Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spenser is not completely dead yet

Last January, Robert B. Parker died.
I posted about it in this blog. I had read every single Spenser mystery, every Jesse Stone mystery, all the Sunny Randalls, and a few books by Parker that starred none of the aforementioned. I'd read Spenser books every summer since 1981.

But wait!
This summer a posthumous Jesse Stone book was released, which I read by the pool on the Cape. 2010 was a very nice summer and that helped.

Then I checked Amazon.
Okay, my wife did. Turns out that there was one more Spenser book to be released in October. I got it, and tried my best to read it slowly. Parker featured very short chapters, so it was easy to tell yourself, "I'll read just one more, then go to sleep" and wind up reading eight or nine more.

But this was really it, and I wanted to savor it.
Painted Ladies, the final Spenser book, featured lots of typical Spenser stuff, which is a good thing. It had too much drooling about how fabulous Susan is, but almost every Spenser book did. What surprised me a little is that only a few of the other regulars made an appearance.

State Police Homicide Commander Healy was there, as were his Boston cop friends Frank Belson and Martin Quirk. Rita Fiore, a lawyer with whom had a brief fling about 2o books ago and pops in with legal advice and flirty talk in a number of the books - including some of the Jesse Stones - has a cameo. He introduced a new Boston Police detective, Kate Quagliossi. A character with lots of potential that we'll no doubt never see.

Completely missing:
Hawk (that may be a first) , Henry Cimoli at Harbor Health Club, his bad guy posse members Vinny Morris the Shooter, Chollo, and Tedy Sapp. Boston drug lord Tony Marcus and his posse of Ty Bop and Junior. It was just Spenser doing it himself.

But wait...Spenser's not completely dead yet.
(A nod to Monty Python's "Holy Grail" for that line.) I just found out that there's still one more Spenser novel yet to be published. The title is Sixkill and the expected release date is May 3, 2011. I've already pre-ordered it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Giants win the Series, the Giants win the Series, the Giants win the Series...

It was October 3rd, 1951 at the Polo Grounds in New York.
The Giants had trailed the Dodgers by 13-1/2 games in August and wound up in a dead tie at the end of the regular season. Bobby Tompson hit a home run, called "The shot heard round the world" (it was actually only a 279-foot line drive shot) and play-by-play guy Russ Hodges yelled, "The Giants win the pennant" 13 times in a row.

But they didn't win the Series. The Yankees did. It was their 3rd in a row and 14th overall. The Giants were back in 1954, facing the Cleveland Indians. The Indians won 111 games in 1954, but were swept in the World Series by the Giants. Neither team had won since.

Until tonight.
The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, the same year that the Dodgers went west. The Dodgers won it all in their second year in LA, beating the White Sox. The Giants were a different story. They lost to the Yankees again in 1962 (5th time), then lost to the A's in 1989 (the earthquake series, 3rd loss to the A's), then lost to the Angels in 2002.

Go ahead, mess with Texas
The Rangers, meanwhile, had been around since 1961, originally as the replacement Washington Senators, then moving to Arlington in 1972. Never won a pennant before this year. No team from Texas has ever won the World Series. The Texas total of non-winning seasons (combining the Colt 45's/Astros and the Rangers) is now at 87 and counting. Note that it's longer than the now-forgotten drought of the Red Sox.

So it wa a 56-year wait.
Tim Lincecum, who looks like the murderer kid last season on "Desperate Housewives," is fun to watch. I mentioned in an earlier post that I saw him play several times on Cape Cod for the Harwich Mariners. And Buster Posey, the shortstop-turned-catcher for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape League, becomes the first rookie ever to hit cleanup in the World Series. Then there's Edgar "Rent-a-wreck" Renteria, who was horrible for the Red Sox in 2005, but got the walkoff hit for the Marlins back in 1997, and as a Cardinal hit the Series-ending tapper back to Foulke when the Sox won in '04. He hit the home run that was the difference tonight. So congrats to the Giants.

The real fun already happened.
That was in October, when the Red Sox knocked the the Yankees out of 1st place on the final day of the regular season, then the Rangers knocked them out of the playoffs. Any year when the Yankees last game is a loss is a good season.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red Sox catcher in the World Series

110 seasons.
That's the combined timeline of the Giants and Rangers wait for a World Series win. It's the second-longest in Major League history and the current record-holder. Only the 2005 combination of the White Sox and Astros (131 years) was longer. Both involved teams from Texas with their first Series appearance.

Pure pleasure.
It was pre pleasure seeing the Rangers knock off the Yankees. It's a pleasure seeing anyone knock them off. Despite the disappointing injury-laden season for the Red Sox, it was nice seeing them bump the Yankees out of first place on the final weekend.

I think I'm rooting for the Giants at this point.
Nothing against the Rangers, but the Giants fans have waited longer. They last won as the New York Giants in 1954. They play in a great city, they have a great ballpark, Barry Bonds is no longer on the team, and they have a couple of players who I enjoyed watching play in the Cape Cod League only a few years ago. Tim Lincecum pitched for the Harwich Mariners, and Buster Posey played on back-to-back championship teams for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (see photo above). The PA guy at Red Wilson field in Yarmouth always announced him as "Bustah" Posey.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ball game over!

The Yankees lose. THE....YANKEEEEESSSS....LOOOOSE!!!

How much oomph did John Sterling put into that call?
Sterling, the annoying Yankees play-by-play guy, says the reverse of that after every game they win. Shut the bleep up.

It's Friday night, 11:13.
The Texas Rangers have knocked off New York in 6 games. I wasn't really rooting for the Texas Rangers, of course, I was rooting for the Yankees to lose. And, thankfully, they did. It's pretty cool, though, watching the Texas fans enjoying their first-ever American League pennant.

Quick history lesson.
For those too young to know. In 1961 the American League had its first expansion. The Washington Senators, who had gone 36 years without a World Series win and with ten last-place finishes ("Washington: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League") gave it up and moved to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins. They were immediately replaced by a "new" Washington Senators, managed by Mickey Vernon, who was as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet. Despite that, the new Senators fared no better than the old ones, and in 1972 they moved to Arlington, Texas and changed their name to the Rangers.

Success continued to be elusive.
Until a week ago they had never won a postseason game at home. The Yankees had knocked them off in Round One three times in the 90's. Not now. Not this night. (Okay, I stole that from "Titanic.") Good for them.

So for whom am I rooting in the Series?
It actually doesn't matter. It won't be the Yankees who win .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Listening Tour

Tonight I went to an event at Fenway Park that was by invitation-only for Red Sox season ticket holders. The Listening Tour.

Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, Ben Charrington and Sam Kennedy presented a video showing the physical improvements under way for 2011 at Fenway and held an extended Q&A session with season ticket holders.

The most notable improvement will be replacing the outdated diamondvision video board under the John Hancock sign in center field with a much bigger and brighter 100'x38' HD video board. As Larry Lucchino said, "You'll be able to see the sweat beads on Kevin Youkilis' face." There will also be two other new HD video boards, one replacing the Bank of America scoreboard above the wall in left center, the other above the "Dunkin' Dugout" at the top of the right field bleachers. For those who are old enough to remember it, this is where there used to be a Buck Printing sign.

Being someone who always wants to get up and ask a question or make a comment - especially in a situation like this - I raised my hand high when they started taking questions. I was #2. First I made a suggestion, then asked a question. The comment is one I've previously made in this blog. If you're interested, go to older blogs, May 2009, "A Free upgrade." In a sentence or two, it's this: When the Legend players are featured on the video board, why don't you include the audio of their highlight clips? Why not announce them? A good three-quarters of the crowd doesn't even know that they're there. Lucchino responded that it was an excellent idea. Then I asked whether the new video boards would mean they'll add stupid graphics like, "It's a hit" or "Let's make some noise" with a picture of two hands clapping (in case you forgot how to do that). Larry answered, "Absolutely not!" That answer alone was worth the trip.

Other questions ranged from, "Are you going to sign Cliff Lee?" to "What will the pitching rotation be like in 2011?" Theo's answer was (hmmm) pretty much what it was in 2010.

Oh, and they asked who might be a good group for a Fenway concert next year. Answer: Pearl Jam or U2. And a big deal is being planned for Opening Day in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Fenway.

There was a possibility that this could have turned out to be a Yankee Elimination party as well, but it didn't happen. There's still Friday night in Texas for that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Down to the last one

Over the weekend the Phillies swept the Reds; as expected, the Yankees put the Twins away; the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant (repeat 13 times).

So now it's the Phillies and Giants in the NLCS. Giant fans have waited a long time. That famous "the Giants win the pennant" call was back in 1951 and they did not wind up winning the World Series. The Yankess did. It was the third of the Yankees record five in a row. The streak was finally broken in 1954 when the Giants did win. Since then they've been waiting on both coasts for another championship.

The Phillies hardly have a tradition of winning, but this could be their third straight World Series appearance. In the last 50 years only two teams (other than the Yankees) have appeared three straight times: The Orioles (69-71) and the A's (72-74 - all wins) and (88-90).

Then there's the ALCS. The deciding game is tonight between the Rays and Rangers. I'll go with either one - whoever has the best chance to beat New York. This year Texas went 4 and 4 with them, but did win 4 of the last 6 meetings. Tampa Bay won 10 of 18. Of the last 13 The Rays took 7. It's a toss-up.

Teams in the same division see each other so much that there aren't many mysteries. I think that means I'm going with Texas.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My take on the Playoffs

The first round of the Playoffs is well under way and may well wrap up this weekend. Three of the four series have one of the teams up 2 games to none in the best-of-five.

The Twins historically do poorly against the Yankees - epecially in the playoffs. This year is no exception, as Minnesota dropped the first two at home. The Rays also dropped the first two at home to Texas. The Phillies won the first two at home. The Giants and Braves are the only exception.

So here are some tidbits about the playoff teams. (I'm not going to bother with the Yankees.)

~The Rays have never won the World Series, but they got there in 2008 and lost to the Phillies. In their first ten years they finished in last place 9 times. They lost 100 games or more 3 times. The big change in 2008 that supposedly turned their fortunes around was dropping the word "Devil" from their name.

~The state of Texas has never had a World Series champion. The Astros are 0 for 1 in 48 seasons. The Rangers have never won a pennant. The franchise dates back to 1961 and prior to this year they've had only one playoff win (1996).

~The Twins won in 1987 and again in 1991. Before that the last championship for the franchise was in 1924.

~The Rangers and Twins share a uinque history: both teams used to be the Washington Senators. The famous line was, "Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in the American League." It was equally true for both versions of the Senators.

~The Reds last won in 1990. They won back-to-back championships in the 70's, beating the Red Sox in 7 games in '75 and sweeping the Yankees the following year. Prior to that they hadn't won since 1940. In the 1950's the Reds changed their name to the Redlegs because they thought Reds made them sound like Commies. Originally they were known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings, but the team folded for several years in the 1870's. What happened? In 1871 the very first professional league, the National Association of Base Ball Teams, was founded. The Red Stockings were a charter team, but the manager and half of the players decided they'd rather play in Boston, so they took off and moved the franchise in time for Opening Day. The team originally known as the Boston Red Stockings is the longest continuously-running franchise in all of pro sports. So what happened to them?

~The Braves is what happened to them. In 1876 the National Association gave way to the National League as we know it today. The Boston Red Stockings were a charter team, but Cincinnati put a new team on the field, using the old name Red Stockings. The Boston folks decided that the name duplication wasn't a good idea, and since Cincy had used it first they changed their name to the Beaneaters. Then to the Doves (that really threw some fear into the opposing teams), then to the Braves, then the Bees, then back to the Braves. The American League came along in 1901 and one of the charter teams was the Red Sox, who wound up outdrawing the Braves every single year. In 1953 the Braves finally gave up and moved to Milwaukee, where their AAA team played. That move was good for a while, but attendance dropped off and in 1966 they moved again, this time to Atlanta. In the 90's they suddenly became a good team and they've won their division almost every year for the last couple of decades. They're the only team to win the World Series playing in three different cities: Boston (1914), Milwaukee (1957) and Atlanta (1995). They also lost it playing in three cities: Boston (1948), Milwaukee (1958), and Atlanta (1991,1992,1996,1999).

~The Giants have been to the World Series three times in San Francisco: 1962, 1989 and 2002, and lost all three. In the '62 Series a guy named Jack Sanford, from my hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts, one-hit the Yankees. The franchise last won as the New York Giants in 1954. Fifty-six years ago. They beat the Cleveland Indians, who last won in 1948. The only team to go longer than the Giants and Indians without winning is, of course, the Cubs, now at 65 years without a World Series appearance and 102 years and counting without a win.

~The Phillies. (I'm rooting for them.) The Phillies, originally known as the Worcester Rubylegs, moved to the City of Brotherly Love in 1882 and took 99 years to win their first championship. They won game 1 of the 1915 Series, then went 65 years before winning another playoff game. They finally won in 1980 and again in 2008. A couple of years ago they set a professional sports all-time record by losing their 10,000th game. Philly, a city with a lotta-lotta culture, is where they boo Santa Claus and cheer bad landings at the airport. They have terriffic fans and a great ballpark. How can you not root for them?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

132 days

That's when pitchers and catchers show up at Spring Training 2011. I didn't add up that number myself, I got it from a "Thank you Red Sox Nation" e-mail that came on Monday.

So what do I think about 2010? Considering that the Sox lost their starting left fielder, center fielder, catcher, 1st baseman, second baseman and two starters, had nine broken ribs (all thanks to Adrian Beltre), two broken feet and two broken thumbs and three of the five starting pitchers turning in seasons that ranged from mediocre to horrible, they did okay. No playoff berth, of course, but by winning four of six from the Yankees (could have been 6 of 6 if Papelbomb had been on his game) they knocked the Yankees out of first place on the final day.

There were certainly some bright spots. Darnell McDonald was announced in the 8th inning back in June and we thought he was a new pitcher for the Rangers. No, he was a pinch hitter for Boston and no one had heard of him. What was that? Dar-who? Then he hit a game-tying homer in his first at bat, and hit a walkoff double in his second at bat. And there was Daniel Nava, just up from Pawtucket. Joe Castiglione had interviewed Nava before the game and told him to swing at the first pitch he saw because you'll never get your first pitch in the majors again. He did, and hit a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen. He's the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw.

We saw Manny return twice, once as a Dodger and once as a White Sock. (Is that the way to write that?) Both times he got mostly boos, but I must say an impressive number of Dodger fans showed up and made it sound like two-thirds booing instead about the 75-80% booing we heard when he came back with Chicago.

We saw Mike Lowell day on the final Saturday. Big cheers, and well deserved. In the first at bat he doubled in two runs. In his final at bat he hit a ball off the top of the monster that missed going out by only a foot. A homer in your final at bat before retiring would be pretty ccol, but I think that Ted Williams is the only one who ever did it.

The bright side? Maybe some people won't renew and I can upgrade my season tickets to the red seats with more legroom and cupholders.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great Baseball Names

My random list of really good baseball names:

There are some historically great baseball names, like old-time pitchers Burleigh Grimes, Rollie Fingers, Three Finger Brown and Smokey Joe Wood. And bad ones like Eric Plunk and Bob Walk.

Doug Fister (Mariners)
Jamey Wright (Mariners) Yes, he's a righty.
Aaron Laffey (Indians) Bring him in when the game gets out of hand.
Tony Sipp (Indians) Trouble is, the Indians never get to sip the champagne.
Kevin Slowey (Twins) Throws junkballs.
Zack Greinke. It's just a good name.
Mark Buerhle (White Sox) Sounds like a big guy.
Frank Francisco (Rangers) I keep wondering if his full name is Francisco Francisco.
John Maine (Mets). Only player named after a state.
Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners). Only MLB player ever with a hyphenated name.
Mark Lowe (Rangers) ...and just a little outside.
Ubaldo Jiminez (Rockies). Have you seen him with his hat off?
Huston Street (Rockies). Is that where he was born?
Mike Leake (Reds). When you gotta go...
Laynce Nix (Reds), Drew Stubbs (Reds) Both sound like shaving mistakes.
Fernando Abad (Astros). A bad pitcher?
Grant Balfour (Rays). It's BAL-four, but it looks like like ball four.
David Riske (Brewers) Risky business? He was briefly with the Red Sox.
Brian Bannister (Royals). He should slide.
Evan Meek (Pirates). As long as he's in Pittsburgh he won't be inheriting the earth.
Antonio Bastardo (Phillies). Clearly born out of wedlock. Did his Mom think people wouldn't know?
Tim Lincecum (Giants). I just like it. I saw him play in the Cape Cod League.

Buster Posey (Giants). Also saw him play in the Cape Cod League. The PA guy on the Cape always called him "Busta"
Grady Sizemore (Indians) Scott Sizemore (Tigers) Both big guys.
Clete Thomas (Tigers) It's right up there with Spike Owen and Trot Nixon.
Ryan Budde (Angels) Hey, buddy!
Will Rhymes (Tigers). 3 and 2, the big one due.
Taylor Teagarden (Rangers) Remember Teegarden & Van Winkle's "God, Love and Rock & Roll" in 1970? No?
Taylor Tankersley (Marlins). It sounds like Dennis Eckersley when he had a bad game.
Casey Blake (Dodgers) In the poem "Casey at the Bat" the guy who's at bat right before Casey strikes out is named Blake.
Reggie Willits (Angels) Will its the bottom of the 9th.
Chipper Jones (Braves) Should have been a golfer.
Chin Lung Hu (Dodgers). Only MLB player with a name that has two body parts. He's a shortstop, but with a name like that he should play first base.
Prince Fielder (Brewers). He looks like a DH but could never be one with a name like that.
Craig Counsell (Brewers). He should have played on the Patriots along with Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy.
Chase Utley (Phillies). Great player with a great name.
Lastings Milledge (Pirates). Sounds like a Vice Presidential candidate in 1856.
Assdrubal Cabrera (Indians). It's a boy! Let's name him Assdrubal!
Yorvit Torrealba (Padres). Why Yorvit? Because Asdrubel was already taken.
(Okay, they're both from Venezuela, but Yorvit is actually older than Assdrubal, and Asdrubal really has only one s. But it's funnier with two.)
Matt Stairs (Padres) Is he up?
Coco Crisp (A's) Obvious.
Milton Bradley (Mariners). A real gamer. Also a jerk. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go.
Evan Longoria (Rays). How can you not think of Eva Longoria?
Ty Wigginton (Orioles). I just like the name.
Don Kelly (Tigers). He spells it the wrong way, but how can I not like it?

Justin Smoak (Mariners).
Randy Winn (Cardinals)

Homer Bailey (Reds)

Humberto Quintero (Astros)
Placido Polanco (Tigers).
Rod Barajas (Mets). Give the the R in his last name a really good rrrroll.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Rangers) A 14-letter name that barely fits on his shirt.
Mark Rzepczynski (Blue Jays) An 11-letter last name with only two and a half vowels.

Ryan Langerhans (Mariners)
Jair Jurrjens (Braves)

Kosuko Fukudome (Cubs).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yaz At Bat

It's the Monday of the All-Star break. There are only two days in the year when there is no game action in any of the professional sports and this is one of them.

Except on the Cape
I'm on vacation on the Cape, and as I do every year I've caught a couple of Cape League games. At Red Wilson Field in Yarmouth the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox host the Cotuit Kettleers. Up to bat steps the Cotuit right fielder, #18, one Michael Yastrzemski. My daughter Kara says something about the coincidence of seeing a name like that in a ball game. I responded that it wasn't any coincidence. Michael Yastrzemski goes to Vanderbilt and comes from North Andover, MA. This is probably the grandson of Yaz. A woman in front of me hears this and confirms it.

The MLB strike
When you mention "the baseball strike" people usually think of the one that canceled the 1994 World Series. But the strike before that, in 1981, cut a big hole in the middle of the season. During that strike I went to a Cape League game in Harwich. The Y-D Red Sox were playing the Harwich Mariners, and one of the players on the Red Sox was Michael Yastrzemski, who is the father of the Michael Yastrzemski I just saw playing for Cotuit and the son of Carl Yastrzemski, who was still an active player with the Boston Red Sox. Carl, who had free time because of the strike, was at the game in Harwich and saw his son Mike hit a home run.

Flash forward 29 years
So here I am watching a third generation of Yaz at bat. He's a lefty, by the way, batting .211 with no homers and 2 RBI's. I'm guessing that his pro baseball career will be more like his father's than his grandfather's, but it's interesting to watch him at bat.

Other noteable names
Playing first base for Cotuit is Caleb Bushyhead. Seriously. I tried to peer into the dugout to see what he looked like when he took off his helmet, but couldn't get a good look. Maybe if he makes it to the majors and plays for the Rockies he can take a pickoff throw from their star pitcher Ubaldo Jiminez, who's starting for the NL in the All-Star game ("Ubaldo throws over to Bushyhead, but the runner is back safe"). On the Red Sox we have Matt Hamlet, who goes to BC and comes from a little town in Virginia. Never mind about BC, think about the little town part. The shortstop is Joe Panik (OMG! Don't tell me he's up again! What are we gonna do???) Also Matt Rush, who's trying to get into a fraternity at Oral Roberts, and always swings at the first pitch. They've got a big kid named Poppe. 6'6", 220. The closer for Yarmouth-Dennis is appropriately named Michael Goodnight. He's lights-out.

There's a guy named Scott Snodgress from Stanford. I wondered if he might be related (great-great-great-nephew or something) to the player on the New York Giants who dropped a fly ball in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series, allowing the Red Sox to win the Series. But that guy was Snodgrass, not Snodgress. There's a guy named Jordan Leyland who I thought might be related to Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland. I Googled it and saw a headline that said, "Tigers draft Jim Leyland's son." But it's not Jordan, it's Patrick.

So enjoy the shot of Yaz at bat in 2010. Do you think he has a similar stance?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My take on soccer

This year the media, ESPN in particular, has tried harder than ever to make soccer a big deal in America. It isn't working.

Certainly the term Soccer Mom has made it into the American lexicon, and no one talks about a Lacrosse Mom or a Softball Mom or a Crew Mom. Except for Sarah Palin no one talks about being a Hockey Mom.

The US was eliminated from the World Cup today by Ghana. Remember who knocked the US out four years ago? Ghana. (Did you know that? Did you know that they hold the World Cup every four years?)

Last night I was watching Sports Center and they were talking about the Team USA game today. They had four anchors, three of them former pro athletes. Every one of them pronounced Ghana "Goo-ana." Two weren't sure what continent it is on. To put that in perspective, my daughter did a project about Ghana in 3rd grade - it might even have been 2nd grade. Every kid in the class knew how to say it and where it is. Why don't the ESPN anchors know? Because they don't need to know. It isn't important to them.

We get some e-mails at the radio station asking why we always talk about the Red Sox or Celtics when soccer is the most popular game in the world. Why? Because even though soccer is arguably the most popular game the in world, it clearly isn't the most popular game in America. And that's who we're talking to: Americans.

