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Friday, April 27, 2012

Want to Buy Ted Williams' Silver Bat? How About His Old Sneakers?

Ever wonder whether you should throw out that beat-up old wallet or tackle box? Is your wife (sorry ladies, it is usually you) on your case to chuck that old Hawaiian shirt? And what about all those old canceled checks? Surely they should be shredded rather than saved.

Not so fast. If you go on to win six batting titles, become a war hero, or spend your retirement as one of the world's most decorated fishermen philanthropists, this stuff could really escalate in value. If you don't believe me, just head over to Fenway Park this weekend and take a look at what they think Ted Williams' old high-top sneakers are worth.
Yes, just when you thought the historic hoopla was over at Fenway, there is yet another reason besides the next Red Sox home game to visit baseball's Most Beloved Ballpark. The Ted Williams Collection at Private Auction is being held this weekend, and even if you don't have $10,000-$20,000 to drop on his Winchester rifle with "TED" emblazoned on the trigger card, you can stop by Fenway to take a close-up look at the Splendid Splinter's Stuff as it goes up for bidding.

You name it, they've got it. His traveling suitcase from his stint managing the Washington Senators. His fishing reels, flies, and hunting knifes. Every baseball, fishing, hunting, or military award you can think of, in many cases personalized and with a photo of him receiving it. Scrapbooks dating back to his childhood. Monogrammed wallets and cuff links. His coin collection. Many, many autographed photos, jerseys, balls, and canceled checks.

A few items stand out. The silver bat Williams received for leading the American League with a .388 average in 1957 is expected to fetch between $100,000 and $200,000, and his 1949 MVP award another $150,000 to $250,000. The coolest and most historically fascinating item of the 800 up for bid might be an baseball inscribed "To my pal, Ted Williams, From Babe Ruth." That can be yours for an estimated $100,000 to $200,000. See these and some other items at

I admit, when I took my first glance through the glossy 297-page book of available auction items, it all seemed a bit ghoulish to me. Why didn't his daughter, Cynthia, want to hang on to some of it and give the rest to Cooperstown and other Halls of Fame? Then I read her beautiful letter from the front of the book, and I realized I was being short-sighted.

First of all, Claudia is donating some of the proceeds to The Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber Cancer to support cancer research and care -- Ted's favorite charity. Secondly, she mentions in her letter that this auction was Ted's idea. What a person chooses to do with their stuff is up to them.

The auction itself will be held Saturday and Sunday, and is open to the public. If you want a free look at the artifacts from a fascinating life, head on down to Fenway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Looking at "Fenway Reflections" Fans in Other Countries

This boy in South America Even Knows That The Red Sox Are Way Better Than The Yankees

 Boston Red Sox Fans Around The World!

By Jason Alpert-Wisnia (guest blogger)

There are plenty of viewers that like to look at Fenway Reflections, and people from lots of places read it from time to time, including (our blog stats tell us) from countries from all over the world. We know how some (like in Canada and England) might know about the Boston Red Sox, but there are some that are interesting to know that I wonder about sometimes -- how do you guys get to know about the Red Sox and our site on the team to read and go on?

So there is Gabon (16 page views), a country on the coastal area of the continent Africa, surrounded by other countries like the Congo in the East, and Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to the North. You guys have an average of 26 people per 1,000 with any kind of access to the Internet and 11.5 people per 1,000 with working cable TV. There is no public television, only government- and privately-owned stations, and there are not too many phones either, so there are not too many ways to get communication from other places.

You guys play sports very well and are most known for football (soccer in America), basketball, and a little bit of tennis. You guys have many groups of different players on football teams(like city teams in Makokou and Moanda) and you have international and country teams for tournaments and things like that. But how do you get to know about the Red Sox!?

You guys do play a little bit of baseball in some of the cities (Libreville and Port Gentil) and are listed to play it on some websites that talk about your players and teams. But the Red Sox play in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States in North America, and that is 9,477 kilometers or 5,889 miles from your country. Is there someone where you live that has been to America and traveled there and has told you, or someone who moved there from America and then told you, or someone where you live found it out, or you read it or found it out yourself about our baseball team. But....of all the baseball teams in the country, some of you there know OUR TEAM.

What is even more amazing is that out of any kind of book or piece of info on the Red Sox and all of their stuff, you found this one blog on them and have been learning more about us. I hope you are able to come here personally to Fenway Park sometime in your life. And the Red Sox, in their now shape of a record of 5 wins and 10 losses they can use any fans and encouragement or just about almost anything they can get right now because of what the team is like right now.

