The Idleness of Clemens’ Number 21

As I cover college baseball games this weekend in Waco, Texas, my attention is drawn Roger Clemensaway from the 10 players on the field. The Texas Longhorns are in town, which means, for the only time all season, I am more focused on the parents section. I’m looking for a certain number 21.

Penciled in the Longhorn lineup at both DH and First Base is a familiar name: Clemens. With the potential to meet their dad, Roger, this weekend, it got me thinking about one of the most tumultuous careers in baseball history. Roger Clemens will always go down as a Red Sox legend, but would you guess that his number is retired?

No, you wouldn’t. Nestled on the facade in Fenway Park’s right field lies 10 retired numbers, but not number 21. What you might not know, however, is that 30 Red Sox wore that number before the Rocket, but none since. Are the Red Sox hiding behind their own tradition?

For over a decade, Clemens was revered in Boston. From 1984-1996, the Rocket racked up 192 wins, tying him for the franchise record. Whom is he tied with? A guy by the name of Cy Young—you may have heard of him. Clemens knows him well, winning the Cy Young award three times in Boston as well as an American League MVP award in 1986. He was the unequivocal ace who led the Red Sox to the World Series that year as well. Before he came to Boston, no one had struck out 20 batters in a game. By the time he left, he had done it twice. It wasn’t Clemens’ time in Boston that made him a villain, it was his time away.

After Dan Duquette’s prognostication of his demise, Clemens went to division rival Toronto. It was his time north of the border where things became fishy. After injuries wore down his final few sub-par years in Boston, Clemens began to defy logic. Even as he aged, he was recovering even faster from these injuries and was pitching as well as ever. In two seasons with Toronto, he won the Cy Young Award both years and earned the elusive pitching Triple Crown each season.

To further push the buttons of Red Sox fans, Clemens traded in his Jays uniform for pinstripes. As a Yankee, he won four AL Pennants, two World Series titles, and the Cy Young yet again in 2001. After a combined record of 27-18 in his first two seasons in New York, he went 20-3 in 2001. Coincidentally enough, it was revealed his trainer Brian McNamee was injecting him with anabolic steroids at the time. Now, it’s no wonder Clemens was always butt hurt.

Why The Fans Don’t Want To See The Number 21

The final middle finger to Red Sox Nation came in the winter of 2005. Upon Curt Schilling’s endorsement, the Red Sox were in the sweepstakes to sign Clemens as a free agent. In a little-known attempt to bring him back, a third grade class in Rockland, MA, made a video for the Clemens family. In it, the kids begged him to “come home, Roger”, apparently bringing his wife to tears. At the end of the video, a number 21 was glowing on that right field facade, if the Rocket were to re-enter Boston’s atmosphere. Instead, Clemens re-signed with Houston and in 2007, ended his career with a return to New York.

Once revered in Boston, Clemens is now reviled. His number 21 is retired only at Disch-Faulk Field at the University of Texas. While there, Clemens was the ace for their 1983 National Championship team. No, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time till we see Clemens’ number up there with Williams and Yastrzemski. It won’t take touchdown to bring us round again to find he most certainly is the man he is at home. Sir Elton John will not be doing any serenading over the Fenway speakers any time soon. For all the things Clemens has done to Boston fans on and off the field has certainly made the Rocket public enemy number 21.

 

Ken Burns Owes Ty Cobb’s Family a Redo

Ken Burns’ Baseball first premiered on PBS in the fall of 1994. For many, it marked their birth for the love of the game. The documentary, however, is not without flaws. Burns’ portrayal of some ballplayers angered historians. The worst was his portrayal of Ty Cobb, who he painted as a racist and self-centered ballplayer. In light of an insightful biography debunking many of the myths surrounding Cobb, Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s legacy to revise the episode containing flawed information.