We have five radio stations on Morrissey Boulevard in Boston. About 225 employees. How many are avid soccer fans? Two morning guys, plus an intern and one Air Personality's husband. That's 222-4. 222-2 if you only count paid employees. I randomly asked 25 employees if they could name anyone from Team USA. Only one - the intern - came up with a name.

One more piece of evidence: I'm on Cape Cod this weekend. Around 6PM today I went to Bass River Sports World which is right nearby us. They have miniature golf, a driving range, go carts and right next to each other they have batting cages and a full-sized soccer net.

The photo above shows the batting cages with ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, trying to launch one over an imaginary Green Monster.

This photo of the soccer net, taken ten seconds later, shows absolutely no one trying to bend it like Beckham.

One of the few soccer fans at work accused me of hating soccer. I don't hate it. I just don't like it much. The goalies don't even wear the same uniform as the rest of the team. What's that all about? Players run back and forth, back and forth, and nobody scores. You have to listen to the constant buzz of the annoying Vuvuzela horns. You'd think it's the Year of the Cicada. They're worse than the cowbells at Tropicana Field. (By the way, the old folks in Tampa only ring the cowbells when the scoreboard tells them to.)

The American audience has plenty of exciting pro and college sports to follow, and they just don't have time for soccer. What would you rather watch? A 103-101 Celtics-Lakers game, a 14-inning 7-6 Red Sox-Yankees game decided by a walkoff at 1AM, or a 0-0 soccer match between Uruguay and Slovenia?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two weeks in

Okay, the Red Sox are off to a slow start. That has happened in April many, many times. It's typically followed by an excellent May.

Opening Night.
It was a great time. I went with my daughter Kara. A surprisingly warm night. The kid from the Herb Brooks "Miracle" speech You Tube video was a real kick.

(forgive the My Bob's ad)

Pedro milked the first pitch for all it was worth and then some. Live performances by Steven Tyler and Neil Diamond. As far as the annual Fenway upgrades, they actually replaced the 1934 wooden grandstand seats. The new ones have springs. Other than that, they are identical. Same flat wooden slats. Same cramped size. Unbelievable. Larry Lucchino said they did it because the wooden seats - the last ones remaining in the Majors - are part of the tradition. Larry, have you ever spent five hours sitting in one? Think maybe there's a reason that no one else has them anymore? Of course, cramped as they are, the Red Sox have no problem filling them night after night.

The opener was a nice win over the Yankees. Tuesday and Wednesday we saw the bullpen blow leads.

Off to KC.
While I was doing some pre-season work on the Cape house the Sox were in Kansas City, where they have some crazy little women. They lost on Friday night, making three straight L's and dropping the Sox to 1 and 3. Two wins over the weekend and it was back to .500.

We head to the Mini-apple.
On Monday the Twins opened their brand new ballpark, Target Field, hosting the Red Sox. Last May Kara and I flew out there for game one the final Red Sox series at the Metrodome. On Wednesday we flew out for game 2 of the first Sox series in the new ballpark. I thought about going to game 1 there, but it was sold out, and the 3PM start would have made flying in and back on the same day a challenge. Furthermore, this was the first game at their beautiful brand new outdoor ballpark after playing at the horrible Metrodome with the crappy fake field and the big blue baggie for a right field fence the for almost 30 years. I didn't want to be some jerk wearing the wrong jersey and rooting for the visitors at a game that the Twins should get to win.

Kara at Target Field

Game 2 was different. No opening day pressure. It's a very nice ballpark, right downtown. A decent number of fans were wearing Red Sox stuff, but vastly outnumbered by Twins fans, all of whom were Midwest friendly. One commented that they had been to Fenway once, and they thought the smell was really unique. The concourses are very wide and full of concessions. The friendly folks behind the counters were really slow - as in two innings to get a hot dog a beer. There was no local beer or local cuisine. Maybe there isn't any.

They didn't do any of the stupid minor league stuff you see at a lot of new ballparks, like having cheer girls shoot t-shirts into the stands. Okay, they did one bingo game between innings, but it was less intrusive than the ketchup-mustard-pickle race featured in a lot of new parks. They did shoot off fireworks when a Twin homered. When Jason Kubel came up a few fans tried make a "koo"sound like the "Youk" chant you hear everywhere, but it paled in comparison. No waves, of course. You only get that at Fenway. There were no special songs. No Minnesota version of "Dirty Water" or "Deep in the Heart of Texas" or "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" or "New York, New York." Of course, the Twins lost the game. Maybe they save the song for wins, like the Sox do with "Dirty Water."

Editor's note:
I should add that I think it's incredibly cool that my daughter likes to go on Red Sox road trips with me. We've gone to Montreal, New York (3 different ballparks), Chicago, Oakland, Phoenix, San Francisco, Minnesota (2 ballparks) and Baltimore in a couple of weeks. Does it get any better than that?

Back at Fenway.
On Friday night, Kathy and I went and sat, not in Section 29, but in Section 19, Box 42. That's in front of the walkway, right behind home plate. Fabulous view. Bigger, much more comfortable seats . Padded, with cupholders and leg room. Beer served in the stands. Rob Barry, the peanut vendor with the best arm in the majors, was on beer duty. An older gentleman dried off the seats (it had been raining all day) and we tipped him. I was surprised at how few others did. In about the 4th inning a couple of guys who clearly didn't belong there showed up to take box seats in the next section. I think they tipped the guy to let them sit there.

Box seat legroom

Jerry Remy's pen.
We were under the backstop screen, and up on the overhead part of the screen there was a pen. It appeared to be one of those blue and white Bic pens that has four colors of ink: blue, black, red and green. I recall hearing Jerry Remy say that he uses one of those Bic pens to score the game. Blue for most entries, green for a hit, red for an RBI, black for an error. I figured that was Remy's pen. Jerry must have dropped it during a game and it slid halfway down the backstop screen and got stuck there.

