August 2011


It's not too often that "Player of the Decade" seems modest.

Among my many time-wasting hobbies, I enjoy digging through the LIFE image archives on Google. It’s relaxing, it’s always interesting and I’m a sucker for anything old, anyway.

Among my favorite searches are always old baseball photos. And I came across this image of Ted Williams pointing the bat over home plate, demonstrating the strike zone, from 1957.

Williams had an amazing year in 1957, which sent me to his Baseball Reference page to confirm that. Of course, once there, all his other accomplishments on the diamond start jumping off the page, and it can feel a bit daunting.

I’m mixing my metaphors now, but in that vintage spirit, I’ll pay homage to my other passion — record collecting — and compile The Kid’s greatest hits, waiting for your hi-fi at your local Woolworth’s. Perfect for when you just need the quick sampler of greatness and don’t have time to flip through the 45s and the baseball cards. (more…)

Bring in Flanagan, he'll get 'em out.

This is the Mike Flanagan I remember.

He had the ubiquitous mustache necessary for all baseball players worth their salt, at the time. He was crafty. He had seemingly played forever.

As a little kid getting into baseball, there was a pretty even hierarchy of players. There were All-Stars, and then everyone else, and they were almost as good. Barry Bonds and Andy Van Slyke were the best Pirates, but Bob Walk and Mike LaValliere were right there with them. George Brett led the Royals, who couldn’t have done it without Kevin Seitzer. It’s how they all sized up for me — some players were great, but they were all important. They had to be. They were Major Leaguers.

I understood roles, of course. On the Orioles, for example, Cal Ripken was the star, the best shortstop in the American League. His brother Billy was a solid second baseman, the guy (I thought) who would get on base for the big hitters. Mike Mussina was the young ace. And Mike Flanagan was the sneaky lefty out of the bullpen. (more…)

Last night, I hopped in the car with a buddy and drove up to Pawtucket, R.I., to catch the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Syracuse Chiefs in action. Will Middlebrooks hit a double, Che-Hsuan Lin homered and the PawSox reclaimed sole possession of first place in the International League’s North division, while I watched from behind the Pawtucket bullpen with a giant thing of french fries.

It was, all in all, a nice way to celebrate Carl Yastrzemski’s birthday. (more…)

This is my oldest card by at least five years.

When I’m furiously typing away to the sound of the radio, hearing that a legendary major leaguer is about to speak is enough to distract me for a few minutes.

And a few days ago, that legend was Fred Lynn, he of the Red Sox’ center field in the 1970s, one half of the Gold Dust Twins (with Jim Rice) and all around nice guy, was on 98.5 FM to talk baseball, past and present.

I tuned in, and Lynn had some great thoughts on the current Sox, on what it meant to play at Fenway, and a bit of inside dirt on how he was traded to the California Angels against his will in 1981.

He also had a funny story on how it feels to be completely over matched by a pitcher:

“A guy that used to give me a lot of trouble was Franky Tanana, when he first came up with the Angels, because he and (Nolan) Ryan both were striking out 300 guys a year. And Franky, being a lefty, had four pitches, and he knew how to pitch. … (more…)

I also learned this weekend that Josh Reddick's nickname in the clubhouse is "Stiffler." Perfect.

In a great season for Red Sox fans (the exploits of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez alone would be cause for delirious joy), the emergence of Josh Reddick has been one of the better story lines on the team.

He plays the game hard and plays it with a flair. His swing is one that sees the bat whip through the zone with fluid authority, he slides into bases without much regard for his well being, and he seems to have a cannon for a right arm, gunning down runners from Fenway’s cavernous right field.

But really, what makes his story compelling is that he’s young. (more…)