Wednesday, October 31, 2007

World Series Champions Boston Red Sox – My Top 10 Personal Memories from the 2007 Season and Post-Season

The Boston Red Sox have presented to their loyal fans a memorable 2007 season. From last winter's Hot Stove League through yesterday’s Rolling Rally to celebrate their World Series victory, it was a wild ride, full of much joy and a few moments of fear and doubt amongst the oft angst-ridden citizens of Red Sox Nation.

In Lettermanesque fashion, I am pleased to offer my personal Top 10 Moments in the Red Sox 2007 Season:

#10 – October 30 – The Rolling Rally to celebrate the Red Sox 2nd World Series Championship in 4 years.

I wondered if this year’s crowd at the parade would be as vast and as enthusiastic as the hundreds of thousands who braved a cold October rain storm to salute the 2004 team. I need not have wondered. The crowd was amply and their enthusiasm was unabated. I inadvertently had two experiences of watching this year’s parade. After a luncheon meeting in Chinatown, I made my way along Tremont Street to a spot opposite Boston Common, near the Suffolk University dormitories. The crowd lining the sidewalks was 10-12 deep as far as the eye could see. While awaiting the Duck Boats, chants of “Yankees Suck” competed with choruses of “Re-Sign Lowell – Re-Sign Lowell.”

Highlights of the parade included the following:

Jonathan Papelbon using a broom – emblematic of the Red Sox having swept both the Angels and the Rockies - to mimic rowing the Duck Boat down Tremont Street.

Big Papi, David Ortiz, clutching the World Series trophy while waving to the hordes that were screaming their approbation and appreciation.

Johnny Pesky riding in one of the lead Duck Boats – representing the link between the 86 years of frustration in the 20th Century and the Red Sox 21st Century of hope and accomplishment.

Manny Ramirez holding a microphone and proclaiming to the crowd: ‘I love you guys!’

When the parade had passed my vantage point on Boston Common, in order to avoid the crush of people, I walked to South Station and jumped on the Red Line – headed to my office in Kendall Square. As we came up above ground at the MGH stop, and began to cross the Longfellow Bridge, I look to my right and saw the string of Duck Boats. The cavalcade had left City Hall Plaza and was making its way through Cambridge back to Fenway Park.

#9 – May 28 – Trot Nixon Returns to Fenway Park as a member of the Cleveland Indians

Trot received a tremendous ovation from the crowd as soon as he took the field for batting practice. The love continued to flow throughout the game. In a very classy move, the Red Sox organization honored Trot and his wife at home plate before the start of the game for their many contributions to the community during their years with the Red Sox.

In the game that was played that day, Schilling was outstanding, with 10 strikeouts. The Red Sox just barely missed pulling off a triple play, and Kevin Youklis hit a rare Fenway inside-the-park homerun. The Sox were victorious 5-3.

#8 – July 2 – Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers – Ellsbury makes a strong first impression

This game represented the first time I used the term “electric” to describe the effect that Jacoby Ellsbury being in the line-up has upon the crowd. In this game, one of his first at the major league level, Ellsbury was on second base, and shocked the baseball world by scoring from second on a wild pitch. I had never seen that before. The crowd was in awe; the Rangers were in shock. The Red Sox secured a 7-3 victory when Eric Hinske cleared the bases with a 3-run triple.

#7 – September 12 – Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Ortiz shines with 2 homeruns

While David Ortiz had a very successful regular season based on the statistics that he put up, many fans felt he was having an off year because of his lack of dramatic walk-off homeruns that had become his signature on the 2004 season and beyond. His balky knee, that will require arthroscopic surgery in the off-season, largely keep him from hitting the kind of prodigious homeruns we have come to expect from Big Papi. As fans, we are spoiled! In this game, won by the Red Sox 5-4, all 5 Red Sox runs were scored as a result on Ortiz homeruns. He hit a 3-run HR in the 3rd inning, and then sent the fans home buzzing with a 2-run walk-off HR in the 9th inning! Thrilling!

#6 – April 20 – Red Sox vs. New York Yankees – Red Sox score 5 runs in the 8th inning

Any contest that matches the Red Sox against the Yankees has the potential of becoming an instant classic. This game featured an early 2-run HR by A-Rod, and the Yankees were dominating through the first 7 innings – leading 6-2 going into the bottom of the 8th inning. Joe Torre brought closer Mariano Rivera into the game in the 8th, and the Red Sox pummeled him - tagging him with a blown save and a loss as the Sox erupted for 5 runs and an eventual 7-6 victory. Papelbon came in for the 9th inning to earn the save. It was early in the season, but it was a harbinger of good things yet to come.

