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Steve Buckley’s Baseball Blast From The Past

08.13.09 at 2:10 pm ET
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The scene at Cambridge’s St. Peter’s Field this past Monday could have very easily been confused for that of Ray Kinsella’s Iowa farm turned baseball Valhalla.

As WEEI’s Big Show listeners have heard on many a “Last Call,” Boston Herald columnist and frequent guest Steve Buckley has been promoting for months, the 16th annual Oldtime Baseball Game will take place on Thursday night in Cambridge. The game has been a summer baseball tradition in Cambridge since its inception in 1994.

That summer 15 years ago, Major League Baseball was mired in a work stoppage that even cancelled World Series. As enthusiasm for the professional variety of the game was waning, Buckley unintentionally got the ball rolling on what has become a local late-summer tradition.

As a host of a show on WEEI, Buckley very hastily suggested that he and his listeners have their own game to outweigh the negative effects of the strike. Little did he know that such a comment would strike a chord with so many in New England.

People called the show and pledge donations to take to the field. Paul Ryder of the Cambridge Park and Recreation even donated the use of St. Peter’s Field, which set the stage for baseball to played during the 1994 strike.

However, there needed to be a charitable cause to help fuel the game. The first charitable cause was to help pay for college scholarships for the children of Cambridge postal worker Eddie Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The game’s proeceeds helped start a scholarship fund for the late postal worker’s two children.

This year’s charitable cause for the game is Hospitality Homes. The organization provides temporary housing for patients and families undergoing medical care in the Boston area.

The game’s charitable partner changes each summer. The Oldtime Game’s players, including former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni, believe the charity tie-in gives the game some extra incentive for good play.

“Seeing as though it’s for a good cause, it’s not life or death and it’s not the big leagues,” Merloni said. “But the pressure is still there because you don’t want to be the guy kicking balls and striking out.”

In addition to the charitable donations of the monetary variety, many local citizens and companies, like Royal White Laundry, donate their time and services. It clearly takes a village to raise the annual game.

“Everyone sees it as something that’s parochial, provencial, and local,” said Buckley. “This is all people who love baseball.”

Merloni isn’t the only local luminary to lace up the spikes for this year’s contest, as Massachusetts State Senator Anthony Galluccio is also playing in the game. Like Merloni, this is Galluccio’s second consecutive appearance.

Aside from the charitable aspects of the contest, Senator Galluccio is playing in this year’s game to settle a small score with Cambridge native Bobby Fournier that dates back to last year.

“I had come back from vacation and I found out that he was going around the city saying that he was going to strike me out,” the Senator said. “I didn’t realize he had made this prediction, so it upped the ante a lot.”

Last year’s one at-bat showdown saw Senator Galluccio make contact on the first pitch he saw from the Salem State hurler. However, Senator Galluccio grounded out in his only at-bat last year.

Monday’s media day gave the local press a chance to see the players of tomorrow in the uniforms of yesterday. Merloni will be wearing the game’s oldest throwback uniform, representing the 1890 Boston Beaneaters .

Those uniforms made their debut during the 1998 game. According to Buckley, the uniforms were donated by Technical Personnel Services.

According to Buckley, the Beaneaters were an entrant of the Players League, and were the pennant-winning squad in the league’s only year of existence.

What began as a truly organic idea to deviate from the frustrations felt by baseball fans in the greater Boston area during one of professional baseball’s darkest and lowest points in its history, has turned out to become a summer tradition in the city of Cambridge.

If Steve Buckley and friends build it, history (much like that of the national pastime being celebrated at the game) has shown that many people will come.

For more information please visit the Oldtime Baseball Game official website.

Read More: Anthony Galluccio, Lou Merloni, Oldtime Baseball Game, Steve Buckley

Sox Cy Young winners: past, present, future?

08.13.09 at 10:57 am ET
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Last night, a trio of star pitchers took major league mounds, all of whom bear significance around these parts. Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, and Felix Hernandez all looked damn good in the process on a sports night that evoked reminiscing, a shade more faith for this season, and intrigue for what may happen in the future.

Martinez, who won Cy Young awards (and nearly an MVP award) with the Sox in ’99 and ’00, got his Phillies career off to a good start, as he tossed five innings in a win over the Cubs that was all-but assured after an eight-run Phillies fourth made the score 12-1. Working with less-dangerous a repertoire than he had in Montreal and Boston, Martinez struck out five and allowed seven hits on 99 pitches. Not quite up to par with his debut with the Red Sox in ’98, in which he fanned 11 Athletics over seven shutout innings, or with the Mets (12 strikeouts through six), but it sure was pleasing to see No. 45 out there once again.

