Tuesday, October 11, 2005
OK, before we get into anything else, let’s hear it for the once and future champions, the Boston Red Sox. It was a nice ride while it lasted, wasn’t it?
If you’re depressed about them losing, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you can’t still smile about it, you just aren’t looking at life in the right way. Last year, you saw something that some people lived their entire lives without seeing. If you get all pissy and start whining about this year, it would be like spitting on their graves.
Aw, hell. Bases loaded, nobody out, and they can’t score? All they had to do was stand there and they would have had at least one run (something I’ve tried to drill into my softball team for about 10 years, but they don’t get it, either.) Use your head. Unless you’re Manny or Ortiz, a walk is as good as a hit in that situation.
It’s about four months until spring training. I’ll shut up until then.
All right. On Friday, I offered you the opportunity to win a tremendous, fabulous, one-of-a-kind prize – a used book. In order to win this tremendous, fabulous, one-of-a-kind used book, you had to answer twenty questions. Or, at least, you had to answer more of the twenty questions correctly than any of my other readers. If you didn’t read me on Friday – and what the hell could you possibly have been doing that was more important – and you’d like to take the quiz, just for funsies, you will find a link on the left. The title is So, You Think You Know Boston Sports? Why don’t you go there now and see how many you can answer? The rest of us will wait for you…
(sound of three people whistling tunelessly)
You’re back? Great! That didn’t take too long. And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The winner is…
No, let’s keep the suspense going just a little bit longer. First, the answers.
1 – Who holds the major league record for most doubles in a season? How many?
That would Earl Webb, who hit an amazing 67 doubles for the Red Sox in 1931.
Satan’s granny on a pogo stick! Are you humpin’ me? SIXTY-SEVEN DOUBLES?!? That sounds like one of my weekend bar tabs from 1988!
Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
2 – 13,909. What significance does this number hold for an older Boston sports fan?
That was the number of lines I did on that same weekend! Hey, hey! Don’t forget to tip your waitress.
All right, don’t get your shorts in a knot. I’m not going to let this deteriorate into a bunch of cheap drug jokes. That’s because there was nothing cheap about those drugs, let me tell you! Barump-bump!
For many years, 13,909 was a sell-out for Celtic basketball at the Boston Garden. Johnny Most would proudly announce that number on the radio whenever there was one - which there wasn’t always, as odd as that might seem today when a championship anything (soccer match, box lacrosse game, international cat-neutering competition) brings out the scalpers in packs. There were times, during the Bill Russell championship years, when you could walk up to the Garden box office and buy a playoff ticket an hour before the game began. In winter, this has always been a hockey town.
3 - .406
Do I really have to explain this? OK, maybe someone doesn’t know. Maybe I have a reader in Kuala Lumpur who doesn’t realize that this was Ted Williams’ batting average in 1941, and that it was the last time that anyone hit over .400 for a season, and that this is why the legend of Teddy Ballgame just gets bigger and bigger as each year passes.
Since that year, only four batters have hit .380 or better, and one of those was Williams himself, in 1957.
4 - .301
A real, true, hard-core Red Sox fan would know that this was Carl Yastrzemski’s batting average in 1968. He won the American League batting title with that average. He was the only man to hit over .300 in the entire league. Some might argue that this statistical anomaly has a better chance of surviving than Williams being the last man to hit .400.
5 – 46 to 10. Why does this suck?
Because that’s the score the Chicago Bears beat the New England Patriots by in Super Bowl XX. If life were fair, Steve Grogan would be the hero whose tale was recounted once a year by the national media, while Jim McMahon would be remembered only for being the boorish jerk that he was. Life, alas, is not fair.
6 – Complete the following progression: 46 – 67 – 75 - ?
How about if I put it this way: ’46 – ’67 – ’75 - ???? Yeah, ’86. The less said the better.
7 – 9 straight, and 11 out of 13. Name the team.
I screwed up. I meant to say 8 straight. Everybody gets partial credit. But, if you really knew your stuff, the 11 out of 13 would have been enough.
If you said The Boston Celtics, you get full credit. 8 straight world championships, and 11 world championships in 13 years. The most successful run of any professional team in any sport, ever.
8 – 20, vs. Seattle. What? By Whom?