Remy's pen stuck in the backstop screen

The two-week mark.
So here it is, two weeks after opening night. The Red Sox are 4 and 7 and losing 4-0 to Tampa Bay as I write this. In several of the recent losses the Sox have had three starters hitting well under the Mendoza line. (In case you're not familiar with that expression, it refers to batting .200. When you go above or below that mark, you've crossed the Mendoza line. It refers to Mario Mendoza, a former Pirate and Ranger who actually had a career average of .215 but is saddled with the image of a lifetime .200 hitter). Big Papi, who looks not as big in the shoulders as he was, is batting .171. JD Drew makes him look like the Ortiz of 2003-2007, batting an embarrassing .131 with a team-leading 16 strikeouts.

Run prevention?
That was The Plan for 2010. How do you expect to prevent runs when your new shortstop is tied for the Major League lead in errors. Three in two weeks paces at 39 for the season. Two of those cost the team wins. To put that in perspective, Edgar "Ren-a-wreck" Renteria had 30 for Boston in 2005. Julio Lugo made 19 in 2008, and he only played half the season. The error count is also suspiciously low, as many plays that are scored as "hits" are really errors. What's more. it doesn't account for bad throws that Youk is able to dig out of the dirt or bad relay throws that fail to get the runner at first on a routine double-play ball. Scutaro made another bad throw just now as I'm writing this.

The Sox wound up losing 7-0, their fourth straight loss.

But hey, it's only two weeks, and they typically play well on Patriots' Day.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wow, did that go by fast

My daughter Caitlin turns 25 at 11:52PM tonight. Wow, did that go by fast.

She was actually due on Valentine's Day.
I was the Program Director of WFTQ in Worcester. 14Q. I did a short airshift as well, from 9-11AM. My opening break that day, coming out of the 9AM news, was over the beginning of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Over the 7-second intro I said, "Well, here it is, February 14th, the baby's due date. And so far, nothing." I posted the vocal perfectly. Elton opens with, "When are you gonna come down...when are you going to land?" It was probably my best show open ever.

A week and a half later, on Sunday the 24th, there was still no baby. I drove my wife Kathy up and down a bumpy street in Worcester hoping to move things along. At the time I didn't know that when the doctors give you a due date they're throwing a dart and guessing.

Four days later.
Kathy was getting up to head in to work for a sales meeting at WAAF where she was an Account Executive. As she walked into the bathroom her water broke. You hear all those stories about the water breaking in the supermarket, but this was very convenient timing. So we grabbed the already-packed suitcase, jumped in the car and headed for Worcester Memorial Hospital.

We checked in around 9AM. Kathy was resting sort of comfortably and I was in a chair next to her reading "Nightmare in Pink" (as noted in my last blog entry).

On it went.
Eleven hours later, around 8PM, they sent me home to nap. I felt like I had just hit the pillow when the phone rang. It was a nurse at the hospital telling me that they're about to start pushing and I should come back right now. I got back about 8:30. The pushing went on for about an hour and a half. If you want to feel useless, try telling your wife who has been in labor for 14 hours that she should remember her breathing. Hut-hut-HOO. Shut up and tell them to give me another goddamn epidural. Just before midnight, Dr. Pokoly asked if we'd like a February baby or a March baby. Clearly February would be a few minutes earlier.

Eight minutes before midnight,
Dr. Pokoly, with his medium-strong German accent, said, "Vell, it looks like ve haf a girl here." Indeed we did. Wow. The nurse handed her to me and I carried her around the room pointing things out. This is a clock. It says 11:55. This here is a painting of Monet's Japanese bridge. This is a window. This is a magazine. Oh, here's your Mommy. I can't adequately describe the unbelievable feeling of holding your brand newborn daughter in your arms. It's a moment that's etched in my brain like no other.

One of the nurses said, "She looks a little grunty." You're calling my daughter grunty? I would have punched the nurse in the nose if my arms weren't full. We went to the recovery room and the nurse there said, "Oh, it's a girl! What are you going to name her?' I responded, "Caitlin." The nurse said, "Oh, yeah. That's the big name this year."

Quick aside about the name.
Before Kathy and I started talking about baby names I had actually never heard of the name Caitlin. Kathy got the name from a book she'd read about Dylan Thomas's wife. The deal was that if we had a girl, Kathy would name her. If we had a boy, I'd get the honor. Kathy's first name choice was actually Erin, but her sister Terry had stolen the name a few years earlier despite Kathy having hosied it. If I recall correctly, there was some mashed potato thrown at Thanksgiving dinner over the issue. So Caitlin it was.

As far as I can recall, Caitlin never had a class, played on a team, or had much of any group activity anywhere without at least one other Caitlin. Usually misspelled. Katelyn, or Kaitlin, or Katlyn or some combination of those. She was in a regional swim meet one time and there were six swimmers in her event, three of them from the Wellesley team. All were named Caitlin.

Despite that, you hardly ever see Caitlin stuff for sale in souvenir stores. The pens, key chains, mugs, sticky pads and such never have Caitlin. When she was about three I found a rack of cassettes where the guy sings a customized "Happy Birthday" with your kid's name and everything. I had to special order a Caitlin version.

On her second night home Caitlin slept through the night. Her first doctor's appointment was the next day, and the doctor asked how she was doing. We said, great, she slept through the night. He said, "Oh, no, don't let her do that. You have to wake her up." Say, what? I don't think so.

One more name aside.
We lived in Baltimore for three years when I was Program Director of Mix 106.5. We decided to get Social Security cards for the girls (Kara, daughter #2, was born in Baltimore). We needed a birth certificate with a raised seal from the city hall of their birthplace. Baltimore for Kara was easy, but the City of Worcester sent us the wrong birth certificate. Evidently there was another Caitlin Kelley born to a different Don and Kathy Kelley on the same date in Worcester. Kelley was probably misspelled.

