to my friend Ken and said, "I hope the umps got both the calls right."

We saw the replays later, and they did indeed get it right. I like the fact that umps now get together to get close calls like this right. But once again, I believe that the umpiring is getting worse, despite the umps now getting together to talk about controversial, close calls. It got Terry Francona tossed, and I think it may have been more out of a frustration and to motivate the troops as opposed to anything else. By the end, the game was out of reach, so the Red Sox fans (and I bet some Padres fans) began chants of "Yankees Suck!" (Something I guess we could all agree on.)

Ken and I took the Petco Park tour, and it was a blast. We were showed some of the posh places in the yard, and we also passed the visitors clubhouse. We hoped a Red Sox player would pop out, but no luck there. As we walked away, Jason Varitek walked on by on his way to the clubhouse. The fans we were with (almost all Sox fans except for Ken and one other guy) called out to him and he acknowledged us with a wave.

We also went up to the 100-year-old Western Supply Company building to check that out. It's built into the park, and we got to walk around that place. As we were walking out, Theo Epstein comes walking by, talking on his cell phone. He seemed rather lost in conversation, but did briefly acknowledged the fans who recognized him.

The tour was great, and Petco is a lovely park. At 5 PM, the tour ended, and we got to sit behind the Red Sox dugout for the next hour and watched BP. We got to see a whole slew of people connected to the Sox on the field: from Tina Cervasio (even more attractive in person, and she waved to the fans who called out her name) to Dan Shaughnessy (even more uglier in person if you can believe it, and ignored the fans who called out his name). John Henry and Larry Lucchino were there along with Luis Tiant and Don Newcombe, who were honored on Negro Leaguers Night. (A nice commerative pin was handed out.)

It was great watching the Sox taking BP, with Big Papi using a metal bat to hit bombs into the seats. Julian Tavarez was joking with the fans, and was enthralled by a young Red Sox fan, about 7 years old, who was in a wheelchair on the field. He really seems like a good guy.

Anyway, the series concludes today with a titanic matchup: Josh Beckett vs. Jake Peavy. More on that tomorrow as I'm off to Petco in a few minutes.

Go Red Sox!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Invasion Of The Nation

It was a great night for baseball at Petco Park on Friday night, as my friend Ken and I took in the first of three games we'll be seeing this weekend. There was a bit of a pall cast over it for both of us. Ken's wife Peggy, who has been been a dear friend of mine since we first met when we worked at Tower Records together back in the mid-1980s, could not be present. She had gone on a trip to Greece, Egypt and Turkey in late May with her mother, and her mom fell and injured her hip and had to be hospitalized. Peggy and her mom have been on the island of Corfu for over three weeks, and unfortunately couldn't be back in time for the series. Her mom is doing much better, in good spirits and they'll be back next week in San Diego. But they were both definitely with us at Petco in spirit.

Ken and I took in batting practice in the lower left field stands, and it was a lot of fun. The Padres went first and then the Red Sox took over. There were scores and scores of Red Sox fans in the stands, and we all couldn't wait for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to take their cuts.(I came close to catching a couple of shots, but no cigar.) They both hit some eye-opening bombs, but the Red Sox player who really surprised me was Doug Mirabelli. He put on some show in BP, hitting some tremendous blasts, many of which went over our heads into the second deck. (At least Dougie goes deep in BP!)

Red Sox Nation definitely made their presence known here in San Diego. I went to the San Diego Hall of Champions Museum yesterday, which was great. They had some great exhibits on all facets of San Diego sports (even the "Rocky" statue, which was there on loan), including an exhibit of Ted Williams. It had his jersey, a few bats and his two MVP awards. As I was there, I bumped into two Red Sox fans from Boston, who couldn't believe I was a Sox fan from New York. "We've made our presence known in the city," I told them.

Last night's game reminded me of my trips to Baltimore and Philadelphia, when Red Sox fans by the thousands came in for the games. I even ran into a guy who lived on Long Island for many years but was a San Diego resident for 20 years. But he was diehard Red Sox fan who jumped at the chance to see this series. There were over 44,000 people at Petco last night, but at least 20,000 were Red Sox fans.

Just before the game started, I called my dad in New York to tell him where I was sitting. (He would be watching the game on the MLB package.) I went to find a less noisy spot to make the call, and who do see looking out from a suite, but "my friend" Red Sox owner John Henry! (I met him at Professor Thom's earlier this week.) A number of Red Sox fans recognized him and he waved to them. (I wonder if he remembered me? Eh, probably not.)

It was also "Retro Night" at Petco, and they honored the year 1982, as it was Tony Gwynn's MLB debut. Both teams wore 1982 team jerseys, and I pulled out my early 1980s jersey for the game. Ken wore his retro Padres one as well. The Padres did a nice job with it, playing early 1980s music, but the best part of the night was showing each player on both teams on the scoreboard with a 1980s style haircut. The fans, including myself, were in stitches at each player's new do. Manny Ramirez had hair past his shoulders while wearing a nose and lip ring. It was hysterical and a nice, funny touch to the evening.

The game got off to a rough start as Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the first, but got out of it with just one run scoring. I had a feeling it would be Dice-K's lone bad inning of the night, and I was proven right. Greg Maddux pitched well the first three innings, but before the fourth, Ken said to me that when Maddux loses it, it happens quickly. And right on cue, the Red Sox tagged him for two runs. It would prove to be all they needed as the Red Sox went on to win, 2-1.

Dice-K went six innings, threw 126 pitches, and gutted out his ninth win. The bullpen did a splendid job as usual, and Jonathan Papelbon got the save, but not without some trouble before it ended. Jose Cruz singled with two outs, and that brought up the dangerous Adrian Gonzalez. (He's going to be a big time player one day.) The stadium was roaring as he came up, and I was plenty nervous. But Pap struck him out on a 2-2 pitch to secure the Red Sox third straight win. They have now allowed only one run in the past three games.

After the game the Red Sox fans were in loud voice, with lots of "Let's Go Red Sox" chants, even in the men's room! It was a good crowd tonight, with a playoff-type atmosphere. (The Padres had the best record in the NL going into last night.) There were no fights, and the fans of both clubs seem to get on fine. (I guess because they have almost no history against each other.)

Tonight's matchup is another good one: Tim Wakefield vs. Chris Young. Ken and I are taking the Petco Park tour this afternoon, and after that we'll be back in the left stands for batting practice at 5. I will once again be there to try to fulfill a life's dream: to come away with a baseball at a MLB park.

Wish me luck. Go Red Sox!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Staying Classy In San Diego

I arrived in San Diego last night around 9:30 PM, with my friend Ken meeting me at the airport. It was a five-hour trip from JFK, and it went rather smoothly. This is my second trip to this beautiful California city, as I was here in 2004 for the wedding of my dear friends Peggy and Ken in August of that year.

I left my house around 3:30 PM yesterday, and got to the airport in about 35 minutes. I hadn't flown in almost two years, when I went to South Bend, Indiana to see Notre Dame's home opener in 2005. I found security at JFK to be even tighter than I remember it, and now they make everyone remove their shoes for inspection. As it was going on, all I could think of was, "Damn you to hell, Richard Reid!" (You may remember him as that jackass would-be terrorist who in 2001 tried to bring down an airplane with a bomb located in his shoe, but thankfully it was stopped before it ever happened.)

