WHEN THE GREATS FACED THE GREATS…..

Recently I was researching Babe Ruth, something I do every so often, and as I was doing so, I began to daydream and thought how great it would have been to see the Babe step in against Walter Johnson. And then my mind began to wander and I wondered about Ted Williams facing Bob Feller; or how about Josh Gibson staring down Satchel Paige. And then I wondered how they did against each other? So, of course I set about to find out.

So how do you think a couple of All-Time Greats would fare against each other?

Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth, two of baseball’s most dominant players.

Let’s take a look. In 107 at bats, Babe hit .280 with 8 doubles, 2 triples and 7 home runs. He walked 19 times giving Babe an on base percentage of .389, and Ole Walter punched him out 25 times. Not bad, but let’s take a closer look. Babe hit .342 lifetime but Johnson held him 62 points under his lifetime mark. In his career, his home run to at bat ratio was 1 homer in every 11.76 at bats; against Johnson he hit a homer in every 15.29 at bats. Babe whiffed 1 in every 6.43 at bats but when he faced the Big Train, he went down swinging once every 4.28 at bats. Babe’s numbers against Johnson were pretty damn good however, in essence, the Big Train reduced the Sultan of Swat to a mere mortal.

However, there is a flip side. Throughout Johnson’s career, opponents hit .222 against him. He surrendered a total of, ready for this, 97 home runs. THAT’S IT!! That translates to a home run every 227.2 batters! The on base percentage of opposing batters throughout Johnson’s career was .281. So, if you consider that Babe took him deep once every 15.29 at bats and hit him at a .280 clip and got on base 39% of the time then one could conclude that Babe reduced the great Big Train Walter Johnson to a mere mortal as well.

How about Teddy Ballgame and Rapid Robert Feller?
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Williams stepped in to face Feller 186 times.

The outcome of their match-ups was very interesting. William’s lifetime average was .344 and he hit a home run every 14.79 at bats. His slugging percentage was .634 and his on base percentage was a major league leading .482. He struck out once every 10.86 times he batted. His performance against Feller was overall better and in some categories significantly better. He hit .349 against him with a home run every 14.9 times he faced him. His on base percentage was .478 and his slugging percentage was .685, 51 points higher than his lifetime mark. And he struck out once every 12.41 times against the Heater from Van Meter, nearly two more at bats more than his career mark.

The flip side is that Bob Feller’s opponents hit only .228 against him in his 18 year career, 121 points lower than Williams hit against him. He struck out a batter every 5.56 at bats, a seven at bat differential between Ted and the rest of his opponents. And he surrendered a home run once every 64.08 times an adversary stepped into the batter’s box. Ted got him four times more than everybody else. Williams’.478 on base percentage against Feller was 163 points higher than the .315 mark he had against all his career opponents.

What can you conclude from all this? Ted Williams could hit! And he loved to hit against Bob Feller.

My mind wandered forward and as the matchups tumbled through my brain, I had to keep going; Koufax vs Mays, Aaron vs Gibson, Mantle vs Lemon….. I was off and running and so come along with me!

The Say Hey Kid had 97 at bats against the Left Hand of God.

Willie Mays was a lifetime .302 hitter. On his way to 660 career home runs he homered every 16.48 at bats. He struck out every 7.13 at bats and his lifetime on base percentage was .384 with a slugging percentage of .557.
Throughout the career of Sandy Koufax, opponents hit a paltry .202 against him and batters took his offerings out of the park every 42.4 at bats. Their collective on base percentage against him was .273 and he struck out a batter once in every 3.62 at bats!

When they faced off it went like this; Willie hit .278 with 8 doubles, 1 triple and 5 home runs. He walked 25 times and struck out 20 times. His .426 on base percentage was 42 points higher against Koufax while his .536 slugging percentage was 21 points lower. He took a Koufax offering out of the park once every 19.4 at bats and he whiffed once every 4.85 at bats, both considerably lower than what he did for his career. Looking at it from the flip side, Mays’ average was 76 points higher than the career mark of Koufax opponents. His on base percentage was 153 points higher and his strike out to at bat ratio was a full 1.13 better than what Sandy did against everybody else.