#5 – October 7 – Game #3 of the ALDS at AnaheimSox complete sweep of the Angels

You already know what happened. Schilling was unhittable – going 7 shutout innings. The Red Sox broke open what had been a pitcher’s duel by scoring 7 runs in the 8th inning. I was privileged to join several members of Jacoby Ellsbury’s family outside the Red Sox clubhouse at Angel Stadium to celebrate with the players and the coaches the decisive sweep of the Angels.

#4 – October 24 – Game #1 of World Series vs. Colorado Rockies – Sox romp to 13-1 blowout to set the tone for the Series

This one was over early. Beckett was again dominant, striking out the first 4 Rockies batters. Dustin Pedroia hit the second pitch in the bottom of the 1st inning just over the top of the Green Monster, and the Red Sox never looked back. The game featured numerous World Series records, including Jacoby Ellsbury being only the third player to hit two double in one inning in a World Series game.

#3 – October 5 – Game #2 of the ALDS vs. LA Angles of Anaheim – Many hits his first walk-off HR as a member of the Red Sox

This game was a seesaw affair, with the Sox scoring 2 runs in the first inning, and the Angels countering with 3 of their own in the 2nd inning. Boston managed a single run in the 5th inning to tie the score, and then it became a battle of the bullpens. It looked like it might turn into an extra inning contest until Manny Ramirez came to the plate with two runners aborad and launched a gargantuan blast over everything in left field. The crowd erupted, strangers embraced and grown men cried. It was that kind of a game. Goose bumps! Thrilling!

#2 – April 22 – vs. New York Yankees – Sox hit four HR’s in succession to beat the Yankees 7-6

I could not have asked for a better birthday gift – an historic victory over the dreaded Yankees. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, against Yankees started, Jared Wright, Manny Ramirez, J. D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek hit solo homeruns in quick succession. This was the first time in Red Sox history that such a feat had been accomplished, and only the 5th time in Major League history. Those who attended the game with me will attest that I predicted that Lowell and Varitek would hit homeruns. Shocking, exhilarating, mesmerizing!

#1 – October 20 – Game #6 of the ALCS vs. Cleveland Indians – J.D. Drew Grand Slam in the 1st inning

I chose this game as my #1 memory of the season because it encapsulated so many aspects of the season. Despite the fact that the Red Sox held onto first place in the AL East for most of the season, they would often frustrate fans with “squanders” – failing to produce the timely hit and leaving multitudes of runners stranded on base. The first inning of Game #6 looked as if it would be another of these momentous squanders. After the Red Sox had loaded the bases with no one out to open the inning, Ramirez and Lowell made outs that did not advance the runners. Up came J.D. Drew, who in key situations all season had failed to produce, and who had become the fans’ bete noire for failing to live up to expectations or to in any way justify his high salary. The crowd expected nothing – except the usual pop-up or ground out.

So, when Drew took a might cut at the offering served up by highly-touted Indians’ starting pitcher, Fausto Carmona, we watched in wonder as the ball continued to climb into the autumn sky, finding the back of the wall behind the TV camera shelter in the centerfield bleachers. With that one swing, J.D. Drew had unleashed forces beyond anyone’s power to comprehend. In a moment, he was transmogrified from goat to god. In that one moment, he caused all of Red Sox Nation to think, or to utter, these words: “All is forgiven!” With that one swing he sealed the fate of the Cleveland Indians for 2007. Only hours before, the Red Sox had been perched on the brink of elimination – trailing in the Series 3 games to 1. Beckett had rescued them, leading them to a victory in Game #5. In Game #6, the Sox still stood on the edge of the precipice of elimination. But, with his swing leading to 4 quick runs, Drew and the Red Sox cut the heart out of the Indians. There was, from that moment, no doubt that the Red Sox would prevail in that game and in the 7th game that followed the next night. Game – set – match.

It was a glorious season. And with the young talent that has been developed within the Red Sox farm system or acquired through wily trades and free agent acquisitions, the Red Sox promise to be even stronger in 2008, 2009 and beyond. It is good to be a Red Sox fan.

Go Sox!

2 comments:

Mark said...

Al,

I enjoyed your insights, as always!

Now I don't have to watch all 160+ games. I can just wait for the recap on the White Rhino Report! :)

Jeff Cram said...

Fantastic post - quite a season.

One of the most memorable for me was the 'Mother's Day Miracle' game May 13 against the Orioles. Sitting a few rows behind home plate, I watched the Sox come back from a 5-0 deficit with 1 out in the 9th inning. Best comeback I've ever seen in person and a strong reminder - never leave a Red Sox game early.