“Who Dat? We Dat!!!!! Venice High School Baseball….2015 6A State Champs

We have all heard of Whoville I presume! You know that wonderful creation of the remarkable Theodore Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss.

Well “Whoville” took on a different flavor these past few months in a lovely little town on Florida’s gulf coast. The town is Venice which today claims home to the reigning 6A Baseball High School State Champions!

During the summer and fall of 2014 and into the winter of 2015, all of us involved in the Venice High Baseball Program were continually asked about the upcoming season. After all, we were coming off of a stretch of three straight visits to the State Final Four and back to back championship seasons of 2012 and 2013! We heard things like, “Boy what a great run you guys had.” Or “A little bit of a building year coming up?” It seemed clear to those not in the know, that the Venice High School Baseball program was facing a paradigm shift for the 2015 season. And in fairness to all those folks, their questions appeared natural. After all, the talent which left Venice High School following the 2014 season are playing on college diamonds throughout the state of Florida from JUCOs to the 5th ranked University of Florida, to D-1 schools throughout the southeast and into the organization of the Boston Red Sox! They are not only playing, they are making impactful, significant contributions to their new teams!

Therefore those not in the know lowered their expectations for the 2015 season. What those “not in the know” didn’t know was that the 2015 season began in the weight room in the summer of 2014, literally days after the 2014 season ended. What those not in the know didn’t know was that it was during that time that the slogan for 2015 was born; the slogan which you will find on the Venice High School Baseball web site which says simply “when names change and expectations don’t….results won’t.” What those not in the know, didn’t know was that their continued question about who was going to replace this guy and who was going to replace that guy, was creating energy and started a fire. A fire that began as a slow burn, begin to spread and would build to raging inferno engulfing the state of Florida, claiming its last victim last Saturday night in Jet Blue Park!

What those not in the know didn’t know was their questions, their lowered expectations, their seeming acceptance of a lowered paradigm gave birth to Whoville, a small little baseball community of 56 inhabitants which prepared to take on the baseball world of Florida!

As the season unfolded and wins began to pile up, more and more people began to show up in our press box and more and more questions began to be asked. The main one being, “What the devil is Whoville?” Apparently these media types never read Dr. Seuss! I would often simply say, “you’re looking at it’”

On Sunday, as I sat around the house talking with friends and family up north, folks who had peeked in on Whoville throughout the year and got caught up in it. I began to absorb a bit of “what had just happened.” And I began to think….”What the devil is Whoville?

Whoville is….

A marine, a new kid and two old guys who share a passion for the game and the young men they mentor.

Guys named Dwayne, and Josh and Mike and Tim and Bryon and Rob and Rich; Indians all, who take Tuesday night rides to Miami or Hillsboro County or some God forsaken place in the middle of the state to gather a scouting report which may never be needed!

Whoville is a group of young men who had the toughest assignment in all of baseball and that is to prepare for something every day which may not happen and most often doesn’t. When called upon, they will be asked to perform a task that is usually in a key situation and in fact could often be when the game is on the line. These players are charged with the primary responsibility of being good teammates and as these young men battled each other for time on the field, and struggled through some difficult times, learning some of life’s toughest lessons, through it all they remained the best teammates they could be!

Whoville is 2015 state champions Ryan Gumbs, Ryan Dinka, Josh Evans, Jacob Louke, Marcus Tarrantino, Austin Collins, Jacob Zito and Evan Carvalho.


               Carvalho, Gumbs, Collins, Tarrentino, Louke, Dinka and Kragel.

Whoville is three guys who were not on the post season roster at all yet never stopped working whether in the bull pens, or in inter squads, performing the thankless tasks that those not in the know do not see but which are essential to the success of any baseball team. They hid in the bathroom of the bullpen at Jet Blue during the weekend’s first lightning delay simply because they were not going to take the risk of not being allowed back on the field and they wanted to be there.

Whoville is 2015 state champions Eric Brown, Tyler Dumont, Matt Blow.



Blow Evans

                                              Blow and Evans.