I waited around the airport for my flight, and I found a lounge that had the Yankees-Rockies game on. it was 2-2 in the fifth when I got there, and I wound up watching the game for two innings, and saw the Rockies take the lead, 4-2.

As I was watching the game, I also noticed something. I saw a number of folks waiting for the flight wearing either a Red Sox hat or shirt, or both. I got to talking to a woman from the Bronx who was a Sox fan, and she was amazed to see about a dozen or so Red Sox fans taking this flight. I was too, and it seemed like the designated "Red Sox fan" flight to San Diego from New York. But the Sox fans were quiet in the lounge, even as the Rockies took the lead in the game. (Saving up their energy for SD I guess.)

I took JetBlue to San Diego. They've always been a good airline, despite the mountain of bad publicity they got last winter. The flight was about 80% filled, and they provide nice amenities, like 40 TV channels, and especially all the ESPN channels. I followed the game in Colorado on ESPNews, and silently cheered when the Rockies pulled out a 4-3 win. 10 1/2 game lead as this plane takes off.

We stayed on the JFK tarmac for almost an hour due to the heavy traffic and approaching storm. (Fortunately we took off before the rain came.) I spent the hours watching things like "Seinfeld" and the College World Series game, and doing some writing and listening to music.

When I got to San Diego, I pulled out a Padres shirt I have from when I went to a Padres game at Petco three years ago, a Brian Giles shirt. When Ken picked me up, I told him, "This will be the only time this weekend I'll be wearing anything with the Padres on it!" I packed an assortment of Red Sox paraphernalia for the weekend. Tonight is "Retro Night" at Petco, and they will be remembering Tony Gwynn's Padre debut with both clubs wearing 1982 uniforms.Fortunately, Ken told me this in advance, so I packed an old Red Sox jersey I have from the early-to-mid 1980s.

Tonight I'll be meeting up at the park with my buddy Joe, who came out from New Jersey for the games with his wife, and then they will be going up to L.A. to see the Dodgers play. This afternoon I'll be going to the San Diego Sports Museum, which I hear is really nice, with a lot of exhibits of the local teams and legendary athletes from San Diego.

Ken and I are getting to Petco early, around 4:30, to catch batting practice and check out the stadium. I'll get a chance to see the Red Sox take BP, something I haven't seen for many years. And I can't wait to see Manny and Papi launch some pre-game bombs!

I'll have more either later tonight or tomorrow. Great matchup tonight, with Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching against Greg Maddux. Go Sox!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Double Digit Lead Once Again

The Red Sox blasted five home runs last in Atlanta, and did the struggling Mets a big favor by wallopping the Braves, 11-0, behind the continued fine pitching of Julian Tavarez, who pitched seven shutout innings.

Atlanta starter Buddy Carlyle put the Braves in a hole from the get-go, giving up a home run to J.D. Drew leading off the game, and then a three-run shot to Coco Crisp to make it 5-0, and set the Red Sox on their way. David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Eric Hinske also added homers as the Red Sox won the series, and as I write this, have a 10-game lead on the Yankees, as their "vaunted" offense has now managed only two runs in two games in Colorado as they lost to the Rockies last night, 6-1.

Drew left the game with some tightness in his quad, and Terry Francona said it was done as a "precaution." Wily Mo Pena came in and got two hits. No news yet on Curt Schilling's replacement in the rotation, and that choice should be made before the weekend series is over in San Diego. And speaking of that glorious city...

This afternoon I will be on my way to that beautiful town (pictured) to check out all three Red Sox-Padres games. I'll be sitting all over the ballpark, and I will also be taking the tour of the park with my friend Ken on Saturday. I'll be writing articles about it while I'm there hopefully, if time permits. (I've also updated my countdown clock, since I'm about to head to San Diego. The next countdown is to the All Star Game in San Francisco, on July 10th. It is now 19 days away.)

But before I go, Bob Ryan has a great article about the release of "Impossible to Forget: The Story of the 1967 Red Sox" in today's Boston Globe. It's mostly about the inclusion in the DVD package of the penultimate game between the Red Sox and Twins on September 30 of that year. Definitely check it out (and of course, I don't say that because I appear in the main section of the DVD).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Schill Shut Down; Lester Waiting In The Wings?

The Red Sox announced that Curt Schilling has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to this past Monday. The MRI on his shoulder showed no damage, but he had a cortisone shot and thought their might have been a touch of tendonitis there. The Red Sox decided to edge on the side of caution and shut him down. That means he will be out until July 3, which is the Red Sox first meeting of the year with the Devil Rays. Josh Beckett will pitch this coming Sunday against the Padres, taking Schilling's turn, and Julian Tavarez will open the series in Seattle on Monday.

So now the speculation will revolve around who will take Schilling's place. They don't have to make that decision until after the weekend, but this could mean the return of Jon Lester to the Red Sox. He's been pitching very well at Pawtucket, but he had a shaky outing today at Indianapolis, walking four in five innings and giving up three runs and striking out three.

Another logical candidate maybe Kason Gabbard, the lefty who pitched very well a few weeks ago in a win against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway. We'll see who they decide to go with by next week.

A Night of Henry, Werner and Kayreoke

It was a night to remember at Professor Thom's pub on Tuesday night. We had a second consecutive Kayreoke Night at the bar, after a successful night of Kayreoke and Trivia on Monday. Things got off to a rather dubious start, as we had problems once again with the sound system, and a few other problems as well.

And just as the first pitch was being thrown in Atlanta between the Red Sox and Braves, who should come walking into the bar unannounced but John Henry and Tom Werner (pictured, left and center respectively, with Larry Lucchino), two of the principal owners of the Boston Red Sox.

The bar has become well-known not just by Red Sox fans in New York City and Red Sox Nation, but the club is aware of Thom's as well. (There were rumors that Mr. Werner was coming in a few weeks ago, but for whatever reason it didn't happen.) With everything going wrong, I saw my buddy Chris at the bar as soon as they walked in and he glanced at me with a look like, "Oh my God, just what we needed!" And they picked Kayreoke Night, of all nights, to come in. (I discovered in today's New York Daily News that John Henry was in New York yesterday and took a tour of the Mets' new Citi Field that's being constructed in Queens, with Mets owner Fred Wilpon. So I guess he decided to take in a Red Sox game at Thom's since he was in New York.)

Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner sat down at a table right next to the spot we had set up for Kayreoke. As they were watching the game on the huge screen, Mr. Werner turned to me and asked me about Kayreoke Night and what it was all about. I explained that Red Sox fans take turns calling a half-inning with the sound turned off, and can talk about anything they like regarding the game. (I was tempted to ask him if he wanted to take part, but I let that go.)

After I explained it, I shook hands with Mr. Werner and simply said to him, "Thank you. Thank you for this." And I pointed to the hat I was wearing that said, "World Series Champions 2004" on it. I then put out my hand to Mr. Henry. He shook it and I said, "Thank you Mr. Henry, for making my life here in New York City so much more bearable." They both smiled.

The word spread throughout the bar that two of the principal owners of the Red Sox were here watching the game, but on only one occasion did I see any fans go up to them and talk to them. They were both very courteous to the fans, as I'm sure they have Sox fans coming up to them all the time. Fortunately we did have a good crowd for the game, and for Kayreoke Night as well. (I also made it a point not to mention that they were there when I was on the mic, as I figured they probably wanted to enjoy the game in peace without having fans come up to them every five minutes.)

