Strike three and game three. Saltlamacchia struck out swinging; at least he swung. The whole team swung during the past three games. Granted, they lost, three times over and it doesn’t look good from afar. Not to mention the loss to Detroit in the makeup game from May 28. The Red Sox have four dark losses in a row. But it could be worse, it could be April again and they could have played worse.
It’s better to look at the little things. It’s a double play to end an inning that has stretched on for too long. It’s Varitek’s homerun during the bottom of the fourth to put the right colored Sox on the scoreboard during the May 31st game. Or Varitek’s base hit in that same game during the bottom of the sixth after 4 runs were gained by the White Sox, just to lift the team again to realize, ‘hey, we’re still playing.’ Ortiz’s Monster homerun in the sixth during yesterday’s game, putting the Red Sox on top, at least for a moment.
The moments that inflate the spirits of the team and the fans, they came back from a rough beginning, they played almost non-stop through the month of May. It’s Jenks coming back after being gone for the month, and coming back to play against his former team. It’s errors made by the umpires, like the fifth inning declaration that Juan Pierre was safe, though all angles (except apparently Marty Foster’s) that Pedroia had tagged him. It’s the little things like Rene Rancourt singing the anthem before the game because the Bruins were in Vancouver. It’s the movement of Saturday’s game from it’s night slot to a 1:00 pm time just so fans can watch the Bruins take on Vancouver. It’s the little things that make the losses not as dark.
In the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept through Western Massachusetts, it’s messy to look from afar. The destruction and sadness is there and leaves a dark mark of loss on the state. But if you look at the little things, you see state police and search teams helping people, you see hospitals setting up extra triage units to help the injured, and you see people grateful and relieved that the majority of things lost can be replaced or rebuilt, realizing, ‘hey, we’re still standing.’
It’s better to look at the little things because the big picture can be messy and overwhelming, and heartbreaking. But it’s in the little things where you find some solace and happiness in the small moments where the right play is made or communities helping one another to clean up and rebuild.
Yes, the Sox were swept, but it was bound to happen. In 162 games, they can’t be expected to win them all. And just because I can’t help it, the Bruins lost to Vancouver with 18.5 seconds left, that’s a hard loss. But, it’s the little things, the fact that Tim Thomas had 36 shots on and only one got in. The things like, another game will come, whether it’s Friday against the Athletics or Saturday’s game 2 against the Canucks. The losses could always be worse and the limited destruction of the tornadoes has given perspective to the games we love.
With Barry Bonds’ girlfriend detailing the physical changes effected by steroids in recent weeks, one wonders about the choice. The first image is of a desperate ballplayer, reaching his late thirties, feeling the natural decline.I imagine Ali fighting Larry Holmes. Let me rephrase: I remember the aged Ali as Holmes’ punching bag, the brutality of unanswered punches.The other story of that beating is that one of Ali’s doctors prescribed “diet” pills for him. The drugs in question made him sluggish. And pathetic. As a young boxing fan, I hadn’t been filled with quite that much sorrow before.
My sorrow today is lighter but wider. It has more to do with the game of baseball than it does with one player. The loss is about the Red Sox, its history and its players, specifically those who played alongside Manny, who are at a loss for words. There were some of us who were baffled by Manny but still kept our affections. There were a few of us who were hopeful for the revival of the Idiots, even if they were in Tampa. One segment on the MLB Network during Spring Training showed him working as hard as any ballplayer could and losing more than twenty pounds, not to mention making major adjustments to his stride to avoid hamstring problems. Painful work.Now the pain is ours.Ortiz compassionately summed it up: “It’s sad.”
But baseball has redemption built into the stats. It has time, which makes the grass sturdy and green..In a few hours the Sox will take the field again, afresh from a laser show and good, old hometown glory.
We always get the most laughs, and not always the kind of laughter we invite. “You majored in English? How’s Burger King treating you?” In a recent segment on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, he suggested the health care industry for wayward English majors. One man recited from Hamlet: “tis a consummation devoutly to be wished” he delivered as a man on his deathbed took his last breath, to comfort the grieving daughter.But what other careers require creativity, thoughtfulness, intelligence, grace under pressure, compassion, all mixed with an unpredictable personality? Sure, you can become Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney. I have a better suggestion–learn to throw a knuckleball.
As reported in the New York Times last week,English Major R.A. Dickey(perfect author’s name) has written a memoir about his life in baseball, in addition to his struggles and transformations through spirituality. In this era of overstocked shelves in the Memoir section of the bookstore, this is one I am looking forward to reading. “I’ve always been pretty good at journaling, and blessed with a pretty
good memory,” he said. “I figured, once I started the knuckleball
journey, it was a good place to put some form to it, dating way back to
childhood and leading all the way up to this year.”
But then I started thinking about who might write their Red Sox Memoir, or who ought to? As David Foster Wallace points out in his essay, “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart,” the sports autobiography can be heartbreakingly disappointing. After all, he argues, it is their physical genius we truly love, not their literary prowess. Therefore, my nominee is none other than a player with a sparkling wit and verbal acuity. He was also an Interdisciplinary Studies Major at Arizona State University. (Go ahead, make a joke about IS majors, I know you want to.) The other day, Professor Abraham featured the Dustin Pedroia Moment of the Day on his blog. Imagine a years’ worth. Imagine five years worth. Dustin’s Dirt: Five Years at Fenway by Dustin Pedroia. Coming soon??
Back on August 6th, under the same title, I offered six items to replace Youk’s thumb. Some were abstract, others clearly linked to the Red Sox success over the last months. I mean the chances for success. Last week, on the Baseball Reporters, Tony Massarotti told us that “this thing has been over for a long time.” In so many words, he added, If you thought the chances for the postseason were eclipsed by the Rays last week at Fenway, then you haven’t been paying attention. Well, I was still in the game, still thinking of miracles and long winning streaks a’ la Colorado. Yes, I was still dreaming but paying attention at the same time.
And, yes, I enjoyed it. When Ryan Kalish hit that grand slam, the room witnessed more fist-pumping and joyous dancing than it had seen in a while. Kalish delivered again yesterday, during a game few were watching as the football season began. This is just to say that Kalish has fulfilled his spot in the six-point plan. Papi has too. I can go on with the promises and disappointments of filling in for Youk and Pedroia. After all, the Sox seem loaded with young talent. In light of that, I can restate the obvious, losing Dustin and Youk is what finished us. So there it is: I’ve uttered the words of conclusion. of finality. But even in this wait-til-next-year postscript frame of mind, the sounds of cheering, not merely their echoes, remain.
It is the year of the pitcher in Major League Baseball. It is the year of the broken bone for the Red Sox.
Dustin’s cameo this week before returning to our new farm team,
otherwise known as the disabled list, followed by Lester’s beating the other night, I started to think a new curse was upon us. If we are lucky,
we are just living through it and it will pass like an erratic
hurricane. This all means I am starting to think about next year, even as I do my best to forcefully remain in this one. When Jed Lowrie smacked the game winner last night, it wasn’t so difficult to be here now, to stave off the images of spring training 2011 with healthy Kevins and healed Dustins.
In Springsteen’s song, Devils & Dust, he sings, “I got my finger on the trigger but I don’t know who to trust. . .I feel a dirty wind blowing, devils and dust.” What winds are blowing in Fenway?
Around here in Asbury Park, positive signs for the Sox kept popping up. A new neighbor with a Red Sox hat on his head, told me that his dog’s name was Bosox. On the way to the beach, I saw a New York plate “GOSOX.” Then the Rabbi, Yehuda Krinsky, in his Times Magazine interview said, “He’s(Mayor Bloomberg) a Bostonian, as am I. He betrayed me. He deserted the Red Sox.” This third sign tells me what I need I know.
right of the pesky pole notes:
Thomas’ Trolley will temporarily halt for a week as I travel to see my twin in California. Thanks for reading, as always.
