March 2011


It didn't take Lester long to become the best to ever wear no. 31.

Opening Day is tomorrow — well, today if you’re a fan of about 12 teams — and before the season begins, there has to be a formal look at the 25 men who have made the roster for the Boston Red Sox.

But since I’m obsessed with uniform numbers, I also wanted to track who would be wearing what, and document a little bit of history — and in some cases, the lack thereof — that goes along with each number.

The Red Sox began wearing numbers on the backs of their jerseys in 1931, and it wasn’t long before certain numbers — Bobby Doerr’s 1, Ted Williams’ 9 — became iconic. Other numbers became less so, but still earned a certain reputation. 2 typically belongs to infielders, 7 to outfielders, 51 to relief pitchers, and so on. Some numbers have quite a legacy of talent behind them, and some, well, not many players have worn 59.

So, momentarily, we’ll look at every number in use by the 25 players on the roster, the best player to wear that number, and some other characters to don the number, each memorable in their own way. It’s just a way to connect the present with the past, and another excuse for me to our over the Red Sox.

And, as always, please take the word “best” with a grain of salt. Sometimes, the best will really be the best. But sometimes, it will just be a reflection of my glorious bias. It’ll should be clear which is which. (more…)

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By 1993, Gooden's career was running off the rails and the Mets were a mess.

It is no secret that I’m an unabashed Boston Red Sox fan. I cannot remember a time in my life where it wasn’t just accepted that I was a Red Sox rooter. I grew up with Dwight Evans, Mike Greenwell and Tim Naehring, I came of age in the era of Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and I was welcomed into adulthood by Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon. Except for rare, extreme circumstances, I will follow them to the end of the Earth.

I also have a thing for the Minnesota Twins. Dating to Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek in 1991, I’ve admired them ever since. I lived in Arizona for the better part of three years, and accordingly, the Diamondbacks are my National League team of choice. I also enjoy the work of the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs from afar.

But, by God, I cannot help myself. I love that other club in New York disguising itself year after year a Major League team, the natural disaster otherwise known as the New York Mets. (more…)

I feel like I heard Frank Viola's starts more than I saw them.

Growing up, my room was a living monument to outdated technology.

I entered the sixth grade in 1993, and it was around that time I first had a TV put in my room — a 13-inch deal with rabbit ears and dials that could only go as high as channel 13 on most days. However, in lieu of an extra cable box, I was able to rig a VCR from the early 80s up to receive a cable signal. It couldn’t play tapes anymore, but at least I was able to get high enough on the list to see channel 14, which was TV 38, the weekend home of the Red Sox.

Even with that, I couldn’t get NESN, the Red Sox’ cable network, which was still a subscription channel. Sometimes, the audio would be clear and the scrambled picture not-quite-scrambled enough, and I could watch a game. NESN carried most weeknight games, with 38 picking up the Friday-Saturday-Sunday games, called by Sean McDonough and Bob Montgomery. (more…)

In the middle of the order or leading off, Greenwell hit.

Mike Greenwell, for all relevant purposes, was the Boston Red Sox for most of my childhood. He was a rookie on the 1986 pennant winners, he was nearly MVP in 1988, he was an All-Star twice, and he accepted the torch of patrolling Fenway Park’s left field, passed from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice to him.

He was a sleek hitter, inside and out. He had a cool look with his beard, shaved head and sunglasses. He was a text-book, line-drive hitter, with a sweet swing that guaranteed him about 15 home runs a year, a mess of doubles and a .300 batting average, back when being a .300 hitter was still one of the pinnacles of a baseball player. He was an aggressive left-fielder, alternating between making no errors for months and, occasionally, leading the league in errors.  He was popular — I remember spotting a number of no. 39 jerseys on my first trip to Fenway Park — and respected, serving as the Sox’ union representative for a good chunk of his career. (more…)

By the time I got this baseball card in 1990, Nick Esasky was off to the Braves.

In anticipation of Opening Day, I’m reading Summer of ’49 by the late, great David Halberstam, a book I bought last summer, hadn’t got around to, and am heavily invested in now.

One of the aspects that the book touches upon was the culture of player acquisition in the 1930s and ’40s, where players were discovered in industrial leagues and sandlots, were signed by clubs, worked to get to their position, and if they were able to break through the glass ceiling and survived veteran hazing, earned their place in the big leagues. Yogi Berra, Tommy Henrich, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Dom DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Mel Parnell and Bobby Doerr all spent their entire careers with either the Red Sox or the Yankees. It’s kind of amazing.

I don’t begrudge or even dislike free agency, but it’s created a different era. This is not news. Players come and go, some stay for a few years, some stay for one, or part of one. I got to thinking of some memorable characters who took off after one year in Boston, so naturally, here’s another lineup. (more…)

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