Sunday, June 28, 2009

This time it's Section 217
Club Level at Nationals Park in DC. I went here twice last summer. Saw the Nats lose badly to the Phillies and lose badly to the Mets.

This year it was the Red Sox. My friend Charlie Sislen invited me to see the Sox first appearance in DC since 1971. Boston had already won the series, taking the first two games. Game 3 was in Thursday night, and John Smoltz was making his Red Sox debut after 20 seasons with the Braves.

First in war....
The Nationals, firmly holding on to the worst record in the majors, have been doing their best to live up to the legend of the old Washington Senators - both the first edition (1901-1960, now the Minnesota Twins) and the second (1961-1971, now the Texas Rangers). The oft-repeated slogan, "Washington...first in war, first in peace, last in the Amercan League" was all too true. The last time Washingtion had a team without a losing record was 40 years ago...the 1969 Senators. Before that it was 1952, the original Senators. 1st baseman Mickey Vernon, as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet, won his second AL Batting Championship that year.

Back to the Future
Last Thursday. When I went to Nationals Park last summer there were billboards and signs galore about a new development -Half Street - directly across from the main ballpark entrance. Offices, shops, was to be like Patriot Place. Opening Spring 2009. Eleven months later, June 2009, ground had yet to be broken.

Inside it looked as great as any new ballpark. As we walked in I couldn't help noticing that about half of the fans had Red Sox hats, shirts or other apparrel. Myself included. I had on my well-worn traditional blue cap and a tasteful blue polo with the red hanging sox logo. None of the loud obnoxious stuff that Yankee fans tend to wear on the road. All three games were sellouts, with Thursday as the biggest crowd ever at Nationals Park...41,900. Average attendance there is about 21,000.

In the club level there are many cuisine choices, but we went directly to the Ben's Chili Bowl stand. Ben's is a DC tradition, and I'm a big believer in ordering local cusisine.

Smoltz debut.
Top of the 1st is a 1-2-3 inning for Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Bottom one, John Smoltz starts it off with a grounder to Ortiz at 1st. 3U. Then he hits Nick Johnson on the foot (Johnson's back foot was practically on home plate), gives up a double to Ryan Zimmerman, walks Adam Dunn (a big home run threat but also a huge strikeout threat) to load the bases. Josh Willingham singles in a run. 1-0 Nats. Former Sox backup catcher Josh Bard (two stints trying to catch Tim Wakefield - neither one successful) singles down the 1st base line. The ball eludes Ortiz' glove by about two inches. Youk would have had it without breaking a sweat, even in the 90-degree DC heat. Probably could have turned an inning-ending 3-2-3 double-play. But no, it goes into right field and the score is 2-0. Bases re-loaded. Line drive to right, caught by Drew, two outs, then a single to left scoring two more runs. End of one, it's 4-0 Nationals, and John Smoltz, with a career ERA around 3.10, sits at 54.00.

After a 1-2-3- second, Washington gets a fifth run in the 3rd with a double followed by another grounder to first that Ortiz can't handle. Smoltz has a 1-2-3- fourth and a 1-2-3 fifth, then yielded to Daniel Bard. Bard gives up a two-run single that goes right down the first base line and Ortiz again can't get to it. Two runs score. and it's 7-1. Two batters later there's a Josh Bard homer and it's 9-1. Final was 9-3 after Rocco Baldelli homered in the 9th with one on. Too little, too late.

The 54.00 dropped to 9.00.
My point is that Smoltz was nowhere near as bad as the line score makes it look (the ERA did drop from 54.00 to 9.00 by the fifth inning), and that four (possibly five) of those nine runs wouldn't have scored if Youk had been playing 1st base. We all love Big Papi, but why sit Youk? He has more home runs, more RBI, is batting about a hundred points higher than Ortiz, and is a Gold Glove 1st baseman. Papi went 0 for 4 in that game and, while not horrible, is certainly no Yoooouk as a 1st baseman.

Despite the score, it was a fun time, and Washington fans have suffered much more then we ever did pre-2004. A home-field win against Boston - especially after taking 2 of 3 from both Toronto and the Yankees - gave them a glimmer of hope...despite being 17 games out in the NL East with 50 losses already.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

As I woke this morning, I found myself remembering stories about my Dad, Hubert J. Kelley.

Dad was a big Red Sox fan. Before he reached his first birthday, the Sox won the World Series. Before he hit two they won it again. And a third time before he hit four. Then came the big wait.

