Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Happy 100th anniversary, Moonlight Graham!

Yes, on June 29, 1905, Moonlight Graham made his one appearance in a Major League Baseball game, playing the outfield for John McGraw's New York Giants. Very few people would care if he hadn't been immortalized in the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Of course, Graham became even more famous when he was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the movie Field of Dreams. And the rest of the story about him as portrayed in the movie was essentially true - he left baseball to get a medical degree and practiced medicine in Chisolm, MN for 50 years. And he liked to buy his wife Alicia blue hats.

A couple of interesting things happened over the weekend. On Saturday night I took R. to see our first game at Campanelli Stadium as the Brockton Rox took on the visiting New Jersey Jackals.

Campanelli is an interesting place. Much like the city of Brockton itself, the ballpark has few frills, with metal stands and 4,750 plastic seats. There are a few luxury boxes at the top of the stadium. There is the usual assortment of concession and souvenir stands. A nice touch that R. really enjoyed was a real cotton candy machine. Most ballparks these days sell pre-made cotton candy, packaged in either a plastic container or a bag. At Campanelli a guy actually moved a paper stick around the cotton candy machine, coming up with a nice, pink sticky blob. Very cool, and very popular since it took us about 15 minutes to get through the line. We were able to follow the game, though, since like many modern minor league ballparks the concourse was at the top of the grandstand so you could see the field while you were getting your snacks.

A couple of nice touches graced Camanelli. First, the Rox (who's motto is "Fun is Good". One of the owners is Mike Veeck, son of Hall of Famer Bill Veeck), retired numbers in honor of Brockton's two boxing legends, Rocky Marciano (#49) and Marvin Hagler (#62). The numbers represent the number of wins each fighter had. Also, shoes hang from the grandstand rafters, recognizing Brockton's role as one of the great shoe manufacturing centers in the world in the 19th century.

The people of Brockton appear to love the Rox, and a crowd of 5,568 attended the game on a steamy summer night. Unfortunately, the Rox had a tough night as they were pounded by the Jackals 19-2. The Rox starter, Mike Henry, gave up six runs in only 2/3 of an inning in the first, and that sent the tone for the rest of the game. But we had a good time, and I can certainly see us attending another Rox game before the season ends.

Sunday night A. and I had a babysitter and we went to see Batman Begins. We were originally planning to see Bewitched, but she read the reviews and suggested that we see Batman instead! Needless to say my arm didn't require much twisting!

I thought the movie was great. The Batman series needed a reboot after the terrible Batman & Robin ended the last series of movies in 1997. This movie takes us through the Dark Knight's origins, from the death of his parents to how he became a fighting machine to where a lot of his gadgets came from.

One thing I loved about this movie was that it actually focused on Batman. The last series of movies seemed to focus a lot more on the villians, like Jack Nicholson's Joker or Jim Carrey's Riddler. The bad guys seemed to be a heck of a lot more interesting than Batman.

Not so with Batman Begins. This is all about Bruce Wayne/Batman, ably played by a relative unknown, Christian Bale. I thought this was another good thing - you weren't thinking about Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer or George Clooney as Batman - you were just thinking about Batman.

The story holds together very nicely. I also think a good idea was to use relatively unknown comic book villians, Ras Al-Ghul and the Scarecrow, as opposed to bad guys who are well known from the old Batman TV series.

I also liked the fact that Gotham looked like a real place. Gotham City in the previous movies looked like some kind of wierd Gothic idea of a city, not someplace anyone would want to live. This Gotham looked like New York or Chicago on a really, really bad day.

There were a couple of problems. I thought the budding romance between Wayne/Batman and Rachel (Katie Holmes) fell flat. The ending was OK, but the threat posed by the League of Shadows just seemed unfocused somehow. Overall, though, I thought this was the best Batman movie yet, and I highly recommend seeing it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Great night for baseball on TV tonight. We have the Sox vs. the Phillies on UPN38, Mets-Yankees on ESPN and Braves-Orioles on TBS. All games affecting the Sox, and all having the right results as I read this, with the Sox leading in the 6th 6-0, the Mets up 5-2 in the 5th and the Braves leading 7-1 in the 3rd. Needless to say, the clicker is getting a good workout tonight.

One story I wanted to write down before I forgot it. Peter Gammons was telling this one about Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson. While the Nats were still in Montreal, a reporter approached Robinson and the following conversation ensued.

Reporter: Do you think Gary Carter would make a good manager?
Robinson: Gary Carter? Carter hasn't managed a day in his life! Why do you think he would make a good manager?
Reporter: Well, Carter is a Hall of Famer and you're a Hall of Famer.
Robinson: No. I'm a Hall of Famer. He's in the Hall of Fame.

Yikes! Why don't you say how you really feel, Frank?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Went to the Pawsox last night with J. and a friend of his, plus his friend's father. It was a perfect night at McCoy for baseball, not too hot, not humid at all. To make it even more perfect, the Pawsox came up with a 4-3 come from behind win. We got to see Red Sox second base phenom Dustin Pedroia make his Triple-A debut. I can see why the Sox are so high on him. He really looks like he knows how to play the game. He went 1 for 4 with a double, and also flew out to the warning track. He's also got a very good arm for a second baseman - he actually came up as a shortstop. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this guy up in Boston before the end of the year, especially if Bellhorn continues to struggle.

We had a very nice time at Storyland in New Hampshire this weekend, although I have very little to say about the place that's different than last year's trip. It was raining when we arrived on Saturday afternoon, so we went to see the animated movie Madagascar. It was cute and had a few funny lines, but was certainly no match for the Shrek movies or any of the Pixar films. It was a nice diversion for an hour and a half, though, and the remainder of the weekend was sunny and warm.

The proudest moment of the weekend was certainly R. walking around Storyland under her own power for the entire 7 hours we spent in the park. According to my pedometer we walked about 4 miles, which is by far the longest she's been on her feet since the surgery. She was tired and sore by the end of the day, but she recovered pretty quickly.

Line of the weekend: we pulled into a full-service gas station in North Conway to fill the tank. The guy at the station asked me what kind of gas I wanted then started filling the tank. J. asked me, "Why is he doing that?" I almost always pump my own gas, and he had probably never seen a full service gas station!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I know I haven't posted in a few days, but we went up to the Storyland amusement park up in New Hampshire for a long weekend. We all had a great time, and it was great to get away from reality for a bit.

J. and I are off to the Pawsox tomorrow night with a friend of his and his father. I'll post about the game, New Hampshire and other random thoughts later in the week.

One question, though. How can Nomah be third in the National League All-Star balloting for shortstop? The guy played, what, 10 games this year, and was injury plagued in a subpar season last year. Do some people really just vote for the guy they've heard of?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Well, yesterday was a interesting day, to say the least.

I had my first appointment with the endicrinologist who will be managing my post-op radiation treatments. It turns out the process is a lot more involved than I thought it was going to be.

First, I'm going to have to stop taking the thyroid replacement that I have been on since the surgery, and start on a low iodine diet at the beginning of July. The diet won't be too hard to take, but I'm worried about being off the thyroid pill. I'm already more tired than I should be with the dose I'm on, and I don't know what will happen when I'm off it. The doctor told me that 85% of people are able to get through the day without the pill, but 15 % end up on disability. According to some research A. did online, most of the people who really have trouble are elderly or have other medical problems, but I'm still a bit nervous.

After two weeks of this, I have to do an ultrasound and a scan that is going to make me radioactive for a couple of days. This means I'm going to have to stay at least 6 feet away from the kids. A week later, I have the actual radioactive iodine treatment, which involves taking a pill. I'll be radioactive for an additional five days. A. and I are discussing how we're going to manage this, but the short answer is that I'm just going to have to stay away from the kids for a few days. I'll probably have to drive to work as well, since I don't want to sit next to people on the train.

Finally, I'll have to have another scan a week after the radiation treatment. After that, it should all be over exept for adjusting my new thyroid replacement pill to get me to the right level.

All that threw me into a major funk, so it was a good thing I was going to Fenway to see the Sox play the Cincinnati Reds after work. I hooked up with Bismo, who was having his own problems (click on the link to his blog for more info).

Fortunately, our spirits were raised by the fact Bronson Arroyo pitched a great game, going 7 innings and giving up only one run. The Sox offense was paced by David Ortiz, who had two doubles and three RBI. They won 6-1, sweeping the woeful Reds (now 6-24 on the road this season). Cincinnati played an awful game on defense, with Wily Mo Pena muffing a soft liner to right field (which was inexplicably ruled a hit) and third baseman Luis Lopez getting an error on a fairly easy chance at 3rd.

One new Fenway discovery was the first base roof deck, which is on top of the new addition they made to the park for expanded clubhouse and workout facilities over the winter. The deck is a nice quiet place where you can hang out, talk and enjoy a drink, and it wasn't very crowded. The Sox continue to make great changes to Fenway - sometimes it's something dramatic like the Green Monster seats, but other times it's small things that just make the ballpark a more pleasant and comfortable place to be.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tim Wakefield pitched a gem last night against the Cubs (7 innings, no runs), salvaging the last game of the series at Wrigley. This stat comes from the Boston Globe: Wakefield, in eight games pitching to Mirabelli, is 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA. In four games pitching to Varitek he was 0-4 with a 8.86 ERA.

The white-hot Washington Nationals (10 game winning streak) passed the 1 million mark in attendance for the season over the weekend. Not only that, they surpassed the all-time DC attendance record for a season!. None of the old Washington Senators/National teams ever drew more people in a season than the Nationals have drawn in 2005 through only 33 games.

We blew off the Worcester Tornadoes game we had tickets for this weekend. It was just too hot (90+ degrees) and the pool was just too enticing. Probably a good decision, since we can always catch a game another time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Sox are playing the Cubs in a game that means something for the first time since the 1918 World Series. Interestingly, it's the Red Sox first trip to Beautiful Wrigley Field. The 1918 World Series games in Chicago were played at Comiskey Park, which had a higher seating capacity.

I'd love to be out at Wrigley today with a bratwurst and an Olde Style beer. Actually, that sounds like a good idea whether the Sox are there or not.

A lot has been made of the Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat as compared to the Red Sox recently broken Curse of the Bambino. Which one is worse? If you ask me, I think the Cubs World Series drought is much worse. At least the Red Sox have gotten close a few times before finally winning it last year. The Cubs haven't even been to the World Series since 1945. They didn't have two consecutive seasons over .500 between 1971-'72 and 2003-'04. They did get close to winning the NL Pennant a couple of times, notably in 1984, when they blew a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 NLCS and in 2003 in the infamous Steve Bartman game.

Speaking of Bartman, I remember saying to people the day after the game that I was glad I wasn't a Cubs fan that day. Little did I realize the horror that awaited us in game 7 in Yankee Stadium.

I guess you could make an argument that the Sox curse has been worse, since they've snatched defeat from the jaws of victory so many times. Personally, I'd rather be a contending team most of the time like the Red Sox than pretty much stink for the better part of six decades like the Cubs. The Sox have been in contention pretty consistently since 1967, making the post-season 10 times since then. The Cubs have only been in the post-season 4 times since 1945.

One last thing. How come no one talks about a White Sox curse? The South Siders haven't won the Series since 1917. Now I don't believe in curses, but none of this stuff has ever taken hold with the White Sox. That may speak well to the practicality of White Sox fans, or it may just be that they don't have the "lovable losers" tag that has followed the Cubs around and they haven't failed as spectacularly as the Red Sox.

Unfortunately, the Sox got beat 14-6. Greg Maddux hit a home run today, his first since 1999. Chicks dig the long ball!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Quite a busy weekend, as we suddenly veered from cold and rainy to hot and sunny. We even went to the pool today, and the kids had a blast there.

The highlight of the weekend was R.'s "bridge" ceremony, where she graduated from Daisies to Brownies Girl Scouts. She's really into the whole Girl Scout's thing and she's looking forward to Brownies next year. Her eyes really lit up when she heard the leader say that Brownies go camping! I, of course, consider "roughing it" to be no cable TV.

J. also had two baseball games this weekend, the next to last week of the season. He's really growing to love the game, and he's really working hard on getting the fundamentals down.