We got going at the top of the 5th inning, and we did Kayreoke for four innings. (And I was thankful we had the Braves announcers, and not Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, to turn off during those half-innings, as NESN was blacked out on DirecTV last night.) Chris told me he heard that both Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner enjoyed hearing the fans get up on the mic and describe the action. When the game was held up by rain after the sixth inning ended, both owners got up and called it a night. They were very gracious and came up to myself, Chris and Jim and thanked us for the evening. Chris had a camera and they both posed for pictures with Chris and Jim. It was "the Red Sox owners with Professor Thom's owners." I'm sure that picture will be framed and put behind the bar at some point.

We completed Kayreoke in the eighth inning, and everyone had a good time doing it. (We'll be doing Kayreoke again next month, possibly July 24, as that is the next Tuesday night in July the Red Sox are on the road, in Cleveland.) It was really an incredible night, as the Red Sox won behind Josh Beckett, 4-0, and we got to meet the men who run the Red Sox. A night that looked like it might be a total washout turned into one none of us will ever forget.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trivia Q&A: June 18

It was a "doubleheader night" at Professor Thom's last night, as we had both Kayreoke Night as well as Trivia Night while watching the Red Sox game in Atlanta. Curt Schilling had nothing last night as the Braves romped to a 9-4 win. But we had a very good spirited crowd on hand.

It was also a night a film crew came in to tape our Kayreoke Night for a follow up film to "Still We Believe," the fine documentary about the 2003 Red Sox season. (We will also have another Kayreoke Night at the bar tonight as well.) The BLOHARDS turned out, as well as the New York City chapter of the Boston Red Sox Meetup Group. At first it looked like Kayreoke Night might not happen, as we had trouble getting the two mics needed for the announcing to work, but fortunately my friend Gareth turned up, and within minutes got them rolling. (It was also a tough night for my buddy Chris, as he had to work the bar alone with a big crowd on hand, with about ten other things going wrong at that same time. But fortunately, it all straightened itself out and Kayreoke went off fine. Fine work, Chris.)

Trivia Night finally got going at 10:20 PM, and concluded at just about midnight. We had 12 teams playing, and did just four categories because of the late starting time, but once again, the BLOHARDS successfully defended the title they won a month ago, taking it by four points. It was a close game, but they did very well in the IQ Trivia category, which was particularly difficult this week (three teams even got completely shut out in it). After their victory was announced, Chris played "Dirty Water" in honor of their win. Congratulations, guys.

Trivia Night next week will have a special day and time, as I will not be in next Monday night because I will be flying home from San Diego that day. So we will have Trivia Night next Tuesday, June 26, at 8 PM, as the Red Sox have a late game in Seattle that night. The week after that we will return to the usual Monday night at 9 time.

Current Events
1. This rock legend turns 65 today, and his recent new album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Pop Album chart.
2. A new poll in South Carolina has this Democratic presidential candidate with a nine point lead in that state.
3. This film, which grossed $67 million at the box office last week, was the number one film in America.
4. This golfer edged Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to win the US Open on Sunday.
5. This author, who wrote a book the Islamic world considered blasphemous, was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth on Sunday.
6. This retail giant is retiring the standard blue vests its employees wear and are going to a whole new look later this year.
7. Kristy Swanson, a star from this reality series, was arrested for allegedly assaulting the ex-wife of her current boyfriend and fellow reality TV star.
8. This rock icon married for the third time this past weekend on the Italian Riviera to his longtime girlfriend, 26 years his junior.
9. This Asian city is set to overtake Singapore as the world's busiest port in 2008, the city's port executive said on Monday.
10. Torrential rains overnight killed two people and stranded many other people on their roofs in this state on Monday.

Answers: 1. Paul McCartney; 2. Barack Obama; 3. "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer;" 4. Angel Cabrera; 5. Salman Rushdie; 6. Wal-Mart; 7. Skating With Celebrities; 8. Rod Stewart; 9. Shanghai; 10. Texas.

World Capitals Trivia
1. Tbilisi: a. Georgia; b. Estonia; c. Lithuania; d. Latvia.
2. San Jose: a. Panama; b. Ecuador; c. Nicaragua; d. Costa Rica.
3. Jakarta: a. The Phillippines; b. Singapore; c. Indonesia; d. Malayasia.
4. Belgrade: a. Slovenia; b. Serbia; c. Croatia; d. Bulgaria.
5. Khartoum: a. Kenya; b. Cameroon; c. Sudan; d. Ivory Coast.
6. Montevideo: a. Uruguay; b. Bolivia; c. Guyana; d. Peru.
7. Phnom Penh: a. Laos; b. Cambodia; c. Burma; d. Vietnam.
8. Addis Ababa: a. Senegal; b. Chad; c. Zimbabwe; d. Ethiopia.
9. Sofia: a. Albania; b. Slovenia; c. Bulgaria; d. Estonia.
10. Managua: a. Nicaragua; b. Dominican Republic; c. Honduras; d. Chile.

Answers: 1. a; 2. d; 3. c; 4. b; 5. c; 6. a; 7. b; 8. d; 9. c; 10. a.

General Knowledge
1. What did undercover FBI agents pose as to ensnare corrupt politicians during its 1978 ABSCAM operation?
2. Spelunking is a term for exploring what?
3. What city is the setting for the TV series, "The Simpsons?"
4. What is the proper name for a female walrus?
5. In which decade were girls officially allowed to play Little League baseball in the US?
6. In the classic children's book, "Peter Pan," what is the name of the Darling family dog?
7. Who was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes?
8. What Asian nation was once known as Ceylon?
9. Who played the original Darrin on the TV series, "Bewitched?"
10. Which rock legend appeared on the first cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967?

Answers: 1. Arab businessmen; 2. caves; 3. Springfield; 4. cow; 5. 1970s; 6. Nana; 7. Roger Bannister; 8. Sri Lanka; 9. Dick York; 10. John Lennon.

IQ Trivia
1. Under which mountain is the operation center for the nuclear missle tracking station NORAD buried? (6 points)
2. Who took command of the UN forces from General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War? (5 points)
3. A statue of which famous person high above Trafalgar Square in London? (4 points)
4. Which Hollywood film director directed Michael Jackson's 1988 video, "Bad?" (5 points)
5. The computer language "Ada" is named for what poet's daughter? (5 points)

Answers: 1. Cheyenne Mountain; 2. Gen. Matthew Ridgway; 3. Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson; 4. Martin Scorsese; 5. Lord Byron.

Monday, June 18, 2007

72 Hours To Go

It was a fabulous weekend for the Red Sox, as they swept the Giants to get a winning homestand before going out on a nine-game excursion that starts in Atlanta tonight.

They played well in all facets of the game this past weekend. They got good pitching performances by Tim Wakefield and Julian Tavarez, and a really tremendous one from Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday. The bats came alive on Friday and Sunday. (Matt Cain was terrific for the Giants Saturday but they simply can't score any runs for him.) Hopefully they will continue their resurgence as they go to Atlanta and then back out west for six games in San Diego and Seattle.

Dave Roberts got ovations the whole weekend. They were so richly deserved, and Dave handled it all with his usual class. I was really proud of the way the Fenway fans welcomed him back. (Was there really ever any doubts?) Barry Bonds got the taunts and jeering you'd guess he would, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it could have been. He was basically invisible at the plate over the weekend, except for a home run off former Pirates teammate Tim Wakefield on Sunday. Hideki Okajima made him look absolutely foolish at the plate on Saturday, as he kept the bat on his shoulders and looked at three pitches and was called out in a critical situation with two on and no out in the eighth. (I wish more managers would challenge him and not be quaking in their boots every time he comes up. He's not the same player he was six years ago.)

The Red Sox still lead the AL East by 8 1/2 games, as the Mets couldn't take care of the Yankees either Saturday or Sunday. The Mets are in a terrible funk, but are fortunate that neither the Braves or Phillies are hot at the moment either.

It is now just less than 72 hours before I take off for San Diego on Thursday evening for the weekend series between the Red Sox and San Diego Padres at beautiful Petco Park. I'll be writing articles from San Diego on each game. It should be a blast, as I went to a game there three years ago and had a lot of fun.

Inevitable Swoon? Don't Believe The Hype

My friend Adam is great when it comes to putting together numbers regarding the Red Sox. When the Red Sox started losing ground to the Yankees last week and cut the Red Sox lead down to 7 1/2, you started hearing things about the "inevitable" Red Sox "swoon," crap about 1978, and how it always happens to them, especially in August and September.

This led Adam to do so some research about the Red Sox numbers each month since 1970. This past weekend, he sent me the numbers, and I thought they were rather illuminating, so I thought it was definitely deserving its own post.

Here are the Red Sox' winning percentages by month, with the first category being the overall percentage since 1970, and the second since 1995 (the last time the Sox won the AL East):

Month- Overall- 1995-2006
April--- .549---- .581
May---.551----- .568
June-- .534----.525
July--- .531---- .539
August-- .541---- .573
Sept/Oct.- .540-- .545

This model just shows you that the Red Sox have been pretty damn good over the last four decades overall. It shows that their toughest months have been June and July, not August and September. After April, August has been the Sox' best month since 1995, and the August numbers are even MORE impressive if you consider they went 9-21 last year (when they got hit with that incredible wave of injuries that nearly crippled the team). Their winning percentage would be .599 since 1995 if you removed last year's numbers.

And since 1995, the Red Sox have had only one really miserable September, and that was in 2001, when the Sox went 6-15 under the dubious leadership of Joe Kerrigan, when Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek were all lost to injuries. That season removed brings the Red Sox winning percentage since '95 to .563. Not bad at all.

And, as Adam points out, the Red Sox winning percentage in June/July 2004 was .490 (remember they played .500 ball a good part of the middle of that season), before going .696 in August/September 2004, on their way to a World Series championship.

The naysayers also seem to forget the Red Sox successes in the last few decades as far as the regular season goes: division titles in 1975, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1995, as well as Wild Card wins in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005. In those seasons, they had to either hold off or pass teams late in order to make the playoffs. (Of course, they never get credit for that.) That's ten postseason appearances in just over 30 years, and only the Yankees and Braves can say that.

I guess people choose to believe what they want to believe. But the numbers of this recent generation don't bare out that a Red Sox "swoon" or "collapse" is inevitable. They've actually been one of the more successful regular season teams, especially in the dog days of August and coming down the stretch in September.

Paul Turns 65

Today, the great Sir Paul McCartney turns 65. It's great to see Paul back at the top of the charts again, as his latest album, "Memory Almost Full," his 21st solo album (and 30th since he left The Beatles), debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts on the week of its release. The songs "Ever Present Past" and "Dance Tonight" are an enjoyable listen. It's wonderful to see him with a hit, and its a refreshing change from the slew of no-talent nitwits who are dominating the music scene these days.

Paul's endured some trying times the last year or so, with the messy divorce he's currently going through, so I'm sure it's a welcome relief for him to do what he does best again.

With Paul turning 65, that means that both surviving Beatles have reached senior citizen status, as Ringo Starr will be 67 next month. God, if that doesn't make you feel old...

Happy Birthday, Paul. Keep on rockin'...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Trivia & Kayreoke On Monday

Professor Thom's will be hosting a rare "doubleheader" on Monday night, as we will be having both Kayreoke and Trivia back-to-back on Monday night. Kayeoke will get under way at 7 when the Red Sox play the Atlanta Braves, and there will be a camera crew at the bar filming for a documentary film as well. (I don't know exactly what the film is about, but we should find out soon. It is being made by the same people who made "Still We Believe" about the 2003 Red Sox season.)

Trivia Night will begin after Kayreoke and the Red Sox game is completed, which should be around 10 PM. There will be only four categories because of the late start, and they will be Current Events, General Knowledge, IQ Trivia, and World Capitals Trivia, which will also be multiple choice. It should be a busy as well as fun night at PT's on Monday.

Here's the Sneak Peek question for all of you to ponder:

In which decade were girls officially allowed to play Little League baseball in the US?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Opposite Ends of Class

It was a nice bounce back for the Red Sox, as Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew led the offense in a 10-2 romp over the San Francisco Giants after two rather hideous losses the previous two nights.

It was also an emotional return for Dave Roberts (above), who got a long standing ovation when he led off the game. (I actually missed most of the game, as I went out to dinner with a dear friend of mine in the West Village. But I was following the game from scores on my cell phone.) He was clearly moved by the outpouring of affection for him. The 2004 ALCS Game 4 stolen base will never be forgotten by Red Sox fans, as when it's all said and done, it maybe the biggest play in Red Sox history. And it couldn't have happened to a classier guy than Dave Roberts.

While at the end of the class meter, Barry Bonds got the reception he deserved, but not nearly as vicious as one might have expected. Fans were shown holding up signs with asterisks, but isn't wasn't as bad as many thought it would be. Bonds was also a non-factor, going 1-for-3.

But the night belonged to Dustin Pedroia, who went 5-for-5 with 5 RBI. He hit a two-run homer in the first to tie it in the first after the Giants jumped out for 2 runs. J.D. Drew also went 3-for-4, but the rest of the lineup would manage just one hit. But it was plenty as Julian Tavarez pitched seven solid innings for the win.

David Ortiz was ejected for first inning for arguing a called third strike, then "showing up" home plate ump Tony Randazzo by throwing down his bat and helmet as he marched back to the dugout. Lousy call by Randazzo, another of the crappy umps MLB currently employs. (It seems to me too many of today's umps either want to become part of the game, are terribly thin-skinned, or maybe both.)

The Mets beat the Yankees and The Carpetbagger last night, 2-0, to end the Yankees winning streak, stop the Mets losing streak, and extend the Red Sox lead back to 8 1/2 games.

It was a fine night all around, even if I missed just about all of it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome Back Mr. Roberts

It will be an interesting night at Fenway Park tonight, as we'll see both ends of the spectrum from the Fenway Faithful.

Dave Roberts makes his first appearance at Fenway Park in an opposition uniform, and his first time back since the 2004 World Series ring ceremony. (The picture seen here is one of my favorites. Dave being carried on Mike Timlin's shoulders while carrying the championship trophy around Busch Stadium. It still gives me chills.) Dave is another one of baseball's better citizens, and I really hope he enjoys the well-deserved thunderous ovation that will be coming his way.

