The Anatomy of a Rivalry, the Fifth Stanza, The Kid, The Clipper and 1941….REVISITED

Despite what you may have heard or read about in curse ridden terms, the Red Sox Yankee rivalry actually began as a rivalry between their two best players; a guy named Ted Williams and another named Joe DiMaggio. It began in the summer of 1941……Just before everything changed….Forever. Enjoy!

The Anatomy of a Rivalry, the Fifth Stanza, The Kid, The Clipper and 1941…..

It has often been said that 1941 was the last year of innocence. The war in Europe was raging, the debate in America about whether we should enter it or not, was raging. And the debate in the baseball world, DiMaggio or Williams was raging.

Japan ended the debate about the war on December 7th,

but not before Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio captivated the country throughout the 1941 baseball season.

Joe DiMaggio arrived in New York in 1936 and he was an instant star, hitting .323 with 29 homers and 125 RBI! He was a veritable RBI machine as in his first five seasons his totals were, 125, 167, 140, 126 and 133 an average of 138 a season. He averaged 34 homers a year, including a league leading 46 in 1937 and his batting average was .345 including back to back American League batting titles in 1939 and 1940. The Yankees had won the World Series an unprecedented four straight times from ’36’ through ’39’ and Joe D. was the 1939 MVP!

Ted and Joe at the 1941 All Star Game.

Ted Williams arrived in Boston in 1939 and was an instant star, hitting .327 with 31 home runs and a league leading 145 RBI. He was a veritable on base machine, reaching 44% of the time his first two seasons; he would lead the league in that category for 12 of his 19 seasons. The Red Sox were emerging from their two decade doldrums and appeared ready to challenge the Yankees as the class of the league. But before that would occur, these two men would take the baseball world on a ride for the ages!

Teddy Ballgame, 1941 (by Chris Kfoury)

The year did not begin well for Ted as he broke a bone in his ankle in spring training which  limited him to pinch-hitting duties for the first two weeks of the season. His first start came on April 22 in Washington and he went 2-4. He would not start again until April 29th, in Detroit and his first start without a hit came on May 2nd, in Cleveland against the Indians. When that game ended, he was hitting, .308 the lowest he would hit all year!

On May 15th 1941 in Yankee Stadium, a White Sox pitcher named Eddie Smith spun a complete game nine hitter as his mates pounded three Yankee pitchers in a 13-1 rout. The only Yankee run was a result of a Joe DiMaggio RBI single in the first inning. It was a rather nondescript box score a mere 1-4 with an RBI, yet it was the first step on a historic quest that is heretofore unmatched in baseball annals. It would be two months, two days and 56 games before Joe DiMaggio’s name would appear in another box score that read, zero hits.

Eddie Smith pitched 10 seasons and was 73-113 lifetime. He is engraved in history as the pitcher who surrendered the first hit of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.

On May 15th, the Red Sox were at Fenway Park versus the Indians and Ted Williams also had a rather nondescript box score, going 1-3, a single for his 20th hit of the year. He was now hitting, .339.

During DiMaggio’s streak, he had 22 multi-hit games; 14 with two hits, five with three  hits and three with four hits. Nine of those 22 came in the last 16 games of the streak. He broke Wee Willie Keeler’s modern-day record when he hit in game number 45 of the streak. It came July 2nd at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox and it was a fifth inning two run homer.

Red Sox pitcher Dick Newsome, surrendered the hit that broke Willie Keeler’s record.

In seven of the last 10 games of the steak, DiMaggio had multi-hit games and in  game number 57, where it came to an end, Indians third baseman Ken Keltner robbed him of two hits down the left field line.

Ken Keltner twice made back-handed stabs to his right down the third base line and threw Joe D out by a half step each time, stopping the streak at 56 games.

During the 56 game streak from May 15th through July 16th, DiMaggio had 91 hits in 223 at bats for a .408 clip. Thirty five of the hits were for extra bases and he hit 15 homers and had 55 RBI. He walked 21 times thus reaching base 122 times during his 56 game stretch.

While Joe D was making his history, Ted Williams was on a march creating his own. It is interesting to note that on May 15th, Williams began what would become a 23 game hitting streak, ending on June 8th in Chicago. Ted entered that doubleheader hitting .431.

During DiMaggio’s streak, Williams had a hit in 45 of the 52 games he played. In those 52 games, he had 21 multi-hit games, 12 with two, seven with three and two with four. He hit .412 with 12 homers and 50 RBI.

It was during that stretch that Ted was at his highest average for the season. He was hitting; .436 on June 6th, .434 on June 5th, and .431 on June 7th. He was hitting .405 at the All Star break and went 0-4 the first game following it. That lowered his average to .398 and it would take him until July 25th to get back to .400.

Ted Williams fifth inning homer off Mel Harder on July 25, 1941 put him back at .400 and he did not dip below that mark for the rest of the season.

Contemplate that for a minute. He was over .400 from July 25th until the end of the season! In fact from May 25th on, he was at .400 or better for all but two weeks of the rest of the season.

The Red Sox season ended with a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. That morning Williams was hitting .400 (.3996 to be exact.) Manager Joe Cronin suggested he sit it out, he had his .400, the season was over. Ted would have none of it and he played both games of the doubleheader, going 4-5 in the first game and 2-3 in the second finishing at what has become the magical mark of .406.

Ted Williams September 28, 1941 in Philadelphia.

The Red Sox remained the bridesmaid of the Yankees again in 1941, however, the Williams/DiMaggio rivalry would blossom into the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry. But first there was a war to fight.

to be continued…..

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, Ted and Joe’s time, 1941

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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, the Fourth Stanza, Back from the Darkness of the Abyss…..REVISITED

The Red Sox/Yankee rivalry really began as the rivalry between Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. For in the first 20 years of the American League the Yankees were pretty bad and the Red Sox were the best team in baseball. Throughout the 20s the Yankees were the best team in baseball and the Red Sox were, in a word, abysmal! This was originally published on March 17, 2012. Enjoy!

Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933, the year before Babe Ruth’s final year with the Yankees. There is a synchronicity in this ushering out of the old and in with the new; for it was Tom Yawkey who set the Red Sox on the course to regain respectability, and it was the arrival of Ted Williams in 1939 that laid the foundation for the opening acts of the true Red Sox/Yankee rivalry.

So let’s recap, in Babe’s 15 years with the Yankees they won seven pennants and four World Series. Eleven times they won 90 games a more and three times they cracked the 100 win barrier. They had one losing season, 1925 when Babe missed 56 games to injuries.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, never won more than 76 games (that coming in 1934) and they lost 90 or more games 10 times, cracking the 100 loss barrier five times. From 1925-1929, they lost 105, 107, 103, 96 and 96 games respectively! That is an average of 101 losses per season! And in nine of those 15 years they finished in the cellar.

Babe calls his shot in Wrigley Field in game three of the 1932 World Series.

When Babe was playing in his last World Series in 1932, and calling his shot, the Red Sox were setting their own personal paradigm of futility going 43-111 .279 and finishing a robust 64 games behind the Yankees!

Smead Jolley played for the Red Sox in 1932 and 1933. He was one of the few bright spots in the darkness of the 1932 season hitting .309 with 18 home runs and 99 RBI.

Now let’s set the stage, When Babe departed from the Yankees, they slipped a bit in 1935, winning 89 games, five less than the previous season. Then in 1936 a young center fielder from the west coast arrived in New York.

Joe DiMaggio played 13 seasons with the Yankees. The three time MVP played in 10 World Series and New York won nine of them!

The arrival of the man who would come to be known as “The Yankee Clipper”, coincided with a streak of success that was unprecedented in baseball history. It also was the first spoke in the wheel of amping up the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry.

Meanwhile in Boston, Tom Yawkey was anything but idle, as he set to marching the Red Sox back from the abyss. He started by acquiring one of the best pitchers in the game from the Philadelphia A’s.

The trade for Lefty Grove in 1933 included $125,000 going to Philadelphia.

Next came a talented young shortstop from Washington who Yawkey made his player-manager. Cronin would pilot the Red Sox through the 1947 season.

The trade for Joe Cronin in 1934 included $225,000 going to the Senators.

In December of 1935, Yawkey went back to the Philadelphia A’s and acquired a right-handed power hitting first baseman who to this day remains in the discussion of the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history.

The trade for Jimmie Foxx included $150,000 going to the A’s.

Yawkey was not just acquiring established stars, he also was signing and purchasing some young and very talented ball players.

Bobby Doerr was purchased from the Hollywood team of the Pacific Coast League in 1935 for $75,000. He arrived in Boston in 1937 and in 1939 he became their regular second baseman.

Then in 1936, Red Sox GM Eddie Collins signed a lanky left-handed swinger named Ted Williams off of the roster of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres.

Ted Williams, The Kid, The Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame arrived in Boston in 1939 and things would never be the same!

Tom Yawkey’s moves of the 1930s had restored the Boston Red Sox to respectability. They won 88 games in 1938 and 89 the following year. Finishing in second place behind the Yankees both times, they were 9 1/2 games back in 1938 and 17 games back in ’39’.

As respectable as they had become, they were still far behind the Yankees and in reality they had achieved a status that was simply, the best of the rest. As for the rivalry, well still not quite there yet. The spark which would ignite that fuse would take place in 1941 and ironically it would not involve a pennant race; for the Red Sox once again finished in second place, and once again they were 17 games behind the pennant winning Yankees.

It would involve a season of historic individual performances by Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. Accomplishments which, over seven decades later, continue to capture the imagination, admiration and respect of baseball historians, pundits and fans throughout the world.

to be continued…..

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, the 1930s.

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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Third Stanza, Into the Abyss…..REVISITED

Following Babe Ruth’s sale to the Yankees, the Red Sox entered their worst decade in their history. The 1920s found them at the bottom of the heap throughout. The Yankees on the other hand became, well, the Yankees and it wasn’t simply because of  The Babe as you are about to find out! This was originally published on March 15, 2012. Enjoy!

Babe Ruth’s trade to the New York Yankees, marked the second time in five years that the Red Sox had traded someone who was arguably the best player in the American League. Yet the trade of Tris Speaker in 1916 did not adversely effect the Red Sox efforts, as they won the World Series in both 1916 and “18′.

However, with Babe Ruth trading in the pinstripes of the Boston Red Sox for the pinstripes of the New York Yankees; the turn around for both franchises was profound, immediate and everlasting!

In 1920, Babe Ruth shattered his record of 29 home runs in a single season when he hammered 54 of them. He led the league in HR, RBI, Runs Scored, On Base Pct, Slugging Pct and Walks and did it all while hitting .376. The Yankees finished with 95 wins (the most in their history) but were three games back of the White Sox in third place. Their tide was turning.

The Red Sox were 72-81, finishing in fifth place and suffering their worst season since 1906. Harry Hooper led the team with seven home runs, added 53 RBI while hitting .312; a solid admirable season for the future Hall of Famer but in spring training 1921, he was traded to the White Sox. Their tide was turning as well.

Herb Pennock was 16-13 in 1920, the only Sox hurler with a winning record. He was traded to the Yankees in January of 1923.

The 26-year-old southpaw Herb Pennock emerged as the ace of the Red Sox pitching staff, but his days in a Red Sox uniform were also numbered.

The 1921 season brought even new heights for Babe Ruth and the Yankees. He hit 59 home runs, knocked in 171 of his mates and hit two points higher at .378, leading the Yankees to their very first pennant. (And, he also led the league in all the same categories as the year before.) They lost the World Series to the Giants, with whom they shared the Polo Grounds, but their tide had decidedly turned!

Carl Mays who was the winning pitcher for the Red Sox in the deciding game of the 1918 World Series, was the ace of the Yankee staff in 1921 going 27-9.

Twenty-0ne year old Waite Hoyt, acquired from the Red Sox in December of 1920, was the number two man on the ’21’ pennant winning Yankee staff, winning 19 games.

The Red Sox finished a few games better than the previous year, their tide was still turning.

It is not my intent to chronicle the exploits of Babe Ruth while with the Yankees. That you can do yourself with one click here.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ruthba01.shtml

Take note of all the bold numbers, those indicate he led the league in that category. Suffice to say that if you recall what Barry Bonds did on steroids from 2000-2004, that was Babe Ruth on hot dogs and beer from 1920-1933!

The Yankees repeated as American League champs in 1922 but were swept by the Giants in the World Series. The following year marked the opening of the “House that Ruth Built” and in their first season in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees won their third successive American League pennant, only this time they capped it off by beating the Giants for their very first World Championship!

Their pitching rotation included the aforementioned Penncock (19-6) and Hoyt (17-9), both acquired from the Red Sox and these two fellows,

“Bullet” Joe Bush acquired by the Yankees from the Red Sox in December 1921, won 19 games for the Yanks in 1923.

“Sad” Sam Jones was acquired by New York in the same trade with Boston that landed them Joe Bush, he was 21-8 with the 1923 Yankees.

By this time, the 31-year-old (old for a player back in the day) Carl Mays was relegated to the Yankee bullpen but he did manage to go 5-2 in 81 innings of work.

Herb Pennock was the winning pitcher and Sam Jones got the save in the deciding game of the 1923 World Series, a game in which Babe homered, delivering to New York their first ever World Championship!

Pennock, Hoyt, Bush, Jones and Mays were a combined 81-40 for the 1923 World Champion Yankees. Mays, Bush and Jones were a combined 52-33 in the Red Sox shortened World Championship season of 1918. Oh, and the other guy in that ’18’ Boston rotation, Babe Ruth at 13-7.

From the time the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth until his final year with them in 1934, their record was 1,405 wins and 895 losses (.611). From the time the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees until he left them in 1934, their record was 891 wins and 1,403 losses (.388).

What more need be said ?

Well you could say the Yankees won seven pennants and four World Series  while the Red Sox reeled off nine last place finishes, including six in a row!

And you could say that the Yankees displaced the Red Sox as the premier franchise in all of baseball!

And you could say that the Red Sox stumled into the abyss of their “Dark Ages”.

And you’d be right!

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, 1920-1934, the “Dark Ages.”

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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Second Stanza, The Transaction…..REVISITED

This is part two of The Anatomy of a Rivalry. Originally published March 14, 2012.

On January 6, 1920, newspapers throughout the country told the news which had been rumored for weeks. The Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees!

When looking back at this event through the eyes of nearly a century of hindsight, it is easy to scoff and decry such a move. Although there will always remain an element of disparity in evaluating this transaction; it is important to note and understand that events do not unfold in a vacuum.

 Harry Frazee and Babe Ruth.

So then how is it that Red Sox owner Harry Frazee came to conclusion that it was a good idea to rid himself of Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived?

First a little about Harry Frazee. it is well-known that Frazee was a successful theatrical producer, however what is not well-known is that as an owner he was pro-active and somewhat innovative. He purchased the Red Sox in November of 1916 and by years end, he had offered Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith $60,000 for Walter Johnson.

Walter Johnson 417-229 is one of only two pitchers in baseball history to win 400 or more games.

At 36 years of age, he was the youngest owner in baseball and following the “call to arms” throughout the nation in 1917, he purchased Amos Strunk, “Stuffy” McInnis, Wally Schang and “Bullet” Joe Bush from the Philadelphia A’s; all were significant contributors to the 1918 World Champion Red Sox.

  “Stuffy” McInnis, only Babe Ruth had more RBI for the Red Sox in 1918 than “Stuffy”. 

Frazee was in an ongoing feud with American League president Ban Johnson and in fact at one point, he asked former President William Howard Taft if he would be interested in the job of one-man Commissioner of all of baseball. Taft declined while Ban Johnson fumed.

William Howard Taft, the only man to serve as President of the United States and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Babe Ruth was the best player in baseball before he became a New York Yankee. He led the league in home runs in 1918 and set a new home run record in 1919. He was both pitching and playing the field and at the end of the 1919 season he was heading into the second year of a $30,000 contract which called for $10,000 per year.

The Babe.

His exploits on the field were legendary, his exploits off the field were legendary, his exploits in the Fenway Park clubhouse were, at times, combative and disruptive. As is usually the case with megastars, Babe had his own set of rules. Curfew issues nearly brought Babe and manager Ed Barrow to blows on more than one occasion.

Ed Barrow.

The issue was settled in spring training of 1919 when Barrow exonerated Babe from “bed check” in exchange for Babe leaving him a note telling him what time he came in.

There were times throughout the season when Ruth was allowed to leave the team to play exhibitions in which he made up to $500 per game. Babe actually left the team, without permission, the last weekend of the ’19’ season to play in such an event; a move that did not endear him to either Frazee or a number of his mates.

At the end of the 1919 season, Frazee had given Ruth a $5000.00 bonus to compensate him for contract incentives he’d missed because he had pitched during the season. With Babe on a barnstorming tour in California in the fall of 1919, the word came that he wanted his salary doubled for the 1920 season.

Needless to say, this did not sit well with old Harry and the slippery slope that would take Babe to New York was greased, but not before Frazee offered him to the White Sox, straight up for Joe Jackson, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey declined!

“Shoeless” Joe would play only one more year, 1920, before being banned forever for his role in throwing the 1919 World Series.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to the transaction of the century is the response by Boston fans. Boston newspapers ran “opinion poles” on the trade and did so for about eight days. Surprisingly they ran about 50/50 and the fans looked forward to the players Frazee would procure with the money Ruth brought him.

Likewise, the press saw the deal as a positive one for Boston as the widely held belief was that Babe had simply grown to big for Boston.

However, the transaction marked the crossroads for both franchises which were headed in different directions and its ramifications echoed across a century of two cities and their beloved baseball teams! For the loss of Babe and those to follow ushered in the dark ages of the Boston Red Sox and history has named Harry Frazee as the mastermind of it all.

to be continued….And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history,

                                                          Babe leaving time!

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THE ANATOMY OF A RIVALRY…..THE FIRST STANZA REVISITED

THE ANATOMY OF A RIVALRY…..THE FIRST STANZA

As I have revitalized this blog, I have spent some time looking through all the “stats”, that’s right blogs have stats. Anyway, what the stats tell me is that among the widest read pieces I have posted here in three years, the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry is among the most popular. So I thought I would repost them!

So here you go, the first in a multi part series! This first appeared on March 13, 2012.

Enjoy!

One thing I have learned in my 101 posts on this blog is that you who read it, help create it. I read something interesting and get an idea, I research and write about it and then I get a comment or an email and another article takes shape. So today, I give you The Anatomy of a Rivalry.

The unflappable Mr. Webster states that a rival is “one who attempts to equal or surpass another or who pursues the same object as another,” and a rivalry is “the act of competing or emulating”,”the state or condition of being a rival.”

THE FIRST STANZA 1901-1919

The Red Sox and Yankees were both born in 1901 with the inception of the American League. In their first incarnation, the Red Sox were known as the Boston Americans while the Yankees were birthed in Baltimore as the Baltimore Orioles. They moved to New York in 1903 and from then until 1913, they were known as the New York Highlanders, because they played at Hilltop Park, in the Highland section of the city.

Hilltop Park, home of the New York Highlanders from 1903 through 1912.

The Huntington Avenue Grounds, home of the Boston Americans (Red Sox), 1901 through 1911.

In 1913 the Highlanders moved to the Polo Grounds and called themselves the New York Yankees.

In 1907, Boston Americans owner John I Taylor began to call his team the Red Sox and in 1912 they moved into a brand new Fenway Park.

In the first two decades of the American League the Red Sox were the dominating force. They won the American League pennant in 1903, ’04’, ’12’, ’15’, ’16’ and ’18’ and the only year they were not World Series Champs was 1904. There was no World Series in 1904 because Giant manager John McGraw refused to let his team play against the “upstart” league.

The 1904 American League Champs.

To go along with their six pennants, the Bostonians finished in the first division 15 times. Oh, by the way, a first division finish was a term that was used pre playoffs when the post season consisted of just the World Series. From 1901-1960 it meant finishing first, second, third or fourth in the two eight team leagues; the leagues changed to 10 teams each in the 1960s, adding a fifth place finish to the mix. The Division Play-Offs began in 1969.

Led by the pitching of Cy Young

 and Bill Dinneen,

the Boston entry of the American League dominated the first five seasons. When Fenway Park opened her doors in 1912, it was the likes of:

Tris Speaker

“Smokey” Joe Wood

Harry Hooper

Duffy Lewis

and Babe Ruth

who led the Red Sox to four World Championship in Fenway’s first six years! From 1901-1919 the Red Sox were the best team in baseball, they won 1548-1258 .552, they had only four losing seasons in that span and they clearly were the class of the league.

The Orioles/Highlanders/Yankees on the other hand were a mediocre lot. They mustered only seven winning seasons, had only six first division finishes, never won a pennant and hit the 100 loss mark twice. Their overall record was 1339-1452 .480.

The Boston team even got the best of the first ever transaction between the two clubs. In December of 1903 they swapped pitchers, Boston sent right-hander,

Tom Hughes

to the Highlanders for southpaw,

Jesse Tannehill.

Tannehill pitched five years in Boston going 62-38 including back to back 20 win seasons in 1904 and ’05’. A key figure in the Boston rotation, he was one of three 20 game winners in their 1904 rotation. Hughes, on the other hand, was 7-11 with New York and in July of 1904 he was traded to Washington.

The Americans/Red Sox and the Orioles/Highlanders/Yankees were rivals in the nacent years of the American League only in the sense that they “pursued the same object”. In head to head competition the Boston entity held a distinct advantage going 216-180 .545. Then in January of 1920, the teams announced they had made a trade and everything was was about to change!

to be continued…..

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, 1901-1919.

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Revel in Every Minute, It Could be a Lifetime Before You See the Likes of This Again…..

On Saturday, I gathered at my brother’s house with friends and family far away from the frigid confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts.

The reason? To watch this guy…..

tom brady patriots ravens.jpg

lead these guys…..

against…..

these guys!

It was the least desired match up for Patriot fans as the Ravens are the only team who has solved the riddle of Patriot invincibility at home. What transpired was a game for the ages and another chapter in the legend that is Tom Brady and his New England Patriots. The front page of Boston.com read, “Instant Classic, Pats top Ravens 35-31, Go to AFC Championship Game for the 4th Straight Year.”

As a made my way back to my house, a short two block walk on a cool, 64 degree Florida eve, I thought about two people….

This guy…..Dad

Dad and I 1990

And this guy,

???????????????????????????????

my oldest grandchild, Jake

And I thought about the dichotomy of being a fan of Boston sports.

Dad arrived in East Boston Massachusetts in 1921. The Red Sox were three years removed from a World Series Championship in 1918, and they were one year removed from having sold this guy, to the New York Yankees.

Babe Ruth’s sale to New York was announced in January of 1920.

And as young Remo Sinibaldi was settling in on Cottage Street in East Boston, the Red Sox were embarking on a decade of futility the team had never seen, before or since! Following his arrival. the Red Sox finished in last place eight out of nine years, losing 100 games or more in four of them. They climbed out of the cellar when he was ten and made it all the way to 6th place (there were 8 teams) losing ONLY 90 games.

The Boston Bruins were born in 1924 and actually were Stanley Cup Champs in 1929, and then again in 1939 and 1940. The Boston Celtics were invented in 1946 and the Patriots did not come upon the scene until Dad was 39 years old.

Originally a Boston Braves fan, Dad latched onto the Red Sox when this guy arrived.

 Ted Williams made his Fenway Park debut April 23, 1939.

He suffered through the disappointment of the 1946 World Series and the birth of the Red Sox Yankee rivalry in late 1940s. (This is written on extensively in this blog) He delighted in the 1967 Impossible Dream team and the 1975 team who carried the Reds to seven games before succumbing in that World Series.

It was following the debacle that was the 1986 World Series when I heard him utter for the first time, “I’m running out of next years.”

Dad enjoyed the remarkable success of the Boston Celtics in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and he was enamored with Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins who garnered a pair of Stanley Cups in the early 70s. But it was the Red Sox and Patriots who were his first loves. He ran out of next years in 1998, having never seen either of them win a World Championship!

Which brings me back to Jake!

Jake arrived in 2003,

and was only months old when Aaron Boone hit his walkoff homer in game 7 of the ALCS, sending the Red Sox home to again “Wait till next year.” And he actually was walked around Fenway Park in a stroller when “Next Year” arrived and all the sins of a century evaporated in a celebration of joy the city had never seen.

He has been around for this…..2004 World Champs!

And this…..2007 World Champs!

And this…..2013 World Champs!

He has seen this scene twice, not to mention the fact that the Patriots have won four AFC Conference Championships since his arrival and have thus participated in nearly 40% of the Super Bowls for which he has been breathing!

And for good measure the Boston Celtics have won an NBA crown (2008) and the Bruins have captured Lord Stanley’s Cup (2011) during his short tenure of exploration thus far on this earth.

So let’s see, Jake’s great Papa, walked the planet for a bit over 77 years and departed in the summer of 1998, never having seen his Red Sox or Patriots taste the sweet nectar of the vintage World Championship champagne! Jake has been around for FIVE sips from the World Championship crystal champagne glasses! FIVE!

I am left to wonder what Jake’s great Papa would tell him were he here. I know he would regale him with stories of those bygone days when things weren’t “always this good.” Alas he is gone and thus it falls to me to offer him the perspective of those bygone days!

Lacking the wisdom of Jake’s great Papa I will simply say, “Enjoy every minute of every game for it may be a lifetime before you see the likes of this again!”

Bring on the Colts!

            And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, January 12, 2015.

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“There’s a Stink in the House.” Joe Toth

So Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are bound for the Hall of Fame! Four very well deserved choices and I loved watching the four of them interviewed by Ron Darling and Greg Amsinger of the MLB Network. I never tire of seeing the men who reach the apex of their profession gushing like kids when they arrive.

Left to right, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and Pedro Martinez are all smiles as they meet the media this week following their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

However an elephant remains in the room and it has been sitting for quite awhile leaving a stink that simply can’t be ignored. We all know what the stink is and it has caused a paradigm shift in criterion for consideration for baseball’s highest honor. The elephant’s name is steroids, aka performance enhancing drugs or simply PED’S.

I hate having to talk about this, HATE IT! But it is never going to go away and thus cannot be ignored. I say steroids you think……

This guy…

                                                      Mark McGwire

Or this guy,

                                                               Sammy Sosa

Or maybe it’s this guy,

                                                        Barry Bonds

Or him,

              Roger Clemens

Some think this guy,

                                     Mike Piazza

Others suggest this guy,

                                                         Jeff Bagwell

And then there is, of course, this guy;

 

You remember him right? Rafael Palmeiro. He’s the one who wagged his finger at Congress and stated emphatically, “I have never used steroids, period!” Congress was later informed that Palmeiro had tested positive for use of anabolic steroids. YIKES!

How has this effected the paradigm shift? Well, for starters, there had never been a player to reach the career plateau of 3000 hits who was not enshrined in Cooperstown. Add to that this trivia question which was bantered about in the mid 90s. Who are the only two eligible players with 400 or more career home runs who are NOT in the Hall of Fame? The answer, Dave Kingman (442) and Darrell Evans (414).

In 2014,his fourth year on the ballot, Rafael Palmeiro received 25 votes for induction which was a total of 4.40% of the vote. This caused him to be removed from the ballot and thus from any future consideration by the BBWAA. His name can not be considered again until 2027 by the Eras Committee.

Rafael Palmeiro retired in 2005 after a 20 year career in which he hit .288 with 569 home runs, (12th on the all time list) and 3020 career hits, good enough for 25th on the all time list. He also knocked in 1835 runs, only 15 players in history have done more!

He now becomes the answer to this trivia question, who is the only player in major league history to have exceeded 3000 hits, 500 home runs and 1800 RBI  and is not in the Hall of Fame? Courtesy of anabolic steroids.

The day will come when Alex Rodriquez will become part of this question and answer but that day is a minimum of six years away.

Now let’s look at some these other fellas. Bonds, Bagwell, Piazza, McGwire, Sosa

Let’s begin with Messrs.’ McGwire and Sosa. We all remember that action packed, emotion filled quest to break Roger Maris’ record in 1998. The battle to see who’d get there first! All that excitement, all that drama melted into the two of them before Congress; with McGwire not wanting to “talk about the past” and Sammy inexplicably forgetting how to speak English. He weighed in with a big, “No Hable”, remarkable.

On Tuesday we learned that McGwire dropped from 11% of the vote in 2013 to 10 and Sosa went from 7.2% to 6.6. I had thought he’d drop below 5% and be gone but he hung on for another year. McGwire was on the ballot for the 8th time and has dropped from a high of 23.7% in 2010 to this years low of 11%. He has two years to go on the BBWAA ballot. Sosa received 12.5% in his first year of 2013 and barely hung on this year with 6.6%. He has seven years left on the BBWAA ballot but in all likelihood will at some point suffer the fate of Palmeiro before him.

If 20 years ago I told you that there would be two players, one with 609 career homers and 8th on the list (Sosa) and the other with 583 and 10th on the list would not even get a sniff at the Hall of Fame you’d tell me I was crazy! But it’s happened and not only that; in the immortal words of Miss Vito in My Cousin Vinny, “there’s moah”.

There’s the two real biggies, him

                                                              Barry Bonds

And him.

 

                                                                          Roger Clemens

Now these two blokes happen to be the all time home run leader, Mr. Barry Bonds and a man with 354 career wins on the mound (9th all time), 4672 career strikeouts (3rd all time) and a pitchers WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 139.4 (3rd all time). Let’s take a closer look.

Barry Bonds sits atop the home run list with 762, he’s 4th all time in RBI’s with 1996, he is 6th all time on on base percentage 5th all time in slugging percentage and in OPS (the combination of the two) he ranks 4th. He is a 7 time league MVP including four in a row and his career WAR of 162.4 trails only Babe Ruth’s 163! WOW!

Roger Clemens adds seven CY Young Awards to his impressive resume and is one of a handful of pitchers to garner an MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season. He was the first pitcher to strikeout 20 in a nine inning game and of the four times it’s been done, he’s done it twice!

At their peaks there were those who touted them as “the greatest player” and the “greatest pitcher of all time.” IMAGINE THAT!

These two men on their numbers are clear cut, stone cold locks, first ballot Hall of Famers who actually could challenge Tom Seaver for the highest percentage vote total in history! However this year marked their third on the ballot and their vote total’s have been just about the same; Bonds, 36.2% in 2013, 34.7% in 2014 and 36.8% this year. Clemens has captured only 37.6%, 35.4% and this year 37.5%.

The reason is simple and clear, the stink in the room.

The stink has kept the voters ability to determine what is real and what is stink driven and thus they hedge, they withhold and they due so in a remarkably consistent manner.

That brings us finally to these two.

                             Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell

Both men have put up the numbers in their careers which warrant Hall of Fame induction. They, for a lack of a better term, are shall we say, second tier Hall of Famers. Seems silly to say, but neither one of these guys were ever talked about in terms of first time locks as the three pitchers who were elected this week. So they have been effected by the men with whom they’ve shared the ballot.

But more than that has been, the stink. Now mind you, they are not in the room with the stink, so it does not sit as strong upon them. However, the hint of it has effected their numbers as many in the BBWAA are simply not 100% sure about the reality of their career numbers.

Pizza  has three years of votes in and he has gone from 57.8% to 62.2% to 69.9% this year, a gradual, significant increase. Bagwell in his five years has gone from 41.7%, to 56%,  to 59.6% to 54.3% and then to 55.7% this year.

Next year’s ballot adds first timers Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman, both who should get in. Neither of these two are anywhere near the stink.

Thus Piazza may crack through next year and Bagwell may draw closer but in the end for the two of them it will be decided by the strength of the stink at election time.

Good Lord I HATE IT!

And so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, January 9, 2015. A Happy Anniversary to Remo and Mary who married 71 years ago today!

 

 

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