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.

 

Retired Red Sox Stars Find Ways To Give Back

I recently started work on an article about Carl Yastrzemski and his days with the Red Sox. As part of my research I’ve interviewed some of Yaz’s teammates including Bill Lee, Fred Lynn, and Jim Lonborg, among others. In exchange for their time, I offered to make a donation to a charity of their choice. While many asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund, I thought Lynn and Lonborg’s requests were unique. These charities have a personal meaning to these retired Red Sox players.

Last February 1967 Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg invited me to his home to talk about Yaz. Afterwards, heretired Red Sox told me about a charity his wife, Rosemary, co-founded and directs called Learn, Live, Love. This charity focuses on providing different kinds of assistance to female cancer patients and their families in Massachusetts. In addition to her efforts with the charity, she works at Fragile Footprints Pediatric Palliative Care, Plymouth, MA. Jim also works for the charity as the treasurer. You can learn more about Learn, Live, Love at learnlivelove.org.

Fred Lynn, the 1975 AL MVP, and I met at the Hotel Commonwealth on Good Friday and spent about an hour discussing Red Sox history. I asked Lynn about a week before our meeting which charity he’d like me to donate to. Lynn texted me the info for a charity called The Face Foundation in San Diego, CA. “We have saved over 1,600 animals in about 5 years,” Lynn added. The website states that “The FACE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for San Diego animal owners who are unable to afford the cost of their pets’ emergency veterinary care.” If you’d like to learn more about The Face Foundation, check out their website at face4pets.org.

Retired Red Sox Players Aren’t The Only Ones Who Give Back

In addition to retired Red Sox players, I also spoke to former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Denny McLain, the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. He asked me to donate to the Michigan Parkinson Foundation for his wife, Sharon, who is fighting the disease. Former Red Sox players Jim Gosger and Ted Lepcio both asked me to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Rico Petrocello and Bill Lee asked for donations to The Jimmy Fund while Galen Cisco asked for a donation to the St. Mary’s Foundation in Ohio.

These players were tremendously helpful to me as I did my research on Carl Yastrzemski. The very least that could be done in exchange for their time was to make a donation. While some of them told me it wasn’t necessary, they all expressed their sincere thanks. I’m the one, however, who owes them all the thanks.

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.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves in D’Backs Sweep

It’s good to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves again after a few rough weeks. Several Red Sox hitters posted strong numbers as they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three game series. Sweeping the D’Backs wasn’t just a team effort though. It resembled the way the Red Sox used to play, a style that often led them straight to the playoffs. I dare hope that this sweep will give the team the confidence it needs to start playing more consistently.

I’ll admit that beating Arizona isn’t the hardest thing to do nowadays. The Diamondbacks’sRed Sox Resemble pitching staff has an ERA hovering around 5 right now, putting them in 29th place in baseball. They also lead the National League in earned runs. So the Red Sox didn’t exactly sweep a pennant contender. But the numbers they posted during the three-game series are hard to ignore.

Home Runs Galore!

Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs Friday night, including a three-run shot that put the Red Sox ahead after David Price surrendered a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks Jr. in the first inning. David Ortiz joined Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as the third Red Sox player ever to have 1,000 extra base hits. David Price won the game with eight strikeouts in what amounted to one of his weaker wins for the season.

The second game saw Brock Holt and Sandy Leon go the distance in a 6-3 win Saturday. Holt seems to have fully recovered from his injuries earlier in the season, while Leon’s batting average continues to defy logic. Reliever Brad Ziegler, a former Diamondback, struck out three straight to get out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning. Robbie Ross Jr. picked up the win while Craig Kimbrel, resembling his old self too, grabbed the save.

The third game saw Mookie Betts blast three home runs. He joins Ted Williams as the only other Red Sox hitter to have two three-home run games in a season. That marked eight RBIs in one game for Betts. Jackie Bradley Jr. added a home run of his own in the second inning.

Red Sox Resemble Old Selves In Bad Ways Too

David Price got the win in Friday’s game but not without a lot of help from the Red Sox offense. Surrendering a home run in the first seems to be a habit for the Red Sox pitching staff. Clay Buchholz allowed three hits and three earned runs in four innings Saturday night.

I’m not exactly sure what’s up with the pitching staff. If Dave Dombrowski really wants to see the Red Sox resemble their old selves then something has to be done about it. Price is very good but he’s not consistent. Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are on fire, but Buchholz continues to struggle badly. The bats give them plenty of run support, and the defense is strong too, but the pitching is still not coming together. If the pitching staff could find a groove like their hitters then the Red Sox could blast past the Blue Jays and Orioles to capture first place again. They’re only a few games behind so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Time, however, is running out.

