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Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Archive for September, 2011

What’s it All About, Tito ?

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 29, 2011

Now that the season is over, I must ask, what has it all been about, Sox fans ?

Now that a little piece of our souls has been extinguished and placed in the tomb that was built by Aaron Boone, Mookie Wilson and Bucky Dent, I ask, what has this season really been about ?

It has been about Dustin Pedroia’s 25 game hitting streak.

And Pedey’s face on the cover of the Aug.  15 issue of Sports Illustrated.

And Pedey setting personal season highs in HR’s (21), triples (3), RBI (91), SB’s (26), BB’s (85) and OBP (.384).

And Adrian Gonzales’ league leading Hits (212) and fine .338 BA, 27 HR, and 117 RBI.

And Tim Wakefield’s 200th major league victory on Sept. 13.

And Jacoby Ellsbury’s 30 – 30 season, the first in Red Sox history and the 58th in MLB history.

And a 72W – 37L team record from May through August.

And a 18W – 35L team record in April & September.

And John Lackey’s $15,000,000 salary for a 6.41 ERA & 12 – 12 record.

And paying Andrew Miller $1 million to play in the Minors and stink like an old diaper in the Majors.

And Daniel Bard allowing 5 ER in 1 IP on Sept. 7; and 4 ER in 2/3 IP April 1; and 3 ER in 1/3 IP Aug. 1, and 3 other poor outings in September.

And Daniel Bard allowing ZERO ER in 24 consecutive appearances from July 1 to Aug. 31.

And Jon Lester laboring in three September starts.

Josh Reddick hot as a fire cracker in June, batting .407.

J.D. Drew, the $14 Million Dollar Man, getting NO Playing time from July 20 to Sept. 24 and nobody missing him.

David Ortiz, raising his BA 37 points, playing well in April, making fans forget about 2008 & 2009 with .309, 29, 96.

Losing Clay Buchholz to a spine stress fracture from June 16 to Sept. 27; Buch made only 14 starts.  

Being a perfect 77 – 0 when leading after 8 innings, until Sept. 28, when we blew it in the 9th in the one game we couldn’t afford to lose.

And Papelbon’s mostly excellent farewell tour, a prelude to free agency, registering 4W – 1L, 2.94 ERA and 31 saves.

The success of 29 year old Alfredo Aceves, who posted 10 – 2, 2.61, 2 saves in  55 games.  Bring him back, Theo.

 

The destruction of Dice K Matsuzaka.

The absence of Youk from Sept. 16 to 28.

It is about Joe Girardi not running Mo Rivera into the game to protect a 1 run lead against the Rays in game #162.

It’s about David Ortiz being interviewed at 11 p.m. on Sept. 28, whispering that this has been the most difficult thing he has ever been through in his playing career.

It’s about the offense disappearing one night, the bullpen getting shelled the next day, multiple errors the day after that, and the starter bursting into flames the day following.

It’s about all 4 of the above going bad at the same time.

It’s a doubt that the malaise hanging over the Sox can be dissipated in time to begin the 2012 season.

It’s about the Baseball Gods shuffling the deck at the last possible moment before dealing the cards, changing the seat assignments, blessing some & damning others, proving anything can happen in Our Game.

It’s about the all time ignominious list of Baseball Collapses.  The ’51 Dodgers.  The ’64 Phils.  The ’78 Red Sox.  The ’07 Mets.  And the 2011 Boston Red Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

Round up: Base Ball, Abe Lincoln, Johnny & The Sox

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 28, 2011

Damon and the Rays

Johnny Damon has got to be smiling.  The former Sox CF’er signed with New York instead of the Sox after the 2005 season.  He went to the highest bidder but the winning margin was thin.  The Sox could have topped Brian Cashman’s bid with just $3 million more over 4 years.  Questions abounded at the time.  Would the Sox regret losing their speedy, talented clubhouse leader?  Would Johnny really put on the pinstripes ?  Would he be booed at Fenway ?  Do I have to throw away my WWJD T Shirt ?  (What Would Johnny Do ?)  And my Johnny Caveman beard ?

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  And Yes.

Since leaving Boston, Johnny has won a ring in New York, played the wise and productive veteran in Detroit and produced for the Rays, who moved into first place in the Wild Card race last night.  All the while, Damon quietly builds on his career numbers.   2,720 hits, 231 homers, 1118 rbi, 404 stolen bases, 516 doubles.  He should get his 3,000th hit in September 2013 if he remains healthy.  If he stays out of the steroid discussion, he will go into the Hall.  The only 3,000 Hit Club Members not in the HOF are Pete Rose, Craig Biggio and Rafael “The Finger Wagerer” Palmeiro. 

Palmeiro and Biggio are suspected of usuing P.E.D.’s.

Rose is Rose.  Ineligible.

Damon will turn 38 on November 5.

Abe Lincoln’s grand daughter and the ballplayer

One finds baseball history in surprising places.

Little Lee & I were passing time with dear friends in the New England countryside this last weekend.  Abe Lincoln’s son, Robert, built a magnificent Mansion and grounds named Hildane in the postcard pretty village of Manchester, VT..  I opened a museum door in the Lincoln home and spied a cluster of 1900 era golf clubs, vintage snow shoes and 100 year old hockey sticks.  (Rumsden.)

“Was any vintage Baseball equipment left behind by the Lincolns?”, I asked the Curator.

“No,”, he demurred, “But Lincoln’s daughter Jessie married a Baseball player.  The marriage didn’t last.”

I wondered what kind of ballplayer married & divorced Abe’s granddaughter.

I dug into the archives.

The New York Times reported on 11/12/1897 that Jessie Harlan Lincoln Beckwith married Warren Wallace Beckwith in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The headline shouted. “  R.T. LINCOLN’S DAUGHTER WEDS; Marries an Iowa Man to Whom Her Parents Objected”.

 

In short, the couple met and fell in love when Beckwith’s family visited the Lincolns in Chicago.  Beckwith’s Father was a friend of Robert Lincoln. The Lincolns expressed their disapproval of the relationship and the matter was considered to be broken up.  But, Jessie and Warren set the gossip wheels in motion when they ran away and married.

Two days later, The Times reported on the character of Abe Lincoln’s grand son-in-law with this header:  BECKWITH A BASEBALL DUDE.; Hero of the Chicago Marriage Sensation Well Known in Dallas, Texas.

In paraphrase:  “Beckwith is well known in Dallas, having played for the Dallas team in the Texas League last year….He made a good professional record and was well behaved.” 

“Beckwith was popular not only with baseball patrons, but cut somewhat of a social figure over the circuit.  He was known among his associates as “The Dude” and “Lady Killer”.  He would never go into a game without first combing and brushing his hair flawlessly.  He always carried a pocket looking glass, and was in the habit of taking a look at himself just before starting from the clubhouse for the diamond.”

Somethings haven’t changed about ballplayers in a Century.

Jessie and Beckwith quietly divorced sometime between 1897 and 1900, the year a lawsuit exposed the secretive split.

Beckwith pitched for Aurora of the Western Interstate League in 1895, when Illinois was still considered to be Western by Baseball people.  Ban Johnson’s Chicago based league of the 1890’s, later to become the American League, was named The Western League.

In 1897, WWB played for the Denison-Sherman Twins, the Waco Tigers, Paris Midlands and the Dallas Steers of the Texas League.

In 1899 he played for the Sacramento Gilt Edges of the California League.

None of Beckwith’s individual records are listed on baseball-reference.com.  I may find them one day.

Although the Rail Splitter himself was known to swing a bat it is certain that the most advanced player in the extended family was old W.W. Beckwith.  A member of the extended family, that is, until Jessie and The Lady Killer went their separate ways.

Keep your daughters away from Ballplayers, friends.

Lackey’s contract

The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan spoke to the Rabbit Maranville Chapter of S.A.B.R. last night in Springfield, Mass.  Can the Sox recover from Lackey’s contract ?  Can Lackey recover from the personal difficulties that are currently effecting his pitching?  Ryan reacted to these questions.  “I don’t know.  What he is personally dealing with is terrible.  I liked the John Lackey that I saw pitch 4 shutout innings against New York on Sunday.  I’ve been watching him.  Trying to figure out what it is that he does well.  He makes the 1-6-3 double play well.  That he can do.  But what else?  I’m not sure.  He’s a pitch-to-contact pitcher.  When it works well, it’s great.  But that’s not the type of pitcher who might do well in the A.L. East.  They should have known that.”

Ryan is a magnetic speaker with razor sharp recall.  If you have a chance to hear him speak do not miss it.

Why I bought Yankee ALCS tickets.  Why I didn’t by BoSox ALDS tickets.

I couldn’t see spending 4 hours poured into a Fenway seat in the New England cold on a weekday night.  Prime time.  Great for TV advertising dollars, bad for every one else.  Especially old dudes like me.

Still, I am a Moron.

Only a moron could get excited about being tied for the Wild Card with 2 games to go.  But I’ve got butterflies.

Guilty.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

Moneyball: Smart & worth the wait.

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 24, 2011

My wife, Little Lee, spoke to me across the sheets & mattress as we made the bed the morning after seeing MONEYBALL.

“I enjoyed it.  I like Baseball movies.”, she said softly.

“There will be people who do not like it, Lee.  What about them ?  Why do you think they won’t like it ?”, I asked.

“They will say it was a movie about all that Baseball stuff, and to some people Baseball is boring.”  She paused.   “I like Baseball.  But I don’t like to sit and watch it.  It’s too slow.” 

MONEYBALL’S Director, Bennett Miller, isn’t a Baseball fan anymore.  He was a Yankee fan as a kid.  Perhaps he either moved away from Baseball to enjoy the instant gratification of some other sport, or to concentrate on his art.  Or girls.  Or pot.  Or whatever.  Point is, I ask you, could they not find a Baseball obsessed Director in these United States whose artistic gifts were equal to those of Miller?

MONEYBALL has its work cut out in terms of converting non-baseball fans into followers of what John Thorn refers reverentially to as Our Game.  And that will be true from New York to L.A..

This isn’t Jimmy Fallon charming the pants off Drew Barrymore in FEVER PITCH.

MONEYBALL is a cerebral movie.  And It excels at rendering the Michael Lewis book as film. 

As any Film As Literature college course may teach you, moving from book to video requires compression.  You must dramatize the story using half of the information due to time constraints.

MONEYBALL is top notch at telling this story.  Billy Beane, failed former high draft pick of the Mets is now the young GM at the small market Athletics.  After the 2001 season, the BoSox & Yankees raid the A’s via free agency, subtracting from Beane’s roster power, runs, speed and relief pitching.  Beane asks the owner for more budget to rebuild.  The answer is NO, and Beane puts into motion a plan to use Bill James’ SABRmetric analysis to uncover undervalued and undercompensated players.  Beane believes in this approach, in part, because he has no other choice, and because the other 29 MLB teams consider Bill James an oddity, a hoax, a laughable, chubby geek. 

Thus, 29 teams use archaic player selection criteria while Beane goes cutting edge.

Against much resistance, Beane wears down the old school thinkers around him on the A’s.  He must bully Art Howe, his manager, alienate his Scouts, and trade players to make it happen. 

In the heat of rebellion against him, Beane yells, I JUST DON”T GIVE A SHIT while fans call for his firing on talk radio.

That Cole Porter song is playing in my head.  They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round.  They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.

It’s a beautiful story about finding a new and better way to do things and overcome great opposition. 

Make sure you read the book first.  It will ground you a little bit in simple and fascinating measurements.

Here’s a good one you will find only in the book.  Scott Hatteberg is at the center of the story.  Art Howe didn’t want to use him.  Billy Beane did want to because Hatte had a high OBP.  James’ postulates that getting on base is more important than anything else when it comes to producing Runs.  Paul DePodesta and Beane run a computer program that plays out an entire season with Scott Hatteberg getting all the at bats for the A’s.  That digitized team of Hattebergs scores more runs than the real New York Yankees.  It’s in the book.  Not the film.

So read the book before you see the movie.  The background is enlightening.  You shouldn’t be disappointed with anything from the book that they left out of the movie. 

I give MONEYBALL an A+++.  And I am amazed that Hollywood made the film at all.

*****

Little Lee squirmed in her seat at the movie during the trailers, adjusting her posture to minimize the pain from a lower back strain with which she has been dealing.

“Lee, if you’re not OK, we can go.  I’ll ask for a refund.  We’ll see the movie another day.”  I had waited for months to see it.  But MONEYBALL wasn’t more important than my wife.

“No, that’s OK.”, she said, her brows arching over beautiful brown eyes.  “I like a smart film.”

So that’s what this is, I thought to myself.  A smart film.

That ought to kill it at the box office.  Brad Pitt or not.

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS | Leave a Comment »

What Will You Do in the Off Season ?

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 22, 2011

Big Papi's Body Langage says it all.

Well, the Sox gave away another one last night.  They could have gained 1.5 games vs. TB for the Wild Card but they blew a 4 – 1 lead.

Ho-hum.

The hopeful & forgiving part of my brain, the part that gives Jose Canseco the benefit of the doubt, the part that voted for O’Bama, the lobe that reluctantly acknowledges that Jeter and Cano are outstanding players, that part of my brain is looking past the end of the season and asking, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN THE SEASON ENDS NEXT WEEK ?

Well, I have been meaning to research a historical list of Baseball players with the most anatomical names.  Ed Head and Bill Hands to name two. And there are the lighthearted citations of Johnny Dickshot and Nippy Jones.

The list explodes when nicknames are mixed with proper surnames

Like Footsie Blair. Clay Barfoot.  Barry Foote.  Footer Johnson.  

Jerrod Head. Ralph Head.  Chase Headley.

Bird Eye Truby, Eyechart Mientkiewicz, Human Eyeball Lord, Eagle Eye Hemphill, Camera Eye Bishop.  Wagon Tongue Adams.

 

Iron Hands Sullivan, Handy Andy Pafko.  Brad Hand. Rich Hand.

 

 

There are 3 HOF’ers. Rollie Fingers, Three Finger Brown and Shufflefoot Boudreau.

 

Piano Legs Hickman, Piano Legs Gore.

 

Three Finger Newkirk.

 

Jim Hearty, of the 1894 San Fran Hot Peanuts.  What a cool name.

 

Derek Livernois.  Gary Tongue.

 

Ears Mossi.

And my personal favorite, Walt “No Neck” Williams.  The hustling little man on The 70’s ChiSox who well matched his nickname visually.

Who did I leave out ?

BACK TO UGLY REALITY

Even though the team has lost 6 in a row, 8 of 9, 13 of 15, and 18 of their last 26 games, the mission has not changed.  The Sox have got to put their best team on the field 6 more times.

The Probables haven’t been fully announced.  Here is what is on the team sites:

Fri, Sat, Sun at NYY:  Lester v TBD, Wake v TBD, TBD v TBD

Mon, Tue, Wed @ BAL: all TBD.

I expect they will start Beckett & Lester as per the norm in the final 2 BAL games.  That means they have to pick two guys to start on Sunday and Monday.  It’s a crap shoot.  Lackey and Miller are the worst of the remaining choices.  Bedard is a Box of Chocolates.  The rotation should round out as follows:

Fri  @ NYY  7:05    Lester vs. TBD.

Sat @ NYY  4:10    Wake vs. TBD.

Sun at NYY  1:05   Bedard vs. TBD

Mon @ BAL  7:05  Lackey vs. TBD 

 Tue @ BAL  7:05  Beckett vs. TBD

 Wed @ BAL: 7:05  Lester vs. TBD.

Lackey could swap days with Bedard but The Sox will probably see if an extra day of rest helps the most flawed starter on the team.  God only knows who Baltimore will start.  Now that the Yankees have clinched, expect them to rest CC, Nova and Colon.  Expect they will throw AJ at us this weekend with some minor leaguers, which is all in our favor, my fellow Sox fans.

I have never been and will never be a supporter of the New York Yankees.  But I must say something here.  After beating the hell out of Tampa this week, the Empire may further ingratiate themselves to Sox fans by starting poor pitchers and September call-ups all weekend against us.  In so doing, the Yankees may do more to help the Sox at season’s end then the Sox themselves are doing.

What a crazy flipping upside down year.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, Tampa Bay Rays | 1 Comment »

Distracted, Disgraced and Down

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 21, 2011

Do the Sox and Pedey have the will to win, as suggested by this week’s cover of Boston Baseball?

18 hours have passed since last night’s collapse and I am starting to regain my balance.

I feel like I was hit on the head with a wiffle ball bat, poked in the ribs, rolled over and fanny whacked.

18 hours ago Daniel Bard took a 1 run lead into the 8th inning vs. Baltimore and went Single – K – Single against 3 batters, followed  by Papelbon’s K-Single-Double against the next 3 guys.  4 hits in 6 AB’s for 3 runs scored and a blown lead.

And another lost game. 

On a night when Boston could have plumped their wildcard lead from 2 games to 3, the Sox got another poor start and a bullpen fire to boot.  Erik Bedard lasted only 2 2/3 IP, yielding 4 runs, 1 ER, 5 Hits, and 2 BB.  Bard and Pap’s 3 runs allowed was more than the O’s needed to win, 7 – 5.

The Sox had come back from a 4 run deficit and nursed a lead from the 5th to the 8th inning.  The team was perfectly set up to have Bard & Pap turn out the lights.  That’s what really hurts.  The longer this slide goes on, the more creative the Sox seem to be at finding a way to lose.

So, do the Sox and Pedey have the will to win ?

I’m thinking NOT.

If distraction is an indication of defeat, then they are already defeated.  Reddick dropped a routine liner which led to 4 unearned runs in the 3rd inning last night. 

That one distracted play could have foretold the outcome.  But the Reddick botch wasn’t sufficient.  The Bullpen came through and coughed up the victory.

If you think you are done, well, you are.  And you will find a way to lose.

So now the time comes to frame the September Slide in a historical context.

Where does a team that lost a 9 game Wild Card lead held on September 1 fit in among Baseball’s greatest collapses ?

The 1964 Phillies had a 6.5 game lead with 12 games left in the season.  They lost 10 in a row and finished tied for second.  That’s tough to top.

The 2007 Mets had a 7 game lead with 17 games remaining.  They lost 11 of 16, and finished in second by 1 game on the last day of the season when their ace, Tom Glavine, melted down.  They’ve been losing ever since.

The 1995 Angels led by 11.5 games on Aug. 9, then went 12-27 in their final 39 games ending in a tie with the Mariners.  Randy Johnson zotzed them 9 – 1, booting them onto the list of ignominy. 

My 1978 Red Sox led by 14 in July and still held a 7.5-game lead with 32 games remaining. They lost 14-of-17, then charged back with eight straight wins to force a 1 game playoff with the Yankees.  And then, Bucky Dent.

The 1951 Dodgers had a 13.5 game lead on Aug. 11.  They went a respectable 26-22 after that date, but the Giants won 37 out of their final 44 games, tying the Dodgers on the final day. The Giants won a 3 game playoff punctuated by the Shot Heard Round The World.

The 2011 Boston Red Sox were thought able enough to win 105 games by many with their loaded pitching staff, hardy hitters, and newly acquired studs.  They rebounded from a dreadful 2 W – 10 L start, captured first place and had a seemingly insurmountable 9 game lead in the Wild Card on Sept. 1.  Their starting pitching fell into a funk, the bullpen burst into flames, and the fielding errors were many  as the Sox lost 13 of 17 in September.  With the Wildcard lead down to 2 with 7 games left, their starting pitchers recorded an ERA of 8.97 as the Sox lost all 7 games by a combined score of 56 to 21.  Tampa took the Wild Card by 3 games.

I made that last part up.

And if it does happen, I’d put the 2011 Sox right there with the others mentioned above.  Maybe not the worst of the worst.  But definitely adrift somewhere between the others, feeling around in the dark for another win, unsure of how really bad they themselves are.

I should not watch the game tonight.  But I cannot look away.

Posted in BASEBALL, Dustin Pedroia, RED SOX | 2 Comments »

Sox Streaking, Stinking, Sinking

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 20, 2011

The Rays are playing loose.

 Red Sox fans do not give up until our boys are mathematically eliminated.  We give nothing.  Anything can happen in baseball.

I hope it happens soon.

The tenants of the Tampa Ray bullpen strode slowly from the dugout, tall and lean, chatting and taking long, relaxed strides in the sunshine.  Leading the parade were two rookies.  One carried a pink parasol in one hand, a matching pink suitcase in the other.  His colleague walked beside him, a girlish white boa adorning his neck.

It was a rookie hazing seen in progress.  These are the loosey-goosey Joe Maddon Rays.

What else should we expect from a Manager who has Pajama Day and Letterman Sweater Day ?  These are days in which the team dons the aforementioned thematic garb and poses for photos.  Go google “Tampa Ray Pajama Day”.  See what you get.  These guys are having fun.

The Rays are the opposite of my Sox, who are playing tight, making errors, swinging and missing under the pressure of a September with a 4 W – 13 L record.

I had a great field box seat for the Sept. 18 game.  It gave me a perfect view of Mike Aviles’ TWO errant throws from third base.  I had a clear line of sight for the knuckler that bounced off Salty’s shinguard on an uncaught strike 3, allowing that run to reach 1st base.  I saw to perfection Mr. Connor Jackson, who appears to be afraid of the Left Field wall, misplay a pop fly into a double.  Four men reached base in these fielding misadventures.  They all scored.  The Red Sox lost by 3 runs.  8 to 5.

There are many reasons why the Red Sox have lost 13 of their last 17 games, blowing a 9 game Wild Card lead and a small lead atop the Division —  since September 1. 

There’s been an absence of hitting in critical situations.  The middle relievers have performed poorly.  Fielding is going down the chute.

But how about the most important performers of all, i.e., the Starting Pitchers ?

Here is how each starter has fared in the 17 game slide.

Josh Beckett:  Made 2 starts.  Sox won 1.  2 Quality Starts.  1.86 ERA.  Give him a A+.

Jon Lester:  Made 4 starts.  Sox won 1.  Made 3 Quality Starts.  3.52 ERA.  His grade is a B+.

Erik Bedard: Made 1 start.  Sox won it.  Made 1 Quality Start.  4.50 ERA.  Grade him a solid B.

John Lackey:  Made 3 starts.  Sox won 0.  Made 0 Quality Starts.  8.79 ERA.  Give him an F.

Andrew Miller:  Made 2 starts.  Sox won 0.  Made 0 Quality Starts.  15.71 ERA.   F minus-minus.

Tim Wakefield:  Made 3 starts.  Sox won 1.  Made 1 Quality Start.  6.19 ERA.  A D performance.

Kyle Weiland:  Made 2 starts.  Sox won 0.  Made 0 Quality Starts.  9.00 ERA.  He gets an F.

Thus, Sox starters gave the team a chance to win in only 7 of 17 starts.  Never mind the bullpen.  Forget that Daniel Bard coughed up 3 leads and lost 3 games in 7 days.   Or that Matt Albers brought his little gasoline can to the mound with a 9.44 ERA in this slide.  Before we blame the relievers, a starting rotation made of Beckett, Lester, and a few pretenders is shooting the Sox in the foot.

Miller, Weiland and Lackey’s performances have been an abomination, but it is Shellackey that elicits the upchuck reflex. 

Money isn’t supposed to matter.  I don’t get hung up on salaries.  But in John’s case, the money is making a difference.  Theo signed him to a 5-year, $79.5 Million deal.  He is making $15 Million in 2011, the same sum he will be paid in 2012, 2013 and 2014. 

Nice job, Theo.  You’ve given us two World Championships but only one successful big fish free agent signing (Curt Schilling) in 9 years on the job. 

To underscore the point, at this moment John Lackey has left his start today vs. Baltimore after just 4.1 IP.   He allowed 8 Earned Runs.  The Sox may yet win this game.   They lead 18 to 9 through 8 innings.   But if they win, it will be not at all due to the most overpaid and underperforming man on the 2011 Red Sox roster.

The game on Sunday was mostly devoid of fan energy and noise.  There were a few feisty moments, such as when Wake became the first pitcher ever to throw 3,000 innings for the Beantown 9.

Such highlights did not alter the mood.

The radio broadcasters hit the note repeatedly.  “This crowd is nervous.  Worried.  I’ve never seen a Fenway crowd like this one.”, said Dave O’Brien.

The fans are as tight as the team.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX, Tampa Bay Rays | 1 Comment »

Headin’ Home with The Babe

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 13, 2011

Gotta get one bugaboo about Babe Ruth out of the way right now.

There is one point in this 1920 silent film when Babe is seated at dinner with his Mom and little sister, Pig Tails.  To paraphrase the next frame, “Babe came home every night because in Haverlock there wasn’t anything else to do.”  (Haverlock is his fictitious hometown)

After reading an adult history of the Bambino, it’s hard to imagine the real George Herman Ruth coming home at all.

The Captain of the Cathouses, the Pasha of Putytang, the Amir of Alcohol, the Sultan of Swat, Sweat & Suds……cast in a sanitized role ?

That is like casting Jose Canseco as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind.  See the Southern Gentleman with boa constrictor, recreational drugs on the night table, with mirrors over the bed in his Plantation House.

If you don’t understand, please read Leigh Montville’s The Big Bam and Jessica Canseco’s Juicy as soon as possible.

OK, then.  Babe as the Country Innocent stopped me in my tracks.  Just sayin’.

This movie depicts Babe’s rise from small town loser to major league slugger.  The youngster has few social skills.   But his golden heart is devoted to his family, pets and overall good behavior.  Now, this isn’t a narrative about the Bambino.  It’s entirely fictitious.  The Yankees are never mentioned, nor the Sox, nor Baltimore, nor Brother Mathias nor anything else relating to the real Babe.  It’s just Babe playing a Bumpkin who happens to be named Babe, who happens to hit baseballs so far he ends up playing in the Polo Grounds.

SABR folk and baseball historians will feel rewarded with a screening of Headin’ Home.  Babe was 25 when this flick was released.  He looks every bit of the 6’ 2” 215 pound he is listed at on baseball-reference.com.  This was the year that Ruth registered a .376 B.A., 54 HR and 137 RBI.  He walked 150 times.  He scored 158 runs.  He registered a 1.379 OPS, the highest of his career.  And he did it all in 142 games.   He is tall, broad shouldered, slim waisted and barrel chested.

The shots of the Polo Grounds are brief but inspiring.  Deadball era dudes with straw skimmers fill the ornate boxes that front the upper deck. The crowd is wild.  The long gone skyline of Coogan’s Bluff looms.  The teams walk to the clubhouse in Centerfield after Babe’s dinger, verifying they are where you thought they were.  Clubhouses in Center.

The plot is maple syrup.  Babe lives with Maw and Pigtails and their pup in Haverlock.  Si Tobin, local tycoon, has a wayward son and a beautiful daughter that Babe would like to court if he only could find the words.  A huckster comes to town and weasels his way onto the Haverlock baseball team and into the heart of Si’s beautiful daughter.  The huckster blocks Babe from a roster spot on the Haverlock 9.  Ruth suits up for the opposing team, smacks a home run that travels 7 blocks, and is signed to a big league contract.  But before he reports to the MLB, Ruth breaks the Huckster’s spell over Si’s daughter and returns the wayward son to his home.  Next, we jump cut to the Babe smashing a walk-off grand slam in the Polo Grounds.  He has made good as a Big Leaguer. And he has saved the family pooch from the dog catcher in the process.

The Piano work is masterful.  The film is remarkably intact.

By the end of this hokey film the question is just how big a celebrity was the Babe that this film was produced even before he transformed the Big Apple into a perennial Champion?

The answer:  He was already huge.

On Jan. 6, the sale of Ruth was reported in the papers, which detailed that Babe had declined a 3-year, $10,000 per year contract with the Sox, insisting on twice that much.

By mid-July, he surpassed his MLB record of 29 HR’s in a season and the idea of Ruth hitting 50 HR’s was electrifying. 

The Aug. 15, 1920 edition of The Hartford Courant asked, “Will Babe Ruth’s Home Run Record Compare With Those of Old-Time Diamond Stars?”.

The film debuted on Sept. 19, 1920 — 10 days before the 1920 season ended.  Thus, the movie was shot during Ruth’s record breaking season. 

Not unlike how the Beatles made A Hard Day’s Night and released it the same year they made their conquest of America & the World.  (1964)

That’s how big the Babe was.  Beatles big.  John-Paul-George-And-Ringo Big.

He will never again wear the scrubbed down halo of the chaste hero, but there is no denying he was a top pop icon by the time he left Boston.  So the film attests.

REEL BASEBALL:  1899 to 1926.  Featuring Headin’ Home starring Babe Ruth.  Available for under $15.00 all over the internet.

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