Induction Weekend Drew Over 50K to Cooperstown

The National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans this year. Fans from Seattle, Cincinnati, and New York City came to the small upstate New York town to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. receive their induction plaques. Despite high-priced hotel rooms and even higher temperatures, it was one of his largest turnouts ever for an induction.

Cooperstown has a population of only about 2400 people. There are many hotels in theinduction weekend drew area, but they command a starting price of $1000 for three nights during HoF weekend. Even with that kind of money it is hard to get a reservation within 20 miles of the town. Once you’re there though, it becomes clear that the effort is worth it. I arrived Friday morning after leaving Boston at 6am. After finding parking, I spent the entire three days in town. I met dozens of Hall of Famers, and browsed all the stores. I bought books, a few jerseys, and a lot of hot dogs.

I paid good money to meet former players and get their autographs. While their signatures are expensive, for many, the money goes to charity. For example, Fergie Jenkins, a one-time Red Sox pitcher, charges only $30 for his signature. According his website, the money goes to humanitarian needs. Last year saw Pedro Martinez, a Red Sox favorite, got inducted. He charges $169 for his autograph so I skipped him. Martinez’s induction last year attracted thousands of Red Sox fans to Cooperstown. It was great to see so many people wearing number 45.

While this year’s induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans to Cooperstown, I can tell you that almost every one of them felt singled out by Piazza and Griffey’s speeches when they talked about the fans. Between the large crowd, and the two amazing inductees, this induction weekend turned out to be one of the best ever.

Induction Weekend Drew Many Non-Hall of Famers Too

There were many non-Hall of Famers there too. Even though induction weekend drew tens of thousands, I found myself alone in the Cooperstown Bat Store on Main Street Friday Sunday. It’s there I got to talk to George Foster for a while, a very nice and funny man. The former Cincinnati Reds outfielder caught Carlton Fisk’s ball off the foul pole in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Foster kept the baseball in his garage for almost 25 years before giving it up for auction. It sold for $113,000 in 1999. I asked him how he felt when he grabbed the ball.

“Were you like, ‘Damnit!’ or what?” I asked.

“I don’t use that kind of language.”

“Oh sorry. Were you like, ‘Darn it!’?”

“I was like, ‘Darn it, I’m hungry! We just played 12 straight!'” Jokes aside, Foster suggested that the team knew there was likely going to be a seventh game because Boston played so hard.

Interview With Doug Wilson (Pudge, pt.2)

In Part 2 of Pudge, Carlton Fisk’s biography by Doug Wilson, we look at his research on the famed Red Sox catcher. By day, Wilson is an ophthalmologist, otherwise known as a eye doctor. By night, however, he’s a baseball writer. Wilson always had aspirations to write about baseball. He played in college, but said that “My GPA was higher than my batting average,” which led him to continue to medical school instead. After his two boysDoug Wilson went off to college, Wilson finally found the time to pursue his passion. He’s already published titles like The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych in 2013, and Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson in 2014.

Wilson said that his biggest challenge in writing Pudge was presenting both sides of the many conflicts Fisk endured in his career. Wilson didn’t want to make apologies for his conflicts, but wanted to present them from Fisk’s point of view. Fisk himself chose not to be interviewed for the biography because, as Wilson pointed out, he’s a private person and doesn’t particularly like the spotlight, which he said wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When he was writing Brooks, Wilson grew to strongly admire Brooks Robinson, making it hard for Wilson to write objectively about him. Not interview Fisk helped him write a more objective biography about Fisk.

Wilson discussed how his research led him to view Fisk as a representation of New England. Fisk was born in Vermont, raised in New Hampshire, and grew up wanting to play for the Red Sox. According to Wilson, Fisk was the first to accomplish what he calls the New England Trifecta that every native wanted to accomplish. The first included Fisk making a basket on the parquet floor in the Boston Garden. The second was hitting a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway. The third was when Fisk punched Thurmond Munson,a New York Yankee, during a brawl in 1973. “Fisk’s pride as a New Englander was what endeared him to Boston.”

