Friday, October 31, 2008

Tek Files For Free Agency

Jason Varitek was among 65 players who filed for free agency yesterday, joining Alex Cora and David Ross as Red Sox players to do so. (That guy who used to play for the Sox, Manny Ramirez, whose already announced he'll sell himself to the highest bidder, filed yesterday also.) Here's the complete list of the 65 who did.

Others from the Sox who can file are: Curt Schilling, Mark Kotsay, Sean Casey, Mike Timlin (who is expected to call it a career soon), and Paul Byrd.

The Red Sox, as well as every other team, have an exclusive 15-day window on their free agents, but on November 14th, they are free to sign with anyone.

The Sox are also expected to pick up the option on Tim Wakefield today, a $4 million bargain. It will be Wake's 15th season in a Red Sox uniform in 2009, the most of any pitcher in team history.

An online betting service has already made the Red Sox a 3-1 favorite to win the 2009 World Series. They also have the Cubs and Angels next at 5-1, and the champion Phillies (I have to get used to that) at 6-1. The Evil Empire is also at 6-1.

The Washington Nationals are the biggest longshot, at 300-1.

Is it my imagination or is it a little early for anyone to be posting odds on next season when the Hot Stove League is just getting started? More from Extra Bases on this, including each team's odds.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Party Like It's 1980

My congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans on winning their second World Series championship in their 126-year history with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the conclusion of the suspended game on Wednesday night.

It's the first championship for the city of Philadelphia in any of the four major team sports since the 76ers won the NBA title in 1983, and the first Phillies championship since their first-ever one in 1980.

And as rare a championship as it is for Philadelphia, it was even rarer that the Eastern United States got to see a World Series finish at a decent hour, as the Phillies won it at just before 10 PM ET. But of course, it was a fluke because of the weather, so don't expect to see that happen again any time soon. (That's what happens when you sell out to the TV networks.)

I was pulling for the Phillies, as a number of friends are mine are big Phillies fans, and I'm really glad they are able to experience the thrill of watching their team win it all. I was at Professor Thom's to see their victory, with a number of other Phillies fans. My buddy Mike is one of Thom's owners, and I was really happy for him. My friends and I drank a champagne toast with Mike right after the win, with "Philadelphia Freedom" on in the background.

I also met a number of Phillies fans in the bar. I wore an old Phillies shirt my dad got for me years ago when he worked for the Phillies at their spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida. I had to admit to them I was really a Red Sox fan pulling for the Phillies and I told them about my dad and the shirt. A couple were a little disappointed to hear it, but they all welcomed my congratulations.

So for my friends Mike, Campbell, Dave L, and Dave Q, I offer my congratulations on the win. I'm really glad they get the chance to experience what I did in 2004 and 2007.

And wherever he is, Tug McGraw must be smiling.

But now a couple of depressing thoughts come to my mind.

The Red Sox are now no longer defending World Series champions. (For the second time in four years, I thoroughly enjoyed a year of hearing that. Let's do it again.)

And the baseball season is now over. Here comes the winter.

So, when do pitchers and catchers report? (Check my above countdown clock to find out.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trivia Q&A: October 28

On a cold and rainy evening in New York, we had 17 teams come out for Trivia Night, and I appreciate all of you who came out and braved the lousy weather. We also had the Boston Celtics opening night game against Cleveland, which brought out a number of basketball fans as well.

The scores were generally good throughout the night. Current Events' numbers were so-so, but the "McCain/Obama Trivia" numbers were actually pretty good.

It was a two-team race going into the IQ Trivia round, separated by just one point. And the top two teams also ran the table in getting all 20 points. (The IQ numbers were overall pretty strong.) The team of Drew's Big Date Night, led by Matt and his friends who've won on a few occasions, wound up the winners. My congratulations to them.

Please do keep in mind that because of Election Night next Tuesday night, we will be having Trivia Night next week on the next day, Wednesday, November 5th, at 9 PM.

Current Events
1. The Rev. Edward Pinckney is running for a congressional seat in this midwestern state even though he's currently in jail on election fraud and other charges.
2. A parking garage executive committed suicide last week after being sued by this talk show host over an alleged vintage car swindle.
3. Dr. Pepper plans to make good on a promise that if this rock band released an album in 2008 (and they will next month), everyone in the US will get a free soda.
4. This Hollywood and cable TV star opened on Broadway last week in a play that had been directed previously on the stage by the star's mother and sister.
5. For the sixth consecutive year, this automaker's car was "The Most Stolen Car in America" for 2007 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
6. This NFL star's jersey is now the number one selling NFL replica jersey and it propelled his team to number two on the list of best-selling NFL team jerseys, behind the Dallas Cowboys.
7. Ted Stevens, US senator from this state, was found guilty on corruption charges and faces five years in prison on each of the seven counts he was convicted on.

Answers: 1. Michigan; 2. Jay Leno; 3. Guns 'N' Roses; 4. Jeremy Piven; 5. Cadillac Escalade (GM); 6. Brett Favre; 7. Alaska.

McCain & Obama Trivia
1. What branch of the armed forces did John McCain serve in?
2. What foreign country did Barack Obama live in from 1967-1971?
3. What year was John McCain first elected to the US Senate?
4. Name 1 of the 2 colleges Barack Obama attended as an undergraduate.
5. To the closest year, how many years was John McCain a POW in Vietnam?
6. In what year was Barack Obama first elected to the Illinois State Senate?
7. To the closest year, what is the age difference between John McCain and Barack Obama?

Answers: 1. US Navy; 2. Indonesia; 3. 1986; 4. Occidental College and Columbia University; 5. five years and four months; 6. 1996; 7. 24 years and 11 months.

Spell the Word Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. CAVEAT (noun): a warning or a caution.
2. CHICANERY (noun): the use of trickery to deceive.
3. MICROCOSM (noun): a smaller, representative system having analogies to a larger system.
4. PECCADILLO (noun): a slight offense; a petty fault.
5. MELLIFLUOUS (adj): smooth; flowing sweetly.
6. UNCTUOUS (adj): insincerely suave or ingratiating in manner or speech.
7. BELLWETHER (noun): a leading indicator of future trends.
8. PUGNACIOUS (adj): inclined to fight; quarrelsome.
9. PALINDROME (noun): a word or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.
10. MALAISE (noun): a general feeling of depression or unease.

General Knowledge
1. Who was the president of the United States during the Spanish-American War?
2. What fruit contains an enzyme that is used as a meat tenderizer?
3. In what state would you find "Old Faithful?"
4. What country owns the islands of Elba and Capri?
5. What R&B legend was known as "Mr. Dynamite?"
6. What item are there two of in British cricket and six of in American croquet?
7. What common household alloy must contain, by law, at least 11.5% chromium?

Answers: 1. William McKinley; 2. papaya; 3. Wyoming; 4. Italy; 5. James Brown; 6. wickets; 7. stainless steel.

IQ Trivia
1. What current US territory or possession is larger in area than the smallest US state? ( 3 points)
2. Who is the only actor to win both a Comedy and Drama Emmy Award for playing the same character on TV? ( 5 points)
3. The first "Electric Pig" was developed in 1927, and what is this household convenience invention called today? ( 4 points)
4. When the police practice dactyloscopy, what are they doing? ( 4 points)
5. "Backwards in High Heels" is a musical about what 1930s actress? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Puerto Rico; 2. Edward Asner; 3. garbage disposal; 4. identifying fingerprints; 5. Ginger Rogers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And Speaking of Last Year in Colorado

It was one year ago today that the Red Sox won their second World Series championship in four years, as they swept the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. It was another of those memorable nights of my life, as I partied with my friends. It was a series that proved that 2004 was indeed no fluke, and made the Red Sox "The Team of the Decade."

It was really a night of partying at Thom's, and here's how it all began, as a bar patron caught the beginning of the Thom's celebration (you can't see much but you certainly can hear it):

And here's another view from a fan behind home plate at Coors:

One year already. I do so love marking these late October anniversaries.

You Think Last Night was Bad?

Wait until next year.

MLB, in its infinite wisdom, has the 2009 World Series scheduled in the first week of November, and if it goes a full seven games, it would end on November 5th. Unbelievable.

I can only imagine what it was like to have been sitting through that monstrosity in Philadelphia last night. The temperatures dipped below 40 degrees with sharp winds and steady rain.

For whatever reason, the 2009 season will begin on April 6, so that means it will conclude about a week later than this year. MLB refuses to schedule doubleheaders, or cut the season back to 154 games, and with the addition of the Division Series back in 1995, it makes the season end later. And now in recent years with more off days during the playoffs, it just adds to the risk of playing in really horrible weather.

They've been lucky in recent years, especially last year, when the Series concluded in Colorado. Last night was just a travesty, and it could have been worse had Carlos Pena not singled in the tying run in the sixth. They would have been forced to keep playing if the game wasn't tied, because they couldn't allow the Series to conclude on a rain-shortened game. It was the first time in World Series history a game was suspended, and they will pick it up from the bottom of the sixth. (Bud Selig later confirmed that there would be no rain-shortened games, that it would have to had gone nine innings for the game to count.)

