Monday, April 1, 2024

Red Sox and A's Fans Are No Fools

OAKLAND — Remember the good old days when a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland used to mean something?

When the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Champion A’s here in 1975, the first time the Red Sox won a post-season series since 1918. Carl Yastrzemski made two great defensive plays in leftfield in front of a crowd of 49,358.

When Boston pitcher Roger Clemens took the mound wearing eye black under his eyes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shoelaces on his spikes in a must-win playoff game in 1990 and still couldn’t beat Dave Stewart. Clemens got ejected in the second inning by issuing an expletive-laced double dog dare directed at home plate umpire Terry Cooney.

When Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe recorded the final out to cap a Boston comeback from a 2-0 games deficit in the best-of-five ALCS series in 2003 by looking at the A’s dugout and grabbing his crotch. It caused Miguel Tejada to practically cry in the clubhouse later angered by what he thought was a classless act.

When the A’s beat the Red Sox 20-2 in Oakland in 2012 during the Bobby Valentine Error. Valentine was late arriving at the ballpark for that game, but at least he showed up because the Red Sox pitchers apparently didn’t.

When Sean Manaea threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on April 21, 2018 after Boston opened the season with a 15-1 record and wound up winning the World Series. A crowd of 25,746 was on hand that night. It sounded like 45,000.

“The playoff atmosphere here is better than any in baseball and I’ve experienced a number of different playoff atmospheres,” former A’s player and current Cleveland Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said last week. “The Oakland Coliseum packed at playoff time is tough to beat.”

The only thing that is packed at the Oakland Coliseum these days is the ice for the overpriced beer if you are lucky to find a concession stand open in the ballpark. On the upper concourses, the ballpark has the feel of a tomb. 

And it’s only going to get worse.

Whereas a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland used to routinely attract crowds of 20,000 plus, only 18,166 fans showed up for the THREE game series this week, according to the A’s. The A’s announced that Wednesday’s paid crowd was 6,436 — which would make it smallest crowd ever for a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland since the A’s moved here in 1968 —but it looked from my vantage point to be closer to 10,000, obviously not great, but a truer count. Perhaps the A’s are purposely giving false or lower attendance figures to support the case of villainous team owner John Fisher to cut ties with Oakland. He has said the Oakland Coliseum is not viable MLB location.

“That’s bullshit,” said one longtime A’s fan. “It was good enough for 60 years, four World Series titles and countless memories for me, some of them, the few, and the only ones of my dad, my coach, and my friend.”

In other words, John Fisher has ripped out the heart of all A’s fans. There will be no lease extension to keep the A’s in Oakland for a few more years and the owner has every intention not to sell the team and will move it to Las Vegas. Until then, the A's beginning next season will be playing their home games in a minor league ballpark in Sacramento which seems fitting since, under Fisher's watch, the A's have downsized to a minor league-looking roster en route to their third consecutive 100-loss season.

This is the saddest news in minor league sports since told Joe McGrath told Reg Dunlop the Charlestown Chiefs will be sold.

“We explored several location for a temporary home, including the Oakland Coliseum,” Fisher said Thursday morning in a press release by the team. “Even with the standing relationship and good intentions on all side of negotiations with Oakland, the conditions to achieve an agreement seemed out to reach. We understand the disappointment of this news brings to our fans, as this season marks our final one in Oakland. Throughout this season, we will honor and celebrate our time in Oakland, and we will share additional details soon.”


After negotiations between the A’s and the city officials broke down on Tuesday morning to extend the team’s lease at the Oakland Coliseum, an inner stadium memo surfaced before Tuesday night’s game that included this edict: “If you see anything that says `Rooted in Oakland’ it must be taken down immediately … Try not to highlight product that focuses on the name ‘Oakland’ ”

Excuse me, Mr. Fisher. Honor and celebrate our time in Oakland???!!! By not focusing on the name Oakland???!!!


When A's owner Charlie Finley tried to sell off his star players in 1976 (Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sold to the Red Sox for $1 million apiece) but MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed it by evoking the "in the best interests of baseball" clause.

Would Bowie Kuhn have allowed John Fisher to lease his team to a minor league stadium that has only 10,63 seats in the best interests of baseball? Where is Rob Manfield? Hello?

Why not call Derek Lowe and ask him to grab his crotch again in Oakland?