He went to Boston Latin, the oldest public high school in America, Class of 1931. Traditionally, Boston Latin would seat the 50th reunion class in the front row at Commencement, with the current class sitting right behind them starting with row two. At his 50th in 1981, Dad turned to the young lady sitting behind him and said, "When I was sitting where you're sitting, the guy sitting where I'm sitting was from the Class of 1881." Yikes. She had no idea what to say to that.

Dad was a Freshman at Harvard when he was 16, Class of1935. He was recruited on campus as a coxswain for the rowing team. Supposedly someone passed him in the Yard and said, "Hey, you're pretty short - wanna be a coxswain?" While at Harvard he met my mother, Barbara Riley, Radcliffe '36. They married in 1941.

When my older brother Hugh was born, my Grandmother announced that that baby must be named Hubert J. Kelley, Jr. or she wouldn't even come and look at it. (Never let the truth stand in the way?) Dad, having grown up as Hubert, wouldn't wish that name on any kid. So they named my brother Hugh, perhaps hoping that Grandma wouldn't figure it out.

When I was born, Dad wanted to name me after Bobby Doerr, the Red Sox Hall of Fame 2nd baseman. The retired #1 at Fenway is for Doerr. Robert Pershing Doerr Kelley. My mother would have none of it.

When Hugh and I were little, Dad would tell us bedtime stories about the "Wellesley Indians" with a left-handed chief, or about Walt Dropo's shoes. Dropo was Rookie of the Year in 1950 and evidently had huge feet. Or huge shoes, anyway. Dad still smoked back then (at the time smoking wasn't dangerous - according to the ads it actually helped your digestion). As he told us stories in the dark you could see just the red tip of the cigarette, then the whole room would light up for a second when he took a puff, then it was dark again.

He deliberately misunderstood song lyrics. He thought (or claimed to think) that "She's About A Mover" by the Sir Douglas Quintet was "Peanut Butter Nougat." Or that "Wild Thing" by the Troggs was "Wow Zing." Basically, this was an open plea for a "Come on, Dad!"

Back in my Junior High days, Dad decided that Stephanie Hart, who lived on Marvin Road near the bottom of the hill on Radcliffe Road, was a "snappy dish." He mentioned numerous girls in the ensuing years who he regarded as a snappy dish, or SD, and that one of us boys might want to pursue. Never happened. Our idea of an SD and Dad's did not completely jibe.

Dad always appreciated a funny card. Once he gave me a birthday card that said, "Happy Bat Mitzvah." He wrote, "It's not the right card, of course, but it was half-price."

"Never let the the truth stand in the way of a good story." Good storytelling is a hallmark of the Irish, and this is an excellent line that I've quoted many times.

"Whoever you marry, make sure it's someone you can get along with on a daily basis." In my experience that's as true as anything I ever heard.

Wherever you go to to school, it should be a place that, when you name it, no one asks, "Where is that?" Easy for him to say, of course. He went to Harvard.

When I told him that I wanted to get into radio and I was really impressed when Victor Best, the owner of Northeast Broadcasting School, came to Wellesley High on career day. He told me to go ask someone in the business what he thought of NBS. I chased down Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg at remote at Dario Ford in Boston's South End, and Arnie told me, "Don't do it. Go to a regular four-year college and get a job at the campus radio station." Which is what I did. Dad was eternally grateful to Woo Woo.

Growing up, I was definitely the black sheep of the family. One day, in about 1975, I was in the kitchen at my parent's house and Dad looked at me and said, "You know, you've turned into a fairly reasonable person." That was his sense of humor, but I really appreciated it.

In 1978, the Red Sox had an A- season, getting off to an excellent start and building up a 14-game lead over the Yankees by the All-Star break. The Yankees chipped away, caught up and then went ahead by 3-1/2 games during the "Boston Massacre" weekend in September. The Sox caught the Yankees on the final day of the regular season, forcing a one-game playoff. That was the Bucky-bleeping-Dent game. The cheap homer by Dent was served up by former Yankee and Wellesley resident Mike Torrez (the last guy to wear #21 prior to Clemens) . Dad was on the Wellesley Board of Assessors, and the next day they convened an emergency meeting to raise the assessment on Torrez' house. That'll teach him.

