Hippo Manchester
October 6, 2005

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Longshots: Yanked from the edge of your seat

By the time you see this, the Red Sox will be at least two games into the playoff series with Chicago, where the prevailing feeling throughout Red Sox Nation will be “let’s get this thing over with so we can get to the series that really counts.” That will be a series I call baseball’s Ali-Frazier III, better known as the rubber match with the Yankees.

Thinking like that will put me in the doghouse with Bill Belichick especially since the White Sox had the best record in the AL. Plus, their title drought makes New England’s 86-year wait seem like spring break. But after feeling the electricity sparked by closing the season a game down and three to play with the Yanks, how can you not be praying for  a Sox victory over the Sox?

Nothing compares. Not even the World Series, which I found nice but four time zones from the thrill of being immersed in the ALCS the last two years. And, yes, I know the most devastating loss in team history came in 2003. Ill take the feeling that followed that loss over a dull series victory any day, because it tells you how much you care. While winning is nice, if I can have just one, I’ll take caring because it lasts longer.

The catalyst for all that was the big weekend, which was also the catalyst for the following random thoughts and stories that came while reveling in what I hope was the prelim for this year’s edition of Armageddon

Media hyperbole: While I love the guy, and think he’s the MVP, I’m not ready to agree with Steve Burton who gushed Thursday night that David Ortiz was the greatest clutch hitter in history. I’m also still not ready to endorse Dan Shaughnessy’s June pronouncement that the Yankees are dead and buried.

Do the math: Im thinking in the last two weeks, Shaugnessey got the answer he’s been asking for all year on why Manny gets a pass from the Nation for being Manny. In his last 15 games, Manny hit 10 homers and drove in 29. I loved the box in the Globe showing the 12 different scenarios still existing Saturday morning for how the race could turn out. Meanwhile, the Indians losing six of seven goes up there with the Phillies losing 10 straight in 1964 and 1987 Blue Jays dropping their last seven by choking down the stretch.

Pennant fever: You can make a case the rainout on the final Monday cost Boston the division title. If Curt Schilling pitched on Saturday, as originally intended, like he did Sunday, he’d have beaten Randy Johnson to put them one up, with one to play. Then it’s Wakefield vs. struggling Mike Mussina in a probable slugfest.

Great lines from the weekend: From a scalper on Lansdowne Street after being offered $200 for two bleacher seats with the Yanks already leading 5-1 in the fourth: Are you crazy, I wouldn’t settle for that if this was Tampa Bay in June. And he didn’t budge when I asked if he knew Randy Johnson had never coughed up a four-run lead in his career. I hope those tickets tasted good.

Understanding Bill Buckner: At a party after Saturday’s game at McFaddens on State Street I got a little perspective on why Bill Buckner moved to Idaho when my real estate mogul friend Billy Weidacher walked up to Mike Torrez (yes that Mike Torrez) and said, “Can you finally admit you screwed up not throwing a few warm-up pitches when Dent went back to get a new bat?” Torrez, who’d thrown about 100 pitches by the time Bucky Dent broke his bat before the historic homer, gave him the same incredulous look my father gave me when I told him when I grew up I wanted to be a ventriloquist.

Torrez has a great attitude about his place in Red Sox lore. He joked all night about Dent and the playoff game on the eve of its 27th anniversary. Of course, he enjoyed hearing me tell the group yapping with him, Bob Stanley, how Torrez gave up the winning run on a homer to Reggie Jackson.

Greatest time in the rivalry: With all due respect to the 1970s edition of this rivalry, it’s never been better. While the players may not have quite the same intense dislike for each other today, the mania of the fans is up several notches. Meanwhile, thanks to the wild card, the chance to meet in the playoffs gives it a whole new dimension.

Rick Burleson echoed the intensity issue at the same party saying, we didn’t do that when we played the Yankees after seeing Big Papi and A-Rod hug before Friday’s game. What was surprising was him saying the one Yankee he’d have gone out for a beer with was public enemy number one, Thurman Munson.

Regardless of where you stand on this, Ill close by paraphrasing Dan Akroyd talking to Chris Farley in Tommy Boy ..... savor the flavor, because it may not be quite as good ever again.