Though Andy Martino of the Philadelphia Inquirer described Martinez as being “spent by the fifth,” the game had much more to offer in terms of both offense and an ejected fan (throwing a beer on someone on a routine fly ball? Bartman made Cubs fans look like losers, but this guy just made them look like a-holes).

Meanwhile, just over an hour before the cameras began flashing on Martinez in Chicago, Josh Beckett continued what at this point is a serious campain for a Cy Young of his own.  Facing the Tigers in the third game of a four-game set, Beckett carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and ended up lasting seven. Solo shots from Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames provided the only offense for the Tigers as Becket improved to 14-4 with an ERA of 3.10.

While Wednesday night’s start paled in comparison to the domination displayed on June 3 in Detroit (7.2 IP, 0 ER, 9 SO), Beckett’s consistency since the beginning of May undoubtedly has the attention of the BBWAA. His low ERA (currently fifth-best in the American League) 145 strikeouts (also fifth), and majors-leading victory total stand a good chance at delivering Boston their first Cy Young winner since Martinez.

According to the Neyer/James Cy Young predictor formula, Beckett would indeed take home the distinction should the season end today. He would finish just ahead of Hernandez, who pitched seven shutout innings in a game that the Mariners won in 14 innings.

Is Beckett more deserving than the 12-4 Hernandez, who has tossed more innings (165.1), notched more strikeouts (158), and has a lower ERA (2.72)? It certainly helps that Beckett is pitching for a team that plans on competing when the leaves fall.

In fact, it is impressive that Hernandez has been able to win as many games as he has this season with the Mariners, considering that among AL pitchers who have tossed 100 or more innings, King Felix’ run support average of 6.10 ranks him 34th out of 42.

Even if Hernandez is second to Beckett this year in Cy Young voting, the 23-year-old’s future figures to see him compete for the award on a yearly basis. Might those years come in a Red Sox uniform?

It’s no secret that the Red Sox tried to make a blockbuster deal for Hernandez at the trade deadline, but were rebuffed after basically offering the Mariners their pick of the litter. After the deadline passed, however, Boston GM Theo Epstein spoke of how he felt “groundwork” had been laid for an offseason deal. Is the Hernandez deal the one of which he spoke? If so, it should come as no surprise.

Hernandez, who has been pitching in the majors since the ripe old age of 19, can become a free agent following the 2011 season, at which point he will be just 25 years old. Knowing that he will be able command quite the contract, it would be wise for the Mariners to evaluate their chances of retaining his services long-term. If their chances look bleak, trading him for a young core of future starters might be the right move. The Red Sox are obviously seasoned veterans in such deals, as they were able to get both Martinez and Beckett early on their careers from clubs that could not afford them down the road.

It might be reading too far into things, but with Beckett’s contract set to expire following next season, a deal for Hernandez would secure a young ace to pair with Jon Lester for years to come. Call it getting too excited about a deal that was turned down, call it wishful thinking, but I call it groundwork. That might be all the Sox need to land a stud via trade once again.

Read More: Cy Young, Felix Hernadez, Josh Beckett, Pedro Matinez

Fisticuffs at Fenway

08.12.09 at 12:03 pm ET
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Good Morning New England!

After a frustrating weekend in the Bronx, something needed to liven up the 2009 Boston Red Sox. Last night at Fenway Park, the team might’ve found their source for reinvigoration.

Last night became fight night at Fenway Park as Kevin Youkilis and Rick Porcello mixing it up after the 20-year-old Tigers righty hit the Sox first baseman during the second inning of last night’s game. In case you somehow missed last night’s slugfest, check it out below.

The stroll down memory lane with regards to Red Sox-related fights is a relatively short one. Last year during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Coco Crisp charged the mound against James Shields.

Crisp threw a haymaker at Shields and missed in the ’08 scrum. This wasn’t the first fight between the Sox and the Rays — just ask Pedro Martinez and Gerald Williams.

Martinez, who also makes his first start for the Phillies tonight, plunked Williams, which caused the then Devil Ray to charge the mound against the lanky righthander.

Aside from Martinez using his glove as both a weapon and a shield, the LEEInks two favorite parts of this brawl comes courtesy of former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette. In interviews after the brawl, the Duke called Williams a “thug”, and Martinez channeled a little Tom Hanks and reminded us all that there’s no crying in baseball.

The LEEInks can’t help but find some similiarities between last night’s fight and the Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek fight on July 24, 2004.

On the fifth anniversary of that fateful game WEEI.com’s own Alex Speier took a look back at that afternoon’s events. Could last night’s brawl be the spark this year’s Sox need to mount a run to the World Series?