Then on the other side of the fence, Barry Bonds makes his first appearance ever at a game in Boston, the city he labeled "racist" and place he said he never wanted to play in back in 2004, when the Giants played the Sox in San Francisco. (Even though he never once stepped foot inside the city limits.)

He'll get the reception he deserves. I've talked plenty about baseball's least-liked player, so I won't rehash it all. Needless to say, it won't be pretty, and the banners in the stands should be fascinating to read.

What an incredible contrast. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Roberts.

If we ever get a chance to meet, the drinks will always be on me.

June 15, 1977: A Day That Will Live In Infamy

It was 30 years ago today that one of the most infamous trades in baseball history occurred. I didn't know it at the time, but it would have an incredible impact on my life, and would change my rooting habits as a baseball fan forever.

The Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Pat Zachry, infielder Doug Flynn, and minor league outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

Seaver was "The Franchise," the man who put the Mets on the road to respectability when he joined the Mets in 1967 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He had an absolutely incredible season in 1969, winning the Cy Young Award with a 25-7 record and leading the Mets to an improbable World Series championship that year. He would win two more Cy Youngs with the Mets, in 1973 and 1975. He tied the record for strikeouts in a game against the San Diego Padres on April 22, 1970 by fanning 19, and the last 10 in the game, which set a record for consecutive strike outs in a game that still stands.

Seaver won 20 games for the Mets four times, and holds the record for 200 or more strikeouts in consecutive seasons with 10. He was arguably the most popular athlete in New York in the early 1970s, and he was one of my favorite baseball players in my youth, as I was a huge Mets fan.

But in 1977, there were huge problems with the Mets team he was on. They got off to a bad start that season, and fired manager Joe Frazier and hired infielder Joe Torre as player/manager. Mets management did very little to improve the team after 1976. Free agency had just come into baseball, and the Mets did nothing to attract any of them, especially Reggie Jackson, who was the big prize on the market. The Yankees would sign him to a huge contract, and they added him to a club that had just won the AL pennant the year before.

The Yankees were taking back New York, and the Mets management took the brunt of the criticism, especially from the fans. Back in 1975, owner Joan Payson had died, and it was one of the worst things to happen to the team. She was a passionate baseball fan who owned the team since Day 1, and cared deeply out the Mets. But her husband did not, and the team was eventually turned over to her daughters, who basically gave Mets chairman of the board M. Donald Grant a free hand to run the club.

Tom Seaver was one of his most vocal critics, about how the team refused to spend money to stay competitive. They wouldn't go with the times, and it led to a lot of hard feelings. Grant's biggest supporter was a sportswriter from the NY Daily News named Dick Young. He was an institution in the city. But he became Grant's mouthpiece, writing negative pieces about the star pitcher.

But he pushed Seaver over the edge in early June when he wrote a column about how Tom's wife Nancy was "jealous" at Nolan Ryan's wife and the bigger money he was making. Seaver was incensed, and demanded the Mets trade him. I remember the rumors going around that June (the trading deadline was June 15 back then) that Seaver could be traded, but few people thought the Mets would actually do it. I remember going to bed late that night thinking he wasn't going anywhere.

I woke up the next morning, and Tom Terrific, the face of the Mets franchise, was gone.

It shook New York like an earthquake. No Mets fan could believe it was true. He had been traded to Cincinnati, and everyone thought the Mets had been fleeced. They got none of the Reds' best players, while the Mets traded the best player they ever had. The Mets' fans reacted with vitriol directed at Grant and Young. I remember Grant complaining about how he had gotten death threats from angry fans. (Mets fans brought many negative banners to Shea afterwards with slogans like "GRANT'S TOMB." They were immediately confiscated.)

The Mets also traded disillusioned slugger Dave Kingman to San Diego that night as well. (One of the players they got in that deal was an outfielder named Bobby Valentine.) They had a whole different look, and it wasn't for the better. They fell into last place in 1977, and stayed there. The Seaver trade totally backfired on them. Zachry had some decent seasons, but never reached any kind od stardom. Flynn was a terrific second baseman, but didn't have the stick. Henderson also had a decent career, but Norman never made it. Seaver would win 21 in 1977, and would return to the Mets in 1983, but would leave again after the White Sox selected him as a compensation pick after losing a free agent that winter (that system has since been disbanded). Seaver would close out his brilliant career as a member of the 1986 AL Champion Red Sox, but a knee injury kept him on the DL for the postseason. (They sure could have used him.) He would be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1992.

I was really angry and betrayed. I was 15 and couldn't support a team that treated their fans so shabbily and disrespectfully as the Mets just had.

At the same time, the Yankees were in a great divisional race with the Red Sox and Orioles in the AL East. I had always been a Carl Yastrzemski fan, ever since I got a "YAZ" hat back in the 1960s. (I think I still have it buried in my house somewhere.) I also remember watching the Red Sox on TV on the "Game of the Week" on many Saturdays, and I always thought Fenway Park was such a cool place. The race went down to the final weekend, and I remember pulling hard for the Red Sox to upend the Yankees.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox on the last Saturday of the season, 8-7, and the Yankees won the division that day. Little did I realize that day, October 1, 1977, but I had officially converted over to Red Sox Nation. And it was a game the Red Sox lost.

That would have implications I could never have possibly imagined at the time.

The Mets would have a string of last place finishes, and would not get out of the basement until 1984. They lost New York to the Yankees, who won World Series in 1977 and 1978. I kept my vow to stay away from them until they were sold, and in early 1980, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon bought the team, and they had my support back as my National League team. Grant and Young would eventually go into obscurity, and not be heard on the New York sports scene again.

June 15, 1977 was a dark day in the history of Mets baseball, one of the worst in their history. It would have long ranging effects on many people, and especially me.

Another One of Those Nights

Another night at Fenway with the Colorado Rockies, another pathetic effort by the home team.

Josh Beckett had nothing from the get-go, and the Red Sox left an absolutely staggering 14 men on base while scoring just a single run, in another absymal game played by the Red Sox, a 7-1 loss to the mediocre Colorado Rockies.

Their lead is now down to 7 1/2 games. (Doesn't it seem like months ago they were up by 14 1/2 over New York?) Their play right now is incredibly uninspired. The Red Sox have the look of a team going through the motions, like it's late September and they are 20 games out. I know they were due for a slump, as they weren't going to click on all cylinders the entire year. All they did by slumping now is give the Yankees and their fans hope, and let them back in the race.

The numbers from this series are truly ugly.

They lost the last two games by a combined score of 19-3, to a team that trotted out starters with a combined record of 6-10. They could score only five runs in losing this series at home. (They were truly fortunate that Tim Wakefield pitched such a gem on Tuesday.) These are the kind of pitchers the Red Sox should feast on. The boo-birds were out in full force tonight for Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew. No longer can these guys hide behind the Red Sox fast start. The Red Sox continue to leave runners everywhere, and simply can't get a clutch hit from anyone.

Josh Beckett took his first loss of the year, after a tremendous 9-0 start. He couldn't get his curve ball over, and gave up a grand slam to Garrett Atkins (who had been struggling most of the year, figures). The score was 5-0 after three innings, after the Sox left two on in the first and the bases loaded in the second. When they left them loaded then, I turned to one of my friends and said, "it's going to be another one of those nights."

It sure was.

The only good part of the night was author Seth Mnookin's appearance at Professor Thom's, talking about his terrific book, "Feeding The Monster." Seth talked about the book and the Sox to the fans gathered, and autographed copies of the book (including mine). He's a really nice guy and it was nice chatting with him. I only wish we could have a better game to enjoy together.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You Don't Play On Paper

Last night was simply a terrible effort by the Red Sox against Colorado, as Curt Schilling got hit hard, his defense let him down and the offense was AWOL yet again as the Rockies coasted to a 12-2 victory. It was simply a poorly played game all around, one of those "garbage can games" I like to call it. ("Toss it in the garbage and come out slugging tomorrow.")

At first the matchup, Schilling vs. Josh Fogg (1-5, 5.06 ERA) looked like a mismatch on paper. This looked like the kind of game the offense would get well in. (If you had said the final score of this game would be 12-2, I would have bet my life the Sox would have the 12.) An ominous sign of things to come was Julio Lugo's error on leadoff man Willy Taveras' grounder. He might not have gotten the speedy outfielder, but the rushed throw pbut him on second, and he scored the first run of the game. (More and more to me, the biggest mistake the Red Sox made after winning the 2004 World Series was letting Orlando Cabrera go. This led to the signing of Lugo, and OC is hitting .330 at last check.)

And the mystery that is Mike Lowell's defense continues. He made his 12th error of the season on a throw that allowed a Colorado runner to score. He made just six errors all of 2006, and his career high is 14, in 2002. He has been battling a thumb injury to his left hand, but that was during the last Yankees series. His errors have continued throughout the season.

Schilling just didn't have it last night, giving up 5 earned runs in 5 innings, including a three-run homer to Brad Hawpe that put the game out of reach. But the continued AWOL offense continues to be a concern. Lugo and Coco Crisp continue to be a black hole in the lineup, and J.D. Drew once again looks lost. The Red Sox continue to waste opportunities, and hit into double plays in key situations.

I thought the 10-run game in Arizona might have signalled that the offense was coming out of the recent slumber, but they seem to have gone right back into it. In the last four games, they've scored just 9 runs. Granted, the Red Sox weren't going to play .700 ball the whole year. They can be thankful the pitching has gotten them wins during this dry stretch. It's a long season, and there are valleys now and again.

The Yankees won their 8th straight game last night, and the Red Sox lead is now 8 1/2 games. Even when the Red Sox were up by 14 1/2 over them two weeks ago, only the most cockeyed optimist could believe that that was going to stay that way. (The June schedule for the Red Sox appeared to be brutal before the season started, and it's proving to be so.) There's too much talent in the Bronx for that to happen, but I have to laugh when I see how pleased Yankee fans are that their team's deficit behind the Red Sox is now in single digits.

It's a long season, and I've said this before, and I will say it again now: Whichever team pitches better is going to win this division. I didn't pull the shroud over the Yankees a few weeks ago, and I'm not now. There's still a lot of baseball to played. If the Yankees don't pitch with any consistency, they won't win.

And a special reminder to those Sox fans on the verge of panic:
1. They still have 19 games left with the Devil Rays.
2. Jon Lester will be up in a few weeks, possibly before the All-Star Game.
3. Neither Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz has gone on one of those superhuman roles they are both noted for.
4. Alex Rodriguez may hit 50 home runs this year, but he can't pitch.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wakefield Gets Back On Track

Tim Wakefield pitched eight spectacular innings last night at Fenway, allowing just four hits and one walk, and the Red Sox gave him just enough offense as they beat the Colorado Rockies, 2-1.

Last night's Wakefield win also proved just what a horse's ass Wallace Matthews is.

You may remember back in May this "writer" for Newsday did an incredible hatchet job in his newspaper on Wake, and basically compared him to baseball's on going steroid scandal in a rambling, incoherent and total mess of a column.

For those of you who didn't read it, here is my column about it:

I called him out as a gutless coward, and I believe I was proven correct. In that column, he gets so many facts wrong, and the column would have been funny if it wasn't such a slander against one of baseball's classiest and best citizens. (For example, he talks about the length of Wake's games. Did anyone else notice the speed of last night's game, and that it ended in under 2 1/2 hours?)

Nice game, Wake. Kiss my ass, Matthews.

It had been a run of lousy starts for Wake (although his last start in Oakland really wasn't bad at all), and I'd begun to wonder if sending him, and not Julian Tavarez, back to the pen when Jon Lester comes back, would be the right move. But he kept the Rockies hitters off balance all night, allowing just one run in the eighth inning. Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth and looked incredibly sharp.

David Ortiz had three hits, Julio Lugo had a double and scored the first run in his first game batting ninth. (I was impressed by his "team-first" attitude in going down in the order. "As long as I'm not batting tenth," he said yesterday.) J.D. Drew had the game-winning sacrifice fly in the eighth, as he continues to awaken from his season-long slumber.

Curt Schilling goes for the Red Sox tonight. There should be a nice ovation waiting for him for efforts last Thursday when he takes the hill at Fenway.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

USA Today's Top 25 Sports Moments

USA Today, in honor of its 25th anniversary, is putting together Top 25 lists from many different areas. They just released their sports list of the Top 25 sports moments of the last 25 years. Can you guess what the number one moment was? Does the picture here help you?

Yes, the Red Sox historic World Series win of 2004 was named the number one sporting moment of the last 25 years. Can't argue at all with that. (It should also be high on anyone's list of the Top 25 of the last 50 or even 100 years. It's an event that will grow in stature as the years go on. Mark my words.)

Here's how USA Today described it:

It took 86 years, included insufferable losses to the hated New York Yankees and monumental gaffes seemingly replayed constantly, but the Fenway Park faithful finally danced in the streets when their beloved Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series in a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, et al., ended the agony that tormented Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Tiant, et al. And who knows? This could be their year, too!

It's an interesting list, and worth checking out: Of course, lists like this are very subjective, and open to debate. (The Red Sox were also on the list at 15, the infamous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The game I like to refer to as "the Mets incredible comeback" as opposed to some careless error that ended that game.)

Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak was chosen second, Tiger Woods' first Masters win third, Villanova's upset over Georgetown in 1985 NCAA Basketball Finals was fourth, and the continuing BALCO/steroids scandal was fifth.

Interesting to see that no New York Yankees accomplishments were anywhere to be found on this list. That is, if you leave out Jason Giambi and his "apologies" regarding BALCO...

DVDs and Books This Week

Today is the release day for "Impossible To Forget: The Story of the 1967 Red Sox." As many of you know, I make an appearance in the film, as one of the "talking heads" speaking about that incredible team. The film was really well-received, and has been shown on NESN many times. The DVD has many added features, including a complete film of the September 30th game against the Minnesota Twins. If you'd like to know more about it, check this out at

Professor Thom's will also be doing a viewing of the film, during the week of June 26. Filmmaker and director Brett Rapkin will be on hand for the film. (I will let you all know when a specific time and date have been announced.)

At PT's this Thursday, author Seth Mnookin will be on hand to autograph copies of his terrific book, "Feeding the Monster," and will also chat and answer questions from the fans. Seth did a similar event at PT's last year, and it fascinating to hear him talk about the inner access he had to the Red Sox while writing the book. And he's a really nice guy, with a very good web site you should check out too:

The festivities get under way that night at 7, during the Red Sox-Rockies game.