Last night A. and I took our second annual trip to the Pawsox luxury box at McCoy Stadium. Much more affordable than a Fenway box, we rented a large box this year and had 30 people there. There was good company, ballpark food (hot dogs and hamburgers and such) and even a great ending to the game. The Pawsox were down 5-4 going into the bottom of the 9th, thanks to Pawsox first baseman Roberto Petagine Bucknering a hard grounder right through his legs in the 7th inning with the bases loaded, leading to 3 unearned runs. In the last of the 9th, Luis Figueroa led off with a home run to tie the game. The Pawsox managed to get 2 men on with two out, and then Justin Sherrod hit a walkoff three-run homer to win the game! A great ending that sent the big crowd of 10,733 home happy.

Thanks to The Hey for arranging the box again this year!

Today J. and I went to a card show in Marlborough and I got two more autographs on my Pawsox All-Time Team card set - Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd and Marty Barrett. Both of these guys were members of the ill-fated 1986 American League Champions, and it was cool to get to meet them. I've now got 11 of the 30 cards in the set autographed.

Finally, the interesting fact of the day. With the Washington Nationals win over the Florda Marlins today, they are 1/2 game up in 1st place in the N.L. East. This marks the latest point in the season a Washington-based team has been in first place since the 1933 Washington Senators! Now, of course there hasn't been a team in Washington since 1971, but that's still 38 years when there was a team. Pretty amazing.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

We had a teriffic night in the Monster Seats last nigh. In fact, everything was great except the game itself, which the Sox lost 9-3. Tim Wakefield had a rough night, as a flat knuckleball led to home runs by Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa and Geronimo Gil. Terry Fancona took some heat as well. He removed Jason Varitek from the game after the 6th inning and brought in rookie Kelly Shoppach with the Sox down 7-0. Bismo commented that, "He's giving up." We all agreed that if Shoppach came up in a critical situation later in the game instead of Varitek, Tito would get killed by the Fellowship of the Miserable on WEEI the next day. Well, wouldn't you know it: the Sox score 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th and the kid comes up with the bases loaded and two out with all of 5 major league at-bats under his belt. Predictibly, he grounded out to 2nd and ended the rally. Francona's substiution was the first topic I heard on the radio this morning.

Aside from the game we had a wonderful time. The atmosphere in the Monster Seats is so great. They've got to be the best seats in baseball. And the company, with Bismo, Sue and The Hey was great.

The evening was enhanced by a couple of, um, interesting experiences. The first one occurred just after I had arrived at the ballpark. I met up with Bismo and The Hey on Yawkey Way, and we went up to meet Sue at the seats. As we went up the stairs, Dave discovered that he had misplaced his ticket, and they don't let you up in the Monster Seats without your ticket. We thought we'd retrace their steps, starting with a Red Sox ring lottery table that they had stopped at to check out the ring. Bismo and I cut through the Monster Seats down to the right field concourse, while Dave took the long way around.

We asked the young ladies at the table if they had seen the ticket, and they hadn't. Bismo and I were talking about what to do next when The Hey came walking up. We told him the ticket wasn't at the table, but he said nothing and walked right by us. He then stopped at a trash can, stuck his hand in, and pulled out his ticket! Our jaws just hit the ground. It was like a magic trick. The Hey explained that while he was walking over he remembered that he had meant to throw out the envelope the ticket had come in, but had thrown out the ticket instead. Still, it was amazing. I think that if I had seen a no-hitter or a 4 home run game that evening, I couldn't have been more impressed.

Not nearly as impressive, the second odd thing happened just seconds before the first pitch. A girl sitting in the section next to us managed to drop her cell phone off the Green Monster onto the warning track in left-center field. We started shouting at Johnny Damon, "Johnny! There's a phone on the field!" Johnny heard us, retrieved the phone and tossed it to Manny, who gave it to the ball girl. No idea whether the girl got her phone back, though.

I had a really great experience earlier in the day as well. The Hey and I attended the inaugural event of The Great Fenway Park Writers Series. It was held at lunch time in the Hall of Fame Club at Fenway, and featured a presentation by Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy on his book, Reversing the Curse. The lunch was very nice, and included salads, hot dogs, chicken fingers, sausages soda and desert. After lunch and an introduction by Sox P.R. head Dr. Charles Steinberg, Shaughnessy gave a short presentation about the book and then took questions. The whole thing was very entertaining and the atmosphere in the Hall of Fame Club was great. I even ended up with an autographed copy of the book. As a huge baseball book fan, I really enjoyed the event and I'm looking forward to more.

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