And tonight, the weather forecast isn't much better than last night.

I bet next year Bud Selig and his MLB posse will be praying for the warm-weather or dome teams to make it to the Fall Classic. They get what they deserve for scheduling the World Series this late in the year. And next year: November.

Monday, October 27, 2008

McCain & Obama Trivia on Tuesday

As we're coming down the home stretch in the presidential campaign, what better way to mark it than to have as a special category on Tuesday night, "McCain & Obama Trivia." It will be seven questions on the two men who will face off on November 4th with the winner becoming the 44th President of the United States.

We take no sides here, so there will be three questions each on Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama, and one question about them both combined. (We can't do the category next week, as we will be having Trivia Night on Wednesday next week, the night after the election. And for those of you on the Internet looking for the Trivia answers, they will be posted on Wednesday morning on this site. Or simply click this link.)

The Q Train lightning round category will be "Spell the Word Trivia."

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
What country owns the islands of Elba and Capri?

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

Happy Red Sox World Series Championship Day

It was four years ago today that the Red Sox won the World Series in historic fashion. It seems like it just happened yesterday.

It's always fun to check on videos about it. Here's one from a fan who was at Busch Stadium that night among a sea of Red Sox fans behind the third base dugout and caught it on film:

October 27, 2004 is one of the greatest nights of my life. I was in a jam-packed Riviera Cafe in the West Village and saw it all unfold among my friends. I'll never forget for the rest of my life the feeling I had when Keith Foulke caught that ground ball off the bat of Edgar Renteria and flipped it to Doug Mientkiewicz to give the Red Sox their first title in 86 years. The bar simply exploded, and for ten solid minutes it was just folks high-fiving, hugging and having a wonderful time.

We partied throughout the night, and the general feeling among myself and my friends was: Is this real? Can this be a dream? It was so real, and I simply can't believe it's been four years since the Red Sox won it all.

So, Happy Red Sox Historic World Series Championship Day to all of you. And of course, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the 2007 Red Sox championship.

Late October continues to be one of my favorite times of the year.

"Dirty Water" Reading and Signing

My friend Jere Smith is doing an in-store book signing tomorrow night for his fine book, "Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery." He'll be doing a reading and signing at the West Hartford Library in Connecticut at 7 PM on Tuesday night.

You can check the blog he put up especially for the book for more information on tomorrow's signing and all future ones as well.

Jere also informs me that the book maybe difficult to find outside of New England right now, so you can always order it conveniently online by going here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

ND Stomps Washington

I caught most of Notre Dame's game at Washington last night, as the World Series game was delayed for over 90 minutes. And the Fighting Irish came out fighting, as they scored on their first two possessions to begin the game.

Jimmy Clausen hooked up with Michael Floyd on a 51-yard pass just 2 1/2 minutes into the game to put ND up. On the nest possession, Golden Tate ran 21 yards for another score, and it was 14-0. It was all downhill for an overmatched Washington team from there.

Clausen looked a little rusty at times, as he misfired some of his passes. (ND was coming off a bye week.) But it was good enough against an awful Washington defense. Clausen went 14-for-26 for 201 yards and 1 touchdown.

Robert Aldridge scored two TDs, one to open the second half. He rushed 84 yards on 13 carries. Washington avoided the shutout by scoring a TD in the final three minutes, as Notre Dame improved their record to 5-2 with the win, 33-7.

They beat former coach Tyrone Willingham, who is now 0-7 this season, and 11-32 overall with the Huskies. It's just a matter of time before he gets the ax.

As for ND, they will play Pittsburgh at South Bend next Saturday.

Money Talks, BS Walks

In the immortal words of one Dennis Miller: I don't want to get off on a rant here, but...

A World Series game ends at nearly 2 AM, and MLB wonders why their postseason ratings are in the toilet?

Granted, they really had to get last night's game in, as they would had to have used the off-day as Game 5 if last night's (or should I say this morning's) game was postponed. And that would have caused them a logistical nightmare. So MLB got the game going at 10:06 PM. All the fans in Philly stayed, and they all had a great time as the Phillies won, 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth on Carlos Ruiz' infield single with the bases loaded to bring in the winning run.

(I have to admit, I'm pulling for the Phillies to take the title. I have a number of friends who have been devoted fans of the Phillies, and it would be nice to see them celebrate and taste the champagne. As for the Rays, they finished 26th in attendance and still had many empty seats in their park in September, when they were charging towards the division title. And those cowbells have got to go. I have relatives in the Tampa Bay area, but those fans don't deserve the thrill of a title. Not now anyway.)

I stayed up to watch it, but I bet not many in the East did. For years, I've had a beef with MLB starting World Series games at 8:30 PM (or even later). I simply don't understand why they can't have the first pitch thrown by 8 ET, or even 7:30 PM. But they have this fetish with the West Coast, and are obsessed with getting these games in the West's prime time. Hey, let those folks out west start watching at 5 PM out there, what's the big deal? At least the overwhelming majority of them will still be around to see it when it ends.

But these games go on interminably, as MLB allows TV more time in-between innings. Can you remember the last postseason game that lasted less than three hours? I can't. And there's now a whole generation of kids in the eastern US who have never seen a World Series finish. It's criminal.

Now I've seen where Game 2 was the second-lowest rated World Series game of all-time. Much of that is due to the matchup (you know the folks at Fox were praying for a Red Sox win last Sunday night), but you can't ignore the start time hurts as well. Many people don't want to invest the time in watching if they can't see the ending.

MLB sold themselves out to the highest bidder, and the fans get screwed. What a shock.

And of course, as we all know, money talks, BS walks.

The Shea Scoreboard Comes Down

Earlier this week, the Mets officially took down their enormous right field scoreboard, as they continue to take Shea Stadium apart. My friend Jere had a link on his site to a video on MetsBlog, of the scoreboard coming to the ground.

It was sad to see it come down the way it did, as the Mets always had one of the best scoreboards in baseball. You could see every game, who was pitching, and generally it was updated almost instantly. (But I did hate those times I was at Shea and I'd see a Red Sox game with the score the same with the inning not changing for a while. Always made me think something big was going on. And many times it was just some kind of delay in changing the inning.)

And just last night, I was watching the great baseball movie "Bang The Drum Slowly" on TCM, which was partially filmed at Shea back in 1973. I loved the scoreboard shot near the end of the film that shows "The New York Mammoths" (the fictional team), defeating Pittsburgh, 4-2, with all those real ads on the scoreboard I remember, like for Rheingold beer and Banker's Trust. Sure doesn't seem like 35 years ago.

I remember back in my youth seeing a warning on the scoreboard that I'll never forget, as they had some room on the board for it. It said, "NO THROWING OF OBJECTS." (It was of course to the fans to refrain from throwing junk on the field.) They would also occasionally put up a local NBA, NHL or NFL score if one of the local teams was playing an important game at the same time.

There was always a skyline of Manhattan at the top of the scoreboard, and after the 9/11 attacks on New York and the destruction of the World Trade Center, I was glad to see the Mets keep the lost towers on the skyline, and covered it with a red, white and blue ribbon (pictured). Every time I came to Shea afterwards, I'd always make a point of seeing it and say a silent prayer to the victims.

I'm curious to see what the new scoreboard at Citi Field will look like, and I'm sure it will be totally different from the Shea Stadium one. Still, it was a sad to see the big board crumbling to the ground the way it did.

Here's a link to see the scoreboard collapse to the ground, from Matt of MetsBlog, through Jere from A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Warming Up The Hot Stove

Now that the 2008 baseball season has concluded (yeah, I know there's still a matter of the World Series to finish, but for me, it's over), it's time to start speculating about what the 2009 Red Sox will look like. And no better place to start then to see which guys are free as a bird. So here is the entire free agent class of 2009, broken down by position.

Free agents from the 2008 Red Sox: Jason Varitek, Mark Kotsay, Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Paul Byrd and Mike Timlin (who figures to be retiring).

Follow the link, which will take you to MLB Trade Rumors.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alternatives to Tek

My friend Adam earlier this week sent me a list of catchers who will be available on the free agent market this winter. One could be headed to Boston, should the Red Sox decide not to re-sign Jason Varitek. Here it is, along with their ages next season:

Brad Ausmus (40)
Paul Bako (37)
Rod Barajas (33) - $2.5MM club option for '09 with a $0.5MM buyout
Josh Bard (31)
Michael Barrett (32)
Henry Blanco (37) - $3MM mutual option for '09 with a $0.3MM buyout
Johnny Estrada (33)
Toby Hall (33) - $2.25MM club option for '09 with a $0.15MM buyout
Jason LaRue (35)
Paul Lo Duca (37)
Miguel Olivo (30) - $2.7MM mutual option for '09 with a $0.1MM buyout
Ivan Rodriguez (37)
David Ross (32)
Javier Valentin (33)
Gregg Zaun (38)

As you can see, everyone of them is over the age of 30, and most aren't full-time players any more (if they ever were). Of course, the Red Sox could always trade for a full-time catcher, but the price would be awfully steep for someone of any quality. There is one intriguing name up there: Josh Bard. The Padres made him a free agent after he had an injury-riddled 2008 season. Would the Sox correct a past mistake and bring him back?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sox Were Hurt Worse Than We Knew

Theo Epstein revealed earlier this week that Josh Beckett had an oblique injury that was not just strained but actually torn. The rumors regarding that turned out to be true, and he called Beckett's five-inning effort last Saturday night "heroic." The whole world knew he was still far less than 100% but Beckett gave it his best effort.

Epstein also revealed that Jed Lowrie played most of the 2008 season with a small fracture in his left wrist, and injury he suffered back at Pawtucket in May. An MRI right after the ALCS revealed the injury, and after three weeks of rest, Lowrie should be fine for 2009.

Injuries to Mike Lowell, Papi, Beckett, Lowrie, Papelbon, etc. It really is a miracle the Red Sox got to the ninth inning of Game 7 with a chance to still win the AL pennant.

Also, first base coach Luis Alicea was the only member of Terry Francona's coaching staff not invited to return for 2009, for whatever reason (even Alicea doesn't know).

More on all of these stories at Extra Bases.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nobody Ever Said Crooks Were Smart

I saw this story this morning. Last week, Red Sox Nation North Carolina governor Sean Bunn was at an event to watch the Sox play Game 4 of the ALCS, and returned home to find that his condo had been vandalized, and many of his possessions were defaced with Yankee logos and anti-Red Sox nonsense.

Mr. Bunn believes that whoever entered his apartment illegally wasn't really a Yankee fan, but someone just looking to get back at him and has a good idea who it was. And whoever it was, spelling wasn't the highest priority, and they misspelled "Yankees" with "Yankes."

I guess he was just another criminal reinforcing the Yankee fan stereotype we've come to know and love.

Here is more of the story, courtesy of SportsbyBrooks.

"High and Outside" Trailer

Here is the trailer for the Bill Lee documentary "High and Outside."

It lasts about 2 1/2 minutes.

Trivia Q&A: October 21

We had 12 teams in for Trivia Night, with a few of the Trivia Night regulars back on Tuesday night. It was nice to see them back. The numbers were pretty low for Current Events, as I may have made it a little too difficult. The scores improved as the night went on, as we had teams with perfect scores in the next three rounds.

The scores were close throughout, as going into IQ Trivia we had seven teams within five points of the lead. But one of those teams got four of the five questions correct, which was good for 16 points. The team of Joba Is My Designated Driver Tonight wound up winning by three points. My congratulations to them on their victory.

Current Events
1. This country singer apologized to her Christian fans last week after she gave a recent interview saying she believes she's been reincarnated.
2. According to a recent article by, jobs in this industry had the highest fatality rate of any job in America: 112 deaths per 100,000 workers.
3. Levi Stubbs, who was the lead singer of this legendary R&B group in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died last Friday at the age of 72.
4. For the 16th consecutive year, Conde Nast Traveler magazine selected this western city as the best US city to visit.
5. The government of this country recently announced they will cease excuting minors who commit crimes in that country.
6. Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal, a Chicago-born sports handicapper whose story was the basis for this hit 1995 movie, died last week at the age of 79 at his Florida home.
7. Name 2 of the 5 countries that were elected recently to two-year terms by the UN General Assembly to the Security Council. (a bonus point for each country after naming the first two)

Answers: 1. Reba McEntire; 2. fishing; 3. The Four Tops; 4. San Francisco; 5. Iran; 6. "Casino;" 7. Turkey, Austria, Japan, Uganda, Turkey.

October 21st Trivia
1. In 1959, this famous NYC museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opens for the first time.
2. On this day in 1945, women were allowed to vote for the first time in this western European country.
3. This novelist and poet, best known for his book "On The Road," died on this day in 1969.
4. Jim Garrison, an attorney who was the central character of this 1991 movie, died on this day in 1992.
5. Charlotte Caffey, a guitarist from this 1980s female band, was born on this day in 1953.
6. The Dayton Agreement, a peace agreement that ended the war in this European country, was signed on this date in 1995.
7. On this date in 2001, the "United We Stand" concert, benefitting the September 11 victims, was headlined and organized in Washington DC by this pop singer.

Answers: 1. Guggenheim; 2. France; 3. Jack Kerouac; 4. "JFK;" 5. The Go-Go's; 6. Bosnia; 7. Michael Jackson.

True or False Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. Molasses is added to brown sugar to give it its color.
2. A group of whales are usually referred to as a troop.
3. The state of Virginia was named in honor of Britain's Queen Elizabeth I.
4. The first series of MTV's "The Real World" took place in Los Angeles.
5. A shark has compound eyes.
6. Martin Luther wrote his "95 Theses" in the 16th century.
7. Tiger Woods' real birth name was Eldrick.
8. Australia is the world's second-largest country in terms of land area after Russia.
9. Type O is the most common blood type in humans.
10. Only one word in the English language rhymes with "silver."

Answers: 1. true; 2. false, it's a pod; 3. true; 4. false, it was in New York; 5. false, it doesn't; 6. true; 7. true; 8. false, Canada is second; 9. true; 10. false, none do.

General Knowledge
1. What school was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881?
2. What year was nicknamed "The Summer of Love?"
3. What synonym for chaos comes from a Greek word meaning "without a ruler?"
4. A myocardial infarction is better known as what?
5. What legendary athlete produces a line of clothing featuring a logo with a golden bear?
6. What Chinese game of tiles became a US craze in the 1920s?
7. What was the name of the first manned vehicle to touch down on the moon?

Answers: 1. Tuskegee Institute; 2. 1967; 3. anarchy; 4. heart attack; 5. Jack Nicklaus; 6. mah-jongg; 7. Eagle.

IQ Trivia
1. Who wrote the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic?" ( 3 points)
2. What artist gained fame for his series of paintings of California swimming pools? ( 5 points)
3. What famous rock frontman attended The London School of Economics? (4 points)
4. What is the more well-known name of the island called Rapa Nui? ( 4 points)
5. What Shakespeare character says, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark?" ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. Julia Ward Howe; 2. David Hockney; 3. Mick Jagger; 4. Easter Island; 5. Marcellus.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bill Lee For President!

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking by telephone with Bill (Spaceman) Lee, the legendary Red Sox pitcher who is the subject of a new documentary called "High and Outside." It is about the life and times of one of baseball's most colorful and intelligent players. It talks not just of his career in the game, but his union activism, his politics and banishment from the game he loves in 1981.

Here is a link to the film.

Bill and I chatted by phone for about 20 minutes last Friday. He and I have met on two previous occasions, both at Professor Thom's. We first met at the 60th birthday party we had for him in late 2006, and the whole bar had a blast hanging with him and he told war stories and held court all night.

Bill is also running for President of the United States. He's running on the Rhinoceros Party of Canada's ticket, as he also did in 1988. The Spaceman and I talked about a wide range of subjects, including the Red Sox, his bid for the White House and the new movie.

JQ: What did you think of the amazing comeback win by the Red Sox last Thursday night?
BL: I was home with my father watching the game, and I was getting calls from my friends and my daughter about it. They were all pretty depressed, but I did my best to cheer them up. It was really amazing, as I follow the Red Sox pretty closely these days. Tampa Bay saw the "devil" and it bit them in the ass! If the Red Sox go to the World Series, I have this terrible fantasy about a junkballer like Jamie Moyer striking out Jason Bay with an outside curve ball to win the Series. Bay's done a nice job, but they really need Manny (Ramirez). I could have beaten Tampa Bay, and a soft-tosser could beat Philly as well.

JQ: What's your relationship like with the Red Sox front office?
BL: It's cordial, but not close. I play a lot of baseball and I'm on the road a lot. I'm not used by them much, but I do run a fantasy camp.

JQ: What did you think of being elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame this year?
BL: Honestly, it was ten years too late. I figured I'd probably go in after I was dead (laughs). Bruce Hurst shouldn't have gone in before me. He was overrated, and went in because of politics. I really appreciated that Mike Adams of WEEI radio in Boston campaigned to get me into the Red Sox Hall of Fame and succeeded.

JQ: What did you think of the Yankee Stadium finale last September 21, and the end of that stadium?
BL: I heard that Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda were barred from coming into the ballpark that day, for whatever reason, and I was disturbed to hear that. I didn't see that game or the ceremonies so I can't comment on that. But what do I think that that ballpark is gone? I can put it all into one word: good.

JQ: What did you think of the "High and Outside" film?
BL: I'm doing my best to let people know it's out there. I'll be in Vermont and New Hampshire next week to promote it, and hopefully Boston when the World Series begins. It's a poignant film, and I enjoyed it as much as Brett Rapkin's "Spaceman" film (about his baseball journey to Cuba). The new film is good at showing the younger ballplayers, and if there's a flaw with it, it's that there's too much of me in it (laughs).