Trivia Q&A: June 11

We had seven teams playing Trivia on Monday night, as it was a rather quiet night. There was no Red Sox game and we got going around 9:30 PM. We had a neck-and-neck race between four teams, and that included a group of Mets and Yankees fans using colorful (aka unprintable) team names for the Red Sox in each round. But they went into the tank in the last two rounds and finished out of the money(to the delight of the Red Sox fans in the bar).

Ugueth Urbina's Machete Army (gotta love that team name) wound up victorious, as the IQ Trivia round was rather difficult. (The best score any team did in that round out of 25 points was 11.) It was their fourth Trivia title in the last six weeks, I believe. Congratulations, guys.

Next week's Trivia will probably begin a little later next Monday, as the Red Sox play the Atlanta Braves that night, and we will also be having a special round of "Kayreoke" that night beforehand. And my friends from the BLOHARDS will be returning for both events.

Current Events
1. This space shuttle was launched from Florida last week on a mission to help assemble the International Space Station.
2.This NHL team defeated the Ottawa Senators in five games to win their first Stanley Cup title last week.
3. This tennis player defeated Roger Federer to win the French Open title yesterday.
4. This horse became the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes since 1905 on Saturday.
5. A man who once wanted to kidnap the son of this TV star escaped from prison last week.
6. President Bush said he was "awestruck" meeting this world leader last week.
7. A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans still favor the death penalty. Within 5 %, what percentage is it?
8. A shooting in a home in this Midwestern state killed six people and injured one on Sunday.
9. President Bush received a warm welcome in this predominently Muslim Eastern European country yesterday when he visited there.
10. According to a survey of stock traders in Trader Monthly, this US city was voted the top stock trading city in the world.

Answers: 1. Atlantis; 2. Anaheim Ducks; 3. Rafael Nadal; 4. Rags To Riches; 5. David Letterman; 6. Pope Benedict XVI; 7. 62%; 8. Wisconsin; 9. Albania; 10. Chicago.

Name That Year
1. In which year did the Watergate break-in occur? a. 1971; b. 1972; c. 1973; d. 1974.
2. What year did the Korean War begin? a. 1950; b. 1951; c. 1952; d. 1949.
3. In which year did the Iran hostage crisis begin? a. 1977; b. 1978; c. 1979; d. 1980.
4. What year was Bill Clinton first elected president? a. 1988; b. 1994; c. 1990; d. 1992.
5. When did Prince release the Purple Rain album? a. 1982; b. 1984; c. 1987; d. 1989.
6. In which year was the first successful heart transplant take place? a. 1967; b. 1970; c. 1962; d. 1969.
7. What year was the classic film "Goodfellas" first released? a. 1985; b. 1987; c. 1990; d. 1992.
8. What was the first year the LA Dodgers and SF Giants played their first home games in California? a. 1956; b. 1958; c. 1961; d. 1962.
9. What year did The Sopranos debut on HBO? a. 1999; b. 2000; c. 1997; d. 2001.
10. What year was the first Super Bowl played in? a. 1969; b. 1965; c. 1964; d. 1967.

Answers: 1. b; 2. a; 3. c; 4. d; 5. b; 6. a; 7. c; 8. b; 9. a; 10. d.

True or False ("The Q Train")
1. Hosni Mubarak is the current prime minister of Israel.
2. Philadelphia was the original home of the teen music show, "American Bandstand."
3. 11 is an example of a prime number.
4. If you're dining on "calamari," you are actually eating squid.
5. The blue jay actually gets its coloring from eating shellfish.
6. The athletic shoe Adidas was actually named after its founder.
7. Yuan is the main currency of South Korea.
8. The guillotine was actually named after a French doctor.
9. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is found in Cleveland, Ohio.
10. A gazetteer contains the names of places.

Answers: 1. false, he's the president of Egypt; 2. true; 3. true; 4. true; 5. false, the flamingo does; 6. true; 7. false, it's China's; 8. true; 9. false, it's in Canton, Ohio; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. According to the nursery rhyme, which day's child is "full of grace?"
2. What exclusive New York store is famous for putting your purchases in sky blue boxes with a ribbon?
3. By definition, what is missing in animals classified as invertebrates?
4. What actor had a recurring role as Easy Reader in the classic children's TV series, "The Electric Company?"
5. What brand of household insecticide uses the ad slogan, "kills bugs dead?"
6. Which actor was the original host of ABC's "Good Morning America?"
7. What huge bodily feature is the character Cyrano De Bergerac famous for?
8. In a speech before Congress, which legendary American said, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away"?
9. What is the specific term for a wine steward at a restaurant?
10. What medical device was invented by Robert Jarvik in the 1970s?

Answers: 1. Tuesday; 2. Tiffany's; 3. backbone; 4. Morgan Freeman; 5. Raid; 6. David Hartman; 7. nose; 8. Douglas MacArthur; 9. sommelier; 10. artificial heart.

IQ Trivia
1. What was the name of the yacht Dennis Conner skippered to win the 1987 America' Cup? (5 points)
2. On which TV show did Ross Perot first announce that he was running for president in 1992? (4 points)
3. Inventor Philo T. Farnsworth is famous for making the first fully electronic version of which invention? (5 points)
4. What was the name of the horse that was involved in a match race with Ruffian in 1974, the race in which Ruffian injured her leg and had to be put down? (5 points)
5. In which country are "the shores of Tripoli" referred to in the "Marines Hymn?" (6 points)

Answers: 1. Stars and Stripes; 2. "Larry King Live;" 3. television; 4. Foolish Pleasure; 5. Libya.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos Finale?

Sunday was the much-anticipated finale of the HBO series, "The Sopranos." It was on HBO since 1999, and it became one of my favorite shows. If any of you have not seen the finale yet and will be seeing it soon, I WOULD SUGGEST YOU SKIP THIS POST.

It all came to an end tonight. I watched the show at midnight, as I was out playing softball tonight and didn't get home until 10 PM. When the show ended, I immediately ran for my computer to gauge the reaction to the finale.

If creator David Chase was looking for a memorable, controversial ending, he found it.

I didn't like the ending at all. And I'm not alone in thinking that either.

I won't go into every plot line, but Phil Leotardo gets whacked in this episode, so it looks like the situation has settled for Tony. But he's about to be prosecuted the feds, as one of his guys, Carlo, has turned on him. The final scenes have Tony meeting his family at a local diner, but Meadow is running late. They focus on a number of people in the diner, and a few look suspicious. As Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is playing in the background, Meadow walks into the diner, Tony looks up, the words "don't stop" from the song are heard...and that's it.

The screen goes dark. At first I thought there was a problem with the cable or TV, but then the credits silently roll. It's over.

I was to say the least disappointed. The show left a lot of the plotlines hanging. I guess the very last seconds of the show are open to interpretation. It may have been Tony's last seconds on this Earth before he gets killed. (I'm sure this is exactly what Chase will say about it.) We'll never know for sure, if this indeed is the end of the show.

From the blog search I did tonight, it sounds like most Sopranos fans are let down by this ending. Some called it "brilliant," while some others said it "sucked." I'm sure on Monday the papers will be all over this, and everyone from the garbage man to President Bush will have their say on this. (So I'm glad I saw it tonight.)

