Al Luplow spent only two out of seven major league seasons as a regular player, with the 1964 Indians and the 1966 Mets. But the greatest moment of his career was a) when he was a non-regular; and, b) when a mere 6,000+ fans sait in Fenway Park to see it happen.
On the fiftieth anniversary of throwing the pitch Roger Maris smashed for his 61st home run of 1961, I couldn’t resist writing of Tracy Stallard. I led off by saying that if we weren’t a society that tends to think of defeat as a six-letter euphemism for mortal sin, Stallard would wear a T-shirt saying Maris had to hit a record breaker to hit him at all.
A certain Yale University professor of Renaissance literature turned Yale president had no such ambition when he was a boy in New England. “I wanted more than anything,” baseball’s eventual commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once said, “to be Bobby Doerr.”
When Giamatti became president of the National League, before his sadly short-lived commissionership, he met the former Red Sox second baseman and told him, shamelessly, that he admired him more than any baseball player he ever saw growing up.
However Alex Cora fares as the Red Sox’s new manager, in one way Red Sox Nation can say thank you to Manny Ramirez for at least half the likelihood that Cora got the job in the first place. Try to stop laughing.
After the Indians signed Cora as a free agent for 2005, the more than useful utility infielder was dealt to the Red Sox almost a month before the 2005 non-waiver trade deadline.
If Alex Cora ever needs to remind himself about determination, he has only to look at an at-bat he had as a Dodger against the Cubs 12 May 2004. On that date, at 9:23 Pacific time, in that at-bat, he graduated from utilityman to mini-legend.
With Matt Clement on the mound, Cora looked at ball one up and away. Then it went: called strike. Ball two. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Two-run homer.
You can’t fire a third of the team, so it’s believed, so the Red Sox did the next best thing the day after they were shoved to one side by the Astros in a division series. They fired the manager who finally lost his way and control of the Red Sox clubhouse. Even if a lot of it wasn’t his fault.
John Farrell was just too convenient a whipping boy for Red Sox Nation. To the point where enough believe he’d have been executed after 2015 if not for his courageous battle against cancer.
For a few moments it looked as though Astros manager A.J. Hinch made a big mistake in the bottom of the fifth in Fenway Park Monday. With one out and one on for the Red Sox, he brought in Justin Verlander, his Game One starter and winner—who’d never thrown an inning of relief in his life until now.
Later, in the bottom of the ninth, it looked like Hinch made a mistake asking closer Ken Giles for a six-out save when Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers stepped up to the plate to lead off.
It was as if the Red Sox called a conference before Game Three at Fenway Park and said, If you don’t mind, we’ll decide if and when we’re dead and buried. Designated hitter Hanley Ramirez’s exclamation point was the “Believe in Boston” sign he carried out during pre-game lineup introductions.
Justin Verlander was an eyewitness to the last time anyone hit three out in a single postseason game. Matter of fact, he was the victim twice, when he was a Tiger and Pablo Sandoval was a still-productive Giant. Kung Fu Panda’s three bombs in Game One of the 2012 World Series launched the Giants to a Series sweep.
Verlander thinks it’s far more fun to be just the eyewitness. Especially when he’s the beneficiary, as he was in Game One of his Astros’ American League division series against the Red Sox. And, perhaps even more, when it’s Jose Altuve hitting the three.
If good pitching beats good hitting, the Indians go into this postseason with a distinct advantage over the competition. Even over those yummy young Yankees. And if good hitting beats good pitching, a few postseason bullpens have key vulnerabilities. Rather than bore you with why I think everyone else can just hurry up and wait for the Indians to claim this year what they nearly did last, let’s expand upon those two thoughts.