Last month I presented a pair of top notch Red Sox tickets to wifey as a gift for our 14th wedding anniversary.
I know! Who would have thought one person could have lived with me for this long. I can barely stand myself. Actually that’s not true. I find myself highly entertaining and often crack myself up with internal dialogues. I’ll pass along an example in a minute.
In one of those crazy life coincidences the Sox retired Jim Rice’s number in a pre game ceremony. His number? 14. Go figure. Everything seemed lined up for a beautiful evening.
Our seats were fantastic; just past third base in prime foul ball territory. I was expecting at least three chances at snagging a souvenir.
Sidenote #1: Wifey and I had a conversation with two couples in front of us about foul ball etiquette. As a man, what is our duty upon catching a foul ball? After some discussion about having children (esp boys) I said that you should keep the ball unless there is a child under 8 in your general area. If there is a younger child you should hand it off. Some exceptions would be if you wanted to save it for your own child or someone special you had in mind. For example, my son already has a foul ball from a previous game (thanks, DA!), so unless it was hit off the bat of one of his favorite players I would probably hand it to a young boy nearby.
Sidenote #2: This entire discussion was prompted when a foul ball was scooped up by the third base ball girl at Fenway and grown men were waving their hands at her and yelling ‘Me! Throw it to me!’ along with a chorus of children. The ball girl always hands it off to a kid and I found it hilarious that grown men in their 40s and 50s were begging for a baseball. Show some self respect, dudes!
Where was I?
Oh, Rice. So Rice gets his day, his number is on the right field number display thingy and I was psyched to see Carlton Fisk, Freddie Lynn, Dwight Evans and a bunch of other Red Sox greats show up. Evans was a close second to Rice when I was a kid (Lynn is a long, sordid story which I don’t have time to get into here) as far as favorite players and I still think he’s an under appreciated player. Besides being a very good hitter he was one of the best defensive outfielders I’ve ever seen.
Sidenote # 3: A guy two rows in front of us won some promotional package and arrived in the second inning wearing a freshly autographed Jim Rice jersey with an entire bag full of memorabilia. I hated him instantly.
Sidenote #4: I was shocked how good Evans and Rice look. Both have kept themselves in shape and could probably lace up the cleats and play for a few games. After seeing what happened with Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn after retiring (picture blimps), this was downright shocking.
So the game gets going, we have a grand old time watching the Sox take a 6-2 lead, Buchholz pitch well enough to earn his second win of the season, and wifey gets to swoon over Ellsbury as he has a very good day at the plate and on the base paths. I downed 5 beers over the course of the game, ate a hot dog and a pretzel and only had to dish out $450 for it all.
Sidenote #5: How the hell do season ticket holders afford this? Not just the tickets, but paying for the food and drink? Do they smuggle in their own shit? When we first arrived I bought two Bud Lights and two pretzels and nearly dropped a load in my pants when the girl announced ‘That will be twenty two dollars’. Uh… WHAT??? No wonder the Sox have one of the highest payrolls in the majors – they’re being subsidized by crooks at the beer stands. Fuck me! Of course, that didn’t stop wifey and I from continuing to drink. Just from eating.
When the ninth inning rolls around things are looking great. Francona’s made some bizarre moves, but the Sox are up three and here comes Papelbon. While last year this would have been game over territory, Paps hasn’t exactly been himself this season. Besides, this is Oakland – one of the worst hitting teams in the league. Surely nothing could go wrong, right?
Well, Papelbon walks the leadoff batter – Jack Cust, who sports an intimidating .230 average and had already struck out 3 times.
Sidenote #6: This is the distinct difference between 2009 Papelbon and 2008 Papelbon. Last year, he would have challenged the leadoff hitter and risked a home run rather than giving up a walk. This year he’s being to deliberate and nibbling and trying to get hitters to chase balls. It’s like he spent the winter with Dice-K and absorbed his most irritating habits. Paps, you throw 95-97 with movement. Just throw it down the middle and see what happens. When did you turn into a pussy?
Cust, one of the slowest members of the A’s, steals second with no objection from the Red Sox. Suzuki grounds out to second, sending Cust to third. That’s fine. Up three runs, take the sure out. The next batter pops out and the crowd now feels it. Game is almost over.
