Photopost: Patriots Day 2019


April 15 was Patriots Day in Massachusetts and we celebrated in our usual way.

First, we attended the Red Sox game, the only scheduled MLB game each season scheduled to start before noon.  The weather was cold and wet and the Red Sox lost, but it’s still better than going to work on a Monday morning.

Next, we went to watch the runners in the Boston Marathon.  We somehow missed seeing all four people we knew running the race, but cheered on lots of strangers at the corner of Hereford and Boylston.  This is a fun place to watch since it’s the first place the runners can see the finish line and they get very jubilant at the turn.


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Podcasts of the Week Ending July 7


Podcast of the Week returns!  Here are five podcasts from the past week that I think are worth listening to.

The Memory Palace :: The Taking of Tom Sawyer Island

That time when the counterculture Yippies attempted a hostile takeover of the land.  Disneyland to be specific.  Except only about 200 of them showed and half of them were there for a goof. What a long strange monorail trip it’s been.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: red, white, and brew

Home brewing is a big thing these days, among a stereotypical group of white men, but has a long history in the United States among women, enslaved people, and immigrants.

WBUR The Artery :: Stacks Of Books, But Short On Cash: New England’s Public Libraries Face Funding Troubles

Libraries are used to tightening the belt financially, but in these days of Federal and state cuts they are facing unprecedented struggles.

DecodeDC :: DC History 101, Swamps and Scandals Then and Now

The history of Washington, DC, built on an actual swamp, and how the development of the city reflects the views of the ruling parties over time.

ESPN 30 for 30Yankees Suck

Here’s a new podcast based on ESPN’s successful television sports documentaries.  This episode covers the history of the notorious Red Sox fan chant and how a bunch of hardcore punks made a profitable business out of selling t-shirts emblazoned “Yankees Suck!”  Brings back good memories of late 90s Red Sox games.

 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: N is for Ninth #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge through all of April 2017. Every day (except Sundays), I will be posting a new, original photograph (or photographs) related to the letter of the alphabet.

“N” is for Ninth Inning.

With two outs in the ninth inning, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel works on saving the Sox 4-3 Patriots Day game victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Photopost: Baseball, Rainbows, & Fireworks


On Saturday, my family spent 7 hours at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI and we didn’t even see a baseball game!  We started with a free on-field clinic for the kids with PawSox coaches and players as instructors.  Then we settled onto a blanket on the grassy berm in centerfield and waited for the game to start, the kids getting batting practice balls tossed to them by a Buffalo Bisons pitcher.  But just as the game was set to begin, a torrential downpour swept through, and we huddled under a tent with scores of other fans to wait it out.  A beautiful rainbow graced the heavens after the storm, but the field was flooded and it took a long time to determine if it would be safe to play.  The game was postponed, but the superhero-themed fireworks went ahead as scheduled. All in all, a dramatic day at the ballpark!

 

Book Review: Bambino by Tom Bruno


Author: Tom Bruno
TitleBambino
Publication Info: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2012
Summary/Review:

The Curse of the Bambino is noted throughout New England as a reason why the Red Sox failed to win the World Series for 85 years.  But what if it was a literal curse cast by a demon who took the form of Babe Ruth.  That’s the premise of this horror novella that brings together a Fenway Park hot dog vendor, MIT professors, and a piano from the bottom of a pond to break the curse  for good.  It’s short and simple with a few flashes of humor.
Recommended booksThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King , The Technologists by Matthew Pearl and A Soul to Steal by Rob Blackwell
Rating: **1/2

Photopost: Red Sox at Fenway Park


My son Peter and I took in our first Red Sox game of the season on April 7th versus the Texas Rangers. While the 2013 champions have struggled early on, we were treated to a thrilling 5-1 victory. Yes, it was April baseball, as both teams had a passed ball and an error, and probably deserved some more errors. But a win’s a win. As an extra bonus, we received a David Ortiz bobblehead upon entering. And since Peter is now a member of Kid Nation, we were allowed to enter the ballpark early and watch the Red Sox batting practice from the Green Monster seats, which was pretty awesome.

Movie Review: Knuckleball! (2012)


Title: Knuckleball
Release Date: 18 September 2012
Director: Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg
Production Co: Break Thru Films and Major League Baseball Productions
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary | Sports | Baseball
Rating: ****

The knuckleball is baseball’s most enigmatic pitch.  Despite its name, it is thrown with the finger tips and unlike any other pitch it prevents the ball from rotating.  This makes the ball move in unpredictable ways that it make the knuckleball difficult to hit.  Yet that unpredictably has a way of coming back to haunt the pitcher, so there are few pitchers who risk using it.  This documentary follows the 2011 season of the only two knuckleball pitchers in Major League Baseball at that time: Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox (now retired) and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets (now with the Toronto Blue Jays).  These are also two of my all-time favorite pitchers.  The documentary does a good job of explaining the mechanics of the knuckleball and how knuckleball pitchers are treated as an oddity in the baseball community.  It also has some excellent archival footage of the lives and careers of Wakefield and Dickey. If there’s one thing that could improve the movie is to not have so many talking heads and clips of baseball commentators repeating the same basic facts about the knuckleball and perhaps delve into the science and history of the pitch a bit more.