Strikeouts, by Roger Clemens. In 1986, for goodness’ sakes, and he’s still blowing batters away. Amazing. He’s an utter churl, but he sure can throw a ball.
9 – “This is Johnny Most, coming to you from…” Where?
“High above courtside.” In the old days of The Garden, the broadcasters did not sit on the sidelines as they do now. Johnny worked from a perch just below the second balcony. From there, he would weave his tales of The Lord (Oscar Robertson), McFilthy and McNasty (Laimbeer and Mahorn), Little Lord Fauntleroy (Isiah Thomas), and every other villain (anybody not wearing green and white) in the NBA. He would do this while smoking a couple of packs of unfiltered cigarettes a game and he sure sounded like it. Nobody outside of Boston could stand him, but I dearly loved that homer with the train wreck for a voice. Every game was a passion play to Johnny, and I was a true believer.
Listening to Most describe a game, and letting your imagination loose to play with him, was great. The next best thing was to watch the game on television with the TV announcers turned down and Johnny doing his thing on the radio. While he’d be describing an axe murder that just took place at the free throw line, and how the opposing player was walking around the court holding up the bloody head of Larry Siegfried for the crowd to gasp at, what you saw was Siegfried’s thigh getting brushed by Al Attles’ hand, and the ref deciding it wasn’t much more of a discomfort than, well, a hand accidentally brushing against your thigh. A minute later John would have Siegfried’s head back on his shoulders, but Wilt Chamberlain would be barbecuing Frank Ramsey at center court. And the refs aren’t calling it! They’re just standing there while Chamberlain pours K.C. Masterpiece all over poor Frank Ramsey! He’s turning him on a spit! But Wilt Chamberlain has never committed a foul in his entire career in the NBA, so the refs aren’t going to call this one!
God bless you, Johnny! The Celtics have never been the same since you left us.
10 – What did Havlicek do?
"Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"
Probably the most famous call by an announcer in basketball history, by Johnny Most.
I was lucky enough to have Johnny as an instructor during my time in broadcasting school. See, the thing about Most - despite his exaggerations - was that the man knew basketball inside and out. When he had to report what was really happening, he did it as well as anybody ever has or ever will. If he hadn’t had that ability, he would have just been a clown. He’s in the Hall Of Fame. He wasn’t a clown.
11 – What did Pesky (supposedly) do?
Whereas Havlicek stole the ball, Johnny Pesky held the ball. His teammates from the 1946 Red Sox, to a man, say that he did no such thing. Unfortunately, there aren’t 6 different camera angles and a split-screen shot to prove either his culpability or his innocence. So, while there is conjecture, it has become a permanent part of Boston folklore that Johnny Pesky hesitated with the relay from the outfield, just long enough to make it possible for Enos Slaughter to score all the way from first base on a single, thus ruining the seventh game of the 1946 World Series for Bostonians.
To Pesky’s eternal credit, he has always been a man about it. He’s never complained about receiving a bum break. And that’s why, these days, Pesky is a living breathing baseball GOD in these parts. No matter what you may have done in New England, if you don’t whine about it people will love you someday. And rightly so.
12 – Fill in the blank: Russell is to __________ as Bird is to Magic.
Chamberlain, of course.
Wilt Chamberlain was the ultimate villain. Red Sox fans know that the Yankees suck, but once somebody on the Yankees goes to another team, he’s not necessarily hated anymore. For Celtics fans, it didn’t matter what team Wilt was on. Whichever one it was, that was the team to hate. When Wilt was in Philadelphia, then Philadelphia was the biggest rival. When he was in San Francisco, the hatred migrated there. When he came back to Philly, the Sixers were number one again. And when he moved to the Lakers, they were it – and Philadelphia dropped to the wayside again. And the great thing about it was that Boston beat him every year, except one - at least while Bill Russell was around. Never has such a tremendous player (and Wilt was arguably the best ever) been so defeated by one team. A modern comparison might be Peyton Manning and the Patriots, but give it another 6 or 7 years to see if it holds up.
13 – Who is the only lifetime Patriot to be elected to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame?
That would be the great John Hannah, possibly the best offensive lineman ever. There should probably be one or two others (Gino Cappelletti comes immediately to mind) but, for now, Hannah is it.
14 – Tell me the significance of these numbers: 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 31, 32, 33, 35, 00. Extra credit for explaining why 18 is doubly important.
Those are the numbers retired by the Boston Celtics.
Think about it: the Celtics have retired more than 20% of their available jersey numbers. If they keep it up, in the year 2053 they’ll have players wearing “#%*!” and other comic strip swears.
Anyway, if you’ve ever looked up into the rafters at those green numbers on white background, you’ve seen a square of white with “LOSCY” written on it. “LOSCY” was “Jungle Jim” Loscutoff, a player for the Celtics during the 1950’s. When he retired, he asked that his number 18 still be used by a future player, rather than taken out of circulation. When Dave Cowens (number 18 after Loscutoff) retired, the number 18 finally went into the rafters. And that’s why LOSCY is the only Celtic to have his name retired.
15 – 315
This number used to be important, but now it no longer exists. What was it?
The left-field foul line at Fenway Park used to be 315 feet. Now it is 310 feet. This was accomplished without the foul line actually physically changing in length. All that happened was that the Sox management painted over the obviously exaggerated 315 and painted in the slightly less exaggerated 310. In reality, it’s probably closer to 302.
16 – Name the Athlete: #4
There’s only one #4 in Boston. That would be Bobby Orr. Ask anyone who actually saw him play and they’ll agree. What made him the best? I could write some words, but I couldn’t adequately describe it. Nobody can. You had to be there. You can watch some old game films and get an idea, but, really, you had to be there. If you weren’t, you have to take it on faith. For Bruins fans, Orr was the savior.
17 – “25 guys, 25 cabs.” What does this refer to?
The Red Sox of today are lovable idiots. The clubhouse is a fun place and pretty much everybody likes everyone else. Some of these guys are good friends and do stuff with each other besides play baseball. They laugh! They make faces! They do intricate and joyous handshakes!
Enough of that happy horse hockey! Step into the wayback machine, Sherman, and set the dial for 1968.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Red Sox had a reputation as the most selfish group of players in the history of ball. It was “I got mine, Jack” and a player who was called upon to lay down a sacrifice bunt would pout about it for the rest of the season. While the Bruins of that era were a loose, fun-loving bunch that went everywhere together, it was said of the Red Sox that when they left the clubhouse, it was “25 guys, 25 cabs”.
18 - The Bruins were the first in their league, while the Red Sox were the last in theirs? To do what?
To have a black player.
Willie O’Ree broke the color line in hockey in a Boston Bruins jersey. The Red Sox were the last team in major league baseball to have a black player on their roster. Jackie Robinson was retired for three years by the time the Sox had Pumpsie Green. It could be argued that, even then, the Red Sox still didn’t have a black player, because while Pumpsie was certainly black, his qualifications as a player were somewhat lacking.
As an interesting aside, another Boston team - the Celtics - was the first in American professional sports history to begin a game with an all-black starting line-up.
19 – The Teamen. The Lobsters. The Breakers. What the hell were they?
Well, the Teamen were Boston’s professional soccer team, way back before the Revolution became somewhat popular. The Lobsters were Boston’s entry in World Team Tennis, a spectacularly flawed concept if there ever was one. And the Breakers were Boston’s USFL (United States Football League) team. Hell, at that time the Patriots could barely keep their heads above water. The Breakers had about as much chance of surviving as I do of winning a Pulitzer.
20 – Local way of telling someone you don’t like them: F*** you, and…?
As I said before, it’s not the horse you rode in on, though that’s certainly a popular enough way of putting it. No, in my day it was, “F*** you, and the Boston Red Sox!” Of course, the Red Sox are much better liked now, right? Right? Hey, what did I say in the first paragraph? You apologize right now or I won’t tell you who the winner is.
(Sound of two people whistling tunelessly, as one person bailed since the first time I used this joke today.)
That’s better. The winner is Tara. She correctly answered 10 of the questions. For her efforts, she will receive a copy of “The Glory Of Their Times”, by Lawrence Ritter.
To everybody who sent in an entry, thanks for playing! If sports aren’t really your thing, I’ll have another quiz, with another fantastic prize, on a totally different subject, someday soon. Come back then and take your shot. Who knows what tremendous, fabulous one-of-a-kind used book you might win?