Conclusion? Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you!

How about the Indians Bob Lemon and the Mick?

Bob Lemon was the American League’s dominant pitcher of the 1950s.

Mickey Mantle was, well, Mickey Mantle.

Mickey Mantle is unquestionably the greatest switch hitter of all time. A lifetime .298 batting average he hit a home run every 15.11 at bats. He had a lifetime on base percentage of .421 and slugged at a .557 clip. A free swinger who once said he tried to hit every ball pitched as far as he could, he struck out once every 4.73 at bats. He is arguably baseball’s most legendary player!

On his way to the Hall of Fame, Bob Lemon’s opponents hit .237 against him. Not really a strike out pitcher, he fanned one batter for every 8.45 he faced. He did not surrender a lot of home runs as opponents hit one out of the park every 59.95 times they came to the plate. The on base percentage of his opponents was .320.

They faced each other 119 times with Mick hitting but .202 against him, 96 points lower than his lifetime average. His .317 on base percentage was 104 points below his mark while his slugging percentage of .395 was 162 points short of his mark! Mantle hit 6 homers off of Lemon for a home run to at bat ratio of 1 per 19.8 at bats, a nearly five at bat difference than his lifetime stats. What did remain constant was his strike out ratio as Lemon got him once every 4.58 at bats.

Looking from Lemons perspective, Mick hit 35 points lower than his opponents lifetime batting average and 3 points lower in his on base percentage. He struck Mickey out at double the rate of his career average but Mickey clipped him for a home run with a ratio that was 3 times better than Lemon’s average!

Conclusion? This is pretty good circumstantial evidence supporting Mantle’s claim that he tried to hit every pitch as far as he could. He made no adjustments and simply gripped and ripped. The reality is that Bob Lemon reduced the great Mickey Mantle to Dave Kingman!

How about Bob Gibson and The Hammer?

Bob Gibson was one of the games most feared pitchers.

Many still consider Hank Aaron, baseball’s all time home run leader.

My favorite Bob Gibson stat is that he started 9 World Series games in his career and has pitched 81 World Series innings. Now it is a tad deceiving because you look at that and say “Good Lord, nine complete games.” Well it’s only 8. Catch that ONLY 8. In game two of the 1964 World Series he ONLY went 8 innings but he made up for that in Game five with a complete game 10 inning win.
“Gibby” won 251 games and often did so in dominating fashion. His opponents hit but .224 against him and he surrendered a home run every 56.92 at bats. He struck out a batter every 4.69 at bats and the on base percentage of those he faced was but .294.

For the better part of two decades, Hank Aaron was one of baseball’s most consistent hitters. A lifetime .305 hitter he cracked a homer every 15.4 at bats. His on base percentage was .374 and he slugged at a .555 clip. He only struck out once per 8.99 at bats.

Bob Gibson handled Hank Aaron similar to the way Bob Lemon handled Mickey Mantle. In 163 career at bats versus Gibson, Aaron hit .215; 90 points below his career average and 9 points below what Gibson’s opponents batting average was throughout his career. Hank could muster but a .278 on base percentage against the Cardinal great; 96 points lower than his own lifetime mark and 16 points lower than what Gibson fared against his lifetime opponents. The all time home run king nicked Gibson for 8 home runs but that averages to 1 for every 20.38 at bats, a full five at bats more than his lifetime mark and Aaron struck out once every 5.09 at bats with Gibson on the mound, a nearly four at bat differential than his career mark.
There are precious few pitchers that can lay claim to the fact that they “dominated” Hank Aaron, but without question Bob Gibson is one of them.
But then again, Gibson dominated Mays and Clemente and Bench and Perez and Schmidt and Frank Robinson and Duke Snider and….well you get my drift.

