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Archive for November, 2012

Rich Gedman keeps it real..& real funny.

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 27, 2012

The Nap LaJoie Chapter of S.A.B.R. had the pleasure of hearing Rich Gedman speak at its semi-annual meeting on 11-24-12 in Greenville, R.I..  Actually, Rich did not speak.  He rapped, he chit-chatted, he’s an everyday guy who rejected the microphone this day and convinced everyone to pull their seats up close to him like a team leader at Scout Camp.

 

Gedman is a disarmer and a charmer.  Here is a quick anecdote.  At one point, a SABR member who is a college professor and known for long, complexly constructed questions, said, to paraphrase, “Rich, I have 2 questions for you but first a comment, I would just like to say…”.  That’s when Gedman interrupted, and with a country boy innocence said, “I have to tell you I can only handle one question at a time.  I’m really not that –“……..Not that smart is I believe where he was going but I couldn’t hear him over the laughter that had erupted.  Moments later, the professor re-asked his question in what he called a simplified form but still strung together a good 150 words in doing so.  Followed by a quiet pause.  Then Gedman said, “So, what you mean to say is that even when you cut down the number of questions to one singularity it still comes out  —.”  Again, laughter erupted before Geddy could complete his thought.   I think it was “…it still comes out plural.”

Could Geddy be the lost grandson of Casey Stengel ?

Although Rich clearly dislikes the spotlight, which is un-Stegelesque, he has his own way with words and it is both funny & honest.

Funny and honest.

 

Rich can play a simple country boy but there is more to him.  His career was long, profitable financially, and measured in many memories…..

 

As a player (1980 to 1992), Geddy had trouble hitting Goose Gossage.  Rich could always hit a 95 mph heater so he should have been able to hit Goose’s fastball.  It was the curve that usually troubled Geddy, and Gossage had a good breaker.  Geddy said that Gossage eschewed the curve, throwing heat all the time.  Once on the mound, it was mano-a-mano, the chess game, I will throw it by you.  Though Geddy felt he should have been able to hit Gossage, he was flummoxed with how the future HOF’er released the ball from the end of his long right arm, so long that the ball seemed to be coming out of the 3rd base dugout.  Gossage was all arms and legs.  His fastball moved.  “There was nothing you could do about it.”

Gedman shared a great story about a home plate collision that occurred next to him, but didn’t put him down.   Playing one night in Detroit, Lou Whitaker stood on 2nd base.  Kurt Gibson, the All American Flanker from MSU and Mickey Mantle type (translation: linebacker speed & power) soon whacked the ball 410 to the Right Center gap.  Tony Armas chased it down, flung a bullet to the relay man, and the relay caught Sweet Lou dead to rights. Geddy tagged him out and all seemed well.  Just then….a thump, thump, thump sound was heard. Picture Kevin Costner listening for buffalo on the plains in Dances with Wolves.  Here comes Gibson the footballer.  Right before he was to make impact with Geddy, the umpire jumps between Geddy & Gibby to call Whitaker out.   Kirk knocks the umpire ass over tea kettle. All the ump’s balls spill from his pouch.  Geddy, who is completely untouched, tags Gibson out and fires the ball to the pitcher. Gedman thinks he has a unique double play.  4 to 2 and 2-unassisted. The umpire climbs to his feet, sees his balls all over the place and decides one of them must be the one that was in play.  Gibson is called safe.  Gedman is cheated.  The Umpire is bruised.

On Coaching

As the batting Coach with the high-A Salem (Virginia) Red Sox in 2012, Geddy learned that the Sox minor leagues “are so stocked with talent most fans would be surprised.”  He mentioned Jackie Bradley, a Centerfielder that batted .359 in Salem and who covers an eye popping amount of the outfield, with range so stunning it is worth the ticket price alone.  He cited Xander Bogaerts, the 1b/3B/SS/OF/DH who posted .302, 15, and 64 in 104 games for the Salem Red Sox this year.  Tremendous upside.

For those of you following the rise of Orioles pitching phenom Dylan Bundy, the kid who did not allow a hit in his first 40 innings this year, Geddy saw him pitch to his boys and the hype is for real.  He has three good pitches and is likely to be a successful MLB hurler.  Could even be a dominant one.

Gedman defines the responsibilities of being a batting coach as having 2 responsibilities.  There is the teaching.  There is the writing of player performance reports for the Sox.

Gedman said teaching kids to understand the difference between playing and competing is key.  The kids arrive at high A trained to swing but really do not understand how to compete strategically with all the implications for attitude and strategy.  When they get it, it is great to see the light go on.  When coaching hitters, he preaches keeping the mind trash-free, getting good swings.  “The kids are very tough on themselves.  If they go 0 for 4, they think they suck.”.

When asked how he would tell a poor player that he should get into a different line of work, Geddysaid that he would never say it like that.  He’d ask the player if he knew “that there are some players on the team that are better than you ?”

Gedman is sensitive.  That is apparent in his approach to writing player evaluations.  “I try to write the reports without (permanently) killing the player within the organization.”

Gedman was asked how he would coach Ryan Lavarnway, who hit 2 HR’s in his Sept. 2011 call up but has batted .172 in 192 total MLB At Bats thus far.  The old catcher said he would talk to RL about his batting, recognizing the attitudinal damage caused by following September HR success with a Spring demotion to the minors, and how that will make you press for the long ball.  Relax, do not swing for fences, HR’s are unintentional, no one tries to hit HR’s.  Aim for contact, refocus on batting.

When asked what he might say to Daniel Bard, Geddy said he would instruct Bard to stop dealing with the past events that he is turning over in his mind.  The game is played on the field, the past is in the past.  Focus on the chess match.  Tell him gently, kindly, with no bullying.

Keeping the mind clear is the priority.  “You wouldn’t believe what people think about at the plate if I told you.”, Geddy said.

When asked about his 3 most memorable accomplishments, Gedman offered simple answers.

He had a long career.  He played in an All Star Game.  He played in a World Series.  He never expected to do all of that.  The man is grateful.

For the record, Gedman had a 13 yr MLB and earned $5.2 million according to the good folk at Baseballreference.com.  He played in two All Star Games.  He was K’d by Gossage in the 9th for the 27th out in the 1985 classic, an AL loss.  He caught Dave Righetti & Don Aase in the bottom of the 9 th in the ’86 ASG, an AL win.

He played in 1 World Series.  It a historical doozie. 

He is humble.  He is grateful.  He is understated. 

He is Gedman.

Here’s hoping they bring him up to Pawtucket, a lot closer to family and home.

We could certainly use the laughs.

Go Sox.

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A Mostly Baseball Winter Reading List

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 23, 2012

As I finish reading books about the Union Pacific Railroad, The Calhoun era at UConn, and Babe Ruth’s short ghosted book about his early life & career, I have stopped to make reading plans for the chilly winter.

Within the stack there are titles I want to read and others I feel compelled to read.

Below are the titles and a few words as to why I chose them.  Good luck building your own list.

A Great & Glorious Game.  The Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti.

Published 9 years after his death, this little book is a thoughtful meditation on baseball and character and life.  I feel that I owe it to the man to read it. 

Women At Play:  The Story of Women in Baseball.  Barbara Gregorich.

A comprehensive history of the roles that women have played in pro ball, beginning in 1869.  The author is a lively member of a facebook group in which I chat.  The subject is fairly interesting.  But I want to sample Barbara’s writing first and foremost.

Balldom:  The Britannica of Baseball.  George Moreland.

The full title includes, “Comprising Growth of the Game in Detail. A Complete History of the National and American Leagues. First and Only Authentic Chronology Ever Published. Voluminous Records and Absolutely Accurate Statistics. Fascinating Facts for Fans of America’s Greatest Sport from 1845 to 1914”.

I was lucky to pick up a worn copy of this 98 year old book inexpensively.  I’m a sucker for pre-1930 bargain BB books.  I don’t know why they are intoxicating.  They just are.

Baseball in the Big Leagues.  Johnny Evers.

