Tag: Boston Red Sox

BOSTON ASSEMBLES STRONG AMERICAN FORCE FOR 2017

President-elect Donald Trump won this year’s divisive U.S. presidential campaign in part by touting an “America First” agenda.  Seems he isn’t the only one thinking about the home team.

Lest we forget, the Boston Marathon is contested on Patriots Day, an April holiday in Maine and Massachusetts commemorating the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War.  Accordingly, Boston’s marathon in its early years was known as “The American Marathon”.

For the last generation, however, The American Marathon, like all marathons around the world, has become the exclusive province of athletes from East Africa.  So overwhelming has the transfer of power become that the sight of American Meb Keflezighi pulling out a victory in 2014 was so unusual, such a welcome surprise, that even runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya joked, “I would have been the most hated man in Boston if I had caught Meb.”  Keflezighi’s 11-second victory became the marathon equivalent of the Boston Red Sox World Series baseball win a decade earlier, as each snapped losing streaks of historic proportions.

Though Meb’s win in Boston was the first by an American in 31 years, even before Patriot’s Day 2014 there had been a resurgence in American running, in no small measure due to Keflezighi’s silver medal in the Athens Olympic Marathon 2004 and his New York City Marathon victory in 2009.  Still, even with the occasional peak performance by Meb or Ryan Hall, there was no lessening of the East African domination, either. But the spirit of Meb’s win in 2014, and game challenges by Hall, local-born Shalane Flanagan and fellow Olympian Desi Linden (2nd, 2011) in the women’s races had whetted the locals appetite for more.

This week Boston’s major sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced their American field for Patriots Day 2017, and it is as strong a home contingent as the old town has seen since the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials were contested in Boston in 2008.  While the international field has yet to be announced beyond defending champion Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia, and 2012 champion Wesley Korir of Kenya, the American lineup will prove formidable. Five of the six 2016 U.S. Rio Olympic marathoners were announced, led by Boston debutant and Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp (a man coached by 1982 Boston champion and local product Alberto Salazar), 2014 champ Keflezighi, Utah’s Jared Ward, Marblehead, Mass. favorite Shalane Flanagan, and the aforementioned Desi Linden. (see linked JH announcement for full U.S. field) (more…)

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CUBS WIN!!!

  • The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 last night at delirious Wrigley Field to win their first National League pennant since 1945, a time that dates to the Greatest Generation. Now the northsiders will take on American League champion Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic beginning next Tuesday.

Towns goes crazy! Historic Series awaits!

Better than food!
Better than food!

 

The Cubbies haven’t won the World Series itself in 108 years (1908), the Indians in 68 years (1948). It all reminds me of that night back in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino to end their own 86 years of World Series frustration.

My Chicago friends have always argued that the Cubs’ World Series drought was worse than the Red Sox because it was longer in duration (108 years to a mere 86).  But since their last appearance in the Series in 1945 the Cubs have been perennial losers, never really coming close, almost always out of the pennant race by mid-summer.

Oh, there was the Steve Bartman incident in 2003 when the Cubs were up 3-2 in the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, but the Red Sox have starred in any number of Shakespearean baseball tragedies. Line them up: 1946 and 1967 against the Cards in seven-game series, 1975 against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, also in seven, and most horrically in 1986 against the N.Y. Mets. Agonizingly just one out away,  congratulations already up on the Mets’ scoreboard, then the grounder dribbles through Buckner’s legs and the champagne gets wheeled away.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in 1978 for the AL East title on Bucky “effing” Dent’s home run off Mike Torres over the Green Monster.

So heartache and pain have long been etched more deeply into the soul of the New England fans than that of the hapless though hopeful Cubby faithful.

So let’s go back to the fateful night of October 27, 2004 when the Red Sox finally won it all against my hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Because this is what it might finally feel like in Chicago in a very short time.  (more…)

BASEBALL IS LIKE THE MARATHON

Cardinals v Red Sox 2013    Baseball, in some ways, is like the marathon.  Both sports require the ability to endure a long, grueling task, be it months of training and 26.2 miles of racing, or months of a 162-game season, and the intensity of multiple championship series.  Both sports take from low two-hours to five-hours plus to complete, and taken in small doses or out of context, can seem incomparably boring. Yet when followed closely throughout a season or a race, the drama of each competition builds to Shakespearean levels, until every pitch, every foot strike takes on the weight of the world, and the glory of accomplishment — sometimes even in defeat — can resonate for a lifetime and beyond.

And so as the baseball season begins its annual fall ritual tonight in Boston with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals taking on host American League king Boston Red Sox, we await the culminating event of the 2012-2013 World Marathon Majors cycle on the first weekend of November at the ING New York City Marathon with equal anticipation.

This year’s Fall Classic promises to be a beauty, as the Cards and the Sox have proven their mettle — both teams completed their seasons with a record of 97 —  65.  Both have excellent pitching, powerful offenses, and legendary support from their iconic fan bases.  We can only hope to witness a level of drama at the ING New York City Marathon November 3rd that will approximate what is expected in Boston and St. Louis – America’s Best Baseball Town. (more…)

RED SOX, CUBBIES & THE BOSTON MARATHON

Shoe print     As the winter snows give way to the unrelenting muds of March, the small dividing strip of land along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, Massachusetts between Center Street and Hammond Road — a strip that runners know better as Heartbreak Hill along the Boston Marathon route — becomes rutted by the innumerable footfalls that pound its surface every day.  For the area runners who work this hallowed ground through the long, bitter months of winter it is the pull of generations past which draws them through till Marathon day in mid-April.

This is also why there had always been a close connection between the beginning of baseball season and the arrival of the Boston Marathon, for both are harbingers of hope, the promise of better, warmer days ahead. Yet the Marathon, like the long baseball season, while holding hope, never actually promises it.  Would a people who sprung from a Pilgrim’s harsh heritage have it any other way?

Born of myth, the marathon is rooted in failure, even demise.  Its language alludes to that curtain which will befall each of us one day.  “Man, I really died today,” is how a runner describes a poor performance.  So, too, in baseball was failure built into the system;  hit safely just three out of ten times, and you are an honored player.  It is this element of suffering to attain, overcoming to transcend which extends these sports from their 19th century beginnings into today’s nano-second world of instant gratification.

And it is also in that sense of suffering to attain that the long-tormented Chicago Cubs baseball fans can relate to what New Englanders had long gone through with their beloved Red Sox.  Yet even the Cubs’ multi-generational streak of futility and frustration can’t compare to the 87 accursed years that Boston Red Sox fans endured the “Curse of the Bambino”. (more…)