Negro League greats Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

Unfortunately there are no definitive stats that can tell us how Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson fared against each other; and thus that match up has to live in the imagination. However I was fortunate enough to be present at the dedication of the Buck O’Neil Sports Complex in Sarasota Florida when Buck relayed a story he often told about the sound of a bat hitting a baseball. He said that he heard the “special” sound three times and it came from the bats of Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson and Bo Jackson!
I suspect that Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige would, like Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth, reduced each other to mere mortals.

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“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands”? ~Milton Berle

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Happy Mothers Day…

Originally posted on fenwaypark100:

Happy Mother’s Day…..

Louisville Slugger preparing the special bats used throughout Major League Baseball honoring moms on Mothers Day. 

Celebrations honoring mothers date back to the times of ancient Greece and the Holy Roman Empire. However the American version of a Mother’s Day formally honoring moms was first introduced by none other than Julia Ward Howe.

Julia Ward Howe in 1861.

A pacifist and social activist, Howe was the first American to call for the celebration of Mother’s Day with her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870. In November of 1861 she visited the White House and met this man,

After which she wrote new words to the song John Brown’s Body which, after appearing in the February 1862 issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine, quickly became a rallying song of the Union during the Civil War. Today it is known as the Battle Hymn of the Republic

In 1908, this woman held a…

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Of Pink Bats, Pink Ribbons and Pink Bows…..

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Happy Mothers Day!

Originally posted on fenwaypark100:

Yesterday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox won their third straight game against the Cleveland Indians. The bats of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks, led the offense while Daniel Bard had one of his better outings of the season. The result was a 12-1 thumping of the Tribe.

Daniel Nava (L) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia bang pink arm bands following “Salty’s” sixth inning homer. Nava was 2-3 with three RBI while Saltalamacchia went 3-4 knocking in five.

Will Middlebrooks went 2-3 with two RBI of his own, including his fourth homer of the year, a solo shot in the third.

Yesterday’s game marked the 42nd time that Fenway Park and the Red Sox hosted the Mother’s Day game and it was their fifth Fenway Mother’s Day win in a row. Some interesting Mother’s Day tid bits.

  • The Red Sox are 24-18 on Mother’s Day at Fenway.
  • On the road they are 27-44 on Mother’s…

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LESTER REACHES RARIFIED RED SOX AIR…..

On Saturday Jon Lester added to his resume as one of the Boston Red Sox all time best left-handed pitchers, becoming the first Red Sox pitcher to punch out 15 hitters since Pedro struck out 17 Tampa Bay Devil Rays on April 8, 2001 at Fenway Park. He also became the first left hander to accomplish the feat in a 9 inning game.

It was six years ago this month that he tossed a no-hitter at Fenway defeating the Kansas City Royals 7-0. The last time a Sox hurler flipped a no-no.

Saturday he accomplished something even more rare than a no-hitter. His 15 strikeout performance marked the 21st time in Red Sox history that a pitcher reached that plateau and the 30 year old southpaw is only the seventh Red Sox pitcher to do it. There have been 20 times when a Sox pitcher has hurled a no-hitter and that has been accomplished by 18 different pitchers.

Of his 15 K’s 8 were called and 7 swinging, he had two each in the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th, one in the 5th, and he punched out the side in the 3rd and in the 8th (all looking).

In 1999 Pedro cracked the 15 strikeout mark an astounding six times; in what may be the most dominant year of any pitcher in baseball history.

Of the 21 times it has been accomplished, Pedro owns half of them doing it 10 times in three seasons with a high of 17; once in the aforementioned game against Tampa and once in Yankee Stadium in 1999.

Clemens was the first pitcher in history to strike out 20 batters in a nine inning game and he’s the only player to do it twice.

Roger Clemens did it six times with the Red Sox, with his major league record 20 punch outs coming 10 years apart. The first time in 1986 at Fenway against the Mariners and at Detroit in 1996.

Four other Red Sox pitchers have set down 15 or more opponents on strikes.

Joe Harris was 2-21 as a rookie for the Red Sox in 1906 and the first Red Sox pitcher to strike out 15 batters in a game.

