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Finneran: Opening Day & Other Sporting Thoughts

Friday, March 31, 2017

 

Tomorrow is April 1st! The Red Sox open their season! And Monday is Opening Day at Fenway Park! 

Wasn’t it just New Year’s Eve a few days ago? The year 2017 seems to be moving awfully quickly.

I do not follow Spring training events very closely, although I’ll admit to an occasional yearning for the warmth of Florida sunshine on my face. My Red Sox obsessed friends tell me that the team looks good---solid pitching, good offense, talented youngsters---Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley, and Benintendi---, a rejuvenated Sandoval, and the inestimable Pedroia. By the way---the “Killer Bs” is my wished-for nickname for the Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley, Benintendi quartet. Let’s hope that they match some of the other great alliterative pairings in baseball history. Think Mays and McCovey, Mantle and Maris, Kaline and Cash, Killebrew and Carew.

Baseball has a very long season. Avoidance of injury is often pure luck and the replacement of David Ortiz’s astounding production last year will not be easy. Nonetheless, there is genuine and legitimate excitement about this team. Let the games begin. And let’s pray for a pennant race. 

Mathematics dictates the reality that to gain a pennant all games matter, but let’s tell the baseball fan’s truth---a few wins or losses in April and May seem decidedly less important than the wins and losses of August and September. Come those late summer, early fall mornings, we’re all checking the standings to see how every contender fared the night before. Good teams have jelled and momentum matters. A competitor’s loss is as important as our favorite team’s win. A true pennant race offers a delightful tension that can run for weeks and weeks. For sustained excitement, there is nothing like it, a durable seesaw of emotion.

Speaking of games and excitement, the thrill of the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory lingers on. That was a game for the ages. The highs, the lows, the astounding Seattle-like stupidity of the Falcons, the epic comeback of the Patriots, all combined to make the game as memorable as any in recent history. The Brady/ Belichick alchemy is wondrous, akin to Russell/ Auerbach. Savor it, appreciate it, cherish it---it’s a very rare occurrence in professional sports and it will not be with us forever.

The Celtics are a young and entertaining team, emerging from a rash of early season injuries and exceeding pre-season expectations. Something tells me that they are not quite ready for Lebron and company but an upset is not beyond the realm of possibility. No such upset will occur however should the Celtics make the NBA finals. The West will not be trifled with by this year’s Celtics team. 

The 2008 championship banner needs a companion. Mentally I have hung a 2010 banner from the gallant effort the Celtics made against the Lakers that year. That they simply ran out of gas against a younger team was no shame. To the last gasp, they fought the fight that fans love to see.

 It’s been a while since the Bruins circled the ice with the Stanley Cup held high. 2011 to be exact. My memory of that playoff run remains a high point of hockey. It was Orr-like in the way it captured our imagination. The speed, the skill, the sheer tenacity of that team was fun to watch. The goaltending was pretty good too!

All in all, the new century has provided us some memorable entertainment and more than a fair share of championships. It’s fun to watch even in this era of free-agency and financial wanderlust. We continue to root for the laundry, even as the players come and go. It’s not war and peace, life and death, and the world’s other sobering realities. It’s a brief diversion from such stuff.

And so another season looms ahead. Let the games begin.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.

 

Related Slideshow: SEE VIDEOS: The Best Boston Red Sox All-Star Game Moments

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1941

Ted Williams Hits Game Winning 3-Run Homerun to Give American League 7-5 Win in 1941 All Star Game

 

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1970

Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski wins the 1970 All-Star Game MVP

Yaz tied the All-Star game record with four hits in a game and three singles in a game. He was the last player to win the All-Star MVP award for the losing team.

 

Image: "Carl Yastrzemski at Fenway Park 2" by Steven Carter. 

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1986

Roger Clemens Pitches Three Perfect Innings on Way to 1986 All-Star Game MVP

Clemens made his All-Star debut in '86 and started the game in his hometown of Houston.  He pitched three perfect innings with no walks and no hits while throwing 21 strikes and three balls.

 

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1999

Ted Williams Honored as the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived

 

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1999

Pedro Strikes Out 5 to Open 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park

Martinez struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire in order. He struck out Jeff Bagwell to end the second inning. Martinez took home the MVP award honors.

 

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2002

All-Star Game MVP Award Named After Ted Williams

In 2002,  there was no All-Star game MVP as the game ended in a tie. However, that same year, the trophy was renamed to the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award following Williams' death. The first recipient of the award named after Williams was in 2003 when it went to Garrett Anderson of the Anaheim Angels.

 

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2004

Manny and Big Papi Go Deep in 2004 All-Star Game

Red Sox All-Stars Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz both went deep in Houston at the 2004 All-Star Game in the American League's 9-4 win over the National League. Ramirez hit a home run in the first inning off of NL starter Roger Clemens (who gave up six runs) as the AL squad hit for the cycle for the first time in All-Star game history.

 

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2007

J.D. Drew Hits 2-Run Homerun in 2008 All-Star Game

Coming off the bench as a reserve for the American League squad, J.D. Drew tied the game in the 7th inning with a home run to right field. The big hit gave Drew the MVP honors in his first and only All-Star game.

 
 

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