There is plenty of finger pointing. The City of Oakland and County of Alameda sold their souls to Al Davis in 1995 to bring the Raiders back to Oakland and the city and county has never gotten out from under the financial burden of that decision. That move led to the erection of Mt. Davis in the Oakland Coliseum and the erosion of it as a baseball ballpark.

The A’s, however, remained competitive. They developed players and a strategy to compete with the best of the higher payroll teams. That, of course, led to a romantic baseball movie in 2011 with Brad Pitt playing Billy Beane, the most lopsided trade in A’s history.

Since then John Fisher bought the A’s and the City of Oakland and County of Alameda couldn’t build him a new ballpark, the biggest mismatch in A's history.

Thus the A’s went from Moneyball to Out Of Moneyball. Now it’s official. They are on their way out of town.

This has been the worse week in Oakland A’s history. On Monday night -- April Fool's Day --  only 6,618 fans showed up for the first game of a three-game series against the Red Sox, normally a big attraction in the Oakland Coliseum. Maybe they stayed home to watch the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Elite Eight games on TV and who could blame them? Caitlin Clark vs. Angel Reese and Paige Bueckers vs. JuJu Watkins had more star power than Red Sox vs. A’s.

It was probably 60/40 Red Sox fans at the start of the game, but, by the fourth inning, it was treading toward 100 percent Sox supporters. The A’s committed five errors and the Red Sox scored eight runs in the first three innings and Oakland fans were stretching to leave before the seventh inning.

After the game, the A's postgame radio talk show was bombarded by calls from fans who were angered by the team's sudden demotion of centerfielder Esteury Ruiz, one of the A's most exciting player who led the team in stolen bases last year. He was 3-for-7 this season with a double and triple yet the A's sent him down to the minors. A's fans suspected it was because he was seen on social media wearing a "Sell The Team" bracelet.

On Tuesday, team ownership and/or their representatives met with city leaders for Oakland to negotiate a lease extension to allow the A's to play in the Oakland Coliseum before they moved to Sin City. They were about as far apart as the moon and the sun in non-eclipse year.

 Then on Wednesday afternoon, fans in right field sat behind a sign that read "Empty Seats By Design" and chanted "Sell The Team." They stayed for the whole game which ended with a shutout loss.

Still, while the A’s situation has slipped from depressing to despair, the Red Sox are on the verge of an Unsweetened Caroline season. Not good. Not good. Not good.

Like A’s fans, Red Sox fans have been become disenchanted with team ownership, which has become invisible and seemingly disinterested in the franchise. These are not the Larry Lucchino (God rest his soul) vs. The Evil Empire Days when the Red Sox tried to keep up with their rivals instead of keeping a budget. Like the A’s, the Red Sox don’t appear overly committed to improving the product on the field through Red Sox chairman Tom Werner proclaimed last November the team would be going “full throttle” to build a championship team.

He must have been driving a golf cart.

Lest we forget the Red Sox and A’s are two proud franchises that competed for championships for five decades. Now,  with the posturing at press conferences and the decisions they make and the pennies they spend in free agency, they appear content to finish in last place.

The Red Sox might climb out of the cellar. The A’s would need an elevator now. Remember when the A in A’s stood for amazing? Now it stands for Apathy. Other than the few loyal A’s fans who still show up in rightfield, there is no flag-waving or drum-beating in the outfield. No intensity in the ballpark. No reason to root for a team being uprooted.

They have a bank of memories, and nothing else.

“But going back to the past, they had good teams, rowdy fans, playoff atmosphere. For everything they talk about — Moneyball and all that stuff — they were really good in every aspect of the game. They pitch. They have good defense. They have good offense,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Monday night’s game. “They transformed baseball. We’re talking about closers. We’re talking about sabermetrics. We’re talking about defense and all that. They were one step ahead of everybody else.

“It’s a shame they are going through this.”

Hence, it didn’t come as a shock when the A’s attracted only 13,522 fans to their Opening Day last Thursday followed by a crowd of 3,837 the next night even though the As have a Friday night ticket special of four tickets plus parking starting at $49.


At least the Red Sox will sellout their Opening Day in Fenway Park, but they are trending down in attendance. Though they have finished last in the AL East three times in the last four years, the team raised ticket prices again this season.

According to, the Red Sox now have the second highest cost in Major League Baseball for a family of four  —  four game tickets plus concessions (two beers, two sodas, four hotdogs) —  for the 2023 season with an average of $321.25. Only the L.A. Dodgers are more expensive. The A’s are 21st.

