Category Archives: Baseball

Delirious on a Duck Boat

rob-on-duck-boat-cropped-10-30-07.jpgA half-hour before the Red Sox’ World Series Rolling Rally began, I received an email at work from the Red Sox inviting me to ride one of the 20 duck boats that would drive through the city. (Are you kidding me???) 30 minutes later, I was aboard the white duck boat carrying Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, their families, and the medical staff. (Getting there on time was no simple matter… but that’s a story for another day…)

What an honor! To be included among the Red Sox family riding through the city amidst a sea of overjoyed, proud Sox fanatics was an experience of a lifetime. And I didn’t just stand there and wave. Knowing I’d probably never be there again, and feeling a responsibility to enjoy the experience not just for myself but for the rest of the Nation who didn’t receive an invitation to ride, I really got into it: pointing, pumping fists, whooping it up for two straight hours. A lifetime of Sox passion poured out of me and I felt an intense kinship with the crowd – that’s the only way I can explain it. The next day, my voice was gone and my whole body was sore. Like I said, I’d really whooped it up for two hours….

I looked into countless faces as we cruised through Boston, and each one was filled with tremendous joy and excitement. Thousands and thousands (it seemed like millions to me, actually) of people skipped work or school and braved enormous, dense crowds to experience this glorious conclusion to a banner Red Sox season. And while I could try to wax poetic about it all, I think these photos of Red Sox Nation, taken by me from the duck boat, speak for themselves about the incredible experience I had and that all those satisfied Sox fans had, as well.

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Thanks to my former fifth grade student, Morgan Pierson (who’s now graduated from college), for taking that photo of me on the duck boat as I passed him on Boylston Street (top of page). I quote from his email to me: “To be honest, Mr. C., I don’t think ANYONE on ANY of those Duck Boats showed as much sincere jubilation as you did.” Couldn’t help it. I was just mirroring the emotions of my fellow fans in front of me, and they were going absolutely berzerk…. after all, we did win the WORLD SERIES, BABY!

Watching Game 4 In The Dark

Asleep_on_couch I’m sitting here in the dark in my living room watching game 4 of the World Series – potentially the clincher for the Red Sox. Why is it dark in here? Because my wife and I caved in to my 8 year-old son’s begging to stay up to watch the first three innings. He’s lying on the couch, under a blanket with his head on his favorite pillow. It’s a school night, so this really isn’t model parenting. But the kid has rooted for the team every day since spring training, and they way he said this evening, “Mommy, it isn’t just a baseball game, it’s the World Series!” made us realize that, while he’s only in third grade, he’s as big a Red Sox fan as any grown-up we know. Of all the Sox fans out there tonight, this kid deserves a chance to see some of this game.

Earlier today, my son made me promise to wake him up in the ninth inning if the Red Sox have a chance to win the game, so he could witness the final moments and see the celebration on the field. “Wake me up if they’re down by ten runs or less in the last inning,” he said, implying that even a deficit that large is not too big for this baseball club to overcome. No, I told him, I’ll wake you up in the ninth inning if the Red Sox are leading, or tied, or if the tying run comes to the plate.

He’s been loquacious all night, asking me his customary impossible baseball questions, such as: “Daddy, if a game is suspended and they schedule it to be continued at a later date, but then one of the players who was in the lineup for one of the teams gets traded to another team before the game can be resumed, can that team substitute any player for the traded player?” I don’t even know where to find the answer to that question. All of a sudden, he’s quiet. He has fallen asleep before the end of the third inning. I’ll get him up later if necessary…

If this were a day game, or if it started earlier in the night, my son would be able to see every moment live. And he wouldn’t be lying under a blanket on the couch, struggling to stay awake – he’d be watching the way he normally does: bounding around the room, playing his own baseball game in his head, making diving, game-saving, ESPN-highlight plays on the couch over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It really is a sight to see. When he’s watching a game, our living room becomes a gymnasium and the whole house shakes. He actually becomes a participant in the drama that’s unfolding on the TV, burning hundreds of calories while I sit there eating nachos.

My brother just called me from his home outside of D.C. He is the most rabid, passionate, loyal Red Sox fan I know. He drove to Cleveland for game 5 of the ALCS and drove all the way back to D.C. immediately following the game, to get to work. That’s right, he drove something like 450 miles through the wee hours of the morning on an adrenaline high. He’s 37 years old, but the Red Sox make him (and all of us) behave like a college kid…

When he called, I asked him how his feelings about this Series are different from 2004. “I’m not as elated as I was then. And I just feel more confident about our chances. Even in the 9th inning of game 4 vs. the Cardinals in 2004 (with the Sox up, 3-0), I thought they could come back. But even if we lose tonight, we have Josh Beckett as insurance.”

We need to finish these guys off tonight. The Rockies have magic in their back pockets, as we saw over the last month. And this is baseball, after all. Anything CAN happen and anything DOES happen in this game. You can have a commanding 3-0 lead in a series, and a 3-0 lead in the 7th inning of game 4 (as the Sox do now), then one poor defensive play later (or one walk and stolen base later, as in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS), it can all start to slip away.

Off to focus on the conclusion of this one…

“Real” Red Sox Fans’ New Identity

A funny thing is happening in Red Sox Nation. Some of the people who were “real fans” prior to 2004 – who attest to having experienced the frustration, the agony, the exasperation of at least some of the 86 years of futility – are getting irritated with the consequences of the Sox becoming a winning franchise. The effect most discussed is the explosion of new Red Sox fans. Sometimes they’re referred to as the “pink hats.” Naturally, the team is irresistible, so new fans have been drawn to the Bosox like a magnet over the past three years. (I call these people “Stage 1 Fans” in my article about the 4 stages of being a Red Sox fan.) And I think it’s great. Come on down and join the Nation. We’ve been waiting for you.

But I find it fascinating that some Red Sox fans consider themselves “more worthy” than other Red Sox fans because they’ve been paying attention longer, or because they were fans when the Sox always found a way to lose, or because they know more trivia answers about 1967, 1975, and 1986. It’s so interesting that a Red Sox fan walking down the street would scoff at another Red Sox fan walking down the street because of the Sox shirt he/she chooses to wear, or the color of the baseball hat he/she chooses to wear. I mean, come on, aren’t we all pulling for the same group of guys?

I do agree that most “new” Sox fans are easy to spot, and even easier to identify when they open their mouths. But why do so many long-term die-hards loathe them so much? Is it because, deep down, they liked it better when the Sox were trying to break the “curse” and the cameraderie we all felt revolved around a shared masochistic obsession? Is it because they feel a person must “pay his dues” before he can be called a Red Sox fan? Or is it just because they find it sickening when people flock to the winner?

Legendary sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy wrote an article in today’s Boston Globe that expresses this “I’m a real fan, and you’re not” mentality well. Read the article here.

It’s ironic — all the “real fans” of the Red Sox crave another World Series victory, but many of them feel a sense of loss about our identity as valiant, perennial losers. (See an interesting article about this concept here.) Some harbor an unusual longing for the good ol’ days when the Sox were on an endless quest for a world title, and new, naive Sox fans were welcomed with open arms and admired for their willingness to join the fellowship of the miserable.

Prior to 2004, it never occurred to many “real fans” of the Red Sox that winning it all would fundamentally change the meaning of Red Sox Nation and alter forever the message that a “B” hat sends to others about the cap’s wearer (we didn’t dare to dream about such outrageous notions). And as we become the best team of this century (which is also what we were at the beginning of the 20th Century), many long-term fans want the world to know, “Yeah, we’re the best now, but we weren’t for a long time and I was loyal during the tough times too.” Can you imagine how popular a cap or t-shirt would be that communicated unequivocally about it’s owner, “I was a Sox fan during the painful years”?

Of course, one option for these people would be to wear a Cubs cap. There’s something familiar and strangely appealing to many “real” Red Sox fans about the image at right….

To The Kids of Red Sox Nation

On the Wednesday afternoon before game 1, at the end of lunch period, I was asked to say a few words to the middle school students at the school where I work. Half of them were wearing Sox shirts and I’m sure the World Series was a hot topic of conversation between their bites of American chop suey. Fascinating, given that at least half of them would be asleep before the first pitch, and none would last past the third inning. Here’s what I said:

“I know you’re all really excited about the game tonight, and about the Sox being in the World Series, and you’re sure the Sox are going to win it all. And I agree. But think about all those kids in Denver who are also at school today, and are also excited about this World Series, and are as certain about a Rockies victory as we are about a Sox victory. Those poor kids. They don’t know what kind of team their Rockies are about to face. Can we have a moment of silence to reflect on the sadness these innocent kids will feel when they get thrashed by Beckett, Papi, Manny, and Papelbon? (cheers ensued…. )

And I want all of you to know how lucky you are to be a kid-Sox-fan in the year 2007. Your teachers and I spent our entire childhood and adulthood dealing with Red Sox agony year after year. Sometimes we wondered if the Red Sox would ever win another World Series. Your childhood has already included one World Series victory, and you’re about to witness the second World Series win in four years! (more cheers….. I was on a roll)

And finally, I have some advice for all of you. I know that most of you will be sent to bed by your parents before the second inning. So when you get home from school today, find a radio in your house, put new batteries in it, and hide it under your pillow. The World Series only comes once a year, and you never know when the Sox will make it this far again. This is only the fifth time the Sox have played in the World Series in the last 60 years! Make sure you are prepared to follow the game late into the night – you want to be paying attention when the Sox win! (more cheers…. then, they went out to recess)

But seriously, we don’t hear much about the Rockies fans, and we assume they’re in a different (lower) class that die hard Red Sox fans (the height of audacity), but crazy Rockies fans do exist, and their endless World Series drought is about to be extended…. mm hmm, we know how they feel. And yes, I am being overly optimistic. That is my job as Vice President of Red Sox Nation….

Young Sox Fans, and Late, Late Games

So, tonight the World Series begins, and the excitement I feel about it young Sox fanaticreflects my supreme confidence that the Sox will prevail. In my last blog entry, you saw that I used the crystal ball Rem Dawg gave me to predict the exact outcome of the last three games. Well, I’m looking into the crystal ball again and I see the Sox taking the Series in 4 or 5 games. Part of me is a little sad that they’ll be celebrating once again on the opposing team’s home field, but that part of me is quite small, actually…..

The real issue in my house isn’t who will win the World Series, it’s who will be able to stay awake to WATCH the World Series, and how do we fit our kids’ school schedule into the World Series schedule?

Since becoming Vice President of Red Sox Nation, I have received about 15 emails – some from friends and acquaintances and some from total strangers – asking me to try to do something (in the future) about the late start of these games. These people are not only advocating for their rabid-fan-kids whose experience of the playoffs is the pre-game show and the highlights on TV the next morning, they’re advocating for THEMSELVES. It’s hard for grown-ups to stay up for the end of these games, let alone kids!

Well, I certainly plan to use whatever clout I have to affect change in the start-times of playoff games. But since Fox and TBS and every other network have determined that they can make the most money (now) by starting the games late, they’ll probably never change their minds (because, sadly, they are right… though they are being short-sighted by ignoring the fans of the future). Therefore, I offer the following advice to all parents of young Red Sox fans out there:

Rather than complain about the late start of these games, ADAPT to them. Being a die-hard Red Sox fan, I know you agree that it’s very important for our children to witness these critical moments in Red Sox history that only come once every few years, or decades, or for some people, once in a lifetime. So LET THEM WATCH, and prepare them for extended evenings of TV watching.

During the weeks leading up to the playoffs, start putting your kids to bed later and later so they get acclimated to the brutal baseball schedule they’ll be enduring soon. Once the playoffs start, take your kids out of school after lunch for a two-hour nap, and pump them full of caffeine about an hour before the games start. (Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew work well for this purpose.) Around 10:00pm, feed your kids a big bowl of ice cream. The sugar high will keep them going a while longer.

What about school the next day? You can try the Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew technique again and hope they can survive the day, but since there’s bound to be another game that night, it would be better to let them sleep in and miss the first few hours of school. Hey, you have to make a choice: will it be the three R’s, or the most important R of all? (the Red Sox) The World Series lasts one short week. In Red Sox Nation, it’s the most important week of our entire lives. The choice is obvious. Fox won’t bend, so we have to. Let the kids stay up to watch!

(No, this message has not been approved by my wife….but I’m working on it…)

Sox in Seven

OK, so several people have emailed me, begging the Vice President of Red Sox Nation to blog about the rest of this Cleveland series. When Rem Dawg appointed me, he gave me a crystal ball, and this is what I see:

Sox will win tonight. Beckett is pitching. Beckett is like the ace of spades, he beats all comers.

Sox will then come home for game 6 on a big high, very confident, and Curt Schilling was born to win do-or-die game 6′s. One way or another, he (and the team) will find a way to win.

Then we’ll have game 7 in Fenway. The Indians players won’t be able to shake that fear that they’re about to choke away a 3-1 series lead. The Sox will KNOW they’re going to win, having taken the last two in a row. We’ll be ready to throw a committee out there (Daisuke, Okajima, Lester, Timlin, Papelbon) but we won’t need to because the Sox will slug their way to a dominating no-doubter.

Rockies, beware.

How Would Winning Be Different Than In 2004?

sox-win-sox-win.jpg I remember arriving early at game 1 of the 2004 World Series. I felt enormous excitement, of course, because of the almost unthinkable possibility of finally winning it all. But I also felt enormous dread. Those of us who had endured our share of Red Sox pain felt reluctant to even give ourselves permission to imagine what it would be like if we actually won the Series. We had let ourselves imagine it vividly a few times before (game 7 of 1975, 9th inning of game 6 in 1986, game 7 of ALCS in 2003), only to get burned. Badly burned.

This year, it’s different. It’s easier to imagine what it would be like to win the World Series. There’s no dread whatsover. Certainly, the fact that the Yankees (and Mets) have already been eliminated helps. And it’s not as painful to imagine losing. Yes, I imagine a bad taste in my mouth at the thought of losing to the Indians, and a really rotten taste in my mouth at the idea of losing to the Rockies or Diamondbacks. But because we vanquished the curse in 2004, the current postseason is about 2007 only, not about 1919 and every other year we failed since then. On Opening Day in 2005, all of us members of Red Sox Nation hit the “restart button” on our emotional lives — and the ensuing three years of futility haven’t been enough to cause a distressing World Series drought.

So how would a World Series victory in 2007 be different from the 2004 triumph?

1. The celebration would be pure fun. No convulsions, no heart attacks. In 2004, the celebration was an orgasmic exorcism, almost painful in its joyousness, if that is possible. Of course, the fact that we were about to get swept by the Yankees until Millar walked, Roberts stole second, and Mueller knocked him home – and then we staged the greatest comeback in sports history – played a big role in our eventual ebullience. And yet we sort of expected some unknown force to take the trophy away from us even after the last game vs. St. Louis had ended. When the Cubs finally win it all, we’ll see that kind of craziness all over again.
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2. We would feel like World Champions immediately after the final out. In the aftermath of the 2004 victory, it literally took months for our old identity as “lovable chokers whose Daddy is the Yankees” to fade and our new identity as “World Champs” to sink in. Pre-2004, part of the pride of being a Red Sox fan was having the courage to “keep the faith,” and by wearing the blue hat with the “B” on it, we proclaimed to the world that we were sticking by our guys, no matter how horribly they had screwed up our lives. During the winter of 2004-2005, we all woke up every morning and thought, “I had the weirdest dream that the Red Sox won the World Series — oh my gosh, it’s true!” Because we’ve rehearsed the feeling of being a champion, another World Series triumph would feel like putting on an old, broken-in baseball glove (except better).

3. We would suddenly be perceived as one of the premier sports franchises of the 21st Century, by virtue of winning two World Series in four years. There would be several players on the team with TWO Red Sox World Series rings (reminiscent of the early 20th Century Red Sox players, who won it all in 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918). John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Theo Epstein would establish themselves as one of the best (if not THE best) owner-president-GM trio in sports today. And Terry Francona would have to be considered one of the elite managers in baseball…. and a bona-fide Hall of Fame candidate.

4. Kids in Red Sox Nation, who were fans in 2004, would officially grow up with a warped sense of what it means to be a Red Sox fan. (Or perhaps it’s us long-term fans whose perceptions are warped…. permanently damaged by the pain of pre-2004.) And this means that kids from Yankees Territory would officially grow up with a warped sense of what it means to be a Yankees fan. Doesn’t that idea make you happy?

A Great Jason Varitek Story

Yes, Jerry Remy did ask me to be Vice President of Red Sox Nation (last Friday, prior to game 2 vs. Anaheim), and yes, I did accept his offer, and yes, it’s really exciting. I’m not really sure yet what it means to be Vice President of Red Sox Nation, but I assume it means I should just keep being myself, and I’m determined to make it mean increased opportunities for me to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

But rather than write about this accomplishment — which really means nothing until Jerry and I DO something to validate our titles — I thought I’d celebrate my incredibly good fortune with a fantastic story from Red Sox Nation. I heard a lot of them during my two-month campaign, but this one tops ‘em all. It’s from a boy named Chris Stimpson, and it’s right out of a Disney movie that’s too good to believe.

Chris was at Fenway on August 13, 2007, and because his little brother, Sam, had caught a foul ball on June 12th, Chris really hoped he would catch one on this night. And against all odds, he believed he would. Well, he didn’t end up catching a foul ball, but one of his grandfather’s friends DID catch a foul ball off the bat of Jason Varitek, and he gave it to Sam. “I was so excited, I took the ball and jumped up in the air!” Chris told me. His wish had come true. But that’s not the end of the story.

Jason_varitek_signed_baseball On the drive home from the game, Chris’s dad got stuck in traffic. I’ll let Chris tell the rest of the story: “That’s when I saw Jason Varitek stuck in traffic too! Right next to us! We stopped the car and I got out and went into the street. None of the cars were moving so I walked over to Varitek’s car and tapped on the window. To my surprise, he rolled it down and said, What’s up? I told him about the foul ball he hit to my grandfather’s friend and I showed it to him and he said, Let me see that. Then he took out a pen, signed the ball, and handed it back to me. It was so cool. I ran back to my car yelling Thank you! back towards Varitek’s car. When I jumped in my car, I yelled, HE SIGNED IT! HE SIGNED IT!”

I certainly hope that in my capacity as Vice President of Red Sox Nation, I’ll hear a lot more wonderful stories like that one!

I Will Not Demand A Recount

Manny_waves_to_fans_after_hr I just got home from game one of the playoffs (Beckett… wow), and what matters way more than this Red Sox Nation election is that THE SOX WON. My 8 year-old son predicts 11 consecutive wins in the postseason. I’m not going to argue with him.

I wanted to let everyone know that I am extremely pleased with the outcome of the election. I remain blown away by the support of so many people — from every corner of my past and from people I’ve never met around the world — who cared enough to vote for “Regular Rob” and to ask their friends and family members to vote too. If you are one of those people, I thank you. (And I also want to say that no matter who you voted for, you picked a great candidate…. I got to know some of these people and they’re all first class.)

When this whole process started back in July, I did not realize how many connections with old friends I would reestablish and how many new relationships and conversations with loyal citizens of RSN would begin; I did not envision such an enthusiastic response to a song I’d write and record on my laptop in my basement and to Red Sox/baseball/parenting stories I would write on my blog; and I certainly did not dare to dream that a Pulitzer Prize-winning author I’ve never met would endorse my candidacy, catapulting me to a first-place finish among non-celebrity candidates.

I have heard from many people about how “unfair” it was that Jerry Remy participated in this election. But you know what — having Jerry Remy in the race made it a lot more fun for me and the other candidates. And in the end, Rem Dawg earned this — he’s developed a strong, authentic relationship with Red Sox Nation over a period of many years, he’s a consistently excellent baseball commentator, and the fans love him. Yes indeed, the fans have spoken — Jerry Remy is our president!

Stay tuned for many, many more blog articles here at this website, as well as a steady stream of new songs…. I’ve only just begun…..

Hanging Chads in RSN

Farmers_playing_baseball So now, we wait for the votes to be counted…

Regardless of the outcome, this has been a spectacular experience. I want to commend the other finalists, Jared Carrabis, Cheryl Boyd, Cindy Brown, Sam Horn, Jerry Remy, the Texan behind Big Pupi, Peter Gammons, and Rich Garces for a truly fun campaign. In particular, the candidates who showed up at the debate with Tim Russert and Tina Cervasio (first five on the list) really impressed me with their courage, their ideas for improving the fan experience, and their light-hearted approach to this whole “competition.”

And the greatest thing about being endorsed by Doris Kearns Goodwin is not the votes it attracted, but the memory I have of calling her afterwards to introduce myself and thank her — and hearing her great excitement about my disbelief and gratitude. What a classy woman she is. And a real Red Sox fan, to her core.

For us candidates, and all the people we met and emailed and received emails from, this campaign has been less a “competition” and more a celebration of the Red Sox and its fans. Before this whole RSN business started in July, I knew Red Sox Nation was huge and that the Red Sox were integral to the lives of millions of people around the world, but this process has truly opened my eyes to the magnitude of it all.

Indeed, the emails I’ve received from fans around the world have led me to the realization that baseball ISN’T just a game, the Red Sox AREN’T just a team, and Fenway Park ISN’T just a ballpark. The importance ascribed to these by countless SANE members of Red Sox Nation reveals that there’s something about baseball, the Red Sox, and Fenway that transcends their literal, banal definitions. Our emotional lives, our relationships with family members and friends, would be DIFFERENT without the Red Sox. And regardless of whatever role I may or may not have in this first “presidential administration,” I look forward to writing more about this phenomenon on this blog, for whomever is interested….

Thanks to all of you who supported my candidacy, or who supported others, or who took any interest in this campaign. It may appear to be a silly contest, but I have high hopes that whomever is elected will make a positive impact on people’s lives that no one can call “silly.”

Goodwin, A-Rod, and an 8-Year Old GM

Surprised_babyVote NOW for president of Red Sox Nation at www.redsoxnation.com/president.

This photo (left) depicts exactly how I felt at the moment Doris Kearns Goodwin said in her taped address at the presidential debate on Thursday, “I hereby announce that I am withdrawing my candidacy and endorsing Rob Crawford for president.”

It was a stunning moment. I don’t remember what I said when Tim Russert asked me for my reaction, but I now know how Clay Buchholz felt right after his no-hitter when Tina Cervasio asked him for his reaction. “Um, did that really just happen?” (By the way, someone should have asked me, What’s your reaction to having Tim Russert look you in the eye and say in a searing way, “What’s your reaction, Rob?”)

I have met Doris Kearns Goodwin once, and it was a brief handshake at the candidates’ event last Wednesday at The Baseball Tavern, near Fenway Park. What she did at the debate was extraordinarily gracious. What a remarkable person she is! Thank you, Doris! And of course if I am elected I will champion your wonderful idea of memorial bricks on Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street. It’s such a great idea, I’m sure the Sox would pursue it anyway.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, Goodwin’s gesture to withdraw and subsequently endorse a “regular fan” whom she hardly knows makes her the biggest winner of us all.

Click here to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s endorsement of my candidacy at her Red Sox blog.

Click here to read the speech I gave at the Baseball Tavern last week that Doris refers to in her endorsement.

A funny debate postscript: When I came home and talked with my 8 year-old son about how it had gone, he asked me, “Daddy, what was the hardest question they asked you?” I told him that the hardesArod_and_maskst question was, “If you had the chance to bring Alex Rodriguez to the Red Sox, would you?”

I told my son that my response was, “Well, my number-one priority is to win another World Series, and A-Rod would certainly help the Red Sox do that. But you know, my 8 year-old son is watching tonight, and he and I attended that game in 2004 when A-Rod and Varitek fought and Bill Mueller hit a walk-off homer to beat Mariano Rivera, and my son would kill me if I ever let A-Rod be a member of the Sox.” You sound like a democratic presidential candidate, Rob, which is it, yes or no? said Russert. “I defer to my son,” I replied. “No A-Rod.”

When I told my son I had said this, he said, “What?! Daddy, of course I would want A-Rod on the Red Sox! What are you, crazy?”

Regular Rob’s son for Red Sox assistant GM!

Thank you for your votes at www.redsoxnation.com/president, from Friday night through Tuesday at 5pm.

YES! The Sox clinch the AL East thanks to a Mariano Rivera meltdown!

Red Sox Nation: A Way of Life

WHRBThis past Saturday, I was invited to appear on WHRB-FM’s famous country/folk music show, Hillbilly at Harvard, and to perform my song, I’m a Member of Red Sox Nation, live on the air. It’s always been a crazy dream of mine to have a song on the radio, so I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation. And it was a great time. The show’s host, “Cousin Lynn” Joiner (second from left), made me feel right at home during our interview, and then we filled the studio with my song…. “we” being my co-writers, Michele and Dan Page (right), plus their 10 year-old granddaughter and my 8 year-old son, all of whom sang backup vocals. Who knows how it all sounded out in radio-land, but we had a blast. I want to thank Cousin Lynn for making it all possible. It was an honor to be on your legendary radio show.

I was struck by one of Cousin Lynn’s questions. He said, smiling, “So, you’re running for the presidency of a concept?” He was pointing out the absurdity of electing a “president of Red Sox Nation.” Today, I thought more about that. Red Sox Nation…. Is it a band of millions of loyal Red Sox fans? Or is it an emotion? A state of mind? A culture? Well yes, it’s all of these things. But most of all, it’s a way of life. And as I and other members of RSN go through our daily lives, the Red Sox and baseball are literally everywhere we turn. I’m sure your house is a lot like mine….

Baseball gloves are everywhere… Baseball_gloves_everywhere2_2 Baseball_gloves_everywhere_2


Our love for the Red Sox is evident in our closets, where our many hats live, as well as in our laundry baskets and our children’s drawers. Baseball_hats_in_closet_1 Baseball_laundry_basket_3 Baseball_drawer_open_2

RSN calls to us from our children’s walls and game closets…. Baseball_posters_on_wall_1Baseball_game_closet_1

… and from our bookcases and the backs of our cars.Baseball_bookshelf_2Baseball_rsn_sticker_3

Wiffle bats and balls reside in the yard (“Fenway West”)….Baseball_bats_in_backyard2_1 Baseball_balls_next_to_tree_1

… along with bases that our kids have stepped on and dove into thousands of times, imitating  Mueller or Crisp or Nomar or Roberts.Baseball_home_plate_in_backyard_2 Baseball_path_to_second_base_1

The kitchen isn’t just where we refuel, it’s where we pore over every word and every statistic in the Globe sports section, and where our Kid Nation fridge magnet schedule is displayed proudly.Baseball_paper_and_magazines_5Baseball_side_of_fridge_6

And of course, every night between April and October, the game is on, and with every up and down inning, we relive the great highs and lows we’ve experienced as Red Sox fans over the years.


So yes, Cousin Lynn, Red Sox Nation is a concept. A concept whose essence has infiltrated everything about my life and the lives of my many people I know, as well as the lives of millions of others worldwide. That’s one powerful “concept.” It’s a kind of insanity. Hard to imagine any other “way of life”…

This isn’t L.A., it’s Boston

This post also appears at the blog the Boston Red Sox have given me for my campaign for president of Red Sox Nation, at www.imamemberofredsoxnation.mlblogs.com. 

Tonight, there was an event at The Baseball Tavern, near Fenway, where 7 of the final 11 candidates for president of Red Sox Nation delivered five-minute campaign messages. I enjoyed meeting the other candidates who were able to attend – Jared Carrabis, Cheryl Boyd, Cindy Brown, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Sam Horn, and the family of the creator of Big Pupi. Below is the message I delivered.

Hi. My name is Rob Crawford, and I’m not famous. I’m not a TV baseball personality. I’ve never played for the Red Sox. My face is not on a plaque in Cooperstown. I have not won a Pulitzer Prize. And I don’t have a column in the New York Daily News.

I have devoted my career to teaching kids, coaching kids, and raising money to support teachers and kids. I grew up in a Sox-crazed family in Brookline, and I’m now raising four children, ages 1 to 8, in a Red Sox house, and loving every day of it. Like you, I am a “regular fan.”

Now I call myself a “regular fan” with no disdain for my worthy, famous opponents. I know their love for the Red Sox is as real and as passionate as any of ours is. And I like all of them. And I really, really respect all of them. In fact, they have all achieved things that I would have liked to have achieved.

But Red Sox Nation has a choice to make in this election. Does Red Sox Nation want its first president to be someone famous – someone for whom this office might be just another feather in his or her cap? Or do they want their first president to be representative of the “regular fan?” Someone whose life would be transformed by this honor? Someone who can relate to the millions of “regular” Red Sox fans around the world – because he/she is one?

I can see L.A. electing a celebrity to be president of Dodgers Nation or Lakers Nation — but in Boston? Inconceivable.

So, what will I do if elected?

The first priority I would have as president of Red Sox Nation would be to improve ticket accessibility, and I’d start with a program called Red Sox Angels.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that revealed to you that the other person’s life would be deeply touched by tickets to a Red Sox game? And you knew that if you owned season tickets, you would give that four tickets right there on the spot? Perhaps their spouse, who is a huge Red Sox, is in the final stages of terminal cancer, and tickets would enable him to say “goodbye” to Fenway. Or perhaps she’s a single mother with three kids who’s struggling to make ends meet and could never conceive of taking her family to a game.

The Red Sox Angels program would put season tickets into the hands of Red Sox Angels across New England who would go through their daily lives looking and listening for people to give their tickets away to. Imagine the feeling of giving away Red Sox tickets to those who don’t expect it, and the feeling of receiving tickets when that’s precisely what you’re dreaming of! If the Red Sox were willing to donate 12 seats per year to this program, it would enable 24 Red Sox Angels to give away blocks of four tickets to ten games each season, resulting in 972 fans per year attending a game as a result of random but targeted generosity.

My second idea to improve ticket access is called, Sox Tix for Kids.

Almost no season ticket holder actually attends every Red Sox home game, and almost every season ticket hfans at Fenwayolder would love to donate at least one game’s tickets to a group of children who have never attended a game at Fenway, have no access to tickets to Fenway, but really want to go to a game at Fenway.

I envision a program that asks season ticket holders, on their season ticket renewal form, to donate one or more games’ tickets to the Sox Tix for Kids program. By doing so, they would be making a tax-deductible donation and would be spreading Red Sox joy to kids who, without this gift of tickets, would not be able to get inside Fenway Park and experience its mystery and magic first hand. A thank you letter from the kids to the donor of the tickets would be part of the system, and this would help encourage season ticket holders to make this gift year after year.

How would we identify these kids who want to go to a game, but have no access to tickets? Perhaps we would partner with Boys and Girls Clubs around New England; perhaps we would partner with the Boston Public Schools. The details need to be fleshed out, but since we were able to figure out how to put seats on top of the Green Monster, I have no doubt we can figure out how to get season ticket holders’ tickets into the hands of baseball-dreaming kids.

My third idea is called, More Dirty Water.

As many of you know, I love music, and as part of my campaign, I co-wrote and recorded a song called, I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation. I would love to use my platform as President of Red Sox Nation to bring together outstanding Boston-area musicians and other musical members of Red Sox Nation – famous and not-so-famous – to create a unique collection of great songs about the Red Sox, about Fenway, and about being a Boston sports fan. I envision all profits from this CD going to the Red Sox Foundation to support local charities.

I just don’t think it would be very hard to rally Red Sox Nation’s greatest musical artists to participate in a project of this kind, and I imagine it would add a new dimension to Red Sox Nation’s fan experience while providing a windfall for the Red Sox Foundation and the local Boston charities they support. Plus, it would be a heck of a lot of fun.

Now, before I close, let me leave you with this thought: Years from now, when this election is over and the first president’s term is a distant memory, the 6 or 7 famous candidates – regardless of whether they win or lose this election – will look back on this whole Red Sox Nation thing as having been another pleasant public relations bonanza, another famous experience in a lifetime of famous experiences. But for those of us in this campaign who are “regular fans,” THIS is our one chance to rise from our dignified obscurity and make a far-reaching impact. THIS is our chance to so something extraordinary. I know that us “regular fans” would look back on our year as President of Red Sox Nation as the greatest thing we ever did in our lives. And you would look back on our tenure filled with pride for having helped elect a true, non-famous representative of Red Sox Nation.

Red Sox Nation, I thank you. Remember, this isn’t L.A., it’s Boston, and Red Sox Nation deserves a “regular fan” as its first president.

Field of Dreams in My Backyard

Below is another article in a series I’ve written as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. This article also appears at the blog the Red Sox have given me, at www.imamemberofredsoxnation.mlblogs.com.

If there’s one regBackyard_robert_takes_a_leadular season game we’d all like to attend this year, it’s tonight’s game, Red Sox vs.Yankees, Schilling vs. Clemens. And I was offered a ticket, too. Turning it down was utterly painful, but with four small kids who need dinner, baths, and a bedtime story simultaneously, the teamwork of two parents is pretty important on a Sunday night. Don’t get me wrong, my wife can handle it all alone, but other married parents in Red Sox Nation will understand that, come September, it’s wise to save your chips for… the playoffs.

And anyway, no matter how great the game is tonight, it would be tough to match the fun I had today playing wiffle ball with my 8 year-old son and my 8 year-old nephew… on the baseball field in my backyard. That’s right. A few years ago, at my son’s request, we made a baseball field in our backyard. Fenway West. 68 feet to the Fisk Pole in left field, 56 feet to the Pesky Pole in right, 96 feet to dead center (and distance markers on the fences). Bases exactly 45 feet apart, foul lines painted white, and a pitcher’s mound 40 feet from home.

You like the idiosyncracies of Fenway? We’ve got those too. A sandbox full of toys in left, a swingset in right, and a gigantic oak tree next to the pitcher’s mound in the center of the field (ground rules: any ball that hits the tree in fair territory is fair and in play). There’s another big tree that looms in front of the left field fence (83 feet to straight-away left) that has the same effect on line drive blasts to left as the real Green Monster does… except sometimes the ball doesn’t come back down.

Backyard_left_field_and_center_2 The neighborhood kids who play ball in our backyard go to school every day and do their homework every night. But much of their most important education takes place right here after school and on the weekends. At Fenway West, they learn to organize themselves, to make compromises when disagreements arise, to play hard, and to never give up. They learn what it feels like to hit a clutch homer and to throw a third strike on a full count. They learn how to dream, they learn how to play.

Many of my neighbors have beautiful, green lawns. No one walks on them except when they’re being mowed. Our lawn can’t be called a lawn. It would be more accurate to call it a scraggly brownish earth surface. Grass doesn’t thrive when it’s trampled relentlessly by kids (and sometimes their dads) playing wiffle ball for hundreds of hours. The dirt patches at all the bases and the pitcher’s mound are now permanent, and the grass along the paths between the bases will probably never grow again. So be it.

Backyard_robert_and_william My wife worries that the barren baseball field in our backyard decreases the value of our house. I know better. If we ever decide to sell this place, the right buyer will see the house as a pleasant appendage to a marvelous field of dreams. Which is what our backyard has been for me, my kids, and their friends these last few years.

A week ago, my son had a homework assignment that asked him to describe his favorite thing about where he lives. His answer: “The baseball field.” That’s my favorite thing about where we live, too. Fenway West. A field of dreams in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

Top Ten – and Thousands to Thank

The word came down from the Red Sox late last week that, thanks to lots of you who voted atRedSox.com, I am one of the ten final candidates for president of Red Sox Nation! It’s a thrill to be included in the group that includes: Rem Dawg, Mike Barnicle, Peter Gammons, Sam Horn, Rich Garces (“El Guapo”), Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jared Carrabis, Cindy Brown, and Cheryl Boyd. Regardless of how things go when the Sox trim the list to three finalists, I’m honored to have made it this far in the process, and I’m fully aware that my success so far is because of thousands of OTHER people who have supported my candidacy through votes, or sending emails to their friends, or carrying signs, or helping me make a music video…. so to all of you, I say THANK YOU.

The Red Sox have given me a new blog at www.imamemberofredsoxnation.mlblogs.com, so I’ve moved some of my campaign/baseball articles from this blog to that blog, and I’ll be writing new articles that will appear in both places over the next couple of weeks. For now, though, let’s focus on the more important topic of hoping the Sox get back on track with a Beckett gem vs. the Yanks this afternoon….

Career Home Runs: 1

Below is another article in a series I’m writing as part of my campaign for president of Red Sox Nation. To see the video for the song, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation,” or to download the song to your computer for free, click here.

From little league/youth baseball to high school to college to the Yawkey League, I played 22 baseball seasons and perhaps 500 games. Unlike Wade Boggs (whom I loved watching play, growing up), I don’t know any of my batting stats from my baseball career – except one. Total home runs: ONE. It happened when I was 14 years old, playing in Brookline’s Babe Ruth League at the playground next to Lawrence School, which is about 1 1/2 miles from Fenway Park.

I remember there were no fences – so any four-bagger would have to be legged out. I don’t remember the pitch but it was probably a 57 mph fastball right down the middle. When I struck the ball on the sweet spot of my ultra-light, 29 oz aluminum bat and saw its impressive arc, I knew this was my chance. As I sprinted towards first base, I was already focused on beating the throw to home plate. Nearing third, I saw my coach frantically waving me home, but the look on his face told me it was going to be close. I saw the catcher awaiting a throw from the cut-off man. He caught the ball, I slid, he tagged me, and there was a cloud of dust.

The next moment, before the umpire made his call, is what I remember most clearly. In my memory, time stopped. I recall thinking, “That was close. Was I out or safe? Out or safe? PLEASE say safe, PLEASE say safe.” Then time resumed. “SAFE!” yelled the teenage umpire.

HOME RUN. I had done it. Skinny little Rob had hit an honest-to-goodness dinger. “So this is what it feels like to be Fred Lynn,” I thought. It felt really good. And I never got that feeling again, the rest of my days as a ballplayer.

After the game, walking to my car with my parents, an old man whom I’d noticed had been sitting in a lawn chair near third base called out to me. “Hey,” he said, “Good hit. You wanted that homer as soon as you hit it, didn’t you? I could see by the way you ran the bases. You were hungry!”

Isn’t it funny that I remember that old man’s comment? I suppose that, just as Henry Aaron will always remember everything about his 715th, and Yaz will always remember everything about his 400th (I was there), I’ll always remember everything about my first…. and only.

To read an article about my candidacy that appeared on the front page of The Brookline TAB and The Wellesley Townsman on Thursday, September 6, click here.

I’m a Member of Red Sox Nation, the video

When you send out a mass email to your friends announcing that you’re a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation and that you’ve written a song as part of the campaign, there’s bound to be at least one person out there who volunteers to make a music video. And that person, in my case, was old friend Henry Berman. Thank you, Henry! And thanks to Dan Hnatio at Active Communications for loaning Henry the video gear, and to Adrianne Parent for her masterful editing, and to Tom Sprague at National Boston for donating Adrianne’s time and the editing room/equpiment. And thanks to all the kids and their parents who spent the day with us at Fenway on September 2. And thank you to my mother-in-law for taking care of three of my four children who did not appear in the video during the shoot. And thank you to the people we met at Fenway that day who took the leap and agreed to learn the song and sing it (or dance to it) on camera. And thanks to Red Sox pitcher Kyle Snyder, who threw baseballs to TWO of the children in our group as they watched the Sox take batting practice from atop the Green Monster. Finally, thanks to the Red Sox for giving us access to Fenway Park and Yawkey Way prior to the game on September 2. I appreciate their willingness to help us candidates do whatever we dream up to establish our campaigns. I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as we enjoyed making it.

No-hitter Nostalgia

Below is another article in a series I’m writing for my Red Sox Nation Presidential Campaign. Thank you for voting at www.redsoxnation.com/president, from August 30 to September 9.

Clay BuchholzIt was the 5th inning when my 8 year-old son’s bedtime rolled around, but because Clay Buchholz had a no-hitter going, I told him he could stay up until the O’s got their first hit. I knew he’d start to fall asleep on the couch by the 7th inning anyway. And I was right. It was hilarious watching him struggle to keep his eyes open. Then in the 8th, realizing history could be made and wanting some company for a possible celebration, I actually took measures to help my son stay awake. Turned on all the lights, sat him up straight, got him some cold water. He drifted off between the 8th and 9th, but when I yelped after young Clay K’d Roberts to begin the 9th, he was up for good, eyes bloodshot but adrenaline flowing, pacing in front of the TV.

We jumped up and down screaming after that nasty curveball froze Markakis to end the game. It was as though we were there, at Fenway, witnessing the historic moment in person from the blue seats in section 25. (We realized we were NOT at Fenway when my wife, who had rushed out of bed, appeared on the stairs imploring, “What’s wrong!? What’s going on!?”) We watched Buchholz’s teammates mob him and we watched his speechlessness during his interview with Tina Cervasio, then my son said, “Daddy, I should probably go to bed now.”