Originally published as “Touching second”, this 102 year old book is a round-up of Base Ball in Evers’ era, with 15 photos of the greats, like Cobb, Mathewson & Wagner.  Again, lucky me, I picked this up cheaply.  I expect to be transported into an era of rough play and fancy talk.

The Student Loan Scam: the most oppressive debt in U.S History and how we can fight back.  Alan Michael Collinge.

I’m reading this book and it is personal.  My kids are 19, 21 and 25.  We have had to navigate college debt in 3 waves.  Ironically, if my kids were 26, 28 and 32, we’d be sailing along without too much pressure.  College costs doubled from 2003 to 2009.  This book tells the tale of one young man who got deeply in debt, defaulted on his loans, was nailed by hideous added penalties in the multiple 5-figures, and found that the Government provides no support for the indentured.

Hearts of Darkness.  James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens and the unlikely rise of the singer songwriter.  Dave Thompson.

This is a new book.  There is nostalgic appeal for me.  I’d pay to see James Taylor.  In my college years, they taught with Taylor’s lyrics in English classes.  Browne & Stevens are also intruiging. 

The Juju Rules. Or, How to Win Ballgames from Your Couch: A Memoir of a Fan Obsessed.  Hart Seeley.

Do you believe in not saying “this guy’s pitching a no-hitter.” when a no-no is in progress ?  I do.  I don’t care what Dennis Eckersley says.  Tradition and superstition cross paths in baseball. You have to be crazy to mess with that.  This book is about a guy (granted, a funny guy) who works his juju for the Evil Empire.

One Last Strike.  Tony LaRussa.

A must read.  This is the man who took bullpen management to the next level.  The guy who mananged 2 fallen mega stars in Canseco & McGwire.  The dude who managed HOF’ers Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, and briefly, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton.  Not to mention studs George Foster, Ozzie Guillen, Chris Carpenter, Harold Baines, Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols.  33 years of managing, with 9 Division flags, 6 pennants & 6 World Championships should tell quite a story.

The Commisioners:  Baseball’s Mid-life Crisis.  Jerome Holtzman.

For me, the façade has already been removed from K.M. Landis, F. Frick and all the others.  I see Bud Selig as little different from all of his predecessors, other than Landis, who might not have been a stooge but was certainly a racist.  I look forward to learning how Mr. Holtzman frames the discussion about a facinating subject.

Baseball’s Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus.  John Theodore & Ira Berkow.

The bio of the player who was shot in his hotel room by a deranged female fan, just like Robert Redford in that movie.

Hi, Everybody !  Herb Carneal with Stew Thornley.

Carneal was the radio broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins from ’62 to ’06.  From Killebrew to Joe Mauer, Carneal was an eye witness to expansion and world championships.  As an added attraction, his co-author, Thornley, is a brilliant guy and speaker.

Game Six.  Mark Frost.

As a Soxaholic, this book is required reading.  One entire book devoted to the Oct. 21, 1975 game in which Fisk hit the fabled home run.

You Can’t Hit the Ball with the Bat on your Shoulder. The Life and Times of Bobby Bragan.  Bobby Bragan with Jeff Guin.

The biography of a 1940’s ballplayer who clashed with Branch Rickey when he brought Robinson up in ’47 to break the color barrier.  Bragan, who passed in 2010, was known to be a wonderful raconteur. 

That’s my list for winter reading.  What is yours ?

Go Sox.

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Changing Sox & Fallen Heroes

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 23, 2012

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It’s bad enough when the team that hired you as a batting coach has to defend itself just because you were an obvious juicer in your days as a player.  It’s still worse when in the first 6 years on the HOF ballot the Knights of the Keyboard gave you woeful support levels of 23.5%, 23.6%, 21.9%, 23.7%, 19.8% and 19.5%.  Not even close.

 

But you know you’ve hit bottom when the memorabilia from your playing career goes unsold or yields pennies on ebay.

 

Here is the title on a lot that just ended un-bid on the undisputed champion of internet bidding sites:

 

“Mark McGwire 1998 Ticket Stubs Home Runs #60,61,62,63,66,69,&70 Cardinals L@@K”

 

Only $65 was asked.  As mentioned, there were no bidders.

 

In the pre-Mitchell Report days, the asking price for these stubs would have been more like $500.

 

A quick search of McGwire items offered in the last 30 days on ebay shows that about 3% of them sold, and at bargain prices.  100 assorted MM cards went for $6.22.  A 1985 Topps rookie secured $3.49.  A new-with-tags Majestic Diamond Collection Cardinals McGwire home jersey went un-bid at $14.95.  Even at 90% off, no one wants to be seen in Mark’s uniform.

 

It’s a long way from the obsessive days when all Cardinals games were nationally broadcast as we breathlessly waited for the Maris record to be surpassed.  In those days, a single pack of 13-year-old 1985 Topps cards brought $30, just for a long shot chance there would be a McGwire rookie inside that pack, a card that was then valued at $125.

 

Collectibles are funny things.  A wise man once scoffed at the foolishness of paying good money for momentoes, like rookie cards, things with no inherent value.  Another wise man once said that people will always collect the past.

 

They were both correct. But You can’t get as much for the items that are connected to sure fire HOF’ers who have fallen from grace.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

Further in the realm of the fallen are my current Red Sox, the team I never will abandon, though the names on the uniforms will change.

 

How the names have morphed in recent years.

 

In an effort to drop a few pounds I printed out some motivational thoughts and went to tape them to my shaving mirror.  I saw something taped there that I had not considered of late.  It was a 3 square inch newspaper cut detailing the 2007 Red Sox roster.  I believe I taped it up that April.

 

Starting pitchers included Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling, Tavarez and Wakefield.   This was an interesting year.  Beckett would win 20 and finish 2nd to Cleveland’s CC Sabathia for the Cy Young.  Schilling would put the finishing touch on a 20 year career with a 1.19 ERA in the World Series.  Matsuzaka, in his American debut, would muster 15 wins with a 4.42 ERA in 32 long, long outings as a starter.  Knuckles Wakefield would sport a 4.76 ERA but get enough bat support to record 17 wins, matching his career high.  Julian Taverez, who seemed poised to be the John Burkett of 2007, went 7-11 (5.15) in only 23 starts, leaving 12 starts for a young man named Lester who beat cancer and would go 4 – 0, and pitch shut-out ball for 5 and two-thirds innings in the World Series.

 

Consider the prospects for the 2013 starting staff and their 2012 records.  Lester, 9 – 14 with a 4.82.  Buchholz, 11-8 & 4.56.  Doubront, 11-10, 4.86, but pitching very well in his last 4 starts.  Morales, 3.77 in 9 starts.  Bard, atrocious in 10 starts.  And John Lackey, Mr. Question Mark himself.

 

The 2013 starting pitching is at best incomplete, and at worse, worrisome.

 

Unfortunately the position players do not sport the offense needed to support this starting staff.  Gone from the 2007 World Champs are Manny, Youkilis, Lowell, Lugo, Crisp, Drew and ‘Tek. In their place, Gomes is in left, Middlebrooks at 3rd, no one is at first yet, shortstop is undetermined, Right fielder Cody Ross is not signed, and we have Salty behind the plate.

 

Is there any reason yet to believe Boston will not duplicate their 69 – 93, last place performance of this year ?

 

Well, things are a brewing amongst the position players.

 

Middlebrooks may be the 3rd baseman of the future.  Xaender Boegarts may become the X factor in 2013.  Johnny Gomes might hit 30 home runs in Fenway Park.

 

And John Lackey may rebound at age 34.

 

But I doubt it.

 

The only thing I see for sure is more change.

 

Patience, fellow Farrell Men (and women).

 

Damn that sounds weird.

 

I guess I hate change.

 

Go Sox.

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Calhoun’s legacy more than wins & losses

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 17, 2012

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There is a new book on UConn Mens Basketball and it is a doozy:  Shock The World:  UConn Basketball in the Calhoun Era.  By Peter F. Burns, Jr..

God.  So many places from which to begin.  I’ll start with my dentist.

Peter has been my main dental dude for a bridge, 6 root canals and several crowns since Jim Calhoun came to UConn.  Not to mention caring dentally for my wife, 3 kids, and another 6 members of our extended family.

