February 2012


Editor’s note: This week, I’m running a week-long tribute to some of my favorite players, stretching from my earliest days to the present.

What’s to like about Dustin Pedroia? Let us make a list, as the kids are wont to do these days:

  • He’s short. Not weird short, but certainly short for a baseball player. He’s one of the few shorter than me in the Majors, at least.
  • His swing. His swing is viscious and whips his entire body into unnatural contortions. He doesn’t merely swing for the fences, he swings for Canada. (more…)

Editor’s note: This week, I’m running a week-long tribute to some of my favorite players, stretching from my earliest days to the present.

Jason Varitek was and will always be a classic.

When Pedro Martinez left the Red Sox following the 2004 season for Flushing Meadows and the New York Mets, I followed him to a degree, paying close attention to his exploits for my favorite disaster franchise in baseball. But the need to shift to a new player to follow day-in and day-out was a necessary decision.

It was also an easy one. Since his breakout season in 1999, where he wrestled the starting catcher’s job away from Scott Hatteberg, Jason Varitek had been a stalwart of the Red Sox. He served as Martinez’s battery mate for most of the pitcher’s starts, was lauded for his ability in handling the pitching staff and appeared to be a rock-steady presence behind the plate.

In 2003, Varitek made the jump from solid catcher to Major League elite, hitting 25 home runs and helping Boston form one of the most terrifying lineups in baseball history, one through nine.

He had many more moments from there, most notably his standing up to Alex Rodriguez in July of 2004, inadvertently becoming the symbol for every tightly coiled Red Sox fan in the face of their oppressors to the immediate south. That year, he seemed to be at the center of every major moment, right up to the one where Keith Foulke lept into his arms in Busch Stadium, the curse finally broken. (more…)

Editor’s note: This week, I’m running a week-long tribute to some of my favorite players, stretching from my earliest days to the present.

At a time when I had few new baseball cards, this one came to me in a cereal box, I believe.

I was sitting at the bar in a 99 with a couple of friends for Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS. It was a Saturday afternoon, and it seemed like a good setting to plop down for three hours with a beer, chicken wings and baseball.

Pedro Martinez was on the mound for the Red Sox, facing off against the Yankees’ Roger Clemens. And before long, there were shenanigans. Pedro hit Karim Garcia, gestured to Jorge Posada to “use his head,” and when Roger Clemens threw a high fastball that came within about four feet of Manny Ramirez’s head, the benches cleared.

And, famously, for reasons that aren’t quite clear, Don Zimmer, the 72-year-old bench coach for New York, made a bee line for Pedro, looking to exact revenge for — well, that’s not exactly clear, either.

Zimmer charged at Pedro, arms aloft. Pedro took one step back, grabbed the old man’s head and spun him to the ground.

Our reaction was primal. “OHHH! YES! PEDRO! HAHAHA!”

There was no doubt where our sympathies lived. Pedro Martinez was the man, a king in Boston. If the king throws an old man to the ground, you don’t question it. You stand and cheer and beg for more. (more…)

Editor’s note: This week, I’m running a week-long tribute to some of my favorite players, stretching from my earliest days to the present.

Tim Naehring was the first player I memorialized on a hat. He didn't die or anything, though.

Short of being a contrarian, I typically shy away from the most popular option in whatever setting I’m placed. My favorite band when I was a kid was the Beatles when Vanilla Ice reigned supreme; later, I got into Pearl Jam just as the rest of America seemed to be leaving them behind. I think I was proven correct on both bands.

With baseball players, I shied away from throwing all my fan weight behind the most popular member of the team. Even at a young age, it never felt as though that player — Roger Clemens, for example — really needed any extra juice from me. I was drawn to hardworking players who had staked out a spot, played every day and had style. Dwight Evans and later Mike Greenwell fit that bill nicely, and they each rewarded me with hours of highlights in the process.

But neither Evans or Greenwell could be considered underdogs. Overshadowed? At times, perhaps. But they were All-Stars who made their way onto posters. It took no real leap to get behind either. Tim Naehring, however, was an underdog. (more…)

Editor’s note: This week, I’m running a week-long tribute to some of my favorite players, stretching from my earliest days to the present.

The Gator anchored the Boston lineup.

By the time I was through with third grade, I’d become all too familiar with the reality of retiring athletes. That summer, Larry Bird had hung up his sneakers and Jim Rice had long since hit his last home run.

While not quite on the same level, Dwight Evans was no longer patrolling Fenway Park’s right field in 1991, nor was he penciled in at designated hitter. He actually was playing, a fact revealed by the next year’s baseball cards depicting him in a Baltimore Orioles uniform, but my level of fandom was still at a point where I didn’t realize he was still playing. I knew the history; he’d come up with Boston in 1972, had played forever, hit home runs, threw runners out with ease with his cannon of a right arm, and now that he wasn’t there, he must’ve been gone.

The transition to a new favorite player was necessary, and the choice was obvious. Mike Greenwell, a two-time All-Star, featured player in the 1989 Panini sticker album, and owner of a seemingly unique uniform number (39) was the way to go. (more…)

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