Sunday, August 31, 2008

Red Sox and Trivia: Perfect Together

Earlier today, my friend Peter over at Peter's Red Sox Forever alerted me about a cool new widget that he just put on his fine blog. It's called "Question of the Day" and they ask a different Red Sox trivia question every day. Today it was about Bill Mueller's batting average when he won the batting title in 2003 (and sure enough, I got it wrong). You can choose the correct answer, and it will tell you the percentages of everyone who took a guess at the question (and it will tell you if you are right or wrong).

Since we are big on trivia here, I have put the widget on the left side of the blog. So for you Sox fans, one other little entertaining thing on this site. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Peter for telling me about it.

I also put up a new countdown for my countdown clock. Since the waiver trade deadline has just passed, it's time to count down to the MLB playoffs. I have yet to hear the exact date and time, but I believe it will be the Wednesday after the season ends, and that is October 1. I selected 12 noon on that day as well, as it's a good round time.

One month to go.

Pedroia's Raking as Bowden Impresses

Dustin Pedroia had his second consecutive four-hit game in leading the Red Sox to a convincing 8-2 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park last night.

It was an historic night for the Red Sox second baseman, as he hit in the cleanup spot for the first time in his career. He was actually walked intentionally in the eighth inning. Dusty is now leading the AL in hitting right now as well.

Last night was also the MLB debut for Michael Bowden, the impressive young pitcher who began this season at Portland (pictured getting the game ball from Hideki Okajima). Bowden gave Terry Francona exactly what he needed last night. He went five innings, gave up two runs, seven hits, walked one and struck out three. Facing a tough hitting Chicago club, he showed great poise as he was in difficult situations in three of the five innings he pitched. He clearly merits another start, and we'll see if gets another in Texas next weekend.

Bowden is now the last of the top five Red Sox draft choices of 2005 to make it to the majors. He joins Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Craig Hansen and Clay Buchholz as youngsters who are part of one of the club's best drafts in its history to make an impact at the MLB level.

Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup yesterday, with a bug that seems to be going around the team. So that got Pedroia in the four-hole. Jeff Bailey launched his first career MLB homer, a soaring shot into the centerfield bleachers. Mark Kotsay, batting fifth with great career numbers against losing pitcher Mark Buehrle, had two doubles and three RBI. Jason Bay continued his hot hitting in the first with a two-run double that staked Bowden to an early 3-0 lead.

The Sox remained 4 1/2 back of Tampa Bay in the East, who won a slugfest over Baltimore, 10-9. Minnesota lost in the ninth to Oakland on an error that let in two runs, 3-2, so the Twins are now 3 1/2 games behind the Sox in the wild card. And the Yankees continue to fade away, blowing a four-run lead in the seventh to the Blue Jays, 7-6. They now trail the Sox by seven, and Tampa Bay by a whopping 11 1/2 games.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Best Burger in New York

I'm a guy who loves burgers. There's no way in this world I could ever become a vegetarian, as you might as well ask me to stop breathing first before I'd give them up for good.

Earlier today I was informed by my friend Horton, a fellow diehard Red Sox fan, that Citysearch New York is conducting an online contest to determine which New York restaurant has the best burger. And his fine establishment, Tavern on Jane, has been selected as one of the finalists in the contest.

My friend Deborah and I were at Tavern on Jane just a couple of weeks ago, and naturally I had one of the burgers. I had had them before on a few occasions and I can attest as to how good they really are.

So, even if you haven't been to Horton's place, which is in the West Village on the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue, not far from 14th Street, you can still cast a ballot for him. You can vote in the contest by going here. And if you're ever in the neighborhood, definitely drop in. It's a quality bar/restaurant with great hospitality and service.

You can vote only once from your computer. I thank you very much, and Horton thanks you all, too.

Dice-K Baffles the Other Sox

Daisuke Matsuzaka won his 16th game last night, in what was arguably his best performance of the season as the Red Sox whacked the White Sox, 8-0, on their return home after a very successful road trip.

Despite not having Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Sean Casey, Josh Beckett and Coco Crisp (out last night with flu-like symptoms), the Red Sox made it look easy against Chicago. They are just so deep and resilient, and are finding ways to win.

Dice-K tied the record for most wins in MLB in a season by a Japanese-born pitcher, which was set by Hideo Nomo. He is now 16-2. He went eight innings last night, striking out seven and allowing just two hits while walking two. He was never in trouble, as the offense gave him all the support he needed from the first inning.

Dustin Pedroia had four hits, along with a walk and two stolen bases, and David Ortiz had three hits as well. Kevin Youkilis had two hits and three RBI. Jason Bay was having a tough night, with two strikeouts, until his blow put the game out of reach. The Sox were up 4-0 with the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth when Bay blasted one off the wall to clear the bases and put the Sox up, 7-0.

Pedroia also scored twice, and broke Bobby Doerr's 1950 team record for runs scored by a second baseman. Dusty now has 104 runs scored, and you have to think he will now start getting some MVP votes with the spectacular year he is putting together.

Tampa Bay won over Baltimore, and Minnesota won in Oakland, so the Red Sox remain 4 1/2 behind the Rays in the East, and 2 1/2 up on the Twins in the wild card race.

Before the game the Red Sox got some good news about Josh Beckett's elbow, as there appears to be now damage inside, as he visited Dr. James Andrews in Alabama yesterday. They did place him on the DL also, but he will only be on it for another week, as he has not pitched since August 17th. He will start in Texas next weekend. The Red Sox also placed Sean Casey on the DL with his continuing neck pain, and brought up catcher David Ross. They will bring up highly touted rookie Michael Bowden from Pawtucket tonight to make his MLB debut.

Chad Johnson is Officially Insane

Everyone knows that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is little crazy, but now he's gone completely over the edge.

I know some people will do ANYTHING in this life for publicity, but this takes the cake. Johnson has officially changed his name in Broward County, Florida from Chad Johnson to Chad Jevon Ocho Cinco. Yep, that's right. He's legally changed his last name to his number in Spanish: 85.

I guess the Bengals will now HAVE to put OCHO CINCO above his number, like he famously did a few years ago (pictured) and got himself fined for doing so by the NFL. I'm sure head coach Marvin Lewis is cringing over this.

I really hope Jonathan Papelbon doesn't get any ideas from this. I'd hate to have to say "Jonathan Cinco Ocho is our closer." (I'm not sure that's actually 58 in Spanish, but you get the idea.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bert Blyleven: Renaissance Man

I've always believed that one of the great injustices in the baseball Hall of Fame balloting has been the fact that Bert Blyleven has yet to be selected. Along with Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva, I think he should be enshrined at Cooperstown.

Blyleven currently does the Minnesota Twins games on FSN North as a color commentator. Since I got the MLB package a few years back, I've been able to watch some games he does. He's actually a good listen, as he brings a good knowledge of game and especially pitching, along with a biting sense of humor. He's a favorite of the Twins fans, as they love holding up "Circle Me Bert" signs at games for Blyleven to write a circle around them.

But at the BLOHARDS meeting the other day, I saw the above photo as part of their slideshow. I did some further research, and as it turns out, Bert is one of those guys who actually does like to break wind and isn't shy about letting the world know about it.

The good folks over at Deadspin had an article about this last May: "A Mighty Wind: Bert Blyleven Loves to Fart."

It's really a very funny interview. You won't find too many media types who'll go on the record about their enjoyment over passing gas. And it turns out that Bert still has that shirt he's wearing too.

Blyleven's always been a real character. He seems like the kind of guy you'd love to hang out with in a bar and just hear his old baseball war stories. And maybe even let a few rip.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Playing With the House's Money

The Red Sox concluded their best (and most important) road trip of the season with a loss, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Giambalco took Hideki Okajima deep with a man on in the seventh to tie the score at 2. Then Roid Boy came up in the ninth with bases loaded against Jonathan Papelbon (who was just brought in with one out) and singled in the winning run.

The bullpen was very good for most of the road trip, but it still worries me.

Jon Lester was sensational today, as he allowed just five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He left with a 2-0 lead, but that disappeared with the home run. He bounced back nicely after the hammering he took in Toronto last Saturday. Mike Mussina pitched just as well, as he went seven innings, allowing just two runs.

It was a terrific trip for the Sox through the AL East, as they took 2 of 3 in Baltimore, Toronto and New York. I said before it started that the Sox needed to win at least 5, and they took 6. I would have been happy with just one victory in NY, but two is simply outstanding.

Now the Sox return to Boston to begin a homestand with Chicago and Baltimore.

The Joy of Sox has a very interesting article today about a Red Sox fan from Queens, Brad Campeau-Laurion, who was manhandled and kicked out of Yankee Stadium by Steinbrenner's Storm Troopers last night as he attempted to go to the men's room during the playing of "God Bless America." Check it out here.

Remember the words of the eminent social philosopher, Bill Lee:
"Every time I see a Yankees hat, I see a swastika just a little off kilter."
(Thanks to JoS for the quote.)

After the game today, the Red Sox scratched Josh Beckett from his scheduled start tomorrow night, and are sending to him to see Dr. James Andrews in Alabama about his elbow. They say it's just a precaution, and Daisuke Matsuzaka will take his place Friday, and David Pauley will get the start Saturday.


Trivia and More With The BLOHARDS

I spent an enjoyable afternoon with the BLOHARDS yesterday at the Yale Club in Manhattan. They have two meetings a year, and I always do a round of trivia and give away some prizes.

At this meeting, Jeff Bailey of the Red Sox was an invited guest from the team. He came off as a rather personable and a quiet guy. He happily signed autographs and spoke for a few minutes with WFAN's Ed Randall, and was named the International League's MVP on Tuesday. At the conclusion, he got a standing ovation from the crowd.

I did my trivia about midway through the luncheon. The prizes I gave away were gift certificates to Professor Thom's and some cool bar t-shirts. I asked four questions about the Sox. Here they are:

1. Which Red Sox player once hit into a triple play and hit a grand slam in the same game?
I was surprised that nobody got this question right away. I had to give out some hints, and I practically had to give it away before some said, "Scott Hatteberg." The winner got a $20 gift certificate.

2. Which Red Sox player has played in the most postseason games in club history?
This one wasn't too hard. A few seconds passed before somebody yelled "Jason Varitek." The winner got a $20 gift certificate, a t-shirt and fake Manny Ramirez wig. (More on that later.)

3. Where did the Red Sox have their spring training home just before moving to Winter Haven, FL in 1966?
I knew one of the older Sox fans would guess this one right, and one did immediately, and got a $20 gift certificate and shirt: "Scottsdale, AZ."

4. And what I thought was the hardest question of the four: What Red Sox player holds the team record for the highest batting average in the team's postseason history?

People were yelling out every conceivable answer, but then I finally said, "He's not a beloved figure in team history." And finally someone yelled out, "Jose Offerman." And that won him a $50 gift certificate. (Yep, Offerman batted .429 in his Red Sox postseason days.)

It was a lot of fun doing trivia. I also gave a plug to Bill Nowlin, as I used his fine book "Red Sox Threads" to get the questions from. Damon Woo, who famously caught Manny Ramirez' 500th home run, was on hand and did a recreation of his legendary grab, with my friend Frank Minishak wearing the Manny wig and swinging a bat with his arms up in the air. Joe Cosgriff of the BLOHARDS threw Damon a ball from the podium and he caught it. Good stuff.

We also had a slide show of the events in baseball since the last meeting, with Hank Steinbrenner and Manny Ramirez both getting the group's legendary "Horse's Ass Award." I had the pleasure of chatting with Damon Woo and Ed Randall afterwards, and I was also happy to once again meet Tina Cervasio (pictured), who was also there. (She also came up to the mic with a Manny wig and Red Sox jersey, and once again told the story of meeting Manny after his 2007 ALDS homer against the Angels and having him explain it to her by simply putting his arms up in the air.) I met her last April. The former NESN reporter is now with MSG here in New York. She is a very pleasant lady to talk with, and I hope she can make it down to Trivia Night one of the days!

It was a fine afternoon hanging with the many Red Sox fans based here in the New York area, doing lots of trivia and Yankee bashing. I'll be back again next season with more Red Sox trivia.

Red Sox to Open Citi Field in 2009

The Red Sox will have the pleasure of being the road team for the very first game of the brand new Citi Field the Mets are opening next season.

They will play the Mets in two exhibition games on the eve of the 2009 season, and the games are tentatively scheduled for April 3rd and 4th. The Mets will play they first regular season game there on April 14th against the San Diego Padres. (Road trip, Peggy and Ken?) The Mets open their regular season in Cincinnati next season.

Here's more about it from the Providence Journal.

The Red Sox will then open the regular season in 2009 at home against Tampa Bay, and it will be just the second time they will open at home in the last dozen years. (Although Sean McAdam is wrong in the ProJo story. The Sox didn't open the 2005 at home. They opened it at Yankee Stadium.)

You bet your sweet life I'll be there for one, if not both, games.

Curtain's Going Down

A close contest turned into a rout last night at Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox took New York apart, 11-3, and drove another stake into any possibility of the Yankees playing baseball this October.

Dustin Pedroia's grand slam (pictured, with thanks to Joy of Sox for the pic) capped a seven-run eighth off the awful Yankees bullpen. It was Dusty's first career slam and his 15th blast of the season. Jason Bay drove in four runs, to give him six for the two-game series, and David Ortiz was on base four times.

Bay simply has been terrific since the trade from the Pirates. He has 10 multihit games in 23 with the Sox, and is batting .347 (33 for 95) with 22 runs, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, and 24 RBIs. (And, if you hadn't noticed, Manny Ramirez hasn't driven in a run for the Dodgers in his last eight games.)

It's turning into a Bronx Massacre as the Sox have outscored New York 18-6 in the first two games. You know things are really bad for the Yankees when they put their season in the hands of one Sidney Ponson. And he responded how you'd think, by giving up four runs in just less than five innings. Paul Byrd, who had gotten banged around by New York in two starts this season while with the Indians, did exactly what Tim Wakefield did last night. Gave the Sox some quality innings, and turned it over to the pen to finish. He went six, gave up just two runs.

And last night there was a rare appearance by Hank (Horse's Ass) Steinbrenner, appearing at Yankee Stadium for just the second time this season. And he fumed after the game about his $200 million payroll underachievers: "They sucked." Notice how Hankenstein used "they" and not "we", as he usually does about his team?

It's been a fabulous road trip for the Red Sox. They are now 6-2 in this nine-game swing through the AL East. The Sox had not played well away from Fenway all year, and were under .500 against the East before the trip began. And what makes it all the more remarkable is they have done it without Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Sean Casey and Josh Beckett.

Only the most cockeyed of Yankee optimists believe the Yankees have any shot at the postseason now. They trail the Sox by 7 in the Wild Card and the Rays by 10 1/2 for the division. My pal Eric may have put it best when he said to me after Pedroia's grand slam about the Yankees: "Time to get the golf clubs ready." The Red Sox now still lead the WC by 2 1/2 as Minnesota won, and Tampa Bay win kept the Sox 3 1/2 back.

The Red Sox go for the sweep today, with Jon Lester on the hill in the final game they play in the second Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Red Sox Get Mark Kotsay

The Red Sox acquired veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay from the Atlanta Braves for Lowell Spinners prospect Luis Sumoza today. The trade tells me that the injury to J.D. Drew maybe more severe than the Red Sox originally thought. He was put on the DL yesterday with a herniated disc in his back.

Kotsay has a good bat and may send Coco Crisp back to the bench. He is hitting .289 this season, and can play all three outfield positions, and very well.

Sumoza hit 11 homers for the Spinners and I saw him play last week against the Brooklyn Cyclones at KeySpan Park. He won a game against them with a ninth inning homer as well.

Banner Night For the Red Sox

The night started out last night with some bad news: J.D. Drew was placed on the DL with the herniated disk in his back. It's not known how long he will be out. But the rumors about a trade with the Braves for outfielder Mark Kotsay tells me that Drew's injury maybe more serious than originally feared.

But the bad news ended there. Tim Wakefield gave the Sox exactly what they needed last night. He went five innings, gave up just three runs, two were cheap-ass home runs down the rightfield line to Johnny Damon. He left with a 6-3 lead, and turned it over to the Red Sox pen, which kept the Yankees off the board the rest of the night, although they did threaten in almost every inning but the ninth. It was Wake's 8th win in 2008.

Jason Bay led the 14-hit attack with two hits and two RBI. Coco Crisp had three hits and stolen base, and scored from second base on Jeff Bailey's infield single when Jason Giambi brainlocked at first after Bailey beat Alex Rodriguez's throw.

But the story of the night was not Andy Pettitte's lousy outing for the Yankees, but the one A-Rod had at the plate and in the field. He went 0-for-5, banged into 2 double plays, left seven men on base, made an error, and for good measure, ended the game with a strike out. He was booed lustily by the Yankee fans all night, and even heard it when he threw out a Red Sox runner on an easy grounder in the 8th. In the 7th, he came up with basically the Yankee season on the line: bases loaded, one out, and down 7-3. On Justin Masterson's second pitch, he grounded to Alex Cora for an easy DP to end the threat.

It was a bit of a nervous night at times for the Red Sox fans, but the pen came through big time in an important game. At Professor Thom's, we were joined by Jerry Casale, the former Red Sox pitcher. He was holding court with myself and my friends, telling stories and about how much he dislikes the Yankees. He was passing out his old Red Sox baseball card too. Jerry's recovering from a stroke he had late in 2006, but he was in good spirits, and we all enjoyed being with him.

For the Red Sox, it was a night that everything clicked. The offense, the pitching, and especially in the standings. The Rays and Twins also lost, so the Sox trail Tampa Bay by 3 1/2, and lead Minnesota by 2 1/2 in the Wild Card. The Yankees also fall deeper into the crater they've created for themselves. It's looking pretty bleak for them right now.