Pete the Dentist is a caring and affable guy.  He spends 2 weeks annually giving free care in Haiti.  He is a human fireplug, with receding hair, and is always up-to-date on current affairs.  The framed Bobby Orr jersey in his hallway testifies to his love of contact sport. 

His criticism of Jim Calhoun was been like assault and battery.

“He’s corrupt.  He’s a bad man.  He ruined the program.  He built it up and then he ruined it by bringing in bad kids, kids who committed crimes, kids who didn’t go to class.  Kids who stole and cheated.  He allowed bribes to be taken and agents to get involved.  He did it for the money.  Too arrogant.  Too much power.  It’s like Jerry Sandusky at Penn State where they closed their eyes to protect Paterno.  Calhoun is a bad guy.  Everyone thinks he’s a good guy but he is not.”

As he he launched this attack I was in his chair, cotton in mouth, Novocain injected into the facial nerves.  Pete spoke while he was tearing down a tooth.  I was miserable. 

I mean I’ve had worse days.  Like the day my gall bladder was removed after 3 painful nights without sleep.  Like when my grandmother died.  Like when Grady didn’t take Pedro out even as a Nation screamed.

I was unable to argue back.  I later emailed Peter that his attack on Calhoun upset me and I didn’t want him to talk about it with me anymore.  And Pete later obliged.

But what Peter really needs to do is to read this book.  Shock The World documents that Calhoun was much more than a program builder.  He was a character builder.  He created a family on and off the court.  That family includes players, trainers, coaches, students and others. 

He spoke with Rod Sellers  “about accountability, making good decisions about women, time management and homework…..”.  The first time he heard these things from a grown man they came out of Calhoun’s mouth, writes Burns.

Others testify, too.

“He taught me everything.” (Donyell Marshall). 

“I’ve always looked at the program and Coach as family.” (Chris Smith).

“He taught us how to be men….he was like a second father to me.” (Gerry Corcoran).

He was the “father figure I didn’t have growing up.”  (Donyell again).

“I think of him more than he knows.” (Joe Sharpe).

“He is the closest thing to a father I have ever had.”  (Caron Butler, who always calls on Fathers Day).

“The wins and the championships at Northeastern and UConn were great, but the life lessons that Calhoun teaches his coaches and players were most special and important.”  (Dave Leitao).

I say that there is great depth to the man.  Great heart.  Knowing what to say just when you needed it.

At an impromptu rally at Gampel in 1990 after losing to Duke on the infamous buzzer beater, Calhoun told the crowd, “Five hours ago, Christian Laettner broke our hearts.  You people have to put them back together.”

There is so much more to this guy than Peter the Dentist thinks there is.

The UConn program will have its ups and downs.  But the downs will never remove the positive impact that Calhoun had on the UConn family.  This is the great message beneath the program building story of this book.  It goes way beyond wins and losses and effects generations.

XXXXX

If you are 35-ish or older and thus have complete memories of Calhoun’s run in Storrs you may indeed mark your own time as you read this book.  I think of my beloved, deceased Father-In-Law, Roy, who was present to see Scott Burrell’s pass and Tate George’s shot but wasn’t with us the following year for the signings of the Fair-Ollie-Donny-Donyell-Scheffer team that soon dominated the Big East.  No one would have enjoyed it more and been more fun to share it with than my father-in-law.

Or, like me, You may realize that Ray Allen’s daughter, Tierra, born on September 25, 1992 (the day Howie Dickenman made a second recruiting visit to Dalzell, South Carolina) is 20 years old today, just like your daughter. 

Or you may recall where you were exactly 4 hours after Tater Tot shot the game winner over Clemson’s Sean Tyson in 1990.  My brother-in-law and I were, at that hour, pushing my 1987 Toyota Corolla off I-91 North after the clutch ceased to work during our ride home from the Meadowlands.

Or, as the names run across the page…..Robinson, Henefeld, T. Walker, Gwynn, DePriest, King, Hamilton, El Amin, Freeman, Kemba, and on and on, you think about how cold the wind was , or how warm was the sun, when you were 25, 35, 45…55.

