Tagged: Fenway Park

David Price and the best uniform numbers ever

From ESPN Boston: David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer

David Price was officially introduced as a member of the Boston Red Sox on Friday. Price has worn No. 14 throughout his career — with Tampa Bay, with Detroit and with Toronto — but that number is retired in Boston in honor of Hall of Famer so Jim Rice so he chose No. 24.

 

That’s a pretty storied number in Red Sox history. Dwight Evans — a better player than Rice but not in the Hall of Fame — wore it from 1973 to 1990 and he’s one of the most popular players in Red Sox history. But the Red Sox only retire the numbers of Hall of Famers, so five players have worn it since Evans. One of those was Manny Ramirez, who wore it from 2001 to 2008.

That got me to thinking: What’s the greatest jersey number for one team? By that, I mean worn by more than one great player. Here are some nominees:

  • Boston Red Sox No. 24: Dwight Evans, Manny Ramirez, David Price. Total WAR: 99.4 and counting. (That WAR is only for the players listed and only while with the Red Sox; many others have worn the number, but I’m looking at major stars only. Good luck if you want to invest the time for all players.)
  • New York Yankees No. 8: Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. Two Hall of Fame catchers, the number is now retired. Total WAR: 112.3.
  • New York Yankees No. 9: Roger Maris, Graig Nettles, Hank Bauer, Charlie Keller and Joe DiMaggio. The number is retired in Maris’ honor, although Nettles, Keller and Bauer each accumulated more WAR while with the Yankees. DiMaggio wore No. 9 as a rookie before shifting to No. 5. Total WAR: 145.6 (using just the one season for DiMaggio). Might be hard to beat that total.
  • Chicago Cubs No. 31: Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Two Hall of Fame right-handers, the number is now retired in honor of both. Total WAR: 87.1.
  • Seattle Mariners No. 51: Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. Who gets ultimate retirement honors? I’m guessing the Mariners will retire it in honor of both once Ichiro makes the Hall of Fame. Total WAR: 96.1.
  • Detroit Tigers No. 3: Alan Trammell, Dick McAuliffe, Ian Kinsler, Mickey Cochrane (1934-1937), Charlie Gehringer (1931). This is interesting since two Hall of Famers wore it for a short period plus Trammell, who should be in the Hall of Fame, and McAuliffe, a three-time All-Star. Total WAR: 132.8.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates No. 21: Arky Vaughan and Roberto Clemente. Total WAR: 147.8. Vaughan is a Hall of Famer, one of the most underrated players of the 1930s. He wore No. 21 with the Pirates from 1932-1939 and then changed to No. 3 and then No. 5 for some reason. I included only his 1932-1939 WAR but that was enough to push this duo above the Yankees’ No. 9 guys.
  • San Francisco Giants No. 25: Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds. Total WAR: 150.3. Barry accounts for 112.3 of that. Not included: Dan Gladden. But if you throw in 19.3 WAR from Whitey Lockman you’re up to 169.6.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers No. 6: Carl Furillo, Ron Fairly and Steve Garvey. No Hall of Famers, but three good players. Garvey’s number is retired, oddly enough, by the Padres but not the Dodgers. Total WAR: 84.5.
  • New York Yankees No. 15: Red Ruffing, Tommy Henrich (1946-1950), Tom Tresh, Thurman Munson. The number is retired for Munson, although Ruffing is in the Hall of Fame. Total WAR: 125.5.
  • Los Angeles Angels No. 27: Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Trout. Vlad played with the Angels for only six seasons, but he did win an MVP award wearing No. 27. Hmm, how many teams have had two different players win an MVP award wearing the same number? Total WAR: 60.7 and counting.

By this measure, Bonds and Bonds is enough to make the Giants’ No. 25 the best number ever. Did I miss any other candidates? You can go to Baseball-Reference.com to check out the number history for each franchise.

____________________________________________

Okay, I’ll buy some of this, makes for great social media-war type stuff, but I think under these conditions, it’s just too simple and doesn’t really get into the actual subject matter of “Best Number”.  Sure, it’s about the number and not the actual players who wore them outside of their WAR, I can see that, but being a bit more traditionalist… eh. How much of the actual Barry Bonds numbers can you, PED use aside, factor into the #25
argument?  As the Riddler once said, “Too many questions…”

24 is actually one of my fave Red Sox numbers, mainly for Dewey and
having grown up watching him until his final year in Baltimore (yes, Dwight Evans played a year for the Orioles).  I was heartbroken when Manny wore it, simply because it was Dewey’s and it should have been Dewey’s… ’nuff said.  Yes other players had worn it between them and since, but again, I don’t really look at Kevin Mitchell’s short stint patrolling the famous Fenway RF in #24 as anything dramatic, nor anyone else’s stints.

But added up WAR aside… how do you get past 9?  Sure that’s based on the player who wore it but still… Teddy Ballgame as a singular baseball individual, never mind war hero (as well as WAR hero in stats terms) and American Icon (yes, he was a foul-mouthed bastard but his legacy goes well beyond that, Thank You) who still overshadows the combined three individuals mentioned in the above article.  And yes, Dwight Evans is HOF worthy, just was never the ‘Superstar’ of the team as he played with Yaz, Fisk, Rice, Boggs (all HOF) and the likes of Roger Clemens, Fred Lynn, Tony Pena and other lightning rods for the press.  He never had a long collection of league-leading years but trended upwards during the latter half of that career.  That however, is an argument that has been made and shall be made again…

Oh, NOTE: Yes, the Red Sox have made it policy that retired numbers are an honor for players who played 10 years in the uniform, retired with the team and made the HOF… except Johnny Pesky, whose 4.2 billion years of service to the organization merited his #6 be retired.

I’ve made a case for the Red Sox to implement an ‘Honored’ number selection, where specific player’s numbers are posted with their names in road jersey style upon the center field interior of the bleachers wall, keeping that number in uniform rotation but still paying homage to the player.  Example: 21 Clemens in Navy Blue numbers/letters (or Red depending on the away jersey style you prefer… I liked the original non-name roadies and the 2009 to 2013 version), 26 Boggs or 24 Evans, etc.,  This keeps the number in rotation (though 21 may never be worn either way… as it should be, all the PED rhetoric aside, Rocket’s Sox years were his prime HOF years) but still gives the deserved recognition to those who wore it before.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have had such a system in place for years.

Just my humble opinion.

p.s. If the continuing embargo versus career DH’s in the HOF, where will this leave Big Papi in the retired number conversation??

 

Advertisements

Almost Teammates….

From ESPN: Boston

Toots and DiMaggioThere’s an old story that in April of 1947, over maybe a few too many drinks at Toots Shor’s restaurant in New York, Yankees owner Dan Topping and Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had agreed to the biggest trade in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. DiMaggio would get to play in Fenway Park with its inviting Green Monster instead of cavernous Yankee Stadium (457 feet to deep left-center back then) and Williams would get to move to Yankee Stadium with its short right-field porch.

Yawkey woke up the next morning and came to his senses, telling YawkeyTopping that his people in Boston wouldn’t do the trade. The Red Sox had just won the pennant in 1946, Williams was four years younger, Boston already had an excellent center fielder in Joe’s brother Dom and Joe had undergone offseason surgery on his heel. There wasn’t a good reason for Boston to consider such a move. In checking biographies on both Williams and DiMaggio, this story appears to come from a Dave Anderson column from the New York Times in 1980 (both Yawkey and Topping were dead by then) and not from contemporaneous newspaper accounts. Anderson’s column also suggests Yawkey, after turning down Williams for DiMaggio, asked Topping to include his “little left fielder” — a rookie named Yogi Berra.
The Splendid Splinter and The ClipperThe Berra part sounds a little apocryphal to me — for one thing, Berra had only played a few games in right field in April of that year, not left, and had hit .225 with no home runs. It doesn’t seem likely that Yawkey would have viewed Berra as the difference-maker to swing the trade. While the Red Sox never won another pennant with Williams, it would have been a terrible deal for them: DiMaggio would play just five more seasons and 625 games while Williams would play another 1,556 games (not to mention the time he missed in 1952-53 to resume military duty for the Korean War).

What I didn’t know until recently reading Richard J. Tofel’s book “A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees of 1939” is that DiMaggio and Williams could have been teammates if not for the twists of fate. Imagine a Yankees outfield with DiMaggio and Williams side by side. Not that the Yankees struggled without Williams.

DiMaggio had first starred with his hometown San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League as an 18-year-old in 1933, hitting .340 with 28 home runs in 187 games, including a 61-game hitting streak. Major league teams attempted to purchase DiMaggio — the Yankees reportedly offered $75,000 — but Seals owner Charley Graham elected to keep his prized asset for 1934. Remember, back then most of the minor league teams were independent of the majors, selling players to big league teams or even making trades.

Dimaggio Seals
In May of that year, DiMaggio hurt his knee climbing into a car. In his autobiography, DiMaggio said he had been visiting his sister, took a cab home and slipped on the climb out because “my left foot must have fallen asleep from the awkward position in which I was sitting.” Richard Ben Cramer’s biography of DiMaggio, “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life,” reports that the San Francisco Examiner at the time reported DiMaggio had slipped in the early hours of the morning at Fourth and Market — an area full of bars and nightclubs. Cramer’s insinuation that DiMaggio may have been “loaded” is speculative, but DiMaggio’s own account certainly isn’t true.

Anyway, DiMaggio missed some time, attempted to play through the injury and didn’t hit as well when he returned. He still managed to hit .341 with 12 home runs in 101 games but Graham, who had been hoping for $100,00 for DiMaggio before the injury, now saw interest wane in his young star.

The Yankees, however, remained interested. West Coast scout Joe Devine had loved DiMaggio and he had a local scout named Bill Essick check into DiMaggio’s knee. According to Cramer’s book, the Yankees paid for an orthopedic specialist to examine DiMaggio and the surgeon reported that the 19-year-old should be able to recover from the injury. Essick told Yankees general manager Ed Barrow, “Don’t give up on DiMaggio. I think you can get him cheap.”

He was right. With other teams out of the running or short on cash during the Depression, the Yankees got DiMaggio for $25,000 and five prospects, with the caveat that the Seals could keep DiMaggio for one more year and the Yankees could get their money back if DiMaggio’s knee didn’t hold up. He hit .398 with 34 home runs in 1935 and joined the Yankees in 1936. DiMaggio was an immediate star, hitting .323 with 29 home runs and 125 RBIs, and the Yankees won the first of four consecutive World Series titles.