In 1986 the Red Sox had another A- season, taking hold of 1st place in May and never relinquishing it. In the ALCS they were losing to the Angels, 3 games to 1, and losing in Game 4 in Anaheim. We were watching on the porch of my house in Syracuse and Dad left the room is disgust when the Brian Downing fly ball bounced off Dave Henderson's glove and over the fence for a home run. He missed it in the top of the next inning when Hendu made up for it with a home run to the same spot that gave the Sox the win.

He claimed that he could get from any place in Greater Boston to any other place faster than anyone...without speeding or breaking any laws. This was because he knew exactly which roads to take, which lane to be in an any point, and how to avoid as many lights as possible. At my uncle's funeral in 1985, as we headed from the church to the cemetery, Dad pointed out that a funeral procession does not have to stop for red lights. "Isn't it ironic? You spend you whole life waiting for red lights. Then, when you're dead and it doesn't matter anymore, you can go through them."

He died on June 8, 1989. 20 years ago this month.

On what would have been his 90th birthday, December 1, 2004, I stopped by the grave where he and my mother are buried. I said out loud, "Happy 90th, Dad. Here are a couple of headlines you'd like: The Red Sox won the World Series. And Kara got into Harvard!" My daughter, Kara, indeed got into Harvard, Class of 2009, and graduated just a couple of weeks ago. Dad would have been absolutely tickled silly to be there.

On this Father's Day, 2009, I deeply appreciate what a great Dad he was. I've tried to live up to that standard with my daughters, Caitlin and Kara. They have both been - and continue to be - an absolute joy. They write me the greatest cards you can imagine.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Memorable Red Sox-Yankees moments

There are many, but here are a few recent ones for me. I'm only counting games that I attended.

2004 ALCS Game 3. The Sox were already down 2 games to none as Ace #1 - Curt Schilling - couldn't make 50,000 New Yorkers shut up. Ace #2 - Pedro Martinez - didn't fare any better. The series moved to Boston for Game 3, but torrential downpours forced the game to be moved back a day. On Saturday night, October 16th, I took my daughter Kara to Game 3 and it went from washout to blowout. We actually left in the 7th when it was 17-6. It wound up being 19-8. They were making jokes about it that night on SNL.

Game 4
was Sunday night, and I took my other daughter,
Caitlin. We saw Larry David on the way in. I decided to say something to him, but not a no-shit comment like, "Hey, you're Larry David." So I said to him, "Larry, are you rooting for the San Diego Padres?" He looked at me with that "Huh?"expression of this. "Why would I say that?" Because I was thinking of an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where he was invited to a Yankees-Padres Interleague game and he winds up stiffing the guy. I couldn't remember which episode that was.
The Red Sox were ahead 3-1 until the 8th, when Derek Jeter hit a bases-loaded triple to make it 4-3. New York. As we went to the bottom of the 9th Mariano Rivera took the mound for New York. Boston was down three games to none - a defecit no team had even overcome - and we're losing in the 9th inning of game 4. We were seemingly on the verge of getting swept by the Damn Yankees. Kevin Millar leads off the 9th with a walk. Dave Roberts pinch runs for Millar, who describes himself as "slow as molasses." Everyone in the ballpark and across New England knows that Roberts is going to attempt a steal. Before Rivera throws the first pitch to Bill Mueller he throws over to 1st to keep Roberts close. And again. And again. On the third throw over to 1st Roberts dives back head first, then gets us and starts heading toward the dugout. Dammit, he got picked off! The View From Section 29 really made it look he'd been picked off. There goes our last chance. But no, he was just brushing the dirt off his pants. Roberts returns to 1st. Rivera delivers a pitch to Mueller and Roberts makes the "steal of the century" (the century being four years old at that point). Safe. On the next pitch Mueller singles to center and Roberts scores the tying run. On it went until about 1:30 in the morning when Big Papi launched one into the night for the 6-4 win. We got home at 2AM and I couldn't sleep. An incredibly exciting game. Also, I couldn't stop thinking about my run-in with Larry David. What the hell episode was it where he skips the Yankees-Padres game? Was I thinking of the episode where he picks up a hooker whose car broke down? No, that was in LA and he takes her to the game. This took place in New York. I went to the Curb Your Enthusiasm site and scoured the episode guide. Nothing. At 6AM, after very little sleep, I called the morning show and told them my dilemma. They thought I was nuts, but they also didn't know the answer. Later that day it came to me. It wasn't Curb Your Enthusiasm, it was The Sopranos. Vito invites Meadow's boyfriend Finn to game and Finn is wary (with good reason) and doesn't show. No wonder Larry David didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