Released in 2015, Charles Leehrsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty was met with praise.Ken burns owes Allen Barra of The Boston Globe called it “a major reconsideration of a reputation unfairly maligned for decades.” What makes Leehrsen’s biography strong is its detail to accuracy and corrections. Baseball fans were abhorred by Cobb when they saw in Burns’ documentary. Burns’ documentary claimed that Cobb assaulted blacks, bullied his teammates, and abused his wife and children. These inaccurate claims stemmed from a biography released in 1994 called Cobb: A Biography. Its author, Al Stump, worked as Cobb’s ghost writer for his autobiography before Cobb’s death in 1961. Initially, Stump’s biography gave readers a look into Cobb’s turbulent life and quickly became a bestseller. Since Stump’s death in 1995, however, historians have discovered a number of issues with the book. Stump allegedly fabricated details to create interest and drive up sales.

Among the biggest inaccuracies is that Cobb opposed integration. In fact, he championed it. He said the Giants’ Willie Mays was the only ballplayer he’d pay money to see play. Additionally, Cobb likely didn’t sharpen his spikes to intimidate opposing players. These myths were born out of Ken Burns’ Baseball. However, it’s not fair to fault Burns. Like many baseball fans at the time, he trusted Stump’s biography and used it as a basis for the documentary. In fact, one baseball expert recently stated he would welcome the opportunity to explain himself. According to a Facebook message posted by Ty’s granddaughter, Cindy Cobb, writer Daniel Okrent, who initially commented on Cobb for the documentary, wrote that Leehrsen’s 2015 biography of Cobb “led me to re-assess my view of Cobb, and if Burns ever does an update, I’ll insist on the opportunity to say so!”

Ken Burns Owes It To Cobb’s Family To Set the Record Straight

In 2010, Ken Burns released “The Tenth Inning” as the next chapter in the series. After the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Burns hinted he might add their historic win to the next chapter. If Burns were to create another chapter, it would be the perfect time to address the inaccuracies of “The Third Inning” that include the inaccurate details about Cobb. It is only fair to Cobb’s legacy and surviving family members.

Ken Burns owes it to Cobb’s family to revise his documentary to reflect newfound information.

PawSox Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Announced

Former Pawtucket Red Sox and Boston Red Sox players Carlton Fisk and Mo Vaughn, along with former PawSox and Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, have been selected asPawSox Hall of Fame 2017 PawSox Hall of Fame inductees.

The second-ever PawSox Hall of Fame class was once again chosen by a 15-person panel, which includes club executives, print and broadcast media members, long-time fans, and historians.

Ben Mondor, the late long-time PawSox owner, along with former Pawtucket Red Sox and Boston Red Sox legends Wade Boggs and Jim Rice, both National Baseball Hall of Fame players, comprised the inaugural 2016 PawSox Hall of Fame inductees.

Details on events surrounding this season’s PawSox Hall of Fame ceremonies will be announced early in the 2017 season.

“The PawSox Hall of Fame recognizes the most impactful figures in club history,” said PawSox Executive Vice President/General Manager Dan Rea.  “We are especially pleased that our fans have the opportunity to celebrate some of our franchise’s greatest names, and we look forward to another special event this season.”

Carlton Fisk played just one season with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1970 when the club was the Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Red Sox.  However, once Fisk arrived in Boston for his first full season in 1972 he earned American League Rookie of the Year honors and went on to play 24 seasons in the majors with the Red Sox (1969, 1971-80) and the White Sox (1981-93).  He retired with the most games caught (2,226) and most HR (351 of career 376) of any catcher in MLB history and he is one of only three catchers with more than 300 HR, 1,000 runs scored, and 1,000 RBI.

Fisk became the 13th catcher to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was selected for the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.  He was the all-time Red Sox leader in games caught (990), until that mark was broken by Jason Varitek in 2006. A 7-time All-Star for Boston (1972-74, 76-78, 80), he appeared in 11 All-Star Games overall including his last in 1991 with the White Sox at the age of 43.  His 12th-inning, game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park is remembered as one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history.

Fisk, who will turn 70 this December, was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont and went to the University of New Hampshire on a basketball scholarship.  He committed to baseball after being selected in the 1st round of the 1967 draft by the Red Sox.