But the kid could not fall asleep. In the dark, as I sat beside his bed, he kept commenting on the unlikely feat we had just seen. “Daddy, it’s amazing, I mean, Roger Clemens has never thrown a no-hitter, and Buchholz did it in his SECOND START OF HIS CAREER!” Then he put down his head, and three minutes later: “I mean, it’s not just luck when you throw a no-hitter, you actually have to be GOOD to do that, Daddy.” Then he lay there, eyes closed, not moving for another four minutes, and jumped up: “And he struck out nine guys, Daddy, nine guys. I mean, when you throw a no-hitter at age 23, it means you’re definitely GOING TO BE to be a great pitcher. In fact, it means you’re going to be great AND YOU ALREADY ARE GREAT.” Finally, with visions of #61 (a mere 15 years old than my boy) achieving the seemingly impossible dancing in his head, my son fell asleep.

Perhaps my son’s enthrallment with Buchholz’s no-hitter is genetic, for I have always been fascinated by no-hitters and perfect games. Obsessed might be a better word for it. Before I had kids (and so was free every summer night), I had a rule that I would never turn down an offer of tickets to a Red Sox game, because what if I were to miss a no-hitter? And ever since I was a little boy, a dream has been to throw a no-hitter. I did come close…twice.

In fifth grade, I threw a one-hitter at Soule Playground in Brookline (6 innings). I remember the one hit was a hard ground ball into right field off the bat of my best friend, John Sax, who legged out a double. (Why do I still remember this? Because it’s the closest I ever came.) I pitched another one-hitter on July 22, 1994, a few weeks shy of my 26th birthday, at Jefferson Park in Jamaica Plain vs. McKay Club (7 innings). The one hit (with two outs in the 5th inning) remains a painfully vivid memory. I had been successful all night with just my fastball and curveball, but I decided to try to surprise the right-handed batter with a slow sidearm slurve. He was fooled by the speed, but slowed down his swing just enough to hit a soft liner about a foot over George Leung’s leaping attempt at shortstop. Base hit. Dream deferred.

Watching Buchholz in his interview with Tina Cervasio, I Lights at Fenwaywas struck by the notion that this kid had achieved his (and my) dream, yet a part of him wasn’t really ready to achieve it yet — his self-image hadn’t yet caught up with his incredible talent and the reality of his accomplishment. Heck, just being in the Majors hadn’t sunk in yet, and he went out and did something many Hall of Famers have never done. His performance was years ahead of his own (and perhaps everyone else’s) timetable for his success. No wonder, then, that when Cervasio asked him how he felt, he said, “It’s all a blur right now,” and when she asked him how he had stayed within himself, he said, “I don’t really have an answer for that one either.” Good answers. What else could he say? He was more stunned than any of us were.

I really wish I’d been at Fenway to see Buchholz’s no-hitter. I’ve never seen a no-hitter or perfect game in person. (Saw Wake come close once, though.) But seeing it on TV with my fanatical son was a wonderful thing. And you know, most of our most priceless Fenway moments take place right in our own living rooms. Even though we’re not AT Fenway, Fenway possesses us through the beams of our TVs and we’re suddenly there, side by side with 35,651 screaming fans, one gigantic Nation united in elation, inspiration, and wonder.

Fenway Holiday

Below is another article in a series I’m writing for my Red Sox Nation Presidential Campaign. Thank you for voting at www.redsoxnation.com/president, from August 30 to September 9.

The risk of giving my son his first Fenway experience at the age of three was significant: what if he was too young to appreciate it and remember it?

But I was so eager to introduce him to Fenway Park and the Red Sox, I took the gamble on Father’s Day in 2002. And despite the cool, damp weather, we had a fantastic time. He stood the whole game; Cracker Jacks, cotton candy, and Fenway Franks sustained him; he was fascinated by the wave; he loved the chants, the clapping, and singing Take Me Out To the Ballgame; and although he paid little attention to the action and didn’t understand a thing that was going on, he never got bored.

After the three-hour game, we had the option of heading home or standing in an incredibly long line under the right field seats to go onto the field for the first ever “Father’s Day catch.” I gave him the options and let him choose. “Let’s go on the field, Daddy!” (What a kid!) We waited and waited, but he never complained. By the time we made it onto the outfield grass, we had been at Fenway for about 4 1/2 hours (which is 9 hours in 3 year-old time).

I recall thinking, while rolling balls to him, chasing him, and wrestling with him in the shadow of the Green Monster, that this was my favorite day as a parent. It was surreal. I wished it could last forever. And I hoped my son would remember it, too.

Fast-forward four months to the fall of 2002. I was sitting with my son at our kitchen table, a wall calendar in front of us, filling in the major holidays together. We noted Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, July 4th, and a few others. When we were done, he said with alarm, “Daddy, Daddy, we forgot the biggest holiday of all!” We did? “Yeah Daddy, we forgot Father’s Day at Fenway!”

(No, I didn’t forget.)

Mission Impossible: Getting Nomar’s Autograph

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.Nomar signs autographs

OK, put yourself in my shoes, and tell me WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I was sitting beside my six year-old son on a grassy hill in deep left field during the late innings at a Dodgers-Red Sox spring training game in Vero Beach, Florida. I noticed #5 of the Dodgers signing autographs next to the wall beside first base. I recalled how powerless I felt when, on the plane to Florida, my son said his main goal of this special trip was to”get Nomar’s autograph.” I wasn’t sure how long Nomar had been signing – would he quit in ten seconds? – and the pack of fans around him was large. I knew that if I pointed out Nomar to my son and then he failed to get an autograph, he would be crushed. I knew that if I didn’t tell my son about Nomar being over there, he wouldn’t notice and our pleasant day would continue, undisturbed. Looking across the vast stadium at Nomar, I calculated the chances of getting his autograph at about 10%. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I decided 10% was high enough to give my son’s dream an outside shot. I pointed out Nomar to my son and asked if he wanted to run over to the other side of the park, emphasizing that Nomar might stop signing any second. “Yeah Daddy, let’s go, NOW!” And we started running. (Insert Mission Impossible theme song here.)

When we got to the top of the aisle leading down to the wall where Nomar was signing, we saw that the crowd of fans around him was about fifteen people deep – 80% of them adults. It was a pseudo-line, yet it was obvious that the people at the back of the pack would stay at the back of the pack and go away disappointed. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I decided to teach my son how to get an autograph. “Listen,” I said, “If you want Nomar’s autograph, go down there and slither like a SNAKE to the front of that pack, then stick your glove right in front of Nomar’s belly button. Do you understand?”

“But Daddy, that’s cutting,” he said. (What a good boy.) It was time to teach him about the cutting exception.

“It’s not cutting when you’re a kid and all those people are grown-ups,” I explained to him. “Nomar wants to sign autographs for kids, not fathers. Nomar WANTS YOU to slither to the front of the line. All kids slither to the front of theNomar at spring training, 2006 pack, and that’s OK. That’s the law of autographs,” I explained. “Now GO.”

And off he went. Slithering better than a snake could slither. I don’t think he touched anyone on his way to the front, right in front of Nomar, where he thrust his glove towards Nomar’s belly button (see left). Nomar handed a hat back to a girl, adjusted his sunglasses, looked at the outstretched arms before him, smiled at my son, then took his glove and signed it with his blue Sharpie.

A MIRACLE! A boy’s impossible spring training dream come true. I wish I could describe the look of wonder he had his face. Although that autograph has almost completely faded from my boy’s ragged glove, the memory will always be vivid. (And Nomar remains one of my favorite four athletes of all time.)

20 Presidents at Game On!

Rob, Robert, Caroline, Erin, EmmaAll of us who attended the Red Sox Nation Presidential Campaign Event at Game On! last night had a lot of fun. The event featured three-minute platform speeches from 20 of the 25 “finalist candidates” who were able to attend, and was hosted by Hazel Mae and Dr. Charles Steinberg.

While singing I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation with my son, niece, and friends, Big Papi cranked a triple vs. Tampa Bay on the large screen TVs (nope, those cheers from the crowd were not for us). The platforms and personalities of the candidates were incredibly diverse, yet when we all got up on stage together to sing “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the night, there was not a shred of competitiveness in the room. Slapping each other on the back, we all knew we were in the company of family members we just hadn’t met before. We were all related in a way that reached to the core of our identities. It was like meeting long lost brothers and sisters, all of us sharing the same genetic neuroses, the same obsessive passion for baseball, the Red Sox, and Fenway Park.

It was a privilege to share the stage with Hall of Famer, Peter Gammons, and I enjoyed meeting Sam Horn, who is a truly classy guy and gave a rousing speech. And 18 year-old Will French, born in Connecticut and now living in Rye, New York, stole the show with his raw humor. Pretty much the only thing missing at the event was negativity, which made it feel strangely un-Red Soxian. Is this what it feels like in Anaheim sports bars?

If I were running this thing, I’d end the campaign now and appoint all 25 finalists, or hold an election to solidify a group of 10-15 “presidents.” Multiple presidents could serve the fans, and the Red Sox, much better than one person could. “President of Red Sox Nation” has a nice ring to it, but given that the Nation isn’t a government and doesn’t really need a single decision-maker, wouldn’t everyone benefit more from a group of RSN presidents reflecting all kinds of RSN diversity and points of view? I’d hate to lose the sense of shared purpose, enthusiasm, and camaraderie we started to cultivate on Tuesday night. And how can Rem Dawg, Peter Gammons, and Sam Horn NOT have a role in this first “administration?”

(photo by Flo Farrell)

Stage 5: Home is Where The Red Sox Are Playing

TBCC at Camden Yardshe following article was written by my brother, Benjamin Crawford (left), the greatest Red Sox fan I know, who lives with his family just outside Washington, D.C. He liked my “four stages of Red Sox fan evolution” but felt that HIS stage was missing…

Stage 5 is the stage where you move away from New England and Fenway, lucky to see the place even once a year, yet still impart the fandom to your kids…and, in my case at least, wife. This is the stage that a large number of the 40,000 fans at Saturday night’s game in Baltimore come from….and my sister’s family in Allentown, Pennsylvania….and of course, me. We highlight the days on our calendars when the Red Sox will be playing at a stadium within driving distance…we travel five hours with our small children to see the Sox play an exhibition game…..we teach our kids that the blue hat with the red “B” (and, of course, the red hats with the B and the green hats with the B and the pink hats with the B) is the one we root for, despite being surrounded by “W” hats or O’s hats or, in many cases, the dreaded interlocking NY. We miss work (don’t just go in late) to fly around the country to see the Sox play in the postseason. We read the Globe and Herald every day online….even in January. And when we read the Globe, we wish Peter Gammons would go back to doing what he does best, the Sunday notes, and stop his ESPN gig. We teach our kids to sing “root root root for the RED SOX” during Take Me Out to the Ballgame. We cover the walls of our basements with pictures of Fenway, and old timers in Red Sox hats (in my case it’s autographed photos of Ellis Burks and the immortal Butch Hobson). We hang Red Sox/Fenway stuff in our offices…prominently. We stand out as Red Sox fans.

