The Milagro in the Sligo


Twenty years ago today, the Boston Red Sox played the Cleveland Indians in the 5th and deciding game of the 1999 American League Division Series.  This game became an instant classic due to the performance of the great Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez that helped clinched the series for the Red Sox.  I was reminded of this game because of this oral history compiled by Ian Browne on MLB.com.

It brought back memories of watching this game with Susan (many years before we were married and were new to living in the Boston area) at the Sligo Pub in Somerville’s Davis Square.  If I could find all the people who were in that dive bar that night and interview them for an additional oral history, I would, but I’m just going to have to rely on my own memory.  Susan and I didn’t have a tv at the time so we went looking for a bar to watch the game, but all the watering holes in Davis Square were so packed it was impossible to see the tv.  The one exception was the Sligo, a pub we’d never before entered.  The other bars were full of college kids, but the clientele of the Sligo was slanted toward middle-aged and the accents were clearly those of lifelong locals.  Nevertheless, we were welcomed to take a seat at a table and watch the game.

The Red Sox were the 81st year of their World Series drought, and lost to Cleveland in the 1998 ALDS. Pedro’s excellent season – including striking out 5 of 6 National League sluggers in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park – instilled hope among Red Sox fans that this would be the year.  But then Cleveland won the first two games, and worse, Pedro injured his pitching shoulder.  Somehow, the Red Sox came back and won the next two games in Boston, including a 23-7 drubbing in Game 4.  And so the series returned to Cleveland for the deciding game 5.  Pedro wasn’t expected to be able to pitch again and the Red Sox started the struggling Bret Saberhagen and hoped for the best.

The box score says that Pedro Martinez entered the game in the top of the 4th, but honestly those first 3 innings felt like a whole game in its own right.  The Red Sox scored 2 runs in the 1st, but the Indians came back and scored 3 in the bottom of the 1st and 2 more in the 2nd.  In the top of the 3rd, the Red Sox rallied again, and the Red Sox leftfielder Troy O’Leary came to bat with the bases loaded.  O’Leary hadn’t hit well in the series so far, but a man at the bar had faith in him.

“O’Leary is due! He’s gonna hit a homah!”

Lo and behold, O’Leary knocked the first pitch to right-center for a grand slam.

“You did it!” exclaimed several men at the bar.

“I didn’t do it, O’Leary did it.  I’m just some drunk guy at a bah!” the prognosticator demurred.

The Red Sox now had a 7-5 lead but it didn’t last long because the Indians scored another 3 runs in the bottom of the inning.  Then the Red Sox tied the game in the top of the 4th at 8-8.  It was in the bottom of the 4th when everyone was stunned to see Pedro Martinez heading to the mound to pitch.  Everyone was nervous, fearing that this slugfest was no place for an injured pitcher, hoping against hope that Pedro wouldn’t get smacked around too.

But Pedro had a calming effect on the game.  Cleveland failed to score in the bottom of the 4th – the first time they put a 0 up in any inning – and neither team scored in the 5th and 6th innings.  Things got so quiet that the barfly at the table opposite us put her head down for a rest.  At least she tried, but loquacious sportscaster Tim McCarver wouldn’t stop talking.

The woman lifted her head and shouted “Shut the feck up, McCavah!  You’re such a Chatty Cathy!” She punctuated this by putting her head back on the table. As Susan noted, there was a sense that no truer words have ever been spoken.

The Red Sox took the lead again in the 7th inning on a 3-run home run by none other than Troy O’Leary.  O’Leary tied a postseason record with 7 RBIs in a single game.  Meanwhile, Cleveland didn’t score at all.  In fact they weren’t able to get a hit off the amazing injured arm of Martinez.  The fans in the bar grew more optimistic that the Red Sox would win this game and advance to the American League Champion Series.  One guy prematurely anticipated that the Red Sox would beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS and then the  New York Mets in the World Series.

“New York, New York – DOUBLE HAMMER!!!” he repeated like a mantra.

The Red Sox did indeed win the game and the ALDS with Pedro no-hitting the Indians for the six innings he pitched.  The game went down in history as the Martinez Milagro. Susan and I pledged to return to the Sligo to watch the Red Sox if they had a chance to clinch the ALCS.  Sadly, the Red Sox lost the ALCS in five games to the Yankees, although the one game they won was another classic in which Pedro outpitched hated former Red Sox Roger Clemens.

Red Sox World Series Victory Parade 2018


Once again, the Red Sox paraded through Boston aboard Duck Boats, carrying their four trophies and receiving cheers from fans (and returning the favor).  My kids and I watched from the same spot on Tremont Street opposite Boston Common that we watched the 2013 parade.

The photographic highlights are below, with my full photo album also available at http://www.othemts.com/redsoxparade18/.

Construction workers get in some welding while waiting for the parade to arrive.
Big Papi rides in his fourth parade.
Chris Sale victorious.
Beer toss!
David Price with a big David Price head.
Craig Kimbrel.
The trophy!
Puerto RIcan pride on the Common.

Book Review: September 1918: War, Plague, and the World Series by Skip Desjardin


AuthorSkip Desjardin
TitleSeptember 1918: War, Plague, and the World Series
Publication Info: Regnery History (2018)
Summary/Review:

It’s a running joke that the Boston news media will try to find the Boston angle to any major news story.  The thesis of this book is that Boston was essentially the center of world events for the month of September 1918, and in many ways Desjardin is not exaggerating.

The 1918 World Series became famous for being the Boston Red Sox last championship for 86 years (after winning 5 of the first 15 World Series).  But the World Series that year is remarkable for other reasons.  First, it came at the end of a shortened season.  As part of the work or fight edict from the US government, Major League Baseball agreed to end the season at Labor Day, with the Red Sox and the Cubs given an extra couple of weeks to complete the World Series.  Baseball was then to be suspended for the remainder of the war, and when the World Series ended on September 11th, no one knew the armistice would occur exactly two months later.  The war also depressed enthusiasm for the World Series with a low turnout in both ballparks.  The players concern of getting the smallest bonus ever offered to World Series participants combined the uncertainty of future employment lead them to strike briefly before one of the games.

The first World War lies heavily over this book as the Wilson government heavily encouraged all-out participation by recruiting and dedicating the homefront to the war effort.  One of the first American war heroes, the flying ace David Putnam of Jamaica Plain, died over Germany on September 12.  The same day the American forces under General John Pershing began the three day offensive at Saint-Mihiel which included the Yankee Division, primarily made up of New Englanders.  This was the first time American divisions lead by American officers took part in an offensive and the successful battle gained respect of the French and British, while making Germany realize their hopes for victory were growing slim.

The War also played a part in spreading the Great Influenza across continents and oceans.  The flu made it’s first outbreak in the US in Boston at the end of August 1918 and by the early days of September it was infecting – and killing – great numbers of sailors at the Commonwealth Pier and a great number of soldiers at Camp Devens in Ayer.  Patriotic events like the Labor Day Parade helped spread the flu to the civilian population.  The official response tended towards prioritizing keeping morale high for the war effort rather than reporting the actual deadliness of the disease, and military officers repeatedly stated the worst was past even as the number of deaths in the ranks increased.  The flu would burn through Massachusetts by the end of September while having an even more deadly October in the rest of the US in places like Philadelphia.

I’ve long thought that the period circa 1918-1919 in Boston is an historic era uniquely packed with significant and strange events.  Desjardin proves that just picking one month from that period provides the material for a compelling historical work.

Recommended booksFlu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Gina Kolata and Red Sox Century by Glenn Stout
Rating: ***1/2

Photopost: A Mismatched Pair of Sox


Our family visited our second Chicago ballpark in as many days with a visit to see our Boston Red Sox play their Chicago White Sox.  The game took place at Guaranteed Rate Field, possibly the saddest corporate naming rights ever awarded to a sports venue.  This was my second visit having previously seen the White Sox play the Rays in 2004 at what was then called U.S. Cellular Field. For that game I sat in the bleachers and remember having a generally favorable impression of the ballpark.

For this game, I made the mistake of buying cheap seats in the 500 level thinking we would enjoy having seats near the front of the upper rather than the back of a lower section.  Turns out the 500 level was eerily empty for a close-to-elimination White Sox game on a Thursday night. The section also has a vertiginously steep rake.  I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium so I had no problem with this, but my son has gone to most of his games at Fenway Park, so being close to the edge made him uneasy.

The game started well for the White Sox as Rick Porcello once again struggled while pitching in the early innings and Lucas Giolito shutdown the Red Sox potent offense. Avisail Garcia lit up the exploding scoreboard with a homer in the first inning and the Pale Hose were up 4-0 after two innings.  Pitching dominated for the next 4 innings until the Red Sox were able to tie up the game with a 4-run rally in the 7th capped by Mookie Betts 2-run home run.

The Red Sox scored another five runs in a 9th inning rally, including a J.D. Martinez blast,  but that time I was heading home with my punchy little girl.  We cheered from the Red Line platform as we saw the Red Sox take the lead on the scoreboard alongside the highway.  Meanwhile, Susan and Peter had snuck down to the field level seats for the final inning where Peter secured another baseball from Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel by way of a security guard.  All because Peter said “please.”

Guaranteed Rate Field is a tough ballpark to judge, especially compared with Wrigley Field across town which has all the advantages.  The White Sox ballpark was built right at the end of the “Modern” era when jewel boxes like Comiskey Park were still considered “old and outdated” rather than a classic ballpark that should be preserved, but just too early for the Retro ballpark boom of the 1990s which may have recreated Comiskey’s charms with modern ammenities.  The baseball-only facility fortunately avoided the problems of the multi-purpose stadiums and domes of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but didn’t quite achieve the elegance of Dodger Stadium or Kauffman Stadium. While Wrigley Field feels part and parcel of its Chicago neighborhood, Guaranteed Rate Field is set apart by a massive 16-lane freeway and acres of parking (where Comiskey Park used to stand), with the South Side neighborhood basically invisible and the Chicago skyline an attractive – but distant – vista on the horizon.  Ultimately it’s a tale of levels with the field level and bleachers being and enjoyable place to watch a ballgame while the distant upper levels are much less so.

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Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. AT&T Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium

Book Review: Papi: My Story by David Ortiz


Author: David Ortiz with Michael Holley
Title: Papi: My Story
Publication Info: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
Summary/Review:

I know that David Ortiz is a prodigious slugger, has a big heart, and a potty mouth.  From his baseball memoir, I’ve also learned that he holds a grudge.  A bit too much of this book is full of Ortiz’s resentments against his manager in Minnesota (and two different managers in Boston), the Red Sox front office, the Boston media, and everyone who suspected him of PED use.  Granted he actually is justified in his anger against these people, but it weighs down what is otherwise an insightful book about his life in baseball.  I particularly enjoy what Ortiz says about how he became a student of the game and studied pitchers while on the bench so that he could become a better hitter.  He talks of learning a lot from fellow players, especially Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez. And then he passes along that knowledge to younger players from Dustin Pedroia to Andrew Benentendi.  Outside baseball, Ortiz reflects on his marriage to his wife Tiffany and how he was contending with their marriage falling apart right around the same time as the magical 2013 series.  It’s an entertaining book and a must read for fans of Big Papi and the Red Sox, and baseball fans in general.

Favorite Passages:

“I’ve always been amazed at people who criticize baseball players for showing emotion, especially in playoff games. What do they expect when every move you make is with the game on the line?  You’re a competitor.  You want to be sucessful for your team and your city.  You’re not supposed to respond when everyone is losing their minds in the stands, to the point where you really can’t hear anything?

Why not?” – p. 76

“To me, Pedroia is the prototype.  I’d never met anyone like him in baseball.  It’s hard to explain.  For example, I love baseball.  Love it.  But what I saw from Pedroia made it clear to me that his connection to baseball was beyond everyone else’s.  It was so much more than just love for the game.  He was the game. Seriously.  Everything that was good and true about baseball was in Dustin Pedroia.  He breathed it.  He lived it.  He’d do anything to play it, to be around it, to talk about it.He was such a force of energy, talent, and humor that it lifted our entire clubhouse.” – p. 116

“I believe the Boston media is powerful when it comes to the fans and, in some ways, influential when it comes to the way the team is managed.  When the media make a big deal about something, when they create a problem or issue, what are the fans supposed to think?  They figure that these people are around the team 24/7, so they must know what they’re talking about.  But they don’t.” – p. 151

Recommended booksBecoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball’s Most Enigmatic Slugger by Jean Rhodes, Pedro, Carlos, and Omar: The Story of a Season in the Big Apple and the Pursuit of Baseball’s Top Latino Stars by Adam Rubin, and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stewart O’Nan
Rating: ***1/2

2017 Major League Baseball Postseason Preferences & Predictions


It’s that exciting time of the year again, the MLB playoffs and World Series!  As I did in 2014, 2015, and 2016, I’m going to lay out what teams I’d like to succeed in the postseason and predict what teams will actually win.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PREFERENCES

The Washington Nationals are a team that as a Mets fan you’d expect me to dislike the Nationals, but I’ve never been able to muster strong feelings against them.  The Nationals success since 2012 hasn’t really come at the Mets expense since the Mets generally are their own worst enemy (except in 2015, of course,when the Mets miraculously knocked the Nats out of postseason contention).  The Nationals have not only never won a pennant, they have never won a postseason series (when the franchise played in Montreal they won a single post-season series).  The Cubs are okay in my book, but since they won it all last year, I have no urgency to see them repeat.  I’m indifferent to the Diamondbacks and Rockies. At the other end of the spectrum, the Dodgers are one of the teams (along with the Cardinals and Yankees) that I absolutely loathe.  So I’ll be supporting the underdog Nationals to finally win a pennant this season, and for the Dodgers to lose, lose, lose.

Wild Card Game: Rockies beat Diamondbacks

NLDS: Rockies beat Dodgers, Nationals beat Cubs

NLCS: Nationals beat Rockies

NATIONAL LEAGUE PREDICTIONS:

Wild Card Game: Really no idea, so I flipped a coin and it came up Rockies

NLDS: Dodgers beat Rockies, Nationals beat Cubs

NLCS: Nationals beat Rockies

AMERICAN LEAGUE PREFERENCES

The Red Sox are my home town team, my favorite American League team, and my second favorite team of all.  I’ve seen them win three World Series in recent years, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them win another.  Obviously, Cleveland is probably the biggest underdog in the AL, not winning a title since 1954, but they should change their nickname first before the win a World Series.  I have no strong feelings on the Astros other than that they should be a National League team.  I like the Twins and hope they do well, starting by clobbering the Yankees (this will never happen because the Twins always lose to the Yankees in a big game.

Wild Card Game: Twins beat Yankees

ALDS: Red Sox beat Astros, Twins beat Indians

ALCS: Red Sox beat Twins

AMERICAN LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

Wild Card Game: Yankees beat Twins

ALDS: Red Sox beat Astros, Indians beat Yankees

ALCS: Indians beat Red Sox :(

WORLD SERIES PREFERENCE: Red Sox beat Nationals

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: Indians beat Nationals

What are your preferences and predictions?  Let me know in the comments.

MLB Postseason Preferences and Predictions


The Major League Baseball playoffs begin tonight and as I’ve done in previous years, I’d like to offer my opinions on which teams I would like to succeed and which teams I expect will actually win. This is an interesting year in that both of my favorite teams – the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox – are participating in postseason play. This makes me nervous because I don’t want to see them play against one another in the World Series because I’d hate to see either team lose to the other. The last time this happened in 1999, I was ready to lean towards the Red Sox in a World Series matchup since they were in the midst of their famed championship drought. Now, if forced to choose, I’ll lean toward the Mets since the Red Sox have won a World Series more recently (2013 compared to 1986) and have won more championships in the last 12 years (3) than the Mets have in their entire history (2).

The 2016 Mets have shown that living well is the best revenge. Their 2015 World Series opponents, the Kansas City Royals, were eliminated while the Mets returned to the postseason by winning the first Wild Card spot. Who would have predicted that last November after the Royals dismantled the Mets in five games? Or even as recently as August 20th of this year when the Mets were 60-62.  Of course, if the Mets are to win the World Series they’re going to have to face Chicago, Los Angeles, and/or Washington, all of whom will be seeking revenge on the Mets for 2015 .  These teams may not recognize the Mets who show up to play in 2016 as there seems to have been a lot of roster changes since last autumn. Daniel Murphy moved to the Washington Nationals during the offseason, while David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Matz, and Wilmer Flores are all injured. Instead the Mets are relying on newcomers like Asdrubal Cabrera, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rene Rivera, T.J. Rivera, Jay Bruce and a returned Jose Reyes. It will be fun to see how far the Mets go with this squad, but even if they don’t achieve much it gives hope for future seasons that – should everyone be healthy – the Mets will have so much depth to choose from.

The Red Sox won the American League East after what I consider a successful 4-year rebuilding period. As would be expected during a rebuild, the Sox finished in last place 3 of those 4 seasons, but more unlikely, they won the World Series in the other year. Nevertheless, the important thing is that the Sox rebuilt their farm system and held on to talented young players who form the core of this year’s team and I believe will make the Sox contenders for years to come. These include Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Travis Shaw, Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, Steven Wright, and Andrew Benintendi. They’re joined by veterans acquired via trade David Price, Rick Porcello, and Hanley Ramirez. And of course, Sox old-timers Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. This is notably Ortiz’s final season, and one of the best reasons I have for the Sox to go all the way this season is to see Ortiz win his fourth World Series with Boston before he retires.

