Red Sox Prepare To Retire Ortiz’s No. 34

Festivities to honor David Ortiz are already underway as the Red Sox prepare to honor Big Papi by retiring his number 34 before Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. For only the eleventh time in their history, the Red Sox will retire the number of one of its greats. What makes this retirement ceremony unique is that it has only been eight months since Ortiz played his last game.

Retiring Ortiz’s number so soon reflects a deep love and appreciation for Big Papi. OrtizRed Sox Prepare wasn’t just a great hitter who played most of his career in Boston. Ortiz was a symbol of hope in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. His words, “This is our f–king city!” became a rallying cry for discouraged Bostonians. Later that fall his home run against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS staved off defeat and allowed the Red Sox to advance to the World Series. In a time when Hall of Fame-caliber players are few and far in between, Ortiz’s heroics not only made the Red Sox great, but made baseball even greater.

Qualifications Have Waned in Recent Years As Red Sox Prepare For Jersey Retirement

The Red Sox used to have very strict requirements when it came to retiring a jersey number. The strict set of requirements allowed a select few to see their numbers retired. First, the player had to have played for the Red Sox for ten years. Second, he has to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Third, he had to have retired with the Red Sox. While those rules stood for many years, one by one, the Red Sox accommodate other greats who didn’t meet the requirements.

Carlton Fisk, the greatest catcher in Red Sox history, finished his career with the Chicago White Sox. Pedro Martinez didn’t play ten years with the Red Sox, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Johnny Pesky isn’t a Hall of Famer, but his service to the team over the course of sixty years earned him a spot among the retired.

While Ortiz didn’t have to wait for induction into the Hall of Fame to see his number retired, his induction will happen. Some say Ortiz won’t be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Allegations surrounding his use of PEDs have haunted him for years. Those allegations should have little to no impact on the BBWAA when Ortiz becomes eligible. One this is for sure though. Bostonians will pack the small town of Cooperstown when it comes time to induct Ortiz.

Petty Baseball Rivalries Hurt the Game

Rivalries in baseball have existed as long as the game itself. You don’t need to look too far back to find examples of rivalries between players, teams, and even owners. My favorite involves legendary NY Giants manager John McGraw. Before becoming a manager, petty baseball rivalries McGraw was a hard-running hitter for the Baltimore Orioles. During a game in May 1894, McGraw slid into the Boston Beaneaters’ third baseman. McGraw’s slide touched off a fight between the two. The brawl intensified so much that by the next morning the ballpark, and 114 houses in the surrounding neighborhood had burned to the ground. Long story short, fans became so excited they didn’t pay attention to their dropped lit cigars. These rivalries are what make baseball so great. But today’s petty baseball rivalries are hurting the game because they’re based on personal insults instead of fierce competition.

Where Are the Genuine Rivalries?

Baseball rivalries aren’t what they used to be. The Brooklyn Dodgers had one with the New York Yankees, who beat them all but once in the World Series. Brooklyn had one with another National League team, the New York Giants. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” set a standard for game-winning home runs. Johnny Podres’ brilliant performance in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series won Brooklyn its only title. The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees needs no introduction. These fierce battles made the game fun to watch. But now they’ve turned into anger over flipped bats, unintentional slides, and other ridiculous incidents that exemplify pettiness instead of honest competition.

The rivalry between Carlton Fisk and Thurmond Munson is the stuff of legends. It all started during a 1973 game that would decide who’d move into first place. In the 9th, Munson broke for home on a suicide squeeze and crashed into Fisk. Munson tried to keep Fisk down so Felipe Alou could advance. Fisk overpowered Munson before both teams cleared the benches. When you look at the details of this brawl you don’t see anger over a flipped bat or a slide. You see two teams so destined to win at any cost that they revert to creative methods to overpower one another. It was their skill and strategy that made the rivalry so legendary. They reflect a tremendous amount of skill that goes towards its execution. Like The Roman Empire, greatness wasn’t built in a day. Petty baseball rivalries, however, are created in a short time.

Today’s Petty Baseball Rivalries Are Born Out of Bruised Egos

Last month the Orioles’ Manny Machado slide into second and spiked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa. Footage of the play clearly shows that it wasn’t intentional, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from retaliating. The Red Sox Matt Barnes threw at Macho’s head a few days later that led to his ejection. This petty baseball rivalry intensified two weeks later when Baltimore came to Boston. In a series marked by racial taunts, fights over nothing continued that distracted both teams from playing as well as they could have. The players on each team weren’t trying to win the game to secure first place. They were understandably coming to one another’s defense like teammates should, but it was still petty and childish. It wasn’t about winning to them, it was about being macho.

Impulsivity doesn’t involve planning. There’s no real strategy to it. Anyone can throw at a batter’s head and say it’s all about rivalry. But those who think the current rivalry between Boston and Baltimore is a real one should read up on their baseball history.

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.

 

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.