The biggest difference between the A’s and Red Sox is Boston has ballpark, Fenway Park, that will forever be a source of attraction for all baseball fans from New England and beyond. They have the famed Green Monster. The Oakland Coliseum has monster truck shows as a big draw.

But the Fenway effect is waning. After the Red Sox last won a World Series in 2018, the team drew an average crowd of 36,107 to Fenway Park during the 2019 season. Last season, that average dropped to 32,989 and if the team stumbles to another last place finish in the division this year the average attendance for a home game in Boston may drop under 30,000 for the first time since 1998 when they finished 22 games behind the Yankees.

Back in 2014, the Red Sox-A’s four-game series drew almost 120,000 fans, the last time more than 100,000 fans attended a Boston/Oakland series in the Coliseum. Neither team made the playoffs that year. In fact the Red Sox and A’s haven’t met in the playoffs in almost 20 years and it might be another 20 before they do again.

The state of MLB baseball in Oakland and Boston have something in common. Both teams in recent years have succeeded in doing the same thing: Lowering expectations.

At what cost? The Red Sox have some expectations. The A’s now have none. Well, one: To honor and celebrate our time in Oakland.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Remember The Original Swifties?

Attention: Swifties. I’m going to shake it off and piss you off.

With all the hype and hoopla and TV news reporter gushing hilarity surrounding the sold out concerts at Levi’s Stadium this weekend featuring your gal pal Taylor Swift, the Goddess of Popness, lest we not forget that another group of so-called Swifties took over this town in 1993 when the Giants won 103 games before losing the National League pennant of the final day of the season to the Atlanta Braves. 

I’m talking Billy Swift. B-Swift. He pitched beyond wildest dreams for the Giants after being traded from the Settle Mariners in 1992 two days before T-Swift was two years old. Swifty, as Dusty Baker started calling him, led the National League with a 2.08 earned run average in 1992, won 21 games and finished runner-up to Greg Maddux for the NL Cy Young Award in 1993, and ended his Giants pitching career in 1994 with a gorgeous three-year record of 39-19 and 2.70 ERA before telling the Giants we are never ever getting back together and signing as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies.

The righthanded pitcher born in Portland, Maine, a product of the University of Maine, captivated fans at Candlestick Park, especially in stretch run in September in 1993 when he went 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He was the man. Swift’s final game at Candlestick that year was a masterpiece before a crowd of 46,348 to beat the Padres, allowing one run in eight innings as the Giants extended their lead over the Braves to 1 ½ games. His final start was on September 30, when he beat the Dodgers in L.A. for the Giants’ 101st win of the season to remain in a tie with the Braves. Three days later, the Giants lost on the final day of the season when Baker started 21-year-old rookie pitcher Salomon Torres and the Giants knew they were in trouble when he couldn’t finish the fourth inning in 12-1 loss that created more bad blood with the rival Dodgers who poured it on and rubbed it that day . Despite a franchise record of 103 wins that season, the Giants failed to make the playoffs, a position Giants fans know all too well over the years.

Swift would have been the one and started the playoff game against the Braves if there had been one. The Giants would have been safe and sound with Swifty on the mound. Imagine if he had the chance. What a love story that would have been.

B-Swift came to the Giants as a relief pitcher in 1992 but Giants manager Roger Craig took him out of the bullpen and turned him into a starter. The change was good.  It took Giants fans a while to warm to that. Only 12,157 fans were on hand to see Swifty beat the Phillies on May 2 at Candlestick Park in a game chilly enough for fans to wear cardigan sweaters. Swifty fans back then didn’t come to the ballpark with friendship bracelets, but they did leave with Croix de Candlestick buttons if the game went into extra innings at night.

Swift’s annual salary in 1992 was $2.3 million which Taylor Swift probably earned for one song in Levi’s Stadium. The Giants gave him a $1 million raise the next year, but his salary dropped back down to $2.3 million in 1994 which must have had him seeing red. However, going from the Giants to the Rockies, left a blank space in his career, which drooped like a willow tree. Compared to San Francisco, B-Swift was the anti hero in Colorado. You could call his time there the Errors Tour because Swifty came to San Francisco on a white horse and left a better man.

Finally, with his off-season heading back to December, Swifty realized everything has changed. He retired from baseball during spring training in 1999, about the time 10-year-old Taylor Swift was thinking about moving to Nashville to pursue a country music career.  Injuries to his shoulder and back ultimately left B-Swift feeling like he had no body but that’s no crime.

In time, T-Swift emerged as a pop cultural superstar and the Giants got their Swifty back. In 2006, when the Giants drafted Tim Lincecum, Tay Tay released her self-titled album. She released new albums in the even-numbered years 2010, 2012, and 2014 which happened to the years that the Giants won the World Series. However, the coincidence became a curse. Instead of releasing her next new album in 2016, T-Swift waited until 2017, an odd-numbered year, which threw the Giants off their game. They haven’t won a World Series since. It’s a losing streak that has lasted longer than the rest of the field vs. Joey Chestnut in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

But you need to calm down, Giants fans. It’s not about you. It’s about ME! ME as in the abbreviation for Maine. Those original Swifties at Candlestick in the 90s didn’t have to pay $400 to park or $1,000 a ticket to attend a Bill Swift performance. Those Swifties came without any fanfare wearing Giants sweatshirts and not sequins.   

If you’re a Bill Swift fan, you should be a Swifty forever. 

If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, look at what you made me do. Count the number of her song titles in this column of mine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Two Words: Yankees Suck

I resist the temptation to declare this “National Yankees Suck Week” and I don’t know why.

As a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, this feels like an extended holiday. Seeing the hated New York Yankees in last place in the standings in July is cause for fireworks and jubilation. Something you lean back, look up, smile and appreciate. Something wonderfully and completely unexpected to celebrate like a kid rejoicing a rare snow day that cancels school in Maine.

I'm so giddy, what do I do with myself?

The last time the Yankees were alone in last place with their worst record after 95 games  Carl Harrison “Stump” Merrill -- once a star catcher for the University of Maine from Brunswick, Maine -- had replaced Russell Earl “Bucky” Dent – always a weak-hitting shortstop in New York/the anti-Christ in New England – as the manager of the Yankees after Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had the audacity to fire him  over the telephone at Fenway Park, the very site of his most famous hit ever. I still cringe when I see Yaz’s knees buckle as Bucky’s game-changing home run barely creeped into the net at the top of the Green Monster in the infamous 1978 playoff game.

I’ve seen that replay show up on TV more than Jake from State Farm.

It was the 1990 season when the Yankees finished in last place for the first time in 24 years with 95 losses, their most since 1912 B.B. Before Babe. That year Billy Martin was killed in a car crash, MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after he paid a gambler for “dirt” on Dave Winfield who had sued the Yankees owner, and the Yankees drafted Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and my Facebook friend Jalal Leach and released the .158 hitting Deion Sanders. Don Mattingly was the Yankees’ first baseman and Dave Righetti was their ace reliever but their starting second baseman was Steve Sax, their right fielder was Jesse Barfield, their DH was Steve Balboni, and their catcher was Bob Geren, now a bench coach for the L.A. Dodgers after being fired as manager of the Oakland A’s.

More a Mundane Row than Murderer’s Row.

This Yankees team has a $295 million payroll and normally the Yankees could buy their way out of this funk. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who the Yankees resigned in the offseason for two years and $40 million, is batting .190 with no home runs since May 20 and was benched Wednesday. Giancarlo Stanton, who has four years remaining on a 13-year $325 million contract, is currently hitting .196 on the season. Two-time batting champion D.J. Lemahieu is batting .231.

Yankees fans are so frustrated that some are pointing to a stuffed cat toy prank before their last series against the Anaheim Angels by Gleyber Torres on his notoriously cat-fearing Venezuelan teammate Eduardo Escobar as if it’s cursed the team.  Yankees fans are finding more negative than positive in the team right now with Aaron Judge still recovering from ligament tears in his right big toe. Since Judge, the American League’s MVP last season, has been on the IL since June 6 and the Yankees’ record is 14-21.

The rumor mill has the Yankees being desperate enough to put together a package to go after Shohei Ohtani before the August 1 trade deadline. But six years ago Ohtani declined to even speak with the Yankees when he was a free agent. The Yankees, the second oldest team in major league baseball behind the Mets, would need to surrender a ton of players/prospects to get him then invest upwards of $500 million after giving Judge $360 million in the offseason to keep him. That's a steep price for protecting the Yankees from their enemies. Maybe they can get Mexico to pay for it.

