Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

I have an awesome quasi-celeb encounter. R.I.P., Art Donovan. And Red Sox owners buying the Globe?

Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People

This seems to be like one of those “Only in New York” kind of stories, but maybe it could happen anywhere.

So I’m sitting in my dermatologist’s office Friday, getting my second Moh’s surgery in two weeks (for the uninitiated, Moh’s gets done when they find basal cell growths on your face, the first step toward skin cancer. So they dig it out, then stitch you back up. I’ve had two in two weeks and right now I’ve got more stitches in my face than a hockey goon in mid-February.)

Anyway, so I’m sitting there waiting to get called in again (when you have Moh’s, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait) when my phone buzzes. It’s my pal Tony, and we have a quick chat about college basketball, and my love of Duke’s prospects for next year, and then I hang up after two minutes.

The guy sitting across from me in the waiting room, silver-haired and about 65 years old, says “I’m sorry, did I hear you say you’re a Duke fan?”
After I confirm, he says “Well, I’m just about the biggest UNC fan you’ll ever meet.”

I’m always happy to argue with a Tar Heel supporter, even in July, so we start amiably chatting, and I reference the ongoing NCAA investigation into UNC.
This devolves into my new friend talking about “newspaper reporters” and “tabloids” always trying to dig up dirt on people and programs, and then in what I thought was a really random reference, he said “like the National Enquirer did with John Edwards.”

“Oof,” I said, “that’s a sore subject with me. I was a huge John Edwards supporter and volunteer on his campaign.”

“Oh yeah?” he replied. “I’m John Edwards’ brother-in-law.”

If not for the fact that I was gripping the arm-rest, I would’ve fallen out of my chair.
“No you’re not!” I said to him, laughing.
“Yep, Elizabeth Edwards was my sister.”
Now, part of me instantly believes him, because who the heck would make up a thing like that? But the journalist in me was dubious, so I started gently probing him with questions, about the 2004 campaign, John’s disgusting behavior in 2007-08, his sister’s battle with cancer, etc.

And damned if he didn’t know all the answers. Over the course of a few hours, while each of us went into the Dr.’s office and then back out to wait, my new pal Jay regaled me with hilarious and awful stories of John’s schmuckiness, how he could tell “after 15 minutes of meeting her that Rielle Hunter (Edwards’ lover) was crazy,” and about how his sister felt about different people in the campaign.

I was in heaven. I was a true-blue Edwards-ite (I wrote about it here a few years ago), and here I was trading stories with Elizabeth’s brother (I Googled him and all the bio information he told me checked out)
I was all disappointed when after about two hours, I heard him leave while I was back in getting stitched up.

Only in New York. I have another appointment this Friday; I hope I see him again.

**Word came late Sunday that the great Art Donovan had died. Donovan was a Hall of Fame football player for the Baltimore Colts back in the 1950s, but he became even more famous in retirement for the hilarious interviews and talk-show appearances he gave.
I remember as a kid holding my sides I was laughing so hard, watching him on Letterman and Carson and in countless NFL Films videos.

He was a jolly guy who was a superb storyteller, and he will be missed. Here’s him on Letterman from 1988.

RedSox.JohnHenry**Finally today, a story that alternately makes me happy and frightened. Word broke Friday night that John Henry, one of the majority owners of the Red Sox, has agreed to buy the venerable Boston Globe newspaper. (He’s paying $70 million for the paper; the New York Times Co. paid $1.1 billion for it in 1993. That’s staggering)

On the one hand, it’s great that anyone is buying a newspaper these days, especially one with deep pockets and a strong connection to the region like Henry does. He’s done fantastic things with the Red Sox (as a Yankee fan that pained me to write), helping them spend enough to win two World Series in the last 10 years.

But it frightens me as an ex-journalist because now you will have the majority owner of by far the biggest team in the region, owning the biggest newspaper in the region.

Now I know full well newspapers don’t have the influence they used to, and there are dozens of other outlets who can cover the team without any appearance of conflict of interest.

But still… it makes me a little queasy. The Globe has broken tons of big stories about the Sox over the years, many of them negative. Will they still be allowed to do so?
I hope so.

Advertisements

One more time against Pedro, with feeling. And some election thoughts

pedro.zimmerpedro2

Sometimes, the Gods of Sport just smile on us. Smile on us so brightly that you just can’t help but smile and be glad you’re a sports fan, because you, dear sports fan, appreciate the beauty that’s about to unfold.

What the heck am I babbling about? Tonight at 8 p.m. at New Yankee Stadium, the old lion in autumn, Pedro Martinez, will take the mound to pitch against the Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series.

The storylines here are just so beautiful. With the possible exception of, well, of no one, Yankees fans loathe Pedro more than any other player in recent times. He’s arrogant, he’s mean (look at him throwing down an old man in the photo above; I mean really, what the hell was 412-year-old Don Zimmer going to do to Pedro, anyway) and he’s just a bastard.

He’s also the best pitcher I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, and watching him in person the one time I got to see him was a thrill I’ll always remember.

So, yeah, we hate Pedro. Then there’s the fact that the ultimate revenge was gotten by Mr. Martinez, it was thought, when his Red Sox came back and beat the Yankees in four straight in the 2004 A.L.C.S.

But now, ooh boy, now, in what might be his last game ever in the big leagues, the Yankees get to face him again. With World Series championship No. 27 on the line. In Yankee Stadium. With the Phillies desperately needing a huge performance from the old righthander, who’s now getting by on guts, guile and an 85-miles per hour.

It’s going to be dramatic. It’s going to be awesome. If Pedro can actually hold the Yankees down again and force a Game 7, it would be the ultimate capstone to a Hall of Fame career.

And if he can’t, well, Yankee fans all over the world will remember that as Pedro once himself said, the Yankees are his daddy.

Man, what great theater this will be.

**Couple other quick Game 6 thoughts:

— Man I hope the rich bastards who are the only ones who can afford World Series tickets boo the hell out of Pedro tonight. Send him out in style. Do you think maybe Pedro can wear a Red Sox T-shirt under his Phillies uniform, just to get Yankees fans a little more riled up?

— Extremely, extremely nervous about this one as a Yankees fan. I know I should trust and believe and have faith in the great Andy Pettitte, but on three days’ rest, after a tough Game 3 … I just don’t know.

–Chase Utley is one more home run away from forever being known in New York City as “Chase Bleeping Utley,” much as Bucky “Bleeping” Dent is known in New England by his full name.

— Mark Teixeira, this would be a really good time to earn the huge contract the Steinbrenners gave you last winter.

**So it was a pretty standard year-after Election Night Tuesday; these off-year elections are always hard to get excited about, even for a political junkie like me.

**I was dismayed to see Michael Bloomberg get re-elected mayor of New York. Not because he hasn’t done a good job, but because he got away with, basically, force-feeding a law to the city council allowing him to forget the term-limits law and seek a third term. It was a terrible idea when Giuliani tried it after 9/11, and it was a terrible idea now. It was pretty stunning to see that after spending $90 million against an unknown challenger, Bloomberg barely squeaked to victory.

***I wasn’t exactly happy to see Jon Corzine get dethroned as New Jersey governor, but he’s no one us Dems are too proud of. Chris Christie isn’t my cup of tea, but we’ll see.

**I thought this was an interesting disparity: In Houston, one of the largest cities in America, turnout was reported to be only between 10-20 percent of registered voters. As I write this, Annise Parker is in the lead, which, if she won, would make her the first openly gay woman elected mayor of a major American city. She’s going to have to run again in a run-off, on Dec. 12, since the vote was so close.

Crack by crack, the wall of intolerance falls in America.

In Maine, where a same-sex marriage initiative was on the ballot, turnout was more then 50 percent.