Fenway Park is a place we only see on our TVs (many people in RSN, in this stage of fandom, panicked when it appeared that DirecTV would be the sole carrier of MLB extra innings) and hear through our radios (thank you, MLB.com!). Our Red Sox experiences these days are in far away ballparks. With that in mind, we revel in walking around a visiting ballpark and seeing the people who make up Red Sox Nation, and of course their Red Sox paraphernalia (evidence that there really is an article of clothing out there for everyone). With a mix of amusement and pride, we laugh as the home fans get increasingly annoyed as they look around and see themselves surrounded…and drowned out…by Red Sox fans. We giddily discuss the vagaries of this year’s squad with our neighbors in the stands…because we can. Where I work, nobody cares about whether Dustin Pedroia is leading off or hitting second. But these people do. My neighbors don’t care that Francona went with Delcarmen instead of Okajima in the eighth inning in a game RSN at Camden Yardsthe previous week…but these people do. It’s our cross to bear and our badge of honor to overanalyze every minute detail of the team.

Perhaps more than anything, we get goosebumps when we hear a non-Fenway stadium rise up in chorus, “Let’s go Red Sox” (and are pleased to note the beautifully harsh Boston accent…”Sawx” instead of “Sox”).

My college roommate, Mike Mahoney, grew up a member of the Nation on the coast of New Hampshire. He left New England eight years ago to take a job in Chicago, and since then has moved to Philadelphia. By his own admission, he hasn’t been to Fenway in years. However, by his count he has seen the Sox play in both Chicago stadiums, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium (Game 4…he was there!), and Seattle. This is what he has to say about stage 5:

“I have good friends who are still in New England, and of course I am jealous of them when they go to Fenway. But I also love calling them when I am in a ballpark somewhere else and I know they’re back home watching on TV — jealous of me. And I tell them that there is no way to fully understand the power of Red Sox Nation until you’ve seen it in another ballpark. It is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced, and it is probably the thing that makes me prouest of where I grew up. It really is an identity. To be honest, I look forward to getting the schedule each year now because I see it as an opportunity to visit a new place, using the Sox as my excuse. Because no matter what city you are in, if the Red Sox are in town, it feels like home.”

“I sometimes watch the Red Sox players in other ballparks and wonder how they view this, if they ever talk about it with each other. Even more, I watch FORMER Red Sox players who are now on the other side…a guy like Millar with the Orioles…and I wonder if they have more of an appreciation of their days in a Sox uniform. It really is a traveling carnival. As an Oriole, Millar will play the Blue Jays or the Devil Rays in front of about 10,000 fans. When he was a member of the Red Sox, every game in every stadium was a sellout…and most of the people were there to see him and his teammates. What an amazing thing!”

The Birth of a Believer

young Sox fan

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. 

My eight year-old son is a believer. In his short life, he has attended some of the greatest regular season Red Sox games of them all. He was at Fenway for the Varitek-ARod fight followed by the Mueller walk-off vs. Mariano Rivera in 2004; he was there for the Mark Loretta walk-off home run vs. Seattle on Patriots Day in 2006; and he was there for the incredible six-run, ninth inning rally vs. Baltimore on Mother’s Day earlier this spring (Sox won, 6-5).

He was also there for the 14-0 loss to the Braves in May. It was at this game that I realized he has become a FULLY EXPECTANT BELIEVER in the Red Sox.

The weather was horrible. By the end of the 7th inning, with the Braves leading 11-0 and a steady downpour soaking Fenway, only a few thousand fans remained in the stands. My son was shivering so I asked him if he wanted to head home. “No way, Daddy!” he said, insulted. “Daddy, we’re going to come back and win this game.” Then he commanded, “Put on your rally cap!” So I turned my cap inside out. And so did all the people sitting near us.

In the 8th inning, completely drenched, he turned to me again and said with absolute seriousness, “Daddy, the Red Sox are winning this game.” I replied, “I know they are.” In the top of the ninth, the Braves scored three more runs, and before the Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth, he said, “That’s actually good, Daddy, because now the comeback will have three more runs and that will be more exciting.” “You’re right,” I replied. “LET’S GO RED SOX!” he continued to yell through the raindrops. The Sox went one-two-three in the ninth, and the worst Sox game of the year (from a spectator’s perspective) was over. My son was pensive as we walked out of Fenway.

On the drive home, he was quiet and I thought he was asleep until he said, “Daddy, I know this sounds strange, but I’m going to say it anyway. I really think it’s…. funny that the Red Sox didn’t win. I mean, I really really thought they were going to come back. Even with two outs in the ninth inning, I just knew they were going to win.” Then, he fell asleep. His earnest faith gave me goosebumps.

How lucky am I to be this boy’s father, and to be raising him a few miles from Fenway? How lucky is Red Sox Nation to have this kid as a citizen?

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 3 and 4

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

My last article discussed stages 1 and 2 of the four stages of evolution of a Red Sox fan. Now, it’s time to take a close look at stages 3 and 4. As I said earlier, no stage is better or higher than another (indeed, I wish I’d stayed in stage 1 forever) and all fans at all stages are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. (Did you go through a stage that could be described differently? I’d love to hear about it.)

Stage 3: Prioritization, Re-calibration, Sacrifice Stage 3 is the hardest one to enter, because it requires a complete overhaul of one’s habits and values regarding focus on baseball. This is the stage when we learn how to integrate our passion for the Red Sox with our desire for solid, long-lasting relationships with people who don’t share our Red Sox obsession. Some consider stage 3 to be evidence of fan regression, not evolution. (I do see their point.)

When our spouses, significant others, and children (who, although we love them, are occasionally “significant interruptors”) request our undivided attention when the game is on; when we’re absorbed in the pages of the Sunday Globe or Herald; when the World Series pre-game show has just begun; when we’ve got tickets and we’re running out the door — we are facing a stage 3 moment. In this stage, a Red Sox fan can either take a deep breath and calmly engage with the significant interruptor, or cling to the die-hard-fan mentality, blow-off the significant interruptor, and strain or destroy his/her relationships. A genuine stage 3 fan has learned to manage his expectations about how much time he will be able to spend “being an active fan,” and recognizes the moments when he’s torn from his fan experience as “critical relationship-defining junctures” and “necessary baseball sacrifices.” Every fan who enters stage 3 and re-calibrates his priorities is destined for long, contented interpersonal relationships, a degree of baseball starvation, and a dependence on Tivo.

I had a stage 3 moment last Tuesday night after my wife and I had finished putting our four children (ages 8 to 1) to bed. While enjoying the fifth inning of the Sox-Orioles game on NESN, one of the four kids woke up, came downstairs, and asked me if she could watch a Dora The Explorer video. (She had fallen asleep at 5:00pm and we were hoping she’d sleep through the night…) The stage 2 fan in me felt a twinge of resentment and even wanted to say, “Nope, sorry darlin’,” and just endure the little girl’s woeful sobs. But the stage 3 fan in me won out, and 30 minutes of Dora’s Pirate Adventure ensued. I was proud of myself. For my “evolution.”

ballplayers in the outfieldStage 4. “I am one with baseball.”A stage 4 fan is one who, with an endless archive of Red Sox memories, has developed a philosopher’s appreciation of The Game; whose passion is ignited by the way a third baseman kicks the dirt between pitches; who knows the Red Sox will win another World Series in his/her lifetime, and it won’t be because of a particular managerial move or trade, but because the stars align and the players get on a roll; who sees baseball as a metaphor for numerous truths and paradoxes of the natural world; who can thoroughly enjoy watching any major or minor league team play, and indeed, can get as much enjoyment from watching a local little league game as from a Red Sox game; who reveres a slick-fielding, reliable shortstop with superior range (regardless of his ability to hit) as much as a dominant closer or triple-crown contender; whose number-one reason for not wanting to miss an inning of any game is the fear that something will happen, the exact nature of which he’s never seen before; who understands completely that the Red Sox are a business, but who still sees the magic in baseball and the majesty of Fenway Park; who is grateful for the chance to watch Derek Jeter play, even though he’s a Yankee; and who is deeply moved by baseball’s unparalleled capacity for enchantment, particularly in the hearts of children, and is on a quest to recapture his/her own innocent, child-like appreciation for the game (stage 1).

Stage 4 is sort of like becoming a baseball buddha. Of course, stage 4 encompasses all the other stages, because the stages are cumulative to some degree. But at the same time, stage 4 is absolutely distinct from the other stages. And by the way, only those of us who were fans in 1918 were able to access stage 4 prior to the last out of the 2004 World Series. (Now, we all can.) Perspective, appreciation, and sagacity are impossible when you’ve only experienced heartache your whole life and you actually wonder if curses are real.

Being the father of an 8 year-old Red Sox fanatic has launched me into the realm of stage 4. While my love for the Red Sox remains very personal, the most joyful aspect of my fan experience involves my oldest son (the other three haven’t caught the baseball bug yet). I am re-living stage 1 through him, and loving it even more this time around. I have witnessed first-hand how baseball has led my son to dream big dreams and believe anything is possible; how baseball fills his afternoons with hour upon hour of serious play; how being at Fenway engrosses him and engages his imagination in spectacular ways; and how Red Sox baseball has become essential common ground in our very close father-son relationship, ground to build on for years to come. (And now, I understand how much fun my parents had with me and my three siblings when we were stage 1 fans.)

Are you a stage 5 fan? If so, let me know what’s in store for me. Many, many thanks…..

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 1 and 2

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

I’m a different Red Sox fan now than I was as a kid, and before I had kids, and before 2004. Is it possible that all Red Sox fans go through an evolutionary process? I’ll go on the record asserting that there are four distinct stages in the evolution of a serious Red Sox fan (at least, there have been four for me). No stage is necessarily better or higher than another (indeed, I’m striving to return to stage 1), and all fans at all stages are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. Here’s how I’d define the first two stages.