So it’s easy to pick on the Yankees right now and normally I would be first on the dog pile. Especially after Yankees manager Aaron Boone said "we stink" on Wednesday night, which I think is as close as you can come to "we suck." I own a gray T-shirt and a red hoodie both inscribed with “Jesus Hates The Yankees” and I have religiously worn my white “Yankees Suck” T-shirt for years. My loathing for the Yankees is so well known that when Derek Jeter missed by one vote of being voted unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, more than one person contacted me and asked if that was my vote. No, my voting for the Baseball of Fame expired in 2019. For the record, I would have voted for Jeter to be voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot, though I despised all the times he fist-pumped celebrating big moments against the Red Sox. That image is forever etched in my mind no matter how many commercials he does these days.

I do not feel sorry for the Yankees and never will, but I am going to resist the temptation for “National Yankees Suck Week.” And now I know why.

No. 1 the Yankees still have a winning record despite all their injuries and Judge is taking batting practice and running the bases and about a week away from returning to the lineup.

No. 2 the Red Sox record isn’t much better than the Yankees’ record despite fewer injuries and, after losing two consecutive games and giving up five home runs in less than 24 hours to the worst team in baseball – the Oakland A’s -- they are a day away from falling back into last place.

No. 3 the Yankees are the Yankees and they always find a way to right their ship better than the Red Sox though the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009.

Had to get that dig in. I wouldn’t be a Red Sox fan if I didn’t.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A's Are More Grooted In Oakland Than Rooted


It was once again “Bark In The Park Night” in the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday night.


Given the current status of the home team, one wonders when the A’s are going to have Lame Duck Night.


As you know the Nevada state legislature and Nevada’s governor approved a bill to provide $380 million in public funding for a proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas at the intersection of Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue.  The Tropicana, which will be demolished, opened in 1957 and its earliest performers included Eddie Fisher, the real father of Princess Leia. So you could say the Force is with them in addition to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.


The A’s and beleaguered owner John Fisher have applied for relocation, which makes sense. The Las Vegas Strip would be a perfect destination for the most stripped-down major league team since Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Jake Taylor were the starting battery for the Cleveland Indians.


The biggest protest of the move has come from the 27,759 A’s fans who showed up two weeks ago for a” Reverse Boycott.” In the fifth inning, they stood in unison to give the silent treatment to their cause then started yelling “Sell The Team! Sell The Team!”  It was a poetic message aimed at Fisher that supported their objection to the A’s moving except for the fact that some A’s fans littered the field with cans and bottles after the game. Who knew the Reverse Boycott would end with trash talk.


At least A’s fans are invested.  The only thing leadership from the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda is willing to pay the team is lip service. They have had 30 years to build a new baseball stadium. Enough said.


Pending a miracle, the A’s will leave after the team’s lease with Oakland and Alameda expires following the 2024 season. Insert sad emoji and poop emoji here.


 “It’s killing me,” said a ballpark usher and longtime A’s fan. “It’s a dagger in my heart.”


There is hope for Oakland and it comes from San Francisco. Lest we forget that in 1992 Giants owner Bob Lurie had reached an agreement with a bunch of investors in Florida to move the Giants, who were playing in Candlestick Park, to St. Petersburg where a new domed stadium had been built. However, MLB owners blocked that move and an investment group led by Peter Magowan swooped in and bought the team then went out and signed Barry Bonds. A brand-new ballpark, three World Series titles, and countless memorable moments followed.


Perhaps A’s Fischer, the Gap Inc. billionaire, is hoping for the same thing but, unlike San Francisco in 1992, the city of Oakland, the County of Alameda, and potential buyers of the team locally have not stepped up to the plate. They haven’t even grabbed a bat. Besides, Manfred owns the bat rack. This Las Vegas/Nevada/MLB/Fisher collaboration sure smells like collusion, which MLB in the past has treated like the anti-Christ.


Of course, no one has heard much of anything from Fisher outside of Las Vegas. Fisher isn’t talking -- at least publicly – and he is rarely seen. An owner of a professional sports team hasn’t been this invisible since Anita Cambridge was discovered by Reggie Dunlop when Reg was trying to get him, the Hanson Brothers, and Charlestown Chiefs to Florida and as far away as they could from Ogie Ogilthorpe.