Red Sox are the 2013 World Series Champions


For the third time in ten years, the Red Sox are the World Series Champions.  I’ve watched the Red Sox play in four World Series in my lifetime, and although I rooted for the opposing team in 1986, I’ve been firmly behind the Red Sox in the most recent three.  The 2004 World Series saw the end of the drought of 86 years without a championship (despite coming close several times) and the 2007 team proved that it was not a fluke.  The 2013 championship seems all the more special because it proves the resilience of the team coming back from a losing season in 2012 and a bad finish the year before that.

I particularly enjoyed this season because my 6 y.o. son Peter is a big baseball fan and devoted to the Red Sox.  We attended five game this season – four at Fenway and one at Yankee Stadium – and the Red Sox won them all (Peter’s lifetime record is a remarkable 9-1).  We also listened to games as Peter drifted off to sleep each night, so I’ve found myself following the team and getting to know the players much better than I have in many years.  The World Series victory came the day before Halloween when Peter dressed as his favorite player, Stephen Drew, and two days before his 6th birthday.

On Saturday, I took Peter to see the Red Sox Rolling Rally in the morning and then we had his birthday party in the afternoon, perhaps the best day of his life.  The Duck Boat Parade was a joyous occasion, and it was great to see so many happy people filling the streets of Boston to celebrate just six months after the atrocities on Patriots Day.  While we watched from Tremont Street opposite Boston Common, there was a moving tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on Boyslton Street.

Below are my pictures of the parade.  It was a fun day, and I hope we get to do it again.

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Football at Fenway


Last night, the beautiful game and a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark came together for the Fenway Football ChallengeCeltic Football Club of Glasgow and Sporting Clube de Portugal of Lisbon met for the first soccer game in Fenway Park since 1968.  I didn’t even hear of the event until Monday, but immediately found myself a ticket for this can’t-miss game once I heard of it.

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The Red Sox and the Fenway Park staff set up everything perfectly.  First, the choice of teams was inspired as it represented two of the Boston area’s largest ethnic groups the Portuguese and the Irish (while Celtic is a Scottish team they are strongly identified with Irish Catholics in Scotland, Ireland, and around the world).  I also like that they set up supporters’ sections for each team behind the goal lines.  I sat in the neutral section close to the Sporting supporters section and there were partisans of both sides all around me.  As a true neutral I rooted for a good game and for all the goals to be scored in the net near my seat.  As luck would have it, all but one goal would take place right in front of me.

The seating for the game was a bit awkward for soccer, although there are many seats at Fenway that are also awkward for baseball.  The pitch looked alarmingly small too.  There didn’t seem to be a midfield and goal kicks looked like they would soar into the opposing stands.  I read after the game that the field was only 98 meters long, short of the standard 110 meters.

I had an excellent front row seat just behind one of the corners in right field beyond the Pesky Pole.    The game was well-contested but scoreless until the 72 minute when Georgios Samaras (hirsutely reminiscent of Johnny Damon circa 2004) scored on a spot kick.  Hélder Postiga equalized on a gorgeous header at my end of the field ten minutes later.  That was the end of the game as far as FIFA was concerned but since they had a trophy to award the two teams participated in a penalty shootout.   All was even after five shooters per side, but then Sporting’s Liédson kicked the ball over the net and into the bullpen and Paul McGowan netted the winning goal for Celtic.

Other highlights of the game:

  • Both clubs wear a home uniform with horizontal green & white stripes.  While the Sporting players wore a navy & green away uniform, it was really hard to tell apart the fans in their replica jerseys.
  • The PA announcer introduced the starting forwards as “attackers.”  I liked that.
  • Fans were amused that the Celtic captain  is named Scott Brown, especially when he drew a yellow card.
  • Despite being a friendly there was some pushing and arguing during the match.
  • The Boston Pops played “The Star Spangled Banner” before the game.  They didn’t play the national anthems of Portugal and Scotland.  Does Scotland have a national anthem of its own?
  • Just before the game started they played “Shipping Up to Boston” on the PA system.  During the half they played “Sweet Caroline” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”  After the game they played “Dirty Water” and “Tessie.”
  • The atmosphere was great but the teams’ supporters did not do European style football chants and songs.  Mostly they did variations on the Red Sox chant “Let’s Go Cel-tic!” Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.

