Saturday, July 06, 2002

There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.

This says it all for me:

''When you think of Boston baseball, you think of Ted Williams,'' said Pesky, who witnessed some of the Splendid Splinter's greatest glories on the baseball field and served with him in the Navy. ''You could bring in Moses from heaven, and he wouldn't make an impact like Ted did.''

And talk about a fitting tribute:

The owners ordered the red seat in the bleachers that Williams struck with the longest home run ever recorded at Fenway (502 feet) to be cleared last night. And they indicated the seat will remain vacant at least for the rest of the season (Hohler).

I never saw Ted Williams play but his legend was always present in my house growing up. My first real awakening to Ted Williams came from the book. In my first year of Little League I really struggled, especially at the plate. I was scared shitless standing in the batter's box as a 9 year old facing pitchers who were 12, and big and fierce and throwing what seemed to my 9 year old eyes to be Nolan Ryan like heat.

My OBP was OK as I walked a lot, being too frightened to do much more than stand there with my bat in limp hands praying that I wouldn't get beaned.

The walks, of course, only reinforced in my mind how little control the almost teenager pitchers had, making it all the more likely in my batter's box visions that I'd be killed standing next to home plate sooner or later. (And, getting to first base only gave me further fits of nervousness, but it was better than striking out.)

Little League ended in June and I finished that first season without getting a single hit.

Now my dad knew that I wasn't athletically deficient. I was a very good youth hockey player at the time. Indeed, I made my little league team, Brock's Plywood, because of my hockey skills. Looking miserable in the Little League tryouts earlier that year in April, the coach, coach Scott, when he called to tell me I'd made the team confessed that he picked me despite my poor tryout because he was told "If Cossette plays baseball just half as well as he does hockey, he'll be a good pick." (Yeah, I remember it word for word. Wouldn't you?)

But my hockey skills didn't transfer at all. If anything it made things worse, as my only previous experience with organized team sports was youth hockey, a sport that was always fun and easy. Until baseball I hadn't experienced failure of such epic proportions. My Brock's Plywood maroon cap with the big B (just like the Sox!) that I wore so proudly to school each day after making the team, now stayed at home with my glove and ball, as I'd walk to school crestfallen, waiting to hear about the hitting heroics of my classmates with their teams, with Warehouse Foods and Club Victoire caps still held high.

My dad, fortunately, was not the type to put a lot of pressure on me. Indeed, he never uttered a discouraging word during my lousy season —But my dad knew me pretty well. He knew that I was already, at age nine, becoming a true bookworm. I absolutely loved to read (still do).

So one summer day in July my dad presented me with a gift at the breakfast table, the book: The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams. I read it. Read it again. Thought about hitting. Visualized hitting. Read it again …

The following Little League season I had a breakout year. I'll never forget a couple of weeks into the season when the coach set all of us down on the bench to give us the run down of our stats, something he did regularly as the season progressed as most of us, myself included, didn't keep track of our averages and such. The coach would always start at the highest BA and move to the lowest.

The previous season I was always at the end: "Eddie Cossette, zero." I can still hear the way it sounded on coach Scott's raspy voice. It was never disdainful, just matter of fact: "zero." It sucked. At first there were lots of us in the dead end zero bottom part of the list, all the first year 9 and 10 year olds, but as the first season progressed more and more of those rookies got hits and moved up the list. But not me.

So here we all were sitting the following spring, butt to butt crammed onto the wooden bench at the Brock's Plywood makeshift, gravely practice field at the fairgrounds (where we had an extremely short left and where putting a shot over the 14 foot chain-link fence would land the ball in the Cocheco River!) and the coach read the first name: "Eddie Cossette, batting .667." It was the same matter of fact tone but coach Scott looked at me when he said it and his eyes were deep with satisfaction and pride. It was one of the best moments of my life.

I didn't maintain that high average as the season progressed, but came in at a respectable .358. I should point out, too, that coach Scott was old-school and did not allow the Brock's Plywood team to use aluminum bats. It was all wood for us. All our hits were legit, Louisville Slugger produced. No pingy tinny bloop singles for the Brock's Plywood boys.

"Get a good pitch to hit," was Ted Williams mantra in the book, and it became mine. And it worked.

Thanks to the words of Ted Williams, the greatest hitter ever, at 9 years old I learned to overcome my own weakness and fear, and in so doing picked up wisdom that has helped me outside the batter's box as well.

Our hero is dead at age 83 but the book lives on and so does Ted Williams' larger than life legend.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Red Skies

The Red Sox swept a 5-game series for the first time since Aug. 25-28, 1989 (against Detroit) which despite all the talk about "beating up the weaklings" in the AL is a damn fine thing. What's the alternative after all, play .500 ball against the so called weaklings?

That is not to say that all is groovy in Townsville this morning.

But what's the point? With the executive board of the Players Association scheduled to meet in Chicago Monday, apparently to set a strike date, it's not unfair to suggest that Red Sox fans - actually, baseball fans everywhere - are being taken for a ride.

According to various sources, player reps from throughout the big leagues have been detailed to poll their respective teams in order to establish strike date preferences (Buckley, The Boston Herald).

The looming strike possibility has even made it above the fold on The Washington Posts editorial page where conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer opines a classic everything would be great if it wasn't for those greedy, uppity players column:

The players have it made. And they're ready to strike to keep it that way. They think that the fans will let them get away with it. Again. "It's entertainment," said Bonds. "It will come back. A lot of companies go on strike, not just baseball. And people still ride the bus."

