“It is not really baseball at all. It is passed from parent to child as an expression of the relationship with your father”…..Brian Banko

Yesterday a friend of mine said this of the game of baseball, “It seems that baseball passion is not really baseball at all. It is passed from parent to child as an expression of the relationship with your father…..” Well, that set me to thinking and when it is all said and done that nails it right on the proverbial head! And it nails it with gusto!

I thought of my first Opening Day at Fenway Park and that came in 1966. I was 13 years old and I went to the game with this guy.

He’s my big brother and he didn’t look like this then. He was 18 years old and he had just volunteered for the draft and would soon be off to serve his country.

Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles 1966 Triple Crown winner and MVP.

That day we watched this guy’s first American League at bat and he was plunked by this guy.

Earl Wilson the Red Sox Opening Day pitcher in 1966.

Who just happens to be one of my all time favorite Red Sox, but that’s another story for another day. The Red Sox lost that day on a 13th inning balk and today that doesn’t matter a lick. What matters is I went to my first Opening Day at Fenway and I went with my big brother.

Living in Florida since 1986 has precluded me from attending Opening Day for a while and the last time I did it was 2004. I went with my big brother. The pre-game celebration included a remembrance of Tony Conigliaro’s Fenway Park debut 40 years earlier.

The 19-year-old kid, who was a Bostonian, homered in his first Fenway Park at bat.

We watched the Red Sox lose to Toronto that day but that didn’t matter a lick. What matters is that I went to Opening Day at Fenway and I went with my big brother.

My big brother and I became Red Sox season ticket holders in 1971. Through the 70s we went to a number of Fenway Openers together. We went to the 1975 playoffs and we shared the 1975 World Series sitting side by side.

The years passed and life took us down our separate paths. He kept his tickets and yesterday as Fenway Park kicked off her 100th birthday celebration, my big brother attended his 40th Fenway Park Opening Day. He has missed but one since 1971, a rain-soaked event which he passed on to his youngest son. For forty years my big brother has been present when Fenway unveiled her season!

He was there yesterday,

When Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield threw out the first pitch.

When Johnny Pesky was lovingly helped on to the field.

When the Red Sox and Rays lined the field to welcome Fenway Park’s 100th birthday season.

When the “Green Mountain Boys” stopped by in their F-16s.

My big brother went to his 40th Opening Day at Fenway and he watched the Red Sox pummel the Tampa Bay Rays 12-2. But that didn’t matter a lick. What matters is;

He went to Opening Day at Fenway with his youngest son.  

So my friend Brian hit it right on the proverbial head and he hit it with gusto, but I might add, it father’s and sons and it’s brothers too.

My big brother went to his 40th Opening Day at Fenway yesterday and his Dad would be proud, he’d be proud that he took his little brother to so many of them and prouder still that on this particularly special opener, he took his son!

And so it is at this time in Fenway Park history, the 100th birthday opener, April 13th 2012.

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Fenway Opens Her 100th Birthday Season, Let the Memories Unfold…..

Today at 2:05 the Red Sox will officially open Fenway Park for her 100th birthday season. The Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus will perform the National Anthem, the Green Mountain Boys will fly over in their F-16s, Hanscom Air Force base will present the colors, and 11-year-old Rosie Newton of St. Albans VT will sing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. The first pitch tosser, as of 4 AM this morning is unannounced, but if I could choose I would find the oldest, longest standing season ticket holder and tell them the job is theirs.

This most historic of baseball openers takes place in a bit of a shadow as the Red Sox bring a 1-5 record home with them, they are in last place in the American League East and some local pundits are asking, “Do the 2011 issues remain”?

All of that should be set aside this afternoon as the New England Fenway Love Fest that will mark 2012 begins.

Yesterday I pondered the meaning of this rather inauspicious beginning and here’s what I came up with. Working backwards, I checked out the Red Sox performances in the first six games of the season for the past decade, just to see if history can give us a hint of what can be expected this year. 

Starting with last years horror start; it was actually worse as they dropped the first six games. They righted the ship, spent 72 days in first place, were cruising to the post season and then came September and we all remember that historic collapse as the Red Sox season and Jonathan Papelbon’s Red Sox career ended with a blown save and a loss in Baltimore.

Bye Bye Paps. 

In 2010 they started out 3-3, spent a grand total of one day in first place, won 89 games and missed the post season. The ’09’ campaign began with the Red Sox dropping four of the first six games. That was turned around, as they spent 55 days at the top of the heap, made the post season and then splat! The Angels extracted revenge by eliminating them in a three game sweep in the ALDS.

The Angels celebrate on the field at Fenway after eliminating the Red Sox in 2009. This was the last post season game played at Fenway Park, a 7-6 come from behind Angels win.

The 2008 season opened with the Sox going 3-3 in the first six games. They won 95 games that season, won the wild card, swept the Angels and then lost to the Rays in seven games, coming within one win of playing in back to back World Series for the first time since 1916.

Rays win their first pennant, October 2008.

The 2007 Red Sox were 3-3 in their first six games but it didn’t matter!

Did it?

In 2006, they had their best six game start since the new millennium, as they went 5-1 and spent 112 days in first place. On August 3rd they dropped a 7-6 game at Fenway to the Indians falling out of first place for the first time since June 17th. They dropped the next 20 of 27 games and finished out of the money.

The 2005 season began 2-4 however they won 95 games, made the playoffs and were swept by those other Sox as it was Chicago’s turn to celebrate a World Series win for the first time in nearly nine decades.

Happy Sox at Fenway.

In 2004 the Red Sox opened even winning only three of their first six games.

When it was all over, who remembered or cared? (photo Gary David Stratton)

In both 2003 and 2002 they won four of their first six games. The ’03’ season ended in one of the more monumental heart breaks in Red Sox history.

 This moment made 2004 all the sweeter for the Fenway Faithful.

The 2002 start of 4-2 was a springboard to a great spring that saw the Sox spend 73 days in first place, however none of them came after June 27th and despite winning 93 games they did not compete in the post season.

So what does all this mean to this rocky Red Sox start and todays game? Not a damn thing really but I will tell you this; today will be splendid! It will be joyous and it will be celebratory. A slew of young New Englanders will take part in some opening day ceremonies creating memories that will last a lifetime. Tears will brim in the eyes of the Fenway faithful and I will smile, pause and think of my dad and all those memories that last a lifetime.

And so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, April 13, 2012 her opener in her 100th year.

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The All Fenway Team, The Third Baseman…..

Today I select the third baseman for my All Fenway team. http://mlb.mlb.com/bos/fan_forum/all_fenway_team.jsp

A heads up to you newer readers and a reminder to the old guard, I am not selecting a best player at each position, rather I am choosing a 25 man All Fenway squad. Thus far we have; the pitching staff: Jon Lester (L), Jonathan Papelbon (R), Pedro Martinez (R), Roger Clemens (R), Luis Tiant (R), Dick Radatz (R), Mel Parnell (L), Lefty Grove (L), Babe Ruth (L) and “Smokey” Joe Wood (R), the two catchers, Carlton Fisk and Jason Varitek, the first baseman, Jimmie Foxx and two second baseman, Dustin Pedroia and Bobby Doerr.

There are six players on the third base ballot however the choice is really between three because three are easily eliminated from consideration. Mike Lowell and Bill Mueller although part of the magic of “04′ and ’07’ simply did not put in enough time for true consideration.

 

One of the most popular Red Sox of the last 10 years, Lowell was the MVP in the 2007 World Series.

Mueller owns perhaps the most significant single in Red Sox history. It scored Dave Roberts and tied game four of the 2004 ALSC in the ninth inning, igniting the greatest comeback of all time.

Too bad because both were solid, clutch players who epitomized the word team.

 John Valentine was a solid performer for 10 years with the Red Sox however solid does not warrant all time status.

So it boils down to Larry Gardner, Frank Malzone and Wade Boggs.

Gardner was an outstanding defender and a good hitter, .282 in ten years with Boston. He was hard-nosed and he was clutch (led the team in RBI in the 1912 and ’16’ World series’). His status as a member of the Red Sox hall of fame recognizes him as one of the best to wear the uniform however, he is third on my the all time best list.

Larry Gardner may well have won a Gold Glove or two had the award been around during Fenway Park’s first years.

Winning my silver medal is one of my own first favorite players, Frank Malzone. “Malzie” was a combination of defense, good hitting with a bit of power. He was as steady a player as any in his era or any other and he was a six-time all-star.

Frank Malzone won the first ever Gold Glove in 1957 when only one was given out at each position in both leagues. He also won the AL one in ’58’ and ’59’. He missed only 43 games over an eight year stretch from 1957 through 1964.

So that the leaves the All Fenway third baseman…..Wade Boggs!