Then there are the countries of India (69 views) and China (65 views) and that area of the world. In China, the sports in the culture include martial arts (such as karate and judo), and there are plenty of popular Chinese basketball players on teams in China or in other leagues and countries. There are also Chinese athletes playing football, table tennis (also called Ping-Pong), badminton, different kinds of swimming, and the sport Snooker (which I think is maybe a different version of a game of pool)

In India, the traditional sports they play include Kabaddi, Kho Kho, Pehlwani, and Gilli-danda, some older and earlier versions of Asian martial arts, such as Kalarippayattu, Musti Yuddha, Silambam, and Marma Adi, which were originally done in India. There are professional and non-professional tennis playing, shooting games, and other sports that are immensely popular and which they are very good like wrestling, boxing, and badminton (I read the rules and I do not understand it at all but it sounds like a different version of tennis). Football is popular too.

Sometimes China and/or Japan have a team in the National Little League Tournament, and they have even won too. There are some baseball players in Asia’s history from Japan to go to the big leagues on the Boston Red Sox such as Daisuke “Dice-K”  Matsuzaka and Juni Chi Tazawa, two pitchers that are partly starters and back-ups in the rotation. They are famous in their home country (for some good and some bad reasons) and popular to fans in other Asian countries.

There are no Red Sox players from India, but they're still fans for us to add to Red Sox Nation. They have a program with the Red Sox that brings young Asian boys and girls to Massachusetts to be with the Red Sox in Boston and play baseball, and there are other ways for baseball to get to these countries. From China to us is 11,317 kilometers or 7,032 miles, and India is 12,838 kilometers or 7,694 miles away. This blog is so good that it’s found in countries in Asia on the other side of the world. There still is a connection between the different parts of the world to reunite and make a bond for Red Sox Nation.
Then there is Ukraine, which has 949 views in total! This is a country in the boundary line area between Asia and Europe area. Sports are very big in Ukraine's culture. There are many different kinds of athletic facilities and places to go, like gyms, swimming pools, community centers, and places like that. Their main and most popular sport is football, and they have many leagues, but their most popular and well-known is Vyscha Liha (“Premier League" in English). Ukraine’s two most popular and successful teams in football are the two most successful teams in the Vyscha Liha league (FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Shakhtar Donetsk). They are hard-core rivals (just like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, except we are not so good right now compared to them).

Some of the most popular and greatest athletes the world has had were Ukrainians such as the gymnastics legend, Sergey Bubka, who holds a record in the pole-vault, and with all his great speed and strength and his ability in gymnastics has repeatedly been voted by people to be one of the world's best athletes. Most of the best Ukrainian football players in history were on the (former) Soviet National Football Team, including Igor Belanov and Oleg Blokhin. Both were winners of the Golden Ball Award for the best football player of the year.

Now the player and captain of the Ukrainian National Football Team is named Andriy Shevchenko.The team made its first appearance and showing in the 2006 FIFA World Cup championship, and reached the quarterfinals in the tournament, but were then beaten by the eventual champions (Italy). There have also been famous Ukrainian boxers and wrestlers who have won the world heavyweight competition including the brother match-up of Vitaliy Klychko  and Volodymyr Klychko. Ukraine is 7,396 kilometers or 4,596 miles from us in Boston, Massachusetts and they still know of our team.

As you can see, there are plenty of different countries all over the globe everywhere that like the Red Sox and are hoping for the best for them no matter what. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fenway's Walk of Life

In the end, I couldn't help but wonder what Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr must have been thinking.

As the long line of former Red Sox players strolled across Fenway Park's beautiful green lawn during Friday's 100th birthday celebration, these two ancient legends watched from a pair of chairs set up in front of the Boston dugout.
The decades were passing before them, from the gray-haired guys they had coached and managed in the 1960s and '70s to the athletes of lesser vintage who with their dress slacks, punchy bellies, and throwback uniform jerseys looked more like middle-aged fans out for a day at the ballpark -- right down to the smart phones and cameras they held at arm's length to record the festivities.