Dream Girl.
Caitlin has been an absolute dream. As sweet and easy going as they come. None of the tension that you see with kids on situation comedies. No teenage anger or angst. I coached her in CYO basketball for four years, until the players' skills eclipsed my coaching skills. In softball, though, it was a different story. I coached her from T-ball in 1st grade all the way through high school Varsity where she played an excellent third base and was in the MIAA State Tournament for three straight years.

She went to Providence College and graduated with the highest GPA in her major. Got a job immediately after graduation at a non-profit in New York. Got an apartment in Manhattan with a friend she's known since nursery school.

When she got to New York Caitlin started playing in a co-ed dodge ball league and a guy on the team noticed that she has a much better arm than most of girls. He asked her if she'd like to fill in on his co-ed softball team the next night. They had enough boys but were short one girl. Sure, she'll play. They put Caitlin at second base, probably hoping that no one would hit the ball to her, but they did hit it to her. She actually turned two 6-4-3 double-plays (that's where the second baseman takes the throw from the shortstop, steps on second, does a pivot and makes the relay throw to first). That opened some eyes. Say, would you like to be a regular on the team? Yes, she would. That lead to her new job in the Viacom Building in Times Square doing Digital Analytics for Nickelodeon's numerous web sites.

It was also at dodge ball where she met her boyfriend, a great guy who is from New York but thankfully is not a Yankee fan. Last April he took her to the very first game at Citi Field in Queens, the new home of the Mets. That first game, an exhibition at the end of spring training, was between the Red Sox and Mets. Clearly this guy gets it.

So here we are, 25 years later.
Caitlin is now in The Demo (25-54, the age group that all marketers covet) so her opinion officially counts. Wow, that was fast. Caitlin, you are and always have been a true delight. Happy 25th.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I picked up the phone and called Quirk

That was the last line of the last Spenser book. I just finished it last night. I'd been saving the last few chapters for a couple of weeks since Robert B. Parker died on January 18th.

The first Spenser book I read was in 1981. Looking for Rachel Wallace. My brother Peter recommended it to me. It was the third in the Spenser series. I liked it enough to go back and read the first two, The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child. Moving forward, I read every one since then. And all the Jesse Stone ones, and the Sunny Randall ones. And a few that had none of the well-known characters, such as Wilderness, Love and Glory, and Poodle Springs, the unfinished Raymond Chandler book that Parker completed.

My daughter Caitlin was born in 1985. I had read about five Spenser books by then and was also working on the entire Travis McGee series by John D. McDonald. All the McDonald books had a color in the title: The Deep Blue Goodbye, A Tan and Sandy Silence, The Dreadful Lemon Sky, etc. The one I was reading in the hospital while I waited all day for Caitlin to be born was Nightmare in Pink. I knew it would be girl.

But back to Parker. Kathy and I decided that a kid should have a dog, so we got a full-grown Old English Sheepdog from a shelter in Holden, MA. Named him Spenser, spelled like the detective, which was spelled like the English poet.

Caitlin's first word was "Spenser." Okay, it was more like "Spa-spa," but she wasn't saying "Daddy." She was talking about the dog.

Every year since 1981 I've had a Spenser book to read on the beach. Usually at Smuggler's Beach on Cape Cod. I learned a number of things from Spenser books. In one, he's sitting in his office on Kneeland Street (this was the first of three offices he had). It's nighttime, the window is open, and he hears a car with a trick horn blowing "shave and a haircut...two bits." I had never known the name for dum-dum-da-DUM-dum...dum-DUM . Now I did. In another book he's up in the Catskills trying to rescue Susan and somebody says, "Yippie cayocayay!" It's the only time I've seen it written out. When I was a kid my father used to say, "Up and Adam" to get us boys up. At least that's what I thought he was saying. Many years later, while reading a Spenser book, I came across this line: "It was 5 o'clock and I was already up and at 'em, but the 'em I was up and at were still asleep." Up and at them. Now I get it.

The books weren't perfect. A reviewer once recommended that Parker give us "more Hawk, less Susan." I agree. He spent way too much time drooling over how wonderful Susan is. In the last ten years or so, after he and Susan got back together, she gets a PhD in Psychology at Harvard. From then on, Spenser mentions that Susan has a Harvard PhD several times in every book. Impressive, yes, but alright already. He referred to having sex as "bopping" too frequently. I found this annoying when multiple people in the same book would use the expression. He relied heavily on the same police contacts, as though the Boston Police Department consisted of only two guys that he knew, Quirk and Belson. He has Hawk doing the fake black dialect thing too much. He adopted a kid in an early book, Paul Giacomin. Paul comes up a few times in subsequent books, but it's pretty sparse. He spends too much time fawning over Pearl the Wonder Dog (they actually go through two Pearls). Pearl is fed food right from the table and gets to crawl into bed with them. A few plots were preposterous, like the one where he goes to Arizona to save a small town from outlaws by shooting them all.

But they're fun reads. Short chapters. Good beach reads, good airplane reads. Good characters. Hawk, Vinnie Morris, Tony Marcus, Junior and Ty Bop, Chollo, Henry Cimoli, State Police Homicide Commander Healy, Martin Quirk, Frank Belson. He ate at real restaurants and named them. Lockober's, The Bristol Lounge, Rocco, The Ritz Bar, Blue Ginger. He knew that a Browning was a good piece to hide in the small of your back but was also effective. He knew how to cook. He knew how to box. He ran along the Comm Ave mall. He enjoyed beer, like Amstel or Black and Tan. He liked Scotch, especially Dewar's. Also Maker's Mark. He liked Dunkin' Donuts coffee. And their cinammon donuts. He named real towns, unless something bad was happening there. He referred to my hometown of Wellesley as Pemberton. Lowell was Proctor. Portsmouth, NH was Port City. Lynnfield was Smithfield. Tufts University was Taft. BC might also have been Taft.
He's funny and self-effacing. "I decided to use my warm but convincing smile on her. I didn't work. That surprised me, because my warm but convincing smile almost always works."

He was a Red Sox fan. He has a 2004 World Series Champion cap. In one book Spenser is wearing a Utica Blue Sox cap as a disguise. Parker himself was old enough to remember the Boston Braves. On the back of several books he's wearing a Boston Braves cap while Pearl strains against the leash. (In case you don't know, the Braves are a National League team that played in Boston from 1871-1953, when they got sick of being outdrawn by the Red Sox and decided to blow town and head to Milwaukee. 13 years later they moved again, this time to Atlanta where they still play.)

So now I have no more Spenser books to read. There is one more Jesse Stone novel. He's the Police Chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, which is remarkably like Marblehead. I'll read it when it's released. But I'll miss Spenser.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who wote this ad? The Grammys. Schilling is not a Yankee fan.

Your blogger has been hibernating since November, but we're back again with some thoughts about commercials that were perhaps written in haste, the Grammy Awards, and how Martha Coakley lost the election.

Who wrote this ad?
A Walmart ad just ran on CBS. Great spot, between 60 Minutes and the Grammys. The scene is a kitchen and family room. Everyone...Dad, Mom, Sis, younger Brother, Uncle wearing a generic football jersey. One is #12, but it's not a Brady shirt. Another is #18, but it isn't for Peyton Manning. She's serving snacks to the gang as they pile on the couch, and she says, "At our house, we love the playoffs, and I want to be ready to watch it." Watch IT? Wouldn't that be "watch them"? I also have a hard time buying the idea of everyone huddled around a flat screen getting excited about all the playoffs. Unless it's a family of bookies. At my house it would be just me watching the game, and I'd be flipping. My wife would be watching "Real Housewives of New Jersey" or MSNBC. My daughters. if they were around at the time, would have a movie on.

Maybe this TV household is all watching the home town team. That would make more sense. If so, they're watching the playoff (singular). Why then, is everyone wearing a different color team shirt?

Maybe they are a family of bookies, and they're all watching the playoffs in general. Last week they could have been gathered around the TV to root for either the Jets or the Colts. But no one is wearing the colors of either team. A stretch. What's more, as Dan Shaughnessey wrote in the Boston Globe, people around these here parts were rooting for both of those teams to lose.

So basically, the spot was written by someone who does not follow football or playoffs of any sport, and it was shot by a director, and then approved by a client who also don't follow the playoffs or know how to talk about them.

The Grammys.
My station, MAGIC 106.7, actually won a Grammy. It was 1998, and the Academy was hot to prove that it was important for radio stations to front-sell and back-sell new music. As in, "Here's the new one from Taylor Swift" when you're introducing the song, and saying, "That was the new one from Taylor Swift" immediately following it. They survey a bunch of radio stations, and decided that MAGIC 106.7 did the best job of this of any station. So we got a "Radio Active" Grammy Award.

Artists often annoy me at the Grammys. They win, get up there and thank their manager, thank a bunch of other people you never heard of, thank God, and thank their mother, which is a good thing. No one ever thanks their father, which I find depressing. But tonight, Michael Jackson's kids did. Other than Country artists, and Michael Bolton back in the day when he won awards, no one thanks the Radio for playing them.

And if we didn't, where would they be? They'd be where the Grammy-winning soundtrack to the movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" wound up. Nowhere. It was a very good soundtrack. Added a lot to the movie. Radio got a lot of grief for ignoring the Grammy-winning soundtrack, but anyone who has seen the movie must realize that you can't play 1930's-style Hillbilly Bluegrass versions of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" or "You Are My Sunshine" on your radio station and still have people continue to listen. Radio makes the hits, and it plays the hits. Any artist who's made a ton of money made it because they got played on the radio.

How Martha lost the election.
One more rambling subject: The Senatorial election. In 2007 we had both Martha Coakley and Scott Brown at our Exceptional Women Awards. Martha was an award winner that year. Scott was there to promote - guess who? Ayla, who had made the top 16 the previous year on American Idol and had a new single.

So what happened to turn the election? Martha seemed like a slam dunk until a couple of weeks before the election, but Scott clearly out campaigned her. The ridiculous barrage of ads on both radio and TV leading up to the campaign...several times we had four in a row for one side or the other... definitely helped Scott. Why? Naturally, all the Scott Brown ads mentioned him by name. So did all the supporters of Martha Coakley who bought anti-Brown ads. The result was that three of every four ads - regardless who who the ads supported - contained Scott Brown's name, while only the Coakley committee ads named Martha.

But the real tipping point....Martha's interview with Dan Rea on WBZ. She mentions Rudy Giuliani and says he's a Yankee fan. No kidding. Then she adds that Curt Schillng is a Yankee fan. Dan Rea calls her out on this. Curt, the Bloody Sock playoff hero, is certainly a Red Sox fan. Martha defends her comment. "No, he's not there any more. He's a Yankee fan."

Curt Schilling responds the next day on his "38 Pitches" blog and on WEEI saying that there's no way he'd be a Yankee fan. Jay Leno has Scott Brown do "10 at 10" on his show and jokes about Martha's Schilling gaffe. Scott agrees with Jay that Schilling would certainly be a Red Sox fan, then proceeds to correctly name Boston's likely starting rotation in 2010. There's a bit about this on the opening of Saturday Night Live.

This was a campaign-killer comparable to George HW Bush in 1992 not knowing that supermarkets had scanners, or Gerald Ford in 1976 stating that there was no Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe. All three made the candidate look completely out of touch. In this case, anyone - especially male - who was on the fence about who'd get their vote immediately dismissed Martha based on that comment alone. Was she kidding? Obviously she doesn't get it. What else doesn't she get? Was she under a rock in 2004? Doesn't she know anything?