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Describes Duo of Fisk and “Spaceman”

As much as he loved Boston, Wilson talked about how it wasn’t enough for Fisk to overcome his conflicts with Red Sox executives. In 1980, Fisk asked that his 1981 contract reflect his performance, which was more money than general manager Haywood Sullivan wanted to spend. Citing one of his injuries, Sullivan quipped that “Fisk’s contract bothers him more than his arm” and mailed him a contract after the 1980 resigning deadline, which made Fisk a free agent. This disrespectful gesture led Fisk to sign with the Chicago White Sox for the 1981 season, where he finished his career in 1993. “Questioning [Fisk’s] integrity was absolutely the WRONG thing to do, and he held on those things.”

The best part of the interview was when Wilson discussed the rift between Fisk and pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Lee hated it when Fisk walked to the mound to talk after each pitch because it slowed the game down. This gesture led Fisk’s teammates to nickname him “The Human Rain Delay.” Red Sox 2nd baseman Rico Petrocelli, who played with Fisk in the 1970s, told Wilson that he and the other teammates got a kick out of watching Fisk walk up to the mound where “Spaceman” would grunt in frustration, turn his back to Fisk, and walk off the mound while everyone on the Red Sox bench laughed.

Look for Pudge by Doug Wilson in your local bookstores!

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Catcher’s Life (pt.1)

Doug Wilson’s Pudge explores the life of Boston’s Carlton Fisk, born in Vermont, raised in New England, and grew up to play twenty-four seasons of baseball, first with the Boston Red Sox then with the Chicago White Sox. Fisk is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. The win kept the Red Sox alive to play Game 7, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Doug Wilson's PudgeFisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, entering as a Red Sox.

Wilson’s well-written biography (the first one written about Fisk on a large scale) goes into great detail about the catcher’s disciplined upbringing. His tough but caring father taught his son the true meaning of integrity and hard work, which helped Fisk reach the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 22 for two games. After playing in the Red Sox farm system for a few years, Fisk’s break out year in 1972 saw him win Rookie of the Year Honors as well as his first (and only) Gold Glove at Catcher Award.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge portrays Fisk as a quiet but well-determined player who wanted nothing more than to play the game with honor and integrity. Nicknamed “The Human Rain Delay,” Fisk often took his time walking to the mound to talk with pitchers, which frustrating his teammates to no end. In Fisk’s mind though, communication between teammates as well as having a solid plan for the next batter was all a part of winning.

While Doug Wilson’s Pudge goes into great detail about Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Wilson’s extraordinary story-telling abilities extend to his description of Fisk’s rivalry with the New York Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson. Fisk and Munson, whose devotion to the game was just as intense, got into a brawl during a game in 1973. Munson crashed into Fisk at home plate in an effort to advance the Yankee runner on base. The fight that followed was the height of long rivalry between the two that had been fueled by Munson’s jealousy of Fisk, who he thought got more attention from the press. Fisk and Munson’s fight, told well by Wilson, will always be known as one of the most intense brawls between the two teams (which says a lot of you consider the long rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees).

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Much More About Fisk

Most Red Sox fans probably don’t think about Fisk’s career after leaving Boston to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Doug Wilson’s Pudge, however, keeps it interesting by detailing the prickly yet interesting relationship between Fisk and the ownership that led to his departure in the first place, describing it as one of the most insulting points in Fisk’s career (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened). Fisk would play for another fourteen years with Chicago before retiring in 1993, being one of 29 players to have played in four different decades. Fisk’s Chicago years included another post-season appearance, as well as a confrontation with NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders at home plate.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge shines best when it expands on the in-depth interviews with many of Fisk’s family members, teammates, and coaches. While Fisk declined to assist Wilson in any way, as he’s a very private individual, Wilson took what he had to work with to craft one of the best biographies of the year.

Fenway Spring Signals Upcoming Season

Like most people in Boston, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the warmer spring weather. For some it means breaking out the grill, while for others it means putting the top down on the convertible. But for me, the warmer spring weather means that I can enjoy my walk from my home to Fenway Park. I love Fenway spring weather.

Most Red Sox fans can tell you their own personal stories about what Fenway Park means to them. After all, for many of us it’s a home away from home. As I walked down Fenway SpringYawkey Way the other day I found myself getting excited about the upcoming season. It made me realize that it won’t be long before I can begin the ritual I always follow when I go to a game at Fenway Park.

If there’s a night game, I usually leave my place around 5pm and walk to the park, about a half hour walk. I always wear a Red Sox jersey (usually either Carlton Fisk’s, or Xander Bogaerts’) along with red socks, red Chuck Taylors, and some kind of Sox t-shirt and hat (A little dorky, I know). I always take my baseball glove too, especially after a line drive almost beaned me in the face last May (they come in much faster than you might think). When I reach the park I first visit Demitri, a loyal employee of The Sausage Guy stationed on Lansdowne Street. At $3 a dog you can’t go wrong. After chatting it up with him for a little bit, I make my way towards Yawkey Way where, before I know it, I’m surrounded by other fervent Red Sox fans, many of who are probably carrying out their own pre-game rituals. I make my way to the Yawkey Way Store where I browse new items before heading to the back to see what former ballplayer is signing autographs that day. Who doesn’t love meeting someone who once played for the Red Sox?

As game time nears, I make my way to my seat on the first base line, but not before getting a beer from Sharon, a vendor I’ve gotten to know over the last year. Teaching is both our day jobs so we often swipe stories about lesson plans and students before I thank her and make my way to my seat. As I settle into my seat, I always make a point to look around and think about the history of the park. Fenway Park is a cathedral, and I’m one of its parishioners. It’s sacred ground and should be treated as such.

As it gets warmer out, it won’t be long before I get to do my ritual again. I can almost smell the hot dogs!

Red Sox Unveil “Franchise Four”

Around the MLB, teams unveiled their “Franchise Four,” the 4 best players in franchise history as voted on by the fans. For the Red Sox, David Ortiz, Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, and Carl Yastremski were chosen.

All of those guys have their merits, and all of them are legends in their own right, but the Red Soxone player that I would question is David Ortiz (no, this isn’t about him being sent home Sunday). We all know what he’s done with his bat, especially in the playoffs. He had a number of clutch hits in 2004, helping the Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino.” In 2013, he was a one man wrecking crew in helping the Red Sox top the Cardinals in 6 games that year. This is all subjective, but I would question the wisdom of putting him ahead of guys like Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk and other such Red Sox legends. My main reservation is that he hardly ever played defense, but you could make the reverse argument for a Luis Tiant and a Pedro Martinez, who only pitched and hardly ever hit.

But, again, this kind of thing is always subjective and people will always have their own thoughts on this. Ultimately, David Ortiz’s impact on this team in the past decade plus is undeniable, and he does have a strong case to be up there. Without him, we don’t win 3 championships in a decade and break the Curse. He also is making a push for 500 home runs this season, which would be huge for him.

For me, the other guys are no brainers. Ted Williams was the only guy to hit over .400 in a season, Pedro Martinez is one of the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history, and Yaz finished his 22 year career with the Sox with 452 home runs and a .285 career average. But, it is hard to narrow the Red Sox Mount Rushmore down to 4 guys, and everyone will have their own opinions on who should be up there, especially with so many guys to choose from.

Hanley Ramirez Grand in Opening Day Win

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia each swatted two home runs, and Mookie Betts had one of his own to pace the Red Sox to an 8-0 rout of the Phillies on Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Clay Bucholz was dominant in seven innings, allowing only three hits and striking out nine,Hanley Ramirez while allowing only one base on balls. The pitcher that so many thought would be starting for the Red Sox today, Cole Hamels, was roughed up in five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, and four home runs—the most he has ever allowed in a game at Citizens Bank Park.

All of the Sox offense was via home runs. Pedroia got things started in the first, and two innings later Mookie Betts delivered with a solo bomb, making it 2-0 Red Sox. In the fifth, Pedroia did it again, with another solo shot. Considering he had seven home runs last year, it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start. He was also magnificent in the field.

Another player who is off to a roaring start is Hanley Ramirez. He had a solo shot in the fifth, and then hit a grand slam in the 9th inning to make it 8-0 Sox, joining Jack Clark (1991) and Carlton Fisk (1973) as just the third player in team history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.

Some of the big bats were quiet today, with David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval each hitless, and each striking out three times. Shane Victorino went hitless, but reached twice via walks, and even stole third base. He also went charging into the right field wall to make a gutsy catch in the fifth inning. New catcher Ryan Hanigan reached base twice in four appearances, with a single and a walk.

So what did we learn? Buchholz is pacing for Cy Young Award, Pedroia for MVP, and Hanley Ramirez for the Triple Crown? Well, it’s nice to dream like that early on, but what we did learn is that this team should be a lot more fun to watch than the 2014 version was.