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Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 1999/3 Mar-Chesvan, 5760


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The Red Sox Drive Me Nuts

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT WAS A FOGGY WEEK for me, a homebound shut-in laid low by the worst case of bronchitis Iíve endured since the wild days of 1975.

That was quite an autumn down in Baltimore: My coughing was so severe I had to leave classes for the ruckus it caused. John Barth was sympathetic about my health but still gave me an F on an assignment because it was two days late; I was running the Johns Hopkins News-Letter full-time, while trying to juggle homework, two jobs and an awesome marijuana habit. I split my head open one late night at Goucher College, playing football with my friend Joe Griffith, while high on countless beers and a hit or two of LSD; and I changed the soda machine in the News-Letter office to accommodate Pabst Blue Ribbon in addition to cans of Squirt.

Twenty-four years later, itís a lot worse being sick. For starters, my vices are few: I still smoke, but donít use any illegal substances and drink rarely (although Iím quitting the Merits on Oct. 20, Juniorís seventh birthday, a promise I made while shopping at Brooks Brothers several months ago). Still drink coffee, just as I did back then.

On Greenmount Ave. in Baltimore, there was a very cool Little Tavern outlet, where Iíd stop in at about 10 and Selma would have my cup waiting, along with two mini-cheeseburgers. For such a Norman Rockwell relic, this Little Tavern had an estimable jukebox, and Iíd play David Bowie songs six times in a row each day, annoying the older drunks and truck drivers.

Which brings me around to the Red Sox. What despair in my apartment last Wednesday and Thursday. During the first game against the Injuns, Junior was beside himself when Nomar Garciaparra hit a homer early on. But Pedro Martinez was soon injured and even though Derek Lowe was superb in relief, third-baseman John Valentin, the gameís goat, made a crucial error with two outs, allowing the inevitable: a two-run blast by Jim Thome. I canít stand tv commentators, but Tim McCarver was right when he said you donít allow the Indians a fourth out; their lineup is too powerful. I watched a few more innings and went to bed, thinking Iíd read about a loss the next morning. Sure enough, 3-2 was the margin, and then Bret Saberhagen got clobbered 11-1 that afternoon.

So I was fully expecting an Indians sweep when the playoffs resumed at Fenway Park on Saturday, especially since Nomar was injured. Valentin made another colossal error but redeemed himself at the plate and the Sox won 9-3. And then, Sunday night: a 23-7 explosion for the Bosox, the most runs ever scored in postseason play. My family was going nuts at each run scored, and even MUGGER III stayed up till 9:30 to watch the carnage of the hated Cleveland team. As I write, the deciding game will take place after my deadline on Monday afternoon. Being a lifelong Sox fan, I donít hold out much hope, but at least our guys didnít roll over this year.

Danny Hellman
Bosox fans always get hosed in the end. I canít speak to the battles with the Yanks in the late 40s, but I do remember the heartbreak of the í67 ďImpossible DreamĒ team, which went to seven games in the World Series against a stronger Cardinals squad. I was 12, so it was shattering, but just getting there after such a long drought was somehow reward enough. The Red Sox almost always contended after í67, usually folding in August or September.

Their next Series was in í75, and what a season that was: rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice tearing up the American League, Luis Tiant superb on the mound, a sweep of the Aís in the playoffs and then going up against the odious Cincinnati Reds, with Johnny Bench and Pete Rose just the most despicable stars. But there was Carlton Fisk winning the sixth game with his extra-innings homer, which I celebrated (and collected a slew of $5 bets on) in Hopkinsí Rathskellar. I watched the last game at Bob Rosenwasserís apartment, along with his friend Mr. Bong, and knew it was all over pretty soon, even when the Sox were ahead in the first innings. The energy that Fisk created the night before couldnít sustain the team enough to actually win their first Series since 1918, two years after my father was born.

Roger Clemens owned 1986, but unfortunately the Soxís bullpen didnít. Bill Buckner, with his gimpy legs, shouldíve been taken out of that fatal sixth game against the Mets, but the less said about that year the better.

The team has never really recovered. There have been several postseason appearances, but theyíve won only three games (unless they win tonight). Not to mention some goofy Clemens behavior against Oakland (the guy is not a clutch player), and questionable strategy on the part of the managers. This year, with a relatively crummy offense, the Sox played tough baseball in September, winning games they had no right to, and looked to maybe advance to an AL championship duel against the Yankees.

GM Dan Duquette, whom Iíve blasted in the past, is not a master of diplomacy, but I canít argue with his logic in selecting players: in the off-season, obviously the Sox need to pick up a slugger and two men who can steal bases. (That would be a first.) Then, maybe next year at this time, Iíll have a different report. But probably not.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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©1999, Russ Smith