Game 5 was at 5PM on Monday. I went with my brother Hugh. The early start time turned out to be helpful, as this one went on for 14 innings. Tim Wakefield pitched five scoreless innings in relief. We were both scoring the game, as usual, and each time we flipped the book over to to who the Yankees had coming up it seemed like it was Jeter, A Rod, Giambi, Matsui, Sheffield and Posada.every inning. It finally ending when Ortiz doubled and Johnny Damon scored. Those were absolutely unforgettable games.

Opening Day, 2005. Yankees in town. They had to stand there and watch the whole Red Sox ring ceremony. You gotta love it.

April 22, 2007. I'm at the game with Kara. Sunday night ESPN Game of the Week. Dike-K facing a Chase Wright. The Red Sox are down 3-0 in the 3rd when Manny launches a skyrocket into the Monster seats, so we're on the board. Next up is JD Drew, who plants one in the Red Sox bullpen. Then comes Mikey Lowell, who sends a shot exactly where Manny did. And then Jason Varitek hits the first pitch into the same spot as Manny and Lowell. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs. It was like watching instant replay live.

April 24, 2009. Friday night, Kathy and I have a date. Yankees in town for the first series of the year. Joba Chamberlain starts for New York, and walks Jacoby Ellsbury to open the game. Jacoby moves to second on a Joba balk. Then there's a pitch in the dirt that goes to the backstop. Jacoby, who is off on the pitch, barrels around third and scores. (This is the second time he has scored from 2nd on a passed ball.) As the game goes on, New York pulls ahead 4-2. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th Jason Bay hits a homer just over the Monster by the flag pole to tie it up. In the bottom of the 11th Youk launches a shot that everyone knew was gone the moment it left the bat. Cue up Dirty Water and Tessie.

April 25, 2009. The next night the Yankees jump out to a 6-0 lead in the 4th, but the Sox answer big time. The final is 16-11. Boston.

April 26, 2009. On Sunday night, on national TV, Andy Pettitte is on the mound for New York. Pettitte is well-known for his excellent pickoff move and almost no one steals on him. Bases are loaded. Ellsbury on 3rd. As Pettitte starts his windup, Ellsbury takes off and steals home. TV cameras didn't catch it because it was unexpected. Sox won, 4-1.

June 9, 2009. The Yankees come back to town in 1st place with a one-game lead. In game one Beckett shuts out New York, 7-0. Big Papi homered and got an amazing fan reaction for a guy who's BA is below the Mendoza line. He even got s curtain call.

June 10th, Wakefield wins his 8th game and Wang goes to 0-4. Lowell and Youk both homer. Papelbon makes it interesting in the 9th, but the Sox hold on, 6-5.

June 11th. Brad Penny vs. CC Sabbathia. David Oritz omers again in the 2nd, another curtain call. Manny Delcarmen takes over in the 7th and blows the lead by giving up a single, a double, a walk, and another double. A Rod only got to gloat for an inning. Bottom of the 8th five straight singles and a sac bunt, and we're back on top. Papelbon has a rare 1-2-3 9th, and we win 4-3. That's 8 stright against the Yankees. Hasn't happened since 1912.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who wrote this ad?

A few stupid lines from commercials.
"A few" always means three, right? A couple is two, a few is three, and several is four or more. I could give you a hundred without blinking, but here are three recent ones.

We live here, too.
No you don't. Last summer Bank of America ran a series of ads claiming that they're a local bank and they live here, just like us, and they're huge Red Sox fans.

W: What do the numbers 6, 10 and 17 mean?
M: I'm not sure.
W: That's the number of Red Sox World Series Championships, American League Pennants and playoff appearances.

