Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

It’s nearly time to celebrate the 2013 Baseball Solstice

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The Baseball Solstice draws nigh. This Sunday, Dec. 29, marks the midpoint between the end of the World Series and the beginning of Spring Training games in Arizona and Florida.

Just as Rocky Balboa “invented” the names “Cuff” and “Link” for his turtles, I invented the baseball solstice in 2011 as I contemplated disconsolately the long winter ahead without the crack of the bat. As I saw it, since at least the time of the Druids humans have been figuring out ways to hold a party in the midst of the coldest months of the year. Why should we baseball fans be any different?

How to mark the occasion? In the past I’ve suggested that people engage in some sort of “baseball activity.” That could mean hauling out an old record album or VHS tape of some past season of your favorite team — 1995 Indians, anyone? — and reliving the glory (or near glory, in the case of Cleveland). If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where you can play ball any month, by all means go outside and play catch with your dad or your kids. And if you’re stuck in ice-bound Maine or Michigan, get out the Strat-O-Matic board and roll the dice to re-enact a great season past.

You could even dig out your old mitt and give it a restorative leather treatment. Merely picking it up and smelling the leather will get you in the mood for the 2014 season.

The important thing on the solstice is to do something meaningful involving baseball, even if it’s merely sitting in an easy chair and pondering the warm memories of Little League games in which you made multiple errors (sometimes on one play) or that fantastic evening you had at Fenway Park when the Yankees and the Red Sox went at it hammer and tong.

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Who’s worth more? A baseball player or the doctor keeping your wife or child alive?

I opened the papers this morning to read about the Seattle Mariners giving Robinson Cano a 10-year contract for $240 million. The New York Mets apparently have agreed to give Curtis Granderson $60 million over four years. And there was the Jacoby Ellsbury deal with the New York Yankees earlier in the week: 7 years, $153 million.

For these ballplayers who have combined talent and hard work to reach such stratospheric salaries, I say, “Well done.”

But whenever baseball or other sports go through the off-season ritual of courtship by checkbook, I try to get a bit of perspective on what our society is saying in the way we reward sports figures.

Is a first baseman — with an average annual salary of $5.4 millionten 100 times as valuable to society as a high school teacher  — with an average annual salary of $54,000 — inspiring your child?

Is a shortstop — with an average annual salary of $3 million — ten times as valuable to society as an oncologist — with an average annual salary of $278,000 — treating your wife or husband for cancer?

Questioning the relative value of sports heroes to those serving the public is hardly new. Babe Ruth is famously remembered for his answer when asked about wanting to get paid more than President Herbert Hoover: “I had a better year than he did.” I imagine that even way back in the Roman republic, some people pondered the public adulation heaped on gladiators against the physicians of the day.

I still remember a section of a college economics textbook that did an academic proof  that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was worth every penny the Los Angeles Lakers were paying him in the 1970s. Kareem brought people into the arena and had a huge influence on broadcast revenues, q.e.d.

Certainly, pro athletes enrich our lives as they provide marvelous entertainment. I’ve been thrilled to see Ozzie Smith acrobatically turn a double play from short and been crushed to see Billy Buckner watch a grounder go between his legs at first. There’s even value in sports in occasionally seeing the games as morality plays on good versus evil (Red Sox v. Yankees, or vice versa, depending on your accent).

Yet no matter how much I love the game and how much economic sense it makes to pay the players, I still value more the doctors and nurses and teachers and coaches who care for us.

Fixing the date for the annual Baseball Solstice: Dec. 29, 2013

The World Series is behind us, at least some of the Red Sox are shaving off their beards and baseball fans the world over are gathering scraps to light the fire for the Hot Stove League. It’s a time for reflecting on the season past and recognizing that we have several fallow months ahead before the games resume in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues in 2014.

In our annual ritual, the high priests of baseball here at the Ball Caps Blog and Countdown to Spring Training have pointed our Houston Astrolabes to the sky and fixed the date for the annual Baseball Solstice. It will be Dec. 29, the midpoint in the days between the final out of Cardinals-Bosox series and the first exhibition games of Spring Training.

The series ended Oct. 30, and the first exhibition games will be played Feb. 26 by six teams in Florida. (Sorry, Yankees fans. We’re not recognizing the Feb. 25 game against Florida State.)

We encourage all baseball fans to mark the solstice in a meaningful way.

Play a Wiffle ball game in the snow with the kids on the block. Thumb through your old sets of baseball cards. Pick up the phone and call Dad to thank him for insisting you not throw a curve until you were 15. Venture out into the night and look for the Star of Cooperstown.

Whatever you choose, make it a celebration of the One True Game.

Cardinals and Red Sox in a World Series rematch

Ever since the Indians got knocked out (not to mention the Giants failing to make the playoffs altogether), I have sulked and turned my back on the baseball postseason. Oh, I caught a half inning here of the NLDS, a few outs there of the ALCS. Most mornings I woke up to check for the score of whatever game stretched well past bedtime with incessant late-inning pitching changes.

I tuned out nearly completely.

But the imminent arrival of the Red Sox and Cardinals facing off in the World Series will bring me back, not only to see two fine teams compete but also because of the memories this matchup will stir.

For this 50-something baseball fan, the 1967 series between Boston and St. Louis is usually what comes to mind when I think “World Series.”  (Yes, even ahead of the Amazin’ Mets in 1969 and the Giants finally prevailing in 2010.) I was 11 years old back then, in sixth grade and at the height of my boyhood baseball card collecting.

And, with apologies to the good sisters who taught me at St. Margaret Mary elementary school, Bob Gibson was God. Gibby was seemingly invincible on the mound, and I hung on every pitch appearing in grainy black and white on the Zenith TV in our dining room for whatever innings I could catch after dashing home from school.

A decade later as a college student, I’d visit the home of my roommate in Lowell, Mass., where we’d often find his father in the basement, playing a Red Sox ’67 highlights record album over and over. Even though Boston lost in seven games, for him it was worth reliving that season if only to know how close the Sox had come to ending the Curse of the Bambino.

A World Series is no longer a novelty for modern-day Red Sox fans, nor for a long time has it been for Cardinals fans. I will be tuning in, waiting for Gibson and Yaz and Jim Longborg and Curt Flood and all the others to come walking out of the long shadows.

I’m hoping for a classic.

 

 

 

Remembering George Scott

With sadness I learned last evening of the death of George Scott, who had a fine career primarily with the Red Sox and Brewers. I have a particularly clear memory of seeing Scott play third base for the Red Sox at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.

My dad played third base as a kid and as a teenager. I usually played shortstop with occasional stints at third. So whenever we’d go to see the Indians, Dad usually got us seats along the third base line so I could soak up pointers by watching Larry Brown and Max Alvis and whoever the visiting infielders were.

On this particular night, we had pretty good seats only a few rows back from the field and on a direct line to third, where Scott was stationed for Boston. I don’t recall the year, but I suspect it was 1966 or ’67 when Scott was in his first two years in the league.

As the game wore on, while I was content watching and keeping score, my dad grew increasingly agitated. Finally,  in one of the later innings, he got me up and said we were moving to different seats. That puzzled me a bit, because occasionally in late innings we’d move up to better seats in the sparsely populated stadium; here, we had been right where we wanted to be.

When we found new seats a section or two away, Dad told me why he had moved us. I had been oblivious, but a couple of fans nearby were hurling racial slurs at Scott. They were laughing and calling him a baboon, among other insults, all game long.

Scott, my father said, didn’t show any sign the taunting was getting to him. But I’m sure he heard it. In my head, I always figured that it was guys like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays continued Jackie Robinson’s legacy and helped drive racial hatred out of the ballparks after the 1950s. But this game was in the late 1960s, so there’s no disputing the hateful taunts continued well into my lifetime. As I think back on it, there were plenty of racist remarks at the stadium in the 70s and almost certainly beyond.

That’s a lamentable legacy for the game and our society, and I’m glad my father taught me to recognize the issue — and to feel a bit of shame for not picking up on what was happening.

May George Scott rest in peace, hearing only cheers.

And a happy Baseball Solstice to us, every one!

We’ve gotten past the Mayan apocalypse, so now we can move on and celebrate the Baseball Solstice. That’s the mid-point between the end of the World Series and the first exhibition game pitch of spring training, which we will celebrate this year in concert with Christmas.

Unlike the winter solstice at Stonehenge, there is no precise hour at which the sun peers through the pocket on the big glove at San Francisco’s AT&T Park or glints off the Citgo sign at Fenway Park.  As I noted several days ago, Countdown to Spring Training and the Ball Caps Blog have divined that, this year, we should celebrate from sunset Christmas Eve through sundown Christmas Day.

As the solstice is concurrent with a sacred Christian holiday, we urge all baseball fans to participate in a respectful way. Wrap a glove and donate it to Toys for Tots, or playfully announce “beer here!” when serving beverages to guests at holiday gatherings.

To all my readers, a happy solstice and a merry Christmas!

Red Sox Nation shows its pride on Massachusetts license plates

Red Sox fans are crazy for their team, and as I traveled New England while on vacation last week I was struck by the number of BoSox specialty Massachusetts license plates I saw. They were a common site on Cape Cod, on Boston area highways, and I even spotted them in New Hampshire and Vermont.

If you live in Massachusetts, the Red Sox plates are a pretty good deal: for $40 you get to display your team pride on your car and contribute to the Red Sox Foundation and the Jimmy Fund.

I’ve seen plenty of college plates around the country, but I was hard pressed to recall any other plates for Major League Baseball teams. I have seen New York Yankees plates vehicles registered in New Jersey, which also lets fans buy New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies plates, although I can’t recall seeing them.

I’m in Philadelphia a fair amount these days, and I’ve never seen a Phillies plate on a Pennsylvania-registered vehicle. If this list from the PA DMV is correct, there are none to be had — and none for the Pittsburgh Pirates, either.

Same story in California: no plates for the local nines in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.

How about in my home state of Ohio? Yes, you can get a Cleveland Indians plate along with plates for the Cincinnati Reds and professional teams of lesser sports like football, hockey and basketball.

Florida enables you to buy plates for the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins, and in Illinois you can get them for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. There was talk last season about Illinois adding St. Louis Cardinals plates, although I can’t find definitive word whether that happened.

You can get a Cards plate in Missouri, although a quick search this morning didn’t show me a Kansas City Royals option.

I could spend all day researching which teams are available where, but I don’t have the time. I’ll close by saying I think these fan plates are a great idea, especially when they raise money to support great causes like the Jimmy Fund.

If you’re a fan of a team not mentioned above and know if you can buy a specialty plate in your state, I’d appreciate it if you’d note it in a comment below.