Rico Petrocelli Remembers Famous Brawl in ’67

All Boston Red Sox fans know there’s always been bad blood between them and the New York Yankees. Tensions have been high since the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the first Fenway game in 1912. One story that isn’t often told though comes from a game in 1967 at Yankee Stadium. It is a game that the legendary former second baseman Rico Petrocelli remembers well.

1967 marked the Red Sox return to the World Series for the first time since 1946. JimRico Petrocelli remembers Lonborg pitched his way to a Cy Young Award. Carl Yastrzemski hit his way to a Triple Crown and a MVP award.Tony Conigliaro,
Boston’s chosen son, hit 20 home runs before getting beaned in the face by a pitch in the face that almost killed him. The New York Yankees, however, were nowhere near being legitimate contenders. They finished in 9th place that season, but not before exchanging blows on the night of June 21st.

It all started when Yankee pitcher Thad Tillotson hit Red Sox third baseman Joe Foy in the head. In retaliation, pitcher Jim Lonborg beaned Tillotson on the hand, who exchanged words with the Red Sox ace as he took his base. Foy came out of the dugout and shouted at Tillotson, “If you want to fight, fight me!” Upon hearing that, Yankees Joe Pepitone charged out of the dugout. Petrocelli did the same as both teams started brawling on the field.

Rico Petrocelli Remembers How His Brother Came To His Defense

While this story is well-known among Red Sox and Yankee fans, many don’t know that Petrocelli had a brother on the New York police force working security at the game that night.

“My brother charged the field yelling ‘Where’s my brother?!” Petrocelli told me during the Red Sox Season Ticket Holder Annual Cocktail Party. “Peptione yelled back, ‘I didn’t touch him!'” As I laughed, I asked him what happened to his brother after. “They stuck him in the upper deck after that night so he wouldn’t be so close to the field. He’s lucky he didn’t lose his job that night!”

The Red Sox went on to win the game 8-1 with Lonborg throwing a complete game. While the Red Sox lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in the fall, the story of the famous brawl of 1967 lives on.

Top Prospects Must Stay With Red Sox

As the trade deadline approaches, talks loom about who the Red Sox will let go in exchange for a strong pitcher. The most recent news points to the White Sox scouting players like Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. According to ESPN, the White Sox sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A team on July 28th. Moncada and Benintendi play there now. Personally, I don’t think any pitcher in the MLB is quite worth giving up Moncada or Benintendi, especially Chris Sale. If Boston wants to make it to another World Series, then the Red Sox top prospects must stay in the farm system.

Yoan Moncada has already stolen 43 bases in stints at Single and Double-A this season.Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay He’ll easily be a .300 average hitter in time. He can also hit for power. The fact that he can play infield, and serve as a designed hitter only adds to his value.

Andrew Benintendi is the next Carl Yastrzemski. He’s currently hitting over .300 with twelve triples between stints at Single and Double-A levels. You can attribute his triples to his developing strength and speed. Overall, he’s developing power, speed, and eye coordination, which will be both offensive and defensive assets. These factors signal that he’ll become a Boston superstar.

Let’s not forget about Michael Kopech. The guy is a wizard on the mound. Anyone his age that can throw 105 MPH is definitely worth keeping around. He pitched a immaculate inning a few weeks ago. He’s currently carrying an ERA of 1.35 in 26 innings this season. While that’s not a lot to bank on right now, it’s a VERY promising sign of what’s to come.

Experts like famed sportswriter Peter Gammons claim that all three of these prospects are “untouchable” and can’t be traded. According to ESPN, however, Dave Dombrowski said last week that “teams’ motivations tend to change as the deadline creeps closer.” Let’s hope that Gammons is right on this one.

Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay To Create A New Dynasty

Seeing all three of these prospects on the field in Fenway Park in the near future would be riveting. They’ll be a throwback to the days of Yaz, Boggs, and Clemens. Players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Steven Wright, and Xander Bogaerts will be veterans by then. They can guide Moncada, Benintendi, and Kopech towards a dynasty that Boston hasn’t seen the likes of since the turn of the 20th century when the Red Sox won five World Series between 1903 and 1918. Moncada, Benintendi, Kopech, and other Red Sox top prospects must stay with the team if this dynasty is ever going to come to fruition.