A group of us went to Fenway Park in 1992, just to see a game at the fabled diamond in Boston. The paint was old and scratched up, the steel beams had graffiti on them, and there was a certain, unquantifiable odor about the place. The tall, left-field wall has its own name – the Green Monster. It was a great visit. I could sense history. And smell it.
In the 1970s and 1980s, people wanted to have cookie-cutter baseball parks, where the dimensions were perfect. The walls were uniformly the same height and there was a symmetry to them. Slam down a mirror in the middle of the stadium and each side would reflect the same settings. They were perfectly imperfect.
But Boston has kept their diamond in the rough all these years.
Houston Astros fans found out on Sunday that there is a home-field advantage to playing at Fenway Park, which was built in 1912 to fit the space in that part of Boston and has dimensions that defy convention. And the Boston Red Sox live to fight another day because of it.
The Astros got bit in the butt by tradition on Sunday in a 10-3 loss, caused by asymmetry. The Astros lead the best-of-three series 2-1 despite the loss, and I still like Houston to win the series on Monday at Fenway.
In the second inning with Houston ahead 3-0, Josh Reddick looked like he had slammed a three-run homer, which would have given the Astros a 6-0 lead. But Boston right fielder Mookie Betts reached into the first row of the outfield – the wall there is only three-feet tall – and caught the ball in front of Red Sox fans. Betts knew how far to go to get the ball and when to stop without falling over the fence. The fans had their arms outstretched and ready to touch the ball, which by touching it likely would be made the towering fly a three-run homer instead of an out. I think it would have resulted in Boston’s own Steve Bartman incident.
(A life-long Cubs fan at a playoff game in 2003, Bartman reached out and touched a foul fly to left field in front of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou in the eighth inning of the sixth game National League Championship Series with the Cubs up 3-2 in the series against the Florida Marlins. Chicago was ahead in that sixth game, 3-0, but fell apart after the incident and lost 8-3. The Cubs lost the playoff series the next day. Bartman was placed under police protection after threats on his life. The Cubs showed class and gave Bartman a World Series ring last year.)
If Houston had taken a 6-0 lead on Reddick’s almost HR, would the Astros have won the game? It’s hard to say, but the mood of the fans at that point was this: It was like their grandparents were in the hospital ER and they were waiting for the ultimate phone call. There could be a case made that Betts’ play reignited the fans and the Red Sox.
Then, in the 7th inning, Reddick was chasing a ball in right field that went to the weird stretch of fencing next to the foul pole that was low and at an odd angle. Reddick was not sure when to stop and used his legs to push up against the three-foot tall fence and keep from tumbling into the crowd. The ball hit in Reddick’s glove and then went into the stands for a three-run homer and a 10-3 lead.
The Boston fans were mercilessly taunting Reddick late in the game because of the two incidences, chanting “Reddick, Reddick.”
I remember being in a suite when we visiting Fenway in 1992, and I saw Red Sox hitter Bob Zupcic hit a homer that skittered off the top of the wall of the Green Monster. Everyone else on Fenway thought the ball went over the top, but we saw it skitter. That is a memory that I always will remember because of the uniqueness of the storied park.
Amazingly, the Green Monster in left field did not really come into play on Sunday. It was his short brother in right field.
Because of this, I say let’s start a movement to bring back Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park. Let’s let other teams go through what the Astros go through at Fenway. We need more uniqueness in baseball. Or at least put back Tal’s Hill when the Astros host the Red Sox again.
TEXANS DESTINED TO BE KING OF ‘B’ TEAMS – When I was younger, there were A-list movies with full budgets, and then there were the B-list movies with budgets that were not so grand. There was a definite delineation between the A-list Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the lower listed The Thing, with its up-and-down acting. Barbara Bach appeared in several of those ‘B’ movies, and had the name of the Queen of the B Movies. I think because of their up-and-down play from week-to-week, we are looking at the Texans as being the King of the B teams in the NFL.
The offense got a shot in the arm this year with quarterback Deshaun Watson, who threw five TD passes against the Chiefs. But then the special teams and the defense stumbled – both of which were areas of strength in the past. And worse, DE JJ Watt (knee) and LB Whitney Mercilus (chest) – two No. 1 draft picks – suffered major injuries on Monday night against Kansas City and were lost for the season.
The final score said that Houston only lost 42-34, but the game was not that close. The defense allowed the Chiefs, which went to 5-0 and remained as the only undefeated team in the NFL, to convert on multiple third-down situations on plays that looked effortless.
And Houston helped KC kicker Harrison Butker get negotiating fodder for an upcoming contract, as he made five field goals. I suppose someone will say that is a positive, in that KC didn’t score touchdowns with those five possessions and were held to three-pointers. But it just didn’t feel that way.
Kansas City was averaging 33 points before the contest and scored nine more than that. Part of the success for KC is that quarterback Alex Smith is on fire. Smith tossed three TDs against Houston. He is the third quarterback in NFL history through the first five games of play to throw 11 TDs and zero interceptions. The others were the LA Rams Roman Gabriel (1969) and Atlanta’s Steve Bartkowski (1983), according to NBC Sports. Smith has helped Kansas City to a 27-4 record in its last 31 games, which puts them among the elite in the NFL. Houston has had three, middling 9-7 seasons in a row.
As far as the success Barbara Bach had, it was not so bad to be her as she eventually got a role in a James Bond movie and married Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. And it is not so bad with the Texans, as they are in the AFC South Division, which is full if B teams they can handle. Houston will appear to get well next week, because they play Cleveland, which is not even on the B list.
Houston can still make the playoffs because of their substandard division. But the Texans’ only hope for this year of uneven play appears to be striving to be the King of the B teams.
WATT’S AND MERCILUS’ INJURIES – There was not a lot of information after the game, but rumors are that Mercilus pulled a pectoral muscle, according to Internet reports, which if true means he will be out for the year.
The Texans told NBC Sports that Watt’s injury is a tibial platform fracture, near his left knee. According to renderings of tibial platforms shown during the Sunday Night Game, meniscus is located on top of the platform. He too is lost for the season.
FIRST DOOOOOOOOWN — If a college football referee reports a foul or first down over a football stadium speaker, but doesn’t have a Southern accent, did it really happen?
PINK VISITING LOCKER ROOMS AND THE ANTI-PURDUE CROWD – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh caused some laughter and agreement when he complained about the visiting locker room at Purdue. He is right. I have been there in West La Fayette, Ind., and is it an absolute piece of crap. Sports Illustrated recently wrote a story about visiting locker rooms, including the pink one at Iowa that is supposed to bring out the inner feminine side in visitors.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS – Clemson beats out Alabama as the No. 1-ranked team after Texas A&M kept their Saturday game close with Bama in College Station. One team that is under-ranked is Washington State. I remember when WSU was homecoming for everyone because the Cougars were clawless and clueless. When I watched them on Saturday night, I couldn’t stop saying: Damn, how can someone from Pullman be so good? It’s got to be coach Mike Leach, who had a great run at Texas Tech (2000-2009).
And for those who did not know, the University of Houston is nicknamed the Cougars and UH’s colors are red and white because of WSU. Houston’s nickname was created by early UH physical education instructor John R. Bender, who was the former head football coach of the Washington State Cougars.
STAR TREK SPACECRAFT RANKED – To all fellow Trekkies: So you think the Klingons have the best-looking spaceships? See where they are rated – certainly ahead of the pedestrian Enterprise.
CLASSICAL NOTES: Brahms, Hungarian Dances. This is one of the first classical pieces I listened to when I was young. Brahms, who was one of the premier entertainment stars of his day, found gypsy music – which was considered beneath classical – and made it into a loved, classical piece.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: If the human body recognized agony and frustration, people would never run marathons, have babies or play baseball. – catcher Carlton Fisk, 1990
HOTTIE OF THE DAY