Boggs spent five years in the minor leagues before cracking the line up at Fenway Park in 1982 and when he arrived he left no doubt he belonged. He hit .349 as a rookie in 104 games and then reeled of a string 200 hit seasons the likes of which Fenway Park had never seen.

For seven consecutive years Boggs garnered 200 plus hits and he won five American League batting titles, four in a row. He was an eight time all-star in his 11 seasons in Boston and his .338 average while calling Fenway Park home is second on the Red Sox all time list to Ted Williams (.344).

Of his 3010 career base hits, 2098 came in a Red Sox uniform which why he wears a Red Sox cap in Cooperstown. He holds the Red Sox record of 240 hits in a single season.

He did develop a bit of a reputation for selfishness which is epitomized by a story from his last month with the Red Sox. It was September 12, 1992 and the Red Sox were playing out the string on a 65-76 season. Roger Clemens was pitching and Detroit was leading 1-0. Leading off the fifth inning, Tony Phillips hit a slow bounder to third base which Boggs did not handle. Official scorer Charlie Scoggins ruled the play an error which led to two unearned runs being scored giving the Tigers a three run lead. The Tigers eventually won the game 9-5 and after the game, Boggs sought out Scoggins and made a case for the play being a hit. Scoggins capitulated, the result of which was two more earned runs being added to Clemens.

 Clemens was locked in a battle with Royals pitcher Kevin Appier for the league ERA title and when he got word of what went down, he was a bit disappointed and he said so. He recollected how a few years earlier Boggs was battling Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly for the batting title and how much he (Clemens) bore down to help Boggs get that title. This was called to the attention of Wade Boggs and his response was, “I didn’t know Clemens was battling for the ERA title.”

Exactly, and there are those who will contend that he would never know what was going on in his dugout or clubhouse, for he couldn’t know because it was always all about him.

Be that as it may, he was an offensive machine, the likes of which Fenway had never before seen and has not seen since from the third base position. Therefore he earns my spot as the third baseman on the All Fenway Park Team!

And so it is at this time in Fenway Park history, all time Fenway thrid baseman selection time.

 

 

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Lift the Curtain…..

The Red Sox opened their 1912 season April 11th in New York’s Hilltop Park. They did it with a comeback win against the Highlanders and all the runs in the game came in the first and ninth innings.

Harry Wolverton Highlander manager dons the Yankee pinstripes, the first time they appeared on the New York uniform. This was the last season the New York team was known as the Highlanders. In 1913 they moved to the Polo Grounds and officially changed their name to the Yankees.

The New Yorkers unveiled the pinstripes for the first time. They wore them for the 1912 season however abandoned them for 1913 and 1914. They reappeared for the 1915 season and they have grown to be as much a part of the Yankee mystique as any player or ballpark.

Smokey Joe Wood was the Red Sox opening day pitcher as he lifted the curtain on what became perhaps the greatest year of any Red Sox pitcher in history. He was 34-5, with a 1.91 ERA and he threw 10 shutouts.

The Red Sox scored a run in the first inning and the Highlanders countered with two in the bottom half of the frame. That was all the scoring until the ninth when Wood got his bat into the act with a two run single. That provided the difference as he allowed a run in the New York ninth but completed the game for his first win of the season as the Red Sox prevailed 5-3.

Ray Caldwell was Wood’s mound opponent and suffered the loss. He pitched for the Red Sox in 1919.

“Smokey” Joe at an old timers game at Fenway Park in 1939 wearing the uniform of Yale University. To his left are Cy Young, Lefty Grove and Walter Johnson. Wood managed at Yale for 20 years.

In Fenway’s inaugural season of 1912, the Red Sox did not have a losing record against any team in the league. The Indians played them even in 22 games winning 11 of them. They were at their best against New York beating them 19 time in 21 games.

Since Fenway’s inception the Red Sox have opened their season in New York a total of 17 times. They have won six and lost 11 breaking down to 1-0 at Hilltop Park, 2-0 at the Polo Grounds and 3-11 at Yankee Stadium I. They have yet to open the season at the “new” Yankee Stadium.

Last night Daniel Bard made his first start as the Red Sox fifth starter in the 2012 season. He pitched five innings, surrendering five runs on eight hits. He walked a batter, struck out six and the Blue Jays hit .348 against him. He took the loss as the Jays beat the Sox 7-3.

The headline in the Boston Globe online sports page said “Daniel Bard had a decent outing in his first start but still took the loss.” Really? A decent outing? When I read that this scenario came into my head. I’m 12 years old and I fell asleep listening to the Red Sox game. I wake up in the morning and Dad is at the breakfast table with the morning paper. I ask, “Did they win”? Sipping his coffee he just shakes his head from side to side. I respond, “How did Bard do”? Dad puts down his coffee, “He got shelled”!  

Decent outing? Decent outing? Do you think any one of these guys would think it was a decent outing?

Do you think any of these folks would think it was a decent outing?

Do you think Bard thinks it was a decent outing? Please!!!!!!!

Today the Red Sox are 1-4 and in last place in the American League East, 100 years ago today they were 1-0 and tied for first in the eight team American League.

And so it was and so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, April 11, 1912, April 11, 2012.

 

 

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“I figure life’s a gift, and don’t intend on wasting it. You never know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you, to make each day count.”…..Jack Dawson

It was just before noon on April 10th 1912 when the good ship Titanic left the port of Southampton England bound for Cherbourg France, Queenstown Ireland and then across the Atlantic to New York City.

She was the grandest of ladies, the largest cruise ship ever built. She carried the wealthiest of the world and she was unsinkable.

Unsinkable Molly Brown.

As the Titanic was making her way east across the Atlantic, the Red Sox were making their way south on a train bound for New York where they were slated to open the 1912 season at Hilltop Park against the New York Highlanders.

Hilltop Park.

And as the Red Sox and Titanic were traveling into history, the Boston Post was informing all that Teddy Roosevelt “Buried” President Taft in the Illinois primary, Francis Bartlett donated $1,500,000.00 to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Socialist Labor Party had nominated a Boston tailor, Arthur Hellmar to run for president of the United States at the top of their ticket.

The Red Sox swept the three game series in New York to start the season 3-0 and the 14th of April was a travel day. They were headed further south to Philadelphia to play the Athletics for two games before making their way back to Boston where they would open Fenway Park and the 1912 season against New York.

The Red Sox first loss of 1912 came at Shibe Park.

The Red Sox were settled in, well maybe, in the City of Brotherly Love as they prepared to take on the A’s. It was 20 minutes to midnight on April 14th, as the 2,224 passengers of the Titanic settled in for their fourth night at sea.

The Titanic encountered a force in the North Atlantic leaving damage which breached five of her compartments below the waterline.

At 2:20 AM April 15, 1912, only two hours and forty minutes after striking the iceberg, the Titanic was resting at the bottom of the ocean, 12,415 feet below the surface and 1,514 people were dead.

Reports of the disaster began to trickle in to the northeastern newspapers as the Red Sox were absorbing their first loss of the season 4-1 in Philadelphia. The following day those same newspapers screamed the horror of the unthinkable!

The Red Sox righted their ship on the 16th with a 9-2 win and they headed north to Boston to open their new ball park.

The Titanic deflected the attention of the opening of the brand new Fenway Park and the tragedy was on the front page of the Boston Post and virtually every newspaper for the rest of the month. The Post carried a front page story every day until the first of May and for a week the first dozen or so pages were devoted to stories of this greatest sea disaster in history.

Fenway Park and the Titanic will forever be linked. It is estimated that approximately 75,000 people in the United States today are 100 or more years old. Those who possess a living memory of these events of 1912 is considerably less in number to be sure and as we celebrate Fenway Park’s 100th birthday we will do well to recollect the story of the Titanic and its invaluable lesson; even the unsinkables go down!

Oh and last night the Red Sox captured their first win of Fenway Park’s centennial. They scored three in the ninth to grab a 4-2 win in Toronto. They now stand at 1-3 tied for last place in the AL East, 2 1/2 games out! On this date in 1912 they were 0-0, a day away from opening.

Dustin Pedroia homered last night and he doubled leading off the ninth and scored to tie the score. 

And so it is and so it was on this date in Fenway Park history, April 10, 1912, April 10, 2012.

 

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Red Sox Christen Park With A Win…..The Boston Post April 10, 1912

It was a bitter cold, wind-swept day that so often categorizes an April day in Boston and flurries of snow swirled in gusts of blustering wind that cut to the bone. However that did not stop about 3500 brave souls from spending the afternoon sitting at Fenway Park to witness its very first baseball game.

It was 100 years ago today at 3:30 PM when a young man named Dana Joseph Paine Wingate strolled into history as he stepped into the batters box at Fenway Park. The first batter in her history, he was struck out by Red Sox pitcher Casey Hageman and as he carried his bat back to the dugout, he had no idea the place in history that would forevermore belong to him.