In today’s New York Times, an incredible story details the discovery of a trove of recorded jazz from the 1930’s, recently unearthed and now in the process of digital transfers. Listening to the 37 second sample of Lester Young soloing in “Tea for Two” gave me chills. This is music that hasn’t been heard since then, when it was broadcast over the radio. Only those in the club or sitting at home next to their radios heard it. Until now
I have been thinking about this story all day and all last night, with time to think, while the Sox were signing prospects during a day of rest. We all needed a rest after the weekend in Texas, right? My central preoccupation has been with the glory of the past. Maybe we don’t always like to think of the past, but why even go there unless we can celebrate. Yes, effective reflection, no matter how painful, let’s say the 1986 World Series, might lead us to a more enlightened state. But equal to the commiseration we rigorously seek out is the desire to recapture the joy of greatness. Characters live this way in songs, as in “Glory Days” by (my) hometown legend, Bruce Springsteen. But then there is the old conundrum, first posited by poets like William Wordsworth: in returning to the beauty of the past are we then reminded of what we don’t have now?
So how bad is it? We keep hearing about the injury plagued year of 2006, when we won only 8, that’s eight, games in the entire month of August. We have already won exactly 8. Some fans, as reported by friends recently returning from Martha’s Vineyard, are paying more attention to the Patriots. Another born and bred New Englander, my former student, Trenna Field, wrote to say, “maybe Pedroia will have something on Tuesday. After all, it’s only August.” I have to thank Trenna for her endless optimism. (By the way, Trenna Field is clearly a great baseball name.) You know that the Rockies won 20 or 21 of their last 22 games in 2007.
What a year, 2007. . .not so long ago really, but somehow in my mind, it feels like decades. That doesn’t mean I won’t celebrate it, even if it’s only seconds of audio clips or footage of Dustin’s game 7 laser show at Fenway against Cleveland. That’s one sure element that we still have in our midst, that spark plug for our team. We know we’ll be raising glasses to him for many years to come. Welcome back.
How about the photo that won the reader’s photo contest in the Globe. Skinny days for the boss, besides glory days.
When I uploaded the photo of tenor saxophonist, Lester Young, my stored images got mixed up with Jon Lester. So my loose connection was not so loose. The two Lesters–greatness abounds.
I am eating crow.
And I am listening to the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.” It’s appropriate that this song was part of the soundtrack of the great movie,”The Departed.” The Departed? Is that our Red Sox lineup perchance? What else has departed after Sunday night’s game. One thing that I know hasn’t gone anywhere is the Yankees lineup and their excruciating ability to pull apart a pitcher, and a defense I might add, until the very same pitcher we thought was our ace has departed for the showers.
I am eating crow pie. Not that I bet any money. I only invited a colleague and friend, and huge lifelong Yankee fan, over for the game. As I am always saying, the rivalry brings out the best and worst in us. And yet, we need each other, right? I mean, imagine if we were playing in the NL Central. Would our blood boil against the Brewers? Even more, it gives a charming thrill to a Sunday night game in August. She’s always been a good sport and while my cable was out three years ago, she let me watch Game 7 of the ALCS, when the Yankees were on vacation already.I did have to survive some off color remarks but the victory more than sweetened those finely tuned insults.
So I didn’t “only” invite her over. I decorated several places of our viewing area with Red Sox gear and blankets I was dreaming of the end of the game, when I could play my Sox mini soundtrack. “Sweet Caroline,” “Dirty Water,” etc. . You know the drill. It was fun while it lasted, which wasn’t very long. All I can say now is that I was messing with forces and karma I ought to have left entirely alone.Mea culpa.
It wasn’t completely barbaric. I managed to find the Yankee Snoopy someone gave me as a joke, one for which I haven’t found a suitable reply. I am open to suggestions. So there I was, smiling, before the game, with my ice cream man hat, and with ample reading material on the table in front of us. It is some kind of divine joke, perhaps that on the cover of one issue of Red Sox magazine is Kevin Youkilis. By the end of the game, I starting dismantling the various shrines. And this morning, one of those smiles is gone, too, which was surgically removed by a doctor better known as 7 runs. We miss you, Dustin. We miss you, Youk.