Picked-up pieces while wondering if Mike Vrabel has any rule-book trickeration in store for Bill Belichick …
▪ In this space last weekend, we asked for submissions of Boston sports “duende” moments, like the Kyle Schwarber mock ovation when the Schwarb made a clean play in the playoffs, and the famous “Beat LA” chant at the Old Garden in 1982.
The response was overwhelming. Dozens of you fondly recalled the Red Sox home opener in 2005, when all the Yankees were booed during introductions right up until closer Mariano Rivera received a standing ovation for his role in the 2004 playoffs (Rivera blew the save in Game 4 when Dave Roberts triggered a comeback for the ages with the Stolen Base Heard ’Round the World).
There were plenty of other great suggestions, some too dated, arcane, or difficult to prove.
Some duende nuggets that made the cut: Ray Bourque giving his No. 7 jersey to Phil Esposito and switching to No. 77 when Espo was honored at the Old Garden in 1987; a long standing ovation for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he set the NBA field goal record at the Old Garden in 1984; TD Garden fans singing the national anthem a capella before the first Bruins game after the Marathon bombings; Fenway fans chanting “steroids” at Jose Canseco in 1988, long before anybody knew it was true; Cape Cod families annually opening their homes to host college baseball players for Cape League summers; Globe Pulitzer winner Stan Grossfeld getting the photo of bullpen cop Steve Horgan making a perfect “W” by raising his arms next to an upside-down Torii Hunter when David Ortiz’s homer changed the 2013 ALCS.
Also: An exasperated Dave Cowens, annoyed with flopping defenders and ticky-tack calls, blasting Mike Newlin off the parquet floor in a game in 1976, then announcing, “Now that’s a foul!’’; Fenway fans chanting “Where is Roger?” and “In the shower!” when the Rocket was KO’d early by the Sox in Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS; a leather-lunged fan in the Old Garden balcony hollering, “We love ya, Cooz!” on Bob Cousy Day in 1963; Gillette Stadium fans gleefully tossing snow after Tedy Bruschi’s pick-6 against the Dolphins in 2003; a home run ball tossed back into Fenway from Lansdowne Street. (How did they know it was a visitor’s home run ball?)
And: The gathering of 1999 major league All-Stars and the All-Century Team around Ted Williams near the pitcher’s mound at Fenway; 7-year-old Jordan Leandre, who had used a wheelchair during his cancer battle, singing the national anthem at Fenway in 2007, then running the bases solo and being hoisted by 1967 legend Jose Santiago after crossing home plate.
▪ Quiz: Name two Hall of Fame baseball players who also played for the Harlem Globetrotters (answer below).
▪ This is the time of year when the Dollar Store Red Sox leak word that they are “in on” every free agent who gets big bucks to sign somewhere else. The Sox lead the majors in “interest,” but Chaim Bloom is dutifully carrying out his directive to go for “value” (i.e. cheap) guys — the latest being Michael Wacha, who comes to Boston with a requisite 5.05 ERA in 2021, agreeing to a one-year contract.
“One-year contract” is where every offer starts and ends with these Sox.
They still tell us about their high payroll, but that’s only because of contracts secured by the deposed Dave Dombrowski (Chris Sale, Nate Eovaldi, David Price, J.D. Martinez) before the change in philosophy.
If the Sox don’t extend Xander Bogaerts (opt out after next season) and Rafael Devers (free agent after 2023), Boston fans should storm the gates of Fenway wielding Pittsburgh Penguin hockey sticks.
▪ Vrabel is not afraid of Belichick. This makes the Titans a threat. Vrabel knows the Patriot Way. He knows Bill lives by the mantra of “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
When the Titans beat the Patriots in the playoffs two years ago (Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot), Vrabel gave the Hoodie a taste of his own medicine. In the fourth quarter, Vrabel exploited a loophole in the rulebook that allowed the Titans to run 1:55 off the clock without running a play.
Belichick was furious, but we all knew it was the same strategy Bill had employed against the Jets earlier that season. The NFL closed the loophole the next season.
▪ Bill Lee claims to be the last major league player drafted in the US Army Reserve. Lee reported for duty in 1969 and says he served with the National Guard in Puerto Rico. Lee went 1-3 in 20 games (one start) with the 1969 Red Sox. He later won 17 games in three straight seasons, 1973-75.
▪ The Giants fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett after last Monday’s embarrassing loss to the Buccaneers. Wrong call. New York’s defensive coordinator should have been dumped. New York played a hideous soft-coverage defense, taking no chances, putting no pressure on Brady, and allowing the GOAT to surgically kill them. It was pathetic.
Brady can play until he’s 64 if teams are going to do this. It’s not even football. It’s arena ball from the QB’s living room.
▪ Headline in the New York Post: “ZACH ATTACK — Time for Jets’ rookie to show why he was No. 2 pick, not Pats’ Jones.”
▪ The 2021-22 Lakers are a running, dunking NBA Legends Tour. They have 11 players with at least 10 years in the league (counting this season), including two of the top 10 scorers in history (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony).
They also feature fossils Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo. It’s like a living NBA museum.
Los Angeles was 10-10 going into weekend play.
▪ The maniacal Bob Ryan remembers being a student at Boston College and taking the T to the Garden for an NBA doubleheader on Friday, Dec. 1, 1967.
In Game 1, the Philadelphia 76ers beat the upstart Seattle SuperSonics, 133-109, with Wilt Chamberlain scoring a pedestrian 52 points. Wilt the Stilt set an NBA record that night, missing 22 of 30 free throws. Chamberlain could have scored 74 if he’d been perfect from the line.
The Bill Russell/Sam Jones Celtics won the nightcap over the Lakers, 123-119.
Ryan was a senior at BC and claims his doubleheader ticket cost $2.
▪ Watched “King Richard,” the new film on Richard Williams and his tennis-playing daughters, and was delighted to see Brad Greenquist playing late, great Globe tennis writer Bud Collins. The wardrobe department did a fine job replicating Bud’s trademark trousers.
▪ Gary Tanguay, who was part of the local sports media during the Deflategate fiasco, has written a work of fiction, “The Arm and the Fall,” a football murder mystery dealing with shootouts, romance, Russian mobsters, greedy owners, maniacal players, and a washed-up TV sportscaster named Jerry “The Cush” Cushman.
Available on Amazon, the Gare Bear’s first novel is decidedly R-rated. Hope Tanguay plays the lead when his book is made into a movie.
▪ Thus far, no one has surfaced with a frozen loaf of Big Yaz Bread from 1968. I am not giving up. Like Ed Davis, I’ve had some good leads but thus far have been unable to crack the case. Still asking for help. Someone has to have a frozen loaf. There is no shame. Present yourself.
▪ Quiz answer: Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins.