By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
A SUNDAY IN SEPTEMBER
On the last Sunday in September I was visiting with my sister and brother-in-law on Cape
Cod while I recovered from minor surgery (although, to be honest, I subscribe to the
theory that it’s never minor when someone gets sliced open, then sewn back up,
especially when that someone they’re slicing and sewing is me). In any case, I’m fine, but
I was in Osterville for the weekend. I’m a baseball guy and my brother-in-law, another
Dick, leans toward football. The Patriots and the Red Sox were both on TV, but there was
no immediate choice to be made, the Pats’ game started at 1 and the Sox didn’t begin
In the early stages of the football game it looked like another runaway for New England,
as they got off to an early 13-0 lead, but the Patriots’ offense stalled and the Buffalo Bills
started mounting a comeback. By the time the Sox game was starting, the Bills and Pats
were in the midst of a tension-filled battle, and there was no question that we were going
to stick with the football game over the early innings of a meaningless baseball contest.
When the football game ended with the Pats winning by a closer-than-expcted 16-10
score we switched the channel, but not to the Sox game. We tuned into Patriots’ 5 th
Quarter, which features post game analysis and interviews with key personnel. I had no
objection beause I am hooked on Patriots’ 5th Quarter, not for the information we get, but
for that we don’t get. Coach Bill Belichick approaches post-game media appearances
looking like he’d rather have a tooth pulled than go through another one. He manfully
stands before the cameras and imparts as little information as possible. While various
commentators and analysts parse every significant play down to its tiniest detail, the guy
who knows more about what happened than anyone else tells us nothing. I find it
mesmerizing, almost entertaining as the game itself.
Tom Brady, who had not had a good day, particularly by his lofty standards, followed
Belichick to the microphone. He had completed only 18 of 39 passes for just 150 yards,
earning him the poorest quarterback rating he’d scored in thirteen years. Nobody asked
him the question that was on everyone’s mind but that no one wanted to think about:
Could it be an omen that his long-running greatness might finally be running out of
When we finally flipped onto NESN and the Sox-Orioles, it was late in the game and thus
in the season, which was ending that day for both teams, as neither qualified for the
playoffs. But it was not too late to witness the best defensive and offensive plays of the
In the bottom of the eighth, with one man on, two out, and the score tied at 4-4, Jackie
Bradley, Jr. unleashed a long drive to right field that seemed ticketed for the visiting
bullpen. But Stevie Wilkerson, playing right for the Orioles, raced back to the bullpen
wall, leaped high, and snagged the ball in the webbing of his glove as his momentum
carried him over the edge of the bullpen and into Section One of the grandstand where it
looked like he might suffer a dangerous fall. Somehow, though, he swung his right leg
over, his foot landing atop the short retaining wall in front of the stands. He was able to
right himself and hop back onto the field, the ball still safely in his glove. It was the catch
of the year, no doubt. In fact, Dwight Evans, who knows about such things and has eight
Gold Gloves to prove it, texted within minutes that it was the greatest catch he had ever
Wilkerson, a utility player for a team that would lose as many games (108) in 2019 as the
Red Sox won in their record setting year of 2018, had shown the competitive instinct to
pull off the most spectacular defensive play of the year in an otherwise meaningless final
game of the season. But the season was not yet over.
In the bottom of the ninth, score still tied, Mookie Betts led off with a base on balls. Then
Rafael Devers hit a ground ball to the right of second base that ticked off the glove of
shortstop Richie Martin and on into short right field. Mookie rounded second and headed
for third. And that’s when it got interesting. Right fielder Wilkerson, the same guy who
had saved the game just an inning before, jogged in to retrieve the ball and casually
lobbed it back to the infield. No need to expend extra energy, after all, the play was over.
Wasn’t it? No, it wasn’t.
When Betts got to third and looked back to see Wilkerson’s lackadasical lob, he took off
for home, easily beating the relay throw with a headfirst slide. He had scored all the way
from first base on a routine groundball single to short right field.
Thus ended the otherwise disappointing 2019 Red Sox baseball season, with Mookie
Betts behind home plate, pounding his chest and roaring in jubilation as the ecstatic
Fenway faithful roared back at him.
Is this our last memory of Mookie in a Red Sox uniform? Trade rumors are swirling
around him as the Sox face an uncertain future beset with luxury tax and contractual
problems. In any case, it’s a play that anyone who witnessed will never forget.
And what of Stevie Wilkerson who had saved the game for the Orioles in the eighth
inning and then cost them the game in the ninth by taking Mookie Betts for granted? Of
this we can be sure, he’ll never take Mookie for granted again. And neither will we.
September 29 th was a lovely day, perfect for an outdoor activity; but, as my brother-in-
law and I both agree, it was an even better day to be parked in front of a television screen.