Stage 1. Discovery, Innocence, OptimismThis is the stage in a Red Sox fan’s life when he/she is awakened to the existence of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and when everything about the team is joyful and thrilling. (Stage 1 fans could be six year-old children, or college students from outside New England, for example.) People in this stage have feelings for the team that resemble a very intense crush. They have a favorite Sox player whom they idolize, treasure the Sox posters in the Sunday Globe, and cannot conceive of a scenario where the Sox fail to win the World Series this year (they are overflowing with hope.)

For me, this stage began in about 1976 when I was in second grade and it continued through high school and the 1985 season. I kept a few journals for school during these years, and half of my entries focused on the Red Sox and the Sox-Yankees rivalry. All entries were cheerful. The journal entry I wrote the day after Bucky Dent’s homer in ’78 (I was ten) hints at more melodrama than pain. My eight year-old son is in stage 1 now, and I pray for him that it lasts as many years as possible. These are the wonderful years of baseball innocence.

Stage 2. Identity, Obsession, Vulnerability This is the stage of the “die-hard” fan. These fans have several emotional Red Sox memories (or scars), and their excitement about the Red Sox has blossomed into a full-fledged addiction. They cannot miss a game. Or even an inning of a game. People in this stage throw their souls at the mercy of the Red Sox’ fortunes. They experience unparalleled euphoria when things are going well, but are vulnerable to deep depression when the team disappoints. Every win or loss is taken personally and somehow reflects their own self-value. Some fans choose to never leave this stage, and we admire them for that.

For me, stage 2 began when I went to college in New Hampshire and was surrounded by people from all over the world, but mostly from New York and New Jersey. The Red Sox served as the core of my identity. I felt like a full-fledged member of the team. I would travel very, very long distances, stand in long lines (even overnight), pay money I didn’t have, and change any long-standing plans (such as participating in a relative’s wedding) to watch them play in person. Like I say in my song, it’s a kind of insanity. (Most fans in stages 3 and 4 re-enter stage 2 when the Sox play the Yankees, or are in the playoffs and World Series.)

Coming soon, the definitions of Red Sox Nation citizens in stages 3 and 4 of their fan evolution.

The Accidental Major League Tryout

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

I was a Greg McMurtrymediocre pitcher for Brookline High, a 130 lb. reed with infinitely more heart than talent. Greg McMurtry was the stud of the the state champion Brockton High School squad, the future Michigan Wolverines legend, #1 draft choice of the Boston Red Sox, and third round choice of the New England Patriots. In the spring of 1986, for six pitches, the divergent paths of our baseball careers crossed. It’s funny how vividly I remember that encounter, like a movie I’ve seen a thousand times…

The day was May 16, 1986. I was playing left field and Brockton’s lead was something like 19-3. Major league scouts perched along first and third baseline fences, waiting for another glimpse of McMurtry’s majesty. I and the rest of the players there that day hungered for a chance to do something heroic in front of the scouts, to begin our dream-like march to the bigs and the Baseball Hall of Fame. But by the sixth and second-to-last inning, it didn’t look like I was going to get that chance.

Then, the first three or four Brockton hitters reached base to start of the bottom of the sixth inning, so I was summoned to the mound to quash yet another Brockton rally. I remember trotting in from left thinking, When is McMurtry coming up? As I threw my warm-up pitches, I overheard a scout ask my coach, “What’s this new guy’s name?” The last few warm-ups were the hardest fastballs I had ever thrown.

The first batter I faced waved his bat at three smoking fastballs, missed them all, and sat down. Holycrap, I thought, I just wasted that guy in front of twenty major league scouts. I’m gonna be a pro! As I watched the next Brockton player step into the batter’s box, I heard some scouts buzzing. One, in an Astros cap, help up his radar gun and pointed it at me. I was being noticed.

The next batter watched the first two fastballs tear by him for strikes, fouled off a curveball, then swung mightily under a high heater for strike three. I tried to baseball radar gunstay calm. OhmyGod. I’m blowing away the best hitters in the state and twenty major league scouts are watching. I looked over at my father. He was beaming and talking with a rotund man in a Dodgers cap who was holding a clipboard. I’m gonna be a Dodger!

The next batter stroked my first pitch to right field, a clean, line drive base hit. No problem, they’ll forget about that when I nail this next guy. But I walked him. And the next batter singled, loading the bases. And as another Brockton batter walked to the plate, I saw the marvelous figure of Greg McMurtry swagger to the on-deck circle.

He carried a black bat with a red donut on it and stared at me, calm but fierce, like a panther patiently eyeing a rabbit he wants to maul. Relaxed, he swung his bat one-handed over his left shoulder, then switched hands and over his right shoulder, showing beautiful, hard muscles like in a Michelangelo sculpture. I forced myself to avert my eyes and focused on my catcher, looking for the signal.

I knew I would fail to retire this batter. That McMurtry would come to the plate seemed inevitable. I could feel the two of us being tugged toward confrontation by the strings of fate. (I seriously doubt Greg felt the same thing.) Sure enough, the batter preceding McMurtry hit a ground ball that squeaked through the hole between the third baseman and shortstop. A couple of runners scored, and Greg McMurtry stood at home plate to give them high-fives.

The scouts adjusted in their lawn chairs and pointed their video cameras towards the batter’s box. McMurtry stepped to the plate with the confidence of a superhero. Sweating and trembling, I faced the awesome challenge standing sixty feet, six inches before me.

The catcher put down two fingers, signaling a curveball. Good idea, he won’t expect that. High, ball one. I was relieved I had survived the first pitch and I relaxed a little. Again, the catcher called for a curveball. Ingenious idea, he certainly won’t expect another curveball on a 1-0 count. High, ball two. The catcher tossed the ball back to me as the scouts moaned, worried that I would give McMurtry nothing good to hit and issue him a walk.

Hold on a second, this is Greg McMurtry. Don’t play around with him, I scolded myself. This is your chance for glory, the moment you dreamed of in every wiffle ball game growing up. Wake up and go after him. For Godsakes, don’t walk him! I realized I had made an error of, perhaps, historic proportions in the annals of the Crawford family.

Looking in for the catcher’s signal, I got the sign I wanted, a single finger, then I blazed a fastball over the outside corner. “Stee-rike!” yelled the ump. Suddenly, I had a shred of self-confidence. The count was two and one. I had to throw another fastball. I knew it, my catcher knew it, and Greg knew it. I threw the heater, this one with extra juice, right down the heart of the plate. McMurtry coiled then swung majestically and we all held our breath for an instant. Thwack! The ball met the catcher’s mitt and Greg McMurtry, for the first time all day, was mortal, stumbling momentarily to regain his balance after a frighteningly robust swing. “Stee-rike two!”

Holycrap, I’m one pitch away from striking out Greg McMurtry in front of twenty major league scouts. I looked over at my coach. He was pacing and smiling, arms crossed, savoring the possibilities of the next pitch. “Go get him, Robby!” he said. “One more, one more, kid!” I looked at my father. He smiled at me, winked, and pumped his right fist. With his left hand, he wiped the sweat from his forehead. I looked in for the sign. McMurtry leaned in a little more over the plate to protect the outside corner. The perspiration on his steel forearms glistened in the sun. The catcher put down a single finger and I threw the ball as hard as I could. McMurtry stepped into the pitch but held his swing. Outside and low. Ball three.

“Full count!” bellowed the umpire, who was obviously auditioning for the majors, as well. I got the ball back from the catcher and closed my eyes. Please God, don’t let me walk him, don’t let me walk him. I glanced over at my dad. He and the Dodgers scout were chuckling, the scout carelessly and my father nervously. Our eyes met and his seemed to say, “Oh boy, Rob, you’ve really gotten yourself into a situation here!” McMurtry started at me. I could tell he wanted a chance to show those scouts that his futile swing had been a fluke. He wanted to take me deep.

The catcher didn’t even bother with a sign. It was fastball all the way. Just hum it in there and see what happens. I looked at the mitt and tried to focus. I tried to block out my teammates, the scouts, my coach, my father, even Greg McMurtry. I tried to block out the full count and the fact that the next pitch would be remembered and talked about in my family for years to come, regardless of the result (and it has been!).

Then, pulled along in the current of time and fate, I wound up and delivered my pitch, a fastball that I tried to guide with my will as it approached home plate. The scouts watched, my father prayed, my coach grinned, and Greg McMurtry checked his swing as the ball crossed the outside black of the plate. “Ball four,” said the umpire non-chalantly, rising from his crouch. I shrugged as McMurtry glided toward first base. He proceeded to steal second before one of his teammates flew out to end the inning.

I walked Greg McMurtry.

That summer, the Red Sox drafted him in the first round, but he chose college instead and starred for Bo Schembechler’s Rose Bowl-winning Michigan Wolverines for four years. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers (27th round) and New England Patriots (3rd round) in 1990, and played wide receiver for the Patriots and Bears for five seasons, during which he had 128 receptions for 1,631 yards and five touchdowns. He was out of major pro sports at the age of 27.

I never saw another athletic moment as important or dramatic (to me) as my 3-2 pitch to Greg McMurtry. That day, that situation, was the closest I ever came to my dream (and every kid in Red Sox Nation’s dream) of being drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Greg McMurtry wouldn’t recognize me if I walked right up to him and introduced myself. But the image of his chiseled body, his confident glare, and his one elegant, lusty whiff at a Rob Crawford fastball will be with me always.

A Meaningless JV Baseball Game, a Timeless Memory

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

Before every little leaField of Dreamsgue game I coach, I remind myself that what’s about to unfold on the field might be forgotten by me and other spectators within a day, but that for one or two of the kids playing that day, something might happen that will be carved in their memories forever. The memory might be marvelous (home run), and it might be torturous (bonehead error), but it will endure in the player’s mind the rest of his days. If you ever played organized baseball at any level growing up, you know what I’m talking about.

One of those baseball memories I’ll always carry around is of a game that took place my sophomore year in high school, in 1984, as a member of Brookline High’s JV baseball team. I was a skinny kid with a decent glove and strong throwing arm, but no bat. I was either the last or second-to-last player to make the team (and I still have the stubby stick I picked up off the ground and rubbed like a good luck charm as Coach Cohen read the names of players he was keeping on the last day of tryouts), and I knew I’d see very little playing time that year. That was OK with me. I was happy just to wear the uniform, to go to baseball practice after school every afternoon, and to sit on the bench with the guys, munching sunflower seeds and talking baseball.

Little did I know I wouldn’t see any game action until midway through the season, and that when I did finally play, the game’s outcome would depend on my individual performance. That moment came on a wet, overcast afternoon at Amory Field in Brookline, which is located just off of Beacon Street, about a half-mile from Fenway Park. It was the top of the last inning, we were ahead of Waltham High by one run, and they were batting with two outs and the tying run on second base. A beefy left-handed hitter approached the plate as I blissfully played catch with another sophomore behind the bench.

“Crawford!” rang Coach Cohen’s voice. I was jolted by the sound of my name and it took a full second for me to realize the coach needed me to do something. Pick up the helmets or straighten the bats, I assumed. But there was urgency in his voice. Brookline High School JV baseball team 1984“Crawford! Get in there for Jeff in right field. His arm’s sore. And if the ball comes to you, throw it home!” I grabbed my glove, pulled my hat on tight, and glanced over at my father, standing in his usual place behind the backstop. He smiled, winked, and pumped his fist, communicating wordlessly his faith and encouragement.

I sprinted towards right field, imagining myself to be rocket-armed Dwight Evans. “Two outs, Rob!” said Justin Walker, the second baseman, as I chugged by him. (Justin, front row, second from the left, later went on to an acting career and had a major role in the 1995 movie, Clueless. By some amazing coincidence, that BHS JV team’s first baseman, Joe Reitman, back row, far right, next to me, also went on to an acting career and also appeared in the movie Clueless.) It wasn’t until I reached my post in right and turned to face the diamond that I realized the dreadful mistake I had made before taking the field.

As I peered towards home plate from my unfamiliar post in right field, everything looked foggy. I blinked, but the fog remained. Suddenly, my heart stopped. My God. I forgot to put on my glasses. The reality of my plight spilled over me like icy water. My saliva tasted metallic and my legs wavered. I was too embarrassed to call time out. Oh God, please let that big lefty hit the ball to someone else. Please God, I begged silently. But God had already finalized his plans for that big left-handed hitter, the baseball, and me.

The big Waltham kid swung at the first pitch. Ping! The ball shot up into the sky and, to my horror, it entered the air space above me. All eyes turned to me as I jerked forward, believing the hit to be a shallow bloop. But three running steps forward and a new perspective on the white blur above me revealed a drastic error in my calculations: the ball had been socked, not blooped!

baseball catchTrying to change direction, I slipped on the muddy turf and fell to one hand and one knee. But I kept my eye on the hurtling white puff and bounced to my feet. Back, back, back I stumbled until I hit another wet spot and lost my balance. I fell backward, with my glove arm outstretched. Then, at the same moment I landed flat on my back in the cold, muddy outfield – plunk - the ball fell into my glove, Red Sox win!and I squeezed.

Rising to my feet, I held the ball proudly above my head, showing the umpires, my teammates, my coach, and my dad that I had caught it. We had won. Within seconds I was mobbed by my screaming, disbelieving teammates. What a moment! My father, who retells this story every time our family is together, recalls that, as Coach Cohen walked over to the Waltham coach to shake hands, he put his hat over his face as if to say, “Did we just see what we just saw?”

What does this story have to do with Red Sox Nation? Maybe something about how we all wonder how we would perform under the same pressure our Red Sox heroes face regularly. Or maybe it’s about the snapshots we all carry around about our own triumphs and failures. Or how the Red Sox bring out the dreamer in all of us. I don’t know. Maybe you do.

Slammin’ Scott Hatteberg ushers in “My Life, Part 2″

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

I’ve written before on this blog about my open heart surgery in 2001 to repair a ruptured sinus valsalva aneurysm. What I haven’t written about is the role that baseball, the Red Sox, and former Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg (below) played in the whole surgery-recovery experience.

Scott Hatteberg grand slamEarly in the morning on August 6, 2001, lying on my back in a hospital and nervous about having my chest sawed open, I was wheeled into an operating room feet first. I recall looking up at the room number and suddenly feeling totally comforted about the outcome of the surgery. Why? It was room 37. That was my uniform number during the ten years I pitched for Avi Nelson Club in the Yawkey Amateur Baseball League of Boston. I just knew that was a sign. A good sign. (Hey, even us amateur baseball players never lose our superstitions….)

Fast-forward about 15 hours to 9:30pm. The successful surgery had been completed by noon and I had been unconscious in the intensive care unit all afternoon and night. My wife, pregnant with child #2, had gone home to put our two year-old son to bed and my parents were sitting by my side, watching the Red Sox-Rangers game on the TV, waiting for me to wake up from my drug-induced haze. The doctors had told them I would probably open my eyes by midnight. Exhausted themselves from a long day at the hospital, my parents finally decided to go home too – but before they left, they asked the nurses, “Please don’t turn off the TV. If Rob wakes up with the Red Sox game on, he’ll be happy.”

Now, shift to my perspective. This is what I remember as I regained consciousness: I began to open my eyes, the room was dark except for the glowing TV, and the commentator was yelling something: “… long drive, way back, GRAND SLAM SCOTT HATTEBERG, and THE RED SOX TAKE BACK THE LEAD!”

At the precise moment I woke up from my surgery and realized I was still alive, Scott Hatteberg hit a go-ahead grand slam, sending Fenway fans into a delerious frenzy. I was all alone in the room at that moment – just me, Scott Hatteberg, and the screams of the Fenway Faithful. Needless to say, I was pretty emotional as I lay there in my bed — out of gratitude for a “second birth” and also moved by the in-your-face-baseball-joy playing out on my TV. I remember that my whole body was pretty sore, and I remember being simply amazed that that euphoric Red Sox moment was chosen for me to return to consciousness. It will always be one of my life’s most incredible memories.

Hatteberg’s slam came in the bottom of the sixth inning, following the Rangers’ demoralizing five-run fifth inning, and neither the Red Sox nor the Rangers scored any more runs the rest of the game, resulting in a 10-7 victory for the Sox. (See box score here.) Interestingly, in Hatteberg’s previous at-bat in that game, he hit into a triple play, and his subsequent grand slam made him the first and only player in major league history to hit into a triple play then hit a grand slam in consecutive at bats. His bat from that game is on display at Cooperstown.Scott Hatteberg curtain call

Upon hearing this story of my dramatic “awakening,” one of my teaching colleagues, Matt Parke, now a basketball coach at Guilford College in North Carolina, doctored and then emailed me this photo of Hatteberg’s Fenway curtain call (right).

Someday, when Hatteberg (now a member of the Cincinnati Reds) is retired, I hope to meet him and tell him about how one of the best moments of his life was also one of the best moments of mine.

“I’m a Member of Red Sox Nation” — birth of a song

I have written a few Red Sox songs this summer. (I guess you could say writing baseball songs is a hobby — but the truth is, these tunes just come to me when I’m driving or hacking on my guitar.) One is called, There is Nothing Bettah, Than Beating Mariano Rivera. My kids like thakids bandt one. Another is called, On the Corner of Brookline Ave and Yawkey Way. This is the song I invited my songwriting friends, Dan Page and Michele Page, to come listen to about a week ago to help me write some lyrics. Just before they got to my house, the tune and first line of, I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation came to me. When Dan and Michele arrived, I didn’t even bother playing the Brookline Ave and Yawkey Way tune for them — I knew that the Nation song was the one we needed to work on. And we did.

It was a good time. We filled pads of paper with Red Sox images, phrases, memories, and ideas, referred from time to time to our thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, wrote and rejected about 250 lines — and a few days later, the song was complete. I stayed up late a few nights recording/engineering it on my iBook (using Garage Band software and the Mac’s built-in mike) in my basement, which is also my kids’ playroom. Surrounded by Play-Doh, dolls, and Pokemon cards, I perched the laptop on the surface of our air hockey table, and if you listen to the song carefully, you can hear our loud basement fridge droning in the background.

A week after the basement sessions, my good friends Bob Little and Michelle Rufo, along with about ten other day camp counselors at Summer@Park, taught the song to about fifty campers and organized them for an informal recording session in the lobby of the school’s gym. The kids’ enthusiastic singing was added to the last verse, along with their favorite Red Sox cheer, “Let’s Go Red Sox!”

The song was played at Fenway Park between the top and bottom of the fifth inning last Wednesday, July 18. If it has been played since then, I haven’t heard about it. Whether or not I’m elected president of Red Sox Nation, Dan, Michele, and I hope this song is good enough and gets enough play to get stuck in people’s heads across New England for years to come, making them smile every time they hear it. To read the lyrics, or to download the song for free, go here.

“Regular Rob” runs for president of Red Sox Nation

President of Red Sox NationYes, I am the “Regular Rob” who is running for president of Red Sox Nation – against quite a formidable group of “Nation notables.” I thought about starting a new blog for my campaign, but using my existing blog is just so much more convenient. Plus, it gives potential voters a chance to learn more about me from the other blog entries I’ve written since I started this blog in November, 2006, when I was writing for an audience of about 47 — on a very good day.

You will notice that my last entry, prior to this one, was written near the end of March. Why did I stop writing? Same reason I started: baseball season. In November, when I wrote my first blog entry, the 2006 baseball season had recently ended and I had time on my hands in the evenings after the kids were in bed. On April 2, the major league baseball season started, and I suddenly didn’t have that time anymore. I was glued to the Sox games on NESN and ESPN’s Baseball Tonight again, as well as managing my Yahoo fantasy baseball team in hopes of ending my brother’s remarkable seven-year reign in the Crawdaddy League.

So, I’m back (I know, you never knew I was gone), and it’s not even November yet. If elected president of Red Sox Nation, I’ll be a frequent blogger on my family’s Red Sox Nation experience, on baseball and Red Sox memories of mine, and on any current Red Sox Nation topics I feel like addressing. I expect I’ll also reach out to Red Sox Nation through this blog to ask my compatriots for their thoughts, opinions, and ideas, so I can serve both the Red Sox organization and Red Sox Nation by being an effective liaison between the fans and the team.

So, if I’ll be blogging as president of RSN on these topics, why not blog on these topics now? I think I will…. should be fun….. though I’ll need to learn to write late at night while watching baseball on the tube….