[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]Clinton, S.C., Monday, October 14, 2013, 10:03 a.m.
It was a duty, perhaps even an honor, for the president of the student body to make announcements over “the intercom” twice a day, at the end of third and fifth periods. He was a social butterfly, always surrounded by gossipy friends, bustling here and there. Invariably, he would arrive at the room, just outside the principal’s office, flip the switch and read a list of routine items that had been scratched onto a legal pad.
All bus drivers report to the transportation office at 2:15. (Believe it or not, bus drivers were students then.)
It was Wednesday, Oct. 22, in 1975. I was a senior at Clinton High School. The football team was headed to a state championship. My favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, were locked in a classic World Series against the Cincinnati Reds that they would lose in seven games. The night before had been Game 6, and it had been won by one of baseball’s more famous home runs, a blast by Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk that had soared, just fair, over Fenway Park’s Green Monster.
I hadn’t had much sleep. I had a school newspaper to get out. Football practice took up the entire period between the end of school and darkness. But I wanted to do something. I wanted to do my part, in faraway South Carolina, for the Red Sox.
Between second and third period, I calmly walked into the “intercom room” – just act like you know what you’re doing — and scribbled a note at the bottom of the list.
All students should remember. Tonight is the seventh game of the World Series, and the Boston Red Sox are going to kick some ass.
As third period ended, I waited, undoubtedly wearing a smirk. As I expected, the student body president read the list without a glance. He probably didn’t even realize what he’d said until laughter could be heard up and down the halls, penetrating the closed classroom doors.
I didn’t get caught. I never even told anyone until years later, probably sitting around a campfire slugging a beer and holding court. It’s hard, of course, for a successful criminal not to try again, but I waited until the first incident had subsided. It was months later, in the spring.
Sometime before the end of the day, every senior is required to stop by the guidance office. Mrs. Ramage would like to raise some hell.
I saw Mrs. Ramage a couple of months ago at the House of Pizza. She stopped by my table and said my senior class’s beautification project – about which she probably did want to raise some hell – had been the best thing any class had done during all her years at the high school. Now there’s a new high school, and the old one is apparently going to be turned into a middle school. It’s still right pretty out front, though.
I can’t really say that Sunday night’s victory over the Detroit Tigers was a miracle. Miracles don’t happen as often as the comebacks the Red Sox have pulled off this year. One time I changed channels when the Sox trailed 6-0 in the eighth and switched back too late to see the seven-run, ninth-inning rally. Sunday night marked the 12th time Boston has won this year in its final at-bat.
I’ve learned not to switch the channel.
Truth is, the Red Sox have always been prone to miracles. For years, most of my life, the miracles have gone the other way: Bucky Dent’s shocking homer in 1978, the ball dribbling through Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986, Aaron Boone’s homer off Tim Wakefield in 2003.
My father, who bequeathed me the Red Sox, died at age 56, the Red Sox never having won a World Series – and having lost four times in seven games – in his lifetime. The miracle of miracles occurred in 2004. I was then 46. I consider October 27, the date the Red Sox polished off the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight, a holiday.
That’s Monte Dutton Red Sox Day, and I observe it with the glee of Christmas morning.
It didn’t stick, but when this worst-to-first Red Sox team – in John Farrell’s first year as manager, the victory total rose from 69 to 97 – began showing signs of promise, a few fans started calling Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli the Soggy Bottom Boys, a reference to the movie “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Now, of course, even the more clean-cut of the Carmines – that nickname for the Red Sox is occasionally invoked in New England, usually coupled with a reference to playing at “the Fens” – are laboriously allowing their facial hair to proliferate. Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew look as if they’ve been on a five-day bender.
All the team really needs is a relief pitcher with a waxed mustache, a la Rollie Fingers. It’s not still-shorn Koji Uehara, and it’s not going to be. Hey, Koji, don’t touch a thing. Keep slapping five and throwing strikes.
I love baseball, and the love only increases as I grow older. I think this is what I love the most: A fan can watch baseball his entire life, and, yet, still, it’s remarkable how
often he sees something he has never seen before.
For instance, David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam, which tied the score 5-5, was unusual in that each of the four runs was charged to a different Detroit pitcher. I don’t think I’ve seen or heard of that.
Once in my life have I seen a batter hit for the cycle. It was Terrance Long of the Oakland Athletics, in San Francisco at what was then Pac Bell Park. At Fenway Park, I saw Detroit’s Lou Whitaker – it was 1983 – go to his final at-bat needing only a single, but instead he wound up with two doubles, a triple and a homer.
I’ve never seen a no-hitter in person, though I was at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium watching the Braves on the night Len Barker pitched a perfect game for the Indians. I watched Roy Halladay’s post-season no-hitter on TV, and, come to think of it, the final two innings of the famed Dock Ellis no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, in which Ellis supposedly didn’t know he was pitching that Friday night and came to the park after dropping acid. LSD is not generally presumed to be a performance-enhancing drug.
I had no idea of all this watching on TV on June 12, 1970. In my defense, I was only 12.
Baseball is a never-ending link to one’s youth. It is a means for someone my age to avoid growing up, and it lines up nicely with writing about grown men playing such silly games, learning how to play guitar and write songs, and writing novels.
It might be tempting to label it a mid-life crisis, but this is really a lifelong crisis. Besides, let’s face it. I’m unlikely to live to be a hundred. This is a late-life crisis, perhaps my last hurrah before I go bumbling off into irrelevant senility.
At the moment, however, it’s a hell of a ride. Since undoubtedly, many of you are not Red Sox philes and some of you are Red Sox phobes, I appreciate your indulgence and hope you can find some common ground of adoration with your favorite team.