Casey Hageman was the Red Sox pitcher who hurled on April 9, 1912 against Harvard University. He not only got the win but he knocked in the only two runs scored that day with two RBI singles.

The Boston Post’s Paul Shannon was in attendance that afternoon and in his column of April 10, 1912, he described the scene;

“The wind blew in fitful gusts across the new Red Sox field yesterday and whirling flurries of snow threatened to drive two husky squads of athletes under cover, but in spite of the frostiest of receptions from the local weather dispenser, Boston’s great Red Sox team made their unofficial debut and christened their splendid new home with a defeat of fair Harvard to the tune of 2-0.”

Paul Shannon covered the Red Sox for four decades.

The pitcher for Harvard’s Crimson was Sam Felton and it was he who surrendered Fenway Park’s first base hit.

Felton was an end on the Harvard University football team. He also handled punting and kicking duties as well. A first team All-American in 1912, his punts averaged between 60 and 70 yards. In the 1950s noted sportswriter Grantland Rice named Felton among the finest college kickers he had ever seen.

Upon his graduation in 1913, Felton was offered a three-year contract by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics. Mack is said to have been of the opinion that Felton would be “one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game” and the $15,000 offer was the most money ever offered a collegiate player. Felton refused and went home to Haverford Pennsylvania to pursue a business career.

Red Sox second baseman Steve Yerkes registered Fenway Park’s first hit, a first inning single off of Sam Felton.

Felton’s performance that day was one for the ages. The right-hander pitched five innings and walked 10 batters. That’s right 10 batters! However only two of them scored as he allowed only four singles and twice got out of bases loaded situations.

Harvard’s only hit came in the fifth inning when second baseman and captain Robert Potter singled into left field. He stole second but was then picked off ending any threat.

 

Bob Potter Harvard captain.

In the sixth Harvard came as close to scoring as it would all day. Center fielder Richard Wigglesworth walked, went to second on a passed ball, took third on an infield out and was then nipped at the plate attempting to steal home.

Wigglesworth served in the House of Representatives as a Massachusetts Congressman  from 1928 until 1958. He was named by President Eisenhower as Ambassador to Canada in 1959 and served until his untimely death in October of 1960. A World War I veteran, he is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

By the seventh inning, the snow was swirling, the baseball was continually covered with mud and the fans were leaving. Red Sox manager Jake Stahl and his Harvard counterpart, Frank Sexton, decided to end it after Harvard’s seventh inning and Fenway Park’s first game was in the books.

Jake Stahl managed the Red Sox in 1912 and 1913.

Dr. Frank Sexton maintained a medical practice in Brookline Massachusetts while managing the Harvard University baseball team from 1910-1915. 

 As Fenway Park celebrates her 100th birthday the names of Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis, “Smokey” Joe Wood et al will make their way back on to the Boston sports pages. And for an ever so brief moment so to will the names of Sexton and Wingate and Potter and Wigglesworth and Felton. The boys of Harvard University who a century ago played a “winter” baseball game in a little ball park in the Fens.

Harvard University 1912.

And so it was on this date in Fenway Park history, April 9, 1912.

 

 

 

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Happy Easter…..

And on the seventh day He rested, although if you are subscriber to His teachings, on this particular seventh day He did a bit more than that!

However, I’m still betting that Dwight Eisenhower played golf.

“Ike” was a member at Augusta National.

The Commanding General of the European Theater in World War II, Dwight David Eisenhower. 

Some interesting tidbits about the nations 34th Chief Executive.

  • When liberating the concentration camps he called for all the media to record in photos, film and writing what was found saying, “there will come a time when people will try to say this never happened.”
  • He fell in love with Gettysburg while a student at West Point in 1915 and bought a farm there in 1950. He donated it to the National Park Service in 1967 and it was opened by them in 1980.
  • The “Eisenhower Pine” is located on the 17th hole at Augusta National, approximately 210 yards from the Masters tee. The President hit the tree so many times that, at a 1956 club meeting, he proposed that it be cut down. Not wanting to offend the president, the club’s chairman, Clifford Roberts, immediately adjourned the meeting rather than reject the request. The tree still stands.

  • The 18th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club, near Denver, is named in his honor. Eisenhower was a longtime member of the club, which operated one of his favorite courses.

  • The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1977, was named after the former president.

  • In December 1999, Eisenhower was listed on Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.
  • In 2009, Eisenhower was named to the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category for his contributions to the sport.

And so it is on this date in Fenway Park history, April 9, 2012, Easter Sunday.

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