February 2010

BIG LEAGUE PROMOTION FOR A BIG LEAGUE GUY

     Another PawSox “alum” has been promoted to the Big leagues.  Joe McDonald, the Cranston native and exceptional sports writer for the Providence Journal has been hired by ESPN to write for their website, ESPNBoston.com.  “Joey Mac” cut his teeth at the Projo and proved himself to be not only a good writer, but a tremendous reporter, as well.  He was one of the very first people to come up and welcome me to the PawSox when I began broadcasting their games in 2004.  We have since forged a friendship that is based on much more than professional respect.

     One of the reasons he has been so successful is his ability to develop relationships with anyone and everyone.  Joe reminds you of an old time reporter, a mans’ man.  He has cultivated  bonds with players while they were in Pawtucket and when they see him in the clubhouse at Fenway, it’s a natural progression.  A lot of guys try to do that and it is unnatural for them.  I think you can spot a phony a mile away.  Joe McDonald is the real thing.  When Steve Krasner retired and Sean McAdam left the Journal, there was not even a hint of a dropoff due to Joes’ hard work.  The Projo brought Dan Barbarisi over to sports from news and McDonald found himself in the mentor role.  Dan now takes on the lead role in the sports department. covering the Sox and his strong journalistic instincts will help him continue the high standard set by McDonald.  Joe now works with veteran Gordon Edes to form an incredible 1-2 punch for ESPNBoston.

     Selfishly, I hope we’ll see him around McCoy Stadium every once in a while.  His sense of humor helps get you through a three and a half hour ball game.  He is the consumate post-game companion, as well.  Never a better guy to wind down with after a night at the ballpark!  For his efforts, Joe has been honored as the Rhode Island Sportswriter of the year for 2009 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.  It is his third such award.  He’s going to win more.  My prediction is that he will become a star in the ESPN galaxy.  He breaks stories.  He gets guys to talk and he does it with what I think he’d refer to as his “Irish Charm”.  It’s tough to make accurate predictions in sports, but this one is a “no-brainer.”  It won’t be long before the rest of the country gets to know “our” Joey Mac.    

THE FIRST AT BAT WITH NAT OF 2010

     As I’ve pointed out so many times in the past, the relationships you cultivate in the minor leagues are what makes my job special.  Over the 2008 and 2009 seasons, I have become especially friendly with Jeff Natale.  Affectionately known as the third member of our broadcast team, Natale conducted weekly interviews with teammates in a segment called “At Bat With Nat”.  He proved to be an adept and insightful interviewer who could get away with questions that other media members might not ask.  Nat appears on this weeks episode of PawSox Insider.  He joined me from Fort Myers and we dished on a variety of topics.

     Jeff spent the winter in Boston working out and in the process, shedding 20 pounds.  He went from 195 to 175 and expects that the added strength as well as the slimmer frame will translate well out on the playing field. “It was a lot of running, power lifting and gymnastic type workouts.”  Natale added he sees results already.  “I’m running much better this year.  I’m getting to balls in the infield that I might not have gotten to in the past.  I’m also hitting with more power.  It’s kind of fun to see where the balls are going.”  Boston first base coach Ron Johnson, Natales’ manager in Pawtucket the last two seasons, told Jeff, that real or imagined, there was a perception that his defense wasn’t as good as it could be.  That didn’t sit well with the Trinity graduate who excelled in baseball and hockey while at the school.  “Reputations are hard to break in baseball.  This year I’m quicker, my throws are more accurate and I’m smoother turning the double play.  I feel cleaner.”  Natale joked  that his new physique will lend itself to him walking around a lot without a shirt.  “Ya gotta show it off”  he laughed.

     Natale told me he considered this a “make or break” season with Boston.  He’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2010 season and he really wants a chance to play in the Majors.  With RJ up in Boston, having Terry Franconas’ ear, it could be the support that Natale hasn’t had before.  “It was frustrating the last couple of years, getting limited at bats (326 combined between ’08 and ’09).  You could do one of two things.  Wallow in it and cry, or light a fire under my butt and do something about it.  That’s what I chose to do.”  Natale continued- “If I have RJ up there advocating for me, that’s great.  It can only help.”

     Since his rookie year in 2005, Natale has been a career .298 hitter in the Red Sox organization.  He has played along side perennial MVP candidates like Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.  While he respects their talent, he is not intimidated by them.  “I’m not in awe.  I respect them.  Am I as good as they are right now?  Of course not, but I truly feel that I can play with them.  You can’t have the mentatlity that you can’t play with them.  If you do, you never will.”  Natale has a couple of goals for 2010.  “I want to start and play every day for the PawSox, and I pray that I get my shot with Boston.”

     You can hear the interview in its’ entirety along with the rest of PawSox Insider Saturday afternoon   on WHJJ radio, or log onto pawsox.com and listen online.

 

   

THE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT…

     We all say we want the truth.  It is a must.  When someone goes to court of law, that’s pretty much all that’s asked of them.  Get into a relationship, what’s the one thing everybody wants? Honesty.  Truth and honesty, honesty and truth.  They are supposed to go hand in hand.  Do we really want the truth?  Think about it.  Go back to your earliest days of childhood.  The idea of Santa Claus was magnificent until some “older” kid in third grade with a brother in fifth grade put other notions in your head.  It’s been downhill since.

     The man who is, in many peoples’ minds, still the All-Time Home Run King, Hank Aaron praised Mark McGwire for telling the truth the other day.  Big Deal.  I believe it’s only the truth when there is no other reason, but to tell the truth for truths’ sake, that it counts.  Allow me to explain.  In McGwires’ case, he is the hitting instructor for the Cardinals.  He launched the pre-emptive strike to fend off the inevitable questions about steroids that were certain to come.  McGwire didn’t confess because he’s a good guy, or because his conscience was bothering him.  He just didn’t want to field the questions.  He did wrong, and he knows it.  If he had decided to stay out of baseball, there would always be the ambiguity surrounding his feats.  Aaron said “I would have liked to see him do it a long time ago, but since he did it, I think he himself will tell you that he’s able to sleep at night and  he’s able to look at his teammates.”  Oddly enough, Aaron made no mention of the player who eclipsed his career homer mark, Barry Bonds.  Bonds has made no such “mea culpa.”

     I used to watch “Sanford and Son” when I was a kid.  There was a wonderful comedic actress, LaWanda Page, who played Redd Foxx’s antagonist, Aunt Esther in the show.  She would come into the junk shop and spout scripture and warn Fred about his “heathen” ways.  Aunt Esther would always talk about the truth “setting you free.”  The truth never set Pete Rose free.  Before he came clean, his indiscretion was gambling on baseball.  Later, I had to believe, his sin was lying.  He admitted to the gambling, and he’s still considered a baseball pariah.  Not condoning what he did, but give me one Pete Rose rather than ten McGwires or Bonds.

     I followed the offseason journey of Johnny Damon.  The former “Idiot” is now a member of the Detroit Tigers.  Detroit signed him after losing Curtis Granderson to the Yankees.  Damon got 8 million for the season.  I am happy for him.  He will help keep the Tigers in the hunt in the Central Division.  That being said, does he think we’re the idiots, saying that Detroit was where he wanted to be all along?  “I wanted to be a Tiger from Day 1″.  Really??  You wanted to live in the city that most embodies the economic struggles of the United States?  Crime-ridden Detroit.  Financially strapped Detroit.  That was your FIRST choice?  Just strung along the Braves, Rays and White Sox?  After spending the last decade in Boston and New York,  Detroit was your dream destination.  The truth.  That’s all we ask.  Do you think Tigers fans are that stupid, they’ll believe you?  “Detroit became my first choice when I realized that my agent Scott Boras and I misread the market for an aging centerfielder.  Detroit was where I wanted to be from the first day they offered me 8 million bucks.”  I could respect that answer.

     In the movie “A Few Good Men”, Colonel Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) nearly has an aneurysm telling Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) that he “Can’t handle the truth.”  Maybe that’s what a lot of people think.  There was a severe consequence in that movie for a non-compliant soldier and I’m thinking it might be a good idea for any and all liars.  Code Red.

BIG THINGS EXPECTED FROM LESTER

     As a life-long Red Sox fan, I feel especially qualified to speak on this subject.  My all-time Red Sox hero is Jon Lester.  I have said this before.  I’ve said it on the air.  I’ve said it to friends.  I’ve said it at speaking engagements.  I’m saying it here.  During one his stints with the PawSox, Lester confided that he someday looked forward to just being a pitcher for the Red Sox, not the kid who battled back from cancer.  Jon was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in 2006.  He had already made his debut with Boston, and suddenly he was in a battle for his life.  Thankfully, he fought it as hard as he does any opponent and has been deemed “cancer-free” since.  Aside from the inevitable mentions that will come, I think his wish has finally come true.  He’s not poor old Jon from Puyallup, Washington.  He is the ace of the staff.  A deep and talented staff.  2010 could be a breakout seaason for Lester.  Not that he hasn’t already proven himself worthy.  I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when he started Game 4 of the 2007 World Series against Colorado.  It’s just mind boggling when I think of how far he’s come.