Don't be surprised to see more Red Sox fans at the final two games at Yankee Stadium this week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Top 10 Sox Moments in The Bronx

As the whole world knows by now, this three-game series the Red Sox are playing against the Yankees in the Bronx starting tonight will mark the final time they will play in the second Yankee Stadium. That is, unless they meet in a one-game playoff or the ALCS, both of which seem rather unlikely. (And always remember, the original stadium, the one that Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle played in, is long gone, having had a date with the wrecker's ball in 1973.)

Of course, every writer has to put their "top 10 moments" list together, especially when it concerns the Red Sox. I'm no different, so here's my Top 10:

Screw it, all 10 occurred at the same time, shortly after midnight, October 21, 2004. The Red Sox get even for 1949, 1978, 1999 and 2003, all at the same time, and humiliate their longtime rivals before a houseful of obnoxious Yankee supporters, and for all the world to see.

I like keeping it nice and simple.

UPDATE: I just posted a column over at called "My Favorite Sox Games at The Bronx." It is my five favorite Red Sox games I either witnessed live or on TV there. Please do check it out.

Trivia Q&A: August 25

It was a quiet night at Professor Thom's on Monday night, as there was no Red Sox game and many of the Trivia Night regulars did not come out. (Monday's always a slow night there.) The Red Sox-Yankees series starting tomorrow night forced us to Monday. (And I'm sure we'll have a bigger crowd in Thom's on Tuesday.) We had just 9 teams come out for the special edition of Trivia, and at one point it looked like we might not even get as many as 5 teams. But fortunately we had some folks who wanted to play, so we had a good round nonetheless. (And we completed the night in just about 90 minutes. We normally go on for at least two hours when he have at least 15-20 teams.)

It was a close contest throughout, and the scores were relatively respectable all night. We had just one perfect score the entire game, and it was in the General Knowledge round (Rob going solo!). We had the top three teams separated by two points going into IQ Trivia.

The team in third, Just The Two of Us, had the best score in that round, getting four of the five questions right for 15 points. They leaped over the top two teams to get the win, and by six points. The winners were also two ladies who were a part of one of the recent winning teams, and most of their teammates couldn't make it in. Nice job, ladies!

Remember that next week's Trivia Night will be held on its usual night, Tuesday night, September 2, at 9 PM. I'll bet we'll have a bigger crowd then.

Current Events
1. This pop/rock star will pay over $46 million to his ex-wife to settle their divorce, and it is believed to be the largest sum ever in a celebrity divorce.
2. The US signed a deal with this European nation to build a missile defense base there, which angered Russia, one that nation's neighbors.
3. A jet swerved off a runway in this European city last week and killed 153 people on impact.
4. Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee is proposing renaming the airport in Memphis after this recently deceased entertainer, a Tennessee native.
5. The City of Milwaukee honored this actor last week by unveiling a statue of his legendary TV character in the city.
6. This prestigious university replaced Princeton as the top college in the US in US News and World Report's yearly listing of America's best universities.
7. Forbes magazine last week proclaimed that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, of this Asian nation, is the richest royal person in the world, worth $35 billion.

Answers: 1. Phil Collins; 2. Poland; 3. Madrid; 4. Isaac Hayes; 5. Henry Winkler; 6. Harvard; 7. Thailand.

Tennis Trivia
1. Who did John McEnroe defeat to win his first Wimbledon singles title in 1981? a. Rod Laver; b. Jimmy Connors; c. Bjorn Borg; d. Ivan Lendl.
2. What is the term for zero in tennis? a. let; b. ace; c. skunk; d. love.
3. Who won the Men's Singles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics? a. Rafael Nadal; b. James Blake; c. Roger Federer; d. Fernando Gonzalez.
4. Who was the first unseeded player to win Wimbledon? a. Bjorn Borg; b. Boris Becker; c. Michael Chang; d. Pete Sampras.
5. What was the US Open's most recent location prior to Flushing Meadow? a. Longwood; b. Philadelphia; c. Forest Hills; d. Newport.
6. Which major tournament has Roger Federer never won? a. French Open; b. US Open; c. Wimbledon; d. Australian Open.
7. What country is Martina Navratilova originally from? a. Romania; b. Czechoslovakia; c. Bulgaria; d. Austria.

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

Spell The Word ("The Q Train")
1. UMBRAGE (noun): reason for doubt; suspicion.
2. SCHADENFREUDE (noun): a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.
3. ACUMEN (noun): shrewdness shown by keen insight.
4. PARSIMONIOUS (adj): sparing in expenditure; frugal to excess.
5. RUMINATE (verb): to think again and again; to ponder.
6. BELLWETHER (noun): a leading indicator of future trends.
7. LAMBASTE (verb): to scold sharply; to berate.
8. MAELSTROM (noun): a violent or turbulent state of affairs.
9. UBIQUITOUS (adj): being everywhere, or in all places, at the same time.
10. SALUBRIOUS (adj): favorable to health or healthful.

General Knowledge
1. What event was planned by Machine Gun Jack McGurn, with the help of his girlfriend's alibi?
2. Who was the emperor of Rome when Jesus Christ was born?
3. What candy invites you to "taste the rainbow?"
4. What was the original theme song to the TV series "Happy Days?"
5. What cable network originally debuted on cable in 1979 as "Pinwheel?"
6. In which city is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame located?
7. In the children's story "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," how many of the dwarfs have names ending with a "y"?

Answers: 1. St. Valentine's Day Massacre; 2. Caesar Augustus; 3. Skittles; 4. "Rock Around the Clock;" 5. Nickelodeon; 6. Cleveland; 7. five (Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey and Sneezy).

IQ Trivia
1. Which actor was a member of both "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Magnificent Seven?" ( 4 points)
2. What is the only middle name shared by two different US presidents? ( 4 points)
3. What country singer was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan in 1981? ( 5 points)
4. What form of transportation would you be on if you were on a caravel? ( 3 points)
5. James Meredith was the first black man to attend what southern university? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Charles Bronson; 2. Walker (George Bush Sr. and Jr.); 3. Merle Haggard; 4. ship; 5. University of Mississippi.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Trivia Maven with The BLOHARDS

Yours Truly will be an invited guest to the upcoming BLOHARDS meeting this Wednesday afternoon at the Yale Club in Manhattan, as I was earlier this year.

The BLOHARDS, for those of you not aware of it, are the Red Sox fan club based here in New York, and I've been a member for many years. The meetings are generally a lot of fun, as there's a lot of reviewing of the current state of affairs in Red Sox Nation, as well as a lot of Yankee bashing.

Over the last couple of years, I've had the pleasure of doing some Red Sox trivia at the meetings, and giving away some cool prizes to the winners. The group is usually pretty literate as far as team history goes, although I do try to stump them as best as I can. (And I have on occasion.) I'll be there along with my pal Chris of Professor Thom's.

Well, we'll be getting together once again on Wednesday at noon. Rumor has it that John Pizzarelli, the fine jazz guitarist and Red Sox fan, will be on hand. (I've met him on a few occasions and he's a really nice guy.) Another rumor has that Tina Cervasio, the lovely and talented former Red Sox and NESN reporter and now with MSG, will make another appearance. There will also be an appearance by a yet-to-be-named Red Sox player. (We've had Javier Lopez, Eric Hinske and David Aardsma in the very recent past.)

Tickets go for $75 for the afternoon, but it's really worth it, if just to hear my five trivia questions and win valuable prizes! For more info, you can go to the BLOHARDS web site.

Real Stupid

You may have heard that Madonna, the shrinking violet that she is with that fake British accent, ran a video at her concert in Cardiff, Wales over the weekend comparing John McCain to Adolf Hitler and basically anointing sainthood on Barack Obama.

Comparing the Arizona senator to the one of the most reviled human beings of the 20th century is odious enough. I've heard left-wingers like her saying nonsense like this about politicians on the right they hate for years and years. It's nothing new. And of course, it's all planned by her: she's a first-class media whore if there ever was one.

But I'm more bothered by these singers who turn their shows into a sermon about politics (and usually on the left). Listen, I'm not against celebrities coming out in favor of politicians they like. They are Americans just like me, and they have that right to make their opinions known. (However, their political opinion is no better or worse than mine.) They have plenty of legitimate places to voice that, like on their own blogs and at "real" political rallies, where politics is the order of the day and you'd expect that.

The one thing I despise is singers who think what they have to say politically is so damn important that they get on the high soapbox during a show and begin to rail about this or that evil politician (and it's always seems to be some lefty going after someone on the right for some reason). I don't go to a show to listen to some jackass go on and on about politics. I go to a show to hear music, to be entertained. If I want to hear a sermon, I'll go to church.

Not that I would ever go to a Madonna concert, but she comes off as a real nitwit in all this. Park the politics at the door. No one gives a damn if you think John McCain's in league with Satan.

Uncle Jed Strikes Oil in the 11th

For the first time all year, I missed two Red Sox games in a row. I was visiting some friends on Long Island, who didn't have the baseball package, so I had to follow the Sox game in Toronto on my trusty cell phone.

I sure was happy to see the Red Sox pulled out a 6-5, 11-inning win at Rogers Centre. Jed Lowrie (pictured) connected for his second career home run as the Red Sox came from behind twice. It was a mediocre start for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went six innings and gave up five runs.

There were highlight reel catches from Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay, and home runs from Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia. (Has anyone mentioned Dusty as a possible MVP candidate? I just did.) Jonathan Papelbon got the win after pitching two scoreless innings, with Manny Delcarmen getting his first save of the season.

The Red Sox gained a game on Tampa Bay, as they lost in Chicago. They are 3 1/2 games out of first, and lead the Wild Card by one over Minnesota, and five ahead of New York.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tennis Trivia on Monday

In honor of the start of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at Flushing Meadow on Monday, we will have a round of Tennis Trivia at Professor Thom's on Monday night. It will be seven questions that will also be multiple choice.

Please don't forget that we will be having Trivia Night on Monday night at 9 PM this week, as the Red Sox have a game against the Yankees on Tuesday night, so the large crowds will make having Trivia a near impossibility. (We will be going back to the regularly scheduled Tuesday nights on September 2.)

The Q Train will be another round of "Spell The Word Trivia."

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
What candy invites you to "taste the rainbow?"

Hope many of you can make it to Thom's this Monday for a special night of Trivia.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Move Along. Nothing to See Here.

Boy, am I glad I missed this one.

Lester was awful (for the first time in a very long time).

The Red Sox only got four hits. (And the pitching staff gave up 10 or more runs for the fourth time in ten games.)

A "garbage can" game if I've ever seen one. (Or didn't see, actually.) Toss this one away and forget about it.

Have a stiff drink, gets some shut eye and come out slugging tomorrow.

Daisuke takes the hill on Sunday to try to win the series in Toronto.

Beckett Pushed Back Again

This sounds rather ominous.

The Red Sox, erring on the side of caution, have pushed Josh Beckett's next start back to Friday against the Chicago White Sox, the day the Sox return home after the nine-game road trip. Terry Francona mentioned that Beckett has had "inflammation" in his right elbow. They still don't think it's anything serious. Tim Wakefield will come off the DL on Tuesday night to pitch the opening game in New York.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, we in New York won't be seeing today's Red Sox-Blue Jays game, as it has a 1 PM start, and since Fox has those inane "exclusive" rules regarding Saturday afternoon baseball, the MLB Extra Innings package doesn't kick in until 7 PM today. The game will only be seen in the New England and Toronto markets.

One Byrd Beats a Team of Birds

Paul Byrd did last night exactly what the Red Sox have wanted him to do: give them six innings and leave with the lead. And that's just what he did, as the Red Sox went on to an 8-4 win in Toronto last night. It was just the third win by the Red Sox over Toronto this season, and they have now won 3 of the first 4 of the current road trip.

Byrd gave up two two-run homers, to Alex Rios and Lyle Overbay, but left with a 6-4 lead after six. The bullpen shut Toronto down over the final three innings.

Dustin Pedroia hit a home run in the first, and in the fourth, the Sox scored four, mostly due to the wildness of Blue Jays' starter Shawn Marcum. Jason Varitek continued his resurgence, hitting a homer in his third straight game and getting on base four times. he's now 7 for his last 16.

The Sox put it away in the eighth with two insurance runs to get Byrd his first win in a Red Sox uniform.

Tampa Bay won in Chicago to keep the Red Sox 4 1/2 back.

It was also revealed yesterday that J.D. Drew has a herniated disk in his back, but he feels he might not need to go on the DL. It is similar to what he went through in St. Louis in 2001. The MRI he had yesterday was actually encouraging, as the Sox feel that once the spasming around it subsides, Drew can play. When is anyone's guess right now.

The Red Sox also signed catcher David Ross, who was released earlier this week by Cincinnati. He figures to be up in September for extra catching insurance when the rosters expand.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More People With No Conscience

As time continues to go on, it's apparent to me that some people are simply becoming more desensitized as to the September 11, 2001 disaster at the World Trade Center. I picked up the NY Daily News yesterday and read a story about a French artist named Douglas Stanley, who has put together a 30th anniversary of his "Space Invaders" video game by having aliens attacking the World Trade Center. (And of course, something like this comes up just three weeks before the 7th anniversary of the disaster. What a coincidence.)

Yep, you can play "games" against "aliens" attacking the World Trade Center. You can read the article here.

Talk about no sensitivity towards anyone who lost a loved one there seven years ago. Why did he pick the Twin Towers for his video game? It's pretty obvious to me. People like him need the publicity, whether good or bad, for his product, and he knows that it will get some people interested. And that means more cash in his pocket.

It saddens me to see such people with little conscience or scruples. Someone who would use the World Trade Center tragedy to try to make money (and there are plenty of people out there like that). All you can do is ignore people like Stanley and his junk.

And I also read today that the NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) issued a report yesterday concluding the collapse of 7 World Trade Center was due to the fires inside the building, and it wasn't due to any conspiracies to blow up the building.

A team of 50 experts pinpointed the collapse due to a failure of a single column. It was a team of experts such as metallurgists, explosion experts and structural engineers. An interesting article about it from today's New York Post is here.

I'm sure the screwballs who still can't let the conspiracy theories go will explain this away as those experts were probably forced by the government to conceal the "real" evidence or something like that. And I can just guess that 50 years from now we'll still have the same whackjob conspiracy theories out there. And the sad part is I'll bet there are people who haven't been born yet who'll be buying into them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shipping Up to Portland

Clay Buchholz may have made his final start for the Red Sox in 2008, as he was optioned to the Portland Sea Dogs after last night's latest disaster, an 11-6 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards. No replacement for him has been named yet, and the Red Sox will call up someone tomorrow.

It was the 7th straight loss for Buchholz, after the Red Sox staked him to a 4-0 lead after two innings. It was also the third straight game the Sox scored him runs in the first, and he wound up losing all three. Here's the ugly truth of Buchholz's last nine starts since his recall from Pawtucket: 42 innings, 62 hits, 27 walks, 39 strikeouts, 9.21 ERA, no wins. Yikes.

It's the best thing for the kid right now. His confidence is just about shot. You could see once the Orioles started rallying in the second for three that the game was heading downhill fast for him. Buchholz will go down and work with Portland's pitching coach on getting a number of things fine tuned. It wouldn't surprise me if he spends the rest of the 2008 campaign in the minors.

Buchholz is a kid with a ton of talent, and no one should give up on him. Baseball history is full of guys who've gotten off to tough starts and bounced back to have great careers (Tom Glavine jumps out right away). I think because he threw the no-hitter in just his second start that that raised the expectations of the Red Sox and their fans very high for him.

He's a top of the rotation pitcher. Just give him time. He'll be back.

For the third time in eight games, the Red Sox gave up double-digit runs to the opposition, and once again the bullpen was awful, allowing at least six runs in all three of those games as well. Not good. It got to the point where Alex Cora was throwing in the bullpen in the eighth inning (Terry Francona eventually stuck with Hideki Okajima for that inning.) The bullpen continues to be an Achilles heel for the Red Sox. David Aardsma came into the game after Buchholz was pulled in the third, and promptly gave up a three-run homer to make it 7-4, and Javier Lopez also gave up a three-run shot in the fourth to basically put the game away for Baltimore.

Tampa Bay also lost last night, so the Red Sox remain 4 1/2 games back.

Now it's off to Toronto, where Paul Byrd gets the ball tomorrow night. Josh Beckett being pushed back a few days actually sets up the rotation nicely for the Yankees series. Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka will complete the Toronto series, and in New York it will be Beckett, Byrd and Lester. (The two off days on the road trip really helps right now, and the Sox don't need a fifth starter until the Chicago series next weekend.) Originally, Beckett and Lester would have missed the New York series.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Youk, Tek Go Deep

The Red Sox won at Baltimore last night, 7-2, courtesy of homers by Kevin Youkilis (his 24th) and Jason Varitek (his 10th). Nice to see Tek getting the home run stroke back, as it was second straight game with a dong.

Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled a bit, and once again, for about the 345th time this season, left the bases loaded without a run scoring. That was in the fourth, and Daisuke went 5 1/3 innings to get the win, his 15th of the season. The bullpen shut the Orioles down the rest of the way, with Justin Masterson pitching the seventh and eighth.

The Sox gained no ground, as Tampa Bay came from behind to beat the LA Angels again. The Rays, who've lost three key players the last few weeks, continue to hang in there and the fact they are not folding up tells me they will make the playoffs, one way or the other. The Sox remain 4 1/2 games back, but still lead the Wild Card by 1 1/2 over the Twins. The Yankees? They lost again, in Toronto, on Johnny (What Am I Doing In Centerfield?) Damon's eighth inning error that cost New York the game, 2-1. They now trail the Rays by 11, and the Sox by 6 1/2.

The Red Sox announced that Josh Beckett's next start will be next Tuesday against the Yankees in New York. He was supposed to pitch Saturday in Toronto, but he felt a tingling and numbness in his right hand, which the team thinks happened as he slept last Sunday. Not considered serious, but the Sox are being careful and are rearranging the rotation for him. (It also allows Jon Lester to pitch in New York next week.)

And all the best to Carl Yastrzemski (pictured, at the 2004 World Series), who underwent emergency triple bypass surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday. It went very well, and he's resting comfortably. Yaz turns 69 on Friday.

Get well soon, Captain Carl.

Trivia Q&A: August 19

We had another huge crowd at Thom's on Tuesday night for Trivia, as well as a number of Red Sox fans and a good number of fans of gymnastics watching the Olympics. 21 teams took part in the contest.

The scores were generally good in the first three rounds. We had a four-way tie for first going into the fourth round, which is General Knowledge. (I also removed a question I felt was a bit ambiguous in that round when a few people came up to me looking for a clarification. That happens sometimes, and The Trivia Maven does look to avoid controversy.)

Going into the final round, we had nine teams within five points of the lead. We had two teams get four questions correct in IQ Trivia. (The scores were generally a bit lower, as most teams only got one or two right.) But one of the teams, The Metal Detectors, were one of the two teams that got four correct, as since they were tied for the lead going into the round, got the victory by just two points. My congratulations to Matt and his friends, who are regulars and previous Trivia Night winners.

Once again, we will have Trivia Night on Monday next week, August 25th, at 9 PM, due to a Red Sox-Yankees game next Tuesday. You can't have Trivia on a night when the bar is packed with Red Sox fans screaming obscenities at A-Rod and his teammates.

Current Events
1. This online site is now the top global social network, with 132 million users, with nearly 2/3 of them outside North America.
2. Fernando Lugo took office last Friday as president of this South American country, after 60 years of one-party rule.
3. Usain Bolt of this country won the gold medal in the 100 meters at Beijing and set a new world record of 9.69 seconds.
4. Virgin Records is suing this rock band for $30 million, claiming they refused to deliver three albums required by their contract, and haven't released a new one since 2005.
5. This film knocked out "The Dark Knight" of the number one movie slot, which it held for the last month, grossing $26 million in its debut.
6. Dozens of tourists had to be airlifted to safety out of this national park after a dam broke and created a flood on Sunday.
7. A gunman burst into the office of the Democratic Party HQ of this state and shot and killed the chairman before police killed him last week.

Answers: 1. Facebook; 2. Paraguay; 3. Jamaica; 4. 30 Seconds to Mars; 5. "Tropic Thunder;" 6. Grand Canyon; 7. Arkansas.

Famous Last Words
1. This from a famous actor/singer, who died in 1977: "That was a great game of golf, fellas."
2. From a famous world leader, who died in 1965: "I'm bored with it all."
3. He was part of one of the best comedy duos of all-time and died in 1959: "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted."
4. From a former US president, who died on the nation's birthday: "Is it the Fourth?"
5. An assassin who was killed 12 days after gunning down a great historic figure: "Useless, useless."
6. From a notorious serial killer, who died in prison in 1994: "I don't care if I live or die. Go ahead and kill me."
7. From an historic American figure, who died in 1776: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Answers: 1. Bing Crosby; 2. Winston Churchill; 3. Lou Costello; 4. Thomas Jefferson; 5. John Wilkes Booth; 6. Jeffrey Dahmer; 7. Nathan Hale.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. John Lennon is the only Beatle on the cover of the Abbey Road album not wearing shoes.
2. "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was the theme song to the TV series "Cheers."
3. Count Dracula did not cast his reflection in mirrors.
4. Chromium is added to steel to make it "stainless."
5. Pablo Casals was a well-known violinist.
6. Colin Powell served in the US Air Force for nearly 25 years.
7. The Mississippi River crosses the US border into Canada in Minnesota.
8. "A League of Their Own" features the famous line, "There's no crying in baseball."
9. Big Sur is a scenic coastline found in Hawaii.
10. A talisman is a type of good luck charm.

Answers: 1. false, it was Paul McCartney; 2. true; 3. true; 4. true; 5. false, he was a guitarist; 6. false, he was in the Army; 7. false, it starts in Minnesota; 8. true; 9. false, it is in California; 10. true.

General Knowledge
1. The Greenwich meridian is another name for what degree of longitude?
2. Which of King Henry VIII's wives was the mother of Queen Elizabeth I?
3. How many balls does a bowler roll in a perfect game of 300?
4. What was the only thing that remained in Pandora's Box after she opened it?
5. What 1950s quiz show did Charles Van Doren, the principal figure of the scandals that followed, appear on?
6. In the film "The Blair Witch Project", the characters disappear in the woods of what state?
7. What is the only publicly owned sports team in the US?

Answers: 1. zero; 2. Anne Boleyn; 3. twelve; 4. hope; 5. "Twenty-One;" 6. Maryland; 7. Green Bay Packers.

IQ Trivia
1. What famous American structure is Irish architect James Hoban credited with designing? ( 5 points)
2. Which president's wife had the nickname "Lemonade Lucy?" ( 3 points)
3. What is the northernmost world capital? ( 4 points)
4. What is the only TV series-turned-movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar? ( 4 points)
5. Which baseball Hall of Famer was born the same day Bobby Thomson hit his famous home run to win the 1951 NL pennant for the New York Giants? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. The White House; 2. Rutherford B. Hayes; 3. Reykjavik, Iceland; 4. "The Fugitive;" 5. Dave Winfield.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Get Well Soon, Yaz

Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski was admitted to a hospital in Boston today after he complained of chest pains.

As I write this, the Great Yaz, who is 68, is currently undergoing tests at Massachusetts General Hospital, so not much else is known at the moment.

Here's the story from ESPN.

We wish Yaz all the best and hope he's feeling better.

Jasons Wild

Jon Lester was once again the Red Sox stopper, as he went seven strong innings last night in Baltimore as the Red Sox opened the nine-game road trip with a much-needed win, 6-3.

Lester is now 3-0 with an incredible 0.29 ERA in four games following series in which the Red Sox were swept. (Granted this was just a two-game one the Red Sox just came off of after the Friday night rainout.) He allowed just a home run to Aubrey Huff and was never in any real trouble the entire night. He got his 12th win of 2008.

Jason Bay and Jason Varitek both went deep in the second inning, and the reaction from the crowd was even louder than I would have thought. It sure sounded like about 75% of the crowd of just over 40,000 were Red Sox fans at Camden Yards.

The game stayed 2-1 until the eighth when Bay went deep for the second time in the night with David Ortiz on first to make it 4-1. But Manny Delcarmen struggled after getting the first two outs of the eighth. He walked two, and Jonathan Papelbon came on and gave up a double to Huff to make it 4-3. But he got the last out to keep the lead.

The Sox tacked on two in the ninth, as Ortiz doubled in Dustin Pedroia and Bay's infield single drove in Papi to make it 6-3. papelbon got Baltimore 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 33rd save of the season. Tampa Bay won last night, so the Red Sox remain 4 1/2 games back.

In today's Boston Globe, speculation is that the Red Sox are looking at bringing back 2006 All-Star Mark Loretta as infield insurance, and they also have interest in catcher David Ross, who was released by the Cincinnati Reds yesterday. And also, Curt Schilling said on WEEI radio and on his blog yesterday that he maybe leaning toward retiring, but hasn't made the final decision yet.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Famous Last Words on Tuesday

The special category on Tuesday night for Trivia will be "Famous Last Words Trivia." It has nothing to do with albums by Supertramp or My Chemical Romance, but it will be the final, dying utterances of famous people before they left this world and met their Maker. Some are well known and some aren't. I will also give you a brief description of who they were as well.

We will also have the usual categories, plus The Q Train will have "True or False Trivia."

The Sneak Peek question for Tuesday night is:
How many balls does a bowler roll in a perfect game of 300?

Hope to see many of you on Tuesday night at 9 PM.

Reading About the Sox

Last week I received a very nice email from a lady in New York State named Christine Auclair. She's a diehard Red Sox fan, and she found me through the web site. Turns out that Christine has written a book about being a Red Sox fan in New York (sounds familiar) called "Living in New York as a Red Sox Fan: Tips and Topics From Within Enemy Lines."

Christine told me that the book is" written with a blend of facts and humor, along with some truthful sarcasm." Hey, if you root for the Red Sox in these parts you have to have some truthful sarcasm, right? If you'd like to check out Christine's web site where you can get her book, go here.

Good luck with the book, Christine.

I've also been reading books about the Red Sox lately. In addition to reading Jere Smith's fictional novel "Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery," I also read Jerry Remy's book, "Watching Baseball." As you would expect from the RemDawg, it is filled with his self-depreciating wit and good humor. But it is also breaks down every facet of the game for the fan's better understanding of it. You feel like you are watching a game alone with him at a bar. I got the updated 2007 version, and I really recommend it.

I am currently reading Bill Nowlin's book "Red Sox Threads: Odds and Ends From Red Sox History." It just came out in July, and it is literally everything you could ever want to know about the Red Sox (whether you were afraid to ask or not). Bill talks about the Red Sox on every conceivable subject regarding them you can think of. From the Jewish players, the oddest nicknames, to opening days and the day every Red Sox player made their club debut, Bill have put together an incredible book of Red Sox facts and figures, and lots of way-out stuff that would make a crazy fan like me happy.

The book is 545 pages, and I guarantee you'll find out things you couldn't possibly find out anywhere else. Like who hit the 10,000th home run in team history? (Kevin Millar in 2003) When was the last time the Sox were involved in a forfeit? (1941) What did Harry Hooper do after his career ended? (He became a postmaster.) Just about everyone who has ever worn a Red Sox uniform is in this book.

If you love odd stuff about the team, go out and get this book. Bill has written a dozen books on the Sox and this is his most fascinating to date.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is Beckett Hiding an Injury?

The less said about the horrific, putrid effort on Sunday from the team who calls themselves the defending World Series champions the better.

But Jerry Remy wondered aloud during the disasterous first inning whether or not Josh Beckett was hiding an injury. Beckett was getting hammered with his fastball, then decided to start nibbling, then had to come back in again. He wound up surrendering six runs in the first, and started a really long day for all Red Sox fans. Beckett was terrific in his last two starts against Kansas City and Chicago, but looked like he belonged back in the minors today.

Thanks also, Josh, for destroying my ERA and WHIP categories in my fantasy league for this week.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pitching Like Their Cars are Double Parked

Saturday night's pitching matchup at Fenway Park was Paul Byrd vs. Roy Halladay. It was Byrd's debut at Fenway Park as a Red Sox starter. But putting these guys together in the same game meant you might get out of Fenway early if you were in attendance.

And sure enough, the game took barely 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Sox have a good history against Halladay, as he has a 10-11 lifetime record against the Red Sox going into the game. But Halladay the Horse was on hand, and pitched a complete game as the Blue Jays won, 4-1.

Byrd did not pitch badly. He allowed a two-run homer to Alex Rios in the first to make it 2-0, and it stayed that way until the sixth, when Adam Lind went deep to make it 3-0. He was never really in any trouble until the 8th, when Rios tripled, and scored on Vernon Wells' single, to make it 4-0. He pitched like you would expect, as he kept the Red Sox in the game.

Halladay was just that much better. He had a shutout until the ninth, when Dustin Pedroia led off with a home run. He went all the way in getting his 14th win, and his 8th complete game of the season.

Last night's rainout will be made up as a day/night doubleheader on September 13, so Sunday's game with Josh Beckett on the mound will be the finale of the two-game series.

Fatso & Fruit Loops Split

The months of rumors and denials finally came to end earlier this week as it was announced that Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, aka "Mike and the Mad Dog," were splitting up as a team and that Russo was leaving WFAN immediately.

I watched the first hour of the show yesterday on YES, and Francesa was on alone but was joined by Russo by phone after the first commercial break. Russo actually broke down at one point talking on the phone. I thought Francesa handled the time I watched with some grace, and deferred to Russo and his accomplishments. They both stressed that the breakup was not simply because of any rumored disputes between them, but also that Russo wanted some "new challenges."

But yesterday also showed why I've never been the biggest fan of Francesa or that program. He too often comes across as an arrogant blowhard who thinks he knows everything. He talked yesterday about how Mike and The Mad Dog was always "a must listen" and a colleague at the station said their split was "like when the Beatles broke up." Just a bit over the top.

Granted, they made history in the world of drive-time sports radio, and there were times I did tune in when something important was going on in the world of sports. But I took them in small doses, as too many times Russo came off wildly uninformed on some issues, and Francesa too much of a know-it-all. (Although I have to admit I found Russo's Yankee-hating rather funny at times.) However, when each was solo I found the show to be really lacking, as each could go off on wild tangents that I found even more annoying. The show was always better having both them there to keep each of them in check. (For me, they will always be "Fatso and Fruit Loops," the nickname that Don Imus hung on them many years ago. I wonder if many people remember that?)

Rumors have it that Russo's next stop is Sirius satellite radio, so for me he disappears. Francesa will be on for another week solo, then will go on vacation and will debut a new show after Labor Day. Whether the show will survive without Russo remains to be seen.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Pray MLB Never Considers This

I was watching the USA-Cuba Olympic baseball game today, a game in which the United States tied the game in the 8th at 3 with a home run from Jayson Nix.

The game went through the tenth inning still tied. The IOC (which is getting rid of baseball from the Olympics after this year) has instituted a new rule for games going to the eleventh inning: both teams will start the inning with runners on first and second with no outs, and each team can start the inning anywhere in the lineup they want.

Talk about bullshit. The Cubans were the road team and scored two runs, while the USA scored one, and Cuba won, 5-4. During the inning, the announcers were wondering if the USA pitcher, Jeff Stevens, would get the loss even though he didn't put those runners on. I would guess he does. They also didn't sound terribly happy the game would get this to try to end it. Any real baseball fan should be appalled at this rubbish.

Talk about a crappy, artificial way to end a baseball game. I'm certain MLB wouldn't go for something as ludicrous as this. It reminds me too much of those inane shootouts that now end tied hockey games in the NHL.

The IOC is making a joke out of baseball, so now I'm glad it will no longer be a medal sport in the Olympics.

Another Big Inning, Another Big Night

It was another night when the Red Sox feasted on Texas Rangers pitching. Texas sent out a young pitcher named Tommy Hunter, who was making his third MLB appearance. His ERA was over 11.00 coming in, so you know the Red Sox had to be licking their chops over the prospect of facing him.

And Hunter turned into the Hunted in the second inning. After Hunter got the Sox 1-2-3 in the first, they exploded for nine runs in the next inning, capped by a David Ortiz three-run shot that just made it into the seats down the rightfield line. (I guess those worries about his wrist have subsided just a bit, no?)

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched seven scoreless innings, although he walked five and got into a bases loaded jam early in the game. And once again Dice-K Houdini got himself out of it unscathed. The Red Sox went on to win, 10-0 to the sweep the series, as they scored 37 runs in battering the team with the highest ERA in baseball.

It was also a special night at Professor Thom's last night, as The Jimmy Fund Radiothon was going on during the Red Sox game, and the bar was taking collections for it. (And we even saw a thank you to Thom's on the crawl during the game.) Yours Truly gave a generous donation, as did many of the fans in attendance. If you'd like to make a donation, please go here.

My pal Alex and his Trio did a jazz gig in the Loft last night and sounded great. And while that was going on, we were all watching later as Michael Phelps won his sixth gold medal at Beijing. Like on Tuesday night, the bar stopped to watch his race and was rooting him on. (He goes for number seven tonight, and number eight on Saturday.)

Tonight, Paul Byrd makes his Red Sox debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He's wearing number 36, as Kevin Cash has graciously given it to him, and will now wear number 30. (I'm sure they cut some kind of deal somewhere.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Don't Pull The Shroud Just Yet

The papers here in New York today are pretty much burying the Yankees and their chances of making it to the postseason this year, with the New York Post even putting up a tombstone on their front page for them (pictured).

I've said this a thousand times and I'll say this again: as long as the Yankees have a pulse, I will not bury them. The pulse maybe just barely there, but it is still there.

I've seen too much when it comes to this team to say they are finished. I know they've got a bunch of injuries, older players and guys not playing up to par. They are coming off a disasterous road trip where they went 3-7. They also have a very unfavorable schedule in September. But in baseball anything can happen.

Hey, if these so-called experts are writing them off on August 14th, so be it. But I have always said that I don't relax when it comes to the Yankees until the day they are mathematically eliminated from any possibility of winning the World Series. That day hasn't come yet.

No celebrations just yet. Lots of baseball still to play. Put the shroud away for now.

But keep it in a handy place, just in case.

Is This Why The Captain's Hitting .215?

My friend Dan sent me this tidbit this morning, from the Boston Globe:

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek is splitting with his wife, Karen. The team captain filed for divorce July 28 in Gwinnett County, Ga., where the couple live in the offseason. They were married in 1997 and have three daughters, ages 8, 6, and 3. Varitek is in the final year of a four-year, $40-million contract he signed after the BoSox won the World Series in 2004. He'll be a free agent at the end of this season, though he turns 37 in April and is hitting just .216. Neither Varitek's attorney, Pamela Tremayne, nor his wife's attorney, Jonathan Levine, returned our phone calls yesterday.

There have been rumors that Tek has been infatuated with a certain sideline reporter (no names mentioned here but you can certainly guess who). I guess he joins his buddy Derek Lowe in the "Team Reporters Who've Ruined Our Marriages" club...

The Bullpen Makes an Easy Win Interesting

The Red Sox jumped out to a big lead once again last night, and with Jon Lester on the mound, it looked fairly secure.

It was 8-0 and the Sox were cruising in the 8th. But Lester gave up a solo home run to Ian Kinsler with one out. The next two men reached and that was the end of the night for Jon. He was superb, giving the bullpen a rest. But Mike Timlin looked extremely hittable, and served up a big fat fastball to Milton Bradley which he sent into the rightfield bleachers to make it 8-4. He also allowed a double before getting the second out. Javier Lopez threw one pitch to end the 8th.

Justin Masterson put the first two on in the 9th before getting a DP and foul out to end the game, 8-4. Seeing the bullpen whittling down another big lead once again made me nervous.

The Red Sox jumped all over Texas starter Luis Mendoza early, and it was 8-0 by the fifth inning. Kevin Youkilis continued his very hot hitting, getting three doubles, and Jed Lowrie had another clutch double to drive in two.

The Red Sox also had some bad news, as Mike Lowell was put on the DL with an oblique strain he suffered on Tuesday night. Hopefully it will just sideline him until the end of the month. Youk will probably be spending much more time at third, with Sean Casey filling in at first.

The Sox also recalled 1B/OF Jeff Bailey and pitcher David Pauley from Pawtucket. They also announced that Clay Buchholz will stay and start on Sunday against Toronto.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Next Step in Lip Reading Paranoia

I was watching the United States Olympic baseball team's game against South Korea today, when I saw something that I had never seen on an American baseball field before.

As you know, this fetish that has gained hold in games of pitchers talking through their gloves to catchers and other fielders during breaks. (Do they honestly believe there are lip readers in the opposing dugouts?) I've always asked why haven't pitching coaches and managers done the same things with their hands when they come out to talk with their pitchers. In the ninth inning I finally saw it happen.

The South Korean pitching coach came out to speak with his pitcher as the United States was rallying in the ninth. He was actually covering his mouth with his hand as he was talking to him. That got me to thinking: he was obviously speaking Korean to his pitcher. Does he really think that someone in the American dugout could understand what he was saying to him and could read his lips? The lineup of the USA doesn't contain any players of Korean descent, so why cover up your mouth?

The mound/lip-reading paranoia has spread all the way to Asia.

I've always hated seeing that trend start many years ago. (I believe a player admitted he once read the lips of a pitcher in a conference and knew what was coming when he faced him. Something like that.) Anyway, the United States rallied for three runs in the ninth to grab a 7-6 lead at Beijing, but the bullpen blew it in the bottom of the inning to give South Korea a 8-7 win in the USA's first Olympic baseball game today.

More Hilarity From Hankenstein

Hank Steinbrenner (pictured) is once again making a complete and total jackass of himself in the media. Delusional Hank is basically bagging this season for his beloved team, but thinks the Yankees will win it all in 2009.

But this beauty from Mr. Hankee is absolutely hilarious, from ESPN:

Joba Chamberlain had become the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball and Wang has been a 19-game winner every year. You lose those two guys, it's rough. If the Red Sox lost Beckett and Lester, the whole national media would be crying about it. We lose two guys better than Beckett and Lester and you don't hear anything.

Yep, Chamberlain is the most dominant pitcher in baseball (I guess he's never heard of guys like Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, or Cliff Lee. Yep, Chamberlain, with four wins, and barely more than 60 innings as a starter in his career, is dominating baseball!) And he thinks that Chamberlain and Wang are better than Beckett and Lester? How many World Series rings does his two schmucks have? Last time I looked Beckett and Lester have three, and Josh has an MVP in the Series. (And Hank, Wang hasn't won 19 every year. Go look it up.) And last year's Cy Young vote was telling. Beckett finished a close second to C.C. Sabathia in a season where he won 20 games. Wang won 19 for New York, but he didn't receive a single vote from the writers. So don't insult my intelligence by saying Wang is better than Beckett. Does Hank even remember last year's postseason? Beckett led the Sox to the title; Wang was the big goat for New York.

And yeah, no one in the media has said a blessed word about the Yankees losing The Hutt and The Wang to injuries this season.

Talk about a guy living in his own delusional fantasy world.

And for a guy who earlier this year said he was through talking about the Red Sox, Hankenstein spends an awful lot of time obsessing over them.

Hank Steinbrenner. What a source of never-ending comedy. (With thanks to The Joy of Sox for the Hankenstein quote.)

Fenway Football?

No, it really wasn't a football game, but the score sure seems like one.

The Red Sox jumped all over Texas starter Scott Feldman for 10 runs in the first inning, capped by two three-run homers by David Ortiz. But I had a strange feeling it might not last, as Texas came right back with two runs off Charlie Zink, the knuckleballer making his MLB debut. (He must have thought it was Christmas morning with that first inning.) The Rangers can hit, and could chip away at this lead.

Zink got through the next two innings, but it all fell apart on him in the 5th. Terry Francona left him out there a little too long, and finally yanked him with the score 12-6. He was sent back to AAA after the game to make room for Paul Byrd. David Aardsma came on and gave up a three-run homer to Ian Kinsler and it was 12-10.

It was truly a wacky night for Kevin Youkilis. He struck out twice in the first inning and made two errors (one at first and one at third). But he atoned for that with two HRs and five RBIs, including a three-run shot in the eighth to put the Red Sox ahead to stay.

Texas came all the way back to take a 16-14 lead in the seventh. Although the Red Sox managed to escape with a win and most fans can laugh about a 19-17 win, you can't ignore that the Red Sox bullpen got absolutely torched. They combined to give up 9 runs, and only Hideki Okajima, who pitched a scoreless eighth and got the win, pitched well. (Even Jonathan Papelbon had to make it interesting in the ninth, giving up a run.)

Papi became the fourth Red Sox player to hit two HRs in an inning, and the third to get 6 RBI in one. Texas became the fourth team in history to lose a game when scoring at least 17 runs. Feldman became the first pitcher to give up 12 runs in a game and NOT lose since 1918.

It was one screwball night. Let's hope Jon Lester restores some order tonight and gives the bullpen a break. They could use it.

Trivia Q&A: August 12

It was, to the say the least, a memorable night at Professor Thom's last night.

We had another big crowd for Trivia, with 21 teams taking part. As the Red Sox were turning a laugher against the Texas Rangers into a nail biter, the Olympics were also on and many people were following it. As I was doing the "Spell the Word" round, I had to stop in the middle, as Michael Phelps was going for his fourth gold medal in Beijing. The crowd really got into it, and when he won, he got the biggest cheer of the night, even bigger than when the Red Sox finally pulled out that wacky win at Fenway. (And as I was grading the final round, he went for and got his fifth gold, with the crowd once again cheering him on.)

I announced to the Trivia players: "It's the first time we've ever halted Trivia Night for a swimming race."

We had some strong scores through the first three rounds, but they fell off noticeably at General Knowledge. It was a rather tough round, as was IQ Trivia. Most teams only got one or two right, except for the team of US Synchronized Quiz Team, who were leading going into the final round. They got four of the five, and wound up winning by six points. It was their first appearance at Trivia Night in some time, and the last time they were here, they also won. My congratulations to them.

And also, all the best to Mariangela, a longtime Trivia Night regular, who is moving to Washington and made he last regular appearance last night. She was one of the stalwarts throughout the 2+ years I have hosted Trivia Night, and I'll miss her. (I'm glad I surprised you with the "Jay Berwanger" question!) Good luck in D.C., Mariangela.

Current Events
1. This actor, who was seriously injured in a car wreck recently, announced that he and his wife of 24 years are divorcing.
2. Skip Caray, who was an announcer for this MLB team since 1976 and the son of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray, died last week in his sleep at age 68.
3. A state of war is ongoing in this former Soviet republic and a breakaway region called South Ossetia inside the country and Russia last week sent in troops there to protect Russian citizens.
4. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of this city was ordered to jail for violating the terms of his bond in his ongoing perjury trial.
5. A recent study in Germany found that sports competitors who wear this color uniform can affect a referee's decision-making ability and even promote a scoring bias.
6. A police shooting in this Canadian city set off a riot on Sunday, injuring three police officers.
7. Alaska Airlines canceled 41 flights on Monday to the US West Coast and Canada from Alaska because of this unusual reason.

Answers: 1. Morgan Freeman; 2. Atlanta Braves; 3. Georgia; 4. Detroit; 5. red; 6. Montreal; 7. ash from a volcanic eruption.

August 12th Trivia
1. On this date in 1898, an armistice officially ended this war.
2. The longest and most costly of all baseball strikes, which eventually canceled the World Series, started on this date in this year.
3. Norris and Ross McWhirter, twin brothers who founded this book, one of the most popular in publishing history, were born on this day in 1925.
4. Mark Knopfler, founder and guitarist of this 1980s popular rock band, was born on this day in 1949.
5. This beloved actor, who appeared in 106 films such as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Ox-Bow Incident" and won an Oscar shortly before his death, died on this date in 1982.
6. This New Jersey governor resigned his position on this day in 2004 and also came out publicly as a gay man.
7. This experiment, which is widely believed to be a hoax, was supposed to have taken place on the Navy ship USS Eldridge on this date in 1943.

Answers: 1. Spanish-American War; 2. 1994; 3. Guinness Book of World Records; 4. Dire Straits; 5. Henry Fonda; 6. Jim McGreevey; 7. The Philadelphia Experiment.

Spell the Word ("The Q Train")
1. KERATITIS: (noun) inflammation of the cornea.
2. PALAVER: (noun) idle talk; talk intended to deceive.
3. LACONIC: (adj) using a minimum of words; brief and pithy.
4. FIDUCIARY: (adj) someone who stands in a special relation of trust, confidence or responsibility.
5. VITUPERATION: (noun) sustained and severely abusive language.
6. PUSILLANIMOUS: (adj) lacking in courage; cowardly.
7. RACONTEUR: (noun) one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes.
8. PATRICIAN: (noun) a person of high birth; a nobleman.
9. HYPERBOLE: (noun) extravagant exaggeration.
10. GLUTINOUS: (adj) resembling glue; sticky.

General Knowledge
1. What country is home to diva soprano Kiri te Kanawa?
2. What is Igor Sikorsky credited with inventing?
3. Which 20th century presidential candidate won only Massachusetts in a failed bid for the White House?
4. What Midwestern city's airport is named for Will Rogers?
5. Pink ribbons are usually worn to raise awareness of what disease?
6. Before fresh milk is bottled, what process prevents a layer of cream from forming on it?
7. From which Midwestern school did Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman Trophy winner in 1935, come from?

Answers: 1. New Zealand; 2. helicopter; 3. George McGovern; 4. Oklahoma City; 5. breast cancer; 6. homogenization; 7. University of Chicago.

IQ Trivia
1. What two parts of the body are joined by the philtrum? ( 4 points)
2. Roy Hinkley was the seldom-used name of what 1960s TV sitcom character? ( 5 points)
3. From what port city did the Mayflower leave England in September 1620? ( 3 points)
4. What evangelical grabbed headlines in 2006 due to allegations of gay liasons and drug use? ( 4 points)
5. What author and playwright is the only one to receive both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. nose and mouth; 2. The Professor from "Gilligan's Island;" 3. Plymouth; 4. Ted Haggard; 5. George Bernard Shaw.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Red Sox Get Paul Byrd

The Red Sox filled a big need today when they acquired righthanded pitcher Paul Byrd from the Cleveland Indians for the proverbial player-to-be-named-later. 

Byrd is just the type of pitcher they need right now: a 5th starter at the bottom of the rotation who can eat up innings while Tim Wakefield is out. Byrd is 7-10 this season with a ERA at  4.53, but has won his last four decisions since the All-Star break, with a 1.24 ERA in those four games.

Byrd will start Friday in place of Clay Buchholz, who may be sent back to AAA.

Alex & The Trio at Thom's on Thursday

This Thursday night, my buddy Alex Minasian returns to Professor Thom's to do a free gig of jazz standards and classics, from 8-11 PM in Thom's second floor Loft.

Alex will once again be joined by his friends Nameer Shukri on drums and Zaid Shukri on bass. They played at Thom's a short time ago and sounded great. They also welcome other musicians to come on by and sit in with the band.

Alex is a terrific piano player, with an expanding reputation. The picture here is of Alex, with jazz legends Hank Jones and Chick Corea, at Hank's 90th birthday gig at Birdland last Saturday night. (I'm sorry I missed it, as Alex told me Hank sounded great.)

There's no cover on Thursday night at Thom's, and Bud Lites will be just $3. I'll be on hand, and I hope many of you who enjoy quality jazz will also stop by to check out Alex and his Trio.

Not So Perfect

Last night it appeared that John Danks had the Red Sox number. He retired the first 17 Red Sox batters he faced. He looked strong, had a 1-0 lead and it appeared as if the Red Sox couldn't wait to get on the plane and fly back to Boston. (This was the third or fourth time I can think of where the Red Sox were no-hit for at least five or six innings this season.)

But the perfect game ended when he hit Jacoby Ellsbury in the wallet with a 1-1 pitch. The no-no continued into the seventh, but it came to end on Kevin Youkilis' broken bat single to left. After a walk to Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew banged a double to left to put the Red Sox in the lead, 2-1.

Overlooked was a fine performance the Red Sox were getting from Josh Beckett. He allowed just a sacrifice fly in the third. It looked like it might be wasted, but the Sox bats finally came alive. They added three insurance runs in the ninth, with Jed Lowrie's 2 RBI double the big hit. (He now has 24 RBI on the season, and continues to get one key hit after another. Julio Lugo can take his time coming back.)

Beckett pitched eight solid innings in getting his 11th win of the season, allowing just seven hits and struck out eight. Knuckleballer Charlie Zink makes his MLB debut tonight against Texas. The 28-year old righthander was 13-4 with a 2.89 ERA at Pawtucket this season. On TV last night, Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy commented that Zink has a better fastball and changeup than Tim Wakefield does, but his knuckler isn't as "violent" as Wake's is. Should be interesting to see how the Texas Rangers, with one of baseball's best offenses, handles him.

The Sox gained a half-game on idle Tampa Bay, who lost Evan Longoria to the DL with a broken wrist. The Sox are now 4 back, while the Yankees continued their freefall, losing 4-0 to the Twins, and are now 9 behind the Rays.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stuff From 8/12 Will Be Featured

This Tuesday night, Trivia will return to Professor Thom's with "August 12th Trivia" as the special category. It will be people, places and things connected to that date that will be featured. We will also have the return of "Spell the Word" as "The Q Train" lightning round as well.

I also want to alert all of you who are Trivia regulars that in two weeks, Trivia Night will be moved to a special night. On Tuesday, August 26th, there will be a Red Sox game against the Yankees, so it would be impossible to have Trivia on that night with the huge crowds that always turn out for that. So we will have it the night before, on Monday night, August 25th, at 9 PM. The next week, Trivia Night will return to its regularly scheduled Tuesday night slot. (And of course, we will have Trivia Night next Tuesday at its regularly scheduled day and time.)

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
Pink ribbons are usually worn to raise awareness of what disease?

I hope to see many of you for Trivia on Tuesday night.

Struggles For Buchholz Continue

With the news that Tim Wakefield will be out for at least two starts, the Red Sox needed Clay Buchholz to come up big against the White Sox on Sunday. And once again, it didn't happen.

Buchholz continued his terrible slump, losing his 6th straight decision, while his ERA in those starts is just over 8.00. He got hammered for three home runs, all bombs, as Chicago won the third game of the four-game series, 6-5.

Looked like the day would be a good one for the Red Sox, as Mike Lowell hit a thre-run homer in the first to get the Red Sox going, and Buchholz disposed of Chicago with no problem in the first. But the ominous signs were there as the Red Sox left two runners in scoring position in the second, and Buchholz gave up a home run to Jermaine Dye in the bottom of the inning.

Chicago tacked on four in the third on two two-run homers by Carlos Quentin and Jim Thome. That made it 5-3. The White Sox added another run, and the Sox got the deficit to one in the sixth. But they had the bases loaded in the 7th with one out, but Lowell banged into a DP to end the threat, and for all purposes, the day for the Red Sox.

I said it a couple of weeks ago, and I'll say it again now. I love Buchholz and he will be a top-of-the-rotation starter one day. He's just not ready now. I'm not sure if the Sox should stick with him now. It's clearly not doing his confidence any good right now. I really hoped the Red Sox would have gotten a 5th starter at the deadline on July 31, but it didn't happen. I would guess Theo Epstein tried, but the prices were probably so extortionate and I know he didn't want to sacrifice any quality young talent to do it.

Bartolo Colon should be back soon. He pitched three shutout innings in his rehab on Sunday. But for tomorrow, the most likely replacements for Wakefield seem to be either Devern Hansack or Michael Bowden, who are both at Pawtucket.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Duke is Dead

No, I don't mean John Wayne, who died back in 1979. No, I don't mean Dan Duquette, who was once the Red Sox general manager back in the 1990s. (I believe he is still in good health, but back in the late '90s and early 200os, many Sox fans wish that statement did indeed applied to him.) And no, I don't mean Jonathan Mardukas, who Jack Walsh was famously taking across country in "Midnight Run."

But unfortunately, I mean Isaac Hayes, who was found dead today at the age of 65 in his home in Memphis. He will long be remembered as one of R&B's greatest performers, as "The Theme From Shaft," his signature tune, gained him immortality in 1971, as well as a Grammy and an Oscar. He also gained a following in later years as the voice of The Chef in "South Park."

But for me, he will always be "The Duke of New York," his role in the cult classic "Escape From New York," another of my favorite films. He plays the man who runs Manhattan Island, which has been turned into a prison colony in the future year of 1997. (The film, with Kurt Russell in his memorable role as Snake Plissken, was made in 1981. I still find it spooky to see Manhattan as a walled-off prison, with Snake landing on the roof of one of the World Trade Center's buildings to try to rescue the President.)

So in tribute to the late, great Mr. Hayes, here is a clip from YouTube of The Duke tormenting The President, played by Donald Pleasence. (But, of course, The Prez gets his revenge on The Duke at the end of the film.) It's short, just 18 seconds: "What did I teach you?"

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Hayes. You certainly were "A-Number One."