                                                Jakob “Baked” Zito

Whoville is an exuberant young man who exudes a joy of life which is simply infectious; willing to do whatever was needed of him, he earned the respect of fellow Whoville residents by always preparing! And he hit the bomb of the year at our home field.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion Riley Buckmaster.


                                                                      Big Buck

Whoville is a guy who made the transition from the infield to the outfield without batting an eye and with the words, “whatever you need from me coach.” And he made that transition as smooth as silk making what some have called the greatest catch a Venice outfielder has ever made and he was a consistent contributor with his bat!

Whoville is your Indian in left field……2015 State Champion Tyler Gardner


                                                                             Tyler Gardner

Whoville is a leader both on and off the diamond! A young man who holds the distinction of lettering in three varsity sports! A player whose contributions on the field can be measured with great defense, key hits, unselfish play and whose contributions off the field are immeasurable.

Whoville is your Indian in centerfield……2015 state champion co-captain, Langston Provitt!



                              Langston goes and gets in in the first inning! 

Whoville is a young man whose outfield play last year brought him to the varsity team during the playoff run and which continued to blossom this year. He was on fire during championship weekend and on Friday night when our season hung in the balance and a fly ball was hit to right field, I immediately said to myself, that’s a good thing and we all saw why!!!! Yet another runner thrown out at the plate!

Whoville is your Indian in right field…….2015 state champion Brent Killam!


                                                                   Killam scores

Whoville is a man who gives countless hours to this program, who is a well of knowledge about playing the outfield, running the bases, bunting the baseball and life. A bright light to guide your boys!

Whoville is a freshman who arrived on the scene with the savvy and confidence that belied his tender age; which was exhibited by a play in the state semi-final game that had those in the know say simply, did you see that?

Whoville is your Indian at third base…..2015 State Champion Mitch Donofrio!


                                                                      Mitch Donofrio

Whoville is sophomore arrival who began to harness the energy of a wild mustang coming more and more under control as the year progressed; who elevated his play at the plate and on the field to championship level during championship weekend!

Whoville is your Indian at shortstop……2015 State Champion Shane Shifflett.


                                                              Shane Shifflett

Whoville is a junior who played solid defense all year long and barreled up baseballs the entire season, and has now placed himself in the discussion as the best pure hitter to ever wear an Indian uniform.

Whoville is your Indian at second base……2015 State Champion Scotty Dubrule


                                                             Scotty Dubrule scoring

Whoville is a junior who went from one corner of the diamond to the other and after struggling a bit at first became a very good defensive player who made some key plays at crucial times. The secret, he never stopped working!

Whoville is your Indian at first base……2015 State Champion Trevor Holloway!


                                                        Trevor Holloway

Whoville is a crusty old Pollock who rides with a tight bit that is only matched by the depth of his generosity, the size of his heart and his absolute refusal to ever, ever give up on anybody!

Whoville is a saucy Latino who is anything but typical and whose knowledge of hitting a baseball is exceeded by his love of the game and his desire to teach young men not only how to hit but how to become men.

Whoville is a sophomore lefty who arrived on the scene for the Sarasota Classic and never left. A kid with ice water in his veins he was given the daunting task of taking the ball on the biggest stage in the year’s biggest game and he delivered! Leaving no doubt that he belonged.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion Caleb Williams.


                                                   Caleb Williams winning pitcher!

Whoville is a senior lefty who rode a knuckleball to 5 big wins. When he struggled a bit, as all knuckleballers will…..He did not get the ball as much as he wanted because he is a competitor. The value of his contribution was recognized when it was he who was chosen to finish this championship season in the middle of the diamond.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion Kade Hunkapillar!

Grubbsy and Hunk

                                             Grubbsy and Hunk, THE MOMENT

Whoville is a Papa Smurf who would find the positive aspects of a nuclear attack and pours that positive energy into those in his charge every minute of every day!

Whoville is a junior catcher who caught virtually every inning of every game. A young man who never ever gave in he topped an outstanding season with championship play on championship day; gunning out a runner to drive a stake through the heart of Bartram Trail and kissing the Green Monster for a double.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion Jake Grubbs!


                                                  Catcher Jake Grubbs

Whoville is a senior who simply became the most dominant pitcher in the history of Venice High School baseball winning more games than any other Venice pitcher in history and doing it with pure dominance. When he got the ball, everybody knew an Indian win was but a couple of hours away.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion co-captain Cole Kragel.


                                       Cole Kragel set a Venice High record with 13 wins.

Whoville is another senior… A senior who was literally running all over the diamond which was epitomized in two instances…..After hitting a huge home run in the Estero regional game he crossed home and sprinted to the bullpen and after executing a perfect safety squeeze giving us the lead in the championship game, he sprinted to the bullpen to get ready to pitch. He played more positions this year than anybody.

Whoville is 2015 State Champion Colin Cristello.


                                                            Colin Cristello

Whoville is Darth Vader dressed in green and white who oozes with a force that often expects the sky to fall yet whose heart possesses a love of cultivating the talents of young athletes as players and men that is hard pressed to be matched anywhere!

Whoville is a senior manager who reminds us on a daily basis how blessed we are to be here, how life is meant to be lived in the moment! Who teaches us the meaning of loyalty for it is he who is the greatest Indian fan of all.

Whoville is the best baseball manager in the history of the game… 2015 State Champion Clint Faulkner!


Clint (green shirt) joins the dog pile to celebrate Venice’s State Championship!

And last and certainly not least…..Whoville is a man who understands more than any other that baseball is the greatest metaphor for life known to man. Whose understanding shapes, molds and prepares young men for the life which awaits them. He exudes a quiet strength which creates a confidence that is unconquerable and quite simply he makes those of us who have the privilege to be in his sphere of influence better men. He is the rock, the foundation upon which all this has been built and it is an honor to introduce to you…..

The Mayor of Whoville……


Co-captains Cole Kragel (L) and Langston Provitt pose in front of the team with the 6A State Championship trophy, Coach and Mayor of Whoville Craig Faulkner at Jet Blue Field in Ft. Myers FL on Saturday May 16th.

          And so it is on this day in Venice High School Baseball history.                                                          Championship Day!






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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, the Eighth Stanza…..REVISITED

This was originally published in July of 2012. It recaps the entire rivalry and takes the story into the 70s. Enjoy….

The Sox head to Yankee Stadium tonight (the fake one) where their historic 2012 season could effectively be put to death. I have written a few times about the rivalry and thought this would be a good time for the eighth stanza.

Following the 1951 season, the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry went dormant, for the two franchises were, once again, headed in two distinctly different directions. The Yankees won their third consecutive World Series in ’51’, on their way to five straight. In fact, the 50s brought the greatest period of Yankee dominance in their history. Try this on for size, from 1949 through 1964 the New York Yankees won the American League pennant 14 times. Did you catch that? FOURTEEN TIMES! The only years they did not win was 1954 and 1959! They won the World Series in nine of those years!

Yogi Berra played in 14 World Series with the Yankees.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, were bound for another era of futility, no check that, they were plummeting into mediocrity on their way to abomination.

In 1952, Ted Williams re-entered the military to serve in the Korean War and with his departure went any Red Sox chances of derailing the Yankee juggernaut. In fact Ted would never see another season where his Red Sox actually challenged for the American League top spot. Oh they did finish in third place in both 1957 and ’58’ but they were 16 and 13 games behind in those years and abomination was just around the corner. In Ted’s final year (1960), the Sox finished seventh in an eight team league.

The following year brought expansion, Yaz and abomination. The addition of two teams to the American League in 1961 did nothing to help the Red Sox except keep them from finishing in the cellar. For from 1961 until 1967, they finished, in order, sixth, eighth, seventh, eighth, ninth and ninth and averaged 89 losses a year while doing so.

Following the Yankee pennant winning 1964 season, they too fell into the abyss and the only semblance of a Red Sox/Yankee rivalry came in 1966 when the Yankees finished in 10th place, a half game behind the Red Sox. Oh how the mighty had fallen!

In 1967, the Red Sox franchise was re-born as they captured their first American League pennant in 21 years in what is now recognized as the watershed year of the franchise. However, this did nothing to resurrect the rivalry with the Yankees as they were in the midst of a decade of their own futility and both teams were chasing the Orioles who won 109 games in 1969, 108 games in 1970 and 101 games in 1971.

In 1971, the Baltimore Orioles had four 20 game winners on their pitching staff, left to right, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cueller and Pat Dobson.

From 1968 through 1974 it was the Orioles and Tigers who took the top spots. The Tigers won in ’68’, the last year of just two ten team leagues and the O’s reigned in ’69’, ’70’, ’71’, ’73’ and ’74’. The ’72’ campaign brought the first players strike and the Red Sox (of course) paid the price for that. How you say, well when the strike was settled in late April, the decision was made to simply pick up the schedule where it was and no provisions were made to equalize the number of games each team played. Well when it was all said and done, the Red Sox finished in second place in the AL East, only one half game behind the Tigers. Why? Simple, Detroit played one more game than did the Red Sox!

Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.

In 1975 a couple of kids arrived in Boston. A rookie tandem the likes of which had not been seen in decades. They rejuvenated Yastrzemski, electrified the baseball world, led the Red Sox back to the promised land and derailed the three-time World Champ Oakland A’s on their way to the historic 1975 World Series. AND, gave birth to the eighth stanza of the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry.

The Yankees ran away from the field in 1976 finishing 10.5 games ahead of the second place Orioles and 15.5 ahead of the Sox but born in this year was a true animosity held between the Yankees and the Red Sox. It was fueled, primarily by these two guys.

 Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk.

You see they were both good, very good. In fact sometimes I think they may have been clones. Munson a hard-nosed tough kid from the mid-west, Fisk a hard-nosed, tough, lunch pail kid from New England. They both were excellent behind the plate, they both could hit and hit in the clutch and here’s the best part, they didn’t like each other and made no bones about making that clear!

They would, on occasion, run into each other.

And it would always seem to be in the same place.

They often disagreed.

And a lot of times their friends would get involved in their disagreements, like here.

And here.

And here.

And in 1977 both teams were also good, very good. They battled all season long, playing each other 15 times during the year with the Red Sox winning eight of them. Five of the games were one run affairs and it was the Red Sox and Yanks who were in and out of first place. The Sox won 97 games that year and were in first place for 49 days. The Yanks? Well they won 99 games and they rode the top of the AL East for 74 days and of course the most important day, the last day of the season.

In 1977 the Yankees won their first World Series in fifteen years, defeating the Dodgers in six games behind this guy’s five home runs.

In the World Series of 1977, Mr. October was born.

it also set the stage for 1978…..And that is for another day!

And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, July 27, 2012.

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“Death ends a Life, not a Relationship.” Mitch Albom

As Boston was preparing for an epic blizzard last Sunday, former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette passed away. He was 78 years old and had been battling leukemia for the past seven years.

                        “Monbo” pitched 1622 of his 1961.3  big league innings with the                                                                           Red Sox from 1958 through 1965.  

 A look at his baseball resume will tell you he won 114 games while losing 112 in a career which lasted a decade, from July 18, 1958 to September 3, 1968. It will tell you that he was 96-91 with the Red Sox from 1958 through the 1965 season. It will tell you that he played two seasons with the Tigers, two more with the Yankees and that he closed his career pitching 12 innings with the San Francisco Giants in 1968. It will tell you that in both 1963 and 1964 he surrendered 258 hits to lead the American League both years in that dubious category. It will tell you that in 1963, 113 earned runs were scored against him, also more than any other pitcher in the American League. It will reveal that in 1965 he was 10-18, to lead the league in losses. It will also tell you that in 1963 he led the American League with a 4.14 strikeout to walk ratio and that in 1964 he walked only 1.5 batters per nine innings, also best in the league. You will learn that from 1960 through 1965 he hurled 200+ innings with a high of 266 2/3 in 1963 and that in that same year he was 20-10 on a team that was 76-85 and finished in seventh place. The resume will note that he flipped a couple of one hit shutouts for the Sox as well as a 12 inning shutout on the season’s second game in 1962.


Bill Monbouquette was 20-10 in 1963 which included a 13-5 record at Fenway Park and a 4-1 mark against the AL Champion New York Yankees.

His resume will speak of a night in 1961 at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC when he struck out 17 batters to set a Red Sox record and earn him an introduction to President Eisenhower and the President’s autograph on a baseball which he held dear to him his entire life.


                                                               “Monbo” 1961 Topps

It will also mention a night at Commiskey Park in Chicago in August of 1962 when Monbo was almost perfect as he fired a no-hitter with only a walk to White Sox outfielder Al Smith keeping him from perfection.

“Monbo’s” no-hitter came exactly 36 days after teammate Earl Wilson twirled one at Fenway Park against the Angels.

What the resume won’t tell you is the tale of how an eight year old boy in East Weymouth Massachusetts would fall asleep on summer nights listening to the Red Sox on his six transistor radio. It won’t tell you how that eight year old boy developed a relationship with “Monbo” the kid from Medfah (Medford) Massachusetts who went on to become a star with his local town team. And all through the magic of radio!

                                            Realtone 6 transistor radio.

It won’t tell you about the night of Friday May 12, 1961 when that little boy lay awake in the dark listening as “Monbo” struck out one Washington Senator after another. It began when he struck out right fielder Gene Woodling to end the first inning. Striking out first baseman Dale Long and catcher Gene Green in the second brought his total to three and in the third he whiffed the side getting former teammates Jim Mahoney and Billy Klaus as well as his opponent on the hill Pete Burnside. He had six K’s in three innings and Red Sox radio voice Ned Martin was starting to get excited.

                                                                    The voices of the Red Sox in the early 1960s.

Excitement grew in those radio voices as two more went down in the 4th, another in the 5th, yet two more in the sixth; and when he struck out the side in the seventh he was one away from tying the Red Sox record and four from Bob Feller’s modern day record of 18 set in 1938. Curt, Ned and Art starting talking names of Red Sox pitchers of bygone days. They mentioned Joe Harris who struck out 15 guys waaaaay back in 1906 and Smoky Joe Wood who did it in 1911 and a lefty named Mickey McDermott, the southpaw who struck out 15 Indians in a 16 inning complete game win in 1951.

And when Willie Tasby was called out on strikes for the second out in the 8th inning, Martin bellowed, “Monbo’s tied the record” and the eight year old smiled as he whispered to his faithful sleep companion “Sad Bear”, “Just one more”. The eight year old got mad at catcher Jim Pagliaroni for dropping a foul tip by Jim King that would have ended the inning and set the record. “One more inning Sad Bear, he just needs one more.”

First baseman Dale Long struck out leading off the ninth and the Red Sox record belonged to the kid from Medfah! He padded it with another strikeout and his record of 17 strikeouts in a game lasted until Roger Clemens K’d 20 Seattle Mariners in April of 1986.

                                       Coot Veal was Monbo’s 17th and final strikeout.

Somewhat forgotten by history is that the Red Sox won the game 2-1 and only had two hits in the entire game. In fact it was Monbo himself who had the game winning RBI when he walked with the bases loaded in the 7th giving himself and his mates a 2-0 lead. Entering the ninth with a shutout, the Senators scored on a single by Billy Klaus, who had struck out three times previous. The game was saved on a great catch by right fielder Jackie Jensen of a line drive off the bat of second baseman Danny O’Connell which would have plated two runners and Monbo’s record breaking game would have ended in a loss.


                      Jackie Jensen’s great catch saved the win for the Red Sox and Monbouquette.

The resume won’t mention that on the night of August 1, 1962, the nine year old boy and “Sad Bear” were once again listening in the dark, as he was mowing down the Chicago White Sox. It won’t mention that it was 0-0 in the seventh inning and that when White Sox right fielder Floyd Robinson flied out to Red Sox right fielder Lou Clinton to end the inning and Chicago was still without a hit, the nine year old fell asleep! It won’t tell you that when the nine year old awoke in the morning he tore into Dad’s room and not so gently nudged his Pop, “did he do it, Dad did he do it, did they win…Huh Dad did he do it?” Nowhere will it tell you that through the fog of Thursday morn, Dad rolled over and smiled, ‘sure did, they won 1-0″ and the nine year old then asked “did Chicago make an error?” “What?” “I don’t think so.” You see the nine year old wanted the line score in Monbo’s no-hitter to be all zeros; no runs, no hits, no errors. It was!

                 Clinton singled in Jim Pagliaroni with two outs in the eighth for the only run of                                                                                          the game.

Nowhere will the resume mention the story of the 57 year old man who had mailed “Monbo” a three page questionnaire about his former teammate and 1962 no-hit buddy Earl Wilson. It won’t tell you about the Sunday afternoon, when the 57 year old man was on his way home from the Capris Isle Golf Course in Venice Florida when his phone rang and an unfamiliar voice said, “Is this Ray?” “Yes it is”, “Yea, this is Bill Monbouquette, you wanna talk about Earl Wilson?” Nope, the resume won’t tell you about the hour conversation “Monbo”and the 57 year old had about his teammate, his friend, Earl Wilson and how much it meant to him to share that special no-hit summer of 1962 with the man he described as “a perfect gentleman.”

The resume will not include the time in August of 2012 when the 59 year old man was present at the induction ceremonies at Fenway Park for the 2012 Red Sox Hall of Fame members. It won’t mention that the 59 year old had the opportunity to introduce himself to “Monbo” and that the ever gracious kid from Medfah spent a few moments inquiring into the 59 year olds research into Earl Wilson. Nor will it mention that he signed the cover of the days program, shook his hand and said,” call me if you need more help.”

There is snow in Saturday’s forecast in Boston. And following an 11 am funeral mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Malden, “Monbo” will be laid to rest in the Oak Grove Cemetery in his beloved Medford.

The 8 year old boy’s heart is heavy and the nine year old’s eyes brim with tears. The 61 year old man is grateful that the man whom he came to know on the radio in the dark nights of childhood, took the time to make a call, to shake a hand and in so doing, spread his light along crossed paths. A light that will remain with me.

Goodnight “Monbo”, thanks from all of us and God speed!

              And so it is on this sad day in Fenway Park history, January 30 2015.

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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Seventh Stanza, 1950 and 51……REVISITED

The actual Red Sox/Yankee rivalry grew between the 1947 through 1951 seasons. Clearly among the elite of the league these two teams layed the groundwork for what would be called by many, the greatest rivalry in all of sports…….Enjoy.


The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Seventh Stanza, 1950 and 51……

The story of the 1950 and 1951 Red Sox is part of my aforementioned “Litany of Futility” visa vie the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry. It would prove to provide the closing act on this version of the passion play which would take nearly three decades to resume.

The 1950 season saw a raw kid from Moosup Connecticut ensconced at the Red Sox first base position and he responded splendidly hitting .322 with 34 dingers and he knocked in 144 of his mates as well on his way to becoming the first Red Sox player to win the Rookie of the Year Award.

He joined a starting lineup in which Bobby Doerr had the lowest batting average at .294, three players had 120 RBI or more, five players scored 100 runs or more, and they had a utility man who hit .354 with 424 at bats.

Ted Williams, Vern Stephens and Walt Dropo hit third, fourth and fifth in the Red Sox lineup in 1950. Between them they hit 92 homers knocked in 385 runs and batted .313.

The 1950 Red Sox won 94 games which today would pretty much assure them of reaching a post season berth. In 1950 it earned them third place, four games behind the Yankees and one game behind the second place Tigers. But you have to know we’re talking Red Sox/Yankees here so there is, of course, more to the story.

On August 1st, the Red Sox were in fourth place, seven games out of first. They had been floundering between six and nine games off the lead since the middle of June but they were about to explode. They went 6-1 the first week in August and then in mid month they won 11 straight and 16 out of 17 to climb within 2 1/2 games. Their hot play continued into September and when Mel Parnell beat the White Sox in Chicago on the 12th of the month it was Boston’s 32nd win in 40 games. They were a game out of first place and heading into St. Louis to play the Browns whom they had beaten in 18 of the 19 games they had played them.

They dropped two of three in St. Louis, rebounded to sweep two from the Tigers and then it was on to Cleveland for two and then Yankee Stadium, the pennant was still within their grasp and their destiny was in their hands.

Bob Lemon and Early Wynn.

Lemon and Wynn beat them in doubleheader in Cleveland and they headed to Yankee Stadium for a two game showdown with the Yankees. If they won two they would tie them.

Red Sox pitchers Mel Parnell and Williard Nixon.

There were 131,000 fans who jammed Yankee Stadium for the two game set and they witnessed the Yankees drive the stake through the heart of the Red Sox. Eddie Lopat beat Mel Parnell in the first game throwing an 8-0 shutout and Willard Nixon didn’t get to the third inning as the Yankees shelled him early on their way to a 9-5 win.

The Red Sox left Yankee Stadium four games out and that is exactly where they would finish, four games out and in third place. After going 32-8 from August 1st through September 12th, they went 8-9 the rest of the way, foiled again!

September of 1951 brought more of the same.

On September 16th and 17th, the Red Sox swept the White Sox in a short two game series making them 6-1 on the homestand. There were 13 games left and Cleveland was coming in for two games followed by the Yankees for three. They would then hit the road and close the season with three in Washington against the lowly Senators (whom they had beaten 15 of 19 times) and close out the campaign with a five game series in Yankee Stadium. Their destiny was in their hands, again, they were only 2 1/2 games back.

I am not sure that the word ugly can adequately describe what transpired the last 13 games of the season and I must say that hearing my daddy tell me about it a decade later, I was glad I did not witness it. The Red Sox dropped 12 of the last 13 games. That’s right, 12 of the last 13 games finishing in third place 11 games out!

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, the true founders of the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry a decade earlier, faced each other for the last time in 1951.

The 1951 season marked the passing of the Yankee baton from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle. Ted Williams was bound for Korea for the 1952 and ’53’ seasons and the rivalry was heading into a dormancy as the Red Sox and Yankees were heading in different directions. The Yankees were on the verge of a greatness they had never known, even in the Ruth/Gehrig/DiMaggio eras, and the Red Sox were about to slip back into the abyss.

Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle 1961.

And by the time I started paying attention 10 years later, I thought the name of the baseball team in New York was the Damn Yankees!

It would be nearly three decades for the rivalry to be rekindled with the names of Yastrzemski, Jackson, Fisk, Munson, Rice, Dent, Guidry, Eckersley and a whole new cast of characters who would take it to yet another level.

to be continued…..

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history,1950 and 51, Red Sox/Yankee rivalry time.

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The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Sixth Stanza….It Comes to Fruition…..REVISITED

The Anatomy of a Rivalry, The Sixth Stanza….It Comes to Fruition…..

Well we’ve been through a few stanzas of the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry song. The last verse was the Joe D/Teddy Ballgame wonder of the summer of ’41’. Therein the stage was set for the rivalry that would blossom at the end of that decade.

On Tuesday April 23, 1946, the Red Sox lost an 11 inning game to Washington which dropped their record to 6-2 and in a tie for first place. The next day they were beaten by the Yankees and dropped into second place by a full game.

They would not lose again until May 11th and after 15 straight wins (a team record) they held a 4 1/2 game lead which would be their smallest lead for the remainder of the season. They ran away with their first pennant in 28 years finishing 12 games ahead of the Tigers and 17 games ahead of the third place Yankees.

Joe Cronin, in his 12th season as Red Sox manager finally led them to the promised land in 1946. They dropped the World series to the Cardinals in seven games.

The 1947 season found a return to bridesmaid status for the Fenway Park nine. They were actually in first place on the 19th of June but at the end of the month they dropped six in a row and eight of 10 falling to eight games back and they were out of the race eventually finishing in third, 14 games behind, guess who? Oh, and the Guess Whos beat the Dodgers in the World Series.

Joe McCarthy managed the Yankees from 1931-1946 and was at the helm for seven World Series Championships.

The 1948 season ended with the Red Sox losing a one game playoff to the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. However, it is within that season that the birth of a true rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees took place.

