October 2010

YOU CAN’T MAKE ME, YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!!!!

     Remember “The Munsters”?  Fred Gwynne brilliantly portrayed the child-like “Herman Munster” in the sixties sitcom.  When “Grandpa” (Al Lewis) or wife “Lily” (Yvonne DeCarlo) would try to make Herman do something he didn’t want to do, he would petulantly stomp his feet, block his ears, and shout “You can’t make me.”  That’s pretty much how I feel now about watching the 2010 World Series.  People just assume or take for granted that because of who I am, or what I do, I’m glued to the set.  Not true.  During Game 1 on Wednesday, I suffered through the Celtics’ loss to the “James-less” Cavaliers.  For Game 2, a night later, I was playing cards with my friends (Pitch) at the Knights of Columbus Hall.  I literally could not care less who wins the series.  That may seem odd, for a sports fan like me to not care, but it would have been fine with me if they skipped it all together this season.

     You know how many times I’ve been annoyed by Tim McCarver this Fall Classic?  None!!  Not once. Why?  Right, because I haven’t watched.  McCarver is the master of the obvious.  Nothing against Joe Buck.  He’s a fine broadcaster, very talented.  But it doesn’t seem right that he has now broadcast more World Series play by play on network TV than anyone in history.  Vin Scully, Curt Gowdy, Sean McDonough.  No one has broadcast more World Series games than Joe.  Not even his dad, the late, great Jack Buck.  I hope that if McCarver does a postgame interview after the champion is crowned, that somewhere, somehow, Deion Sanders is lurking in the shadows, at the ready with a bucket of water.  In 1992, Sanders dumped 3 buckets of water on McCarver after the Braves clinched the pennant.  McCarver had been critical of Sanders for playing in a football and a baseball game on the same day.  I happen to think it was a remarkable feat.  Nonetheless, McCarvers’ response to the shower was “You are a real man Deion, I’ll say that.”

     They lined up a couple of real big shots to throw out the ceremonial first piches on Sunday for Game 4.  Former Presidents Bush (father and son)  are slated to do the honors.  “W” is a former managing general partner for the Rangers and often attends the Ballpark at Arlington.  I still get goosebumps at the thought of him throwing out the first pitch for Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium immediately after the tragedy of 9/11.  In my mind, one of his finer moments.  With the terrorists, no doubt, watching, he stood tall and fired a perfect strike, as the fans in New York chanted “USA, USA!!!”.  George H.W. Bush has baseball in his blood.  He played first base for Yale as a young man.  Bush Sr. is often seen at Astros games.  He and Barbara make their home in Houston, while “W” and Laura live in the Dallas area.

     What a thrill it must be for my PawSox predecessor, Dave Flemming, now a radio broadcaster for San Francisco to call the Giants World Series games.  Congratulations, Dave.

LOTS OF THINGS HAPPENING ALREADY

     This is strictly speculation.  Believe me, I haven’t bounced this off anyone.  I can, however, put two and two together, and it makes perfect sense to me that the PawSox could be lookijng for a new manager this offseason.  Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell has been hired to replace Cito Gaston as manger of Toronto.  Farrell will need lieutenants in Canada, and who better than Torey Lovullo?  Lovullo, who just completed his first season in the Sox organization is a sure-fire, Big League skipper some day..  The question is, would he better served managing in the International League again this year, or as bench coach for the Blue Jays?  Farrell and Torey go back to their days together in the Indians organization.  Farrell was one of several men who put in a good word for Torey to be hired by the Red Sox.  Again,  I reiterate, that I have not spoken to Lovullo or anyone about this.  The PawSox will already be searching for a new hitting instructor.  Gerald Perry was hired by the Oakland A’s as their new batting coach.  I found Gerald, a 1988 National League All Star with the Braves to be an engaging guy who really seemed to be tapped in to his players.

     I don’t want to lose Torey, but Farrell would be hard pressed to find a better baseball guy to sit beside him in the dugout in the Rogers Centre.  He’s a classy guy, knows the game and is extremely likeable.  I am fairly certain that Farrell will begin assembling his staff relatively quickly.  Another consideration…does this open the door in Boston for Pawtrucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur?  Sauveur has worked with virtually everyone currently on the staff.  Boston may opt for a candidate that has Major League experience, but if they don’t,  we could see an entirely different staff at McCoy in 2011. 

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     You knew I couldn’t let this pass by.  I was gleeful and giddy on Friday night as Texas eliminated the Yankees in the ALCS.  Happy for David Murphy and his team, and even happier to see the looks on the faces of the Yankees players and staff.  Boston has some holes to fill, no doubt.  So do the Yanks.  The Cliff Lee sweepstakes should be interesting.  It should come down to the good guys and the bad.  New York is faced with having to deal with a nucleus of aging stars.  Jeter, Posada etc.  Mariano Rivera has been chugging from the fountain of youth.  Sign him quick.  Let’s just hope that whatever moves they make, are the wrong ones.  It is going to be an interesting offseason. 

MURF’S TIME TO SHINE

     I have always said that David Murphy was one of the, if not the nicest guy ever to walk through the doors at McCoy Stadium.  I felt he had the “goods” to be an outfielder in Boston. Needless to say, I was very disappointed when he was traded to Texas along with Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne back in July of 2007.  While Sox fans may have been displeased, David himself, was ecstatic, returning to his home state.  While Murf was with the PawSox, we regularly corresponded with his parents, as well as his Grandma Jean.  The 28 year old outfielder has become a regular cog in the Rangers’ machine and his biggest contributions ever came on Saturday in Game 2 of the Ameican League Championship Series against the Yankees, a 7-2 Texas win

     In the second inning, David blasted a solo home run off starter and loser Phil Hughes.  An inning later, he doubled in a run.  The Rangers kept their foot on the throat of the Yankees, rebounding after the heartbreaking loss in Game 1 of the series.  It will be a game apiece as the Rangers send Cliff Lee to the hill in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.  When the spotight shone brightest, Murf came through.  Hopefully, he can continue to swing the bat that way and the Rangers can make their first trip to the World Series.

     I’ve often said that most of the players I encounter are good guys.  They say and do the right things when the camera or tape recorder is on.  They are, after all regular guys.  Young, talented and in a lot of cases, rich.  David Murphy is an exception.  He always said and did the right thing.  Whether you were in a crummy restaurant eating lunch, or on an all-night bus ride to God knows where,  Murf always was a gentleman.  That is one of the reasons we all should revel in his new-found fame and success.  Some guys never get the chance to do what he did on Satrurday.  Others get the opportunity and can’t come through.  Baseball is not an easy game.  

     David and his wife Andrea are parents to two young daughters.  They’re probably too young to understand what “Daddy” did on Saturday afternoon.  But they will know someday.  What they are learning right now from David, is how to be a good person.  I have absolutely no doubt that he’s a good father.  He is cut from the right kind of cloth.  I watched Javier Lopez pitch for San Francisco on Saturday night.  I saw Kelly Shoppach (Murphy’s former teammate at Baylor University) catch for Tampa.  The 2010 postseason is littered with former PawSox players.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am happy for all their success.  I’m just a little bit happier for David Murphy.  He’s a great guy, and he did it to New York.

LOOKING FOR A FITTING TRIBUTE TO BEN MONDOR

     Let me preface this by saying that I am not acting on behalf of the PawSox as I write this blog.  I am doing so after seeing the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul packed to the rafters as Ben Mondor was laid to rest last week.  There were “dignitaries” on hand.  Theo Epstein. Governor Carcieri and I.L. President Randy Mobley to name a few.  Former players like Frank Malzone, Bob Montgomery and Sam Bowen filled the pews of the church.  Current PawSox player Aaron Bates and his girlfriend, Miss Massachusetts, USA, Lacey Wilson drove down from Boston.  There is no way I could even begin to tell you who else was there.  It was a full house.  One last time, Ben Mondor packed them in, as he did for decades at McCoy Stadium.  There were countless PawSox fans there to pay tribute.  Faces that I have seen at the ballpark.  I don’t know all their names, but I sure recognized dozens of faces at the service.  Ben would have appreciated that.  He was a man of the people.

     I was a guest on the Helen Glover Show on our flagship station 920 WHJJ.  Helen asked me to share my memories of Ben, which I was more than happy to do.  I had gathered my thoughts and thought of a few stories I could tell.  As I was about to go on the air, she started playing Louis Armstrongs’ classic “What a Wonderful World.”  That started to choke me up a bit, since Kevin Galligan had put up a video tribute to Ben on PawSox.com with that very song as the background.  Fortunately for me, I was able to compose myself and go ahead with the interview.  Helen asked me an interesting question.  “Would McCoy Stadium be renamed in Bens’ honor?”  Honestly, I didn’t know.  It is more than well deserved.  I don’t know all the details, but I had heard that Ben rejected the idea when it was proposed after the renovation in the late nineties.  He did concede to the naming of Ben Mondor Way, a street that leads to the park.  The renaming of the “House That Ben Built” would be a lasting tribute.  I could also envision a statue of Ben, maybe out in front of the ticket office.  A smiling Ben, maybe handing tickets to a young child.  That is what he was all about.  Ironically, former I.L. President Harold Cooper (The Ben Mondor of Columbus, Ohio) has a statue erected in his honor at the new Huntington Park, the Clippers’ home.  Sadly, Cooper died at just about the same time Ben passed. 

     Ben Mondor was a man who didn’t like hoopla when it came to him.  I am sure the PawSox will celebrate his life fittingly.  MIke Tamburro and Lou Schwechheimer learned for over three decades from Ben.  Even though he might not have approved, it would be the right thing to do.  I’d love to hear your ideas for a Mondor tribute.  Something as simple as a patch for the 2011 uniform or as elaborate as you can come up with.  Please submit your ideas here.  Thanks!

HIS LEGEND WILL LIVE ON AS LONG AS THERE’S BASEBALL

     I was stunned to learn on Monday morning that Ben Mondor had died.  He was 85 years old and had been ill for some time.  Nonetheless, when it comes, I don’t think you are really ever ready for it.  I’ve just finished my seventh season behind the microphone for the PawSox, but I have known Ben since my stint as a PawSox salesman back in the mid 80′s.  Back then, the staff was much smaller.  Mike Tamburro, Lou Schwechheimer, Bill Wanless, Mick Tedesco were there then and they still are today.  That is rare in any business, especially a transient business lke minor league baseball.  The reason was obvious why everyone stuck around.  Ben Mondor.  Ben, even back then, treated everyone like his kids.  Every day, he’d send someone out to buy lunch for the entire staff.  The catch was, you had to eat whatever Ben was having.  There was no messing around.  7 orders of fish and chips.  7 cheeseburgers.  Everyone had the same thing, and we loved it.  Young guys who were getting the proverbial free lunch.

     Ben had a very playful side.  If he busted your chops, it meant he liked you.  At least that’s what I like to think.  Back in those days, he was very active with the National Guard.  He was hosting an event at a large hotel in Newport.  Myself, Bill, Mickey and Chris Parent were “invited”.  When we arrived, ready to hobnob with the big shots, we were ushered to separate bars, where we spent the remainder of the evening, serving drinks to the bigshots.  A memory we laughed about for years.  I know I made him laugh as we posed for the final team photo he’d appear in this August.  I got the time wrong and as I “sprinted” (as fast as a middle aged, “plus-size” broadcaster could sprint) out onto the field, the entire team was laughing, no one louder than Ben. 

     I’ve met very few people that can “hold court” like Ben Mondor.  Had he been so inclined, he could have been a broadcaster.  He had the gift.  Ben brought so much to the region.  He’d always use the same line on me when I’d ask him a baseball related question.  “I’m not a jock like you guys.  I’m a businessman.”  The businessman part was certainly true.  We all know how he saved baseball in Rhode Island.  But I never, for a single moment believed that he didn’t live and die with every pitch and swing of the bat of “his kids”.    

     Ben was a generous man.  Several times a season, he’d give the team enough money so that they could all go out to dinner on the road after a day game.  Luckily, the radio guys were always included.  I’ve been fortunate to be named the state sportscaster of the year 3 times in the last 4 years.  It is very gratifying to be recognized by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.  It meant just as much when Ben would call me in his office and tell me that I made him proud and he appreciated the way I represented his organization.  Absolutely priceless. 

     I was honored when I was able to attend his induction to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in November of 2004.  A great night that we were priviliged to share with him.  I will miss a lot of things about Ben Mondor.  We all will.  I will mostly miss his stories.  Stories of sitting in on meetings with the late Jean Yawkey.  Stories of clinics held at the park for a group of blind children.  Stories told with great pride and enthusiasm.

     There’s no doubt in my mind that the church will bursting at the seams on Thursday for his funeral service.  He touched the lives of so many.  Whether you knew him personally, or not, you’re feeling the loss.  Ben was beloved.  A combination of Santa, the Easter Bunny and Gandhi rolled into one man.  I dare you to find anyone who had a better or more well-deserved reputation.  Knowing Ben, he’d probably roll his eyes and laugh if heard what folks will say about him in their eulogies.  Even though it’ll all be true.

     Rest in peace Ben.  And thanks for everything!

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MIKE AND WAKE

     The Red Sox are faced with plenty of decisions heading into 2011.  One that they won’t have to make involves Mike Lowell.  The classy, 4 time All Star is set to retire this week.  He got a well deserved standing ovation Saturday, went 2-2, got another rousing thank you from the fans, and is now ready to ride off into the sunset.  Tim Wakefield, though, has announced that he will be back in 2011.  The ineffective knuckleballer, useless since the All Star break of 2009, wants to stick his face in the trough one more time.

     Lowell is the epitome of class.  The Sox traded him to Texas last offseason and the deal was cancelled due to his hand injury.  Lowell returned to Boston, knowing that management didn’t want him around, kept a smile on his face and acted like the consumate professional, that he is.  He dazzled us in Toledo with his three home run game against the Mud Hens and his courteous demeanor off the field.  For his sake, I had wished he’d been traded, so he could help a team make a playoff push. (If the deal to Texas worked out, he’d be getting ready for the post season.)  Never once did you hear Mike Lowell grumble.  Tough to blame anyone for the trade.  It was just one of those things.  Lowell can settle into retirement at age 36, financially secure, knowing that he handled his business the right way.  I can envision Lowell as a manager someday, or if he chooses, behind a microphone.  The MVP of the 2007 World Series wasn’t in Boston all that long, comparitively speaking, but his impact is undeniable.

     Wakefield, on the other hand, ought to know it is time to hang it up.  The Sox are usually pretty good, knowing when it is time to “turn the page” on a guy.  As you may know, I am not a fan of the knuckle ball.  That being said, I have great admiration for a guy like Wake and his career.  He has managed to remain in the Bigs for a long time.  He has defied the odds.  I was surprised the Sox gave him a two year deal last offseason, after going year to year for years.  I know he covets the Red Sox victory record, currently shared by Roger Clemens and Cy Young, but come on, he can’t be mentioned in the same breath as those guys.  Just no where near as good.  Plain and simple.  He has complained about the role he played this year for Boston.  Was he going to replace the All Stars in the rotation.  No way.  Even the other three donkeys, Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka are a better option.  Pay him off, and send him off.  If it’s the “farewell tour” he’s looking for, have a day for him at Fenway.  Have an entire month for him, but for Heavens’ sake, never let him take the mound again.  You are just giving games away.  You cannot afford to do that in the American League East.

     After being taken out of the game against New York on Saturday, Lowell was quoted. “I think I’ve gotten a response that’s been much more than really I’ve deserved.”  Typical Mike Lowell.  Wakefield, on the other hand, says he wants to come back, needs to know ahead of time exactly what his role wil be and sounds like a man who feels he is owed something more than he already has.

     One guy sounds like the guest who goes to the party, has a great time, contributes to the conversation, makes sure that everyone has fun and then acts as the designated driver.  The other is the guest who has one drink too many, and then wants one more.   

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