Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Interim Report on Memoirs from the Red Sox 2007 Post Season – Behind the Scenes Snippets of California Dreamin’, NYC Minutes and Fenway Reveries

It is no secret to readers of The White Rhino Report that the Boston Red Sox have been an important part of my life since I was a toddler. This season has been one of great joy and excitement for those of us who call ourselves citizens of Red Sox Nation. This post season, in particular, has offered a banquet of emotions for those following the vicissitudes of the team that calls Fenway Park home. Let me offer a few nuggets from my personal experiences of following the Sox these past few weeks – from the American League Division Series up through last night’s stunning 13-1 victory in Game #1 of the World Series.

American League Division Series – Opponent, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Game #2 at Fenway Park – October 5

It was an instant classic game. The game lasted for 4 hours and 5 minutes, and was witnessed by the largest crowd in Fenway Park playoff history. Daisuke Matsuzaka lasted only 4 2/3 innings, so it became a battle of the bullpens. As is often the case, the Boston bullpen prevailed. Angels manager, Mike Sciosia, was not about to let Big Papi, Red Sox DH David Ortiz, beat his team, so Ortiz walked four times during the game. The last walk back-fired on the Angels, because it brought to the plate Manny Ramirez, who had never had a walk-off homerun in his bizarre and illustrious career. That all changed with one incredibly quick flick of his wrists as he propelled a pitch, offered by Angels’ closer “K-Rod” Rodriguez, far into the back sky and in the general direction of the North Pole. It was a prodigious blast – one of the longest homeruns I have ever witnessed. That hit lifted the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the Series.

I was accompanied at this game by my good friend, Dr. Phil Anderson. He had come up from Washington, D.C. to spend the day with me at a series of meetings at Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Phil had grown up on the South Shore of Boston, and is as rabid a Red Sox fan as I am, so he was thrilled to be in town during the playoffs. Phil is a decorated veteran, having served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Phil is battle tough and battle tested. He has seen it all. Yet, as we stood together taking in the enormity of what Manny Ramirez had accomplished before our eyes, I could tell by looking at Phil’s eyes that he was deeply moved by the specialness of the moment we were sharing together with Manny, his teammates, and 37, 706 of his closest friends. What a special night! What a privilege to witness it first hand!

Game #3 at Anaheim – October 7

When I learned that the Red Sox would be facing the Angels in the ALDS, my first thought was: “Is there any way there could be seats available on JetBlue to the West Coast that would allow me to use my free round trip that is about to expire?” Much to my surprise, the answer was “Yes!” So, I booked a flight to San Diego, and made arrangements to stay with Craig and Lauren Balben, the newlyweds I wrote about earlier this week when they had to evacuate their home in San Diego in the path of the wild fires. (I just learned from Craig this morning that their home was spared.) Craig took care of securing tickets, so we are set to make the trip up to Anaheim for Sunday’s game.

Six of us made the trip up I-5 from San Diego to Anaheim - the Balbens and I were in one car, and three of their friends were in a second vehicle. We arrived in Orange County a couple of hours before the scheduled time for the first pitch – plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere at Anaheim’s National Sports Café, which serves as headquarters for Red Sox Nation in Southern California. We were surrounded by hundreds of loud and jaunty fans sporting Red Sox and New England Patriots apparel. In that convivial company, we watched the first half of the Patriots game against the Cleveland Browns. At half-time, we walked through the Angels parking lot to the stadium.

The game was taut and tense through the first seven innings. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined for back-to-back homeruns in the 4th inning off of Jared Weaver, who was locked with Curt Schilling in a game that featured excellent starting pitching. Schilling ended up pitching seven shutout innings. The issue was decided emphatically when the Red Sox scored 7 runs in the 8th inning. They cruised to a 9-1 victory, and secured the elimination of the Angels from the playoffs. They had bought themselves a ticket to the American League Championship Series, and it was time to celebrate on foreign turf.

On September 17, I published an article in this Blog about Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox impressive rookie outfielder.

Partly as a result of that Blog article, I had an opportunity to meet several members of Ellsbury’s extended family at Fenway Park towards to end of the regular season. Some of his family members live in LA, so when I had confirmed that I would be traveling to California for Game #3 of the ALDS, I contacted the family to let them know that I would be coming. We agreed to meet at the ballpark as soon as the game was over. We did indeed meet by the Red Sox dugout. My small entourage from San Diego joined with four members of Jacoby Ellsbury’s family as we descended into the bowels of Angel Stadium to join the other Red Sox families that were celebrating the Sox series sweep.

Knowing of my interest in languages, Jacoby’s aunt had taught me the Navajo phrase used for greeting, so when Jacoby emerged from the club house to meet with family, I was able to shake his hand and greet him with: Ya'at'eeh”! He seemed pleasantly surprised. We had a chance to congratulate Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, Kevin Youklis, 1st base coach, Luis Alicea and several other members of the Red Sox. After about 20 minutes of conversation and picture taking, we left the family room and the stadium, and returned to the National Sports Café with the four members of the Ellsbury in tow. We basked in the afterglow of the Red Sox victory over a very satisfying meal of Southern California fare. It was a great day of “California Dreaming”!

To be continued . . .

Watch for Part II tomorrow!


No comments: