Sunday in the Park and More
We were greeted by a rather cool and damp Sunday. Although it was drizzling throughout the morning, we were relieved to find out that the outlook was for clear skies later in the day. We kept our fingers crossed in the hopes that the Rays and Red Sox would play their scheduled game that afternoon.
After posting my travelogue for the previous day, we walked over to the Eastern Standard, which adjoins our hotel, to meet Sully; Jared Porter, Director of Professional Scouting; and Bill James, who needs no introduction on these pages, for breakfast. Joe and I were the first to show up and were followed shortly by Jared, who arrived by car; Sully, via a taxi; and Bill, by foot. Sully greeted us with a classic story. He took a cab from his apartment to the restaurant. There was a Walk for Hunger, a 20-mile trek to raise money for Project Bread (which funds emergency food programs in Massachusetts), that was progressing on Commonwealth Avenue and Pat's cabbie complained about the pedestrian traffic, "These people don't care about anyone but themselves." Yogi Berra couldn't have said it any better!
While I had the privilege of meeting Bill for breakfast at the winter meetings in Anaheim in December 2004, this was a first for Sully and Joe, who later told me hooking up with James was "like a professional dancer spending two hours with Fred Astaire," adding that "it'll be one of those moments I will never, ever forget."
The five of us talked nothing but baseball for a couple of hours – what did you expect...weather, politics, religion? We didn't draft or sign any players or make any trades, but we had a good time covering current events, swapping stories, and giving our opinions here and there. Oh, now that I think of it, we veered off course for a while when we talked about college basketball. This topic gave Bill the chance to talk about his Kansas Jayhawks, and he mused at how the media only gives KU credit for championships won in the era of the tournament, completely ignoring titles won by polls back in the 1920s.
At the conclusion of our breakfast, we walked to Fenway Park, braving a light drizzle for the five-minute stroll. Bill and Jared headed to their offices while Sully, Joe, and I picked up our tickets, shopped in The Souvenir Store on 19 Yawkey Way, walked around Fenway Park, snapping several photos, and stopping into one of the many sports bars surrounding the ballpark. It was my first trip back to Fenway in almost 20 years to the day. Back then, I was on a business trip and went to an Oakland-Boston game all by my lonesome but was treated like royalty when a lady in the front office handed me a front-row ticket directly behind home plate. Assisted by hometown fans hanging onto the screen and yelling profanities (in their best Boston accents) at Ron Hassey and the home plate umpire, the Red Sox beat the A's 4-1 in similar cold and wet conditions.
We made our way inside the stadium, Sully noticed Assistant GM Jed Hoyer walking by, and we greeted him and exchanged a few pleasantries. We took a few more photos near our seats and then sat down well in advance of Jon Lester's first pitch. The southpaw was coming off his best game ever in a matchup with Scott Kazmir, who was making his 2008 debut.
Sully's wife Johanna joined us shortly after game time. To show what a small world it is, Johanna and Joe went to middle school in Long Beach together and shared social circles, including Chase Utley, who is leading the majors in home runs and having an MVP-type season for the Philadelphia Phillies. Believe it or not but Sully and I became friends first without even knowing about the connection between his wife and my son. The friendship goes beyond our love for baseball and Baseball Analysts as my wife and I attended Sully's and Johanna's wedding in Long Beach in December 2006.
Lester and Kazmir threw a lot of pitches but the Boston youngster won the battle between the southpaws, allowing four hits, three walks, and one run over the course of six innings. Kazmir hit 93 on the gun but was working mostly at 91-92. He mixed in a few nifty changeups although the patient Red Sox hitters worked him for three walks and four runs (three earned) in just four innings. The game, which lasted 3 hours and 39 minutes, was highlighted by a Manny Ramirez double off the Green Monster, a Kevin Youkilis dinger to dead center, some excellent play in the field and at the plate by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, and another save by Jon Papelbon, who recorded the last four outs to preserve the 7-3 Sox win.
After the game, we went to The Baseball Tavern; then took a cab to Union Park, the quaint neighborhood where Pat and Jo live. After taking a quick tour of their apartment, we jumped into another cab to the north end, where we walked The Freedom Trail, stopping for photos at Paul Revere's home and the famous "One if by land, two if by sea" church. We had a delicious dinner at Cantina Italiana and spent a great three hours dining and talking good ol' times. It was a great way to cap a great day.
We're off to Cooperstown this morning. We have a long but pleasant drive ahead of us.