Chances are Fisher was not among the crowd on Tuesday night on Jewish Heritage Night when, even with the mighty third-place New York Yankees in town, only 13,050 fans and their dogs showed up at the Oakland Coliseum where the A’s are last in MLB in home attendance entering the game with an average of 9,688. The Yankees, though playing most of the season without injured superstar Aaron Judge, still lead MLB in road attendance with an average of 33,269.  It was the smallest crowd to see a Yankees’ game since 10,876 saw the Pinstripers play the A’s in Oakland last Aug. 26. A year before that only 8,147 fans were on hand to see a Yankees-A’s game in Oakland and that’s when the A’s had Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in their lineup.


A’s fans – except for the “Reverse Boycott” on June 13 -- haven’t been motivated to come to the Oakland Coliseum to watch a team with a roster right out of the Benchwarmers. Honestly, these young A’s play hard and compete and deserve much more credit for their professionalism in the face of adversity and uncertainty. They’ve only won 21 games after beating the run-starved Bronx Embalmers Tuesday. The A’s ain’t that bad.


You can’t blame the A’s players for trying and you can’t blame the A’s fans for crying. Even Oakland sports fan Forrest Gump is upset. Actor Tom Hanks told city and county leaders to take a hike, too.


We've lost the Raiders. The Warriors moved to San Francisco. And now they're going to take the A's out of Oakland? Damn them all to hell,” tweeted Hanks, who was a hot dog vendor in his youth at the Oakland Coliseum.


Look around. There are no discernable signs of encouragement for the A’s in the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s team president Dave Kaval has been spotted flanked by security guards. The giant green tarps still cover 20,000 empty seats in the upper deck of so-called Mt. Davis, the stadium’s extended section built in 1995 to expand stadium capacity and add luxury suites to appease Raiders owner Al Davis when he brought his team back to Oakland from L.A. A lot of good that did, huh? And the A’s Community Corner in Section 218 looks like a fire sale, filled with leftover items from previous promotional giveaway days including a Marvel Groot bobblehead.


“If it’s not nailed to the fucking floor, they’re selling it,” the A’s usher/fan said.


Whatever is not sold, the A’s may need to put it in storage. The new ballpark in Las Vegas may not be ready until 2028 – according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal-- meaning the A’s might spend the 2025, 2026, and 2027 seasons as nomads, playing in minor league stadiums until their new major league home is finished in Vegas. Unless the A’s and the City of Oakland and County of Alameda extend the lease, which seems unlikely as Fisher and Manfred are burning bridges faster than Lord Voldemort.


Hence, the A’s, a charter member of the American League who have had homes in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland, could be renting from Sacramento, Reno, or Las Vegas. And, really, who goes to Vegas to watch anything other than the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and the Fountains of Bellagio? Mark Davis is already complaining about lack of fan support for his Raiders in a new stadium built for them. Another professional sports team in Las Vegas? Whoop-de-doo. The Vegas Golden Knights won their first ever Stanley Cup championship in front of their fans in Las Vegas in June and the world yawned. The television ratings for the Cup clinching game were the lowest in 30 years.


So be careful what you wish for before unrooting the A’s in Oakland.  They were a dynasty in the 70s in spite of owner Charlie Finley. They should have been a dynasty in the late 80s/early 90s because of owner Walter Haas, Sandy Alderson and Tony La Russa. And they continued to be a playoff team and competitive into this decade because of the brilliance and innovation of Billy Beane and the Moneyball days.


Now the “Money” is gone and all that remains is “ball.” The A’s just play ball in Oakland. Nothing else.


What a damn shame. Real lame.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Hall Of Fame Worthy Despite Baseball Blunder

Duane “Dewey” Warren could have been a three-sport star at Foxcroft Academy in my hometown of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, but he chose not to play baseball.

I think I know why. I blame myself.

Duane, who was inducted into the Foxcroft Academy Athletics Hall of Fame on October 7, was the star player in our last year of Little League baseball in Dover-Foxcroft’s version of the movie “The Sandlot.” We were 11-year-old teammates – naturally he batted clean-up and I was lucky enough to bat third ahead of him – and we were in the championship game at the baseball diamond at Morton Elementary School, our field of dreams. It had a dirt infield, a wired backstop as tall as the Green Monster in Fenway Park, and the only place to sit and watch a game was either on the merry go-round behind the backstop or the swing set or slide near the third base line.

Of course, we played all our Little League games in the afternoon heat in the summertime so there were no spectators, no ball-eating dogs, and no James Earl Jones.

