The Good, the Bad, and the Hungry Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire



It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$8.95
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Beaverton Sports and Fitness- Baseball General

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the 2004 Season

by and

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the 2004 Season Cover

 

 

Excerpt

From: Spring Training: Welcome to Next Year

March 4th

I want to get up and be at the practice fields by nine. I expect it'll be just me and Steph, but Trudy comes too, driving while I navigate. We peel off the Tamiami Trail and in a few blocks we see City of Palms Park. According to the website, the training complex is two and a half miles straight down Edison, but there's no parking. You're supposed to park here and ride a shuttle bus to the practice fields.

City of Palms Park is understated and classic from the outside, a plain white concrete facade three stories tall, with flags for all the AL teams flying atop the roof, and one window-sized Sox logo over the green main gates. There's no one on the plaza in front, just the stalky palm trees. I don't see anywhere to park, so I tell Trudy to go ahead and cruise the practice fields.

We get lucky — the lot for the practice facility is half-empty. The clear-coated monster trucks and chrome-wheeled Escalades are obviously the players'. We park in a far corner and head for the nearest gate. AUTHORIZED ACCESS ONLY, a sign says. As we walk through, I look for other fans, but only see a few people who might be players' relatives.

There are five fields and, closest to us, a roofed arcade. Someone's in there smacking balls, but it's too dim to see who, and we're trying to act cool. We head for a field where the players are stretching. No one challenges us. When we reach the team, we see why — it's not the big club but the rookie and minor league invitees, guys with no shot this year, but who may develop and move up through the system.

The pitchers run bunt drills. The outfielders handle line-drive singles silently fired from a rubber-wheeled machine. Former players Luis Alicea and U L Washington coach the infielders, tossing short-hops the players have to backhand barehanded. The range of skill is evident. Some never miss while others are lucky to pick one cleanly.

Summers, we see a lot of the triple-A PawSox over inPawtucket and the double-A Portland Sea Dogs when they visit New Britain, but the only player I recognize is Hanley Ramirez. He's the number one prospect in our farm system, a shortstop with speed and power. He's only twenty, and rumor is he might be promoted from single-A Augusta to Portland, with an eye towards taking Nomar's place in 2005. One problem is he made 36 errors last year and hit only .275 after batting over .330 at lower levels. Another is that he's a hothead, earning a ten-game suspension for making an obscene gesture to the crowd. Here, in practice, he moves like he's already a superstar, cool and loose and slouchy.

There are three seniors watching with us, a woman and two men, one of whom is wearing a Springfield Elks cap. The woman has a camera, a couple signed balls and a handful of minor league cards. She wants to get Jamie Brown to sign his. She knows all the players taking batting practice. This is what they do, she says. They're mad at the Sox for forcing them to buy ticket packages that include three crummy games to get the one good one against the Yanks, so now they just come to the complex and watch the kids.

BP wraps, so we ramble along the road beyond the last field. It's hot, and Steph's cheeks are red. We've circled the entire complex, and walk through the lot just as two women in a '69 Firebird convertible pull up. They're older than any of the guys here, but beach-tanned and gym-tight. I don't think Steph's seen Bull Durham or knows what a Baseball Annie is, but he probablywouldn't be interested anyway.

We come back in the players' entrance, which has a Boston Globe honor box beside it. The batting alleys are full of guys getting extra swings in. By the backstop, the old lady is getting Jamie Brown to sign. We've only been here a few hours, but it's enough. It's only our first day and we're already wilting.

After putting in some beach time, we get caught in traffic and are nearly late for the night game. Hammond Stadium holds only 7,500, but it seems they've all brought their cars. The Twins have elected to park the overflow on the outfields of their practice facility. We just shrug and follow the soft ruts in front of us and nose it in against the 330 sign by the foul pole.

"The temperature at game time here in Fort Myers is seventy-nine degrees," the PA announcer informs us, to applause. "In Minneapolis, it's thirty-four with a mix of rain and snow."

