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Dan Shaughnessy

The Red Sox’ playoff race has been great, even with their late-season stumbles

The Red Sox came through with a crucial win Friday night over the Nationals.Mitchell Layton/Getty

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Tom to burst from the tunnel, and hoping things don’t get ugly for Bill late Sunday night if the Buccaneers rout the Patriots …

▪ No doubt Tom Brady’s return is the most celebrated event regarding a famous figure visiting Greater Boston since Pope John Paul II kissed the tarmac at Logan in October 1979. Our region is agog.

But I hope you have been paying attention to this wacky wild-card scramble in the American League. It’s brought back memories of a simpler time when the Red Sox were the only team in town and a torrid pennant race involving the Sox commanded all of our attention in the final weekend of a season.


This is not 1967. In those days, we had four teams playing for the right to go to the World Series. There were no “division” winners. Certainly no wild cards. No parachutes. No forgiveness. You either finished first in a 10-team league or you went home. In ‘67, when the Sox battled through the final day with the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox, we held our breath on every pitch.

It’s never going to be like that again. Football is king today. Baseball is too slow and its playoffs are bloated and diluted.

Also, there is no more wonder or innocence about our hometown team. Four championships in this century have lifted the desperation and urgency we once had for the Sox. Alex Cora’s 2021 anti-vax edition — quick to preen, quicker to fold at times it seems — has been tough for some to embrace.

It may not quite be the drama of the final day of 1967, but this Red Sox playoff race has been plenty exciting in its own right.Mitchell Layton/Getty

But the race is the race. And this race has been good. Even with all of the Sox’ late-season stumbles.

October baseball is still a great part of our sports menu. And while your head knows these Sox might not be good enough, your heart wants to see them get into a one-game playoff with the Yankees on Tuesday . . . and then see what happens.


I know I’ll be checking my phone for updates all day Saturday and Sunday. Yankees. Jays. Mariners. Red Sox. How are they all doing? Could we have a chaotic Sunday finish, and maybe a tiebreaker game Monday just to get into the one-gamer against the Yankees on Tuesday? Count me in for all of it.

It’s baseball. It’s a race. It’s still great. And you are not a real Boston sports fan if you ignore this excitement while putting out the sandwiches, cheeseballs, and beer koozies for Sunday night’s Game of the Millennium.

▪ My favorite books on the Patriots dynasty are David Halberstam’s “The Education of a Coach,” Mark Leibovich’s “Big Game,” and Ian O’Connor’s “Belichick.”

Add Seth Wickersham’s “It’s Better to Be Feared,” which is scheduled for release Oct. 12. It won’t be mailed to Patriots season ticket-holders like last year’s love letter to Bob Kraft (”Dynasty”) because there are some uncomfortable truths in the book.

Seth Wickersham's new book, “It’s Better to Be Feared,” includes plenty of behind-the-scenes strife in the long-running Patriots dynasty.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

You can read about Kraft’s insatiable quest to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his not-surprising discomfort with Bill Belichick (”the biggest bleeping expletive in my life,” is what the book claims Kraft said about Belichick at the annual rich guys conference in Colorado). Alex Guerrero’s shady dealings are properly revealed, as is Brady’s utter devotion to the nefarious training guru.


Wickersham also is matter-of-fact about the Patriots’ football-deflation system. There is no Bermanesque fanboy attempt to cover up the fact that they were doing it.

▪ Quiz: Name the only big league player (other than Jackie Robinson) to have his number retired by three franchises (answer below).

▪ The Red Sox simply can’t read the room. How else could they persist with “Sweet Caroline” before the home half of the eighth on back-to-back nights after two of the worst eighth-inning foldos in Fenway history? It’s pandering to the pink hats and insulting to Boston baseball fans.

Same goes for the bush-league taunting audio that is played every time a visiting player strikes out (the Yankees did this long before the Sox copied it). Twice Sunday night, the silly sound was played prematurely, and both times the Yankee batter followed with a crushing blow.

▪ Joel Sherman of the New York Post makes the excellent observation that the ongoing success of the Astros indicates that they had some talent to go with their cheating ways. The Astros were caught stealing signs in their World Series championship season of 2017, but they’ve continued to win.

Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and George Springer (now with Toronto) are still raking. A.J. Hinch did a good job with the Tigers this season and Cora has a case for AL Manager of the Year in the Boston dugout.

Jose Altuve's Astros are the AL West division champions this season.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

▪ Cleveland’s baseball team has been the “Indians” since 1915. That ends Sunday. It no doubt will be a photo op when the giant “Indians” script logo comes off the Progressive Field left-field scoreboard soon.


The Cleveland baseball team will be the Guardians next season, but it’s a guarantee that many Clevelanders are going to call them “the Tribe” for years to come.

▪ According to the Dominican newspaper Listín Diario, a fugitive who was the alleged mastermind of the plot to shoot David Ortiz in 2019 was gunned down and killed in broad daylight last Sunday in Santiago. Another case of mistaken identity? Authorities are believed to be rounding up the usual suspects.

▪ You just knew flat-earth Kyrie Irving was going to be a nightmare regarding vaccinations.

▪ A weird moment at Nets media day that did not include Kyrie: David Letterman, posing as “Dave from Basketball Digest,” was permitted to ask several questions of Kevin Durant (“Why do people call you KD?”) in a group session. Durant was not amused.

▪ According to the Daily Mail, Katie Couric dishes on her former significant other, Tom Werner, in her new memoir, “Going There,” out in late October. According to Ms. Couric, the Red Sox chairman was a “textbook narcissist” who dumped her on e-mail after he “love bombed” her with gifts.

▪ It’s 80 years since Ted Williams became the last .400 hitter. Ted would be sickened to see how many players failed to reach .200 this season. The Mendoza Line looks like Kilimanjaro to Jackie Bradley Jr., who went into the weekend batting .162.


The end of this season marks 80 years since Ted Williams became the last player to hit .400.Associated Press

▪ The Lakers have LeBron James, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbook. Scott Cacciola of the New York Times called them “the NBA’s Traveling Wilburys.”

▪ The Giants (at New Orleans) and Jets (home with the Titans) should be a combined 0-8 by Sunday night.

▪ The last Mariners team to make it to the postseason was the 116-win squad of 2001.

▪ “War on the Diamond,” a film by Andy Billman, had its world premiere at the Boston Film Festival at the Omni Hotel at the Seaport Sept. 23. Billman, a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan and an award-winning ESPN producer in the “30 for 30″ series, tells the story of the Carl Mays pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920 at the Polo Grounds.

Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette participated in a post-viewing panel, along with former Globie Lesley Visser. In an eerie coincidence, Richie Conigliaro was at the Omni the night of the screening, unaware of the film or its subject matter.

Conigliaro’s oldest brother, Tony, survived a 1967 beaning at the hand of Jack Hamilton but was never the same player. Conigliaro chatted with Billman and attended a pre-premiere reception.

▪ Halftime performers at the Feb. 13 Super Bowl in Los Angeles: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem.

▪ The NCAA is exploring the concept of staging the men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours in the same city. Host cities have been secured through 2026, so this could not start until 2027.

▪ Brad Stevens, Bob Ryan, and Michael Holley will be out front for the annual ABCD Hoop Dreams of Champions at TD Garden Nov. 2. For a chance to play on the parquet floor and contribute to a great cause, contact elizabeth.mccarthy@bostonabcd.org or call 617-620-6949.

▪ Quiz answer: Nolan Ryan (Astros, Angels, Rangers).

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.