Monday, September 17, 2007
For all of you hockey fans, please allow me, for a moment, to indulge in a little late season baseball. Thanks to the September showers, the grass and the weeds are growing well. The squirrels are scampering in preparation for the hockey season. It is autumn, and the focus soon will be on the Fall Classic, the World Series.
There will only be two teams playing that best of seven series. Toronto baseball fans are now in a bit of a funk, because the team was officially eliminated last week. But they are not alone, because there are baseball fans in the other 28 cities which have franchises in the same boat.
The New York Yankees are in the hunt, and are making a serious charge at the Boston Red Sox. The Beantowners remember 1978 ever so well, when the Yankees came from 14 games out of first place, and overtook the Sox on the last day of the season. Bucky Dent punched a homer over the Green Monster. Yaz popped out to Nettles at third. That does not rest well in the minds of the Red Sox Nation.
There are a couple of other craws in the Red Sox mind that stir unpleasant emotions. Bill Buckner had a ground ball slip under his glove to open the floodgates for disaster.
Almost twenty years ago, we did a family tour of the North Eastern States-Vermont, New Hampshire, a little Maine to visit with Terry Meagher at Bowdoin, and a little Massachusetts. That entire area is painted Red Sox red.
While chomping away on a burger at McDonald’s, I was interrupted by a gentleman in his early sixties. He suggested that I remove my Yankees cap, mainly for geographic reasons. I did so quickly, and asked him if he were a Sox fan.
“Used to be,” he replied. “Until Johnny Pesky let that roller go through his legs,” he continued. Pesky’s name was familiar, but a little before my time. “Broke my heart. Haven’t followed the game much since then.”
I asked what year that might have been. “Late Forties. Leave it at that,” he replied.
I always wondered how he felt when the Sox did win the World Series, finally, in 2005. Perhaps there was a spark for the old team.
Last Thursday, the Yankees and the Jays were knotted at one run apiece in the late innings. The Yankees were on a roll, about to sweep the Jays.
Bobby Abreu stroked a single to left field to open the ninth inning. This followed a vain attempt by the Jays to go ahead in the eighth. The Jays’ Greg Zaun led off the inning by walking to first. Curtis Thigpen came in to run for him.
John McDonald sacrificed Thigpen to second. Textbook baseball. One out, runner on second. Followed by two strikeouts to end the inning. Ouch!
The Yankee ninth, again. Alex Rodriguez followed Abreu, with none out. Not a good thing for the Jays. But he struck out. Matsui singled to put two runners on base, with only one out. Jays fans cringed at the possibilities, having suffered, along with Doc Halladay at recent late inning collapses; however, this was followed by ground ball outs by Cano and Cabrera.
The Jays were still alive in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Rios came to the plate with nothing to show for his previous three trips. But he spanked a single up the middle to open the inning. To make matters worse for the Yankees, he stole second easily.
Your Friendly Giant, Frank Edward Thomas, followed Rios. He had already made a contribution by driving in Russ Adams in the first inning. A smooth firm stroke drove the ball through the infield to centre field, allowing Rios to score easily from second. A. J. Burnett trotted from the dugout to offer his congratulations. Although he was not credited with the win, he had pitched superbly for seven innings.
The Yankees young phenom, Ian Kennedy, surpassed Burnett’s work, allowing one hit through seven innings. But the bullpen let him down, and he did not record the victory. His day will come, and hopefully soon for the Bronx Bombers. They will need more strong innings from him, and from their other starters to close on the Red Sox.
A most exciting win for the Jays, despite their place in the standings.
On Sunday night, the Yankees closed the gap on the Red Sox, aided by the contributions of three future Hall of Famers: Roger Clemens started, and kept the Red Sox at bay for seven innings in a duel with Schilling, Derek Jeter launched a dinger over the Green Monster to chalk up three runs on the board, Mariano Rivera closed the deal in the bottom of the ninth.
We now have two weeks of regular season baseball. The Jays entertain the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to close out the season. They travel to New York this week, then on to Baltimore. Obviously, they can be real spoilers for one of the front runners in this race. Adds a little spice to the pudding.
There are still a few seats left for the bus trip on September 30th. It is the last game of the season, Fan Appreciation Day. The trip is sponsored by the Belleville Club, and leaves Belleville at 9:00am for the 1:07 start. Cost is $ 60 for the bus and the game ticket. Call 613-399-2278 for tickets. A great way to close out the season!
James Hurst-sportslices.blogspot.com (613-399-2278)