Brawling to help bond a team towards a playoff run wasn’t invented in 2004 though, as former Sox manager Dick Williams saw with his 1984 San Diego Padres in a game against the Atlanta Braves . The fight brought 13 ejections on the field and five off of it, and a shirtless Ed Whitson jawing with fans in Atlanta.

Walkoff Walk recounts the 25th anniversary of this fight on their blog today. They also have an embedded link to video of the fras on their site.

Brawling isn’t restricted to the big league version of the Red Sox either. In 2001, Red Sox farmhand Izzy Alcantara goes all Karate Kid on an opposing catcher before charging the mound in a game in Pawtucket.

Red Sox pitchers have been on the recieving end of mound charges as well. Just ask Aaron Sele, as Chicago’s George Bell charged the mound back in 1993.

Thankfully for Sele, Mo Vaughn did his best Andre Tippett impression and tackled Bell who, like Coco Crisp a decade and a half later, missed a haymaker. For more “base-brawls” including a few mentioned in this space, check out Sportscenter’s top ten list here.

A shorter NFL preseason equals less injuries

08.11.09 at 1:03 pm ET
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Another franchise player, another preseason injury. Haven’t we seen this before? Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers wide receiver, left Monday’s practice with a right shoulder injury. Initial reports from Smith’s agent Derrick Fox indicated he will be out a minimum of two weeks but we all know how that goes. Smith tangled up with cornerback Chris Gamble yesterday evening in a workout without pads. Losing Jake Delhomme’s No. 1 target (1,421 yards and 78 catches in 2008) would be a huge blow for Carolina if the injury persists.

Last week Carolina also lost starting defensive tackle Maacke Kemoeatu for the season with a torn achilles. Over the weekend Tampa Bay Bucaneers receiver Antonio Bryant opted to get arthroscopic knee surgery after not being able to participate in practice because of a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered last season.

So as most teams head into Week 1 of preseason games, the question that is posed every August is posed yet again: should the NFL preseason be shortened to prevent more injuries?

As of Monday there were roughly 100 players listed with injuries, with about 65 on the physically unable to preform/injury reserve list. That’s only an average of three injured players a team but some teams like the Lions and Saints have as many as seven players listed with injuries. While most are minor hamstring strains or sore shoulders, it still leaves a player vulnerable for the unpredictability of the preseason game.

So what’s the resolution? Well Tom Brady didn’t play any of the Patriot’s four preseason games last year because of a right foot injury and we all know what happened in the first quarter of his first regualr season game last year. Yet Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer broke his nose in a game last preseason that required him to undergo surgery and Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor injured his knee in a blowout preseason loss last August.

Yes, the NFL is a contact sport. Yes, there are going to be injuries (Smith’s, after all, took place on a practice field). But can the NFL  prevent some preseason player losses by shortening the schedule? Does a pro-football player really need four preseason games to get adjusted to the game time situations even with the intensity of training camp and team scrimmages? While the scrimmages do not possess the same game time atmosphere and preparation, most starters don’t even enter the third quarter of a preseason game. If the NFL preseason were shortened to two games with a majority of starters on the field for the entire game, would it not create the same results as partially playing in four games albeit in a more efficient manner?

Read More: preseason, steve smith,

Tweeting Trouble

08.10.09 at 11:04 am ET
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Let’s try to forget this past weekend’s demise of the Red Sox and move on to a bit of a lighter subject — Twitter. By now most people are aware of the social networking phenomenon that allows people to inform others about every detail of their lives through status updates. Athletes in particular have taken the Twitter scene by storm. Some of the very people who curse their lack of privacy are now giving millions of fans an up-to-the-minute recap of their life. How ironic.

Boston athletes such as Randy MossVince Wilfork, Paul Pierce and the ever-interesting Stephon Marbury have all been bitten by the Twitter bug. While most Tweets are meant to be fun and funny, last week the Boston Herald reported that Celtics forward ‘Big Baby’ Glen Davis used his Twitter account to voice his frustrations with the team over his lack of a contract. Come to find out, Davis claimed the Tweets were posted from a fake Twitter account. Dun, dun, dun. Whether Big Baby was just being a big baby about his contract or not the bigger question is the validity of these athletes Twitter accounts.

Millions of fans have been following their favorite athletes on Twitter in order to feel closer to the athlete or to see what they do away from the field. Yet with fake accounts popping up all over the place Twitter could soon create more harm than good. From Shaquille O’Neal to Tony LaRussa fake Tweets have created quite the controversy. LaRussa filed a lawsuit against the web site because a Twittering imposter posted comments about his drunk driving incident and the deaths of two of players earlier in the season. The site does not currently have a way to detect fake accounts but may in the near future if such incidents continue.

Not only do the fake accounts hamper the purpose of the site but it seems only a matter of time before a team loses a game because of a Tweet posted by an overzealous athlete. Teams have started to enforce rules about how and when athletes can use Twitter. The ever insightful Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinc0 claims he plans to Tweet after his first touchdown this season (that is if Cincinnati can even make it to the endzone) but not if the NFL has any say in the matter. The league already has a rule in place banning electronic devices from cell phones to lap tops during game time. That probably won’t stop Ochocinco though. Recently players have been fined taking their Tweeting freedoms too far. Charger’s cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined for $2500 by the San Diego for Tweeting about the team’s food spread and their Superbowl loss. The trend may continue if athletes decide to reveal too much information to fans and media alike.

It seems the media isn’t quite sure how to handle Twitter also known as the athlete’s public diary. Can a story be written about an athlete’s Tweets? Apparently not in Big Baby’s case. Athletes in one sense have made it easier if not interesting for the media who will pounce on a Tweet about a clubhouse disagreement or otherwise private contract negociations. Some web sites have even made it easier for the media and the obsessive sports fans by seeking out the real athletes on Twitter. But maybe some of the behind-the-scenes clubhouse discussions and player interactions should be left private. Now that decision is up to the athlete.

Donovan’s gem ends Revs streak

08.09.09 at 3:12 pm ET
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Spice Girls song blasted over the Gillette Stadium loud speakers Saturday night. No, it wasn’t a reunion concert, thankfully. It was a pre-game warm-up song for the Revolution and L.A. Galaxy. The song no doubt welcomed Spice spouse David Beckham to Foxboro along with 26,623 nearly filling the lower bowl at Gillette.

The 2-1 Galaxy win was also a welcome site to Beckham. But it was his teammate Landon Donovan who deserved the attention Saturday, controlling the field early on and scoring a goal worthy of SportsCenter’s “Top Plays” in the first half.

Donovan’s goal in the 21st minute took some momentum out of a surging Revs team. Revs defender Darrius Barnes attempted to clear a ball floating near the Revs net but instead it ricocheted towards Donovan at the right side of the net. Donovan captured it and struck the volley into the left corner past a diving Matt Reis.

“It bounced up in the air,” said Donovan, the U.S. National Team’s leading scorer. “My initial thought was shoot, my second thought was maybe bring it down. I just thought I’d take a swing at it and see. At that point I’m just trying to make real good contact and I hit it perfectly.”

The Revs fought the rest of the quarter for the equalizer but to no avail. Steve Ralston and Kenny Mansally both had good chances in front of the net but either shot wide or were taken over by Galaxy defenders.

A Galaxy goal from Jovan Kirovski in the 52nd minute seemed to create more of an urgency in the Revs, who had scored 15 of 19 regular season goals in the second half. Yet the Revs could not put a run together, even with scoring threat Shalrie Joseph in the regular season starting lineup for the first time since June 13.

“You can’t give a team like L.A. a two goal start,” Revs assistant coach Paul Mariner said. “We’ve got quality all over the field, Landon’s a constant threat, Beck’s with the passing, they pick a good spot in this one.”

A total of 26 fouls were committed between the two teams with Beckham’s involvement in many of the scuffles. The aggressive play paid off for the Revs in the 83rd minute. Kenny Mansally was tripped up by Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez on a drive in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for the Revs. Ralston took the kick, making a run for the ball before slowing up as L.A. goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts dove too soon. Ricketts watched it sail into the back right corner of the net, cutting the Galaxy’s lead in half.

Yet the goal seemed to come too late as the Revs rushed in trying to tie the score in the final minutes. The Galaxy dominated possession in stoppage time, foiling a comeback.

“Once we went down we kind of lost our heads,” Ralston said. “We started going every time instead of passing and keeping the ball. We were so direct in trying to get it all back at one time. Then the ball is turned over and we’re in a bad spot. We had to realize there was time to come back and just keep playing.”

To top off the Revs night, head coach Steve Nicol served the first of a two-game suspension, leaving Mariner in his place. Nicol received the suspension after he was awarded a red card in the final minutes of last Saturday’s game against Toronto FC. He will also sit out the August 20 match in Seattle.

The loss for the Revs broke a four-game unbeaten streak and was the first regular-season loss at Gillette since May. Meanwhile, the Galaxy won at Gillette for the first time in team history dating back to 1999.

“I thought last year we came here and played pretty well and only got a point out of it,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “This year I think we came with more quality and certainly I think we did a good job of controlling the game.”

The Galaxy have been one of the hottest teams in the MLS, having not lost a regular season match since June 20. While the team has suffered multiple distractions in the wake of David Beckham, it has not slowed down. Donovan, who created controversy in questioning Beckham’s play, credited his teammate on Saturday with dealing with the situation.