This finale, of course, leaves open the possibility of a movie based on the series. That will be denied up and down by David Chase and everyone involved with the show.

But I was let down by this conclusion. I hate shows that leave the air for good so open-ended and up to "interpretation."

It was a lousy ending to a once-great show. Too many loose ends weren't tied up. And I'm sure the controversy regarding this ending has only just begun.

And I bet David Chase is laughing all the way to the bank.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Monday's Trivia Night Lineup

Trivia Night at Professor Thom's returns to its usual time, 9 PM on Monday night, June 11. The Red Sox are off on Monday, so we will have no problems with beginning late. We will have five categories. The usual ones: Current Events, General Knowledge, IQ Trivia and True or False (The Q Train). We will also have a category called "Name That Year," as I will give you an event in history and you will give the year (as opposed to the month and day we did last week). It was also be multiple choice.

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:

In a speech before Congress, which legendary American said, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away"?

Tavarez vs. The Traitor

The Red Sox took the first two games in Arizona this weekend, winning 10-3 on Friday, and 4-3 on Saturday night. They now have won three straight, and are now 3-3 on the this western swing.

Jason Varitek hit a two-run shot, and then doubled home J. D. Drew to tie the game in the eighth. A sacrifice fly in the tenth by Mike Lowell was the difference in the game. Hideki Okajima got the win and Jonathan Papelbon got his 14th save.

Another decent performance by Julian Tavarez (pictured), who gave up a two-run shot to Stephen Drew in the fourth as the Red Sox fell into an early 3-0 hole against Arizona. But he kept them there, going six innings and eventually getting a no-decision.

As the whole baseball world knows, Roger Clemens made his return to the Yankees today, as they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-3. I only caught parts of the game, as I did not want to listen to The Clemens Lovefest going on at the YES Network. I'm sure that they, along with most Yankee fans, are pretty satisfied with The Traitor's performance today. (It's really something to watch the same fans who felt Clemens turned their backs on them on 2004 and "unretired" to Houston give The Carpetbagger standing ovations today. Desperate people do desperate things.)

But it is interesting to compare his outing today with the one that Tavarez gave the Red Sox.

The Man Who Once Wanted To Be a Porn Star: 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, 97 pitches, no decision.

The Two-Faced Hypocrite Who Only Came Back For The Money: 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 108 pitches, win.

Very similar, no? Also remember, Tavarez is the Red Sox fifth starter, and has given the Sox some pretty decent starts over the last month to six weeks (remember he also beat the Yankees twice in the Bronx). Clemens was facing one of the weaker lineups in the National League on Saturday. Wait until he faces the harder-hitting lineups of the AL. I predicted when he returned to New York that The Carpetbagger would give the Yankees some decent starts, win maybe 8 or 9 games, and have an ERA around 4.50. So, what was his ERA after this start? 4.50. (Anyone who thinks he'll end up with an ERA below 3.00 is deluding themselves.)

The man who will be replacing Tavarez in the Red Sox rotation, Jon Lester, had a rocky outing for Pawtucket on Saturday, giving up 3 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, while throwing 70 pitches. He walked three and struck out just two in a loss to Ottawa.

No rush returning Lester to the Red Sox rotation. The man we like to call Hatchet Face continues to do a decent job, so keep Lester down there until he is sharp and ready for Boston. I would still bet he'll be in Boston by the end of June.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Does His Middle Name Start With "F"?

The Red Sox drafted pitcher Nick Hagadone with their first selection in yesterday's draft, which was actually the 55th pick overall, as they had no first round selection. He's a 6'5" lefty from the University of Washington. Here's the lowdown on him, courtesy of

After spending last year starting behind Tim Lincecum, Hagadone became Washington's Friday night starter to begin the year. He was moved to the bullpen after two starts because of team need and has been oustanding for the Huskies, showing the ability to save games and pitch multiple innings. With a chance to have a good three-pitch mix, some teams may want to move him back into a rotation once drafted, but worst-case, they'd have a pretty good lefty setup man on their hands.

But more intriguing was the Sox' next pick, Ryan Dent, a shortstop from Woodrow Wilson HS in California, who has a scholarship to UCLA, but the Red Sox feel they will sign him.

And no, he's no relation to you know who, of the same last name and position. (I wonder if Ryan's middle name starts with an "F." Hopefully not.)

Here's his scouting report:
With a strong bat and even better speed, Dent will be a very intriguing prospect for many teams. Athletes like this don't grow on trees and Dent has shown the ability to hit to all fields and use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He may not be a middle infielder long-term, but many feel he's athletic enough to handle a move to the outfield if needed.

Here's the complete list of the Red Sox first-day picks:

55-Hagadone, Nicholas-U Washington-LHP
62-Dent, Ryan-Woodrow Wilson HS-SS
84-Morris, Jeffrey-Virgil I Grissom HS-3B
114-Huntzinger, Brock-Pendleton Heights HS-RHP
144-Province, Christopher-Southeastern Louisiana U-RHP
174-Middlebrooks, William-Liberty Eylau HS-RHP

It's impossible to gauge the results of the baseball draft now, as it's an incredible crapshoot as to who will make it or not, more than any other sport. Check back in a couple of years I guess and judge.

The Hardest Baseball Trivia Question Answered

For many years, my father and I have asking what we both consider to be "the hardest baseball trivia question." For three decades we've been asking both hardcore as well as regular baseball trivia fans a question that no fan has been able to answer. And that question is:

"Who held the career home run record before Babe Ruth set the record in 1921?"

Back in 1974, I sent a question to the Daily News columnist Red Foley, who used to have a Sunday column called "Ask Red," where he'd answer about 4 or 5 baseball queries from fans in the New York area. On four occasions I sent in questions that were printed in the paper that Sunday. However, every time I wrote to Red I got a response back from him on Daily News stationery. It was a really cool thing.

Hank Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. It was of course a huge thing, but in all the hullabaloo surrounding it, I wondered who's record Ruth broke. So I wrote to Red and he sent me back the answer.

For years, my dad and I asked people if they knew, and we'd get all kinds of guesses, like Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker and Honus Wagner. But they were always incorrect. When we'd say the answer, we'd get long faces and the inevitable response of, "I never heard of him."

So after three decades I figured nobody would ever answer this question correctly. I was in Professor Thom's on Thursday night, and my buddy Chris introduced me to a friend of his from named Dave. We were shooting baseball qusetions between us all night. Dave had a great one that stumped Chris and I but good. But then I decided to hit him with my question about the home run champion.

Dave at first said Roger Connor, but that was the "pre-1900" answer (as we checked it out in a baseball encyclopedia the bar has handy). Connor hit 136 homers, but his is not considered the "modern" record, as he hit all of his before 1898. Then the next response from Dave was, "Gavvy Cravath." I was totally dumbstruck! He got it right, and it's the first time his name has been mentioned by anyone in 30 years of asking that question between my dad and myself. I shook Dave's hand and congratulated him on getting it right.

Gavvy Cravath (pictured) was the premier home run hitter before Ruth, hitting 119 homers in a career that lasted from 1908-1920. He came up with the Red Sox, but played most of his career with the Phillies, and won 6 NL home run titles. After he retired, he became a judge in his native California, where he died in 1963. For more on the one-time home run champ, check this out: