At home at fenway

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

Archive for March, 2012

Gary Carter, a dream fulfilled

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 22, 2012

 

You really shouldn’t mess with Ray Knight.  At 6 ft 1” and 185 wiry strong pounds, the former gold glove boxer had a fast and stunning jab.  On July 22, 1986 in the 10th inning at Riverfront Stadium, that is exactly what Eric Davis did.  Davis stole third and laid on top of the Mets third baseman.  As they separated, Ray popped Davis on the chin.  Chaos ensued.  The dugouts and bullpens emptied.  Catcher Gary Carter pinned Davis to the ground as shouts and threats poured from the Reds outfielder.  After a 10 minute delay things settled down.  Knight, Davis and Mets outfielder Kevin Mitchell were ejected.

 

 

 

The score was tied.  The Mets were out of 3rd basemen and back-up outfielders.  Manager Davey Johnson placed Gary Carter at 3rd base, where he had not played since sandlot days.  Johnson sent lefty reliever Jesse Orosco to the outfield.  He placed righty reliever Roger McDowell on the mound.  For the next 5 innings, Johnson shuffled Orosco and McDowell back and forth from the mound to the outfield depending on who was hitting.  Meanwhile, Gary Carter had the time of his life playing 3rd base as the Mets won it with 3 runs in the 14th.

 

 

 

Carter gleefully embraced that chance to play 3rd.  He grabbed a fielder’s glove, whipped off his catchers gear and thought, “This is great !  I get to play Brooks Robinson’s position.”

 

 

 

That was how Mr. Carter approached life.  All of it.

 

 

 

A Dream Season.  Gary Carter with John Hough.  Harcourt Brace.  1987.

 

 

 

Dream Season is the story of a dream fulfilled.  Gary Carter grew up in Fullerton, California, playing wiffle ball with his older brother, Gordy, in back of their home.  He spent a lot of time standing at the plate, dreaming he was Mickey Mantle. 

 

 

 

World Series.  2 outs. 2 men on.  Bottom of the 9th.   Team down by 2.

 

 

 

He spent a lot of time thinking about Ernie Banks.  19 MLB seasons.  512 homeruns.  Two time MVP.  He thought of how Ernie Banks never played in a World Series.

 

 

 

Young Carter would give anything to play in a World Series, he thought.

 

 

 

After being drafted and signed by the Expos in 1973, Carter progressed through 3 minor league seasons and landed in Montreal.  There he established himself as an All Star catcher with a big smile and a knack for hitting with men on base.

 

Clubhouse haters were jealous of Carter’s popularity.  The Hawk, HOF’er Andre Dawson, kept his distance.  Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, among others, mocked the catcher.

 

Carter earned numerous accolades & achievements while an Expo, including 7 All Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, 1 RBI title, 2 All Star Game MVP awards, and 5 times garnering NL MVP votes.

 

 

 

Team owner Charles Bronfman resented his All Star catcher.  Expos President John McHale had talked Bronfman into signing Carter for $14 million over 7 years in February of 1982 to preclude Carter from leaving via free agency.

 

 

 

$2 Million may be what a mediocre reliever earns today but it was top dollar in 1982.  Only Dave Winfield and George Foster were pulling down $2 Mill at that time.

 

 

 

Bronfman was dissatisfied with Carter.  He hit well, averaging .285 B.A., with 24 or more homers and 94 RBI from 1982 to 1984.  Bronfman wanted more. 

 

 

 

LA Times columnist Jim Murray wrote, “What does Gary Carter have to do to be appreciated ?  If he were to save an infant from a burning building, the mother would ask, Where is my kid’s hat ?”.

 

 

 

Bronfman wanted Carter to lead the Expos to the World Series. It didn’t happen. In successive years after the contract signing, the Expos finished third, third and fifth.

 

 

 

On Dec. 10, 1984, the Expos sent Carter to the Mets for four players including Hubie Brooks.

 

 

 

The Expos finished no better than third for the 7 seasons that followed.

 

 

 

The book details his days as an Expo, the departure from the dysfunctional Montreal locker room and the arrival in the nirvana of the Mets organization, studded with young hitting and pitching stars.

 

 

 

Carter takes us through the championship season, one of the last years before the widespread tainting of MLB by performance enhancing drug use.  It’s a story from a slightly more innocent time, told to us by a God fearing family man.

 

 

 

Carter captures the demise of the 1986 Boston Red Sox in great clarity.  Some golden nuggets:

 

 

 

The guilt of the monumental “passed ball” in Game 6 is placed on Rich Gedman’s shoulders.  The pitch was wild but it was obvious exactly where that ball was headed.  It was a catchable ball.  That is why Wilson, the batter, was able to get out of its way. 

 

 

 

Carter repeatedly calls Marty Barrett “a little pest.”  Barrett earned the sobriquet.  He batted .433 in the 2-hole between Boggs and Buckner.

 

 

 

Bruce Hurst did not live up to Bob Ojeda’s scouting report as “soft”.  Carter said that Hurst could pitch in any league.  He was super.

 

 

 

Calvin Schiradi had been the stopper in the Sox bullpen all year.  But Calvin’s former team mates on the Mets knew they could hit Cal.  They did, hanging 2 losses and a 13.50 ERA on him in the Series.  Schiraldi’s failures were the key to the World Series defeat.

 

 

 

Interestingly, Carter cites Mookie Wilson’s desire and positive energy as a reason that the ball slipped between Buckner’s legs.  Wilson played all out as a sub in 1986 after having lost his starting job in the outfield.  When Wilson weakly hit a Bob Stanley pitch up the line in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6, he busted to 1st base with everything he had.  Wilson’s speed was on Buckner’s mind when he took his eye off the ball for a micro-second, at exactly the wrong time, according to Carter.  It made all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter closes this book by recognizing that he had reached the World Series, his promised land, and that he would not end up as Ernie Banks did.  He thanked Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

With the passing of Gary Carter on Feb. 16 came multitudes of praise for a decent, wholesome, fun loving man, a man who loved his wife, Sandy, and children.  There is nothing in this 25 year old book to make you think otherwise.  He takes his shots in a fair manner and keeps this very interesting book positive.

 

 

 

There’s no better time to pick this book up for a read.  It helps to put Gary’s life, now complete, in perspective.  And helps us do the same with our own.

 

 

 

Go Sox.

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Posted in BASEBALL BOOKS, New York Mets | Leave a Comment »

Calhoun should depart with dignity — in 2014.

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 17, 2012

I’m writing this before I read anything about Thursday night’s disturbing game in which Iowa State bounced UConn from the NCAA first round, 77 – 64. 

 

The Huskies looked unnerved and poorly coached.  Andre Drummond showed that he has no clue about offense after spending a full year under his Hall of Fame Coach.  Alex Oriaki was out-of-synch when he got near a rebound or his own basket.  Jeremy Lamb stayed in his shell for 25 minutes, waiting for someone else to step up and be the best Husky on the floor.

 

Ultimately, the poor performance is Calhoun’s problem, not the players.

 

Connecticut is out of the Big Dance and standing at a crossroads with Jim Calhoun.

 

Should he stay or should he go ?  Left to his own devices, Jim will never leave.  The ego is too big.  Jim seems unconcerned with making a classy exit.

 

When Dean Smith retired from UNC in 1997 he left with dignity – and 2 National titles, 11 Final Fours and a record 879 victories.  He produced NBA stars, D1 Coaches, good students, and Michael Jordan.  Smith was 66 years old at the time.  He left with a squeaky clean reputation.

 

There are similarities between the accomplishments of Dean and Jim.

 

Jim will be 70 years old on May 10.  He has 866 career Div 1 victories.  His UConn dossier includes 3 National Titles, 1 NIT Title, 4 Final Fours, 27 NBA players, and 4 D-1 Head Coaches.

 

Jim has had some academically talented students.  There was Kemba Walker and Emeka Okafor.  But Jim isn’t squeaky clean on grades & recruiting like Dean Smith.

 

Jim is responsible for failing to comply with NCAA regulations.  Eleven months ago, Calhoun received a 3 game suspension and UConn was placed on a 2-year probation.  The team forfeited one scholarship.  These punishments were for recruiting violations and for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance.    

 

Jim has also for several years brought in academically challenged student-athletes who lowered UConn’s graduation rate. As a result, it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that UConn will be banned from the 2013 N.C.A.A. Tournament.  Calhoun is ultimately responsible for accepting these ball players.

 

Given that, it is a little creepy to think about how Jim has defended the low graduation rate at UConn by referring to some non matriculating players as having “graduated to the N.B.A.”.

 

There is a dull odor of arrogance in that comment.

 

There are some real pros and cons to Jim staying.

 

If he leaves now he will damage the University’s recruiting capabilities.  Taking away the N.C.A.A. Tournament AND the lure of being coached by a Hall of Famer is a double whammy.

 

But, if he leaves now the wheels will be set in motion to build the program under a new Coach. 

 

If he stays, he can steer the ship away from the rocks and make ready for his successor.

 

 

And, if Jim stays he will be a constant reminder of the 2012 banishment that 3.5 Million Connecticut residents will endure next year.

 

Making matters worse, Husky Nation will likely see Lamb and Drummond leave in the NBA Draft.  Next year could get ugly.

 

My vote is to keep Jim in the job for two more years.  Let him clean up the program and make the violations and academics a distant memory.  Give him a chance to depart with dignity and in the manner of Dean Smith.

 

In the long run, it is best to get the transition going.  Thursday night Calhoun had a bunch of kids on the floor who (except for Shabazz Napier) did not want the ball in crunch time.  Napier, and Walker before him, are exceptions.   The last 6 years have seen a steady parade of Huskies that did not learn, improve, work together or step up.

 

Jim’s lost something off his fastball.  For sure.

 

 

 

Posted in UCONN | Leave a Comment »

10 things to make a Sox fan smile

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 14, 2012

View from inside Green Monster at Jet Blue.

1.  Last year Donald Trump tweeted that A Rod is “an average player now that he is unable to use drugs.”  2 days ago, Trump compared singer Debby Gibson to Derek Jeter and then said, “We love Derek.  That’s not an A Rod statement.  It’s a Derek statement.”  Another slap.

2.  Yankee set up man David Robertson was diagnosed with a sprained foot after slipping on a step while emptying a box in the recycling can outside his home. His Opening Day is in jeopardy. The NY Daily News reports that the Yankees are alarmed.  Love it.

3.  Lawrence McCutchen, Buc centerfielder, wore #25 before veteran A.J. Burnett arrived in the Steel City.  McCutchen told A.J. he could have his old numerals if he agreed to pay a fee of $500,000.  Turns out the financially shrewd Pirate was just starting high so that Burnett could feel good about working him down.  The 2 players settled on a $20,000 payment.  In what major field is McCutchen’s college degree from Oklahoma, you ask ?  Why, a B.S. in Economics, of course.

4.  Felix Doubront has just completed a sterling outing against the Yankees in Tampa as I write this.  The lefty went 4 innings, yielding 2 hits and 0 runs. He faced only 14 batters to secure 12 outs.  This guy is going to contribute.

5.  The Red Sox will be a lot harder to hate in 2012 according to the Wall Street Journal.  The primary reason for this is that “goofy, slow, arrogant”, and yes, “excellent”, Jonathan Papelbon is now a Phillie, and has been replaced by “a pair of genial, vanilla New Yorkers.” i.e.,  Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon.  Perhaps the WSJ is forgetting that Yaz and Rico were both mild mannered New Yorkers that thrived in Boston in an era when the 5 Boroughs lacked no bellicosity for the Sox.

6.  The two jamokes broadcasting tonight’s Yankee – Red Sox game from Tampa on YES just said that Pete Rose had 33 triples for the minor league Tampa Tarpons in 1962 or 1963.  Pretty close.  Charlie Hustle had 30 triples for the Class D Tarpons, batting .330 and leading his team to the best record in the Florida State League in 1961.  The Manager of that team ?  Double no-no man, Johnny Vandermeer.

7.  Clay Buchholz spoke with self-confidence to Ron Chimelis of the Springfield Republican after pitching 4 scoreless innings on Sunday.  He said he knew early in spring training that he would “…be ready to throw with maximum effort in game situations.”  The lower back stress fracture is a thing of the past.