For Pesky and Doerr, who suited up for their last games as players in 1954 and '51, respectfully, it had to be a bittersweet moment. They seemed happy to be on hand  as revered members of the small fraternity of living Red Sox with retired numbers (a club of five, all on hand Friday), but as they smiled and offered their thumbs-up to photographers, they might also have felt a wave of sadness. The former double-play duo are both well into their 90s, and it's unclear how many more such ceremonies they'll be able to attend -- especially Doerr, who lives year-round in Oregon.
Their presence was a high point in the ceremony, which clocked in at about 45 minutes. Management had suggested that everybody be seated by 2 p.m. so the festivities could begin, but it was closer to 2:20 before public address announcer Carl Beane greeted me, my brother Adam, and the rest of the overflowing masses with a introduction meant to give the day a "Field of Dreams" feel -- right down to portions of dialogue from that wonderful baseball film.
Beane capped his intro with the classic James Earl Jones line, "Oh yes, they will come. They will most definitely come," but such a flourish wasn't necessary. The imagery of seeing 213 players emerge from the cornfields of Fenway's outfield storage rooms and dugout and striding before us was so powerful it didn't need a script.

We could see the group of former Red Sox milling around in the garage-like space in deepest center during Beane's opening words, so it surprised us when Hall of Famer Jim Rice stepped out of a door in the deepest corner of left field. Rice waved to the crowd as his image and years of service splashed across one of the center field video screens, and then he settled into his old defensive spot in front of the Green Monster. If we stared at his circa-1980s uniform and squinted our eyes just a little, we could imagine that we were all young again.

By now the "Field of Dreams" soundtrack was playing, but it was quickly drowned out by shouts of "DEWWWWWWWY!" when Dwight Evans emerged from the door besides Rice and strode across to the right-field spot where he dazzled for close to 20 years. The third player called out had a much shorter walk, but there was still time for Bill Buckner to get a huge yell as he popped out of the Boston dugout and out to first base.

Huge ovations have been the Fenway norm for Buckner in recent years, helped by an entire generation of young fans who were not traumatized by the events of 1986. Having Billy Buck appear so early on the list was a deserving honor for a great ballplayer who endured far more torment than he deserved. This day held no grudges.
Most of the remaining players emerged in a long line from the big garage door in center, and then crossed the outfield to their proper positions. They were coming too fast for Beane to announce their names, so we had to match the head shots of the strong young athletes appearing on the video screen with the aging gentlemen waving to us below them. It was a little like the scene at the 1999 All-Star Game when that year's stars shared space around the diamond with the MLB's All-Century Team, but this time everybody on the field was dressed in home whites.

Although some of the players seemed grouped together -- several members of the great '67 and '04 teams, for instance, were called in a row -- most emerged in no particular order. From Don Aase to Bob Zupcic, they filed forth like 200-odd trivia questions:

Q: Who was the rookie starter that manager Don Zimmer claimed had "ice water in his veins" before he was shelled by the Yankees in the first inning of the final game of the "Boston Massacre" sweep in 1978? (A: Bobby Sprowl)

Q: Who hit the game-tying, pinch-homer in Game 6 of the '75 World Series, paving the way for Carlton Fisk's famous game-winner? (A: Bernie Carbo).
Q: Which pitcher's near no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in his first MLstart April 1967 launched the Impossible Dream? (A: Billy Rohr).

Q: Who lost Game 1 of the '67 World Series 2-1 to Bob Gibson, despite homering to help his own cause? (A: Jose Santiago).

A few of the more famous gentlemen drew huge applause. There was Pumpsie Green, the first African-American player in Red Sox history; Pedro Martinez, the ace-in-residence from 1998-2004 who danced across the field with a quickness that had us wondering if he might be able to throw a few innings that afternoon; Fisk, the great, gritty catcher who supplied Fenway's most memorable pre-2004 hit; and Nomar Garciaparra, the super shortstop who seemed destined for Cooperstown before injuries and impasses with management prompted his trade midway through the curse-busting summer of '04.

One curiosity: Little World Series trophies were displayed on the screen alongside the years of service for every member of the 2004 and '07 champions, except Nomar. Was this a little dig from management, or just an oversight? It's unclear, and Garciaparra didn't seem to mind as he flashed a brilliant smile.

Luis Tiant, the wonderful big-game pitcher who Carl Yastrzemski called "the heart and soul" of the near-miss 1970s teams, drew a great round of "Loooooie!" that pushed the crowd to its limit of hoarseness, as did Yaz himself -- the stoic, steady Hall of Famer who played more games in a Boston uniform than anybody else. But the biggest hand of all was saved for the man who almost didn't come: deposed manager-turned-martyr Terry Francona. As fans chanted "Tito! Tito!" the leader of Boston's last two World Series-winning teams beat his chest as a sign of reciprocal affection.

