Instances of Racism Haunt Fenway

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones claimed that he was the focus of racist taunts during Monday’s game at Fenway Park. A fan threw a bag of peanuts at him while others taunted him with racial slurs. While those fans were ejected, it’s another example of how instances of racism haunt Fenway Park. Not only are these instances ignorant and immature, but Racism Haunt Fenwaythey embarrass the City of Boston.

This isn’t the first instance of racism that Fenway has witnessed. Back in 1945 Jackie Robinson and two other Negro League players were given a try out at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey allegedly yelled from the stands “Get that nigger off the field!” when he saw Robinson. Yawkey, never known for his progressive views, was the owner when they became the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox. Ted Williams, himself a Mexican American, was one of the few players on the team who took the time to embrace his new teammate by asking him to warm up with him before a game. During his own induction speech, Williams called for the induction of Negro Leaguers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Is There a Double Standard?

Many are saying that Jones’ claims aren’t valid. Some are even saying he’s lying or exaggerating. They argue that no one ever called David Ortiz those same slurs, so why should they believe Jones? That’s because Boston fans loved Ortiz. Jones, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s known as someone who calls it the way he sees it, and instead of responding to his ideas in a mature way, people focus on his race to discredit him. Those people not only disrespect opposing viewpoints, but they can’t even form coherent responses. For them, it’s easier to shout something racist than it is to think of a logical and insightful opinion. Then again, Fenway’s a ballpark and not a university, so these types of instances shouldn’t be happening to begin with.

The particularly disgusting thing about this incident though is that people paid money to come to the ballpark and act this way. It’s fine if you want to boo him for being an Oriole. But throwing peanuts at him? You not only make yourself look stupid, but you give Boston a bad reputation.

Instances of Immaturity and Racism Haunt Fenway

Last Sunday I sat in the grandstand to watch the final series game between the Red Sox and Cubs. Sitting behind me was a twenty-something who clearly had had too much to drink. The immature, sexist, racist, and derogatory things he said right out loud during the game embarrassed me in front of our Chicago guests. This guy talked about his blatant use of women as objects, his drug habit, and didn’t refrain from using bad language around kids. He was your typical obnoxious fan whose beliefs and opinions reflect a low I.Q.

It’s bad enough that I have to deal with fans like this. But it’s worse when they become national news. If you’re going to be so stupid as to think your race is better than someone else’s, then stay home. Bostonians don’t want to hear what you have to say. As instances of racism haunt Fenway, instead of being a jerk, be that fan who screams with joy when Hanley Ramirez hits another homer over the Green Monster. And if you hear someone shouting something racist, tell them to shut up, or call security and let them handle it.

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.

 

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.

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.