JQ: You are running for president again. Tell about more about it.
BL: I'm running again for the Rhinoceros party, which is based in Canada. I want to have Hunter S. Thompson as my vice-president. We can have him stuffed and mounted, and he won't be the meddler that Dick Cheney is (laughs). But I really hope that Ralph Nader withdraws, as he would hurt Barack Obama. We need someone like Obama, who's definitely in better shape than John McCain is (laughs).

JQ: I hope to see you back at Professor Thom's again. Everyone had a great time with you.
BL: I'd loved coming in there. A lot of great Red Sox fans there. But I wish I could remember more of it, as I was hammered a good part of the time.

Odds and Sods

Mike Lowell's hip surgery was declared a success yesterday. He had a bone spur removed and a tendon in his right hip repaired. His rehab begins tomorrow, and it should last about 3 months. He should be fine for the start of spring training.

Daisuke Matsuzaka revealed to Japanese reporters that he would have been brought to close Game 7, and not Jonathan Papelbon, if the Red Sox had the lead in the ninth. Apparently, Pap's shoulder was sore to the point he would not have been available. And it would have been Dice-K's first relief appearance since 2004, when he was with the Seibu Lions. More on both stories at Extra Bases.

My friend Suldog had an interesting encounter with Kevin Youkilis and his family in a restaurant somewhere in New England recently. It's a good story. Check it out here.

And Professor Thom's, the number one place in New York City to watch the Red Sox, is also the number one place to watch NFL games in any bar in New York. The Village Voice says so.

If You Played For the Red Sox, You Wouldn't Be Sitting Here

Apparently, a patron in the strip joint in Lincoln, Nebraska that Joba Chamberlain was in before he got busted by the cops for DUI on Saturday morning set him off by this comment to him:

"If you played for the Red Sox, you wouldn't be sitting here."

That set off Chamberlain and some of his buddies, who got into a shoving match with the heckler. No punches were thrown, and Chamberlain and his posse went back to ogling the women. Here's more from the NY Daily News.

Chamberlain will now be arraigned on charges of DUI, speeding and carrying an open bottle of alcohol in his vehicle on December 17.

And I thought just his shoulder and knee made him a ticking time bomb.

I guess we now need a set of "Joba Driving Rules."

And also, Evil Empire (Baseball) meets Evil Empire (Football) as the Yankees and Dallas Cowboys have combined forces to form something called Legends Hospitality Management. It will manage concessions for both teams at their new stadiums, it was announced yesterday.

Why does this remind me of when Hitler and Stalin agreed to a non-aggression pact in 1940?

Monday, October 20, 2008

We Danced On Their Lawn!

It's a pretty depressing day if you're a Red Sox fan, with the ALCS Game 7 loss last night. But the above picture should bring back some pleasant memories.

It was four years ago today that Joe Castiglione was heard to say on the radio at its conclusion: "The greatest victory in team history!"

Red Sox 10, Yankees 3. Tonight I'll be watching that game on video, as it never fails to put a smile on my face.

As Mike Barnicle said after that glorious postseason on the HBO special "Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino," "We danced on their lawn!"

Could it really be four years ago already?

October 21st Trivia This Week

Trivia Night returns to its regular day and time this week, Tuesday night at 9 PM. And in honor of the return, the special category will be "October 21st Trivia." It will be people, places and things connected with that date in history.

We will also have a round of "True or False Trivia" as this week's "Q Train" lightning round.

This week's Sneak Peek question is:
"What year was nicknamed 'The Summer of Love?'"

There will be no major baseball games or debates this week, so we should get many of the Trivia Night regulars back (fingers crossed). Hope you can make it tomorrow night.

I Am So Proud to Be a Fan of the Boston Red Sox

The dream ended in the Tropicana Dome late on Sunday night when Jed Lowrie grounded out to second to give the Tampa Bay Rays their first American League pennant in their 11-year history.

At Professor Thom's I turned away from the TVs when Akinori Iwamura touched second for the force. I couldn't watch them celebrating.

I naturally felt disappointed, as every Red Sox fan feels now. But then I could feel one other emotion at that moment come rising up to the surface: pride. I am so proud to be a fan of this incredible ball club.

They were left for dead by just about every loyal Sox fan on Thursday night, when it looked for certain that they were about to be swept three straight at Fenway by the Rays. It pained me to see empty seats for the third straight time at Fenway this postseason, and it really pained me with the idea that someone other than the Red Sox would be celebrating on the sacred Fenway turf.

But with just seven outs to go in the series and the Red Sox down by seven, they showed the heart of a lion by reaching down and finding a way to overcome the adversity and score eight runs in three innings and get the series back to Tampa. It was one of the greatest games ever played at Fenway and in postseason baseball history. And they got it to a seventh and deciding game with a gutsy 4-2 win on Saturday night.

They opened the seventh game with a Dustin Pedroia home run, but that was all the scoring they would do on Sunday. They had opportunities to score more runs, but couldn't push any across. Jon Lester pitched seven good innings, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

The Tampa Bay Rays were the better team and deserved the win. Joe Maddon did a helluva job with this young and terrific team. I congratulate them. (And if I'm a Yankee fan tonight, I'd be plenty scared of BOTH the Red Sox and Rays. If they think that by signing a few free agents that can get back to winning a division, they are sadly mistaken.)

But Terry Francona also did one helluva job managing this Boston Red Sox team. He has once again proven that he is in my mind the best manager in baseball. In many ways the Sox had no business competing for an American title tonight. But Tito got them there with what at times seemed like bubble gum and bailing wire. Mike Lowell couldn't play. David Ortiz clearly wasn't his usual Big Papi self. Josh Beckett was not the pitcher who dominated last year's postseason. Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury couldn't hit their hat size.

But still, the Sox found way to stay alive until the ninth inning of the seventh game. But on guts, determination, guile and tons and tons of heart and soul, the Red Sox were there tonight. But their opposition was just better and wound up on the winning side.

There is no cause for hanging your heads if you are a Red Sox fan. You should take pride in this team and what they've accomplished, especially since the new ownership took over in 2001. The Red Sox are the model franchise in baseball right now, and their future only looks bright. They've brought two memorable championship flags to Boston, so it cushes the blow of what happened in St. Petersburg tonight quite a bit. It still hurts and is disappointing, and on Wednesday night when the World Series begins, it will really hurt to not see the Red Sox representing the American League.

It's nearly 3:00 in the morning, some three hours after the ALCS ended. I am listening to my favorite jazz piano player, Bill Evans, as I write this. I will miss the Red Sox very much now that their season has concluded. (I also included in the above quote section a popular one by the late commissioner and Red Sox fan Bart Giamatti about baseball and the fall, and how empty things seem once it is gone. Thanks to Jere Smith for including it on his blog today as well.)

I feel nothing but pride in my team, and how they fought tooth and nail to try and get their second straight championship for the city of Boston and their loyal fans. It just wasn't meant to be. And I am glad I spent so much time, and especially when the end came last night, at Professor Thom's, with all of my friends who packed the place, even when the series was going bad. The Red Sox are an incredible passion for all of my dear friends, and not just another baseball team. There was no other place on Earth I would rather have been at than at Thom's. I was honored to be with you all last night, and I look forward to being with you all for another great year in 2009.

It doesn't seem like it's been nearly seven months since the season kicked off in Japan, as it's gone by so quickly. But hopefully spring training will be here quickly as well. (I put it in my countdown clock near the top of this blog.)

As Red Sox Nation said in unison after the historic 2004 championship was won, and I think it applies here: Thank you Red Sox.

See you in Ft. Myers in February.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Beautiful Words: Game Seven

Last Thursday night around 11 PM, I had no reason to believe the Red Sox would still be playing baseball today. It looked for all the world like the curtain was coming down on the 2008 season, and it looked like the finish would be butt-ugly. But the Red Sox have risen from the ashes, and now will play the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night for the American League championship.

I can still hardly believe it's happening. But it is, as the Red Sox won a gutty 4-2 game last night, as Josh Beckett improved his record in elimination games to 3-0, going five innings while allowing just two solo homers.

The bullpen was simply outstanding, going four shutout innings. Hideki Okajima went two, allowing just one base runner. Justin Masterson allowed just a hit batsman, then retired the side. And Jonathan Papelbon shut the door on Tampa Bay, throwing just eight pitches in getting the side 1-2-3.

And now the Rays are feeling the pressure, and it is all on them. A monumental lead in Game 5 slipped away, and they allowed the Red Sox to come off the deck. "Big Game James" Shields gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, including two solo shots to Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek. (And where the hell did this guy get a nickname like that? What "big game" has this guy EVER pitched in? For a guy who has been unbeatable at home, he sure isn't, as the Sox have beaten twice in Tampa in this series.)

Beckett allowed a homer to B.J. Upton in the first, but the Sox answered right back with Youk's homer. When Jason Bartlett hit one in the fifth to tie it at 2, the Red Sox again answered it right back with Tek's blast in the sixth (which was his first hit in the ALCS). That really showed me the determination of this club. David Ortiz also had two clutch hits, the second driving in the fourth run after Bartlett's throwing error extended the sixth. (The Rays are absolutely feeling the pressure, as it was their fifth error in three games. How many did they make in their first seven? None.)

By the way, did anyone else notice that back in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS during the Red Sox historic 3-0 comeback, the Sox won Game 6 by the score of 4-2, the same as last night's game? And it was also away from home, won by an injured pitcher?

Terry Francona now has a record of 9-1 in postseason elimination games, which is the best in baseball history. And the Red Sox have now won nine straight ALCS elimination games, going back to 2004. And, of course, that a record. Simply incredible.

Tonight it's Jon Lester against Matt Garza. All the heat and pressure is on Tampa Bay not to become another team to have blown such an enormous postseason lead. The Sox are basically playing with the house's money. And they can make history once again tonight and come from 3-1 back to win, as they have done so three previous times in their storied history.

Even the Rays Have Annoying Fans

It was a complete joke the way TBS lost its coverage last night. As a packed throng at Professor Thom's was waiting for the coverage to begin at 8 PM, TBS was on the screens and what did we see? "The Steve Harvey Show." What the hell was going on? I kiddingly turned to one of my friends and said,"There can't be a rain delay, it's in a dome."

Another friend told me moments later that TBS lost its coverage due to some malfunction. But as we looked at the TVs, there was no crawl across the screen letting the world know what was going on. Finally, about five minutes in, they put up a crawl about the problem. (At least NESN, which had the Bruins game on one of the other TVs, had a batter-by-batter update as to what was going on in Tampa.)

My pal Chris signaled over to me and I grabbed my radio/cassette recorder, and we plugged it into the bar's sound system. (Yours Truly to the rescue!) We had trouble getting it going, but eventually we did hear Jon Miller on ESPN Radio. And we heard Upton's home run off Beckett, and finally, 21 minutes after the start of the game, we saw Carlos Pena walk, and the bar burst into applause.

Another friend of mine compared what happened to the infamous "Heidi" Jets-Raiders game of 1968. Turns out that it was some kind of routing problem with TBS in Atlanta. It's an absolutely inexcusable thing to have happen. And they did an extremely poor job of keeping fans informed of exactly what was going on, both on the field and with the technical problem. It made me long for the broadcasts of, dare I say it, Fox.

And also at Thom's last night, we were subjected to an extremely idiotic Rays fan who said he was from Florida wearing a Rays hat. This guy and a couple of his buddies were extraordinarily annoying, saying rude things about the Sox and yelling "Let's Go Rays" all night long. When it got to a point of yelling obscene things I had enough and pointedly said, "There are 10,000 bars in New York where you can watch this game with no Red Sox fans around. You just come in here to annoy us?" (And why anyone would want to be in place like this where you're outnumbered 100-1 just to make a complete ass of yourself is beyond me.)

The dimwit muttered something about "this being America" and I turned my back on him and moved away slightly (I was in no mood for fights). My pal Chris warned him about his behavior and had security at the ready to toss this nitwit out. He seemed to calm down just so slightly.

Listen, I have no problem with opposition fans at Thom's watching games with us. I have even with Yankee fans who acted very appropriately and just enjoyed the game. But this guy was beyond obnoxious, even talking trash about his own team when they screwed up.

And funny, when Jonathan Papelbon got the last out and Thom's was celebrating, the Obnoxious Rays Fan was nowhere to be found. Let's hope he annoys people in another bar somewhere far away tonight.

Off-Season Yankee Schadenfreude

Joba Chamberlain, who the New York Daily News said today has a "wholesome reputation," got nailed in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska yesterday by police and was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, speeding and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle.

He spent the night in a detox center (aka drunk tank). He'll be arraigned on Monday.

Here's more from the Boston Globe.

I also read in the Daily News today that Yankee memorabilia isn't fetching what it used to. At an auction in Manhattan yesterday, the ball that Jose Molina hit in the last game at Yankee Stadium and was the final home run there garnered: nothing. They also received no bids on the first Yankee World Series trophy. A number of other items also sold for far less than the value they were appraised at. And of course, the economy is to blame for it. Here's the story in today's News.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Will History Repeat Itself?

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
--George Santayana

October 19, 2004:
Red Sox are down 3-2 in the ALCS. They're coming off an improbable Game 5 win at Fenway. They are going into enemy territory needing two wins for the pennant. They are starting an obviously injured pitcher, and their fans are praying for a Game 7 finale.

October 18, 2008: Red Sox are down 3-2 in the ALCS. They're coming off an improbable Game 5 win at Fenway. They are going into enemy territory needing two wins for the pennant. They are starting an obviously injured pitcher, and their fans are praying for a Game 7 finale.

Only the pitchers (Curt Schilling in 2004, Josh Beckett in 2008) are different. We all know what happened on that magical night four years ago tomorrow.

The Red Sox have also never lost a Game 6 in their ALCS history. They are 4-0 lifetime, having defeated California in 1986 (and won Game 7), defeated New York in 2003 and 2004 (you know what happened in Game 7 in both years), and beat Cleveland in Game 6 last year (and took the AL title the next night).

Photos From "A Game For the Ages"

My friend Jere Smith has some excellent photos on his terrific blog, "A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory" from Thursday night's classic, which he will tell the grandchildren one day he was at. And he'll have the photographic proof.

I really love that scoreboard shot I included here. Thanks Jere.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Winston Churchill...

Last night was the greatest single game comeback in postseason history by a team facing elimination.

Down 7-0 with seven outs to go in the season. And the Red Sox won. I still can't believe it.

Even the immortal British prime minister, who probably knew nothing about baseball, would have been proud.

Go get 'em, Commander Kick Ass...

From a Morgue to an Insane Asylum

It's 3:17 AM and I can't sleep. I'm still in a state of shock over what I witnessed at Fenway Park while I was with my friends at Professor Thom's.

For six innings it looked like the Red Sox season was going to end with a crashing thud. They couldn't do anything against Scott Kazmir, who the Sox just about owned in 2008. They looked moribund, and ready for a long, cold winter.

The Rays were once again putting the hurt on the Sox, as they hit three homers off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first three innings and appeared to be coasting to a date with the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. They were making it look way too easy, and the Sox seemed to be going down with almost no fight left in them.

By the time the score went to 7-0 in the seventh, it was simply embarrassing, and I almost didn't want to watch any more. But I decided to stay at Thom's with my friends, and go down with the ship at the very end.

Jed Lowrie led off the seventh with a double and the bar, which was quiet just about all night and was waiting to erupt, did just that. He came into score on Dustin Pedroia's double, and that brought David Ortiz up with two out and two on. Papi had once again looked feeble all night, but this time he turned on a Grant Balfour pitch and hit a bomb into the right field seats to make it 7-4. The bar went simply crazy, but I think it was more just a release. I still thought the Sox had a lot to overcome, down by 3 with six outs left in the season.

Jason Bay walked starting the eighth, and J.D. Drew hit a rocket into the right field seats to make it 7-6. Now you really had the sens the Sox could pull off the impossible. Mark Kotsay doubled with two outs and Coco Crisp had one of the at-bats of the season, fouling off pitch after pitch. On pitch 10, he lined a single to right to tie it up. The bar patrons were simply going nuts (including myself), and it brought back incredible memories of 2004.

The Sox got out of jam in the ninth as Carlos Pena banged into a double play, and with two outs in the ninth, Kevin Youkilis hit a ball that Evan Longoria threw in the dirt and sent Youk to second as it bounced into the stands. After an intentional pass to Bay, Drew completed one of the most incredible single-game comebacks in postseason history as he lined a ball one hop into the bullpen to score Youk. I later heard that Drew's single occurred exactly five years to the minute--12:16 AM to be exact--when that guy on the Yankees (whose name escapes me at the moment) hit a home run off Tim Wakefield to win the 2003 AL pennant.

The bar went simply bananas as the Red Sox pulled off one incredible Houdini act. It was the best comeback in LCS history, and the second greatest in postseason history. (The A's came from eight runs back in the 1929 World Series to beat the Cubs.) The Rays were seven outs away from the World Series and seven runs up, and let it get away.

They have to be shellshocked over the turn of events. Just as much as we at Thom's were.

It was complete bedlam for minutes in Thom's. I was hugging and high-fiving my friends and strangers. It was amazing how fast the bar went from as quiet as a funeral parlor to a rerun of last year's World Series ending. My pal Eric and I were just speechless. (Eric wore his "Syracuse 2003 National Basketball Champions" shirt tonight, and he has worn it during the last eight postseason wins in 2004, and all seven of the last wins in 2007. He's only worn it on these special occasions, and the Red Sox are 16-0 when he has. And he plans on wearing it for the rest of the ALCS.)

Most of my friends were like me, and it reminded them so much of what the Red Sox pulled off in 2004. The Red Sox not only own the record for the greatest comeback in ALCS (as well as all-time postseason) history in 2004, but now the single-game ALCS record, of winning from seven runs down.

Amazing. Astounding. Incredible. Unbelievable.

Just when you count the Red Sox down and out, they go and pull off something like this.

It's why I love this team so much.

Now on to Tampa and the AL pennant. Bring it home, boys.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rock The House

It's time for the Fenway Faithful to get behind the defending World Series champions tonight and really let them know they have their backs. The joint was way too library-like, with Tampa Bay jumping out early and everyone sitting on their hands.

Funerals end today. The ALCS begins in earnest tonight. Let the Sox know it.

Let's get this series back to Tampa.

Congratulations to the Fightin' Phils

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies on becoming the 2008 National League champions last night, having beaten the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and taking the NL pennant 4-1.

I was pulling for the Phillies, as I could never in any good conscience root for any team that once called Brooklyn home and abandoned it. And it ends all the "Manny and His Magic Carpet Ride" BS. (So if the Red Sox aren't destined for the World Series this season, at least Ramirez and his cohorts were knocked out first.)

It was a well-earned victory for the Phillies in winning their first pennant in 15 years. They simply outpitched and outhit the Dodgers, and Cole Hamels was voted series MVP. I am also very happy for my friends who are Phillies fans, especially my friend Mike, one of Professor Thom's bartenders. He's a devoted fan, and will be attending Game 4 of the World Series, as he won a lottery for tickets a few weeks ago.

So, how about a Red Sox-Phillies World Series? The Sox have some work to do (but they have the Rays just where they want them, down 1-3), but it would be a great matchup.

But I also realized something earlier today about Phillies postseason history. They've won just one World Series in their history (1980 over KC), but have lost four times: to the Red Sox in 1915, Yankees in 1950, Orioles in 1983, and Blue Jays in 1993. So that means they have played every AL East in the Series but one: the Rays. Hmmm...

Trivia Q&A: October 15

For the second consecutive week, we had Trivia Night on the same night as a presidential debate, and once again it affected the number of Trivia players. Many of the regulars were away again, many of whom were watching the debate undoubtedly. Just up until 9 PM, I wasn't sure if we'd have the contest, as the bar had mostly folks watching the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS game. (And the above Loft was filled with people watching the debate.)

There was an even split of Phillies and Dodgers fans, and some of the Dodgers fans were from LA. Coincidentally, we had a category called "California Trivia." (The scores were generally pretty good in that round.)

Fortunately most of the bar patrons decided to play Trivia, and we wound up having 12 teams. The scores in Spell the Word Trivia were on the lighter side (no one knew how to spell "tchotchke" correct, by the way), but we had one team that did outstanding the entire night: Did You See The Perfect Storm Goat?. They held the lead throughout and wound up winning by a staggering total of 17 points, which is the largest win ever over a second-place team. My congratulations to them on their historic triumph.

Keep in mind that we return to our regular night of Trivia next Tuesday, October 21st, at 9PM.

Current Events
1. This 42-year-old, Academy Award-winning actress was recently selected "The Sexiest Woman Alive" by Esquire magazine.
2. This Hollywood actor's Malibu house caught fire and suffered extensive damage as he used a garden hose to try to douse the flames.
3. The National Debt reached this number recently, and a new digit has to be added to the clock in Times Square that tracks it.
4. Jean-Marie Gustave LeClezio won the Nobel Prize in the area last week and became the first Frenchman to do so since 1985.
5. This actor slammed Saturday Night Live in a recent interview after the show did a recent parody of him discussing life with a mule.
6. Officials voted on Friday to hang stainless steel nets from this famous bridge to stop people from jumping to their deaths, which 1200 have done in the bridge's history.
7. This legendary rock musician posted a video message on his web site this week imploring his fans not to send him any more gifts or fan mail, as they will be tossed away because he's too busy.

Answers: 1. Halle Berry; 2. Nick Nolte; 3. $10 trillion; 4. literature; 5. Mark Wahlberg; 6. Golden Gate Bridge; 7. Ringo Starr.

California Trivia
1. What number state did California enter the union as in 1850? a. 25; b. 31; c. 34; d. 37.
2. What percentage of the US population currently lives in California? a. 7; b. 10; c. 12; d. 18.
3. Which California mountain is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states? a. Whitney; b. Shasta; c. McKinley; d. Lassen.
4. Who was the first US president born in California? a. Ronald Reagan; b. Herbert Hoover; c. Calvin Coolidge; d. Richard Nixon.
5. What year did the California Gold Rush begin? a. 1845; b. 1848; c. 1851; d. 1856.
6. What is the second largest city in California by population as of 2005? a. San Francisco; b. San Jose; c. San Diego; d. Anaheim.
7. Who succeeded Gray Davis as California's governor? a. Arnold Schwarzenegger; b. Ronald Reagan; c. Jerry Brown; d. Pete Wilson.

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

Spell the Word Trivia ("The Q Train")
1. AFICIONADO (noun): an enthusiastic admirer; a fan.
2. ACQUIESCE (verb): to accept without objection.
3. DILETTANTE (noun): an admirer or lover of fine arts.
4. PANACEA (noun): a remedy for all diseases; a cure-all.
5. CATARACT (noun): a clouding of the lens of the eye which obstructs the passage of light.
6. JUNTA (noun): a government council, especially one that rules after a revolution.
7. PROSELYTIZE (verb): to induce someone to join one's cause.
8. ABATTOIR (noun): a slaughterhouse.
9. TCHOTCHKE (noun): a trinket or knicknack.
10. RESPITE (noun): an interval of rest or relief.

General Knowledge
1. What branch of science includes the study of dominant and recessive traits?
2. At age 90, what Biblical figure gives birth to her first and only child Isaac?
3. Donald Fagen was the lead singer of what rock group?
4. How many sheets of paper make up a standard ream?
5. What poet wrote the famous 1807 poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud?"
6. In 2004, which donut company was found to have financial discrepancies by the SEC?
7. The songwriting trio of Holland, Dozier and Holland wrote 25 Top 10 hits for what record label?

Answers: 1. genetics; 2. Sarah; 3. Steely Dan; 4. five hundred; 5. William Wordsworth; 6. Krispy Kreme; 7. Motown.

IQ Trivia
1. Harry Longabaugh was the real name of what Wild West outlaw? ( 4 points)
2. In chemistry, Avogadro's Law deals specifically with what state of matter? ( 4 points)
3. What English author first coined the term "utopia?" ( 5 points)
4. What African peak is said to be the highest point in the world with cell phone reception? ( 3 points)
5. What is the term for a person paid to smuggle illegal aliens into the US from Mexico? ( 4 points)

Answers: 1. The Sundance Kid; 2. gas; 3. Sir Thomas More; 4. Kilimanjaro; 5. coyote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Nice Memory of Five Years Ago

It was five years ago today that an event occurred that I didn't know at the time would change my life. It was the day I discovered the Riviera Cafe and Sports Bar in the West Village.

The day before I found an article in the Boston Globe written by Jules Verdone (who I later came to know) called "Lansdowne On The Hudson." It was about a bar in Manhattan that Red Sox fans hung out in and watched games in peace, away from heathen Yankee fans. (I had seen just a handful of Red Sox games in NYC bars in my life previously and none catered to Sox fans specifically.) I had never heard of the Riv. But on this day five years ago, the Red Sox were down 3-2 in the 2003 ALCS, and it was returning to Yankee Stadium. But I made a fateful decision that I'd watch the game there among other Red Sox fans, even to the bitter end. (And I've become friends with many of the folks mentioned in the original article.)

I got to the place about two hours before the game and the bar wasn't crowded. I took a table right next to the entrance on 7th Avenue South. But as game time approached, I saw a whole slew of people come in, and just about everyone was decked out in Red Sox attire. I was floored to see so many in New York, and it made me feel like I was in Boston. (You could count on one hand how many Yankee fans were there that day.)

I had such a blast that day, as it was a great game the Red Sox won and forced a Game 7. I was high-fiving with other Red Sox fans I didn't know and was screaming myself hoarse. And I also thought I had a perfect place to watch the game the next night, which I did. (No need to go into that.)

But even after the loss the next night, I had a place to watch the Red Sox with other fans in the future. I spent countless hours there in 2004 and made many new friends, many who are now Professor Thom's regulars like myself. I don't go to the Riviera anymore (that's a long story for another time), but it opened the door for a new chapter in my life.

Open Season on Autistic Kids Continues

From Denis Leary's new book, "Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid":

"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."

What is it these days that these celebrities feel free to take potshots at kids with autism and their parents? This is a REAL epidemic that strikes so many families (like mine) without any warning. Yet, these idiot celebrities feel free to open their big fat yaps with their moronic ideas about how autism is some kind of "scam" and that many children who have it are "fakers."

I've witnessed up close what parents of autistic children have to go through, which includes two of my sisters. It's an incredible challenge they have to shoulder, but they adore their children and would do anything in the world for them.

It's simply shameful that jackasses like Leary who know absolutely nothing about it think it's fertile ground for cheap comedy. Leary should be ashamed himself, but as long as his book makes money, why should he care?

Neal Hefti: 1922-2008

I was saddened this morning to learn of the passing of Neal Hefti, who was once a Big Band trumpeter but gained immortality as a composer of TV themes. He died last Saturday at the age of 85.

Mr. Hefti won a Grammy in 1966 for Best Instrumental for the theme to the TV show "Batman." But he will always be forever remembered for composing the theme to "The Odd Couple," one of my favorite all-time TV themes (although he did it originally for the movie in 1968). Funny hearing about his death now, as yesterday I had a post featuring the immortal Felix Unger. Here's more on Mr. Hefti.

So in honor of Mr. Hefti, here is the theme to "The Odd Couple," from their second season:

I've Seen This Somewhere Before

OK, we're not in unfamiliar territory right now.

It was brutal and painful to watch Game 4 of the ALCS last night. It was the most critical game of the season for the Red Sox and they put in a pitcher who hadn't pitched in 16 days. And not surprisingly, it was a total disaster as the Tampa Bay Rays put another whacking on the Red Sox, 13-4.

I'll spare you all the gory details of last night, as most of you readers know them all by now.

Right now it's a case of the Rays clicking on all cylinders. They are hitting like crazy, balls are finding every gap. Their outfield defense are running down sure doubles in the gap and are using that speed on the bases. They are clearly no fluke whatsoever. They look like a hungry team that wants to win it all. (Don't know what David Ortiz was talking about after Game 1. The Rays sure don't look scared.) Much more than the Red Sox do now.

And as far as the Red Sox go, everything is going wrong. The starting pitching is a total mess, the bullpen was awful yesterday, and the offense looks dead. When Tim Wakefield gave up the three runs in the first, it was a bad blow, but I wasn't discouraged. But the key last night was the bottom of the first. The Red Sox looked like they just rolled over and went to sleep, going meekly 1-2-3. I silently thought to myself among the throng at Professor Thom's, "The Sox are dead tonight. And we're going to hammered again."

And sure enough, the Rays put their foot on the gas pedal and turned it up a notch (and then some). It got ugly, and by the sixth, I was embarrassed to watch the defending world champions playing like it was a bad spring training game.

It's a complete team breakdown. Bad pitching and no offense, especially when it matters. (I saw a stat late in the game that the Red Sox were 4-for-26 with runners in scoring position in the ALCS. Truly awful.) David Ortiz is AWOL, without a home run in the postseason. Jacoby Ellsbury's in a valley, and the bottom of the lineup is a black hole. Terry Francona tried to juggle the lineup without success last night. I give him credit for trying. J.D. Drew led off and went 0-for-5. Coco Crisp killed a rally in the second with a DP. Kevin Cash was the entire offense until the seventh inning with a home run in the third. (So should he be starting Game 5?)

As I opened this post with, we have seen this scenario before. We all know about the amazing, historic comeback of 2004, but this series actually closely mirrors what happened last year against the Indians in the ALCS.

Last October: The Red Sox won Game 1, lost Game 2 in 11 innings, and lost both Games 3 and 4 (however, they were both on the road and were much closer), with Wakefield losing Game 4. Just like this ALCS.

But it is a much more uphill battle for the Red Sox now. They don't have Mike Lowell (and he'll have hip surgery on Monday), Big Papi is clearly hurting, and will have to win the pennant on the road (like in 2004). Too many offensive players are struggling, and they will need their Game 1 winner (this time Daisuke Matsuzaka) to give the club a big spiritual lift.

Curiously, Joe Maddon has now bumped Game 1 pitcher James Shields to a Game 6 if it gets there. Scott Kazmir will go tomorrow night. The Sox have battered Kazmir this season, as they did in Game 2. It has been suggested that Maddon is doing this because the Game 6 plate ump will be Derrel Cousins, who Kazmir had a run-in with earlier this year in Anaheim over his balls and strikes calls. (I remember watching that game in June. Kazmir was absolutely right.)

So now we have an extra day to stew over what happened at Fenway the last two days.

Four teams have come back from 1-3 (or more) to win the AL pennant. And three of them (1986, 2004 and 2007) are the Boston Red Sox.

It's all on the shoulders of Daisuke Matsuzaka now. Keep the Faith.

Time to Call In John Blutarsky

Over? Hell no! We've been down this ALCS road before. So now it's time for Bluto to rally the troops at Fenway:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Left Coast Trivia This Week

This week's Trivia Night, a special Wednesday edition, will feature as the Special Category: "California Trivia." It will be questions about The Golden State, and it will be multiple choice as well.

We will get going at the usual time of 9 PM, and The Q Train category this week will be "Spell the Word Trivia."

The Sneak Peek question for this week is:
Donald Fagen was the lead singer of what rock group?

Next week we go back to Tuesday, but I hope many of you can make it out for this special Wednesday night of Trivia.

You Should Never Assume!

I have to admit that I wasn't terribly worried about Monday's game. I thought this one would be in the "W" column for the Sox and I was beginning to think about Tim Wakefield's Tuesday start. The pitching matchup clearly favored the Sox: Jon Lester, who was simply wonderful in the ALDS and was unbeatable at Fenway all year vs. Matt Garza, who got pounded at Fenway in June and by the White Sox in his one ALDS start in Chicago.

As the great Felix Unger (pictured) once said on "The Odd Couple": "You should never assume...because when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me!" (That still makes me laugh every time I see it.)

Lester was simply awful, as he allowed two long bomb homers to B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria that made it 5-0 after three innings. Lester had actually gotten off to a great start, throwing just four pitches to get three outs in the first. But at the same time, the Sox were up to their usual tricks, leaving three runners in scoring position in the first two innings, and it included Jason Varitek striking out looking in the second. (Tek was also lustily booed by the fans after he popped up in the fourth. He also committed a passed ball that cost the Sox the first run.)

Like Mike Timlin, I will always love what Tek has meant to this team over the last decade. He's a warrior, but like Sarge, he appears to be done. I simply can't see how the Sox bring him back next year. He hasn't gotten a hit in the first three games, and I read that he's pissed at Tito for pinch-hitting for him in the ninth in Game 2. Tek, why do you think there are three catchers on the postseason roster?

And last week, I saw that the San Diego Padres elected to make Josh Bard a free agent, as he refused an assignment to the minors. Could the Red Sox correct a past mistake this winter? We'll see after the season.

Varitek hasn't been the only one dragging down the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are also hitless in the ALCS, and Ellsbury is a staggering 0 for his last 20. The three are a combined 0-for-34 in the ALCS. And the middle of the order had just one hit yesterday, and that was a meaningless J.D. Drew single in the eighth. Only Dustin Pedroia and Mark Kotsay (who each had two hits) looked like they had their heads in the game yesterday. The Sox looked way too lethargic at times, and they've got to shake their asses tonight and get the bats going, especially when they need the clutch hit.

Garza wasn't anything special for the Rays yesterday, but he pitched well enough over six innings to win. The Rays coasted into a 9-1 win, as Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena both went deep late against Paul Byrd (who was in one game too late). They are now up 2-1. The Rays are a terrific team, and anybody who thought this series wasn't going to be a fight to the finish was kidding themselves.

Tim Wakefield gets the ball tonight against Andy Sonnanstine. It's no time to panic, but this is a game the Sox really need to win. Fortunately, the bullpen was spared by Byrd going 3 2/3 innings in relief of Lester. They may very well be needed tonight.

An embarrassing ass-whipping by the Rays might just be the wakeup call the Red Sox needed, especially it happening at home before some angry fans. I hope the Red Sox just don't assume they'll come back in this series.

As Felix once said...

Just a Reminder

Just a friendly reminder that Trivia Night this week will be held on Wednesday night at 9PM, as the Red Sox-Rays ALCS Game 4 will jam Professor Thom's on Tuesday night.

I'll be posting the Sneak Peek question and the name of the special category on Tuesday afternoon.

Also, because Election Night falls on Tuesday night in three weeks, we will also be moving Trivia Night that week as well to Wednesday night, November 5th at 9 PM. We figure that most of you will be camped in front of your TV sets that night, as Thom's will be fairly void of Trivia regulars.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Weekend's Football

I was concentrating far more on baseball this past weekend than football, as I do every year in October (and especially these last five years when the Red Sox have made deep postseason runs). I generally don't get back in football wholeheartedly until after the World Series is done. But I don't ignore the pigskin results totally.

I stayed at home on Sunday, after the two exhausting late nights watching the Red Sox-Tampa Bay ALCS games. (Thank goodness we have one earlier start today.) I didn't get a chance to see the Vikings-Lions game from Minnesota, but I did catch some the Jets game, the Dallas-Arizona game (great finish) and the Pats game in San Diego (Pats sure looked lethargic).

The Vikings game worried me, as the Lions maybe one of the NFL's worst teams, but after the exciting win over the Saints last Monday night, I feared a letdown. It seemed to have happened, as the Vikings were down 3-2 to Detroit at the half, and trailed for almost the entire second half, too. The Vikings offense continues to struggle, and managed just an 86-yard pass from Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian as the lone TD in the game. It took a 26-yard field goal in the final seconds by Ryan Longwell to win it, and that was off a questionable pass interference call against Detroit that set it up.

It wasn't a game for the time capsule, but a win is a win. The Vikings are now 3-3 and tied at the top of the NFC North with Green Bay and Chicago. Next week is a big game, against the Bears in Chicago, while Green Bay hosts Indianapolis.

I also caught a little of the Notre Dame-North Carolina game on Saturday. (I was travelling into Manhattan for the Red Sox game and missed a good part of the second half.) ND had a 17-9 lead at halftime, but second half mistakes cost them dearly. Jimmy Clausen had yet another career game, but two interceptions in the second half proved fatal, as favored North Carolina converted them into points, and went on to a 29-24 win.

Notre Dame is now 4-2, and has a bye week this week. They return on October 25th to play at Washington.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Remember the Cole

It was eight years ago today at the Yemeni port of Aden that the destroyer the USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers, killing 17 sailors and injuring 40.

Six of the men who were eventually charged with the attacks, all from Al-Qaeda, were either freed or escaped by the following May.

The current president at the time, Bill Clinton, did nothing in response to the attacks, and decided to let his successor deal with it. And George W. Bush equally did nothing to strike back at Al-Qaeda in response to the Cole attack. As the 9/11 Commission Report later wrote:

"Bin Laden complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked (in response to the Cole)... Bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger."

And he and his murdering bastards did. It emboldened them to "bigger things." The Cole bombing was a dress rehearsal for the worst day in American history...11 months later.

May God rest the souls of those killed eight years ago today, and those that followed the succeeding September.

It Wasn't Tito's Finest Hour

Let me get one thing straight before I get going here.

I believe that Terry Francona is the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime. He's brought two World Series titles to Boston, and is an excellent manager, especially in the postseason, when he has a knack for pushing the right buttons. He has my eternal respect and admiration. And I'm not one of those Internet yahoos who calls him "Francoma" and demands he be fired every time one of his decisions backfires and costs the Red Sox a game.

But you can put last night's 9-8 loss on him.

It was apparent to everyone who can see that Josh Beckett was getting torched last night. He gave up three homers in four innings, all bombs, and even some the outs were long and loud. He's clearly hurt, no matter what he says publicly. His fastball rarely went above 92 MPH. So when the Red Sox blasted three solo homers off Scott Kazmir in the fifth inning to make it 6-5 Sox (Kazmir was just as awful as Beckett), Tito should have turned the game over to his pen. Granted it's a lot to ask of them to give him 5 innings, but Beckett had nothing, and only had one unscored inning (the second) last night. The Red Sox regaining the lead should been enough to bring the bullpen in at that point.

I don't know if it was Tito's undying loyalty to Beckett, and he wanted him to get through the fifth so he could get a win. The pen was not overtaxed lately, and the next day was an off-day. So there's no reason to preserve the pen. But Beckett gave the lead back for the second time, as Tampa Bay grabbed three more runs to make it 8-6 before Francona pulled the plug on Beckett.

And the bullpen was very good. Javier Lopez threw one pitch to bring in the eighth run, but everyone else until the 11th inning was terrific.

And now to Tito's other rotten decision: bringing in Mike Timlin in the 11th inning instead of Paul Byrd.

I love Mike Timlin. He's another Sox player I will always admire and respect, for his toughness and grit in his first years as a Red Sox pitcher. But Sarge is clearly done. He was left off the ALDS roster for a reason. I really hope he calls it a career after the postseason concludes. But as soon as I saw him in the game, I (and about 15 million other Red Sox fans) knew that this one was ending before it could reach the 12th inning. (And why did he pull Jonathan Papelbon after the tenth, when he had thrown just 18 pitches in 1 1/3 innings?)

I believe Tito was hoping Timlin could give him one inning before turning the game over to Byrd in 12th, and he could go as far as the game went, Byrd being a starter. But two walks and another intentional one led to a B.J. Upton sac fly that won it for Tampa Bay, 9-8.

It was a big night for Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis (they hit the homers). But David Ortiz has to get it going, as he was held hitless. The bottom of the order did next-to-nothing also (Mark Kotsay and Jed Lowrie were hitless too). The Sox left 13 men on last night. Again, the lack of a timely hit cost the Red Sox dearly last night.

But not as much as Terry Francona's questionable decision-making.

The Red Sox accomplished what they needed to this weekend. They split the two games in St. Pete, and now have Jon Lester waiting in the wings for the Rays on Monday afternoon.

It was a pleasure last night to see Jere Smith in Thom's, along with his family, as they were in-house with copies of their book, "Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery." They had a good time and sold some books. It's a terrific book and I recommend to all Red Sox fans, especially those who love a good mystery.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Enjoying The Thrill of Victory

Here was the scene at Professor Thom's pub at the conclusion of last night's 2-0 Red Sox win over the Rays. There's Yours Truly in the Red Sox road jersey with my pals Eric (behind me) and Joe (just to the left of me). Ah, such good times!!

Thanks to my friend Kim for the great photo!

BS From Boras

From yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

Scott Boras, the agent for Manny Ramirez, told the New York Times that Manny wasn't acting out so that the Boston Red Sox would trade him.

And, Boras says, he certainly didn't advise Ramirez to play his way out of Boston.

"Everyone said we went to Manny and said, 'Don't do things on the field that you would normally do,' '' Boras told the newspaper. "I can only say when people raise that question: Manny hit .360 in July, led the team in home runs, R.B.I.'s, the whole thing. What is it Manny wasn't doing? I would like to be responsible for Manny hitting .360.''

Boras is absolutely full of shit. I will always believe that it was Boras who was behind this circus with Ramirez wanting out of Boston. The moment I heard Ramirez had hooked up with Boras last winter, I knew it was trouble. At first I thought why would Boras want to represent him, as the Sox have two more options on him, for 2009 and 2010.

But it was Boras' plan to get Manny out of Boston so Boras could have another monumental payday. Hey, Manny was having a fine July, but it was clear he wasn't exactly hustling and became an incredible distraction for his teammates. Ramirez' comments at the All-Star Game that ticked off John Henry and the physical confrontation with the Red Sox travelling secretary made it clear he had no desire to play in Boston anymore.

Boras orchestrated this whole thing, no matter how much he tries to insult our intelligence that he was just an innocent bystander in this whole mess.

No Dice For Rays

Before he took the mound last night, most of my friends were telling me that they hoped Daisuke Matsuzaka could give the Red Sox five good innings. I felt it could do even better than that.

Dice-K proved my friends wrong, as he went seven+ strong innings at Tropicana Field last night in a 2-0 Red Sox opening game win of the ALCS, putting the Sox in the driver's seat to begin things.

Professor Thom's was a mob scene last night, with the biggest crowd of the year on hand. It reminded me so much of the World Series last year in terms of turnout and intensity.

The Red Sox left men on second and third in the first, as James Shields struck out J.D. Drew to get Tampa Bay out of the jam. Dice-K walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, and like he's done all year, wriggled his way out of it without a run scoring. The opposition is now 0-for-15 against him with the bases filled.

The game remained scoreless until the fifth, when Jason Bay walked and Mark Kotsay hit a check-swing double. Jed Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly to right to put the Red Sox on the board. Dice-K rolled along through the sixth without allowing a hit, while walking four. (I really didn't care about the no-hitter, as I just wanted a victory last night.)

In the bottom of the seventh, Carl Crawford led off with a single to right for Tampa Bay's first hit. I'm just Terry Francona breathed a sigh of relief, as he didn't want Dice-K flirting with history and have to extend him in the playoffs. (You can do that in the regular season, but not now.) Cliff Floyd singled, putting men on first and third, and it look like trouble was ahead. But once again, he pitched out of it without a run scoring.

The Red Sox added another run in the eighth, as Kevin Youkilis, who had three hits, hit a ball off Carl Crawford's glove that brought Dustin Pedroia home to make it 2-0. But that's all the Sox could manage, as they left plenty of men on last night.

But it's all they needed. The Rays had two on and none out in the eighth, as Dice-K put them on to start the inning. It was curious he let him start the inning. Hideki Okajima got Carlos Pena to fly out, and then Justin Masterson got Evan Longoria to ground into a 6-4-3 DP to basically end the night. Jonathan Papelbon got the Rays 1-2-3 in the ninth to give the Red Sox the first game.

The Phillies took a commanding 2-0 lead over the Dodgers in the NLCS with an 8-5 shootout victory in Philadelphia, and that series resumes in LA on Sunday night.

Josh Beckett goes tonight in Game 2 against Scott Kazmir. It's like the Red Sox are playing with the house's money, as they have already accomplished what they needed to (win one of the first two games in Tampa). It will be interesting to see which Beckett shows up tonight. The one who struggled last Sunday at Fenway against the Angels, or the Big Money/Commander Kick Ass Beckett who dominated last year's postseason.