The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.

State Officials Considering A David Ortiz Bridge

It’s no secret that David Ortiz will leave a lasting legacy in Boston after he hangs up his spikes for the final time. In his honor, he has received gifts all year. He’s gotten everything from cigars to paintings to giant tubs of peanut butter. But could a part of the city soon bear his name? That is yet to be decided, however, the rumors of a possible David Ortiz Bridge (more specifically the David Prtiz (‘Big Papi’) Bridge) outside Fenway Park are circling.

The Brookline Avenue bridge has been a staple for Red Sox fans for decades. It connectsDavid Ortiz Bridge Newbury Street to Landsdowne Street and thousands of fans go across it every game day after coming from the Kenmore “T” station. The proposal, led by politicians like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, would forever link Ortiz to that part of the Fenway experience.

As critical as I’ve been with some of the gifts Ortiz has gotten this year, there’s no doubt this one would be fair. Look, this bridge is a landmark of Fenway’s ambiance. Littered with hawkers, devout Christians, and regretful drivers, the bridge provides fan camaraderie on their way to the ballpark. I’ll be damned if we live in a world where Fenway’s main street is allowed to be named after Tom Yawkey, the main cause of a so-called “curse”, but David Ortiz can not have a bridge!

Ted Williams has his own tunnel in the city, so it’s fitting David Ortiz should get a similar landmark. While maybe a better pure hitter than Ortiz, Williams did not leave the legacy on the organization that Ortiz will. Playing for a franchise once deemed forever unfit for championships, Ortiz has won three and is going for four. While unmistakably harder to get to the post season, Williams went there just once. He hit just .200 in the 1946 World Series and went home empty-handed.

Is The Legacy Enough For A David Ortiz Bridge?

To say David Ortiz is the greatest clutch hitter of all-time is no longer a hot take. Just put his post season heroics in perspective and it’s even more earth-shattering. Consider his two walk-off hits in the 2004 ALCS and his clutch grand slam in the 2013 ALCS. Ortiz has resurrected the Red Sox in the midst of two World Series runs. He essentially brought them back from the dead both times with a few swings of the bat. Obviously, Teddy Ballgame had less chances, but it’s hard to cite a time where he saved a meaningful season.

To continue with the Ted Williams comparison, Ortiz’s impact off the field was equally as strong. Williams was a giant advocate for the Red Cross and the Jimmy Fund, maybe the best in team history. Ortiz has his own children’s fund, benefiting kids both in Boston and his home of the Dominican Republic. He has become a mainstay at the Boston Children’s Hospital and has even hit home runs for sick children. It was only fitting that Ortiz was handed the microphone to rally Boston after the Marathon bombings. Looking back, it seems Ortiz has always delivered, no matter the circumstance.

So, there is a good chance this name change will happen. The next generation will walk to Fenway, buy a Yawkey Way Report program and yell obscenities at opposing fans. That won’t change. It’ll just be done on the David Ortiz bridge. There will be infinitely more meaning for all those times Dennis Eckersley said Ortiz “went bridge.” He will be forever a part of Fenway and all will be right with the Fenway experience.

Did Ted Williams Hit the Longest Fenway HR?

Red Sox fans know the story. On June 9th 1946, Ted Williams hit a home run off of Detroit’s Fred Hutchinson that traveled 502 feet. The ball hit the head of a fan named Joseph A. Boucher, a construction engineer from Albany, New York. That ball landed in Row 37, Seat 21 of Section 42 in the right field bleachers, now recognized with a red seat. So while Ted Williams holds the record for hitting the longest Fenway HR, some don’t believe it traveled that far. One of those people is David Ortiz.

“I don’t think anyone has ever hit one there,” Ortiz told The Boston Globe in a July 2015Longest Fenway HR interview. “I went up there and sat there one time. That’s far, brother.”

He’s right. It’s much farther than people think it is, MUCH farther. Anyone who has ventured up to the red seat knows what I’m talking about. So how did Ted Williams, who weighed 25 pounds less than Ortiz, hit a home run that far? According to Greg Rybarczyk of Hittrackeronline.com, Ted Williams not only hit the ball that far, but he estimates that the ball would have gone another 28 feet after impact. That’s a total of 530 feet. Still, Ortiz doesn’t buy it.

“Listen, do you see the No. 1 [Bobby Doerr’s retired uniform number on the façade above the right field grandstand]?” Ortiz added in his July 2015 Boston Globe interview. “I hit that one time. You know how far it is to that No. 1 from the plate? Very far. And you know how far that red seat is from the No. 1? It’s 25 rows up still.” Alan M. Nathan, a Professor Emeritus of Physics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stated that the ball would have traveled 440 feet without any wind that day. The wind traveled at 19-24 mph from the west the day Williams hit the home run, so it’s very possible that it could have carried the ball father. Although Ortiz still doesn’t buy it, there’s one thing he may not be considering.

Park Modifications Make It Difficult to Break Longest Fenway HR

Fenway Park has seen many changes since 1946. There are more seats than ever before, electronic scoreboards have been added in the outfield areas, and more tall buildings now surround Fenway Park. There’s no doubt that these factors cut down on wind that would increase a player’s chances of hitting a home run. It’s understandable that Sox fans won’t see long home runs like the one Williams hit that day in 1946.

So did Ted Williams hit the longest Fenway HR? Probably. Did the wind factor into it? Probably. Will David Ortiz hit a home run farther than Williams before he retires?

Probably not.

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.

The Prospect That Scared Ted Williams

Who is the fastest pitcher ever? Some say Nolan Ryan. His fastball topped 103 mph more than once. Others might say Sandy Koufax. But I’ll bet you a million dollars that most people won’t say Steve Dalkowski, a.k.a. “White Lightning.” That’s because he never played one day in the Major Leagues. For Red Sox fans, Dalkowski is remembered as the prospect that scared Ted Williams with his pitching.

Because of his colorful personality, Steve Dalkowski was the inspiration for two major movie characters. Scared Ted WilliamsTim Robbins’ portrayal of “Nuke” LaLoosh in Bull Durham was the first. Brendan Fraser’s Steve Nebraska in The Scout was the second. Like Steve Nebraska, Dalkowski had a mean fastball that people feared. And like “Nuke,” he had control problems. In the 995 innings he pitched during his nine years in the minors, he struck out 1,396 but walked 1,354. Nearly 1400 strikeouts in nearly 1000 innings. That’s not the most amazing thing about Dalkowski though.

The problem with knowing whether Dalkowski actually threw 125 mph is that speed guns weren’t used in baseball until after he left the game. It will always be a mystery lost to time. However, stories about his playing days and what he could do with a baseball remain. Legend has it that one of his pitches tore off part of a batter’s ear. Another story details how a wild pitch broke Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey’s mask, knocking him back 18 feet. On two occasions, he allegedly won bets based on the speed of his pitches. He won a $5 bet proving that he could throw a baseball through a wall (He threw a ball through a wooden outfield fence from 15 feet away). On another bet, Dalkowski threw a ball over a fence from 440 feet away.

Unfortunately, Dalkowski never made it to the majors. On March 23, 1963, Dalkowski was used a relief pitcher against the New York Yankees during a spring training game. A slider made something pop in Dalkowski’s arm that caused a severe muscle strain. His arm never recovered. His off-field violent behavior only made life harder for him. When I asked former Red Sox Major Leaguer Jim Gosger, who faced Dalkowski in AAA Rochester, if the stories about him were true, Gosger said, “He was a nice guy, but his nickname was CRAZY STEVE! You never knew if his pitch was going to be a strike or if it was going to go over your head!”

When Dalkowski Scared Ted Williams

Dalkowski was soon released and went to work as a migrant worker. Alcoholism and divorce soon took over his life. Nowadays, Dalkowski lives in an assisted living facility in New Britain, CT and unfortunately suffers from dementia. Though most people don’t know who he is, people like Ted Williams never forgot him.

Dalkowski threw with wild, but demon speed. He had almost as many walks as he did strikeouts in his career. It didn’t deter Ted Williams from satisfying his curiosity about how fast he could throw though. Once during spring training in Miami, Williams stepped in the batter’s box for an at-bat against Dalkowski. One second, Williams was watching Dalkowski wind up. The next thing Williams heard was the ball hit the catcher’s mitt behind him. Startled, Williams dropped his bat and stepped out of the box saying “Fastest ever. I never want to face him again.” The speed of Dalkowski’s pitched scared Ted Williams!

Will Ortiz Actually Retire?

There’s no doubt that David Ortiz is having one of the best seasons of his career. With 9 home runs, 29 RBIs, and a batting average over .320 in the wake of a three game series against the Oakland Athletics, many in the Red Sox nation are asking: Will Ortiz actually retire at the end of the season?

“No, I’m retiring,” Ortiz told ESPN in a tone suggesting that he’s dead set on making his season his last. While he’s onWill Ortiz Actually Retire track to post great numbers this season, probably with an all-star appearance thrown in for good measure, Ortiz wouldn’t be the first Red Sox player to finish his career on a good note. In 1960, at the age of 41, Ted Williams finished the final season of his career in Boston with a .316 batting average and 29 home runs, including a home run in his last at-bat. Even Babe Ruth left Boston with high numbers in 1919 by leading the American League in runs, home runs, and RBIs before going to the New York Yankees. Yes, leaving Boston on a high note seems to be a tradition for seasoned Sox players.

Many who believe that Ortiz is retiring after this season point to the idea that he most likely wants to finish his career on a high note. After all, many players in the Baseball Hall of Fame played a few years too long and their career batting averages took a hit as a result.  On top of wanting to leave on a high note, there’s also the idea that there’s really nothing left for David Ortiz to accomplish. Of course, he could stay on and break Ted William’s team home run record of 521, but that would be a drop in the bucket compared to the accolades he’s already accumulated in his career. Ortiz has three World Series rings, he’s in the 500 Home Run Club, he’ll be a shoe-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021, and his status as a Red Sox legend is already etched in stone.

So when people ask me, “Will Ortiz actually retire?” I’ll say yes, because the man has done his job for Boston and it’s time for him to move on to other things in his life.