“Unfortunately for David no one wants to hear those things said about them,” Donovan said. “Especially through a book but to his credit he’s been a man about it. He’s taken it like a man and done a great job of moving past it and I can’t say a lot of people would have done that.”

The Revs won’t have to face the surging Galaxy again during the regular season. The team has  a much needed 11-day break before its next match in Seattle.

See the Future Today, at Fenway

08.07.09 at 11:42 am ET
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For the fourth year in a row, Sox fans will get the opportunity to watch Boston’€™s minor league teams in action during a doubleheader at Fenway this Saturday featuring some of the best raw talent in the farm system.

Since August 2006, ‘€œFutures at Fenway’€ has featured two Sox minor league affiliates playing regular-season games against teams from their respective leagues. This year the event will feature the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs against the Bowie Baysox in the first game, and the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox against the Norfolk Tides in the second.

The idea to showcase the minor league affiliates in a major league park came from non-other than Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in an attempt to make affordable baseball games available to the public in Boston.

‘€œWe hope that these games and these family-friendly ticket prices will open the doors of Fenway Park on a summer Saturday to thousands of fans from across the city and throughout New England who may not otherwise be able to afford a Red Sox game,’€ the mayor said in 2006. ‘€œWith Red Sox tickets so tough to come by, this event is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the City of Boston and America’€™s most beloved ballpark for thousands of families and especially the children for whom this opportunity will mean so much.’€

To date, all six Futures games have resulted in wins for the home team (the Red Sox affiliate). What’€™s more perhaps more amazing though, is that four of those wins have come in the last half-inning.

2006

The first game featured the Single-A Lowell Spinners against Oneonta Tigers in which Lowell won 3-1. Spinners’€™ closer Joshua Papelbon (younger brother of, you guessed it, Jonathan Papelbon) came on in the ninth to a roaring ovation from the Boston crowd before ending the game and earning a save.

The second game featured the Triple-A PawSox against the Rochester Red Wings. The teams traded the lead various times throughout the game, before Pawtucket star and Boston-native Carlos Pena belted a two-run shot in the eighth to put the Sox ahead and seal the deal.

2007

Lowell was again featured in game one of the Futures doubleheader in what turned out to be an intense pitching duel between the Spinners and the Hudson Valley Renegades. Hudson Valley scored early in the first, but failed to get another run for the rest of the game. Lowell struggled offensively as well, until the eighth inning when a single from Brett Lewis tied the game and a clutch two-out hit from Jorge Jimenez won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

In the second game, the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs finally got their chance to play at Fenway against the Harrisburg Senators. Unlike the previous game, this one had plenty of offense. With the score 11-9 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Sea Dogs made a dramatic comeback, ultimately winning the game 12-11 on a double down the leftfield line. The two teams combined for 24 hits, 17 walks, and 20 strikeouts.

2008

The first game of the 2008 Futures was like déjà vu. Once again, Lowell faced Hudson Valley at Fenway, and once again the Spinners triumphed in walk-off fashion. After exchanging leads all game, Hudson Valley tied the game in the ninth on a misplayed groundball and the game went to extra innings. In the bottom of the twelfth, Will Middlebrooks’€™ line drive to centerfield just barely missed being caught and the Spinners walked off with a victory.

The second game was seemingly less eventful as the Triple-A PawSox returned to Fenway, this time facing the Charlotte Knights. In a stellar pitching performance from Pawtucket’€™s David Pauley, the PawSox cruised to a 5-2 win with great hitting from Dusty Brown and Jeff Bailey.

For more information on the Futures at Fenway games or to find tickets, visit the Red Sox official site. To watch highlights from past Futures games, click here. For the Red Sox press release, see below:

 

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR 4th ANNUAL FUTURES AT FENWAY PRESENTED BY COMCAST

 BOSTON, MA ‘€“ The4th Annual Futures at Fenway Presented by Comcast minor league doubleheader will take place on Saturday, August 8, 2009.  The following is the schedule of events for the day and entertainment options for fans and their families.

10:35 a.m. ‘€“ Ballpark opens to the Public

Fans will be able to come into the ballpark one-and-a-half hours before the first game of the doubleheader between the Portland Sea Dogs and the Bowie Baysox (AA-Baltimore) commences at 12:05 p.m.  There will be family-friendly entertainment throughout the Fenway Park concourses.  On Yawkey Way, there will be an inflatable T-Ball and moon bounce setup along with a rock wall, face painter and balloon artist.  There will be a second moon bounce setup at the Gate C.

12:05 p.m.  ‘€“ First pitch of the game between the Portland Sea Dogs and the Bowie Baysox

 

There will be numerous in-game entertainment that has been scheduled.  Slugger, the Portland Sea Dogs mascot will be featured in a number of skits that will be appealing to kids and adults alike.  Mascot performances with kids are also scheduled to take place on top of the 1st Base and the 3rd Base dugouts along with other skits where kids will be selected at random from the crowd.

1:30 p.m. ‘€“ Autograph Session with Pawtucket Red Sox players

 

There will be a 45 minute autograph session from 1:30 ‘€“ 2:15 p.m. in the Gate B Big Concourse near the Best Buy Players Club with the players from the Pawtucket Red Sox.

4:00 p.m. ‘€“ Approximate First pitch of the game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Norfolk Tides

 

Similar to the first game, there will once again be entertainment for fans at the game.  One lucky kid who signs up for a Red Sox Kid Nation membership will be upgraded to a premium seat and another will receive the opportunity to spend one inning inside the Green Monster scoreboard during the game.  There will be a pizza eating contest for adults, a mascot race, two t-shirt tosses to the crowd  and a mascot ball toss for fans as well during the game.

5:00 p.m. – Autograph Session with Portland Sea Dogs players

There will be a 45 minute autograph session from 5:00 ‘€“ 5:45 p.m. in the Gate B Big Concourse near the Best Buy Players Club with the players from the Portland Sea Dogs.

Ticket prices will remain the same this year as last year’€™s Futures at Fenway event.  They range from as little as $5 (for Upper Bleachers) to just $30 (for Green Monster Seats, Dugout Seats, the EMC Club and the State Street Pavilion Club).  Tickets can be purchased on www.redsox.com or by calling 1-877-REDSOX9.  Tickets will also be available for purchase at Fenway Park at Gate E beginning at 10:35 am on Saturday.  Fans with disabilities may also call (877) REDSOX-9 to purchase accessible seating (while supplies last). The Red Sox’ TTY number for hearing-impaired fans is (617) 226-6644.  Fans will also be able to enjoy selected concession items at discounted prices.

 

Read More: Carlos Pena, Dusty Brown, Futures at Fenway, Jeff Bailey

Why Beantown Beats the Big Apple – in Baseball and Beyond

08.07.09 at 9:28 am ET
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So the Red Sox got manhandled by the Yankees Thursday night ‘€“ big whoop.

Boston may have lost that minor battle, but ultimately the city has won, and will continue to win, the greater war. When it really boils down to it, this rivalry isn’€™t about baseball but rather about pride. It’€™s about which city is the superior metropolis.

So without further adieu, I present to you a head-to-head match-up of Boston vs. New York:

History and Politics:

This category undoubtedly goes to Boston for one simple reason: without us there would be no United States of America. That means no baseball, no apple pie, and no New York for that matter. Hell, if it weren’€™t for Boston, we’€™d all still be British subjects paying too many taxes without due representation.

But Boston didn’€™t stand for that. When the Brits tried to exert more control over their American colonies in the early 1770s through greater taxation, it was the Bostonians who told them they could take their taxation and shove it up their knickerbockers.

The Beantown colonists started their uprising by throwing snowballs at British soldiers with loaded guns in March 1770, sparking the infamous Boston Massacre on State Street.

Three years later, they were dressed as Native Americans on British merchant ships as they dumped hundreds of pounds of tea in Boston Harbor to protest the newly instated Tea Act.

The train had left the station (or, given the time period, perhaps it would be more appropriate to suggest that the carriage had left the barn?). Bostonians had ignited the American Revolution and done the country yet another useful service: producing Paul Revere, without whom we would have never known that the British were coming.

So in short, you’€™re welcome for establishing this country, New York ‘€“ you ungrateful schmucks.

Not to mention, Boston has produced some of the country’€™s finest politicians and leaders including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, JFK, and George H.W. Bush.

Nickname:

This is what New York is working with:

· The Big Apple (lame)

· The City That Never Sleeps (exaggerated)

· The Capital of the World (so cocky it’€™s unbelievable)

Boston, on the other hand, has been called ‘€œThe Cradle of Modern America’€ (true), ‘€œThe Hub’€ (a historical reference), and most notably ‘€œBeantown,’€ due in large part to the colonial obsession with Boston Baked Beans.

Advantage Boston.

Accent:

Both accents epitomize the characteristics of their respective cities. Both are also non-rhotic, meaning people drop the ‘€œr’€ sound at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant.

But Bostonians have a far more prominent dialect made famous by JFK, the Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby, and of course, Martin Scorsese’€™s ‘€œThe Depahted’€. They not only drop their r’€™s but also broaden their a’€™s.

So Bostonians don’€™t take baths, they take baaths. They don’€™t park their cars in Harvard Yard, they pahk their cahs in Hahvahd Yahd. Drunken Fenway fans didn’€™t root for Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, they rooted for Nomaaaah!

New Yorkers, in contrast, reverse their er and oy sounds, making for a truly terrible noise reminiscent of Archie Bunker or Vinnie Barbarino.

Simply put, if you were stuck on a bus for an extended period of time, whom would you rather be with?

The guys from Good Will Hunting?

Or her?

I thought so.

Music:

New York has plenty of songs written about it. I’€™m still sticking with ‘€œDirty Water’€ and ‘€œShipping Up to Boston.’€

Sports:

Alas, we’€™ve arrived at the final and perhaps most epic of all the battles between these two powerhouse cities.

In typical arrogant New York fashion, New Yorkers are quick to point out the 28 combined World Series Championships won by the Mets and Yankees, the five Superbowls won between the Jets and Giants, the eight Stanley Cups between the Rangers and Islanders, and the two NBA Championships that belong to the Knicks.

I’€™ll concede that my dear city can’€™t compete with all those rings.

With the exception of the 17-time champion Celtics, Boston hasn’€™t racked up all too many championships in its long sports history. In fact, most of them have been recent acquisitions (Patriots in 2001, 2003, and 2004; Red Sox in 2004 and 2007; Celtics in 2008).

But I will tell you one thing, and I can say this with the utmost sincerity: Boston cares more.

We live and die with every pitch, every free throw, every extra point kick, and every faceoff. We see sports as a reflection of our city and, in turn, we expect only the best from our teams. It’€™s a unified effort in which we have one team for each respective sport ‘€“ one choice, like it or not. Yes, for some time our teams were garbage. For years the Patriots couldn’€™t buy a Superbowl, and the formerly glorious Celtics forgot what it meant to win. And there’€™s the Red Sox, who every time came so utterly close to changing history, only to fall short in excruciating fashion.

But our teams persevered, our fans stayed true to their loyalty, and it’€™s for these reasons that winning these past few years has felt so good, so significant.

So New York can have all their World Series, their Superbowls, their NBA Championships, and Stanley Cups.

I’€™m fine being a Bostonian.

Read More: Boston, New York, Sox, Yankees

Lights, cameras, action: David Beckham comes to Gillette

08.06.09 at 6:15 pm ET
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While the Patriots’ Tom Brady has been the big name around Gillette lately, he might have to step aside Saturday night when David Beckham hits the turf in Foxboro. The LA Galaxy will face the Revolution Saturday night for the first time since July 4 in L.A., when the Galaxy handed the Revs their last MLS loss, a 1-0 shutout.

While Boston is no stranger to athletes-turned-divas, Beckham has taken it to the international level. The English footballer (as in soccer player) created his fame on the fields of Manchester United but is now probably more famous for his Armani advertisements and the controversy he has created in the MLS.

Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007 but it was this during this past MLS offseason, when the Brit requested the Galaxy loan him to Italian club AC Milan, that the trouble brewed. Beckham ended up extending his three-month loan to a six-month loan, well past the MLS opening day. Teammates expressed disappointment, Galaxy captain Landon Donovan questioned his commitment and fans berated him with criticism.

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl released a book two weeks before Beckham’s return to the league called “The Beckham Experiment.” In it, Donovan is quoted extensively on Beckham’s lack of effort and attitude. Beckham later responded that Donovan’s comments were “unprofessional” and so the teammate saga brewed.

After his season debut with the Galaxy on July 16 in New Jersey against the New York Red Bulls, boos and derogatory posters greeted him. In his first game back in LA four days later, the Galaxy played an international match with none other than AC Milan, the very team he had spent six months with, adding to fans’ anger. At one point, in response to some jeers from the crowd, Beckham approached the stands and prompted a fan to confront him on the field. The fan jumped down from his seat but was quickly tackled by security.

So this weekend, the legend that is David Beckham will come to Gillette. Yet the Revs refuse to focus on the distractions and aim to keep their four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2) alive.

On top of the fanfare, head coach Steve Nicol will be missing the game because of an ejection from the Revs’ match last Saturday against division rival Toronto FC.

“We’re just concentrating on the game and how they go about it and how we go about it,” Nicol said. “Don’t get me wrong — it’s great that we’re going to have a big crowd and all the other stuff, but the most important thing for us (is) when we go on the field we do what we need to do. Obviously I won’t be [on the field], and I’m disappointed in that, but I will be there so Paul (Mariner) and I will be communicating during the game so we’ll go from there.”

Mariner has been Nicol’s assistant coach since joining the Revs in 2004. He will take Nicol’s place in Saturday’s match. Nicol’s last game suspension came in September of 2007.

With nearly a full team back on the field for Saturday’s match after having lost 78 man-games this season on 17 separate injuries, the Revs look to keep their unbeaten streak against the Galaxy alive. The Galaxy has never won in seven previous visits to Gillette dating back to 1999.

The Revs will need to step up their offense with Donovan on the field. The Galaxy trump the Revs in goals scored and shots on goal, with Donovan the team leader in both categories. New England has scored 19 goals in regular season play while 15 of them have come in the second half.

“I’d like to score some early goals,” said Steve Ralston. “I feel like we’re always having to come from behind and maybe it’s the fact that we’re pushing forward and bringing extra attackers on the field. We’ve been able to tie games and go for the win but in a perfect scenario we’d like to score first. It’s a struggle to do so this year, we’re always having to fight from behind and that’s difficult to do. You can’t always, you can’t do that if good teams are going to make you pay.”

Three of the next four Revs’ games in August will be at home in Gillette where the the team is 4-1-3 in MLS competition. With a league low 17 games played, the Revs hope to gain some ground in the Eastern Division standings.

Though Beckham takes the stage Saturday night at Gillette, the Revs won’t be judging or paying much attention to the circus that follows him. More than anything, they’ll just be looking to keep their streak alive.

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Will Smoltz snap out of it?

08.06.09 at 12:04 pm ET
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Tonight’s start is a big example of why the Red Sox took a flyer on John Smoltz back in January. Boston wanted a clutch starter on the cheap, and the Smoltz wanted to prove that he still had it.

When the Sox play their first of four at Yankee Stadium tonight they’ll be looking to turn around a recent stretch of disappointing baseball (8-10 since the All-Star break). Smoltz’ duty is doubled when you factor in him trying to work out of a funk he hasn’t seen in nearly 16 years.

After a start last Friday in Baltimore in which he gave up five runs over six innings (it very well could have been six earned if not for a spectacular catch by Jacoby Ellsbury), Smoltz has now given up at least five earned runs in three consecutive starts dating back to July 20 (1-2). The last time Smoltz had such a stretch, the Braves were in the NL West in September of 1993. The right-hander also gave up six, five, and six, respectively in three straight in August of 1989. For what it’s worth, Smoltz has never seen one of these streaks reach four games.

Still, the question lingers: what if Smoltz extends the streak tonight and helps the Red Sox to their first loss against the Yankees on the season? What if the streak then reaches five games the next time out? In five of his seven starts he’s let the opponent cross the plate five times, so it’s a reasonable concern. 

All of the “pitching depth” is clearly out the window by now. Justin Masterson (who wasn’t really appetizing as a starter in the first place given his ineffectiveness against lefties) is gone, and Michael Bowden was shelled last night in Pawtucket (six earned runs in three innings). Commenters everywhere have grown restless with the lack of overpowering performances from Smoltz, but as Alex Speier pointed out last week, the former Brave isn’t going anywhere. Like it or not, this appears to be the rotation for the time being. 

Meanwhile, the Sox brought back one of their starters of the past by signing Paul Byrd. Looking around the league, it may be the case that they brought back the wrong guy. Not to dwell on a dwell on a 37-year-old’s Double A performance, but guess who notched 11 strikeouts last night?

This leads to a question that could definitely induce some interesting debates: would you rather have John Smoltz or Pedro Martinez for the rest of the season? 

This isn’t an open-and-shut case.  Everything should be taken into consideration. I’m talking contracts (Smoltz’ $5.5 million salary versus Pedro’s $1 million), the fact that Smoltz was able to return earlier, age, résumés, and yes, the perceived headache that comes with Martinez.

Though Smoltz is different because he is returning from a major injury, the two cases are similar in that they are formerly overpowering pitchers who are trying to achieve success using new means. For Smoltz, it’s depending more on his changeup. For Martinez, it’s coming to grips with the fact that he’s not going to be able to throw quite as many fastballs to big league hitters and get away with it.

While a comparison of the two pitchers in this town would be remarkably lopsided, Smoltz can still give Red Sox fans hope for the rest of the season and beyond by turning in a signature performance against the team’s biggest rival. It won’t be easy, but then again Martinez wasn’t afraid of admitting that either.

Lou Merloni said on Saturday’s “Basball Show” that the Red Sox have three no. 5 starters in Smoltz, Brad Penny, and Clay Buchholz. Based on the numbers, he’s got a point, but if anything can change Boston’s mind about Smoltz, it will be a shut-down performance in the Bronx that halts the skids of both himself and the Sox. If not, let the griping continue.

Read More: John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez,