By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
OLD FRIENDS AND BASEBALL
I went to a Red Sox/Astros ballgame recently with Al Hunt, my pal of more than half a
century. Joining us was David Shribman, who recently retired as executive editor of the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All three of us love baseball, so it was a great opportunity to
watch a meaningful game between two excellent teams and to just talk baseball for a few
Al and I don’t see nearly enough of each other these days. We have been friends since the
nineteen sixties (that’s a long time ago, boys and girls), when I was the press secretary for
candidate and then mayor of Boston Kevin White and Al was a young reporter in the
Boston Bureau of the Wall Street Journal. We shared an apartment on Tremont Street in
Boston where we spent an inordinate amount of time selecting coffee table books which
we thought might impress young ladies we hoped to lure up to the place. It was, alas, all
for naught. Too bad for those girls, we had a top-notch collection of coffee table books.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before the Journal moved Al to Washington where he
distinguished himself as a reporter, Washington bureau chief, and columnist. In 2005 he
became a columnist for Bloomberg News from which he retired at the end of last year.
He’s done a boatload of television through the years, and he’s covered and analyzed
everything from Watergate to Bill Clinton’s impeachment to the roller-coaster ride of the
Trump presidency. Oh, and along the way he married Judy Woodruff of PBS. Somehow
through it all he managed to find time to keep our friendship up to date and vibrant.
So there we were, in our seats at Fenway Park where, after a rain delay, the game began
and we set about the serious business of talkin’ baseball. David (no slouch himself at the
journalism game, he won a Pulitzer Prize while with the Boston Globe in 1995), is a
north shore native. He came of age as a Red Sox fan during the Impossible Dream season
of 1967, and he was, and still is, a Carl Yastrzemski devotee. We wondered how the great
Red Sox outfield of the seventies, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Dwight Evans, would match
up against the current triumvirate of Andrew Bennintendi, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and
Mookie Betts (consensus: Rice/Lynn/Evans on offense, Bennintendi/Bradley/Betts in the
field; Rice/Lynn/Evans overall; at least that’s my take, but stay tuned). We talked about
the fact that this seems to be an age of great third basemen (Nolan Arenado of the
Rockies, Alex Bregman with the Astros, Matt Chapman of Oakland, and how Rafael
Devers, with a little more consistency in the field, could move into that group (no one
mentioned Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., who appears to be moving up fast on the outside).
Then someone brought up that twenty years ago was an age of great shortstops, with
Derek Jeter, a lead-pipe cinch to be elected to the Hall of Fame next year when he
becomes eligible; Alex Rodriguez, who would have been a lead-pipe cinch had he not got
entangled with steroids then compounded his sin by trying to cover it up; and Nomar
Garciaparra, who might have been the best of them all until nagging injuries got the
better of him.
It was wonderful, three old guys, sitting together in the ballpark, talkin’ baseball on what
turned out to be, once the rain stopped, a perfect Sunday afternoon. No one even
mentioned Donald Trump, so that in itself made it a pretty good day.
Only one problem; none of us talked much about, or paid enough attention to, the game
that was right in front of us, which was a really good one. The Red Sox broke on top
when they scored a run in the first, but Houston came right back to tie it in the second. In
the third Carlos Correa homered to center to put the Astros up by two. Then in the fifth
Michael Chavis hit one of his patented long flies (it should be landing any minute now),
and Bogaerts singled Mookie home to tie it up again. The three of us were all aware of
what was was happening on the field but, to be honest, at least in my case, anyhow, we
were paying more attention to ourselves and to our chatter than to the game.
By the end of the fifth inning it was getting late because of the rain delay and Al and
David had to leave to get ready for a black tie dinner at the Kennedy Library, so I was left
alone - well, not really alone if you count the other 36,000 people in the ballpark. And I
had the ballgame to keep me company. I paid strict attention as the Sox wriggled out of a
bases loaded jam in the sixth and as Bogaerts hit a ringing double to score Betts with the
eventual game-winner in the seventh. Chris Sale, although he had trouble with his
command, struck out 10 over 5.2 innings, and the bullpen held the Astros hitless to close
out the game. The other guys missed the last four innings as well as – like I did - most of
the first five. But we’d all had a great day.
When it was over, I headed home, a happy camper. The Red Sox had beaten the fearsome
Astros to avoid a sweep, and I had spent quality time with great friends. One of those
friends is the game of baseball. I have never felt alone or lonely when there is a ballgame
going on. Baseball has been a boon companion of mine for a long, long time. I’ve been
frustrated by it plenty of times, and I’ve even occasionally been angry - but never lonely.
As for my old friend Al Hunt, he’s gone back to Washington where he has season tickets
for the Nationals’ games, so I know that he’s frustrated.