Wednesday, March 14, 2012

                      My dad(far end of the table)and 3 guys dressed just like him.

 You root for who your dad rooted for...sort of...

            I was hanging out at Manitoba's bar in the lower east side watching a Red Sox /Yankees game during the summer of 2004 when something unusual happened:I was outed as a Sox fan.Now usually, I try to keep the fact that I'm a Sox fan on the downlow when I'm in Manhattan(Brooklyn seems more Met-friendly, but you can never tell with the city), and maybe it was a close game,or (most likely)I had enough drinks in me that my Boston accent slipped out, but the bartender asked me "Hey, you a Boston fan"?I've always noticed that New York fans never say "Red Sox" or "Celtics", they always say "Boston".So, I admitted as such, and instead of the sarcasm or out and out hostility I was expecting to receive, he then asked "Was your dad a Boston fan"?I said yes, to which he replied, "That's cool, you root for who your dad rooted for, that's always been my belief"...

       I was relieved.This was not what I had expected from a Yankees fan, who turned out to be non other than the owner of the bar,"Handsome" Dick Manitoba from the legendary New York punk band "The Dictators".Born in the Bronx, and usually sporting some sort of Yankees hat, he is what you'd call a "die hard", going so far as to call out all the fickle fans that had popped up in the past 8 years:"I was a fan during the 80's, when they didn't win know, the Mattingly years...Now, since they won in 96, everyone's on the bandwagon".

   I'm sure the conversation wouldn't have been as cordial had it occurred in October, but it was still nice to hear,which brings me to my dad.He did indeed grow up a "Boston" fan, it just wasn't The Red Sox...not initially, anyway.No, Daniel Francis O'Shea from the  Hyde Park section of Boston was a..wait for it...a BRAVES fan.Now those of you not aware of this, Boston had 2 major league teams from 1901-1952, until the Braves moved to Milwaukee, then later, Atlanta.(Even if my dad were a fan of both teams, he would have endured both of them sucking until the mid 40's anyway).My parents had me late.My dad was almost 50 when I was born, making him older than most of my friend's grandads.He also had the distinction of being the only person I know to see Babe Ruth play(for the Braves in 1935)and see Cab Calloway perform.

               My dad played a little ball too.He would often tell me he was a knuckleball pitcher,which I found odd, because he had the tiniest hands I've ever seen.Seriously, he had hobbit hands(and they were almost as hairy too),I remember helping him in the garage,and he would hand me a pair of work gloves that would not fit ,it was like I was O.J. trying them on,except they actually didn't fit, and I was twelve!He would also tell me about my uncles too, and where they played.(Uncle Jack was a shortstop ,apparently).And of course,they all served in WWII.Whenever I want to feel like a lazy ass,I just think of my dad's generation, AKA,(cue the Tom Brokaw voice)"The Greatest Generation".Veterans who raised large families,owned their own business(Dad had a flower shop)2 cars,a house,etc.

             Anyway, back to baseball.The only Braves player worth mentioning in the 30's was Wally Berger.He was their power hitter.Oh sure,Casey Stengel was their manager for a bit when the were called "The Boston Bees",(So they could rename the Huntington grounds "The Bee Hive"...really...) but they never won anything.A young Warren Spahn noted that  he played for Stengel "before and after he was a genius"(The Braves, then later, The Mets , missing out on that whole Yankee dynasty in between). The only really good year they had in my dad's lifetime was the "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" pennant winners of 1948.Then they left town, but not before becoming one of the first teams to integrate with 1950 National League rookie of the year, Sam Jethroe(AKA,"The Jet"),which ,unfortunately ,was in stark contrast to the Red Sox, who were the last to do so(integrate, that is, which always bothered me).

 After '52, my dad really didn't have a team to root for.Sure, the Sox still had Ted Williams, and  he would casually follow, but it wasn't the same.It wasn't HIS team.It all started to change in the early 60's, however...By then,my brothers were into baseball, and the Sox were the only team in town,so my dad  begrudgingly started to care.It was made more difficult by the fact that the Sox really struggled during this period.The two highlights on the team were reliever Dick "The Monster" Raditz, the original "closer", with a booming voice and hands about 7 times the size of my dad's.And Carl Yazstremski, the man who replace Williams in left.However, little by little, they started getting good players; hometown boy Tony Conigliaro,SS Rico Petrocelli,1B George Scott,P Jim Longborg,etc.They all played a part in the "Impossible dream"season of 1967,where they went from a 2nd division club the year before,to making it to the 7th game of the World series the next.And while it was a team effort, most of the credit went to Yazstremski.

                  Yazstremski, or "Yaz" (not to be confused with Alison Moyet,the singer...and if you do confuse them, then you really are confused)as most of us know, was the last man to win the triple crown,and he became a Boston Icon.I can only go by my family's recollection,film clips, books and heresay...I had not entered this dimension...yet... My family would tell me about how they bought Yaz bread,(Yes,bread...Apparently, sport celebs got bread named after them in the 60's...a weird marketing technique,, but hell, my family bought it,although I'm sure it tasted awful)and how we had a cat named Yaz(who must have ran away, I don't remember he/she at all).So, because of the 1967 season, my dad was hooked...and found a new way to be miserable(ha).More heartbreaking years would follow,1975,1978,1986, with no title, but it gave my dad a chance to do what he does best, root for the underdog.Now I don't mean the team, really, I mean individual players.For some reason, he would fixate on one overachieving mediocre player and go on and on about how underated they were.Here's a short list:

               1)Reid Nichols
       Technically a 4th outfielder, but more like a 7th outfielder, Reid was about as nondescript as they get.
Even during they down years of the early to mid 80's(pre 86)he could never really crack the lineup, but the way my dad was talking about him, you'd think he was the second coming of Fred Lynn(who himself wasn't as good as Fred Lynn ).By the time the team got it's shit together in 86,Reid was all but gone...

            2)Al Nipper
 The answer to the trivia question:"What  pitcher started a WS game for the Sox in 86  not named  Clemens,Hurst, or Oil Can Boyd?I bet you the late Gary Carter could have told you...he took him deep twice during game 4.Really,though,Nip's claim to fame is that he was Clemens' best buddy, and it was important to keep the Rocket happy in 86.But my dad saw something in him(maybe because he looked just like my cousin Danny, son of my uncle Jack),or maybe he had a thing for sub .500 pitchers, but who knows.     
            3)Luis Rivera
Rico Petrocelli? Nope.Rick Burleson?Nope.My dad's favorite shortstop was none other than Luis Rivera, not a bad player at all, but not exactly a world beater either.When I try to think back on any memory I have of him,I just keep coming back to the time he made an error in a game(maybe a playoff game,not sure...was on T.V., I know that)and as he ran off the field,Clemens yelled at him for his muff...Apparently "Fundamentally sound",was the only criteria my dad needed.(This was back before every other shortstop hit 3.20 w/ 25 homers,btw)

  My dad never got to see the Sox win it all in 2004(he died in 1993)which is a shame ,because he really would have enjoyed that(especially after we wasted all that champagne in 86,seriously, most of it went down the drain), but also,it would have given him a chance to root for the likes of Gabe Kapler ,Cesar Crespo, and Pokey Reese(He Would have LOVED Pokey Reese,especially since he was past his prime)...and then watch them win again in 2007...and the horrible collapse of 2011 would have made him nostalgic for teams past...and give him a chance to root for the likes of 31 year old rookie Darnell Macdonald. 





  1. How about Luis Aparicio? Your brother Brian says that was his favorite shortstop before you were born, and he didn't know how to post a comment, so he made me do it for him...

  2. Actually, he played for the RedSox in the early 70's, so I was born... in his prime I wasn't born yet, but he was with the White Sox then...