One of those 21 losses came in a game in which he struck out 15 Philadelphia Athletics in a 4-1 loss on the first of September. The 1906 Boston Americans were 49-105 finishing in last place 45 1/2 games out of first. One of the worst years in their history.

Walter Johnson once said he never saw anybody throw a ball as hard as Smoky Joe.

On July 7, 1911, Smoky Joe Wood became the Red Sox second pitcher to set down 15 men on strikes and the first to do it in a winning effort, defeating the St. Louis Browns, 6-1. He would go 34-5 the following year leading the Red Sox to a pennant and World Series win in their first year at Fenway Park.

Maurice “Mickey” McDermott became the first Red Sox lefty to hit the 15 strike out plateau and it took him 16 innings to do it.

Forty summers would pass before another Red Sox pitcher would strike out 15 men in a game and this one may be the most interesting. It was July 28, 1951 and the Cleveland Indians were in town. The Tribe sent future Hall of Famer and Nokomis Florida resident Early Wynn to the mound to face McDermott. The Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on the strength of a bases loaded double by Bobby Doerr. The Indians scored a run in the seventh before knotting things up in the eighth and that’s when the fun started.
It remained 2-2 until the 15th inning when Cleveland took a 3-2 lead in the top half of the frame. The same frame, by the way, that the lanky lefty recorded his 15th K of the game. However in the bottom of the inning, Red Sox right-fielder Clyde Vollmer singled in Billy Goodman to again knot the game up and get his mates to the 16th. Indian shortstop Ray Boone (father of Bob, grandfather of Aaron and Bret) doubled off the Monster to lead off the inning. This brought up Hall of Famer Larry Doby who singled him in giving the Indians the lead, again, 4-3. McDermott then plunked Luke Easter putting men on first and second with nobody out before getting the next three guys and keeping the Sox within a run.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller came on to pitch the 16th and after Dom DiMaggio popped out to third and Johnny Pesky walked, Ted Williams blasted a double high off the left centerfield wall scoring Pesky and again tying the score. Vern Stephens walked and Bobby Doerr flied out to left bringing up Billy Goodman who also walked. Clyde Vollmer stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. And just as he had done in the 15th he delivered. Only this time he lofted a Bob Feller pitch high into the screen in left field for a walk off grand slam homer, making 8-4 winners of the Red Sox and Mickey McDermott. McDermott threw a 16 inning complete game win which included 15 strike outs! Oh and his pitch count is unavailable.

Bill Monbouquette held the Red Sox record for strikeouts in a game from 1961 until 1986.

It was May 12, 1961, in Griffith Stadium, when Bill Monbouquette sent 17 Washington Senators back to the dugout carrying their bats. It is a game which holds particular significance to me because it is the first game I remember listening to, in its entirety on the radio. It was the voices of Ned Martin and Curt Gowdy which told me this tale as “Monbo” mowed them down, breaking the record when he struck out Dale Long to start the ninth and then punching out Coot Veal for number 17. Jackie Jensen made a great catch in right field for the third out, saving the tying run from scoring and preserving Monbo’s masterpiece, a 2-1 win.

Now let’s get back to Lester.

Watching him mow down the A’s Saturday was a treat. There is something very special about a dominant pitching performance which I never grow tired of watching. His third win of the season was his 103 of his career leaving him two behind Lefty Grove to crack the Red Sox all time top ten. His winning percentage of .632 puts him tied with Cy Young for sixth on the list and his 1295 strike outs puts him fifth on the list with Cy Young in his sites before season’s end.

He is 6-4 in the post season with a 2.11 ERA and in World Series play he is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.43. No Red Sox lefty has performed like this in the Fall Classic since some guy named Babe Ruth did it a century ago.

It remains to be seen if Jon Lester is playing his last year in a Red Sox uniform but one thing is certain, he has joined Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, Mel Parnell and Bruce Hurst as the best southpaws in Red Sox history.

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EARL WILSON…TRAILBLAZER, PITCHER, HUMANITARIAN…..

It was nine years ago that Robert Earl Wilson passed away at the age of 70. He died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Detroit Michigan. He was known primarily as a member of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers and that is as it should be, for it was with the Tigers that he had his best years and it was the city of Detroit where his huge heart found its home. However before he made his way to Detroit in 1966; that huge heart touched the heart of a little boy in Weymouth Massachusetts. A little boy who fell in love with Red Sox pitcher Earl Wilson, the pitcher who hit home runs!

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He was signed on May 11, 1953 only the second black player to be employed by the Boston Red Sox organization. Originally a catcher, his rifle arm peaked immediate interest in converting him to the mound. By the end of 1954 and after two stops at the Class C level in the Arizona Texas League, and a short stint with the San Jose Red Sox in the California League, he settled in with the Class A Montgomery Rebels of the South Atlantic League. He was exclusively a pitcher and he was 20 years old.

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From 1956 -1961 his minor league journey took him through; Albany NY, Minneapolis, Seattle and two stops with the Red Sox. When the Red Sox broke Spring Training from Scottsdale Arizona in April of 1962, Earl Wilson was in the major leagues to stay!

My earliest baseball memories are a mosaic of images; some more vivid than others. The first trip to Fenway where Dad pointed to left field and stated with reverence, “that’s left field and that’s where Ted Williams plays”. I still smell the cigar smoke wafting across the diamond. I rooted hard for the White Sox in the 1959 World Series because those dastardly Dodgers had abandoned the good people of Brooklyn. I was in the chair at Tom’s Barbershop while Bill Mazeroski rounded the bases in triumph after slaying the mighty Yankees with the homer that ended the 1960 World Series. Leaping with a scream of joy nearly cost me an ear.

As vivid as each of these are, they remain but snippets of a tapestry of yesterdays. My first memory of a complete nine innings of baseball involved, my Red Sox, my dad, my living room, my black and white TV and the mighty Robert Earl Wilson. The date was June 26, 1962. School had just ended and I was promoted to Mrs. Lenihan’s fifth grade classroom at the James Humphrey School. Summer had officially arrived and the confirmation of that was that the Red Sox were going to be on TV! This may seem like no big deal today, however, a televised night game during the week was a rarity and I was excited at the prospect. With school out it meant that I would get to stay up and watch the whole game. Make no mistake about it, Christmas had come in June!

A summer rain threatened to melt my early Christmas, but it only delayed the start by a half hour. I was shooting hoops on the makeshift basket on the telephone pole in front of my house when dad called me in, “game time” he said and I was gone! The sweet fragrance of that summer rain remains with me as I see myself bounding up the front stairs and into my living room.

The Sox were playing the Angels who were sending the flamboyant rookie lefthander Bo Belinsky to the hill. Belinsky had exploded on the scene six weeks earlier when he hurled a no hitter on May 5th against the Orioles! Belinsky entered the game with a 6-3 record while Wilson was 5-2. It had all the earmarks of a pitcher’s duel and a little over 14,000 fans showed up at Fenway to see it. One of the largest crowds of the year!

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The first two innings went quick as each pitcher walked a man in the second. It was 0-0 with one out, in the bottom half of the third, when Earl Wilson strolled to the plate. He took a hardy cut at the first pitch and missed. The next fast ball he launched into the blackness of the night clear over the screen in left centerfield giving his team and himself a 1-0 lead. It was his second home run of the year and of his career but the true significance of that home run was six innings from being realized.

It was the only run that he would need as one Angel after another came up and went down. He walked two men in the fifth and one in the sixth. The Sox added an unearned run in the fifth on an RBI single by right fielder Carroll Hardy. Belinsky was nearly as formidable, striking out 10 and allowing only three hits before departing in the eighth for a pinch hitter. Following Wilson’s walk of Billy Moran with one out in the sixth, an Angel had not reached base and when the ninth inning arrived, Earl Wilson stood on the threshold of history.

Moran led off and down he went, Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner flied out to Yastrzemski in left field and only Lee Thomas stood between Wilson and immortality. Thomas lofted a fly ball to centerfield and as that ball nestled into the glove of Gary Geiger, the 14,002 members of the Fenway faithful erupted. So did the living room at 57 Endicott Street, for Earl Wilson had fired a no hitter!

Wilson was the 12th Red Sox pitcher to throw a no hitter. He was only the second pitcher in Major League history (Wes Ferrell 1931) to throw a no hitter and hit a home run in the same game. And he was the first black pitcher in American League history to pitch a no hitter. All of that was unknown to the nine year old boy in the living room. All he knew is that Earl Wilson was AWESOME!!!!

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It was a half century ago that Wilson spun his magic in the Fenway night yet the significance of that night, his career and indeed his life has grown in stature with each passing year, unveiled by history and embolden by his character.

His impact upon the game of baseball went far beyond his no hitter. In 1965 he hired Bob Woolf, a Boston attorney, to represent him in contract negotiations with the Red Sox. He was the first professional athlete to hire “an agent” both changing the face of professional sports and launching Woolf on a career which made him the most sought after agent throughout the decade of the 1970s.

Earl Wilson Posed

Wilson endured the prejudice, discrimination and hatred ever present throughout his journey through the minor leagues in the 1950s. An incident which occurred in the spring of 1966 would stretch his tolerance to the limit and take him to his ultimate destiny. Following a spring training game in Lakeland Florida, Wilson along with teammates Dave Moorhead and Dennis Bennett entered the local Elks Club for a beer. The trio was immediately informed by the bar tender that “we don’t serve niggers in here”. The three of them left the premises and when the Boston press got word and wrote of the incident, Wilson was told by Red Sox GM Dick O’Connell to not “make an issue of it”. A man of dignity and pride, Wilson was not happy that the Red Sox did not come to his aid and defense. He expressed that disappointment and before the June 15 trade deadline he was on his way to Detroit, exchanged for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro.

The Tigers and Wilson were a perfect match. Wilson fell in love with the city and the city and the Tigers fell in love with him; and why not? From the time he arrived until his arm failed him in 1970; Wilson was 64-45 with Detroit including a league leading 22 wins in 1967. He was a mainstay on the staff which won the 1968 World Series and he continued to hit. He finished his career with 35 home runs. Warren Spahn is the only pitcher who hit more. Oh, and as for Demeter and Navarro? Wilson hit more home runs for the Tigers than Demeter did for the Red Sox and Navarro never threw a pitch in a Boston uniform.

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After baseball he founded a very successful auto parts distributorship in Detroit. The humanity that was Earl Wilson would manifest itself long after his playing days ended when he served four years as president of the Baseball Assistance Team. BAT is an organization which aids former players who have fallen upon hard financial times. During his tenure as BAT’s president he raised over $4,000,000 to assist his comrades. Beyond that he was a constant force in countless charities and charitable events throughout Michigan and beyond.

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On April 23, 2005 Earl Wilson was at his home in Michigan when a heart attack struck him down. That huge heart had simply had enough and in a matter of an instant, he was gone. His passing brought accolades from the many who knew him. Willie Horton said “one of the great teammates I had…and a greater individual.”

Earl’s resume speaks for itself. However nowhere on that resume will it tell about the 12 year old boy who approached him at a “Sports Night” at East Junior High School in Weymouth Massachusetts. Looking up at the elegant “Duke of Earl” clad in a “shiny” gray suit with a powder blue shirt and a gray tie; the page of his 1965 Red Sox Yearbook opened to Wilson’s picture, He asked, “Mr. Wilson could I please have your autograph?” “You sure can” he said as he signed, creating a moment and a memory which, like Wilson, grows in stature with the passage of time into that unrelenting veil of history.

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“There Comes a Time When All the Cosmic Tumblers Click and the Universe Opens Up To Show You What’s Possible”…..Terrance Mann

It was an unusual day in Boston 46 years ago today. A chilly day in early spring in which the low temperature was 45 and although the thermometer would not get past the 52 degree mark, a brief thunderstorm appeared.

April 23 1967

There were 18,041 patrons who made their way to Fenway Park on this Sunday afternoon, to watch the four and four Red Sox take on the New York Yankees. It was the ninth game of the young season and it was the sixth time the Sox and Yankees squared off against each other.

Darrell “Bucky” Brandon was on the mound for the Sox while knuckleballer and soon to be best-selling author Jim Bouton got the call for the New Yorkers.

 

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Bouton  violated the sanctity of the clubhouse with the first ever “tell all” book about the inner workings of a pro baseball team. Revealed in his 1970 book, among other things was  Mickey Mantle’s propensity to consume large amounts of alcohol on a consistent basis; a well-known fact within baseball’s inner circle which had protected Mickey throughout his career. The book led to Bouton being blackballed from baseball.

The day before, the Red Sox had come from behind to take a 5-4 win sparked by a three run fifth which saw Carl Yastrzemski single with the bases loaded to plate two runs and then steal second base. Yaz had homered in the first inning, his first of the season.

1967ReggisMickApr23

The aged Mickey Mantle made a great play at first on Reggie Smith tagging him out on the first Sox play of the game.

It was Yaz who got em going on this day when he staked the home town team to a 2-0 lead with his second, first inning homer in as many days.

Yaz homered after Dalton Jones doubled giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

A George Thomas single, scored first baseman Tony Horton and after the first inning the Sox had a 3-0 lead. Bouton did not get out of the second inning and an RBI single by Mantle in the third made the score 3-1.

russ gibson 1967

Local hero, rookie Russ Gibson had caught Billy Rohr’s one hitter in their big league debuts just nine days earlier.

Russ Gibson countered with a clutch two out, two run double in the bottom of the third giving Brandon and the Red Sox a comfortable 5-1 lead.

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Brandon could not get out of the fifth.

It all unraveled in the fifth inning and the chief “unraveler” was veteran Yankee catcher and 1963 MVP Elston Howard. For on this day he would complete his own personal troika of dagger wounds inflicted on the Red Sox in their young 1967 season.

 

elston howard 1967

Elston Howard

His first had come on the aforementioned debut of Gibson and Rohr at Yankee Stadium; for it was Howard who had singled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth spoiling Rohr’s no-hitter. The second came exactly a week later at Fenway Park when Howard again singled, this time in the eighth inning knocking in the only Yankee run of the day and ruining Rohr’s bid for his second shutout in as many big league starts. On this day he was called upon to pinch hit for shortstop John Kennedy. There were two outs, two on in the top of the fifth and the Yankees were trailing 5-4. Howard delivered with a double giving the Yanks a lead they would never relinquish on their way to a 7-5 win.

Howard would turn things around in August when he donned a Red Sox uniform and played a crucial role on their march to their Impossible Dream pennant.

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 The Red Sox acquired Howard on August 4, 1967. A key acquisition for the stretch drive. As Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman stated, “the man who had broken our hearts in April, made them soar in September.”

In the Red Sox half of the fifth, Carl Yastrzemski was in the box. He took a called strike which Manager Dick Williams didn’t particularly agree with and the young Skipper let plate ump Red Flaherty know about it. In fact he let him know about it so vociferously  that Flaherty decided to give Williams the rest of the day off. When Flaherty called a second strike on Yaz that he did not particularly agree with, he too found his way to the clubhouse courtesy of the home plate umpire. There were the first ejections of the 1967 season and only Yaz’s second in his then seven-year career.

Those who play and understand this great game know that there are good losses and bad losses. On the surface this one looks like a bad loss. A 5-1 lead blown, the manager and star ejected for losing their cool after the lead melted away. However, how much of this game, indeed life, plays out beneath the surface? On this day this team showed a fire that had been absent from the Back Bay for a long, long time.

The day began with the oddity of thunder clouds in the midst of only 50 degree weather, the cosmic tumblers of the universe clicking in to show what’s possible? Signaling the arrival of an energy force never before seen in the city?

And what of today, four and a half decades later? Is it coincidence that the heavens are putting on a meteor display the likes of which we have never seen? Is it coincidence that this team playing at Fenway Park is taking on many of the characteristics of that team of so long ago, the grit, the fire, the zeal?

Are the cosmic tumblers which set that energy force in motion so long ago clicking once again? Opening up to show the possibilities?

The cosmos clicks, and will reveal itself to those who dare, those who believe, those who open themselves to it. So on this April 23rd I look to the heavens, I look to Fenway…..For I’ve seen the miracle and I know what’s possible…..

May I Hope!!!!!

 

 

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“Long Live Their Fame and Long Live Their Glory and Long May Their Story be Told”……

A year to the date that the Red Sox celebrated Fenway Park’s 100th birthday, the Fenway Faithful participated in a different kind of pre-game ceremony. A ceremony that was a combination memorial service/tribute to remember and honor the fallen and acknowledge the heroic efforts of law enforcement, first responders and simple citizens; all of whom played their parts in caring for and treating the wounded and in apprehending the faceless cowards responsible for their acts of terror.

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As the city’s secular cathedral, Fenway Park became the chosen venue in which the community paused, mourned, honored and remembered taking the city’s, indeed the region’s, official collective first step toward healing.

In times of turmoil and crisis, we turn to traditions and rituals to emote, to process, to grieve and to heal. There is no other sport that is more steeped in tradition than baseball and there is no other city which surpasses Boston nor is more steeped in their baseball team. So to borrow the words of the Great Emancipator, ‘it is all together fitting and proper that we should do this”.

There were prayers for young lives stolen…..

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Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell.

 There was acknowledgement of heroic acts of compassion and courage,

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Steven Byrne who was wounded shielding others from the blast, waves to the crowd. He had just been released from the hospital.

There were expressions of gratitude.

And there was of course, traditions; some old, some new, some old with a new twist.

First there was the uniforms.

The traditional Red Sox on the front of the home jerseys was changed to Boston with the Boston Strong patch displayed over the heart!

The symbol of the city’s determination and strength was emblazoned on the Green Monster where I suspect it will be for a long time, like maybe forever.

There appeared the embodiment of determination which is indicative of the Marathon and the city.

Police commissioner Ed Davis shakes hands with Boston marathon participant Dick Hoyt prior to the start of a game between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Dick Hoyt (with his son Richard) shakes hands with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. Dick has run 31 Boston Marathons pushing Richard in his wheelchair. Monday was to be his last, however because of the bombing he was unable to finish. Next year he will run again in honor and memory of this years victims.

Seventy-two year old Neil Diamond showed up to lead the “Faithful” in Sweet Caroline, bringing with him “love from all over the country”.

And as for the game? Well the script could not have been written better in Hollywood.

Daniel Nava celebrates at home with Johnny Gomes (5) following his three run homer in the eighth.

Daniel Nava!

A kid who didn’t make his college team and became the manager just so he could be around the team and practice.

A kid who, in 2007, was signed by the Red Sox after playing for the Chico Bandits in California’s independent Golden Baseball League which had been formed just two years earlier.

A kid whose signing bonus was one American dollar!

A kid who, in his first major league at bat, on the first pitch he ever saw, hit a grand slam home run into the Red Sox bullpen off Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton.

A kid who came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning on the 101st birthday of Fenway Park with his team losing 2-1 and blasted a three run homer into that same bullpen, propelling his team, his city to victory!

A kid who now has woven himself forevermore into the patchwork quilt of Boston, the Red Sox and Fenway Park history.

So on Saturday April 20, 2013, the city of Boston took a step forward, a step toward healing. The lives of  Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell will now be incorporated into the tradition that is the Boston Marathon. And their names will, with Daniel Nava’s be forevermore woven into that same patchwork quilt of Boston, the Red Sox and Fenway Park history!

You are and will forever remain a part of us!

In Memory

Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell

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