Perhaps their new manager had something to do with it as the Red Sox hired former Yankee manager Joe McCarthy. Perhaps Mr. Yawkey was looking for a little of that World Series magic to rub off on his boys. The magic did not appear in spring for sure as the Red Sox stumbled out of the gate with five losses in their first six games and then embarked on a journey of streaks! Win four, lose five, win four, lose three and then they dropped 12 of 15 games to end the month of May 11 1/2 games out of first!  McCarthy righted the ship and a 13 game winning streak, begun in mid-July, had the Red Sox in first place by the end of that month and from then on it was a three team race between the Red Sox, Indians and the Yankees. 

The Boston Red Sox in August of 1948, standing in their order in the lineup:  Dom DiMaggio CF, Johnny Pesky 3B, Ted Williams LF, Vern Stephens SS, Bobby Doerr 2B, Stan Spence RF, Billy Goodman 1B and Birdie Tebbets C.

The Last weekend of the season arrived and on Saturday morning October 2nd, the standings had the Cleveland Indians in first place with a record of 95-57, the Red Sox and Yankees were tied for second, a game back at 94-58. The Yankees were at Fenway, the Tigers were in Cleveland.

In Cleveland the Indians beat the Tigers clinching a first place tie. In Boston, Ted Williams hit a two run first inning homer sparking the Red Sox to a 5-1 win eliminating the Yankees and keeping their hopes alive for a tie.

Playing the unusual position of spoiler, the Yankees battled the Sox in that final game however, the Red Sox overwhelmed them with a 15 hit attack in a 10-5 win. The Tigers helped the cause with a 7-1 win over the Indians who were now on their way to Fenway for a one game winner take all match.

Cheers turned….

To tears as the Indians wrestled the pennant away from Red Sox pitcher Denny Galehouse, 8-3. Making them bridesmaids, once again!

However, in the first true head to head matchup for a pennant against the Yankees, since the inception of the American League, the Red Sox had prevailed, it was little consolation. However, the Fenway Faithful couldn’t, “Wait till next year”! A cry they would come to embrace more than they ever wanted to.

Spring Training 1949, Sarasota Florida.

The season of 1949 was part of what I have come to call the “Litany of Futility” which was imparted to me by my dad. He talked of the 1948 playoff game but nothing hurt as much as 1949.

The season was almost a carbon copy of 1948, start slow, streaky, 12 games out in July and a strong August/ September surge got them back in the hunt. Three straight wins against the Yankees had them a one game lead in first place with five games to go. They beat the Senators two of three and then headed to Yankee Stadium for the final two games of the season. The Red Sox needed one win and they would be World Series bound!

On Saturday October 1st, the Sox jumped to a 4-0 lead after three but the Yanks tied it with two in the fourth and two in fifth. It remained that way until the bottom of the eighth, when up stepped the immortal John Lindell. Who? That’s what I said as Dad related the story, “I never heard of him… he’s a journeyman nobody who killed us”. Oh, I thought, not quite sure what that meant at the time.

John Lindell, made the Yankee team in the early forties. He was relatively successful as a  war replacement player but by the end of the decade he was a backup outfielder and in ’49’ he played in 78 games, none bigger than the next to last game of the season.

With one out in the eighth, he deposited a Joe Dobson pitch into the seats giving New York a 5-4 win and life.

The next day nearly 70,000 gathered in the “House that Ruth Built” as 20 game winners,

Kinder was 23-6 in 1949.

Ellis Kinder and

Raschi was 21-10 in 1949.

Vic Raschi squared off. The Yankees scored a run in the first and that was all the scoring until the Yankees added four in the bottom of the eighth. The Sox did not go quietly as they came back with three in the top of the ninth but it was too little, too late and they once again wore the bridemaids slippers to the post season dance! And added another link in what was fast becoming a chain of futility. But not to worry, for the Fenway Faithful knew they were on the verge of cracking them, they were right there, a new decade awaited and they couldn’t “wait till next year”!

to be continued…..

And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, the late 40s, the “Birth of a Rivalry” time.

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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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