Mo Vaughn was a popular player for the PawSox for parts of three seasons (1990-92) and went on to a stellar 12-year Major League career with Boston (1991-98), Anaheim (1999-2000), and the New York Mets (2002-03).  He finished his big league career with a .293 average along with 328 HR & 1064 RBI in 1512 games.  Mo was a three-time American League All-Star with the Red Sox (1995, ’96 and ’98) and the American League MVP in 1995 when he hit .300 with 39 HR & 126 RBI.  The “Hit Dog” followed that up with a sensational 1996 campaign for Boston batting .326 with career-highs of 44 HR & 143 RBI.

Vaughn, who will turn 50 this December, was born in Norwalk, CT and starred at Seton Hall University.  He was chosen by the Red Sox in the 1st round of the 1989 draft and began his pro career with Double-A Portland that year.  He spent all of 1990, at the age of 22, with the PawSox posting a .295 average with 22 HR & 72 RBI in 108 games.  He would split the 1991 season between Pawtucket and Boston, returned briefly to Pawtucket in 1992 for 39 games, but then spent the rest of his career in the majors.

From 1996-98 with the Red Sox he hit .315 or higher and averaged 40 homers and 118 RBI.  After the ’98 season he signed a free agent contract with the Anaheim Angels where he hit 30-plus homers and knocked in over 100 runs in both 1999 & 2000.  He missed the entire 2001 season due to injury and was traded to the New York Mets that off-season.  A knee injury ended his career just 27 games into the 2003 season.

Since he left baseball, Vaughn has found a niche in business across a variety of platforms.  In 2004 he founded a real estate company (OMNI New York LLC) that, among other things, rehabilitates distressed housing in the New York City boroughs.  In 2010 he launched a trucking company called Mo Vaughn Transport in Ohio.  Mo most recently became the face of a big-and-tall clothing company called MVP Collections.

Joe Morgan is the dean of PawSox managers spending nine years as PawSox skipper from 1974-1982 while compiling a franchise-most 601 career managerial victories.  He is the only man to win the International League’s Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year Awards.  His MVP came in 1964 with Jacksonville (the IL affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals) and his Manager of the Year came with Pawtucket in 1977.

Morgan was an infielder with three different IL clubs…Charleston in 1961, Atlanta in 1962-63, and Jacksonville in 1964-65.  He managed three different IL affiliates as well with Columbus in 1970, Charleston in 1971 & ’73, and Pawtucket from 1974-82 posting 845 wins as an IL skipper.

Morgan, now 86, is a native and lifelong resident of Walpole, MA who attended Boston College where he played both hockey (an All-American while leading the Eagles in scoring his junior year) and baseball (elected team captain his junior year).  His first professional baseball contract came with the Boston Braves and the lefty hitting infielder/outfielder played parts of four seasons in the majors with five different clubs.

 

After his 9th and final season as PawSox skipper in 1982, Joe was a Red Sox scout (1983-84) and then a Red Sox coach (1985-88).  During the 1988 All-Star break, with Boston hovering around the .500 mark under John McNamara, Morgan was promoted to interim manager on July 14, 1988.  The Red Sox promptly won their first 12 games under Morgan (and their first 20 home games in a row) and rode “Morgan’s Magic” to the 1988 AL East pennant.  From 1988-1991 with Boston, “Walpole Joe” posted a 301-262 record along with two AL East Division titles (1988 & 1990).

Morgan was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006 and the International League Hall of Fame in 2008.

 

Todays’ Baseball Autographs Look Worse Than Ever

I love to collect autographs. I’ve met many Hall of Famers and former Negro League players who graciously took the time to sign my items.They carefully scrawled their name on a baseball in the same way an artist draws in a sketchbook. To me, their detailed cursive signatures are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost art. Current players who take their time to sign an item are few and far in between. Their penmanship is making baseball autographs look worse than ever. As a result, the value of baseball autographs will become more unstable in years to come as collectors question their authenticity.

For some, the increasingly common scribbles make certain baseball autographsbaseball autographs look undesirable to collect. For example, when a player like Ted Williams signed a baseball, he not only did so with care, but his unique style makes it difficult to forge. Modern advances in forensic science can scrutinize Williams’ signature to tell whether it’s real or fake by examining the consistency of his signature. For example, the loops in the letters “T” and “L” in his name (top right) are details that experts look at to verify its authenticity. But signatures like Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez’s (bottom right) are so sloppy that even if it is real, its authenticity will remain an issue. An autograph will be more desirable (and valuable) if the signature is written more neatly.

Current players who probably didn’t learn cursive have terrible signatures. In most cases they just scrawl their initials. I recently saw an 8×10 photo of the 2016 Chicago Cubs signed by twenty of its players. Most of the signatures looked like a toddler wrote them. They were completely illegible. Unfortunately, the decline in handwriting has been an issue for many years. According to a 2006 College Board report, only 15 percent of students who completed the essay portion of the SAT that year wrote in cursive. For teachers like me, this is a concern. This isn’t an issue that a lot of people care about though. Who needs to write by hand when you have an iPad? It’s difficult to argue with that logic. However, the impact of this decline in penmanship is something collectors should take seriously. It is an issue that’s only going to get worse.

Baseball Autographs Look Bad And Their Values Will Only Get Worse

Part of the reason baseball autographs look bad is because people don’t write their names neatly anymore. I rarely take the time to write my full name on a credit card receipt. In fact, if you forged my signature using a credit card receipt I signed a month ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell which one is real. Unfortunately, the erratic way players sign today will make it easier for people to forge their signatures because there won’t be as many authentic and consistent examples to measure against ones in question.

Collecting autographs from current players is risky. It won’t matter if you saw the player sign the item yourself. Potential buyers will scrutinize the item carefully even when you know it’s real. If players continue to sign items in a quick and sloppy way, collectors will see their value drop because no one will want to buy them (Then again, maybe players do this on purpose because they know someone will try to sell it?).

Who’d want a badly signed baseball? I wouldn’t. I prefer Ted Williams over anyone else’s any day. That beautiful cursive signature belongs in Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Rodriguez’s, on the other hand, belongs in the trash.

No One Will Ever Replace Ortiz

Who will replace David Ortiz? It’s a burning question fans in Red Sox Nation have been asking since “Big Papi” officially retired last October. Ortiz gave so much to the Red Sox over the course of his career, including three World Series Championships. Perhaps more importantly, he gave the city hope in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Since the early 2000s, Ortiz was a staple in the Red Sox lineup. But it’s time for those who are searching for his replacement to face facts: No one is going to replace Ortiz.

It is true that the Red Sox now have a tremendous amount of young potential. Mookiereplace ortiz Betts nabbed himself a Gold Glove. Xander Bogaerts proved himself as an offensive and defensive asset. Jackie Bradley Jr. finally found his stride at the plate. Andrew Benintendi is poised to take over left field, a position once held by Red Sox legend Ted Williams. There’s no doubt they will soon be a part of another World Series team. None of these players, however, will replace Ortiz.

Ortiz’s love for Boston is what makes him so famous and beloved. Ortiz is not pompous. He never let his teammates slack off. He is a source of pride for all of Boston. Many Hall of Famers can’t claim that status. In fact, Ortiz stands alongside Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski not only as Red Sox legends, but as legends of the game. They weren’t just players who hit .300, accumulated home runs, and led their own teams to the World Series. Like these men, Ortiz came through in clutch situations to win. Who can forget the 2013 ALCS when he smacked that home run into the bullpen?

When Ortiz stood before the Fenway faithful and declared “This is out f–king city!” in the wake of the marathon bombings, he became a beacon of hope, a symbol of endurance in a time of uncertainty. Ortiz’s words gave Bostonians, as well as Americans, the shot in the arm that it needed in the wake of such tragedy.

Like Williams and Yastrzemski Before Him, No One Will Replace Ortiz

I spoke to former Red Sox second baseman Rico Petrocelli last month for an article I’m writing about Carl Yastrzemski. He discussed the pressure Yastrzemski faced when he took Ted Williams’ place in left field. Despite this task, Yaz went on to have a distinguished career of his own. Yaz carved out his own legendary place in Red Sox history and no one can replace him. The same principle applies to David Ortiz.

So stop looking at the upcoming trade deadlines for Ortiz’s replacement. He’s not coming. Like Williams and Yastrzemski before him, no one can replace Ortiz.

Bagwell for Andersen: The Worst Trade in Red Sox History

In 2005, Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s graduating class that you can not connect the dots of your life as they are happening. Upon Jeff Bagwell’s induction into the Hall of Fame last month, Red Sox fans find themselves doing the same dot-connecting. In the dog days of the 1990 season, the Red Sox gambled and lost out on a future Hall of Famer. But why would they do such a thing?

The Red Sox were neck and neck with Toronto for the AL East race in 1990 before they Bagwelldiscovered a problem in the bullpen. Like the 2016 team, Boston needed a reliable, late-inning reliever. Even with Jeff Reardon closing out games, they were struggling with getting him to save situations. Since Lee Smith was traded that May, the Sox needed to look to the trading block to wipe their face for the mess they made. When Lou Gorman flooded the phone lines, the Houston Astros picked up. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Astros agreed to send their 37-year old journeyman reliever, Larry Andersen, to Boston. Andersen had plenty of experience closing out games, so it seemed like a perfect fit for the Red Sox. Since they only had to give up a prospect, it seemed a match made in heaven. Andersen was a quirky, quizzical Bill Lee/Bill Walton wannabe. He brought his philosophical crises to every plane, locker room, or field he had ever been to. Even a positive man like him could have seen the signs that Boston was not the place for him.

Upon landing at Logan Airport for the first time, Andersen’s luggage was lost. On TV, the great Peter Gammons was seemingly the only one ripping the Red Sox for trading away such a bright prospect. Andersen came in and appeared in 15 games for the Red Sox with just one save. Even with those numbers, the Red Sox clinched the division, but were swept out of the playoffs. That off-season, fans could have seen the trade purely as a success. This, however, was the Red Sox, so the optimism didn’t last long.

Bagwell’s Storied Career

In August 1990, Jeff Bagwell was just a third baseman in Double-A, log-jammed behind Tim Naehring and a guy named Wade Boggs. The 22-year old Bagwell, a Connecticut native, was a ways away from playing for his childhood team. Gorman agreed to send Bagwell to Houston without a second thought. Bagwell’s manager, Butch Hobson, was the only one in the organization publicly against the trade. Houston already had Ken Caminiti at third, so they moved Bagwell across the diamond to first base.

In 1991, Bagwell took the league by storm, winning National League Rookie of the Year honors. Three years later, he won league MVP. Over the course of his career, Bagwell left his Boston doubters gasping for air. He retired in 2006 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, and his own plaque in Cooperstown come July. The Astros, in return, were one of the league’s best teams in the 90’s, while the Sox struggled to find their footing after the trade.

How Did the Bagwell Trade Hurt the Red Sox?

Larry Andersen was a Padre in 1991, and only had 15 more career saves in just two more seasons in the big leagues. Hobson, Bagwell’s minor league manager, was hired to manage the big club in 1992. He was right about Bagwell, but not much else. In three years as manager, Hobson’s Red Sox won just 207 games. The mediocrity earned them the nickname “The Sons of Butches.” 1992 was also Boggs’ last season in Boston. Had the trade never happened, Red Sox fans of the late 90’s could have seen Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra and Mo Vaughn all patrolling the same infield. If Bagwell had not been traded, however, the Red Sox may have never had use for the duties of one David Ortiz.

Over a quarter-century later, it is no argument as to whose franchise has seen more success since then. The Red Sox have won three titles while the Astros still search for their first. What is indisputable, though, is that the trade for Larry Andersen wrecked the Red Sox for the next several years. On the flip side, it propelled the Astros to four division titles in five seasons from 1997-2001. In 2005, Bagwell even led the Astros to the World Series. If we look purely at the players in the transaction, there is no doubt: Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell is the worst trade the Red Sox ever made.