Besides the ailing Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon sitting out, the starting lineup is most decidedly the A-team. Gabe Kapler, a solid backup outfielder, leads off, followed by last year's surprise batting champ Bill Mueller, Manny, Nomar, David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, PawSock Adam Hyzdu subbing in right for Trot, and in the nine-spot, Pokey Reese.

The Twins roll out their postseason lineup, including outfielders Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter, and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, as well as phenom Joe Mauer at catcher.

It's the first inning of the first exhibition game, but when Bill Mueller launches one to deep center, Torii Hunter gets on his horse and runs it down, diving at full extension like it's the playoffs.

The intensity only lasts a couple of innings. By the fourth the substitutions are wholesale and the game takes on a double-A flavor. The Sox win on a broken-bat bleeder by prospect Jeremy Owens, and we leave happy, picking up our free grapefruit, two each in a yellow mesh bag. In the lot I spy an old orange VW bus with RED SOX NATION handpainted in red across the back window. Three guys intheir early twenties are piling in the side door, and for a second I envy them the trip. Then I remember that I'm on it too.

March 5th

It's sunny and eighty-four in Fort Myers, the sort of faux summer day that fills Florida's west coast with tourists in the month of March and makes driving a pain in the ass — often a dangerous pain in the ass, as many of the people with whom one is sharing the road are old, bewildered, and heavily medicated. All the same, I'm in a chipper mood as I stash my car among the Hummers and Escalades in the players' parking lot (I have a special dispensation from Kerri Moore, the new Public Relations gal). It's a perfect day for my first game of the year.

Well, okay, so it's not really a game; more of a seven-inning scrimmage against the Boston College baseball team, which is down to take its annual pasting from the experienced teams along the Sun Coast and Alligator Alley (Florida college teams get to play and practice year-round, which hardly seems fair) before swinging north to play under usually cloudy skies and in cutting winds that make fifty degrees feel like thirty. But they are naturally juiced to be playing against the big boys, and in front of an audience that numbers in the thousands instead of the hundreds or — sometimes, early on — the mere dozens.

City of Palms Park in Fort Myers is Fenway's sunnier-tempered little brother. The aisles are wider, the concession lines are shorter, the prices are saner, the pace is slower, and the mood is laid-back. One hears the occasional cry of You suck! — these are Boston fans after all — but they are isolated, and often draw disapproving looks. This is a mellow crowd, and hey, why not? We're still in first place — along with the Yankees, and the Orioles, and even the Devil Rays, who dwell in their somehow dingy dome up the road in Tampa — and all things are possible. Curse? What curse? As if to underline this, a grinning bald guy holds up a sign for Pokey Reese. OKEY DOKEY, POKEY, it reads.

It's an afternoon for saying hello to old friends from previous springs going back — can it be? — six years, now; everyone from the parking-lot attendant and the elderly security guard outside the elevator going up to the offices and the press boxes to a laid-back Larry Lucchino, who wants to know if I'm over my bout of pneumonia. And Stewart O'Nan is here, looking exactly as he did last October during the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. Maybe a little more gray in the goatee — being a Red Sox fan will do that to you — but otherwise he looks like the same old Stew. He could even be munching from the same bag of peanuts. The wonderful Kerri Moore (who I still haven't met, although I did leave her a signed copy of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon as a thank-you) has gotten us seats directly behind the screen, and the grass is so green it almost looks painted on.

Tim Wakefield starts for Boston and gets a solid round of applause: these people remember the games he won in postseason, not the catastrophic season-ending home run he gave up to Aaron Boone. He throws more hard stuff than I'm used to seeing, but Wake's bread-and-butter pitch is the knuckleball, and to him the really hard stuff is a heater that clocks in at 81 miles an hour (the scoreboard down here gives no radar-gun readout, so we just have to guess). The top of the BC lineup hits him pretty well, and after half an inning they've put up a two-spot on four hits. This is a pretty typical early-spring outing for Wakefield, who just throws the one inning. At thirty-seven he's not only the dean of the Red Sox pitching staff, but the player who's been with the club longest.

