Picked-up pieces while readying for another Sunday on the football couch …
▪ Hank Aaron, who died Friday, hit 755 home runs, but only one at Fenway Park. On Sept. 14, 1975, working as a designated hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron stepped into the righthanded batter’s box and cranked a Bill Lee fastball into the left-field screen. It was the 41-year-old Aaron’s last home run of the season. He would hit only 10 more the rest of his career.
“It would have been the last of his career if he’d retired that year, but they talked him into coming back for one more season,” Lee said from his Vermont home Friday when he learned of Aaron’s death.
“I’m so glad I gave him that one. I’d been getting him out with changeups away, like Frank Robinson, and he hated that.
“Hank was getting old, and the wind was howling that day in from left field 20-30 miles an hour, so I said, ‘Let’s see what all the hoopla is about,’ and threw him a high, hard one up and in, and he friggin’ inside-outed that and it landed in the net like a butterfly with sneakers. I could have caught it with a Kleenex when it landed in that screen.
“I did not know it was his only homer here. To think he could have played his whole career in Boston and that’s the only one.
“I can still see that ball backspinning. I was amazed. He could open up and bring that bottom hand through and hit it all bottom hand and that ball would not hook an inch.
“Anyway, I got to see the real Henry Aaron in his prime one time.”
In the next day’s Globe, Bob Ryan wrote, “The ball Hank Aaron hit for a homer might have gone through the wall if it had hit it.”
On well-worn video, the pitch does not look like a fastball, and Aaron’s shot appears to be a rocket. You be the judge.
Globe photographer Frank O’Brien took a photo of Aaron admiring his shot at the completion of his swing.
“I was upstairs in front of the skyview seats to the left of home plate,” O’Brien recalled. “We had never seen much of him around Fenway, and it was absolutely an honor just to see him up there at the plate.”
Aaron becomes the 10th baseball Hall of Famer to die since last April. The others are Al Kaline, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro, Tommy Lasorda, and Don Sutton.
▪ The Curt Schilling Hall of Fame drama is going down to the wire, and the results will be announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. Schilling reached 70 percent on the ballot last year and has been hovering around the 75 percent threshold of enshrinement in early ballot disclosures this time.
If he makes it, he’ll be a hot potato for the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. What team would want to claim unhinged Schill at this point?
Sixty-three percent of responders to an Arizona Republic poll believe that Schill’s vigorous support of rioters on Capitol Hill should disqualify him from Hall honors. That’s in Arizona.
▪ Let me throw a little shade on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tom Brady feel-good story as we ready for the NFC Championship game.
Coming into this season, the Bucs were officially the losingest franchise in American sports history. Now they are in the NFC Championship game, playing a team they beat, 38-10, during the regular season. Sounds pretty good, right? I say they go down hard in Green Bay and we can draw a curtain on the notion of the Bucs playing a home game at the Tampa Super Bowl.
The Bucs are talented, undisciplined, and overrated. At 43, Brady is still an amazing athlete, leader, and competitor. He is also the luckiest athlete I have ever seen — going all the way back to the Tuck Rule Game, when he fumbled and should have lost to Oakland but was saved by a stupid rule that has since been changed.
It’s trendy to dump all over Bill Belichick this month, but the coach still gets the bigger slice of the credit pie for the Patriots’ two decades of success.
The Bucs carry a six-game winning streak into this game. Brady has some gaudy numbers over this stretch. It’s fool’s gold. Five of those wins came against sub-.500 teams: Falcons (twice), Lions, Vikings, and Washington.
The Bucs won in New Orleans — which is always an impressive win — but the Saints turned it over four times. Brady was a capable game manager, but he hardly carried the Bucs to victory. He threw for a pedestrian 199 yards and should have been intercepted three times.
▪ Quiz: Name the only current big league franchise that has never appeared in a World Series (answer below).
▪ Some readers wondered whether Sam Kennedy was contentious in our recent interview when he admitted that the Red Sox are not going “all-in” this season. The answer is no.
The Red Sox CEO/president is ever-polite and a true professional. He also is a company man who is carrying out the directives of his bosses.
When I asked him why we have heard nothing from those bosses since Mookie Betts was dumped 11 months ago, he said, “Our owners are available. They are available and accountable and, frankly, they are regarded as the best owners in Major League Baseball.”
When I pushed back on his contention that the owners are “available,” he said, “I’m not going to engage in that.” But he was not contentious.
▪ Props to the scriptwriter of “One Night in Miami” who had Cassius Clay calling Henry Cooper a “tomato can” when the two fought at Wembley Stadium in 1963. Note that Angelo Dundee in this film is played by “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli. Aldis Hodge’s Jim Brown is spot-on.
▪ Skeptics are suspicious of the NBA’s intentions when commissioner Adam Silver talks about the public health benefit of having his players vaccinated as part of a PSA campaign. When this comes after multiple NBA games have been postponed because of the virus, it feels a little like the league wants its players to jump the line.
▪ History Repeats Dept.: Before the first Super Bowl in 1967, the league championship games pitted Kansas City vs. Buffalo in the AFL and Green Bay vs. Dallas in the NFL.
▪ John M. Dowd, Donald Trump’s pardon-specialist lawyer, is the same guy who compiled the damning report on Pete Rose for commissioner Bart Giamatti way back in 1989.
Speaking of pardons, did you notice that President Trump issued one to famous sports gambler Bill Walters and another to Brian Urlacher’s brother Casey, who was facing federal charges of recruiting for an illegal offshore gambling ring?
▪ Give it up, IOC. Tokyo 2021 is not happening. It looks like we’re in for the first cancellation of the Summer Olympics since World War II. Unfortunate. More than $12 billion has already been spent to prepare for the Games.
▪ Iowa giant Luka Garza is fun to watch. As a four-year collegian with a low-post game, the NBA might not know what to do with him.
▪ Too early to be a Theo Epstein initiative, but MLB is reaching out with a survey polling fans’ appetites and concerns for returning to ballparks in the coronavirus world.
▪ Add radio producer Marc Cappello, Patriots Football Weekly’s Freddy Kirsch, and Patriots photographer David Silverman to the list of those who witnessed all of Brady’s 41 Patriot postseason games.
▪ The Knicks have had seven coaches since Brad Stevens was hired by the Celtics.
▪ Count me in with those who believe Mike Milbury got a raw deal from NBC.
▪ Do you think A-Rod got enough air time during the telecast of Joe Biden’s inauguration?
▪ Can anyone prove that singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson played high school baseball against Carl Yastrzemski?
▪ Quiz answer: Seattle Mariners.