Sunday, June 28, 2009

Baseball moves me

A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Boston for my first Red Sox game of the season. Just thought I'd scout it out before the VPR bus trip next month to make sure the Fens is up to snuff for our listeners. I hopped the T at Alewife and rather than head straight to Fenway or pop off at Harvard Square for some Pinocchio's Pizza, I decided to ride the T to Northeastern University to see some legendary Boston sport spots.

While riding the T, I was able to re-direct a lovely couple from Tel Aviv, Israel onto the proper branch of the Green Line. A recent Boston Globe article tipped me off to the Cy Young statue standing on the site of the pitcher's mound of the long-gone Huntington Avenue Grounds, where the first World Series was played. Not far away is the former site of the South End Grounds (the Red Stockings' first home) and the old Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena). You can learn more about Boston's sports heritage in a great book by Allan Foulds called "Boston's Ballparks & Arenas."

Then it was on to Fenway to see the Sox trounce the Florida Marlins, 8-2. How could they lose? I was sitting in the luckiest seat in Fenway - Section 7, Aisle 7, Seat 7. I was wedged between two pairs of septuagenarians who had great Red Sox tales to tell. Murphy, on my left, played high school baseball against the Conigliaro brothers: Billy, Tony and Ricky. Learning the name of a third Conigliaro brother was like learning the name of the fifth Marx Brother (Gummo). When the topic of the all-time worst Red Sox reliever came up there were three votes for Eric Gagne and one for John "Way Back " Wasdin (allowed 54 home runs in 170 Red Sox appearances and compiled an 18.90 ERA in 3 1/3 innings in two playoff series for the Sox).

Later that week, NPR's Juan Williams visited the VPR studios. We got to talk baseball for a few minutes and it was great fun. Like two kids comparing our baseball card collections, we swapped tales of our boyhood baseball memories. Juan grew up in Brooklyn, post-Dodgers, so he was a Mets fan. Loved Tom Seaver. He also was a big Frank Robinson (Orioles) fan. Don't ask me how I remember this, but I mentioned to Juan that Frank Robby won the Triple Crown in 1966 (leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season). I started following baseball in '66 and the American League had back-to-back Triple Crown winners, with Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox winning in 1967. I thought it happened all the time. But no one has won a Triple Crown since Yaz.

Last night, I got over to Centennial Field in Burlington for my first Lake Monsters game of the season. I sat near a certified super-fan - Vic Bora of Burlington. Vic has attended all but one Vermont Expos/Lake Monsters game. One game missed since 1994. He's the Cal Ripken of Vermont fandom. He missed the game because of a wedding. It wasn't the one he attended in Poughkeepsie, NY. Vic went to that wedding and got back in time to see the game. No, it was a wedding in Waterbury the impinged on his perfect record. And to this day, he's not happy about it.

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