There are a lot of intriguing possibilities considering the other teams in this year’s postseason. 8 of the 10 teams have significant championship droughts greater than 20 years: Toronto (1993), New York (1986), Baltimore (1983), Washington (no championships since franchise began in Montreal in 1969), Texas (no championships since the franchise began in Washington in 1961), Cleveland (1948), and most notoriously Chicago (1908). At the other extreme, the remaining two teams – the San Francisco Giants (2014, 2012, & 2010) and the Boston Red Sox (2013, 2007, & 2004) – have combined for half of the World Series title in the last 12 seasons!

Some interesting World Series matchups include:

  • Chicago versus Cleveland – the two longest droughts head to head as well as an original NL team versus an original AL team
  • Boston versus Chicago – an original AL team versus and original NL team, playing in MLB’s two oldest ballparks
  • New York versus Baltimore – rematch of the 1969 World series
  • Washington versus Boston – the Amtrak Northeastern Corridor Series
  • Boston versus San Francisco – which team will get the fourth title of the 21st century?
  • Washington versus Texas – which team will win their first World Series? (also, former Washington team versus current Washington team)
  • Washington versus Baltimore – an All-Chesapeake Series

The League Championships Series may also have some interesting storylines:

  • Chicago versus Washington – each team has a lengthy pennant drought, the Cubs last appeared in 1945 and the Nationals have never won a pennant since the franchise was born in Montreal in 1969
  • San Francisco versus Los Angeles – classic West Coast rivalry for the first time in the NLCS
  • New York versus Washington – a younger East Coast rivalry but I think it’s  a fun one

After all that, here’s the ranking of my preference of which teams I’d like to see win the World Series:

  1. New York Mets
  2. Boston
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Washington
  5. Baltimore
  6. Toronto
  7. Cleveland
  8. Texas
  9. San Francisco
  10. Los Angeles

And here is my prediction of how I think this postseason may actually shake out.

Wild Card Games:

  • Toronto defeats Baltimore
  • New York defeats San Francisco

League Division Series:

  • Boston defeats Cleveland
  • Toronto defeats Texas
  • Washington defeats Los Angeles
  • Chicago defeats New York :(

League Championship Series:

  • Boston defeats Toronto
  • Chicago defeats Washington

World Series

  • Chicago defeats Boston

Let’s hope I’m wrong.  What are your picks for the MLB postseason?

Photopost: Farewell Summer, Farewell Papi


The kids & I visited Fenway Park on Tuesday night, taking advantage of their free Kid Nation tickets on Xander Bogaerts bobblehead night.  This was our last Red Sox game of the season and thus most likely the last time we ever saw David Ortiz play in person.  Sadly, it was not a great game for Big Papi and the Sox, although he did drive in a run on sacrifice fly that was snagged on a great catch.  Hanley Ramirez put the Red Sox ahead on a home run past the Pesky Pole, but the Tampa Bay Rays hit a home run to tie the game and then another to go ahead for good.  Still, it was a lovely night out at the old ballpark near the end of summer.

Patriots Day Weekend 2016


Patriots Day is my absolute favorite holiday and it’s too bad it’s not celebrated nationwide.  On Sunday we went to Fenway Park for the first time this season. Since Kay is now 4 we got a package for the whole family. She was excited and cheered a lot holding a banner from the Kid Nation booth. Kay didn’t make it past the 7th on a sunny day in the bleachers. From our perch we got to watch Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista constantly stretching, perhaps Bautista Power Yoga? We also got to see the MLB debut of Marco Hernandez at 2nd base. In his first  game with the Red Sox, Marco had a walk, a hit, a stolen base, and scored a run. Unfortunately, his more experienced teammates weren’t hitting at all with only 4 hits in the game, half of those in the 9th inning. Travis Shaw’s home run fell in the bullpen right in front of us, which was exciting, but too little too late and the Red Sox lost 5-3.

On Monday I took Peter & Kay downtown for the festivities. We were heading to a playground but passing the Public Garden the kids asked to go on the Swan Boats. It was an absolutely perfect day for getting pedaled across the lagoon. After a visit with the Ducklings, the kids went wild climbing, swinging, and spinning on the Esplanade.

They were having so much fun we missed the elite runners arriving in Back Bay (and the kids chewed me out for making them miss them). But we found a spot on Boyslton Street and joined the cheering masses. It was so loud, and inspiring!  After a lunch and another long stint of rooting for the runners, we made our long circuitous way home on the T.

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