8.  Tom Caron explained on NESN.com that Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Gonzales are all each capable of winning the 2012 AL MVP.  Moreover, Caron said, “I do expect Adrian Gonzales to have an even bigger year this year.”  Seriously, Tom ?  Better than  2011, when he posted .338, 27, 113, and a league-best 213 hits ?    I’ll have whatever Tom is drinking.

9.  The Globe’s Pete Abraham predicts that these 5 Sox will be on the D.L. on opening day:  Carl Crawford, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey and Dice K Matsuzaka.  Crawford won’t be out for long.  And MLB.com’s Ian Brown reports that Dice K threw free and easy on Saturday.  The Interminable One may be back earning his pay before Hill, Jenks and definitely before John Shell Lackey.

10.  WEEI’s Gerry Callahan took credit this morning for the installation of 258 seats inside the Green Monster at Jet Blue Park in Fort Meyers.  The self-absorbed Callahan explained how the idea to create those seats was derived by Larry Lucchino from a conversation Callahan had years earlier with the BoSox President.  I guess you have to have a healthy ego to be the unerring airborne voice of authority in Boston.  Crazy Callahan.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, yankees | Leave a Comment »

Bob Welch: In search of a better life

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 12, 2012

Glorious things come to mind when thinking of Bob Welch, the right handed power pitcher with a 211 – 146 record & 3.47 ERA over 17 years.  He is the last major leaguer to win 27 games.  He pitched in 4 World Series, earning rings in ’81 and ’89.

Welch is the winner of the 1990 Cy Young, trumping Roger Clemens even though his E.R.A. was 2.95 and Roger’s was 1.93.

As a Dodger he played with Garvey, Baker, Sutcliffe and Fernando.  As an Athletic he teamed with Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Ricky and Jose.

As a 21 year old, he struck out Reggie Jackson in the ’78 Series.

I did not used to think of Bob Welch as a former alcoholic who was on a sure fire path to an early death. Doomed until Fred Claire and Tommy LaSorda intervened.

Reading this book changed that perception.

Five O’Clock Comes Early.  A Cy Young Award Winner Recounts His Greatest Victory.  Bob Welch and George Vecsey.  (1982).  1991/Fireside edition.

“Of course, the Welches are a drinking family.”, writes Welch.

The Welches lived in Ferndale, MI and sent Bob to Hazel Park High School.   His family came from Paducah, KY.  They were driven by the Great Depression and WWII employment opportunities in the Motor City.

The Welches came north in search of a better life.

“Of course, the Welches are a drinking family.”

He remembers talking his first drinks at age 10 at a wedding, when he and a cousin guzzled down abandoned 7 & 7’s.

He got drunk for the first time at age 15, when he chugged a bottle of Mogen David before attending a football game with a bunch of friends who each slugged down a bottle of pre-game booze.

“Some of the other kids couldn’t keep it down…I was a good drinker.  I could guzzle down a lot of beer, too, more than most guys.”

“Pot or cocaine made me jump around, want to eat, want to go to sleep…I liked depressants and I liked the feeling of getting drunk…You could sit in a bar all night and drink and tell stories and laugh your ass off.”

Young Welch’s daily passion for drinking became a daily habit early on.  He suffered from frequent black outs, not remembering his verbal abuse of family, friends and strangers, or his physical destruction of property, or the embarrassing scenes in restaurants.

By the time he reached the major leagues he was lost; a 21 year old reliever for Tom LaSorda’s Dodgers, drinking beer during games and kicking in hotel doors at night.

Welch was set up to fail.  He grew up in a drinking home.  His habit grew unchecked until he was on the path of self-destruction.

The search for a better life is Mr. Welch’s journey.

Hazel Park kids were tough.  They were greatly competitive in sports, and equally competitive when chasing women, drinking beer or playing pool.  After a game, Hazel Park folk head for the Rainbow Bar to trade insults, cuss up a storm, eat pizza, and buy a round.  “And drink some of those beers just to show I was one of the guys.”, says Welch.

Raised on Howard, Giff and Dandy, bred on McLain, Kaline, Harwell and Lolich, Bob Welch was equal parts Detroit fan and local sports star.

It wasn’t all about baseball, though.

He loved to shoot the basketball.  He was so confident that he sought games against black players in the city.  He won the Detroit City P.A.L. Championship while moonlighting on the West Side Cubs.

He was unable to sit still.

He was an often injured kid.  By the time he was 8, he broke his arm, fractured his collar bone and took 10 stitches in the head in 3 separate instances.  Parrot fever threatening his life at age 11, causing a 39 day hospital stay and requiring Bob to wear drainage tubes in his ears for 1 year. 

His injuries persisted until his sophomore year in college, when he tore up his knee and committed to stop taking risks with his body.

“I thought the scouts were interested and I got it in my mind to be the next Mickey Lolich.  I kept waiting for the Tigers to draft me.”

But, the Cubs took him in the 14th round of the 1974 draft and offered $5,000.  “…hell, I could have cleared 5 grand selling marijuana in the neighborhood.”, wrote Bob.

Welch chose college instead of the Cubs.  Many schools wanted him, but Eastern Michigan State’s Ron Oestrike and Roger Coryell cared the most about him.

Welch drank his way through EMU.  He drank right through freshman and sophomore years and into the subsequent off season when he toured Japan with a college all star team coached by the famed Ron Dedeaux of U.S.C..

“You’ve got to stop drinking.  You act just like an alcoholic when you’ve had a drink.”, Deadeaux told him.

That was the first time anyone had confronted him about his drinking.  He denied and deflected Dedeaux.  But he never forgot what the Coach said.

As a junior, Welch progressed well toward the June draft until his elbow exploded.  Surgery was required.  As he rehabbed, most of the scouts disappeared.  All of them except for the Dodgers’ Dale McReynolds, that is.  McReynolds kept showing up. He liked what he saw. 

He was picked by the Dodgers in the 1st round of the 1977 Draft.  The team flew Welch to L.A..  They wined him, dined him and had Dr. Frank Jobe examine him. They suited him up for a tossing session at Dodger Stadium.

Welch remembers Dodgers Stadium being so bright and clean that day that you could eat off the floors.  (A striking contrast to the dirty, run down park operated now by Frank McCourt.)

Nobe Kawano gave him a uniform.  He dressed silently near Don Sutton, Tommy John and Davey Lopes.

The Dodger brass watched Welch throw in the bullpen.  “…and I knew I had some really nasty shit.”

His agent, Bob Fenton arranged a $55,000 signing bonus and off to AA San Antonio went Welch.

After striking out many and walking few in the minors, LaSorda called up Welch.  He debuted on June 12, 1978.  He was still 21 years old.

Lasorda used him in relief 10 times.  He started Welch in 13 games.  The pride of Hazel Park went 7 – 2, with a 2.02 ERA and 3 saves.  Welch did not deliver an overall good performance in the World Series, but he did have his star moment when striking out Reggie.

Welch would contribute in relief and as a starter in 1979, too, going 5 – 6, 3.98 with 5 saves.  But he was displaying risky behavior.  He learned that he could slip into the dugout during the game and down a can of beer before anyone noticed he was gone, or so he thought.  In addition to getting a buzz-on during games, he showed up for games hammered.  Team mate Rick Sutcliffe sobered him up more than once. 

Bob was getting drunk every day.  He was drunk as soon as he had one drink.  He frequently stayed up all night drinking.

None of this was new.  Bob had been acting this way since college.  No one except Rod Dedeaux had said anything to him about it.

That changed in January of 1980 when the Dodgers arranged an intervention.

The rest of the story is about how Welch stopped drinking and faced his fears during an extended stay at an Arizona rehab facility.

Hats off to LaSorda and Claire for making Welch the first participant in a newly established alcohol treatment program with The Dodgers.  They saved his life.  He owes the last 15 years of his baseball career and everything else to them.

You’ll find the balance of the book honest, ugly and renewing.  If you have a friend you suspect is an alcoholic this book is of special value.  You’ll learn there are 20 questions.  If you answer yes to 3 of them, you are an alcoholic. 

Baseball is life.  Baseball is about so much more than just baseball.

Choose your cliché.

This is one book that proves it.

This book is the story of how Bob Welch found a better life.

Go Sox !

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS | 2 Comments »

Our New England Basketball Weekend

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 9, 2012

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Everybody loves Cinderella in March.  I spent much of my weekend with several of them.

My boss encourages me to mingle at events where business folk congregate.   I grabbed a ticket to the Hartford CVB’s Big East Women’s Tournament networking event on Friday.  For $20, I received entry into a coffe & cookies networking half-hour, a ticket to the 1st round of the Big East Tournament, and lunch.  After making some new friends and scarfing a dog and diet pepsi, 30 of us watched the #12 Syracuse Women throw down the #13 Lady Friars of Providence, 57 – 47.  This was a game of big girls bumping and knocking each other, denying the drive, denying the shot.  Sitting 2 rows from the court, the first thing I saw was  Friar forward Teya Wright get pushed to the ground going for a rebound.  No problem.  Teya picked herself up and ran to the other end like nothing happened.  As Syracuse Head Coach Quentin Hillsman said, “Either you are going to play hard and fight or you are going to lie down and go home, and they fought hard.”

By the time the weekend was over, I had attended a total of 3 different Division I conference tournaments and in every case the advance-or-go-home pulse of March basketball was beating.

On Sunday, after the spiritually cleansing laundry duty and more physical labor, i.e., setting up a new mattresses, I drove to the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA, Naismith’s town.  There I saw the 7th session of the MAAC Men’s Tournament.  Iona, the 1 seed. and winner 8 of 9, faced the 4-seed, Fairfield.  The Gaels had defeated the Stags twice earlier in the season.  This game should have just been a preliminary to next week’s final against #2 Loyola.

Without a UConn dawg in the fight, my baseline interest level was mild.  My interest spiked when Ryan Olander, brother of Tyler Olander, was announced as a Fairfield starters.

Ryan O. beat Tyler O. on Dec. 22 in head-to-head competition at the XL Center.  UConn downed Fairfield, 79 – 71, but Ryan’s 8 pts, 8 rebounds and 2 steals bested Ty’s 2 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.

That day, UConn dodged a Fairfield bullet while being outscored in the second half 45 – 33.  The Huskies were lucky to play poorly and win that day.

That day, Ryan was the 4th best Stag after Desmond Wade, Eric Needham and especially after blue chipper Rakim Sanders.

But, on this fine Sunday at the MAAC tournament, junior Colin Nickerson hit big the shots and big 3’s to rate as the top Stag.

This up-and-down game featured hot trips, great passing, pressing defense.  This was an in-your-face physical battle.

It was mostly Iona’s game until the 6:00 minute mark of the second half.

Iona’s Scott Machado and Mike Glover had their way until they lost their legs.  Machado scored 24 and Glover 19.  But when sophomore forward Keith Matthews hit a jumper for Fairfield with 8:41 in the game, the Stags grabbed their first lead of the second half, 61 – 60.  And that is when Iona began to show fatigue.  Notably, a wasted Mike Glover missed 7 out of 10 free throws in the last 7:52 of the game.  The Gaels tied it briefly at 61 – 61, but they never led again.  Fairfield stood steady while Iona crumbled, 85 – 75 the final score.

Joy, mirth, color, bedlam and music. Cheerleaders.  Pep band pumping.  Down goes #1.  Down goes the Gaels.  Stags win.  Stags win !

Part II of my Triple Tournament Weekend had concluded.

Two-and-a-half hours later, Little Lee and I made our way up to the VIP seats at the Chase Arena at the University of Hartford.  Below us, #1 seed Stony Brook was tied 55 – 55 with the Albany Great Danes, and 5 seconds left on the clock.  This was the first game in the semi-final round of the America East Conference Tournament.

We entered the half-filled 4,000 seat gym during a time out.  The noise level was deafening.  The game restarted.  The ball was in-bounded.  Stony Brook missed a jumper.  Sea Wolf forward Dallis Joyner flipped in the rebound as time expired.

Crowd explodes.  The court is stormed.  Cheerleaders.  Pep Band pumping.  The gym is rocking.  It’s the experience desired from any level of March Madness, Division I, II  or III.

Sea Wolves move onto to the Tournament Final next week.

Little Lee and I looked at each other, speaking no words, but recognizing the amazing event we had seen transpire.  Our entertainment expectations were exceeded in the first minute we were there.

Little Lee is my preferred partner in Basketball, as she also is in almost anything.  Theatre.  Movies.  Dining.  Cooking.  Drinking Wine.  Reading.  Playing Golf.

Little Lee is a College Basketball Queen.  As a former cheerleader, she understands the game from having watched it from up close while at 25 games a year.  As a UConn Mens Fan, she has passion and volubility; her Husky T shirt appropriately says “TRUE BLUE”.

Even better, her record with winning office pools is tip top.  She has won the March Madness picking three times and finished 2nd once in the last 6 years.

She loves the Madness.

I and my favorite companion sipped red wine and watched the #2 Vermont Catamounts tangle with the #4 Hartford Hawks in the second semi-final of the night.  Little was expected out of Hartford, owners of a 9 – 22 record.  But this match featured 26 ties and 11 lead changes.   The largest lead by either team was 4 points.  Hawk star guard Andres Torres fouled out after scoring the points in regulation to force overtime.  The game was in doubt until there were 12 seconds ticked away.  Hartford fell to Vermont in double overtime by a score of 77 – 73.

Our cup runneth over.

We chose to step out of the Big East Mens hullabaloo and saw terrific D I basketball right in our own backyard.

Fantastic.

Never, never again ignore the College Tournament Basketball in our Connecticut/Western Mass home.

Make a note.  Put it in your CAL for ’13.

See you at the games.

Posted in Basketball | Leave a Comment »

Varitek: All Time Leader in Respect

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 2, 2012

Jason Varitek hung it up 16 days after Tim Wakefield.  The only team that would want this pair was no longer interested in either player. 

After 3 years of not hitting in the clutch and not throwing runners out, Tek was toast.

I will never forget how Matt Garza threw it by the old catcher in game 3 of the 2008 ALCS.  The Spitting Man struck out Tek with one down and runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Jason was by then either too banged up or too weathered to have sufficient bat speed any longer.  Those of us present at Fenway saw it so, so clearly.

One of my friends can cite the day, dates, opponents and sequence of events for every game in which ‘Tek came up big.  Guys like Mark Kantor of S.A.B.R.  The details are burned into their memories.

I’ll remember ‘Tek for select accomplishments.

Like for surpassing Ray Schalk’s all time record for catching the most no-hitters by different pitchers. Tek’s record is four – Lowe, Nomo, Lester & Buchholz.    He did not secure a fifth one only because Curt Schilling shook off ‘Tek with two out in the bottom of the 9th on June 7, 2007.  After the shake, the A’s Shannon Stewart singled to right.  Then Mark Ellis popped up to make the 27th & final out.  Sox win 1-0 on a 1-hitter.

Had he called a 5th no-no from a 5th pitcher, a HOF argument would have gained momentum.

I’ll remember Tek for being a team player on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cable show, a special Red Sox edition episode.  With pregnant ex-wife Karen skooched from the room, Tek quietly allowed himself to be waxed, groomed and dressed by the Fab Five as Carson drooled over Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar pronounced himself a big gay dude after the team transformation was complete.

I’ll remember standing on the 2nd floor walkway in right field at Fenway, the one between Bleacher 43 and Grandstand 1, on July 24, 2004, watching Sox and Yankee relievers jump over the bullpen wall and run to the diamond where Tek was giving A-Rod a leather facial and a wrestling move.

I’ll remember the May, 1995 episode of Talking Baseball with Ed Randall in which 23-year old, buzz-cut, jowly cheeked Tek explained that he still refused to sign with the Mariners after the June ’94 Draft because they offered a bonus that was $800,000 less than what his draft peers were offered.  He explained that he was staying strong, working out and not worrying about anything that was beyond his control.  (See it now on streaming Netflix.)

I’ll remember Tek leaping into Papelbon’s arms after catching swinging strike 3 for the last out of the 2007 World Series.

I’ll remember Tek for not drawing criticism in his 15 Boston playing years.  Fans loved him and felt nothing but sorrow when his skills declined.  Ambush-prone radio talk show hosts let him be because they couldn’t find a character flaw.  Team owners gave Tek a measure of respect until the end, overpaying him in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and never embarrassing him through his last unsuccessful contract negotiation.

He was selfless.  He was deep in his preparation and in his character.

He is the all time leader in Sox games caught and respect earned.

Thanks for staying in the family, Tek.

Farewell  — for now, Jason.

Go Sox.

 

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