Musings: I Care, But Not That Much

By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

I CARE, BUT NOT THAT MUCH

So there I was, in my usual Sunday afternoon position at this time of year, sprawled out

on the couch with both feet up on the coffee table in front of me. I was watching the

Patriots game, which had just ended. Well, in hadn’t officially ended, but it was over.

Wasn’t it?

After all, there were only seven seconds left on the clock and the Miami Dolphins,

trailing by 5 points, had the ball way back on their own 31 yard line. There was just

enough time to launch one last, desperate, heave – and it was too far from the end zone

for a Hail Mary pass. So it was all over, right?

I had already turned my attention to the most important decision facing me that day –

whether to watch the 4:30 game or tackle the Sunday crossword puzzle. Then the Miami

quarterback fired a pass only about 20 yards downfield and nowhere near the sideline.

Game over. But wait, the receiver caught it and lateraled to another guy who lateraled to

a third guy. This was exactly the play I had drawn up as a ten-year old playing touch

football on the street in front of our house. The third guy managed to wriggle away from

a tackle and suddenly he was racing down the sideline with the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski

in hot pursuit – well, maybe not “hot” pursuit; it was more like luke-warm pursuit. If

Gronk on offense sometimes looks like he could walk on water, on this occasion he

looked like he was trying to run under water. The guy with the ball waltzed into the end

zone and promptly heaved the ball into the stands in the same fashion that the guy in the

TV commercial throws his wallet into the river - and, eventually, with the same amount

of regret.

Astoundingly, the Patriots had lost. One can only imagine the amount of pretzels and

throw pillows that were hurled in the direction of TV screens all across New England at

that very moment; and that’s to say nothing of the number of wives who raced into their

kitchens to guard the knife drawers from distraught husbands.

As for me, stunned though I was, I held my usual position; sprawled on the couch, with

my feet on the coffee table. Don’t get me wrong, I was rooting for the Pats; I always do.

My mind raced quickly through the “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” that brought them

to that point. If only Belichick hadn’t replaced Devin McCourty with Gronkowski at

safety on that last play; if only Tom Brady hadn’t suffered a brain cramp at the end of the

first half and taken a sack, allowing time to run out, when they could have scored an easy

field goal from the two yard line; if only Steven Gostkowski hadn’t missed an extra point

and a chip shot field goal earlier in the game. Gee, just think how much better off the

New England Patriots would be if they didn’t have Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and

Steven Gostkowski constanty dragging them down.

Oh, I felt bad about the freak loss, but I wasn’t suicidal. The fact is that I have never had

the emotional connection to the Pats that I do with the Red Sox. I’m not sure why that’s

so, but it is. The night the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs I threw my glasses at the

TV set, damaging their frame in such a way that they never fit comfortably again. The

worst time for me was 2003, when, in the eleventh inning of the seventh game of the

ALCS, Aaron Boone of the dreaded Yankees hit a home run that snatched defeat from the

jaws of victory. “There’s a long drive to left field! It’s going, going,” – click. The TV

was off before the ball ever landed. It did not get turned on again to a sports or news

program for another week. I didn’t – couldn’t – read a newspaper. I spent the next week

reading nothing but escapist novels. I didn’t even call anyone to commiserate. I thought,

“I’m in my sixties and it’s never going to happen; they’ll never win a championship in

my lifetime.” I was, in a word, a mess.

Then, the very next year, the Sox won it all in the most unlikely way possible. Now I ask

myself if they’ll ever lose another World Series in my lifetime.

But back to the Patriots and my lack of emotional connection with them. Maybe it’s

because in my growing-up years the Patriots didnt exist. I was already out of college

before they played their first game. There are no childhood football heroes, pigskin

versions of Dominic DiMaggio or Ted Williams, in my DNA. Maybe it’s that for so long

the Pats seemed like a minor league operation, and not a very good one at that. Or maybe

its the sense of corporate detachment that seems to emanate fom Foxboro nowadays. For

most of the country, rooting for the Patriots is like rooting for Facebook. Then again,

maybe it’s because I’m just one of those one of guys who still likes baseball more than

football.

That being said, when they play next weekend, I’ll be back on the couch, watching. Tom

Brady is the Ted Williams of this generation. He’s an historic sports figure, and it’s a

privilege just to watch him in action. Fifty years from now people will be talking about

how they saw him play, the same way that people today talk about having seen Bobby

Orr. Come to think of it, at the rate he’s going, fifty years from now Brady might still be

playing. There’ll be headlines asking, “Has Ninety-One Year Old Tom Brady Lost a

Step?”

And fifty years from now I might still be sprawled on the couch with my feet on the

coffee table. I’ll be long dead, but I might still be there.

Musings: Life Is Good

By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

LIFE IS GOOD

As the month of December opened, I was reminded of a couple things: first, when the

Red Sox win, the Red Sox rule. They dominate everything else in this town; and second,

Boston has some pretty cool venues in addition to Fenway Park.

On the first Monday of the month I was at the Colonial Theatre (now officially the

Emerson Colonial) for the premier showing of the official 2018 World Series

documentary. It was the first time I’d been in the old theatre since it reopened this past

summer after undergoing extensive renovations, and let me tell you something – the old

girl looks more than pretty good; she looks great!

The oldest continuing operating theater in Boston - and the most beautiful - the Colonial

first opened its doors in December of 1900. That makes it not only twelve years older

than Fenway Park, but it’s even older than the Red Sox themselves. The team wasn’t

born until 1901. The first production at the Colonial was Ben Hur, and it featured eight

horses on stage in the famous horse race scene. One can imagine the sight of them must

have brought the house down, but it’s hard to believe that it got a bigger reaction than the

appearance on-stage of Red Sox manager Alex Cora with the World Series trophy under

his arm.

Back in 1943 the Colonial was the site of a pre-Broadway try-out of a new musical called

Away We Go, written and composed by two veterans of the stage teaming together for the

first time. Their names were Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hamerstein II, and during the

Boston run of the show they decided to change its name to Oklahoma. The rest, as they

say, is history.

But back to more recent history, the showing of World Series documentary. If you ever

want to have a good time, get 1700 friends together and show the CD. The whooping and

hollering in the theater that night was almost like being at the ballpark; and it’s not like

no one knew how it was going to turn out (spoiler alert: it has a happy ending). The show

even comes with villains for everyone to boo. There is, for example, that staple of

baseball bad guys, Alex Rodriguez. He has become baseball’s Bela Lugosi, the

personification of all that is evil. He’s always sure to raise the hackles of the crowd. And

now he’s joined by a new villain the crowd loves to hate: Manny Machado. He earned as

many boos and catcalls when his image appeared on-screeen as did A-Rod, and that’s

saying something.

The documentary is terrific, and getting to see it at the Emerson Colonial was a

memorable experience.

Two nights after the documentary showing I was at another pretty good Boston venue

that has a little history of its own, Symphony Hall. A National Historic Landmark, it’s

even older than the Colonial, but only by two months.

The occasion was the annual A Company Christmas at Pops, the kick-off to the

orchestra’s annual Christmas concerts which have for many years been a great Boston

tradition. The orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus never sounded better. And

where better them to hear them at than Symphony Hall, world famous for its acoustics.

Getting to recite Teddy at the Bat there several years ago with the full orchestra in back

of me was the thrill of a lifetime.

But, you may ask, what has all that got to do with the Red Sox? First of all, at one point

conductor Keith Lockhart stepped forward to announce that the next song, Sleigh Ride,

first made popular by a Pops recording in 1949, would be led by a special guest

conductor. And who should appear on stage but Red Sox broadaster Jerry Remy, who has

morphed in recent years from a popular celebrity to a revered folk hero because of the

manner in which he has navigated so many problems, both health and otherwise, with

grit, determination, and good humor. Jerry took the baton in hand, and he did not

disappoint. Never has the orchestra been conducted by anyone with more dance moves.

The crowd roared in approval.

How could you top that? Well, a little later in the program Maestro Lockhart stepped

forward once again. It was time for the traditional recitation of ‘Twas the Night Before

Christmas (actual title, A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement Moore. Onto the stage,

bathed in a huge ovation, marched Alex Cora. I’m telling you, the guy is everywhere

these days. Judging from the reception he got from the more than two thousand music

and Red Sox lovers in the hall, I’d venture to say that Marty Walsh is lucky that the

mayoral election was last year and not this. Cora is the most popular guy in town, even

more popular than Jerry Remy. Then he proceeded to recite Moore’s classic poem in

Spanish. The audience loved it even though most of us didn’t know what the devil he was

saying, except for when he recited the names of Santa’s reindeer. Dasher and Dancer and

Prancer and Vixen are the same in any language.

Being in Symphony Hall is like watching a game in Fenway Park. You are surrounded by

history and tradition everywhere you look. The greatest artists of more than a century

have been on that stage, and the greatest ballplayers of all time have played on the field at

Fenway Park. Add the Emerson Colonial Theatre with all of its history to the mix, and

you have the elements of what makes Boston unique. To have had the opportunity to

experience all of it in a period of just forty-eight hours is something special.

The Emerson Colonial is still is back and going strong; Symphony Hall and the Boston

Pops have never been better; and the Red Sox are World Series champions.

Life is good.

Musings: A Few Odds and Ends

By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

A FEW ODDS AND ENDS

* There was a standing-room-only crowd on November 30 th at the Grove Manor

Estates assisted living facility in Braintree. People were there to celebrate a great baseball

institution.

Mary Pratt turned 100 years old.

Mary was a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was

immortalized a quarter of a century ago in the movie, A League of Their Own.

A left-handed pitcher, she played from 1943-1947 for the Rockford, Illinois, Peaches and

the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Comets. In ’44 she won 21 games for Kenosha, including a no-

hitter. Previously she had played for the Boston Olympets, a long-forgotten team that

played its home games at, of all places, the Boston Garden. Following her five years with

the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League she resumed her teaching career,

which lasted for 48 years, mostly for the Quincy Public School System. She also spent

fifty years officiating softball, basketball, field hockey and lacrosse games. In addition,

she served on the AAGPBL board of directors. A life well-spent.

Her suitcase from her time with the AAGPBL, adorned with stickers of the places she

visited, is housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. To

honor her centennial, the Red Sox sent a goody-bag that featured a World Series t-shirt, a

Red Sox cap, and a Xander Bogaerts bobble-head doll.

Like Fenway Park, Mary has reached triple digits in age and is more beloved than ever.

* I wonder if ballplayers realize the impact that even small gestures can have on

people. The other day, while speaking in Somerville, I asked those in the audience who

their favorite player was. A woman in the second row immediately raised her hand; she

said, “Dustin Pedroia.” When I asked why, she explained that some years ago, to

celebrate her mother’s 82 nd birthday, she took her to a Red Sox game. They were seated

behind the dugout while some of the players were warming up before the game, and she

called out to Pedroia that it was her mother’s birthday. Pedroia looked at her mother,

smiled, and mouthed the words, “Happy birthday.” I’m sure he has long forgotten the

incident, but that woman and her mother will never forget it.

* The Big Fella, Jane Leavy’s riveting book on Babe Ruth and the ground-breaking

way he was marketed to the American public, is the ideal Christmas gift for anyone who

likes baseball and/or American history. Reading it brought to mind a posthumous story

about the Babe that I have never seen in print. There are two statues on display at The

National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; one is of Babe Ruth and the

other is of Ted Williams. Each was sculpted out of a single piece of basswood by

renowned artist, Armand LaMontagne.

LaMontagne once told me that when he was commissioned to do the Ruth statue, one of

his first chores was research. He studied hundreds, if not thousands of photos of Babe in

action; and he noticed that in some pictures the Yankee cap he was wearing appeared to

have a white button on its crown while in other photos photos it did not. None of the

other Yankee players seemed to have a white buton on his cap. He checked with the

Yankee office and was assured that their caps never had a white button, that the button

was always the same color as the cap itself. That’s the way LaMontagne sculpted it.

In 1984, when it came time to unveil the finished work of the Babe taking his stance at

home plate, a preview unveiling was held for Babe’s daughter, Julia, George

Steinbrenner, and a few baseball bigwigs. When the sheet covering was pulled back,

Ruth’s daughter had one comment. She said, “Where’s his gum?” Apparently when he

came up to bat he’d take out his chewing gum and plunk it on the top of his cap.

Incidentally, if you ever want to see footage of Ted Williams overcome by emotion,

check out on YouTube his reaction at the unveiling of his statue at the Hall of Fame.

* Did you know that Bing Crosby once looked into buying the Boston Braves?

Neither did I, but, according to a new biography, Bing Crosby Swinging on a Star: The

War Years, 1940-1946, that’s what happened during World War II when the team was

known as the Boston Bees and was managed by Casey Stengel (before Casey became a

genius; it’s amazing what good players can do for a manager’s reputation). But

commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, taking note of the fact that Crosby owned and

bred race horses, put the kibosh on the deal before it ever got off the ground. Later, after

he got out of the horse racing business, Crosby did buy a 14% interest in the Pittsburgh

Pirates. Nowadays baseball is proud to do business with gambling interests. Times

change.

* Do you think that Bryce Harper will regret turning down the Washington

Nationals’ $300 million offer? That’s 30 big ones a year for ten years, guaranteed! I think

he’ll rue the day he didn’t snap it up. He’s young yet, only 26, but he’s got a career

batting average of .279, only .249 in 2018. He’s got power, but if this year’s market for

free agents is as lousy as last year’s, my guess is that he’ll be spending a lot of time this

winter waiting for the phone to ring.

* It’s no surprise that Craig Kimbrel turned down the Red Sox’ qualifying offer of

$17.9 million on his way to free agency because he’s looking for a multi-year deal. But

he damaged his reputation as an elite closer by getting consistently knocked around

during the playoffs, and that’s just when everyone is watching. It makes one wonder if he

would have been better off taking the $17.9 million for a year and using the time to

rehabilitate his standing in the game.

* Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers on February 13. My God, that’s only

about a week and a half away.