In contrast to Francona, only one guy seemed to get a smattering of boos from the crowd: Jose Casceco. When the admitted steroid user/whistler blower raised up his shirt and flexed his bicep, however, most of the catcalls turned to laughs and cheers. This was not a day for negativity -- at least until the game started.

For a few moments everybody on the field and in the stands just milled around, with the old-timers moving to the pitching mound just as at the '99 All-Star Game. Then the last five of the 213 were called by name, and the place went crazy again: Doerr and Pesky, pushed in wheelchairs by Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, and Jason Varitek. Only later, watching a replay of the ceremony on NESN, could I see some of the wonderful little touches that followed -- such as Tiant kissing Pesky on the forehead, Johnny crying unashamedly, and '75 heroes Carbo and Fisk exchanged hugs and back slaps.

Only the end of the festivities seemed awkward. Pedro and '04 hero Kevin Millar handled the "toast" to Fenway like a pair of drunk, immature best men, although it was fun to see them pouring champagne for a few fans seated behind their perch atop the Red Sox dugout. The first pitches to Fisk, Rice and Yaz by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and two descendants of 1912 first-game-tosser Mayor John "Honey Fitzgerald -- grandson Thomas Fitzgerald and great-granddaughter Caroline Kennedy -- should have been done on the field rather than in the stands where few people could see it.
There were also quite a few noticeable no-shows -- Wade Boggs (who would have likely been cheered), Roger Clemens (not sure about him), Fred Lynn, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, and Bob Stanley, just to name a few. But overall it was a damn good show -- and a lot more fun to watch than the 2012 team has been so far. By the third inning, in fact, many of us were hoping we would see Martinez come in and pitch. And by the ninth, the cheers of "We want Tito! We want Tito!" were raining down on new skipper Bobby Valentine.

For Bobby V, Big Papi, and Co., this summer has the potential to feel like it's 100 years long.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tito did the right thing -- twice

I was not a fan of Terry Francona's forced resignation last fall, and recent events have only solidified my feelings about the most successful manager in Red Sox history.

When Francona announced last week that he was not going to attend Friday's 100th birthday celebration for Fenway Park, my initial reaction was a mix of sadness and respect. I was disappointed fans wouldn't get the chance to give Tito a healing ovation like the one Bill Buckner received before throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day of 2008, but I admired the reason behind Francona's decision.

Why, after all, should Tito accept an invitation from an owner who apparently didn't even have the class to return his numerous phone calls after last fall's unfortunate events? "I just can't go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical," Francona told Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, and I understood his reasoning loud and clear.

Then some days passed, and my feelings started to shift. Sure, Francona had every reason to be mad, hurt, and angry at John Henry and Co., but the Fenway event wasn't going to be about the owners -- it was about the players and the people who have cheered them through the decades.
As the man who was at the helm and in the dugout for some of the ballpark's greatest moments, Francona belonged there on this grandest of Fenway days. He had made his point and embarrassed those who embarrassed him; now, I hoped, he might change his mind and come after all.

In the end, that's exactly what Francona did. By revealing on Wednesday that he would indeed attend the celebration because he owed it to the fans, he was thanking those who had supported him during his eight seasons in Boston. He was also sending a clear message to ownership: I'm not doing it for you.

I do not yet find myself enamored of Bobby Valentine, and while I certainly hope he can turn things around, I feel a little sorry for the situation he's going to face Friday. Not only will Bobby V. be sharing the Fenway stage with the leader of Boston's last two World Series champions, but he'll also be sharing it with the team's most vindicated ex-employee -- and it's the same guy.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sox heat up Fenway (and set off the fire alarms) in Home Opener

Once we all figured out the irony of what was happening, it was good for a laugh. In the eighth inning of Friday's home opener, during which the Red Sox scored eight runs and sent 14 men to the plate, the smoke alarms and flashing emergency lights began going off throughout Fenway Park.

It was as "hot" a display of hitting as the team has shown during the early season, so this type of reaction was humorously fitting. Even funnier was when the inning ended and "Burning Down the House" came over the loudspeakers.

After a terrible first week on the road, Friday the 13th offered a wonderful antidote for Red Sox fans with great weather and a near-perfect 12-2 Opening Day win at Fenway.

There wasn't too much pomp and circumstance before the game -- Dr. Charles and Co. are no doubt saving their best top-secret stuff for the100th birthday bash vs. the Yankees on April 20th -- but we did get the obligatory full team introductions from Joe Castiglione including video men, therapists, nutritionists, and accountants (just kidding on the last one). I noticed Joe didn't mention any Japanese interpreters this year, although I imagine one will be back on the payroll if and when Dice-K comes back.

New manager Bobby Valentine got a lukewarm reception, as did starting pitcher Josh Beckett. (The way both had started the season, this was not shocking.) In contrast, the crowd stood and cheered for several minutes as Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield emerged from underneath a huge American flag draped over the Green Monster and walked slowly to the mound for their ceremonial first pitches.
Although personally I would have preferred that Wake throw a nice knuckler to Tek, having Jim Rice and Dwight Evans come out as surprise catchers for the honorees was pretty cool too. It was announced that both Varitek and Wakefield would each be receiving their own "appropriate, individual evenings" later in the season (the right move), and then legend-in-residence Johnny Pesky came out to start the year with a "Play Ball!" yell. Johnny (see at right) needed the help of a couple attendants to make it to the microphone, and at 92 1/2 Mr. Red Sox is finally starting to look his age.
Beckett, shelled in his first start of the year at Detroit, wound up being one of the day's two best stories. He let up a couple loud doubles and trailed 1-0 through two innings, but then allowed just two singles over his last six frames while throwing an economical 94 pitches on the afternoon. His teammates gave him a 4-1 lead by the fourth, and if they had not gone on their long eighth-inning tear, it's likely Beckett would have gotten a shot at a complete game. (Oddly, he had just one strikeout, but nobody seemed to notice or mind.)

The other big plus was the play of Kelly Shoppach, who got a rare start at catcher and made the most of it. In addition to working well with Beckett, he reached base four times on two doubles, a single, and a hit-by-pitch, scored three runs, and drove it two. He even had the first stolen base of his 464-game ML career, which featured an ugly slide and lunge that looked like something out of "Blades of Glory."
By now you probably know the only real bad news of the day. In the fourth inning, while trying to break up a double play, Jacoby Ellsbury was hit in the shoulder by leaping shortstop Reid Brignac and forced to leave the game. While the full extent of the injury would not be released until Sunday, rumors were that Ells has suffered a dislocation and would be out six-to-eight weeks. (See the play here.)

How the Sox will fare without their leadoff man remains to be seen, but if Josh Beckett can keep pitching like he did Friday, that will help keep the team "hot" -- and (hopefully) keep away the 1-5 stretches.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Opening Day Agenda: Get a Fenway Book Signed, See Red Sox Win

Looking for an excuse to sneak out of work or school even a little earlier than normal on Opening Day? I've got just the ticket!

Friday,  from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., I'll be signing copies of Fenway Park: The Centennial at the B.U. Bookstore -- the Kenmore Square Barnes & Noble just a block from Yawkey Way. Come say hi and pick up your personalized copy, and then head on over to Fenway for the 2:05 p.m. game and see the Red Sox start turning their season around against the Rays.

Want to make time for lunch? After leaving the bookstore, stop in at Popeyes enroute to Fenway for a little pregame dining and reading -- and then bring your leftovers to the park in case Josh Beckett gets hungry between innings.

So be like Wally and pick up the book that recently graced the cover of the Boston Phoenix and NESN called "an in-depth, stunning and engaging look at 'America's Most Beloved Ballpark.'"


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tigers-Red Sox Opening Day...Remember what happened in '86?

The first hint that 1986 was going to be a special year (hey, they did win the pennant) for the Red Sox came on Opening Day at old Tiger Stadium, when leadoff man Dwight Evans hammered the first pitch from Jack Morris for a home run. Since the game was the first of the season on the MLB schedule, this gave Dewey a unique record that can never be broken -- the "earliest" homer ever to start a season.

Now, as the Sox and Tigers prepare to square off in Detroit to start the 2012 season, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on Evans, one of the greatest Red Sox players of all time and one of the most underrated in baseball history. I could go on and on about what Dewey belongs in the Hall of Fame, but my friend Patrick Languzzi can do that far better than me. Check out Patrick's brand-new blog at and see the fantastic case he makes for enshrining this world-class right fielder and hitter in Cooperstown.

Let the games begin.