Friday, July 17, 2009

ON SPORTS ~ Boone - Part II...


Boone - Part II:

where previously Molly relished in the squashed dreams of Oakland A's fans

In the 2003 ALCS playoff series the Sox' foe was none other than those dreaded Yankees. I have two distinct memories from this particular best of 7 series taking place in mid-October. Bear with me during this long post - it serves as the base for all things to come.

Memory #1 was a much hyped Game 3 match-up in Fenway Park pitting former Sox Ace Roger Clemens against the one signed to fill his shoes, Pedro Martinez. The series was tied up a game a piece. It was a Saturday afternoon, the day after my longtime beloved cat, Petey, had died suddenly and the day before our first wedding anniversary. My thought was that Petey (Pedro's nickname) of the Sox would win the game in honor of my Petey-cat, as well as brighten the skies on our thus-far very sad anniversary weekend.

My husband and I went over to our dear friends’ house to watch the post-season drama in a more inviting environment. Now, mind you, my husband’s best friend and I have difficulty watching sporting events together. He has a very vocal and pessimistic voice against the very teams that we both love – like the Sox. But on such a day, nothing but hope was in the air as we were welcomed by a Jack-O’-Lantern carved in the Sox logo on their porch.

Things did not start off well for Roger thanks to the Sox offense. But then, Pedro plunked a Yankee. Warnings were issued by the Ump. Roger threw close inside to Sox slugger Manny Ramirez who started barking at Clemens and waving his hands wildly at the perceived retaliation pitch, meandering towards the mound instead of back to the batter’s box. A fracas ensued!

Players on the field rushed in like metal to a magnet. And so did the players on both benches. A brawl was ensuing which is nothing new to baseball or the Sox/Yankees rivalry, but in the playoffs on a Saturday afternoon this was great theater! But then former Sox Manager and current Yankee Bench Coach, Don Zimmer, slipped out of the visitor’s dugout around the mêlée, and out of the corner of Pedro’s eye he saw a round old man with a Yankee’s jacket on, propelling his bald melon and angry arms right at him like a sad torpedo!

Pedro was obviously stunned to see this crazy old man coming at him and didn’t seem to quite know what to do. What he did was reach out those long arms to meet Zimmer’s strange charge, put both hands on either side of Zimmer’s head and discarded him to the right, onto the ground, where Zimmer rolled like a Weeble Wobble but didn’t pop back up! Suddenly there were Yankee players and Security Guards peering over the discarded Zimmer on the field. He raised himself up with his hands holding his bald bean a few moments later and was escorted off to the locker room. There was even a fight in the visitor’s bullpen between a Sox security guy and two Yankee players. But Roger kept himself composed and led the Yankees to victory - which REALLY sucked. It kept the sad mourning theme of the weekend going. An opportunity by the Sox had been lost.

Memory #2 is THE worst. EVER. There have been plenty of Sox crushing defeats. Lots of Game Six’s. Lots of incidents that led to the downfall of a champion. But not that night. The Series was tied 3-3. Here the Sox were in Yankee Stadium with a lead. In the 7th inning. Pedro had just finished holding the lead. He pointed to the sky and left the mound. This is what Pedro always did as a finalé to his performance. But then again, he had performed so well, he was the Ace after all. And there was that 3 run lead going into the bottom of the 8th.

This is the point in time that most people pile on Manager Grady Little for sticking with Pedro Martinez. Grady had been criticized relentlessly for his pitching moves – often times for not sticking with a good thing. Well, Pedro was a good thing at that point, and he was the Sox Ace. And so out to the mound Pedro was sent. But the Yankees went out and hit him. And they hit him under-whelmingly. That was the problem. They had bloopers and bleeders that happened so quickly there was hardly time to react to all the base runners. It was incredulous to watch. Pedro was getting knocked around by dinky Punch & Judy hits. Surely he’d strike out the next batter or induce a double play. Grady even walked out to the mound – but no motion to the pen was made. Grady and Petey had a brief conversation that ended with Petey nodding his head and Grady walking back to the dugout with his Ace remaining on the mound. I was ready for this experiment to be over – the lead was slipping away. But, by the time Grady decided to abandon the Pedro experiment in deference of his relievers, the Yankees had tied the game.

And so the bullpen, that had been so shaky for most of the season, continued their strong performance in the post-season – holding the Yankees scoreless for three innings. Ironic really. This didn’t help Grady’s cause either not showing faith a few innings earlier in a pen that had played a huge role in getting the Sox to Game 7 to begin with.

Astonishingly, the Yankees sent vaunted closer, Mariano Rivera, out for a third inning himself when closers typically go 2 at the most. I could not believe it. I thought for sure that after the 9th and 10th his night would be over. Joe Torre disagreed, much to my chagrin, and Mo kept the Sox at bay in the 11th as well. And my guess is that Torre stuck with his sure thing an inning longer than he preferred because the beleaguered Jeff Weaver was warming up in the pen. The Sox had bashed him hard and well throughout the season and I was drooling at the prospect of a Sox victory. All the Sox needed to do was hang in there for 3 more outs and the odds would swing heavily back in their favor. Rivera couldn’t possibly go out for a 4th inning and Weaver would take the mound.

Weaver would not take the mound. No other Yankee pitcher had to. Beloved starter and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield came out for the Sox in the bottom of the 11th – there were very little choices left in the pen. Wakefield was in line for the ALCS MVP because of his awesome performances earlier in the series. What he got instead was a leadoff home run on the first pitch he threw to measly Aaron Boone. Boone was a fill-in, a nobody, an afterthought. The ball landed high in the left field upper deck seats fair enough to absolutely CRUSH Red Sox Nation and the entire Sox organization, but no one more than poor Timmy Wakes.

After a brief respite the World Series began and I resigned myself to watch it. You cannot wallow in grief forever. But then again, I am the optimist. Andy had a hard time bringing himself to watch the Yankees play in the Sox’ place. It was a huge slap in the face. I understood this and felt the exact same way. But to avoid it was to live in denial. Face it head on, I said. Get on with life. Accept the reality in order to move forward with hope.

And so we did watch each game of that World Series. It was like a cleansing. It certainly helped that the Yankees lost to those pesky Florida Marlins. Watching the final game Andy said the Yankee loss was almost as good as if the Sox had won. It was the closest we could get – if we couldn’t win, let anyone else beat those damn Yankees and it felt like a personal victory. Spite is so gratifying sometimes - but revenge is sweeter.

next week, HOT STOVE, why Sox fans hate A-Rod...


Mike said...

Boone, Bucky Dent, seems like up until your comeback sweep that one year, that we always found a way to beat the Sox! I hope we get back to that old pattern!!!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Your passion and love for the game shines through. I so look forward to Fridays to read this (I'm a bit pathetic, aren't I?). I can just imagine how fun it would be to act as the fly on the wall when you were watching a game with a rival! Ha!

Jenny said...

Interesting...I'm not into sports though.