Picked-up pieces while waiting one more week for the return of Tom Brady …
▪ I find myself wondering if Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez will be back at Fenway for Red Sox-Yankees this weekend.
Eighteen years ago, with “Gigli” bombing at the box office, Ben and Jen had the best seats in the house at the height of the Sox-Yankees rivalry. It was Oct. 11, 2003, Game 3 of the ALCS, when the Sox and Yankees drew SRO crowds, delivered great TV ratings, and featured true star power (Jeter, Clemens, Mussina, Rivera, Pedro, Papi, Nomar, Manny — where do we stop?).
On the day Bennifer watched from Henrytown seats next to the Sox dugout, Pedro Martinez and the Rocket had dustups with Karim Garcia and Manny Ramirez, and 72-year-old Don Zimmer was shucked to the Fenway lawn after bullrushing Pedro.
A lot has happened since those days. After losing that ‘03 series in tragic fashion (Aaron Boone’s walkoff vs. Tim Wakefield), the Sox roared back in October of 2004 and shattered the Curse of the Bambino with the greatest comeback in the history of baseball — at the expense of the Yankees.
Here we are almost two decades later. Boone is manager of the Yankees while Joe Torre, Jeter, Mussina, Rivera, and Pedro are enshrined in Cooperstown. J-Lo, who was engaged to Alex Rodriguez and served him a birthday cake in the broadcast booth at Fenway just two years ago, is once again dating Boston homeboy Affleck.
Oh, and the Sox and Yanks came into their weekend showdown at Fenway separated by a mere two games with nine left to play. It is the unofficial start of the 2021 baseball playoffs.
Folks don’t care about the Red Sox and Yankees as much as they once did. This is certain. Fenway attendance is down, interest is down, and the pace of the games is dreadful. We have too many strikeouts and not enough star power. In late September of 2021, Boston sports fans talk about Brady and Mac Jones 24/7. The Sox were not expecting three sellouts for this big weekend.
But it’s still been a good baseball summer in the Hub, and the Sox — winners of seven straight coming into the weekend — have a great shot to make it to a one-game playoff Oct. 5, possibly at Fenway. Possibly against the Yankees. How’s that for shades of 1978 and 2003-04?
Hope John Henry is leaving tickets for Ben and Jen. Just like the good old days when Red Sox-Yankees was the only thing that mattered in early autumn.
▪ Quiz: Twenty-eight big leaguers have hit at least 500 homers: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Willie McCovey, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Eddie Murray, Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Miguel Cabrera. Only five have hit more doubles than homers. Name them (answer below).
▪ Will the Patriots have a video tribute to Brady on the big board before next Sunday’s Game of the Century at Gillette? What about Gronk? Does Gronk get a tribute? Antonio Brown? (They could show his one touchdown reception in Miami.) What about Alex Guerrero? Does Brady’s controversial trainer get his own video tribute?
▪ The Red Sox are going to want their best defensive alignment for a potential one-game playoff. If a righty starts against them, they would also want Kyle Schwarber in the lineup. Who sits? Bobby Dalbec or J.D. Martinez?
▪ All of the Bruins are vaccinated. Ditto for Brady’s Buccaneers. Evidently, the team concept matters in those locker rooms. So why does it have to be Kilimanjaro for the Red Sox?
▪ Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello is not afraid of his players. Before the start of camp, he said, “We will not allow any player in our organization to participate unless they are vaccinated.” This is called leadership.
▪ Keep an eye on Kyrie Irving’s vax status as the Nets get ready to start camp.
▪ So nice of the folks at TB12 to invite me in for a session. I must decline; it would be a Globe rules violation to take such a nice gift. Also, it would be wasted on me. I don’t even like avocados.
▪ Is it just me or did interest in the Ryder Cup peak in this country in 1999 when it was held at The Country Club in Brookline?
▪ There’s a good chance that the Dodgers’ Julio Urías will be the only pitcher to win 18 games this year. Going back to 1900, there has never been a season with fewer than three 18-game winners (excluding the strike-shortened seasons of ‘81 and ‘94 and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season). The Orioles all by themselves had four 20-game winners in 1971 (Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Pat Dobson).
▪ Speaking of the once-proud Baltimore franchise, Ryan Mountcastle has more homers (31) than any other rookie in Orioles history. Cal Ripken Jr. was the previous leader with 28 in 1982. Murray, who wound up with 504, hit 27 in his rookie season in 1977.
▪ Best Orioles story of the week came Wednesday night in Philadelphia when pitcher Brooks Kriske pitched a third of an inning of shutout ball against the Phillies. Kriske became the first Orioles player who was actually named after Brooks Robinson.
In the late 1970s, Baltimore Associated Press reporter Gordon Beard, while making fun of Jackson and his candy bar (“The Reggie Bar”), noted, “In Baltimore, people name their children after Brooks Robinson.”
Robinson is a family friend of the Kriskes and played catch with 9-year-old Brooks a couple of decades ago.
▪ Sunday in Las Vegas, Jacoby Brissett will be the Dolphins’ 23rd starting quarterback since Dan Marino retired in 2000.
▪ Red Sox rookies with 20-plus doubles, 5-plus triples, 20-plus homers, and 75-plus RBIs: Williams, Walt Dropo, Fred Lynn, Nomar Garciaparra, Dalbec.
▪ Melrose High’s Shey Peddy is starting for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA playoffs.
▪ A New York Post college football betting analyst speculates that UConn will be close to a 60-point underdog when it plays at Clemson in November.
▪ One of my great readers wants to know if we can measure Carl Yastrzemski’s exit velocity next time he bolts out of Fenway after delivering a ceremonial first pitch.
▪ Another great reader suggests Bob Dylan had Brady in mind in “My Back Pages” when he wrote, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
▪ Tom Werner, one of the invisible “no comment on anything ever” owners of the Red Sox, has invested in Dave’s Hot Chicken with Samuel L. Jackson and Drake, among others. Chicken and the Red Sox go together like peas and carrots. Sox Hall of Famer Wade Boggs lived on a diet of daily chicken, and the “Chicken and Beer” Sox of 2011 forever will live in infamy.
▪ The 20th Sports Museum gala, always a highlight on the calendar, will be held Dec. 8 at the New Garden. Clear your schedule. More details to come.
▪ Quiz answer: Williams, Murray, Palmeiro, Ortiz, Cabrera. (Pujols’s doubles may surpass his homers before he’s through.)