     Jon last appeared in a PawSox uniform in July of 2007.  It was a typical Lester outing, workmanlike.  He held Ottawa to three runs over seven innings.  He was called by Terry Francona and has been a fixture at Fenway ever since.  The time was right.  Julian Tavarez had been keeping his spot in the rotation warm, but had struggled.  Every one was looking for a story-book ending.  Teammates were as excited as fans about his retu rn.  Jonathan Papelbon was no exception. “He is an inspiration to all of us.”  Jon himself, was prophetic back then, talking about his Major League return and this very day, as well.  “It was hard and frustrating to do the steps and the progressions that they had.”  He  added “That as long as I sat back and kept telling myself that they want me to be healthy, and that’s the main goal for the future, not right now.”

     He has responded.  A hard throwing lefty who strikes out a ton of batters.  As a 21 or 22 year old prospect, I remember Ron Johnson talking about his body language.  Then, his emotions could betray him.  Watch Jon Lester today.  He is tough, stoic and a bulldog, personified.  He has matured.  I guess the process was helped along by the cancer.  Guys do grow up, though.  A fact of life.

     That is one of the great benefits of my job.  I get to know these guys before they become famous.  Before they’re rich.  When they have a dream and it is within their grasp.  Lester has made it.  He is no longer just “the kid who beat cancer”.  He is also the kid who can beat anyone else in the big leagues.  Another reason I look forward to the season.  Not only to see what Jon does in Boston, but to find out who will be this years’ Lester at McCoy?  Who defies the odds and becomes the next hero of Red Sox Nation?

HERE WE GO AGAIN

     Spring Training had not even begun when Red Sox fans had the years’ first bucket of cold water thrown at them.  All winter, we were so smug, so self-assured.  What a rotation!  Lackey added to Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, Matsuzaka and Wakefield.  We might go 162-0.  Dice was going to be forthcoming about any injuries or problems he was having.  Lester was poised to be the ace.  Beckett is in the last year of a contract, so he was going to be sensational.  Lackey, with his new deal was going to prove he could get it done in Boston. Wakefield was going to continue his unlikely assault on the Red Sox record books.  Before the first official ball had been thrown, hit or caught, Daisuke Matsuzaka announced that he was suffering with an upper back strain.  Right away, the image-conscious Sox minimized the news.  Theo Epstein said it wasn’t a significant setback and the Red Sox would carefully monitor the situation.

     It doesn’t take long for that depth to dwindle.  Dice-K was supposed to be fit and ready to re-earn his place in the hearts of fans.  Now, I hope it is an insignificant setback, but you have to wonder how sound he is and if he will be an important contributor in 2010.  According to the Sox, they say they were satisfied with his offseason.  He spent a good part of it in Arizona reshaping his body, rather than returning to his native Japan, as I am sure he would have preferred.  Nonetheless,  Terry Francona says the Sox wanted to go slowly with the righthander, but this slowly?? 

     Maybe we wouldn’t have noticed if this had happened at some other juncture in the year.  At this time, though, everything is big news.  We are clamoring for any and all news from Fort Myers.  The winter of our discontent is drawing to a close.  What did Pedroia have for lunch?  Where did Lester get his hair cut?  What color is David Ortiz’ car?  There might be something fundamentally wrong with all of us.  Really, no one loves the Red Sox more than I do, but quite honestly, nothing really changed for me personally, after the 2004 and 2007 seasons.  When the Angels defeated Boston at Fenway last October, the sun rose again the next day.  It is inexplicable.  But it is real.  I’ll paraphrase what Jimmy Fallon said to Drew Barrymore in “Fever Pitch”.  “What else is there that you’ve cared about your whole life?”  It’s true.  Your taste in clothing, women, TV, music, food and just about anything else you can think of changes and evolves as you mature.  I probably still get as upset today after a loss as I did when Eddie Kasko was the manager.

     I’m Jonesin’ for a trip to Fort Myers.  I can’t wait to get rolling again.  “PawSox Insider” debuts Saturday February 20 at 2 p.m. on 920 WHJJ Radio.  Dan Hoard will join me from Florida.  We’ll hear from Casey Kelly, Terry Francona, Ryan Kalish, John Farrell and new manager Torey Lovullo.  Hope you tune in, and take it from me.  Don’t get too worked up.  It’s not worth it.  I’ve been telling myself that for years.  

    

ONE NATION

     It is no secret that Red Sox Nation is a phenomena that is hard to explain.  No matter where we or they go, there are Red Sox fans…everywhere.  That point has been proven, yet again at the site of the Olympic Winter Games, in Vancouver.  Not once, but twice!

     We start with Hannah Kearney, the first American to win a gold medal at this Olympiad.  Hannah is a 23 year old from Vermont who took top honors in the womens’ moguls over the weekend.  In a post-race interview with Bob Costas, Kearney revealed that she is a huge Red Sox fan and that underneath her ski jacket, she was wearing a Jacoby Ellsbury T-shirt.  Not sure if it’s his “old-school” number 46, or the new number 2 he starts to wear in 2010.  Nonetheless, pretty cool to note that the former PawSox standout has played an inspirational role in helping the United States to a gold medal.

     I’ve often wondered what the guys think as they walk through a mall or stop at a gas station and they see someone wearing “their” jersey.  I’d bet most of the fans would “freak” if their hero stopped up and said “hello”.  I once asked Dustin Pedroia about that very topic and the former rookie of the year and MVP admitted it was “cool” to see others wearing his name and number on their back.

     The Nation has also been represented by another American skier, Michael Morse of Duxbury, Mass. (same hometown as former Boston College basketball star Bill Curley)  Morse finished fifteenth in his event (mens’ moguls) while wearing a Red Sox belt buckle.  Morse prepared for his run while the loudspeakers blasted “Shipping up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.  Somewhere, Jonathan Papelbon was smiling.  That isn’t the only connection that Morse has with the Sox.  He threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park  on May 19, 2008.  If that date sounds familiar to you, you’re a good Red Sox fan.  It was also the date of Jon Lesters’ no-hitter against Kansas City.

     There are still a couple of arduous weeks left in these Olympic games (Not a big fan of the Winter Sports) so there are probably going to be more Sox revelations.  After all, many great New Englanders are representing not only the United States, but their beloved Red Sox Nation.

A DAY WITH DAN

     Hard to believe, but I am ready to start my seventh season as the radio broadcaster for the Pawtucket Red Sox.  After one year with Andy Freed as my partner and another with Dave Jageler, I’ve worked four seasons with Dan Hoard.  As you know, he and I spend a lot of time together during the baseball season.  We don’t however, see each other all that often during the winter months.  It was a treat when I joined Dan in Hartford on Saturday to watch his broadcast of the University of Cincinnati basketball game against the UConn Huskies.  I had a courtside seat next to Dan and his partner, Chuck Machock, a former coach at, among other places, Ohio State.  Chuck is infamous for being the only broadcaster ever thrown out of an NCAA Tournament game by a referee.  Back in 2003, Chuck took umbrage at a call made by one of the best officials in the game, Mike Kitts.  After getting an earful from an outraged Machock, Kitts had him removed from the arena.  I’ve known Kitts for a long time.  We lived in the same neighborhood when I resided in Syracuse.  As fate would have it, Kitts was one of the officials Saturday.  I made sure I went over to talk to Mike before the game, in case there were still hard feelings between he and Chuck.  Chuck and Dan work together seamlessly, with Dans’ easy-to-listen-to style of calling a game, complimented by Chucks’ insight and analysis from a lifetime in basketball.

     The big news of the day was the return of Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun to the Husky bench.  Jim had missed the 7 previous Connecticut games due to an undisclosed illness.  Calhoun, a Red Sox fan of legendary proportion was coy about revealing the nature of his illness, saying only that it was stress-related.  Rumor floating around the XL Center was that it was high blood pressure.  UConns’ performance against the Bear Cats did nothing to lower his BP.  Cincinnati won the game 60-48, despite their best efforts to give it away in the waning moments of the game.

     Saw a couple of old friends.  Joe D’Ambrosio and Wayne Norman, who broadcast the UConn games were on hand and we caught up.  In case you didn’t know, I spent ten seasons as a Syracuse University broadcaster.  Also ran into John Paquette, Associate Commisioner of the Big East Conference.  JP, one of the nicest guys in the game has been with the league forever.  Every now and again, he’ll make a pilgrimage with his son to McCoy to watch the PawSox.  Saw Kevin Stacom at the game.  The former All America from Providence College, who won an NBA title with the Celtics is a scout for the Dallas Mavericks, and a fixture at college games on the east coast.  Kevin is also the owner of the Mudville Pub in downtown Newport, right next door to historic Cardines Field.  Kevin and I worked together 25 years ago when he was the head coach of the Rhode Island Gulls of the United States Basketball League, and I served as the teams’ front office (small operation).  Just down the road from Bristol, Ct., ESPN’s Andy Katz was working, no doubt digging for information.

     The winter is long and the visit with Dan was a real nice break.  It has me chomping at the bit to get started again.  Incidentally, the first episode of “PawSox Insider” for 2010 will air this Saturday, February 20 on our flagship station, 920 WHJJ radio, at 2:00 p.m.  Among our scheduled guests,  new manager, Torey Lovullo, and super prospects, Casey Kelly and Ryan Kalish.    

WE LOVE BASEBALL

     Now that football is over (Who  Dat?) we hit a little sports lull before Spring Training begins.  Sure we can keep tabs on our favorite college basketball team (Go Orange!) but there is little else to keep a New England sports fan interested.  The Celtics have become a joke, unable to hold on to double digit leads and the Bruins are staggering after their ten game losing streak.  The equipment trucks leave Fenway on Friday for Fort Myers and pretty soon we’ll be hanging on every report from the Fort.  (By the way, my Spring Training reports from Florida will begin appearing on this blog March 20).  There is no doubt that we love baseball and if you’re reading this, you’re probably just as much of a fanatic as I am.  Valentines Day is Sunday, so I came up with some players that could be a part of my “All Valentines Day” squad.

     There are a few choices for manager.  First, the most obvious, Bobby Valentine.  He is a little goofy, but he pulled off one of my favorite baseball pranks.  After being ejected from a game he returned to the dugout wearing a fake moustache.  He got caught.  Miller Huggins the former skipper of the Yankees.  He does have the word “Hug” in his name.  Also, Hall of Famer, Red Schoendienst.  The color is a natural for the occasion.

     Baseball and Valentines Day seem to be a natural fit.  If you’re really in love, what do you give your girl?  A diamond, of course.  There is no baseball without a diamond.  The perfect guy to sing for you? Neil Diamond, who else?  If your relationship is relatively new, perhaps some Candy Maldonado would be appropriate.  Ben Flowers is always nice, too.  Think of what a great impression you’d make with a dozen Reds’ Pete Roses!  They’d be welcome anywhere (except Cooperstown).  If you are a little more serious about your significant other,  Maybe a Royce Ring for her finger.

     What if you’re not sure if you have a relationship or not?  It could be in the beginning stages.  Nothing wrong with a nice Ed Hug.  Make it as brief as his Major League career, though. (1 at bat in 1903)  You don’t want to send the wrong signal.  You might just be experiencing Slim Love.  He was a 6’7 195 pounder who was a Big Leaguer about a hundred years ago.

     Need advice from the front office?  Call on former M.L. lefty, Vance Lovelace, now a member of the Dodgers organization.  You could always watch a movie with him.  Another natural would be Louisville Bats manager, Rick Sweet.  “Sweetie” has got to be a Valentines day expert.  Of course, there are guys like Ellis Valentine, Jim Ray Hart and Corey Hart who will all celebrate as well.  It is their day, after all.

     Don’t forget the power of music.  If Neil Diamond isn’t your thing, what woman could resist Dean Martin crooning one of his greatest hits- “That’s Amaury Telemaco”. 

     No matter how you celebrate (if you do at all) remember the “Greatest Love of All”.  The Joy of Sox!   If I left out anybody, please feel free to add it to the list.  Happy Valentines Day!!  

    

LUIS’ NUMBER IS UP IN CHICAGO

     Having your number retired is the highest tribute a team can pay you.  It says “You distinguished yourself while wearing the number and no on else could ever hold a candle to what you accomplished.”  Traditionally, it is a teams way to thank a player who meant something to the franchise.  Next time you’re at Fenway, look up at the rightfield grandstand and you’ll see the retired numbers of great Sox stars.  The first thing most fans do when they go to the Garden is look towards the heavens and try to name the players who have had their numbers retired by the Celtics.  Even the Yankees have that tradition, I hear.  Baseball decided that they would pay the ultimate tribute to Jackie Robinson by retiring his #42 throughout baseball, forever.

     The practice of retiring numbers just took a shot to the heart in Chicago.  The White Sox are going to “un” retire the number 11 that had been put in moth balls in honor of the great shortstop Luis Aparicio.  The Venezuelan who spent part of the tail end of his career in Boston was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1984.  That same year, his number was retired.  The 1956 American League Rookie of the Year was a nine time Gold Glove winner and a ten time All Star and this is how they thank him.  Omar Vizquel is the man who’ll wear the number this summer and Aparicio said all the right things in a recent interview.  “I have known Omar for a long time.  Along with being an outstanding player, he is a good and decent man.”  Vizquel is a compatriot of Aparicio and a borderline potential Hall of Famer at best.  Vizquel has played more games in the Majors at shortstop than anyone else ever has, and is a 3 time All Star.

     Who’s to blame?  Let’s start with Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen.  He wears the number 13, which was the number Vizquel has worn throughout his career, no doubt a tribute to yet another great Venezuelan shortstop, Dave Concepcion.  Any other manager would put a player ahead of his own needs.  Not Guillen.  He basically told the media in the Windy City that 13 was his number and there was no way he’d give it up to Vizquel.  Very mature.  Never liked Guillen, never will.  How about Omar, himself?  Grow up and wear any old number.  Do you really think it makes a difference?  How is this a tribute to Aparicio?   The tribute was when you retired the number.  This is an anti-tribute.  Poor old Luis Aparicio.  He was in a no-win situation.  If he said he didn’t want his number worn again, he’d have been villified as a poor sport.  Inject Aparicio with truth serum and he has to be ticked off.  Wouldn’t you be upset if your former team yanked the rug out from under your feet?  “Sorry Mr. Ruth, but David Wells wants to wear the number 3.  I’m sure you wouldn’t mind.  Thanks for being the greatest player ever, but you’re dead now and Wells could win a few games for us, and after all…”  It just isn’t right.

     Maybe the White Sox should think twice before retiring a number.  Maybe they should just say they are putting it down for a nap.  Maybe they could invoke a Brett Favre or a Jay Leno clause.  Anyway, no matter how you slice it, Luis Aparicio deserves better treatment. 

          

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAMBINO

     Saturday would have been the 115th birthday of George Herman Ruth, known simply as the Babe.  Of course, no one except maybe some Estonian woman, living in the mountains, makes it to that age.  I read an article that pointed out, that since Ruth retired in 1935, the number of Major league records he owns has dropped from 17 to now, just 4.  Career and single season marks for home runs and other categories have been obliterated by the good (Hank Aaron) the bad (Barry Bonds) and the ugly (Mark McGwire).  I think though, that if you ask people of a certain age or generation,  Babe Ruth is still the gold standard.  I realize he died in 1948, but to me, (born in 1961) he was the player to which all others are compared.

     We talk about performance enhancing drugs, human growth hormones, steroids.  All the things that modern players thought would make them bigger, stronger and better.  From what I read, Babe Ruth was on the hot dog and beer diet.  A carouser of epic proportions, that answered the bell every night.  Ruth would be a megastar even today.  He loved people and loved being loved.  He was an orphan who himself, had a soft spot for kids.  I’ve never been much for the arguments about Ali/Louis or Russell/O’Neal because they’re strictly speculation.  There really is no way to know how a players’ skills would translate in a different era.  The exception in my mind is Ruth.  I am pretty sure he could hit a fastball of Nolan Ryan or Tim Lincecum or Sandy Koufax.  Any pitcher, any time.

     You can’t help but wonder how the complexion of the game would have been different if Red Sox owner Harry Frazee hadn’t sold Ruth to the Yankees to help finance his play “No No Nannette”.  There would have been no Murderer’s Row, no teaming with Lou Gehrig, no multiple crowns for New York.  It all may have happened in Boston instead. 

     One term I don’t miss is “Curse of the Bambino”.  Fabricated by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, it was finally eradicated when Boston defeated St. Louis in the 2004 World Series (Not after the GREATEST collapse in the history of sports- by the Yankees in the ’04 American League Championship Series).  About 15 years ago I interviewed Ruths’ daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens on a radio show I was hosting.  I asked and she kindly consented to lift the “Curse”.  It did take about 8 or 9 years to catch on, but it finally did.

     Babe Ruth seemed like a really cool guy.  One of my favorite photos in the vast McCoy Stadium collection, is of Ruth and Ted Williams sitting and talking.  I imagine it would have been fun to sit and have a beer with a guy like Ruth.  I’d buy the first round.  After all, it is his 115th birthday.

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