But baseball is not just any company. People don't root for Intel or Sunkist raisins. One more strike and people will be rudely confronted with the utter silliness of caring one way or the other about Barry Bonds Inc.

The players don't seem to understand that they have peculiar skills of limited marketability. Throwing a ball 95 miles an hour has few industrial applications. If the players betray us again, it will be gratifying to see pitchers who might have made $5 million a year pumping gas at the local Exxon.

The upshot here is that it's silly to root for baseball players because they make so much money. Everything would be so much nicer in Krauthammer's world if the damned players made less money.

I'm so tired of hearing that argument.

Whenever labor discussions come up it always comes back to the same theme: Baseball is a silly kid's game and why should grown men playing a kid's game expect to make so much money?

Meanwhile, columnists like Krauthammer are pretty quiet when CEOs and upper management make millions and millions while driving their respective companies into the ground, i.e., Enron, Alelphia, Vivendi, WorldCom, Dynegy …

Maybe it is silly that ballplayers make so much. For certain it seems a little silly that Britney Spears gets $80 a concert ticket to lip-synch songs someone else wrote while shaking her pierced midriff. It also seems rather silly that Jim Carrey gets over $80 million per movie to contort his face, stick his ass in the air, and fart — Talk about "peculiar skills of limited marketability."

Yet the last time I checked neither baseball, pop music, or movies have taken people's jobs and retirement money away, utterly destroying lives in order to feed the greed of the CEOs and investors of corporations the way Enron did.

Personally, I'd feel a lot more justified seeing Ken Lay (former CEO of Enron) pumping gas at the local Exxon than Barry Bonds. But we know that's not going to happen. Just as we'll never hear anyone suggesting that CEOs work under a salary cap.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

We hold these truths

"Every day, when I get to the ballpark, I think, 'This is going to be the day.'" — Tony Clark.

The power of positive thinking:

… as Clark stood there on first base, hands on hips, the Fenway jurors started to chant. It was hard to tell where it all started and impossible to determine which Fenway yahoo came up with the idea, but soon thousands of fans were joining in the chorus:

[The fans] have determined that the guy has been fighting the good fight, taking the extra cuts in the cage, talking to coaches, trying to figure it all out. So when Tony Clark slammed that single to center, it was if every one of the 31,777 fans in attendance was reaching over the railing to shake his hand, pat him on the back and offer to buy him a beer (Buckley, The Boston Herald).

The win last night, marking precisely the halfway point of the season at 81 games played, gave the Red Sox their 50th win. And, as fans, we can feel some relief that we've already lived through a classic swoon and slump but still have our wits about us.

With 50 wins in the first half for the first time since 1986, and only a one-game deficit to make up to the New York Yankees in the American League's East Division, the Sox have reason to feel good about themselves (Horrigan, The Boston Herald).

Time to light a few sparklers to celebrate the Red Sox and the Nation.

"I see great things in baseball, it's our game-the American game. It will take our people out of doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us."
Walt Whitman

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 03, 2002


Amazing what 3 wins in a row can do for one's psyche, especially when 2 come in one day:

There were many fascinating subplots during this day-night affair. Start with an afternoon game in which Tim Wakefield threw six shutout innings in his first start since April 14 and in which the winning hit was a two-run triple by Lou Merloni over the head of Jose Cruz Jr., who must have thought the Framingham Kid was one of those adorable tykes who now bellow ''Play Ball!'' prior to each Fenway encounter (Ryan, The Boston Globe).

I didn't get to do the listen to the game while working bit as I usually do during weekday afternoon games because the capacitor on my house central AC blew and I spent the afternoon getting it replaced. Damn, it's hot here and in Boston.

The game-time temperature for the first game was announced as 88 degrees. According to Michael Foley, the physician in charge of first aid at the park, temperatures reached the mid-90s. It was 104 on the field. Ten people needed medical attention during the game because of the heat (Curran, ProJo).

Is air conditioning pretty much mankind's greatest invention or what? I know a lot of folks in New England don't have AC in their cars or homes, so these hot spells can be brutal. Ironically, I don't suffer nearly as much now living in the South as I did growing up in New Hampshire, despite it being so much warmer day in and out on this side of the Mason-Dixon.

It's AC 24/7 here in Dixie. 100 degree days are no problem at all. Unless you blow a capacitor, of course. I already had plans to take wife and dog to a hotel for the night in the event that the AC couldn't be repaired. Sleep without AC? Not a chance boys and girls.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Bronx Borg Assimilates Mondesi

It didn't rain a drop during my beach excursion, but that bit of joy was tempered by the Red Sox getting swept by Atlanta.

And just when I started to get pumped up over Mr. 14K Martinez, I'm left gasping over yet another major Yankee trade:

Perhaps Mondesi will be a bust. Perhaps he'll turn out to be a World Series hero. Who knows? What we do know, for now, is that the Yankees are in the back alleys of baseball, tossing the dice. The Red Sox are sitting on a milk crate, watching the dice but reluctant to actually play the game (Buckley, The Boston Herald).

The Yankees are the Borg from Star Trek Next Generation. Of this, I have no doubt.

"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."

Am I being too negative? Perhaps, but it's not easy to get too rah-rah considering this was a real honest to goodness Red Sox June Swoon we just went through — and I'd by kidding myself if I didn't admit that I'm still queasy.