A lot of the guys who see action in the Sox-BC scrimmage (which the Sox eventually win, 9-3, big surprise there) are a lot less familiar. There's Jesus Medrano, for instance, and career minor leaguer Andy Dominique; there's Tony Schrager, who is wearing the highest number I've ever seen: 95. Holy shit, I think, that could almost be his temperature. These guys and plenty ofothers will undoubtedly be on their way back to the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Portland Sea Dogs, and the Lowell Spinners (where the team mascot, Stew informs me, is the world-famous Canalligator) when the forty-man roster starts to shrink. For others, so-called invitees like Terry Shumpert, Tony Womack, and the world-famous Dauber, things are more serious. If it doesn't work here for them, it may not work anywhere. The career of a pro baseball player is longer than that of the average pro basketball or football player, but it is still short compared to that of your average account executive or ad salesman, and although the pay is better, the end can come with shocking suddenness.

But no one worries too much about stuff like that on a day like this. It's only the second game-day of the short spring season, the weather's beautiful, and everyone's loose. Around the fourth inning, Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione comes down and sits with Stewart and me for a little while. Like the players, Joe looks trim, tanned and relaxed. He has his own book coming out in a month or so, a wonderful, anecdote-crammed trip down memory lane called Broadcast Rites and Sites, subtitled I Saw It on the Radio with the Boston Red Sox. (One of the best is about the grand slam Boston catcher Rich Gedman hit off Detroit screwballer Willie Hernandez back in '86.) He tells us more stories as he sits on the step at the end of the aisle, watching Boston College bat in the top of the fifth. Baseball is a leisurely game, and those of us who love it fill its pauses with stories of other games and other years. When I mention how hard I'm pulling for Brian Daubach to find a home with the '04 Red Sox, Joe tells us how he set Dauber up with the woman who became his wife. "She said she didn't like ballplayers because they were always hitting on her," Joe says, smiling in the warm afternoon sun. "I told her she ought to meet this guy. I told her he was really different. Really nice." Joe's smile widens into a grin. "Then I sent Dauber in to get his hair cut," he finishes. "Case closed."

Stew and I look at each other and say the same thing at exactly the same moment: What hair? The Dauber's got a quarter of an inch, at most. And we all laugh. It's good to be laughing at a baseball game again. God knows the laughs were hard to come by last October.

I ask Joe if the college kids get excited about these games with the pros (I'm thinking of the BC pitcher who struck out big David Ortiz in the third, and wondering if he'll still be telling people about it when he's forty-five and paunchy). "Oh, like you wouldn't believe," Joe says, and then goes on to tell us the Red Sox player the college kids liked the most was the much maligned Carl Everett, who was dubbed Jurassic Carl by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy (for his temper as much as his fundamentalist Christian beliefs), and who has since been traded to the Montreal Expos. "He was great to the [college players]," Joe says. "He'd spend lots of time talking to them and give them all kinds of equipment." He pauses, then adds, "I bet he prospers in Montreal, because there's no media coverage. People won't be watching him so closely."

By now it's the bottom of the sixth, and Joe excuses himself. He and his broadcast partner, Jerry Trupiano ("Troop"), are doing the evening game (another slo-mo scrimmage, this time against Northeastern, with a fellow named Schilling starting for the Sox), and he has to prepare. But, like everything else that happens this day, the preparations will be leisurely, more pleasure than business. Joe knows a lot of people back home in New England will be listening, but not exactly paying attention — it's the Sox versus Northeastern, after all...but it's also baseball, Schilling on the mound, Garciaparra at short, and Varitek behind the plate (at least for a while, then maybe Kelly Shoppach, another guy with a high number). It's the fact of it that matters, like that first robin you see on your still-snowy front lawn.

It's too early to play really hard, and too early to wax really lyrical, either (God knows there's too much labored lyricism in baseball writing these days; it's even crept into the newspapers, which used to be bastions of statistics and hard-nosed reality — what sports reporters used to call "the agate"). But it can't hurt to say that being here — especially after a serious bout of pneumonia — feels pretty goddamn wonderful. It's like putting your hand out and touching a live thing — another season when great things may happen. Miracles, even. And if that isn't touching grace, it's pretty close.

Oh, shit, that's too close to lyrical for comfort, but it's been a good day. There was baseball. So let it stand.

Copyright © 2004 by Stewart O'Nan, Stephen King

Product Details

ISBN:
9780743267526
Subtitle:
Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season
Author:
Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan
Author:
King, Stephen
Author:
O'Nan, Stewart
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
History
Subject:
Baseball - General
Subject:
Baseball - Specific Teams
Subject:
Boston red sox (baseball team)
Subject:
General Sports & Recreation
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st
Publication Date:
December 1, 2004
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 20.256 oz

Other books you might like

  1. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an...
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  2. Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN's... Used Hardcover $2.95
  3. Believe It!: The World Series... Used Hardcover $2.25
  4. The Joy of Keeping Score: How... Used Trade Paper $5.95
  5. The Runaway Bunny
    Used Trade Paper $3.95
  6. Great American Novel Used Trade Paper $3.95

Related Subjects

Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Baseball » General
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Featured Titles

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the 2004 Season Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743267526 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Of all the books that will examine the Boston Red Sox's stunning come-from-behind 2004 ALCS win over the Yankees and subsequent World Series victory, none will have this book's warmth, personality or depth. Beginning with an e-mail exchange in the summer of 2003, novelists King and O'Nan started keeping diaries chronicling the Red Sox's season, from spring training to the Series' final game. Although they attended some games together, the two did most of their conversing in electronic missives about the team's players, the highs and lows of their performance on the field and the hated Yankees ('limousine longballers'). O'Nan acts as a play-by-play announcer, calling the details of every game (sometimes quite tediously), while King provides colorful commentary, making the games come alive by proffering his intense emotional reactions to them. When the Red Sox find themselves three games down during the ALCS, King reflects on the possibilities of a win in game four: 'Yet still we are the faithful... we tell ourselves it's just one game at a time. We tell ourselves the impossible can start tonight.' After the Sox win the Series, O'Nan delivers a fan's thanks: 'You believed in yourselves even more than we did. That's why you're World Champions, and why we'll never forget you or this season. Wherever you go, any of you, you'll always have a home here, in the heart of the Nation.' (At times, the authors' language borders on the maudlin.) But King and O'Nan are, admittedly, more eloquent than average baseball fans (or average sportswriters, for that matter), and their book will provide Red Sox readers an opportunity to relive every nail-biting moment of a memorable season. (Dec.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "As a collectible souvenir, a completist's highlight reel, joyous fans could hardly ask for more. As a book, however, not as a keepsake but rather as four hundred pages of self-standing reading material, it's not exactly a page-turner....And yet here's the rub: the authors stumbled on a rare season, and somewhere down the line just about anyone who followed this year's Red Sox will be thankful that two passionate fans kept notes." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "[A]n excitable, book-length high-five for the winning team....[T]he authors rise to the occasion. They present appealingly hotheaded accounts of each game, complete with unedited trivia and you-are-there minutiae."
"Review" by , "King and O'Nan are the kind of fans who make for great baseball companions: knowledgeable, opinionated, funny and irreverent."
"Review" by , "[A]n entertaining chronicle of the just-completed 2004 Boston Red Sox baseball season. In fact, this collaborative memoir of diary entries and e-mails is nothing less than a passionate love letter to...the new champions of Major League Baseball."
"Synopsis" by , Two fiercely avid Red Sox fans document one of the most eagerly anticipated baseball seasons of all time.
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.