Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

And there's been a lot of broken dreams

Kelly O'Connor took this photo of Greg Montalbano at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

We lost Greg Montalbano in 2009. Kelly O'Connor took this photo of him at the Lowell Spinner's Alumni Dinner in January 2009 (Used with permission)

Just a note of warning:  This entry is long and although I want it to be all-encompassing, I’m sure I’ve missed  few things.  But this is pretty much how I remember 2009!

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2009 was a fairly eventful year for me personally in both the good and bad categories.  Sadly more bad than good which is probably why I initially avoided writing any kind of recap for the blog.  But while I was writing my recap of the Red Sox decade (and I’ll have that up as soon as I finish it!) I realized I should probably write something about the final year of the decade as well.  So here goes.

January:  I started blogging at WEEI.com.  Looking back on my entries for this month, I’m genuinely surprised I found so much to write about (it didn’t stop new readers from complaining that I was writing “drivel” though.  Should have been a sign!).  Personal highlights in January:  The ongoing Jason Varitek saga, the signing of Rocco Baldelli, Kyle Snyder getting picked up by the Mets, the beginning of the MLB Network and Jim Rice finally gets voted into the Hall of Fame!

February:  Bombshell of bombshells for MLB.  Selena Roberts exposes Alex Rodriguez as a steroid user.  The MLB Network cuts its teeth on this one and, unlike Peter Gammons and ESPN, doesn’t disappoint with their coverage.  Unafraid of losing access to the players (again, unlike Peter Gammons or ESPN), they go full throttle on this story and introduce us to their newest addition to the network:  Bob Costas.  I wrote a lot about MLBN in 2009 and a bit about Sl*ppy.  I would have written much less about the two, most likely, had this story not broken.  Personal highlights in February:  The Caribbean World Series on MLBN (I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it!), Truck Day, pitchers and catchers reporting and Joe Torre’s book about the Yankees.

Chapter 10: The End of the Curse. When asked by Regis Philbin the other day what happened to the Yankees over the past 7 years, Joe responded “The Red Sox happened”. That will go down as possibly my favorite Red Sox/Yankee-related quote ever.

March:  I spent a lot of March writing ‘rants’ and pointing folks toward baseball-related Twitter accounts.  Must have been resting up for April!  Personal highlight in March:  The WBC.  I spent a lot of time ranting about players getting hurt and how I didn’t care who won only to be totally sucked into it by the end.

April:   The beginning of the season!  Lots of liveblogging and picking up more WEEI readers (with mixed results!).  Personal highlights in April:  Going to both Sox/Mets exhibition games at CitiField, attending Opening Day at Fenway and high-fiving JD Drew and Hideki Okajima during their introductions, being at Fenway for the walk-off win against the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte, Tim Wakefield taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning (thus setting the table for his All Star selection), watching Jonathan Van Every pitch while Javier Lopez floundered in right field then eventually getting DFA’d (watched on television, not in person), the Patriots Day game where Luke Scott got all pissy and some idiot fan threw a ball onto  the field and “Toeing the Rubber” getting nominated for a New England Sports Blog Award in the category “Best Red Sox Blog”. Relatively speaking, a great month except for one thing that really hit the baseball world hard and made the month miserable:  the death of Nick Adenhart.

But I don’t cry because of any personal connection I have to Nick. I don’t cry because a future baseball star is dead. I cry because parents lost a son today. Many people lost a friend. And the world lost someone who could have potentially been great. Not just at baseball but at life. No drunken ass has the right to take that away from us. This doesn’t “put things into perspective” for me. I hate when people say that. I’m forty years old for God’s sake, I’ve seen enough death and tragedy in my life to have proper perspective, thank you. I don’t watch baseball and think that what goes on down on that field is life or death and more important than anything else in my life. I’d argue that most sports fans, even if they act like they have no perspective, have exactly that. Baseball is an outlet to forget about the realities of life for a few hours.

May: Getting to see Daniel Bard’s first Major League appearance (after having seen him pitch in Pawtucket) was very special.  Finding out that Jerry Remy was recovering from cancer was sad and a little frightening.  Personal highlights in May:  Seeing Kyle Snyder with the Bisons at Pawtucket, Javier Lopez signing Steve the Ferret’s “Lopez” jersey (also at Pawtucket), Aubrey Huff fistpumping to Joba Chamberlain, appearing on “The Baseball Show” on Comcast SportsNet, crying (literally crying) over Big Papi’s first home run of the season, getting to meet metsgrrl and “paloozaing” with a huge group of people I love during the Mets/Sox series at Fenway.

Yesterday was an amazing day spent with friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while or hadn’t met yet!). There are many amazing tales to tell (but not here!) – my favorite being when our friend Susan noted that we could start singing “O Canada” except no one knows the words past “O Canada!”. Standing up and singing loudly and proudly, a group of us proved her wrong. That our serenade didn’t get us thrown out still kind of surprises me.

June:  This month brought us the end of interleague play, the end of Jonathan Van Every’s season (thanks to knee surgery), Tim Wakefield hitting ten victories with his torn labrum, John Smoltz making us all wonder why we were so excited to have him on the team while Dusty Brown makes his major league debut.  Personal highlights for June:  Derek Lowe returning to Fenway with the Braves, Nick Green’s walkoff against those same Braves, sitting in Fenway during a mind-numbing rain delayed game that turned into a loss for the Sox (okay, that one is a lowlight, really) and the Sox capping off 7 wins in a row against the Yankees with an eighth.

Continue reading

January 3, 2010 Posted by | 2010 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The search for perfection is a funny thing

MLB.com graphic.

Can’t call my blog “Toeing the Rubber” and not write about a pitcher throwing a perfect game, right?

I keep watching the highlights from the game and the thing that strikes me is how different yesterday could have gone for Mark Buehrle if not for DeWayne Wise (who had JUST come into the game in the ninth!) . Instead of a perfect game he would have probably ended up with a one-hit game and a 5-1 score. In discussing the game with friends, I asked if a no-hitter coupled with a separate perfect game automatically gets Buehrle into the Hall of Fame someday. Most seemed to agree that between the “inherent flukiness” of no-hitters/perfect games and the fact that most of them relied on someone else making some kind of amazing play to preserve said no-hitter/perfect game that it wasn’t the slam-dunk I thought it might be.

Which got me to wondering how many perfect games were saved by an amazing play like Wise’s. Let’s just cover the last four prior to Buehrle’s:

On May 18, 2004, Randy Johnson threw his second no-hitter and his first perfect game at the age of 40. According to ESPN:

…the closest thing to a hit was a slow roller by Johnson’s Atlanta counterpart, Mike Hampton, in the sixth. Alex Cintron scooped up the ball and threw out Hampton by a half-step.

Johnson lingered near the third-base line, giving Cintron a pat with the glove as he ran off the field.

Even grumpy old men have to acknowledge a good play now and then.

On July 18, 1999, David Cone was cruising through his perfect game which included a 33-minute rain delay in the third inning. In the ninth, Rickey Ledee had trouble with a shallow fly ball. He didn’t see it until seconds before he made the basket catch for the second out.

When Cone recorded the last out — Cabrera hit a foul pop to third baseman Scott Brosius, prompting Cone to put his hands to his head in disbelief and fall to his knees — Girardi rushed the mound and enveloped him with a bear hug.

“Completely unrehearsed,” Cone said of the display. “It’s not something you think about doing. I just remember collapsing from exhaustion.”

Only David Cone would worry that people would think dropping to the ground after throwing a perfect game was rehearsed.

On May 17, 1998, David Wells got to throw his own perfect game. Making a play much like he did in Cone’s perfect game, Chuck Knoblauch stole a hit away in the 8th on a hard hit ball to throw out potential base runner Ron Coomer. Of course, the most memorable part of Boomer’s perfect game was his own description of it:

[I was] half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath and a raging, skull-rattling hangover.

Man’s a poet, isn’t he?

On July 28, 1994, Rusty Greer made a diving catch (complete with sliding on his face through centerfield) to preserve the perfect game being pitched by Kenny Rogers. Prior to yesterday, it was generally considered to be the best saving catch ever in a perfect game. DeWayne Wise has taken over that spot today.

So congratulations to Mark Buehrle. He did an amazing thing. There are now only 18 pitchers in Major League baseball history to have thrown a perfect game (someday we’ll get Harvey Haddix’ name added to that list)…that’s an achievement to be proud of. But let’s remember that behind every amazing pitching display there are usually some pretty amazing defensive plays as well.

July 24, 2009 Posted by | 2009 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment