Category Archives: Red Sox

The Streak Is Over

Sellout ends
from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

The Sellout Streak is Over.
The consecutive game sellout streak at Fenway Park ended last night – to no one’s surprise. Sox brass predicted it in early February when they admitted that season ticket sales were off by 10%.

It’s official.
Whether you believed it or not, it’s in the record books. 820 consecutive games – that includes playoffs which were obviously sellouts – that’s a record in all of professional sports. They’d send season ticket holders souvenir baseballs commemorating the 500th, 600th and 700th sellouts.

So what was it like last night?
Raining. Pretty hard at times. The tarp was on the field for 43-minutes. You can see in the video that two ticket windows on Lansdowne Street were getting little or no action. On a typical night the line for the Day-of-Game tickets would stretch down the sidewalk under the Monster Seats all the way to Gate C. Not last night.

The bad news.
Joel Hanrahan imploded in the 9th, blowing a 5-3 lead and leaving us with an 8-5 loss, but I’ll spout off on him in another blog.

The good news.
Opening Day always sells out, but the second home game of the season is a notoriously tough sell everywhere. Despite that, the Red Sox had 31,800 people there on a cold, rainy night. Only four teams in Major League Baseball drew more than that, and they all had gametime temperatures in the mid-70’s. The Red Sox drew more than 25 other teams and had more fans last night than Kansas City, Miami and Seattle combined (and two of those even have a roof).

Ryan Dempster had a quality start (5 innings, 3 hits, only 1 earned run). Lester and Buchholz look teriffic. They’re in 1st place, and after the strong start season tickets are only off by 8%. We could see a new streak start sometime in May.

Wellesley is back in the Majors

My hometown of Wellesley, MA is once again represented in Major League Baseball.
We’ve had many ballplayers who lived here while they played for the Red Sox: Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Mickey Vernon, Mike Torrez (the day after Torrez threw the home run pitch to Bucky Dent in the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees playoff the Wellesley Board of Assessors met and decided to raise the assessment on his house just to teach him a lesson – at least that’s what I heard), Bruce Hurst, Bill Mueller, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carl Crawford among many others. But now we once again have someone who grew up here playing in the majors. Nate Freiman.

Nate played in Wellesley Little League and at Wellesley High School. He was in the same class as my daughter Kara Kelley (2005). He was 17-1 as a pitcher and hit .500 his last two years. In the shot above he’s playing for the Orleans Cardinals in the Cape Cod League. He played his college ball at Duke and spent time in the Padres farm system.

In December Major League Baseball held the Rule 5 draft. That’s where teams get to draft players from other organization’s minor league teams and it’s done in reverse order of that team’s MLB record the previous year. The Astros, who were much worse than the Red Sox in 2012, got to go first in the draft and picked Nate.

In March the Oakland A’s claimed him off waivers and last night he made his Major League debut playing first base. Went 2-for-3 with an RBI so the stats have him batting an impressive .667.
Nate is the first MLB player from my home town since Jack Sanford.

Jack pitched for the Phillies, the Angels (the year they changed their name from LA Angels to California Angels) and the A’s (during their final year as the Kansas City A’s), but he’s best known for his seven seasons pitching for the San Francisco Giants – the biggest highlight being his complete game shutout of the Yankees in Game 2 of the 1962 World Series.
Just for the fun of it, here they both are wearing A’s uniforms:

On Monday, April 23rd the A’s come to Boston for a series and we’ll be cheering Nate when he steps to the plate at Fenway.

No More Sweet Caroline at Fenway?? Really?

Sweet Caroline Fenway Mix from Don Kelley on Vimeo.

It’s been a tradition in the middle of the 8th inning for years. They play “Sweet Caroline” and the crowd has a great time singing along. A few years ago I made a special mix…crowd noise I had recorded over the years mixed in with Neil singing. We’d play it on the radio on Magic 106.7 every time the Red Sox won. (In 2008 I had to rush in on a Friday night and edit out the “Man-ny, Man-ny” chant.)

One Saturday a couple of years ago Tom Werner was on the way to Fenway and he heard it on the air. When the song ended the DJ, Candy O’Terry, said, “This special Fenway version of ‘Sweet Caroline’ was put together by our Program Director, Don Kelley.” On Monday Tom Werner called me at the radio station and said he really enjoyed it and can he have a copy? Sure thing.

Last year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway, I put together a video of Fenway shots accompanied by my “Sweet Caroline” mix. I picked a poor year to do it, and today it was announced that they’re dropping the song and replacing it with “At Fenway” by Brian Evans as of next Monday’s home opener. I think I get the reasoning, but nobody will sing along to Brian Evans because nobody knows him or the song. Not yet, anyway.

So if you think you’ll miss hearing the crowd singing to Neil Diamond in the middle of the 8th, click on the video above to remember how much fun it was.

The Walking Man

One day about three years ago I was driving down Oak Street in my hometown of Wellesley MA. On the sidewalk was a man with white hair who looked to be 80-something. He waved me down and I pulled over to see if he needed help of some sort. He said he was fine, but just wanted to ask me about my license plate.

“Are those your initials?” I replied that they are not, that’s the way I spell Kelley. With an EY at the end. I learned years ago that you can’t say, “Kelley…with two E’s” because people will starting writing Keelly. So I got my EY plate. I’ve ben asked about EY on many occasions. Usually I’m asked if I work for Ernst & Young. Once in a while I’ll get a Fonzie from “Happy Days” reference. (Remember he often responded to something with, “Eeeeyyyy!” and there were Eeeeyyy bumper stickers in the 70’s?) The man told me that those are his initials and not many people have them. He said his name was Eddie Yost.

I knew about Eddie Yost. He played for the Washington Senators – the team that is now the Minnesota Twins, not to be confused with the other Washington Senators who became the Texas Rangers. (Note on the above Yost baseball card they called the Senators the “Nats” – the same nickname today’s Washington Nationals use.) Yost was a lead-off guy and specialized in getting on base via walks. His career on-base percentage is higher than Derek Jeter’s. He lead the majors in walks six times, earning himself the nickname The Walking Man. I remember seeing him play on Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC. We actually had 1st row seats that my father got from Sen. Leverett Saltonstall (R-Mass). Yost went 2 for 5 with 2 rbi’s – and a walk – and 1 run scored as the Senators beat the Red Sox.

So I told Eddie Yost that I had worked for many years with Gay Vernon, daughter of Mickey Vernon, two-time AL Batting Champion and his long-time Washington Senators teammate. The Senators – the second version, the ones who moved to Texas – were an expansion team in 1961. Like the original Senators, they were horrible. Lost over 100 games the first several years. The first manager was Mickey Vernon, who was replaced with Eddie Yost. A couple of managers later they hired Ted Williams. This is proof that even a great ballplayer cannot succeed as a manager if the team itself has minimal talent. Eddie Yost subsequently moved to Wellesley and was the Red Sox 3rd base coach for eight seasons. When he got off the merry-go-round and retired he took up restoring antique merry-go-round horses. Eddie Yost, The Walking Man, was a chatty guy when you passed him on the street. This week he passed away at the age of 86.

My take on soccer

This year the media, ESPN in particular, has tried harder than ever to make soccer a big deal in America. It isn’t working.

Certainly the term Soccer Mom has made it into the American lexicon, and no one talks about a Lacrosse Mom or a Softball Mom or a Crew Mom. Except for Sarah Palin no one talks about being a Hockey Mom.

The US was eliminated from the World Cup today by Ghana. Remember who knocked the US out four years ago? Ghana. (Did you know that? Did you know that they hold the World Cup every four years?)

Last night I was watching Sports Center and they were talking about the Team USA game today. They had four anchors, three of them former pro athletes. Every one of them pronounced Ghana “Goo-ana.” Two weren’t sure what continent it is on. To put that in perspective, my daughter did a project about Ghana in 3rd grade – it might even have been 2nd grade. Every kid in the class knew how to say it and where it is. Why don’t the ESPN anchors know? Because they don’t need to know. It isn’t important to them.

We get some e-mails at the radio station asking why we always talk about the Red Sox or Celtics when soccer is the most popular game in the world. Why? Because even though soccer is arguably the most popular game the in world, it clearly isn’t the most popular game in America. And that’s who we’re talking to: Americans.

We have five radio stations on Morrissey Boulevard in Boston. About 225 employees. How many are avid soccer fans? Two morning guys, plus an intern and one Air Personality’s husband. That’s 222-4. 222-2 if you only count paid employees. I randomly asked 25 employees if they could name anyone from Team USA. Only one – the intern – came up with a name.

One more piece of evidence: I’m on Cape Cod this weekend. Around 6PM today I went to Bass River Sports World which is right nearby us. They have miniature golf, a driving range, go carts and right next to each other they have batting cages and a full-sized soccer net.

The photo above shows the batting cages with ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, trying to launch one over an imaginary Green Monster.

This photo of the soccer net, taken ten seconds later, shows absolutely no one trying to bend it like Beckham.

One of the few soccer fans at work accused me of hating soccer. I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it much. The goalies don’t even wear the same uniform as the rest of the team. What’s that all about? Players run back and forth, back and forth, and nobody scores. You have to listen to the constant buzz of the annoying Vuvuzela horns. You’d think it’s the Year of the Cicada. They’re worse than the cowbells at Tropicana Field. (By the way, the old folks in Tampa only ring the cowbells when the scoreboard tells them to.)

The American audience has plenty of exciting pro and college sports to follow, and they just don’t have time for soccer. What would you rather watch? A 103-101 Celtics-Lakers game, a 14-inning 7-6 Red Sox-Yankees game decided by a walkoff at 1AM, or a 0-0 soccer match between Uruguay and Slovenia?

Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world

This isn’t the best Fenway wave I’ve ever seen, but I happened to be in the State Street Pavilion last week and recorded it. Then I felt like writing about waves. Why do people try to start a wave when the other team is up? It usually makes no sense, but this past Saturday night it did.

I was watching the Red Sox game in Baltimore in my mini sports bar setup downstairs. Three HD TV’s with Surround Sound with the Sox game filling the room, plus a laptop with MLBTV showing the Angels-Rangers game. My wife was in the family room watching Lonesome Dove for what seemed like 8 hours.

The game was tied 3-3 at the time, and over the TV’s I could hear a nice loud “Yooouuuuuuk” from the crowd of 39,000 as #20 stepped into the batter’s box. Okay, he stepped halfway into the batter’s box. I have a great view of home plate from Section 29 at Fenway, and in the first or second inning – before the chalk lines are obliterated – it’s easy to see that Youk’s back foot is well out of the box. He never gets called on it, though.

Back to the game. Youk has a chance to put the Sox ahead, and the crowd starts up a very decent wave. The best I’ve ever seen outside of Fenway. I should point out that in my ballgame experience, which includes seeing games at 35 Major League parks, you hardly ever see a wave anywhere but at Fenway. I saw a half-baked one last year in Seattle, but other than that nothing would qualify as even quarter-baked. This one in Baltimore was completely baked (see footnote below), and the reason was that probably 70% of the fans were Red Sox fans.

Why not? It’s a great ballpark, you can fly on AirTran or Southwest for very little money if you book a couple of weeks out, and you can get great tickets directly from the Orioles web site. No need to pay the scalper rates they charge at Stub Hub.

Youk got a hit and drove in a run that put the Sox up 4-3. It eventually turned into what looked like a laugher, with Boston leading 11-3 in the 9th. Things did get a little squeaky in the bottom of the 9th, as the Manny-Ramirez combo (Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez) proceeded to give up back-to-back home runs and then load the bases on walks. Suddenly it’s 11-5, and the tying run is in the hole. Remember, these Orioles were down 10-1 to the Red Sox in the 7th inning back on June 30th and wound up winning the game. Not to worry, though, a double-play ended it and the Sox Magic Number to make the playoffs dropped to 9.

Footnote: The “completely baked” line was lifted from “The Graduate.” When Ben tells his father that he’s going to Berkeley to marry Elaine, his father says, “That’s fantastic. When did you two decide this?” Ben says that Elaine doesn’t actually know yet, and his father responds that the idea sounds half-baked.” Ben’s comeback: “No, it’s completely baked.”.

Enough of this experiment

Future Hall of Famer
Almost every time someone mentions John Smoltz, they add “future Hall of Famer” to his name. The same thing used to happen with Roger Clemens. But when you hang around one year too many, your stats can drop below the unofficial line of demarcation between Hall members and those who don’t make it in. Jim Rice was inducted today, making the cut in his final year of eligibility. Jim’s career batting average was .298. In his final year he was a DH in 56 games and batted only .234, meaning if he had skipped 1989 he would have had a career batting average of .300. If Jim had played 15 years with a career BA of .300 instead of 16 with a career BA of .298 would he have been voted in earlier?

So let’s look at John Smoltz.
Through 2008 he had a winning percentage of .588, ERA of 3.26 over 20 seasons. He had an ERA under 3.50 in 15 of those 20 seasons. After 6 starts in 2009 his ERA is 7.04, more than double that. His record is 1-4, meaning a 2009 winning percentage of .200. The team record is 1-5. He’s had two good starts, although one of them was the game where the bullpen blew a 10-1 lead and they lost, 11-10. He’s had four bad starts. In 30 innings he’s given up 42 hits and 24 runs and been charged with 4 losses. Compare that with Eric Gagne’s record in Boston: 18 innings pitched, 26 hits, 14 runs and 3 blown saves. Hits per inning, runs per inning, and winning percentage – or more accurately, losing percentage – are comparable.

There’s a stage leaving town at 5.
They say that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. But is it? Eric Gagne was lights out as a closer for the Dodgers and won the Cy Young Award in 2003. Of course, that was when he was on The Juice. To get Gagne they gave up pitcher Kason Gabbard, who was 4-0 at the time, and outfielder David Murphy, who is presently batting about 50 points higher than JD Drew. I’d much rather see Murphy in right field for the Red Sox right now than Drew. He’s a better player and much less expensive. Gagne blew three saves in the same weekend, and was so bad they couldn’t wait to put him on the next stagecoach out of Dodge.

So what about Smoltz?
He won a Cy Young with the Braves in 2006, and they didn’t have to give up any hot prospects to get him. But his numbers in Boston are as bad as
Gagne’s. Smoltz, who is as well-spoken as any ballplayer, says that he’s happy with the way he has pitched, but not happy with the results, and he’d like to have couple of pitches back. He needs more than a couple back.

Seriously, how long does this experiment last?
We have Michael
Bowden and Hunter Jones in Pawtucket, both with better numbers than Smoltz. We have Wakefield back in a week and a half or so, and we have Dice-K coming back sometime in August.

Boston is 2-1/2 games behind the Yankees, and they need to put a winning streak together just to keep pace. On August 4th the Sox open a four-game series in the Bronx. Yes, Boston is 8-0 against New York in 2009, and that home run-friendly short porch at Yankee Stadium can work nicely for both teams. But it’s a scary scenario. The Red Sox could go in there down 2-1/2 games and leave down by 6-1/2. Or they could come out up by 1-1/2. If John Smoltz gets one of the starts there, I’m officially worried.

The opening of Big Papi’s Grille

David Otriz is now a restaurateur. (Note, by the way, that the word restaurateur has no N in it.) Big Papi’s Grille is on Route 9 eastbound in Framingham, across from Shopper’s World.

Tonight was the press opening, by invite only. Ming Tsai was there to check out the competition. But the free food and drink were only the icing on the cake. The real fun was mingling with the Red Sox players who were there. The team got home from their horrible road trip last night, and tonight was an off night.

Big Papi was in full bling, with a white coat that had black western-style piping, lapels and elbow patches. He worked the room, chatting with guys and hugging girls. I told him it the place looked great and it was an excellent opening and he thanked me and said he appreciated us coming.

Had a nice chat with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay about their days playing in the Cape Cod League. Jacoby mentioned that the Cape League all-star game that was scheduled for Fenway that night was probably rained out. They both told me they worked at summer camps on the Cape, and I mentioned that my daughter worked at a Yarmouth camp and two YD pitchers worked there as well. One is in the White Sox system. Jacoby guessed a name, but it was wrong. I told them about the 2003 YD-Wareham stat sheet with all those players now in the majors that I wrote about in an earlier blog, and they both knew them. Both of them – Jacoby in particular – were very good at friendly chat and looking you in the eye when they answered.

I met Nick Green, who sat with Kathy while he ate a slider, and told him he had to be the surprise of the year. He definitely enjoyed hearing that. I said, “Welcome back” to Jed Lowrie and he responded, “Thanks, it’s good to be back.” I told Jonathan Papelbon that I was the one who suggested to Tom Bergeron after the 2007 victory parade that they should have him on “Dancing with the Stars.” Tom said they’d love to have Papelbon, and the producer contacted the Sox front office, but it didn’t work out because they rehearse and shoot during the season.

I went up Mike Lowell and introduced myself, saying that my daughter is his favorite. He said, “Oh, yeah?” and I realized I’d said it backward. He’s her favorite. He chuckled and said he appreciated it. On the way out we were handed a bottle of Big Papi En Fuego Hot Sauce (1st base version, meaning mild).

A fun night. They were all nice, and it was only ten minutes from home.

Nomah returns

July 6, 2009…Nomar is playing in a game at Fenway for the first time in almost five years.
The last time was July 25, 2004. It was a 9-6 victory over the Yankees. The day after the big brawl that started when Jason Varitek and A Rod got into it and ended after the benches cleared and Pedro had shoved Don Zimmer to the ground. Nomar, batting 5th behind Manny, went 1 for 5.

A major ovation.
Monday night Nomar lead off the second inning and got what must be the biggest ovation ever for a returning former player. A prolonged standing ovation that required multiple tips of the helmet. Then he stepped into the box, fiddled with his batting gloves, of course, and then did not swing at the first pitch. Probably due to the emotion of the moment.

But after that…
He came up three more times and swung at the first pitch each time. He wound up with two hits. Rocco Baldelli was in right field wearing Nomar’s old #5. On Tuesday night Nomar wasn’t in the lineup, and in the 7th the crowd was chanting “We want No-mar.” He did come out to pinch hit in the 9th, but the guy ahead of him struck out to end the game. On Wednesday he pinch hit and again swung at the first pitch, popping up to Mark Kotsay.

A pitching matchup for the ages.
The other part of the story was the pitching. A’s 22-year-old rookie Brett Anderson, making his major league debut, faced 42-year-old John Smoltz, who was making his Fenway debut as a member of the Red Sox. The A’s shut out the Sox, 6-0. I suspect that by August the “…oltz” in the Sox rotation will start with “Buchh” instead of “Sm”

Blowing a 10-run lead.
Smoltz has had three starts and is 0 and 2, with an ERA of 6.60. The first and third starts were not good. The middle one was the game against the Orioles where Smoltz left after four innings with a 9-1 lead. It was 10-1 Boston in the 7th when the sky opened up, and Baltimore mounted a post-rain delay comeback to win the game, 11-10. The last time the Red Sox had blown a 10-run lead was 20 years ago…June 4, 1989 against the Blue Jays. Boston lead 5-0 after one inning, 8-0 after four, and 10-0 after 6. Toronto came up with 2 in the 7th, 4 more in the 8th and another one in the 9th when closer Lee Smith was summoned with the score 10-7. It was now a save situation. Smith, however, gave up a grand slam to catcher Ernie Whitt and suddenly the 10-run lead was history. Boston tied it in the bottom of the 9th, and it went to the 12th when Junior Felix hit a 2-run homer to put the Jays ahead for good.

How to empty the park in 12 seconds.
Two nights earlier, on Friday June 2nd, I had been at the game with my brother Hugh. Toronto was leading Boston 3-2 in the 9th when Bob Stanley loaded the bases and Junior Felix hit a ball into the triangle in center that turned into an inside-the-park grand slam. It only took Felix 12 seconds to round the bases. The place emptied quickly after that

But back to the future.
NESN showed a montage of former players being welcomed back. When Dwight Evans, after 19 years as #24 for the Red
Sox, returned to Fenway as an Oriole in 1991, he got a very warm reception – worthy of a tip of the cap. Johnny Damon, who left as a traitor defecting to the Evil Empire, got a major wag of the finger in 2006 (credit Stephen Colbert for the tip/wag lines). The wag of the finger actually it was a loud round of booing followed by a louder “Johnny sucks” chant when Carl Beane announced Damon over the PA. Even today, in every at bat when the Yankees are at Fenway, Damon still gets a booing that rivals A Rod’s. Pedro returned as a Met and was so overwhelmed with emotion he didn’t make it to the 3rd. Derek Lowe got an impressive reception. Bill Buckner came back to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day and got a long, standing O. Trot Nixon returned as a Cleveland Indian and got a very respectable ovation. Same for Kevin Millar and Derek Lowe. Todd Walker and Mark Bellhorn returned as pinch-hitters and each got a nice applause. Every former player – as long as they didn’t go to the Yankees – has been warmly welcomed back…but Nomar got the biggest and longest welcome of all. It was a great Fenway moment.