Friday, November 30, 2001

I Me Mine

George Harrison, dead at age 58.

And yes, like most things in my life, and probably yours as well, there is a connection here to the Red Sox . . .

I was too young to experience the British Invasion first hand (although I do remember hearing Hey Jude on the radio all the time in first grade), so I grew up without much interest or knowledge of the Beatles. My teen coming-of-age rock rebellion thing was all built around a different British invasion, the punk scene composed of the Clash, Sex Pistols, Sioxsie et al.

However, in 1988 I took a job as a radiation control technician trainee at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and met up with a gangly, curly-haired Norseman from Friendship, Maine, John Sanblom, who was in the same training class. John was a Red Sox fan and a Beatles fan. That was the summer of the "Morgan Miracle" and the two of us soaked in that August and September listening to thetwo classic red and blue Beatles greatest hits cassettes. It was an epiphany for me. I realized how much I loved the Beatles and listening to those two cassettes over and over while the Red Sox charged from 8 games back and broke a record for consecutive victories at Fenway was my equivalent to the '67 Summer of Love. John and I lived the bohemian lifestyle to its fullest, reading Keroauc, chasing chicks, and watching baseball.

Our jobs at the shipyard were short-lived, we both left after 6 months (there is another story there for another time) but our friendship and devotion to the Red Sox continued. Eventually, I went off to graduate school (an idea fomented while reading Dharma Bums and listening to Paperback Writer) and John moved to Boston to fulfill is oft-mentioned dream of living within walking distance of Fenway. Yes, he was that hard-core. His apartment in Brookline was 10 minute walk to the lyrical bandbox, and I'm fairly confident that in '93 and '94 he attended every home game or pretty close to it. I'd often get calls on my answering machine (I was living in Corpus at the time, in my first and only college teaching gig) and he'd say, in his wonderful Down East accent, the kind of voice that contains in it the sounds of not so distant waves and lobster traps being hoisted onto a boat in bitter Atlantic cold, "Watch the highlights of the Sox game on ESPN and watch where Mo's homa' in the 7th ends up. That's me in the white t-shirt the next row up." And sure enough, there he'd be with a big smile on his face.

I last saw John in person in Boston in '94 when I was in town for my sister's wedding a few days later in NH and what I hoped would be a few Sox games at Fenway with hime, but the strike prevented that.

I last spoke to John in April of 1996. I remember the date so well as I had only recently purchased my first house and the Red Sox were playing the Rangers, indeed, I think they opened against the Rangers that year, so I had the opportunity to listen the game in Texas.

Though, something I said, or maybe it had been brewing up for a long time, pissed him off. I remember him ending the phone call with his voice raised and resolute saying, again in the quintessence of a Maine accent, "Well, I hope you enjoyed this call because you ain't gonna hea' from me fah a long, long time."

And I haven't.

But I think of John so often, especially during the baseball season. I wonder if he's watching games? He must be. I wonder if he's still writing, working on his own version of On the Road? I wonder if he is on a lobster boat somewhere, a trade that ran deep in his family but that he detested, although we both knew it was always just over his shoulder, the ocean calling him back, just as the Red Sox always call you back in. Hell, I can't think of lobster without hearing him bemoan the day that the state of Maine decided to put a bright red lobster in the center of their auto tags: "Three qua'tahs of the people in Maine can't affahd a lobstah and neva have even tasted it."

Yet I haven't called him nor has he called me. I doubt he even knows where I live now, though I'm pretty easy to track down via the web (though John was always a bit of a luddite and I imagine he still is, so I doubt he'd use the web at all). I know his mom and dad and brothers and sisters are undoubtedly still in Friendship, living along the water's edge and making a life from the sea, but I haven't tried to reach him. I've been tempted, had the phone in my hands to call information and get his mom's number, but I never follow through.

I'm afraid to, really. I'm afraid we've changed so much over the years that it would feel awkward. Indeed, I imagine is was the beginning of this divergence down two different paths that led to his pronouncement and his subsequent conscious removal from my life. I think he saw my buying a house as some sort of a sell out of the bohemian Keroauc carpe diem spirit. If so, I worry that he might be right. I'm certainly not the napsack hipster I once was, though I like to think at least that I'm still quite far from becoming the man in the gray flannel suit that the Beats were rallying against.

I don't know.

George Harrison is dead. John Lennon is dead, yet the Beatles music lives on, as do my memories of the "Morgan Miracle" and my friend John Sanblom getting ready to go to fisticuffs, literally, especially after several beers, if anyone dared disagree with his belief that "Ted Williams was the greatest hitter that ever lived."

All through the day
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine
All through the night
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Today is the deadline for to submit bids for all of those groups who wish to buy the Red Sox. It's quite a cast a characters. I won't reiterate the list of potential new ownership groups here, but former Senator George Mitchell is involved as is The New York Times.

I've got to admit that I'm intrigued by the possibility of Frank McCourt winning the bid, since he owns valuable South End land where the ballpark could be built. According to Nick Cafardo writing in The Boston Globe's Patriots Firstdown Newsletter , "It's a beautiful location near the waterfront" in the Fort Point Channel area. To me, that seems the best place to build a new ballpark. If we really are going to shake the ghosts of the past and leave Fenway Park to the history books, I think we may as well move out of the Fenway neighborhood entirely. Make is a clean break, a fresh start.

By the way, I think it's funny that every week there is at least one Red Sox related question in the Nick Cafardo question/answer mailbag for the New England Patriots football team. Fans know that Cafardo also covers the Red Sox during the baseball season, although football is his specialty.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Keeping the stove hot

The Red Sox are certainly keeping things interesting during this free agency signing period:

Agent Alan Hendricks confirmed yesterday that the Red Sox expressed interest in four of his clients: free agent pitchers Jason Schmidt, Terry Adams and Steve Karsay, and outfielder Moises Alou . . .

Along with Aaron Sele, the five pitchers known to be contacted by the Red Sox represent some of the best arms available on the open market (Silverman, The Boston Herald).

It's funny how quickly I've put last season behind me. With each new name that gets mentioned as a possible free agent addition to the roster, I get a dreamy look in my eyes and start imagining all sorts of winning scenarios for next season.

You'd think I 'd know better. Hell, I do know better, but that doesn't really matter, does it?

It's all about hope and faith.

Monday, November 26, 2001

The envelope please . . .

The waiting is almost over. The bids are in and, according to Peter Gammons at ESPN, on Thursday (or possibly a few days later on Saturday or Sunday) we should have a new owner of The Boston Red Sox.

The odds on favorite seems to be the Werner, Otten and Henry group, who have ties to practically everyone on the baseball who's who list.

This should be a very interesting week as we await word.

Here is a figure that will make you stop and take notice: $1.5 million. According to the November 26, 2001 issue of ESPN The Magazine, that's how much the Red Sox spent for each of their 82 wins in 2001. Compare that to Minnesota who paid less than half a million for each of their 85 victories.

At a million a pop, the Red Sox are the Tomahawk cruise missiles of baseball.