Tagged: Tom Brady

Cleaning out Super Bowl XLIX notebook

From: ESPN Boston

Super Bowl 49 logo

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called receiver Julian Edelman “one of the toughest players I’ve ever had a chance to coach.” Added receiver Danny Amendola, “He’s the toughest player I’ve ever played with; a warrior.” Receiver Brandon LaFell said of Edelman, “He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around, right next to Steve Smith.”

Belichick was pretty witty after the game when asked if he’s ever seen a catch like the 33-yarder that Jermaine Kearse made on his back. “Yeah,” he responded. “I’ve seen two of them.” Of course, he was referring to David Tyree’s on-his-helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Defensive end Chandler Jones‘ initial reaction to Malcolm Butler‘s interception? “I immediately started crying right there on the field,” he said.

The Patriots are the first team in Super Bowl history to trail by 10-plus points during the second half and win the game. Teams trailing by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter had been 0-29 in Super Bowl play.

What was Belichick doing the morning of the game? Still watching film of the Seahawks, of course. Specifically, he said he was watching Seattle’s 27-24 win over the Buccaneers from last season. The Seahawks had trailed 21-0 in that game before roaring back. This is another reminder to the level of detail that coaches take when preparing for a game.

Tom Brady‘s 37 completions were a Super Bowl record, passing Peyton Manning‘s 34 from last season.

The Patriots are the youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl, with an average age of 25.2 years.

Vereen’s 11 receptions tied a Patriots’ postseason record (Deion Branch in Super Bowl XXXIX and Wes Welker in Super Bowl XLII).

Asked about undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, Belichick reflected on how he first came to the team. “He was a rookie tryout guy. We had already had our draft. We had already signed our free agents after the draft [so] he was part of what we like t call, ‘the few, the proud, the free.’ He came in and did a great job in that rookie minicamp [and] we created a roster spot by juggling some other guys around, signed him, and he had a good training camp. That’s a big jump from West Alabama to the NFL but Malcolm competes hard.”

LaFell on Brady: “I feel like when we’ve got Tom with the ball in his hands, we always have a chance. When you’re nervous, you look over there at Tom and he’s just all calm. It’s like, ‘If he’s this calm, we’re going to win this game.'”

Advertisements

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.

Playing Catch Up…

A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.

The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game:  The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.  It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls.  For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his  16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.

Just a ‘Classic’ game.  At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis.  The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.

The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million:  Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist.   The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades.   Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment.  Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.

Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price.  Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit).  If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.

The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat.  At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket.  Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side.  If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup.  If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep.  If.. If.. If…

With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days.  He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works.  As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox.  Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.

Tim Thomas Skipped the White House:  Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes.  He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.”  Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.

Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone.  Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO.  The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving.  Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center.  Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007.  Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered.  It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.

 

And then of course… there’s this:

Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs.  “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,”  Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.”  The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad.  Detroit plays at Cecil Fielder (45) played for the Tigers from 1990 to 1996. His son, Prince (with ball), will follow in his footsteps after reportedly signing a nine-year $214 million contract with Detroit.Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.

Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series.  After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City.  “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.”  Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning.  Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.

It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth.  It’s a lineup based on power, not speed.  That much is clear.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder.  The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job.  “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.

Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990.  Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

With a Bang…

The NFL post-season officially began this evening, and the Patriots started off with a lil’ bit of gusto.

A surgically precise nuclear strike may be the effective description.

After a week of Tebowing in Tebowmania the clock struck midnight on Denver’s Cinderella story as their wunderkind anti-quarterback fall down go boom.  Not that Tim Tebow played a completely inept game and certainly not that he was completely to blame, but Tom Brady came out looking like a first ballot Hall of Famer with something to prove.

Looking to win their first playoff game since the ‘magical’ run of 2007 versus San Diego, Brady threw for a touchdown to Wes Welker on the opening drive, setting up an NFL record five passing TD’s in the first half for the Pats who would score six passing TD’s over-all in a 45 to 10 rout.

As CBS’ Dan Marino said during the game’s  halftime show, “The only way the Denver Broncos have a chance of coming back is if Brady goes and plays for the Broncos.”

The 6 passing touchdowns ties an NFL playoff record (The last quarterback to throw six touchdowns in a postseason game was San Francisco’s Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers) while Rob Gronkowski’s 3 TD receptions ties a record for the same playoff feat.  Brady, with Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker and Branch set team highs for playoff performances.  The Defense played easily their most outstanding game of the entire season.  It was a loud and very obvious statement not only to Denver but to the rest of the remaining playoff teams.

In other news:

In my first effort to mention new Sox manager Bobby V., here are some slightly interesting tidbits courtesy of ESPNBoston.com.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn’t sound overly impressed Saturday when assessing the Yankees’ quick-strike addition of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation. “They’re probably an upgrade from (Bartolo) Colon and (Freddy) Garcia. Probably. I don’t know. It seems it.”  Valentine told the Providence Journal at a Jimmy Fund event in Boston.  “Pineda, when I saw him the first half, he looked unhittable.  Second half, he looked OK, (The Mariners) saw a lot of him and they traded him.  Kuroda is a good pitcher — a year older than he was last year, pitching in the American League and not the National League, pitching in not a great pitcher’s ballpark (Yankee Stadium) from a great pitcher’s ballpark (Dodger Stadium).”

Valentine did make a couple of valid points there: Pineda had a 3.03 ERA and eight wins before the All-Star break and a 5.12 ERA and just one win after it; and Kiroda has a career 3-8 record and 4.33 ERA against American League opponents.  One thing Valentine couldn’t argue was the Yankees’ rotation certainly got a lot deeper.

Also, Valentine did not confirm reports that the Red Sox had extended a spring training invite to catcher Jason Varitek, but he did mention Saturday he didn’t forsee a situation where either Varitek or veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield returned to the team without a role defined for them.   “I couldn’t imagine having Wake come in and compete for a job, I can’t imagine that. Even ’Tek, for that matter. It’s not something I can imagine.”  He called Varitek’s long-tenured situation with the club “unique” and said it “should be handled in a unique way.”

Varitek has not yet officially signalled his intention to retire.

Pedro Martinez had a message for the Red Sox on Friday night: They should not cut ties with Jason Varitek. Not now. Not ever.  You have to keep him in Boston. He was our head, our captain. He should retire as a member of the Red Sox, and never leave.” Martinez said at a charity dinner in his honor at the Liberty Hotel. With former Sox general manager Dan Duquette in the audience, Martinez joked about resuming pitching in the big leagues for the Baltimore Orioles, where Duquette has landed as GM.  Relating a story he said he’d never shared before, Duquette described how he and Martinez’s agent, Bob Gilhooly, came to terms on a new contract for Martinez at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. They made the deal, Duquette said, under pressure from members of the Secret Service, who with their search dogs were impatiently waiting for them to exit their suite so they could prepare it for a soon-to-be arriving guest — President Clinton.  They got the deal done, Duquette said, thanks to a Secret Service agent who said he was from Maine.  “I don’t know who this guy is,” the agent said to his superior, gesturing at Duquette, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, “but he’s trying to sign Pedro Martinez. The President of the United States can wait.”

Martinez expressed his unending affection for Boston and called winning the 2004 World Series and the parade that followed the highlight of his career.