* * * *

Williams was another California kid, from San Diego. While DiMaggio was tearing up the American League in 1936, Williams was playing at Hoover High School that spring. Tofel writes,

For the Yankees, Williams was the one who got away. Bill Essick, the same Yankee scout who recognized late in 1934 that DiMaggio was still worth $25,000 despite his knee injury, failed to sign Williams eighteen months later. Essick offered a $500 signing bonus but refused to meet Williams’s mother’s demand for $1,000.

Did the Yankees really lose Williams over $500? I had never heard that story before. I checked out Ben Bradlee Jr.’s comprehensive Williams biography — “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” — that came out in 2013 for more detail. As Williams was finishing up at Hoover, Bradlee reports that scouts had been tracking Williams for some time, with a local bird dog named Herb Benninghoven, who worked for the Cardinals, Williams’ “most ardent suitor.” Also interested in Williams was a bird dog named Elmer Hill, who worked for Essick. After Williams hit a long home run in an American Legion game, Hill and Essick showed up at Williams’ house.

Bradlee quotes Williams’ autobiography:

Essick was as anxious as anyone to get me. I’ll never forget what he said: “Ted, if I didn’t think you were going to be a New York Yankee, I’d never sign you.” Maybe he said that to everybody, but that sure impressed me. I think he offered me $200 a month and a $500 bonus if I made the team at [Class A] Binghamton, New York, but the story is my mother asked for a $1,000 bonus and Essick refused.

Note carefully the wording. Williams isn’t exactly saying that he didn’t because his mother asked for more money, but seems to be repeating a story that had been told by others.

Still, the Yankees remained interested, later offering $250 a month or $400 a month if he made the Yankees’ Pacific Coast League affiliate, and Hill apparently believed that an agreement in principle was in place once Williams finished high school. The Tigers also scouted Williams but area scout Marty Krug deemed Williams too skinny. The Los Angeles Angels of the PCL tried to sign Williams, but Ted’s father didn’t like the team’s manager. Benninghoven, still interested in Williams, invited him to a Cardinals tryout in Fullerton, where Branch Rickey would be present. Bradlee writes, “At the tryouts, the speed-conscious Rickey required recruits to run race after race with numbers pinned to their backs. But the day before the tryout, Ted was hit by a pitch on his thigh, just above the knee. Slow anyway, Ted was made even less mobile by the injury, and he largely went through the motions. Rickey showed no interest in him.”

Williams articleBenninghoven did finally get the Cardinals to make an offer, but Williams figured St. Louis wasn’t the quickest way to the majors. Sam Williams, Ted’s father, reportedly asked the Yankees for another $25 a month. In a 1957 letter, Hill wrote that he agreed to this with Williams and his mother. Ted’s parents had a strained marriage, often living apart, and it appears Sam Williams was working in Sacramento at the time. Williams ended up signing on June 25 with the San Diego Padres, a new team that year in the PCL, for $150 a month. For the cash-strapped Williams family, apparently the fact that the Padres had agreed to pay him for the entire month of June was a crucial factor, along with Ted’s mother liking the club’s owner.

Williams played sparingly the rest of the season for the Padres, The Splinterhitting .271 with no home runs in 107 at-bats. In 1937, at the age of 18, he hit .291 with 23 home runs. Now, just about every major league team wanted Williams. The Yankees were still interested as were the Tigers and New York Giants. Casey Stengel, who had been hired as manager of the Boston Bees (Braves) for 1938, had been out of baseball in 1937 but saw Williams when he played in Stengel’s hometown of Oakland and liked the kid’s potential. The Bees made an offer.

 
The Yankees fell out of the bidding, perhaps because of Joe Devine’s scouting report that said Ted “is a very slow lad, not a good outfielder now, just an average arm. There is no doubt Williams will never be a fast enough to get by in the majors as an outfielder. His best feature now is that he shows promise as a hitter, but good pitching so far has stopped him cold.”
Ted for the Padres
And then there were the Red Sox, who had closely watched Williams all season and had discussed a deal with Padres owner Bill Lane. Lane held off during the season but told other teams that he had promised Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins the right of first refusal. At the winter meetings that year, however, Yawkey suddenly seemed reluctant to spend the money, saying he was tired of buying other teams’ players and that Boston was trying to develop its own farm system. Collins insisted they needed to make an exception for Williams.
Williams with LaneLane was about to give up on the Red Sox and sell Williams to another team when the two sides finally agreed on a deal: $25,000 and four players for Williams. The Red Sox were so lacking in minor leaguers at the time that Collins had farm director Billy Evans quickly acquire four players he could then trade to the Padres. The Tigers ($30,000) and Giants ($31,000) had reportedly offered more money, but Williams belonged to Boston.

Ted Williams.Williams spent 1938 at Minneapolis, where he hit .366 with 43 home runs. He joined the Red Sox in 1939 and would spend much of the next 12 years chasing DiMaggio and the Yankees. While both players were active, the Red Sox would win just that one pennant in 1946, five times finishing in second place.

* * * *

How close did Williams come to signing with the Yankees? It’s difficult to say with any degree of accuracy all these years later. Certainly, dealing with Williams’ parents was difficult. The family was poor — Williams wrote that he was embarrassed to bring scouts to his house — and strapped for cash, thus wanted some sort of signing of bonus. Williams’ autobiography makes it appear as if he was willing to sign with the Yankees; when Boston finally purchased him from the Padres, he wrote that he was disappointed. “The Red Sox didn’t mean a thing to me. A fifth-, sixth-place club [the Red Sox had finished in sixth in 1936], the farthest from San Diego I could go. I certainly wasn’t a Boston fan.”
The scout Elmer Hill seemed to blame Williams’ mother for reneging on an agreement, but that could be some re-imagining of the facts years later. Or maybe the Yankees really did just cheap out in the end.

One more thing, however. Williams didn’t actually graduate from high school in the spring of 1936. He still had one more semester to go. Doesn’t it make sense that maybe Williams’ mother wanted him to finish school? He could sign with the Padres, get the family a little money in the short-term, play for them that summer and then finish his last semester of school in the fall. Also, Lane had apparently promised the Williams family a percentage of any sale in the future, so May Williams would eventually get her bonus money.

In fact, when Williams was sold, the Williams family asked for $5,000 from Lane, who now refused to give the family anything. The Williamses said Ted was a free agent and could sign with any team. All winter, reporters wrote on the squabbles going on with the Williams family, the Padres and the Red Sox. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered Collins to make sure he got Williams to sign a Red Sox contract.

He eventually did, but not until mid-February, and not until the Red Sox finally gave May Williams $2,500.

(Most of the information here was gathered from the books by Ben Bradlee Jr. and Richard Ben Cramer. I recommend both.)

Swing and a Myth…

Finding the Real Ted Williams

The Kid in color

By: Scott Conroy

For a sports-obsessed kid like myself, growing up in what is arguably the nation’s most sports-obsessed city, Ted Williams’ very name conjured a mythic quality.

In the pantheon of historical significance, he placed somewhere between Joan of Arc and George Washington — and was just as unknowable.

I never saw more than a few seconds of archived footage of the legendary Red Sox left fielder in action, but I knew a few facts about the man, which were as ingrained in my mind as my own date of birth.

Williams was the last player to achieve a .400 batting average, which he pulled off during the 1941 season — a singular accomplishment in a sport that venerates individual statistics.

He hit a home run in the last at-bat of his 19-year career, every inning of which he played in a Red Sox uniform.

And, most importantly, Ted Williams was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

The Kid and The Babe

This laudatory and unnuanced appraisal was regarded — in my world, at least — as a matter of undisputed fact. Any peer who might have argued otherwise during an elementary school recess or a backyard Whiffle ball game would face ridicule as biting as if he had claimed that 1 + 1 = 3.

The Kid is the culmination of a decade-long effort by longtime Boston Globe reporter and editor Ben Bradlee Jr. to provide a comprehensive look at the man whose posters adorned his bedroom walls as a Boston-area child in the 1950s.

The result, an engrossing and exhaustively researched biography, applies plenty of ink across its nearly 800 pages in documenting Williams’ Hall of Fame playing career — the facts of which back up most of the legends about him.

While Bradlee eagerly touts Williams’ peerless attributes as the player who could hit for both power and average better than anyone in baseball history, he also engages in some welcomed myth-busting.

The Kid eyes itAmong the Ted Williams “facts” that youth baseball coaches like to trumpet in batting cages up and down New England: his vision was so phenomenal that he could actually see the seams of the ball as it hurtled toward him at upwards of 95 miles per hour.

As it turns out, Naval doctors determined that Williams’ vision was 20/15 — an excellent mark that put him in the top 95 percent of young men his age, though not quite in the realm of superhero acuity.

Though Bradlee’s recounting of Williams’ career is candy for any baseball fan, The Kid shines brightest in detailing the paradoxical character, cinematic life and sad circumstances surrounding the death of the Splendid Splinter.

That Williams spent much of his life either hiding or downplaying his half-Mexican heritage is perhaps unsurprising given the biases that permeated his southern California upbringing and the segregated sport in which he became a star.

But the extent to which his ethnic background has remained obscured is striking. If one were to gather a roomful of passionate baseball fans today, I’d confidently wager that more than half would have no idea that Teddy Ballgame was among the first great Hispanic ballplayers in the big leagues.

Bradlee is at his most compelling when detailing the circumstances surrounding Ted InductedWilliams being drafted into the Navy in World War II, just months after his .406 season — and a time when he was entering what should have been the prime years of his career.

After originally being granted a Class 3-A deferment, on account of being the sole economic provider to his mother, Williams quietly asked his attorney to challenge the U.S. government’s decision to change his draft status to Class 1-A (available for unrestricted military service) — an appeal that the Selective Service rejected.

Williams’ initial attempts to avoid leaving the batter’s box for the cockpit were catnip for Boston’s aggressive newspaper reporters in the post-Pearl Harbor patriotic melee.  In the months before he reported for duty, he received a bevy of letters in support of him and more than a few that questioned his courage.

One unidentified heckler mailed the All-Star left fielder two sheets of blank yellow paper — a message intended to remind Williams of the color of cowardice.

“I’ve noticed that the mud-slingers border on the illiterate side,” the famously prickly Williams, who often viewed himself as a victim of  overly aggressive media, said at the time. “The encouraging letters come from well-bred persons.”

Once he reported for duty, Williams took the hard road — becoming a commissioned second lieutenant in the Marines Corps. He did not see combat over the Pacific — a disappointment for a man who, once he was on active duty, envisioned “downing a Zero” (a Japanese fighter plane) as something of an all-time life achievement.

Instead, Williams spent the last months of the war as the U.S. military’s most famous flight instructor in Pensacola, Fla., where he was somewhat of a ringer while playing for the base’s recreational baseball team.

After returning to baseball and eventually entering the latter stage of his playing career, he did not mask his fury over what he considered unfair treatment: He was recalled to fly combat missions over North Korea in 1952.

Ted in Korea

During his very first engagement of the Korean War, Williams’ fighter jet was hit by small arms fire. He considered ejecting, but fearing that a crippling injury would make his return to the diamond impossible, he made a daring emergency landing.

In all, Williams lost five of his prime playing years to military service — a fact that makes his final stat sheet all the more remarkable and that has long been a centerpiece in any discussion of his greatness.

After all, who could imagine a pro athlete in the modern era giving up all of the money and privileges of sports fame to serve his country?

Well, Pat Tillman may not have been a star approaching Williams’ caliber when he left the NFL to join the Army Rangers after the 9/11 attacks, but the $3.6 million contract the Arizona Cardinal safety turned down in favor of fighting in Afghanistan, where he gave his life, dwarfed Williams’ 1941 salary of $30,000.

That’s not to say that Williams’ wartime service was any less honorable, but Bradlee details the extent to which it was initially reluctant.

A hallmark of Williams’ post-playing career was his generous charity work on behalf of the Jimmy Fund, Boston’s leading foundation for cancer research support — time and money  that he insisted not be accompanied by media attention.

Bradlee’s painstaking efforts to recount the macabre details of the family struggle that led to Williams’ body being cryonically preserved after his death in 2002 are difficult to digest but nonetheless serve as an essential postscript to this “immortal life.”

Bill Weld and Ted open the tunnelIn 1993, Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld was tasked with naming the long-awaited tunnel that would connect South Boston to Logan Airport — a major component of the epically over-budget Big Dig project that would finally modernize The Hub’s traffic-plagued highway system.

After determining that there were already enough public infrastructure projects named after politicians, Weld decided to honor one of Boston’s sports heroes.

There were several more-decorated local candidates from which to choose.  No athlete in the history of sports, after all, is more synonymous with the words “winner” and “dynasty” than Bill Russell, who led the Celtics to an astounding 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. And three-time consecutive NHL MVP Bobby Orr revolutionized the defenseman position during his 10 seasons with the Bruins and  scored one of the most memorable goals in hockey history in clinching the 1970 Stanley Cup.

Ted Williams, on the other hand, slumped his way through his Red Sox’s only World Series appearance, in 1946, and never won the fall classic.

But then again, neither did Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, or any of the other Red SoxTed and Yaz greats who graced Fenway Park during the team’s infamous 86-year World Series draught.

Despite never having brought home the big one, no sports hero’s legend shines brighter in Beantown than the man who liked to be called The Kid. And so the cane-wielding 77-year-old was granted the honor of opening The Ted Williams Tunnel in 1995.

Even if that landmark must one day share valuable downtown real estate with Larry Bird Drive, The David Ortiz Parkway, or Tom Brady Bridge, Ted Williams’ mystique will remain unparalleled in Boston lore — and The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams is now the definitive biography.

The Kid book cover

Boston native Scott Conroy is the national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. Follow on Twitter @RealClearScott.

Well, it has been a while….

The opportunity to see the Boston Red Sox win a World Series at home for the first time in a lifetime has turned Game 6 at Fenway Park into the most expensive local ticket in the city’s history.

As of 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, the average list price on the resale market for a ticket to Wednesday night’s game was $1,860, according to TiqIQ, a ticket tracking company.

Fenway in her WS glory 2013

Bleacher seats to the game, which could have been had for $300 last week, were selling for $1,100 on Tuesday morning.

On Monday night, someone who wanted two of the best seats in the house paid $24,000 on StubHub for a pair of tickets in the first row in a dugout box between home plate and one of the on-deck circles.

“There was this type of excitement in 2004 for the Red Sox home games because people thought it would never come again,” said Jim Holzman of Ace Ticket, a Boston-based brokerage that has been in business for 33 years.

The Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007, ending it on the road both times. The last time the Red Sox won it all in Boston was with a victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 11, 1918.

Monstah Seats

“People want to see them win it here,” Holzman said. “That’s what has made this the biggest ticket we’ve ever seen. It’s the Super Bowl except people don’t have to pay $1,000 for a hotel and $2,000 for airfare.”

Holzman said fans began buying tickets in earnest Monday night after the Red Sox scored in the top of the first inning during their 3-1 Game 5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Prices were going up $50 an inning,” Holzman said.

 

Let’s take a look back some highlights of that infamous 1918 Series:

1918 Red Sox

The 1918 World Series featured the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to two. The Series victory for the Red Sox was their fifth in five tries, going back to 1903. The Red Sox scored only nine runs in the entire Series; the fewest runs by the winning team in World Series history. Along with the 1906 and 1907 World Series, the 1918 World Series is one of only three Fall Classics where neither team hit a home run.

The Series was held early in September because of the World War I “Work or Fight” order that forced the premature end of the regular season on September 1, and remains the only World Series to be played entirely in September.

1918 Logo FenwayThe Chicago home games in the series were played at Comiskey Park, which had a greater seating capacity than Weeghman Park, the prior home of the Federal League Chicago Whales that the Cubs were now using and which would be rechristened Wrigley Field in 1925. The Red Sox had played their home games in the 1915 and 1916 World Series in the more expansive Braves Field, but they returned to Fenway Park for the 1918 series.

Game 1 of the 1918 World Series marked the first time “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed at a major league game. During the seventh inning stretch, the band began playing the song due to the fact the country was involved in World War I. The song would be named the national anthem of the United States in 1931, and during World War II its playing would become a regular pregame feature of baseball games and other sporting events. The winning pitcher of Game 1 was none other than Babe Ruth, who pitched a shutout.

Ruth warming up 1918

The Red Sox, who had won the American League but lost the Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986, finally won the World Series in 2004 and then won again in 2007.  The drought of 86 years was often attributed to the Curse of the Bambino. The alleged curse came to be when the Red Sox traded the superbly talented but troublesome Babe Ruth (who was instrumental in their 1918 victory) to the New York Yankees for cash after the 1919 season.

Game 6

Wednesday, September 11, 1918 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts

Attendance for Game 6 at Fenway on Wednesday, September 11, was down from over 24,000 on Tuesday to a mere 15,238, but the Red Sox went home happy. Max Flack’s third-inning error allowed two Sox runs to score, which were all they needed for a 2–1 victory and the World’s Championship of 1918 behind Carl Mays’ second win of the Series.

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 2
Boston 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 X 2 5 0
WP: Carl Mays (2–0)   LP: Lefty Tyler (1–1)

After Game 6, it would be some 87 years until the Cubs and Red Sox would play again. A three-game interleague matchup at Wrigley Field began June 10, 2005 and was Boston’s first ever visit to the park. The Cubs would not return to Fenway Park for nearly 94 years until a three-game interleague matchup beginning May 20, 2011.

 

 

 

 

Game 5, Like Deja Vu all over again

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

Scouting report on Wainwright: Not much went right for Wainwright in Game 1 against the Red Sox. A seven-pitch walk to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first was only the start of the 32-year-old’s rough night as he allowed three runs in the opening inning, partly due to poor defensive play behind him. However, with the series tied 2-2, Wainwright has another crack at giving his team the advantage moving forward.
“It’s a pretty clean slate [from my last start],” Wainwright said Sunday in his news conference at Busch Stadium. “I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were [and] my delivery was off as much as it was. But I feel like I’ve put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery again.”
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches.”
Wainwright distraughtIn his Game 1 start, Wainwright’s curveball was his best pitch. He used his curveball for 15 of his final 33 pitches, a span that saw him retire seven straight batters before allowing a David Ortiz single in the fifth inning that he was able to pitch around. Overall, Wainwright went five innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits and striking out four.
“I learned that they hit mistakes,” Wainwright said of his first career start against Boston last Wednesday. “And I learned that if I make mistakes in the middle of the plate up in the zone, they’re going to hit them.”
Overall, Wainwright is 2-2 in his four postseason starts with a 2.25 ERA. The right-hander has allowed seven runs (five earned) in his past 12 innings after allowing only two runs in his first 16 innings pitched of the playoffs.

Scouting report on Lester: Putting aside the speculation that he was in some way doctoring his pitches in Game 1, Lester pitched masterfully, shutting out the Cardinals’ potent offense for 7 2/3 innings and striking out eight batters. The start was yet another in a string of successful starts Lester has made in October, something he says he doesn’t know how to explain.
“I feel like I’ve pitched pretty [well] throughout most of my seasons, and it’s just carried over into the postseason,” Lester said Sunday. “I don’t know what it is. I like this stage. I like knowing that I’ve got to go out there and give everything I’ve got for my teammates, because tomorrow might be our last game. You don’t know; I guess that just gives you that little extra focus.”
Lester WS Game 1Of Lester’s 10 career postseason starts, seven have been of the quality variety — at least six innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed. The 29-year-old has gone 5-4 in 12 postseason appearances overall, posting a 2.22 ERA. Of his 69 postseason innings pitched, 13 1/3 have come in the World Series, where he has yet to allow a run.
“I think the one thing that we all recognize is that the power stuff wins in the postseason,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday. “He’s got it, he maintains it, and yet, in addition to his physical strengths, there’s a level of concentration that he’s capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently over the time he’s on the mound. Those two things combined are what’s given [him] the career performance he’s had in the postseason.”
This will be the first time in his career that Lester has made five starts in a single postseason.
Three Cardinals players to watch

Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran was only given one shot at Lester in Game 1, striking outBeltran robs the HR swinging on four pitches before being removed from the game due to a rib contusion. Beltran has three hits in 10 World Series at-bats so far, two of which have come in his two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Beltran was left with a bat in his hand at home plate in the ninth inning of Game 4 after Kolten Wong was picked off first base to end the game.
David Freese, 3B: Since singling in the ninth inning of Game 1, Freese has been held hitless in his past eight at-bats, a streak that’s resulted in him being dropped to seventh in the order. Of the 13 runners he’s left on base the past four games, six have been left in scoring position.
Pete Kozma, SS: In keeping with pattern, manager Mike Matheny has selected Kozma to start at short in Games 1 and 3 while going with Daniel Descalso in Games 2 and 4. The difference between the two has been a wash offensively, as Descalso is 0-for-6 while Kozma is 0-for-8 through the first four games of the series. However, Kozma was the only St. Louis Cardinals hitter to not strike out in Game 1, seeing 13 pitches in his three plate appearances.
Three Red Sox players to watch

David Ortiz, 1B: A lot of the talk leading into the World Series was about how manyOrtiz 2013 WS HR games Ortiz would play at first base over Mike Napoli. But Ortiz has ended that conversation, with a gaudy .727 batting average, a result of eight hits in 11 at-bats. His eight hits have accounted for a third of the Red Sox’s total in the series (24). He also has two of Boston’s three homers and he leads the team in RBI (5) and runs (5). He has collected hits in his past four at-bats and is the only Boston starter to not strike out so far.
Jonny Gomes, LF: With outfielder Shane Victorino’s status still unknown following his late scratch before Game 4, Gomes re-proved his worth in the lineup to Farrell by hitting what turned out to be the game-winning three-run home run for Boston in the sixth inning, ending his 0-for-9 skid to start the World Series. Gomes also worked a 10-pitch walk in the fifth and a six-pitch walk in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, a step back on the right track for a player with whom Boston has won eight of nine postseason starts.
Xander Bogaerts, 3B: Bogaerts started off the series going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Games 1 and 2 before turning it on in St. Louis to collect three hits in his past seven at-bats. The 21-year-old’s .231 average is third on the team behind Ortiz (.727) and Dustin Pedroia (.267).
Three key considerations:
• Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has appeared in all four World Series games, the only pitcher on either team to do so. Farrell has used Tazawa to face just one batter in three of his four appearances, something the 27-year-old did in only two of his 71 appearances during the regular season.
• Sunday night’s win guaranteed that the series will shift back to Fenway Park for at least a Game 6. So far this postseason, Boston is 5-2 at home compared to 4-3 on the road.
• David Ross will be back behind the plate in Game 5, according to Farrell. Ross has Ross postseasoncaught all four of Lester’s starts this postseason, including Game 1 where he went 1-for-2 against Wainwright. It will be Ross’s second consecutive start since regular starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a throw that led to the obstruction call that ended Game 3.

Step into the light…

Without question, this Red Sox season has been an unexpected joyride, with no end in sight.  But there has never been a baseball season in the century-plus history of this franchise in which reality has intruded so darkly as in this one.

It was shortly after the Sox had finished playing their annual Patriots Day game when bombs went off less than a mile away on Boylston Street, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Five days later, Fenway Park was the designated temple of healing for a community grieving for the harm wrought to the innocent.

And now this:  Red Sox TV broadcaster Jerry Remy, who has not appeared on air since Aug. 15*, the night his son, Jared, was arrested after the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, announced Thursday night that he will not be returning to the NESN broadcast booth for the remainder of the season.

* in fact has made no public appearances since his last broadcast, his only statement coming on his official Twitter account, in which he said he and his wife, Phoebe, were “heartbroken.’’  “Son or not,’’ his statement read, “I am at a loss for words articulating my disgust and remorse over this senseless and tragic act.’’

Minutes before the end of Boston’s 3-2 loss to Baltimore at Fenway Park, Remy’s business partner, John O’Rourke, released a statement on Remy’s official Twitter account.  “I am full of grief for the Martel family,’’ Remy said in the statement. “My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them. My wife and I are sick about this senseless tragedy. It’s clear this isn’t the time for me to return to broadcasting Red Sox games. It’s my hope that I can do so in the spring. I thank the Red Sox and NESN for their support through this nightmare.’’

In a region already shocked by murder charges brought against Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, fans returning their No. 81 jerseys in a ritual expression of communal loathing, the son of the homegrown RemDawg, as beloved a figure as ever has sat in front of a mike on Yawkey Way, was being held without bail, charged with killing the mother of his child.

Remy OrsilloI can recall, with great joy, being a kid and listening to many a game in my early childhood with Remy.  I didn’t have cable or NESN till years later so I’d catch the pre-‘RemDawg’ broadcasts when he’d spot fill for Bob Montgomery on TV-38 with Sean McDonough.  I then graduated to the latter years of the Ned Martin-Jerry Remy NESN broadcasts teamed with the TV-38 broadcasts (Jerry having replaced Montgomery), where more of the Remy persona seemed to bleed out off of McDonough’s personality.  That of course has been amplified to near Superstar status (in New England and ‘The Nation’ anyway) during his more than a decade alongside Don Orsillo where the true ‘RemDawg’ emerged.

And let’s not forget, it wasn’t all that long ago that Remy was diagnosed and treated for lung cancer.Boston Strong

Remy, like those victims of the Marathon bombing both living and deceased, gives us yet another example of how we as individuals, a region and a ‘Nation’ can remain STRONG.

“The Trade”

Staying on our Dodger Blue theme…

I peiced this together from various sources, including Gordon Edes and ESPN Boston.

On August 25, 2012, the Dodgers and Red Sox completed a 9-player deal which sent past-present-and probably future All Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and (indepensible utilityman) Nick Punto to Los Angeles for the (until then) forever underperforming James Loney and four minor leaguers.

Traded Trio

Entering 2013, Gonzalez had $127 million remaining on his contract and Crawford had $102.5 million remaining. This was the first time in MLB history in which two players were involved in a trade with $100 million remaining on their contracts.

* Carl Crawford (via ESPNLA.com):  “That was one of the toughest times in my life, ever, from when I was a little kid, 1 year old. It definitely was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life to be traded over here. You make $20 million, but it’s not like they’re begging me to hit a home run every time I go up there, you know what I’m saying? It’s not like I need to go 5-for-5 every at-bat and, if I don’t, I’m considered the worst player on the planet.”

Jonny Gomes was a teammate of Carl Crawford with the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Red Sox outfielder said he can’t relate to where Crawford is coming from when he talks about about how “bad” he wants to beat his former team, the Red Sox.  “To tell you the truth, every team and organization and manager and GM I’ve left, I’ve left on good terms,’’ Gomes said. “I talk to ’em all, talk to a lot of ’em in the offseason, reach out to ’em all. No hard feelings against any of ’em. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me. The last thing I want to do is ‘try harder’ against my [former] teams. I try hard every night.’’

* Josh Beckett (via WEEI.com):  “It just got way too personal for me,” he said while rehabbing in the Dallas area. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, you suck on the baseball field.’ It was now, ‘Hey, you’re a bad person.’ It was getting personal. It wasn’t even about baseball anymore. It was definitely time to make a change. I think everybody from the front office to the players recognized that, we’ve moved on and now here I am.”

The Red Sox are 84-80 since the deal (remember, part of that includes the Bobby Valentine regime), the Dodgers 91-70, with each in playoff position at the moment.

The financial impact
The Dodgers had a 2013 Opening Day payroll of $216.6M, the second-highest in MLB behind the Yankees ($228.8M). That was a significant increase from their 2012 Opening Day Payroll of $95.1M, which was 12th-highest in MLB.

The $121.5 million opening day payroll increase was easily the largest in baseball between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Next on the list is the Toronto Blue Jays, who increased their payroll by $42 million.

There’s still quite a bit of money left over on the contracts of the players the Dodgers acquired. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett will be owed a combined $213 million after the 2013 season ends.

With those savings, the Red Sox were able to re-load in the offseason, spending more than $125M on impact free agents such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Koji Uehara.

Victorino has posted 4.4 WAR this season, better than any player the Red Sox sent to the Dodgers has performed this season.

The star: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez at FirstOf the five major-leaguers involved in the trade, Gonzalez has been the most valuable for his team this year, with 3.3 Wins Above Replacement. Gonzalez’s value has come in the form of big hits. He has six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later, the most of anyone on the team. Gonzalez rates fourth in the majors and second in the National League in Win Probability Added, a stat that sums the value of every plate appearance (and stolen base/caught stealing, based on how much it adds to that team’s chance of winning). The only players who rate higher than Gonzalez are Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt.

Though Gonzalez has provided value, his power numbers are still not to the level that they were from 2009 to 2011 (and, by his own admittance after his arrival in L.A., probably never will be the same following his shoulder surgery while a member of the Padres).  Gonzalez had a .536 slugging percentage and .231 isolated power (extra-bases per at-bat) over those three seasons. The last two seasons, those numbers are .460 and .162.

* Adrian Gonzalez (via ESPNLA.com):  “For the most part, we underperformed last year in Boston and we didn’t win. The year before, we won. We just didn’t make it to the postseason at the end. I had a good time. The only things I had there weren’t really a big deal.”

Nick Punto
Both Crawford and PuntoBeckett have dealt with significant injuries that have been hindrances to their value. But another player has been a surprise contributor.Punto has been worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement for the Dodgers this season. If that holds up, it would be the third-highest single-season total of his 13-year career, his highest since posting a 2.4 WAR in 2008.
Punto’s value stems from that he can play a pair of positions adequately. He’s contributed five Defensive Runs Saved at both shortstop and third base, two spots where he’s had to fill in due to injuries.

Punto may not be an imposing hitter, but he’s an annoying one for pitchers to face. His 4.29 pitches per plate appearance rank tied for fourth in the majors, among those with at least 250 plate appearances this season. In addition, in 13 games this month, Punto has a .475 on-base percentage (fifth in the NL among players with at least 30 plate appearances) and eight RBI.

* Nick Punto (via ESPNLA.com):  “Pedroia is the heartbeat of that club, and when he’s not happy, it’s not a good thing. He was definitely not very happy.”

Gonzalez Punto Dodger Blue

And the results have definitely shown for both teams.

The Red Sox are looking to become just the seventh team since the current divisional format began in 1995, and the first in the AL since the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, to go from worst-to-first in their division.  This would be the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox won their division/league the year after finishing in last place.