And now, since it’s Election night, the great final scene from one of my favorite political movies, the criminally underrated “Primary Colors.” The good stuff starts at the 3:00 minute mark:

Update: I recant my YES Network rant (sort of)

APTOPIX Yankees Red Sox Baseball 

Email, and ye shall receive an answer. That’s my credo for today.

So after my rant yesterday about how mad I am that the YES Network, which televises Yankees and New Jersey Nets games, won’t show the games on their YES national channel, which I get living down here in Central Florida, I figured I’d ask a few experts if there was a good explanation about it. I was particularly incensed because the Yankees are in the midst of kicking the holy hell out of those Boston boys this weekend.

So I emailed Richard Sandomir, the fine sports media and business writer for the New York Times on Sunday morning, asking if he knew the reasoning behind the YES Network games blackout outside of the tri-state area.

I figured, since it was a Sunday afternoon and all, and he’s probably a pretty busy guy, that I’d hear back from him in a couple of days.

Stunningly, he wrote back in 34 minutes, while I was at the beach (had another outstanding hot dog from this guy who sells them at the Ormond Beach beach cutout, by the way. Foot-long hot dog on a delightfully toasted bun, all for $3.50. Yummy goodness, I tell ya. But I digress.)

I say “stunningly” because while I do my best to answer every reasonable email I get, I’ve found most other journalists don’t. But Richard’s clearly a good guy.

Richard’s explanation goes like this: Major League Baseball sets out exclusive territories for each team, which for the Yankees is the tri-state area, and a little bit of Pennsylvania.

Beyond that, MLB doesn’t let teams show their games on basic cable, because they’re afraid it would severely damage that other hometown teams ratings. So, theoretically, if Yankees games were allowed to be shown here in Florida, Marlins and Rays games would see a big ratings drop, because all the New Yawkers living down here would watch the Bronx Bombers instead.

The only way to 100 percent guarantee that you’ll see all the games you want is to shell out a few hundred bucks for the MLB Extra Innings pay-per-view package.

OK, a few thoughts. First, I understand MLB’s position, but by blacking out the Yankees, they’re assuming that baseball fans are baseball fans, and that if we can’t see the Yanks we’ll watch the Marlins or Rays. I don’t think that’s accurate. If you’re that diehard of a fan, you’ll buy the Extra Innings package. I’m not going to suddenly become a huge Evan Longoria fan because he’s on my TV every night.

Second, why even have the YES Network nationally as an option if you’re not going to be able to show the programming? I just feel like it’s a big tease.

Anyway, so there you go. I apologize for assuming this was all YES Network’s fault, when I should have realized that the blame truly lay with MLB.

I absolutely hate it when bloggers rip and rant one day, then, when it turns out they’re wrong or there’s an explanation, never own up and apologize.

Also, a couple of really good stories I read this weekend that I wanted to link to:

  • Michael Sokolove has written a feature for the New York Times magazine about the dying newspapers in Philadelphia. Obviously this hits home to me as an ink-stained wretch, but this really lays out the Philly issues well.
  • Speaking of Philadelphia, my friend Brian Hickey, a victim of a near-fatal hit and run accident last November, has written a strong column asking for stronger penalties against hit and run drivers. Couldn’t agree more. What kind of despicable person hits another human with their car, then keeps driving? I think hit and run drivers should be thrown into the same pit of acid as rapists, child molesters and New England Patriots fans (Ha!, I kid the Patriots fans, mostly because I’m jealous.)
  • Finally, very interesting story by George Dohrmann in Sports Illustrated last week about just how much paper college football and basketball coaches waste, sending old-fashioned letters to recruits. Truly staggering, and wildly ineffective. Wait till you see the photo of how much mail just ONE kid got.

Why Wal-Mart and the YES Network are on my (you-know-what) list

anti walmart

girl-scout-cookies

No, it’s not for the same reason, but I’m pretty pissed at both of them right now.

Actually, I’ve been mad at Wal-Mart for just about the last 10 years. Ask any of my good friends and family and they’ll tell you straight out that I refuse to go there, or let anyone I know shop there.

Why? Well, you could start with their absolutely shady business practices. Or their unconscionable treatment of employees who want to unionize or, you know, improve working conditions. Or you could read about their terrible overseas factories and how the lives of their workers there are.

If you think I’m just making this stuff up, check out this website, or read as much as you can of this incredible Pulitzer-Prize winning series by the L.A. Times from 2003.

Anyway, I’d thought I’d run out of  reasons to hate the discount chain. But nope, they keep scraping the bottom of the barrel and filling me with rage all over again.

The latest target of Wal-Mart? Yep, those dastardly, underhanded, good-for-nothing troublemakers: The Girl Scouts of America.

If you haven’t heard, good ole’ Wal-Mart has decided to copy two of the Girl Scouts’ signature cookie brands, the Tagalongs and the Thin Mints, and sell them at lower prices.

And it’s a good thing, too!

Boy, those adorable little girls have been getting away with selling great cookies and raising money for FAR TOO LONG, the Arkansas boys in the back room must have figured. You’re telling me that the Samoas, Trefoils, and Do-Si-Dos really should only be used to fund activities for the Girl Scouts, an organization that does SO much good for little girls’ morale and for the community?

I tell ya, it’s a good thing Wal-Mart is here to teach those girls a lesson: Life is hard, kids, and we’re going to make your cookies and sell them cheaper and there’s nothing you can do about it! We’re Wal-Mart, dammit, and we run the world.

Just disgusting. Despicable. Awful. I could go on, but I think the facts pretty much speak for themselves. How can anyone in good conscience shop there? I often wonder. Oh yeah, their prices are way lower than everybody elses.

I call on everyone who’s ever bought or eaten a Girl Scout cookie (I think I’ve had about 5,000 Tagalongs in my life, thank you) to boycott the store until they change their new plan.

Girl Scouts of America, I’m with you! And please keep selling your great cookies, I look forward to them every year.

** Now, as to why I’m mad at the YES Network. A few months ago, my cable provider here in Central Florida told me that YES, the Yankees/Nets behemoth cable channel, was being added to my sports package. Great, I figured. I only watch a handful of Yankees games per year anymore, but there are definitely times I want to watch them.

I called the cable company at the time and asked if it would be an extra charge. Nope, they said, I already get the sports pack, so it’ll be included.

Then, she tells me, I’m not getting what I think I’m getting. Due to some bizarre contractual agreement, I’m getting the YES National network, which isn’t allowed to show live Yankees and Nets games.

“So what the hell am I getting?” I replied, knowing that Yankees and Nets games account for 98 percent of what anyone wants to watch on YES.

“You’re getting their alternate programming during the games, and you’ll get the pre and post-game shows,” the cable lady replied. “Only the people in the Tri-State area can get the regular YES Network.”

I was stunned and angry. What the hell is the point of having the network if the viewers outside the NY area can’t see the real programming?

So of course, Friday night, the  New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played a classic game, 0-0 into the 15th inning, before Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer to win the game.

And I couldn’t see it. My YES Network showed all kinds of crap until the postgame show came on.

AARRRGGGGGGGGGHHHH was, I believe, my utterance over and over as the game went on.

YES Network, please explain to me why you would have a network, which you want to expose to as many people as possible, and then not show the top programming on the network to as many people as possible.

Just stupid, stupid, stupid. YES and Wal-Mart, you have incurred my wrath.

**On a slightly better note, I know many people are probably overdosed on John Hughes tributes like the one I wrote the other day, but I found one more beautiful essay that I thought you might like: This woman had a pen-pal relationship with the director for many years.

The hypocrisy of Yankee fans and my million-dollar GPS idea

 bigpapi

RogerClemens_2000_001

 

Even though I’m a Yankee fan, I sometimes have to call B.S. on other Yankees fans.

I have to say, a lot of what fans of other teams say about Yankees rooters is, to quote the great film “My Cousin Vinny,” dead on balls accurate. Not all of us are jerks, but many are.

 Yankee fans can be awfully obnoxious (I know, stunning revelation). Some of us like to overlook simple facts like “The Yankees have no payroll limit, ever,” and “practically no one in baseball has the built-in advantages the Yankees have.”

Yankee fans can also use delightful selective memory when getting outraged. I heard from a few of my friends, and read a few other things on the Internet Sunday that made me laugh out loud.

What they’re arguing, basically, is that since David Ortiz has now joined Manny Ramirez on the ever-lengthening list of disgraced baseball stars who used steroids, the Red Sox 2004 title is now tainted.

Before I get to that ridiculous argument, a few words about Ortiz. Everyone seems surprised by this, and Howard Bryant of ESPN wrote this great columnabout how Big Papi let everyone down, and how genuine he seemed. I have to say, I’m a little surprised at Papi, too, but mostly disappointed. I love guys who just seem to have so much fun playing the game, and sure, it seemed possible that after a mediocre career, Ortiz became a superstar without steroids. 

Anyway, it was a little sad to see Ortiz become just another steroid cheat, and even though I’m not a big baseball guy anymore, as a sports fan it hurt a little.

But this idea, set forth by Yankees fans, that the Red Sox miraculous 2004 championship is tainted is pretty insane. Here’s why: Tell me what the following have in common: Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, Jose Canseco and Andy Pettitte. If you guessed that they have all been linked to, or admitted to, using performance-enhancing drugs, you’re right.

And oh yeah, they were all also on the 2000 New York Yankees World Series championship team. So will you hear a Yankee fan say that title is tainted? And how about the three that preceded them? Does every Roger Clemens win get thrown out and hit with the “tainted” label, too? Just wondering. 

All I’m saying is that the ’04 Sox team is no more tainted than any other title team from the last two decades in baseball, when steroids ruled and no one was immune. Everyone cheated, some got caught, but they’re all covered up in the slime of the last 20 years.

Good God, I’ve just spent 400 words defending the Red Sox. I don’t even know who I am anymore. If I start praising the New York Islanders and Sarah Palin, tell my family to send me to Bellevue.

**OK, so here’s my idea that isn’t really worth a million dollars, but I wanted to get your attention. So we’re driving home from Mystic, Conn. after the wedding Sunday (by the way, fish was NOT served at the aquarium wedding, which was probably a good idea) and my mother-in-law is annoyed at the Australian accent of the GPS lady who'[s giving us directions from the little machine. And so she changes it a few hundred times and we end up with some British guy.

Anyway, it gave me an idea: Wouldn’t it be cool if the accented voice from these GPS thingies matched up with the regional accent of the area of the U.S. you’re drivin through? Like, when you’re in Manhattan the voice says “Turn right? Fuhgeddaboutit” and says words like “tawk.” And in Chicago it gives you a Chicago accent, and in Boston you’re told there’s a “pah-king lot on the right.”

I just think this would make road trips so much more fun, and lead to all kinds of folks calling Garmin and saying ‘We don’t talk like that here!” 

When I popped the idea in the car to my family, who’s supposed to love me, I got a lukewarm response. But I tell ya, it’s a winner.

 When this becomes a reality, you remember who told it to you first. 

P.S. One more thing: Saw a fantastic name for a pet foods store on our trip: Feasts for Beasts. I’d shop there just for the name.

The Teddys of New England

ted-williams

ted_kennedy

I’m not sure if HBO planned it this way (it’d have been very smart if it did), but in the past three weeks the channel premiered two brand-new and extremely good documentaries on men called “Ted” who both are inextricably linked with New England.

Ted Williams, the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived, and Ted Kennedy, who’s been serving in the U.S. Senate for 46 years (I admit, that number astounded me, even though I knew he’d been there forever. Let me use a sports metaphor to put that into perspective: Ted Kennedy has been running for, or been in the Senate for the entire history of the New York Mets franchise. Amazing.)

I watched both movies this weekend, and thought both were terrific. You wouldn’t think there would be that much in common between them other than Massachusetts: Teddy Ballgame was a San Diego kid who grew up and could do something better than anyone else in the world: hit a baseball between two fielders.

And Teddy Kennedy, well, he’s an indestructible force of nature, for good and bad, who’s been a part of the American political scene longer than anyone else.

A couple of things I think connect the two men, which came into focus after watching the two movies:

**Both of them gave people plenty of reason to dislike them, yet have ended up being mostly beloved. Williams was a jerk to a lot of people: teammates, the media, his own family, sometimes.

**They both had difficult childhoods, though for very different reasons. Williams was neglected by his parents and forced to grow up fast, while Kennedy suffered tragedy after tragedy. Two siblings died before he was even 15 years old, which I don’t think most people remember about him.

** You want your flawed heroes, here are two very flawed men. Williams was a jerk a lot of the time, an absent father to his kids, and he seemed to resent how much Joe Dimaggio won, and yet “The Splendid Splinter” could get to only one World Series.

(Still think that might be the best baseball nickname ever. Although it’s hard to argue against “The Human Rain Delay,” which was what they called ex-Indians slugger Mike Hargrove. He got the name because he took so damn long between pitches, stepping out of the box and what not. See, the things you learn on this blog!)

And as for Kennedy, well, where do you start with his flaws? He was a heavy drinker for most of his adult life, an accidental murderer of a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne on the island of Chappaquiddick 40 years ago, and an egotist who commanded the spotlight everywhere he went.

But both men were so human, with their foibles so out in the open, that I think perhaps they became larger than life when they succeeded.

A few other thoughts on each movie, both of which are showing on HBO all month and on HBO On Demand:

** I knew Williams had a love-hate relationship with Red Sox fans, but I was honestly shocked to learn that as early as 1940, after his amazing rookie season, he was getting booed at Fenway. The guy had just hit .327, drove in 145 runs, and finished fourth in the MVP voting, and he’s getting yelled at by his home fans? Crazy.

**His temper was legendary, but I thought the best example in the movie was the anecdote told by one of his former wives, who said he once ripped the phone out of the wall in their house, then demanded she call the phone company to have them come fix it. Funny if it wasn’t so scary.

**Robert Redford chose No. 9 for the Roy Hobbs character in “The Natural” because he idolized Ted Williams. Didn’t know that.

** I know the “Ted Kennedy has endured so much tragedy” angle is as cliched as it gets, but when you see it all put together at once, it’s still breathtaking in its sadness. Brother Joe and sister Kathleen die early in his life. Brother John murdered while President. Then Teddy nearly dies in a plane crash. Four years later, other brother Robert shot while running for President. Then Ted’s son gets bone cancer and has to have leg amputated. It’s just staggering.

The man is truly indestructible, like the knight in the famous Monty Python sketch who gets his legs and arms cut off in a fight then screams, “Come back, it’s only a flesh wound!”

** I find it sad that Chappaquiddick has almost become an afterthought in the Kennedy legacy. A woman died. Kennedy drove off a bridge, escaped, tried to save her, then went back to his room and never reported that she was down there. Truly horrible, despicable behavior. I like so much of what Kennedy has done as a senator, but it’s really hard to respect him as a man after what happened in July of 1969.

**Also found it interesting that during the 1970s busing crisis in Boston, Kennedy was a pariah. He was booed and pelted with debris because he actually supported interracial school busing.

I came away with more admiration and respect for both 20th century giants after seeing this. Check them out if you have the chance.

P.S. The link on the Ted Williams reference above is to an Esquire story by Richard Ben Cramer, and it’s one of the single greatest pieces of sportswriting ever. If you have 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.