Only Tom Everidge (who I never heard of before last night) doubles off Papelbon to score Cust (who never should have been on base in the first place). Man on second, two outs, Sox still up 2 runs. No worries. This seems to be Papelbon’s MO this season. He’ll get the next guy out, everyone in the park is certain of it.
Sure enough, Paps gets the next batter (Ellis, I think) to ground right back to him. Only the ball bounces under his glove and he misses the ball. Tough play, but still. Nick Green rushes up to the ball and immediately I can see what’s coming. I start yelling ‘hold the ball, hold the ball!’ while wifey is looking at me like I’m insane.
Green either doesn’t hear me or thinks he can be the hero and launches an off balance, far too late throw to first that sails into the dugout. Everidge scores and Ellis is now on second.
Sidenote #7: I have been singing the praises of Green to my eldest all season long because he is fundamentally sound and plays shortstop the exact opposite of how Julio Lugo tries to play. He sets his feet, maintains his balance and (usually) throws it right on target. He’s not the greatest shortstop as far as range and athleticism, but he’s reliable and consistent. That said, this first throw was a brain fart of epic proportions. Not only was he off balance, but even if he made it to first the throw would have been way too late to get the out. They teach you this shit in little league. Hold the ball if you can’t get the out. Prevent the run from scoring. Sadly, I had the perfect angle to watch this play unfold.
So now we’ve got a one run game with man on second and two outs. There’s still hope here. Ellis, sensing the Sox are caving in, steals third without a throw. This makes sense to me, too. Get the batter out and don’t risk a throw into the outfield that will tie the game. Rajai Davis is now up and he winds up hitting another little dribbler to Green, who proceeds to throw another off balance throw to first and have it soar well wide of the mark.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Davis before you should know one thing: He’s fast. I don’t mean a good runner, but fucking fast. Like a cheetah chasing down an antelope (they eat antelopes, right?). While the ball is rolling all the way out to right field, Davis is sprinting towards third. Along with 30,000 other people, I’m standing in disbelief, hands on my head, watching in horror as Davis ROUNDS THIRD and considers chancing a run at the plate.
He stops, but it doesn’t matter. Two Green errors and this game is tied. Adam Kennedy is up next and Papelbon now takes the opportunity to strike someone out. Thanks for showing up, 2008 Papelbon. You’re three batters too late.
In the 10th the Sox show signs of life when Bay makes a diving catch to save a run and end the inning. I immediately think ‘Hey, Bay is up this inning. He’s going to win the game for us!’ That’s usually how it works, right? A player makes a fantastic play in the field, winds up at bat the very next inning and does something. Right?
He pops out on the second pitch and we all watch the ball and Bay’s average plummet to earth. Holy fuck!
When the 10th inning is over, wifey and I decide to pack it in. It’s after 11, my parents are watching the boys and I need to get up for work in the morning. Besides, we can see the writing on the wall: The Sox are not winning this game.
Sidenote #8: There was a blonde sitting directly in front of us who obviously had breast implants. They were too big and too…hmmm…let’s say ‘perky’ for her 40 something year old body. She was extremely friendly, but they were a bit distracting. When we get up to leave, her and her boyfriend stand up to say good bye (we were chatting with them throughout the game) and the front of her low cut T-Shirt reads ‘GUESS’ in glittering letters. Startled, I stifled both the urge to laugh out loud and yell out random cup sizes.
On the train ride home my Blackberry keeps us up to date on the A’s scoring 2 runs in the 11th inning and the too little, too late comeback by the Sox.
In hindsight, this is a fitting tribute to Jim Rice. His teams tormented me in my youth. Coming so close on so many occasions only to find bizarre and terribly creative ways to make kids cry. 1975 World Series. 1978 14 game lead. 1986 World Series. He was there for them all.
While he obviously can’t be blamed for them, it certainly seems appropriate that these Red Sox would steal from those team’s bag of tricks and find a way to lose a completely winnable game.
Jim Rice Day, indeed.
Today’s distraction: Jim Rice’s career stats. Check out the total bases he racked up during the 77-79 time frame. Just astonishing. Keep in mind only one other player totaled over 400 bases in one season. That would be Joe DiMaggio.