It was a fun night, and definitely should be the start of an annual tradition.  Perhaps Celtic can return to defend their title against a side from Brazil or Italy?  And maybe the Red Sox should play a baseball game at Celtic Park in Glasgow.  What I’d like even more though is if the New England Revolution build a soccer-specific stadium near public transportation in the Boston area.

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Fenway Park


Updating the out-of-town scoreboard is done by hand at Fenway
Updating the out-of-town scoreboard is done by hand at Fenway

On Sunday I attended my second Mets game of the month, this time a road game here at home in Boston.  It feels a bit odd to don my blue & orange hat for a trip to Fenway since I will root for the Red Sox against any other opponent.  Yet I’ve done it many times dating back to the Mets first interleague appearance in Boston back in 1998 and the games are among some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen.

Here are some highlights:

  • June 5, 1998 – Mets 9, Red Sox 2: Arguably Pedro Martinez’s worst game in his best season in that he allowed home runs to four Mets.  Martinez beaned the Mets new catcher Mike Piazza early on forcing him from the game but Piazza’s replacement Albert Castillo hit one of the home runs and scored two runs in the game.  Odd.
  • June 6, 1998 – Mets 1, Red Sox 0: The next day I didn’t have a ticket but walked up to Fenway and got one from a firefighter for $10.  You’ll never hear of anyone getting same day tickets anywhere near that price today.  Tim Wakefield pitched his heart out allowing only one hit, and lost. Brian McRae walked, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out, and then scored on a balk.  And that was it! Crazy.
  • July 13, 2000 – Mets 3, Red Sox 4: Things looked good for the Mets at first as Bobby Jones of all people was able to keep pace with Pedro.  Later on odd things happened with Carl Everett and Dennis Cook (which would come to ahead two days later with a complete Everett meltdown).  A Melvin Mora error and some late-inning heroics by Brian Daubach off Armando Benitez gave the win the Red Sox.  Exciting game nonetheless.
  • June 27, 2006 – Mets 4, Red Sox 9: After a six year absence the Mets returned to Fenway on a day that was also the first time Pedro Martinez returned to Boston as a Met (and received a warm welcome when he pitched the next evening).  In a nice touch, the fans and players saluted the 1986 AL Champion Red Sox on the 20th anniversary of the year they lost the World Series to you-know-who.  There were a ton of home runs in this game, three for the Mets, but the Red Sox would score more runs by far.
  • June 29, 2006 – Mets 2, Red Sox 4: Curt Schilling pretty much shut down the Mets this evening.  This is the only occassion when I’ve encountered rude fans at Fenway as a trashy-looking woman and her teenage son shouted insults and threw peanuts at Mets fans in my sections (although for some reason they left me alone).  This game sewed up a sweep for the Sox and at the time it looked like they were bound for the postseason and the Mets were fading, but in the end it was the the Mets who reached the playoffs that season.

The grounds crew to the rescue!
The grounds crew to the rescue!

Sunday’s game was interesting as well partly because a thunderstorm pelted the field with rain and hail in first inning.  Fans ooh-ed and aah-ed as lighting struck buildings in nearby Back Bay.  I sat in the family section in left field near the Green Monster, safely ensconced under the roof.  So I had a good dry view of the heroic grounds crew as they rushed to get the already sodden field covered with a tarp.  It was also amusing to watch the people in the front rows evacuate their seats.  On the scoreboard they showed a video of a couple of guys lip-syncing Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it on the Rain” and dancing with the Wally the Green Monster in a rain slicker.  Turns out the “two guys” are Red Sox pitchers Jonathon Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen which further proves that I can never recognize athletes when not in uniform.  Anyhow, it’s pretty funny and you can watch it below:

When play resumed, things looked good for the Mets as they took a lead into the fifth inning and seemed in control of the game.  And then the Red Sox batters made mincemeat of the Mets bullpen – especially Brian Stokes – and just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.  Oh well, it turned out to be a lovely day and while some blokes lamely tried to heckle Gary Sheffield, I sat among some friendly fans.  Which is good because we’re all squished together in that special Fenway way.

Luis Castillo dances off second when things were going well for the Mets
Luis Castillo dances off second when things were going well for the Mets

I’ve been visiting Fenway Park pretty much every year since 1997, and it just gets bigger – more seats, more concourse, more concessions, and more ads (which add some nice color) – but the seats are still narrow as can be.  All the changes have been for the better improving what was already one of the best ballparks in baseball (although at least the Mets have something comparable now).  I look forward to going back for a game when I can root for the Sox.

More pictures from the game in my ballgames photo album.

A mound conference when things were going poorly for the Mets
A mound conference when things were going poorly for the Mets