No wonder the guy didn't know. Those numbers were wrong. The ad was probably written by a junior copywriter in New York who's a Yankee fan at heart. The correct numbers - as of last September - would have been 7, 12 and 19. Today it would be 7, 12 and 20. World Series Championships in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004 and 2007. American League Pennants in 1903, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, 2007. Additional playoff appearances in 1988, 1990, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Where did they get those incorrect numbers?
I actually called the ad agency in New York to point out their mistakes - simply to be helpful. After all, they're spending a lot of money on ads saying they live here and they're fans and they're quoting numbers that any true fan knows are wrong. They got the idea that the Boston Americans, who won the very first World Series in 1903 and won the the American League Pennant in 1904 were a different team than the Red Sox, which is clearly incorrect. I pointed out that the Boston team has been the same since 1901 and they sell lots of t-shirts saying that. True, the nickname wasn't adopted until December of 1907 when they got new uniforms with socks that were red instead of blue. By the way, team nickname changes were not uncommon back then. In fact, every original team except the Detroit Tigers has changed its nickname at some point. The Yankess were the HIghlanders, the Dodgers were the Robins, the Indians were the Blues, the Braves were the Beaneaters, and so on. I pointed out that the 1907 Americans and the 1908 Red Sox had the same owner, same manager, played in the same ballpark, and had eight of the same starters. Including Cy Young.

They told me they had called the Red Sox office and a spokesperson confirmed that the numbers they quoted were correct. Obvious bullshit. There's no way anyone on Yawkey Way said that. I sent them a picture of the pennants hanging off the building that start with "1903 World Champions" and "1904 American League Champions" and have the Red Sox logo. (The Red Sox should probably be awarded the 1904 World Championship by default, as the NL Champion New York Giants were annoyed that the upstart AL had won the first Series the previous year and refused to participate in the 1904 Series.) I pointed out that even the Yankee fans knew the correct number. Rememebr the "Got rings?" t-shirts that were printed after 2004? They showed 6 Red Sox rings and 26 Yankee rings. (2007 hadn't happened yet.)

Re-cutting the ad would have cost them money and they didn't really care whether they sounded like fake fans who don't really live here.

A walkoff triple?
Last summer Friendly's ran an ad about going to a Little League game on a warm night. Bobby hits a walkoff triple and they all go to Friendly's to enjoy Happy Ending sundaes. What's wrong? There's no such thing as a walkoff triple. To get a walkoff, you have to be either tied or trailing in the bottom of the last inning. If the game is tied and there's a runner on first when Bobby gets a hit and the runner comes around for the game-winning run, Bobby gets credit for a double. If that runner is on second, Bobby's hit is an RBI single, because a runner on second is considered to be in scoring position. If the team is down by a run and there are runners on second and third, a hit will win the game, but the batter only gets credit for a single. Let's say there are runners on first and second and Bobby gets a hit that scores both runners. It's a walkoff double. If you're down by two runs and the bases are loaded and Bobby has a bases-clearing hit that wins the's still a walkoff double. If you're down by three and the bases are loaded it requires a grand slam. A homer, of course, is a homer...but only if it goes over the fence. In a field with no fence that game would end when the winning run crosses the plate - regardless of where the batter is at that point. Talking about a walkoff triple means the copywriter doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

One more like that.
There's a Papa Gino's ad currently running that says, "Rally your team with the Papa Ginos double-play deal." It's two pizzas for the price of one or something like that. The problem? If your team is trying to rally and there's a double-play...what happens? The rally is killed, that's what. Just ask Julio Lugo.

There's more than one.
There's a rocky ledge. It looks like the place they used in "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" during the "Who
those guys?" scene. On the top of the ledge you see a Grand Cherokee. And a Liberty. And a Wrangler. The super says "Jeep. There's only one." I know what they mean, of course, but it sure looks like a few Jeeps to me.

I don't want to drive all over the state.
This is a radio ad. What I call a "Hey, honey" dialogue commercial. It opens with the woman.

W: Hey honey, how about we take in some great live music tonight?
M: I'm listening.
W: Then catch a rising comedian.
M: Sounds good.
W: After that we can try our luck with the slot machines.
M: Hmm.
W: Then use our winnings to get a great steak and an Irish brew.
M: Great. But I don't want to drive all over the state.
W: Honey, we don't have to. It's all right here at Twin River.

So what's wrong here? First, Twin River is a goofy name. Shouldn't it be Twin Rivers? More importantly, Twin River Casino is the former Lincoln Park Dog Track in Lincoln, RI. The commercials run in Boston. So when the guy says he doesn't want to drive all over the state to get all this great stuff she should say, "We don't. We have to drive to another state."

Just one more.
McDonald's is running a current campaign that says, "You only get one stop by McDonald's and get two Egg McMuffins for the price of one." That sounds like two breakfasts.

I realize that was several, not a few, but I was on a roll.