That’s the great thing about this book, if you are True Blue.

It’s about a program, a shared experience that still touches millions of Connecticut folks today.

It’s so visceral for Husky fans that they can measure their time on Earth through it.

It’s a great read.  So don’t miss it.

Go Huskies.  And Go Sox.

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Frank White, Royal Delight.

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 16, 2012

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In advance of Frank White’s appearance at the World Series Club last night, I surfed the internet. I learned about his 8 gold gloves, 3 All Star games, 1 ALCS MVP, 18 years with George Brett as a Royal, his education in the Royals Baseball Academy, the 1985 World Championship. 

I read about how in Cal Ripken’s first MLB at bat, Cal hit a chopper over the pitcher’s head and through the middle for an apparent single.  White flew in from the right side, pivoted, levitated, and nipped Ripken at first with his throw.  Returning to the O’s dugout, teammate Ken Singleton remarked, “Welcome to the big leagues.  That’s Mr. Frank White.”

I also learned that Frank, true blue KC Royal, had just written a book titled, “One Man’s Dream:  My Town, My Team, My Time.”  In it, he explains that he was fired from his broadcasting job earlier this year in retaliation for quitting  his  position on the Royals Community Team after they cut his pay from $150,000 to $50,000.

Frank made about $5,000,000 or more in his 18 year MLB career.  In case you were wondering.

There was some public squabbling, no doubt.  But Frank did not rip the Royals once last night as he spoke to over 100 members of the World Series Club of Hartford County.

Frank white, the man with a statue outside Kaufmann Stadium, the man from KC and for KC, the player enshrined in the Royals Hall of Fame threw no barbs.  He offered encouragement and insight.

When asked about George Brett he said the HOF’er was the best all around possible player and team leader.  One who did his leading on the field, though.  He wasn’t a locker room leader, like Hal McRae.   Frank explained that he made a decision not to try to stop Brett from charging umpire Tim McLelland in the Pine Tar game.  Brett thought he’d hit a game winning homer and headed for the dugout where White met him and said, “Hey, I wouldn’t be too happy if I were you.” 

“Why is that ?, Brett asked. 

“Because it looks like they are waving off your homer and calling you out.  Look !”

White felt Brett go stiff with anger and did not move a muscle to restrain him.  He let others do the job.  When he got back to the dugout Brett mentioned that White hadn’t tried to stop him, but he was happy that others did.  McLelland is 6’6” and 250 pounds.  “The closer I got to him, the more I started to worry.”

Proud to be a Royal, White described the arc of the franchise history, from expansion club in 1969 (69-93), to winning club in 1971 (85-76), just their third season.

When White joined the team as a shortstop in 1974 he got a good look at Freddie Patek and realized he would need to learn to play second base if he was going to stick with the Royals.  He soon played winter ball to learn that new position, and replaced Cookie Rojas in 1976, the year before Frank won his first gold glove.

Frank said the Royals were an expansion team that became good quickly, suffered a little mediocrity, and then reeled off winning seasons in 11 of 16 years, capturing 6 Division titles, 6 second places, 2 AL pennants and 1 World Championship.  That’s what good drafting & player development will do.

That was followed by a small market crunch in which the Royals did not sign or lock-up high-priced talent, even those they drafted like Johnny Damon.  In the last 23 years of Royals history the team recorded 19 losing seasons, including 16 in last place or next-to-last place.

Frank White doesn’t like the franchise failure.  He is physically and spiritually close to this town and team.  As a kid, he could see the A’s ballpark from his middle school and high school.  As a kid, the gate keeper would let him in for nothing to see the last 3 innings of any game.  KC baseball is in Frank’s DNA.

But Frank White didn’t complain.  Which reminds me of what he said John Maybery told him when he joined the Royals in 1973.  “Kid, we all make mistakes.”, said the dude who would crash 255 career taters.  “But when someone on this team makes a mistake and is asked about it, we just say we made a mistake and move on.  We learn from it.  That’s it.  That’s what you need to do.”

Frank learned plenty.

He was a pleasure to listen to on this particular evening.  His new book is on my Christmas list.

Go Sox.

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