In the summer of ’65 we were in the midst of a classic dramatic game-winning two-out rally and Duane was at the plate with the bases loaded. I was on first base.

It was a big moment, one made for Duane. And he delivered. He belted a long home run deep to left field, the ball almost rolling all the way down into a swamp that dramatically dropped off beyond the field and out of sight into a scary area where only the Goonies might visit. The field occasionally had a home run fence erected out of wooden snow fence used to contain snow drifts in the winter, but there was nothing preventing Duane’s blast from rolling far and it stopped short of the swamp.

It was easily a grand slam and likely the big hit to lead us toward the championship.

Except I messed up big time and, I now believe, I ruined Duane’s destiny to become a three-sport star at FA.

As I rounded third base to run home, I cut and simply missed the third base bag. For whatever reason three strives past it, I stopped and retreated to third to step on the base but, as I did, Duane, who was simply admiring his home run and following its path, passed me. We were essentially doing the tango at third base and it was illegal.

In other words, I turned a grand slam home run into a grand larceny. I stole Duane’s greatest moment in his baseball history away from him.

Mike Libby, another Little League player, volunteered to be the third base umpire that day and I swear to this day that he probably never saw me miss the third base bag. He, too, was probably distracted following the flight of Duane’s gigantic hit and was not even looking at my feet. Thus, all I needed to do was continue on my merry way to home plate to greet Duane with a hero’s welcome. No harm. No foul. No one would have even noticed my misstep. We win!!!

Yet, by stupidly retracing my steps and going back to third base, I created confusion from an honest mistake. It was a minor traffic jam, but it might as well have been a jackknifed big rig for cause and effect. Seconds later someone then called my gaffe to the attention of Walt Beaulieu, Foxcroft’s legendary football coach who then served as the Little League supervisor in the summer. Coach Beaulieu, who is also in FA’s Sports HOF, came onto the field, surveyed the situation and conferred with Mike Libby and ruled that since I missed third base then retreated to tag it as Duane passed me, Duane, by rule as the trail runner, should be called out. No runs. No rally. No f’in way. We lose!!!

And I’m the goat (lower case) and I don’t mean that GOAT.

Our Little League championship was gone and that was the last time I ever remember seeing Duane playing in a big-time baseball game. Duane, Little League hero, was overshadowed by Wrong Way Albee.

I blew it. 

The only saving grace to this day is that Duane, our Bo Jackson, later on proved he was just as good in football and basketball as he might have been in baseball. 

As a senior at Foxcroft, Duane was captain of the football team as our middle linebacker and fullback, who with his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, would drag would-be tacklers across the Piscataquis County line if it meant getting an extra yard. Duane was named team MVP and first team All Little Ten Conference.

In basketball, Duane developed his craft in the “Warren Fieldhouse,” which was actually inside the dusty, grungy barn/garage at his family’s house on Pleasant Street where we watched him from the wooden beams above develop his all-around game below. As a senior, he was also captain and MVP of our basketball team, scoring 40 points in one game, a 111-53 win over Lincoln. Had the advent of the shot clock and three-point line been in play that night he might have scored 60.

Then again Duane would not have boasted about it. He was a quiet superstar for the Ponies. He never called attention to himself and simply went about his business playing both ways in football and the only way he knew on the basketball court. With class and humility.

In addition, Duane was our senior class president, a natural leader. He was a student of the game, whatever one he chose to play. His inspiration for greatness in sports came from the star athletes who played before him at Foxcroft Academy.

“They were like gods to us,” he once said.

Well, Duane is now among those gods. Thanks to a nomination by my classmates Rick Pembroke and Paul McKusick, Duane was inducted into the FA Athletics Hall of Fame along with Joe Cox '84, Laurie Lavoie Merrill '98, Coach Luis Ayala, and Bobby Annis ’66 – one of those “god-like” football players Duane looked up to as a kid at Oakes Field.

Duane became the second member of the FA Class of 1972 to be enshrined in the school’s HOF. Jere White was inducted in 2017.

Jere was a three-sport star at FA. Duane should have been, if not for me.

So, with an apology attached, I would like to congratulate Duane on behalf of the FA Class of 1972 for his induction into the Foxcroft Academy Athletics Hall Of Fame and for once again making us proud and avenging my boneheaded mistake some 57 years ago.

 This time it’s a grand slam occasion for all of us!