I'll admit it. I've been less than enthused about baseball lately. For me, it's full-on football season, and the Red Sox and their losing ways are an afterthought. The current team just doesn't have my heart the way past teams have. I don't know if it's the oboxiousness of Bobby V or the flood of newbies putting on the uniform in the late season, but, well, there you have it. Occasionally I tune in, as I did at a pub on Friday night, to a TV with no sound and watch Dustin Pedroia get the game-tying RBI, and as usual, he makes me smile. But that's about it, of late.
I actually didn't even watch today's game, but I did watch the Pesky trbute that was on afterwards, and not only did it choke me up, wring me out, and otherwise leave me verklempt with its pitch-perfect plucks at the heartstrings, but it reminded me how I usually feel about baseball, when things aren't a plodding forced march through gratuitous amounts of suckitude at the hands of a largely unlikeable band of misfits led by the Pied Piper of Smirk.
- Dick Flavin's speech and beautiul poem left me choked up, with goosebumps.
- Keith Foulke showed up. That man's graciousness after the way he was treated on his way out of town is not something we should take for granted. Toward the end of the broadcast, as Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield shared their memories of celebrating the 2004 World Series with Johnny Pesky, NESN cut to a shot of him in the stands. Well played, NESN.
- Roger Clemens showed up, and he talked, AND he received a nice ovation from the crowd that was gathered at Fenway for the event. Will wonders never cease.
- Bill Lee saying players today are spoiled. "They've got more grounds crew than we had fans."
- Rich Gedman saying, in his softspoken way, that he "gets nervous in these places" before he shared his memories of Johnny.
- The sheer number of times the word "Peckerhead" was used on live TV (this was Ted Williams' nickname for Pesky, and Pesky's nickname, ultimately, for a lot of other people, including Pedro Martinez when he first arrived from Montreal).
- Of all the stories told, the one that stands out the most to me was Dustin Pedroia's about when he first got called up and was struggling at the plate. He said Pesky took him aside and was trying to give him a pep talk when a screaming foul ball liner zinged into the dugout and hit Pesky on the arm. "See, that's what ya gotta do, kid," Pesky told Pedey. "Get hit by the ball so you get on base. I want you to practice that." Pedroia said he wasn't sure if Pesky was serious until Pesky assured him he was joking, and reminded him that the game was supposed to be fun--gave Pedroia permisison to have fun. This both echoed and summed up a sentiment expressed by several other players who paid tribute to Johnny, that for all the seriousness and earnestness of his dedication to the game, his sense of fun and joy in it was essential to him as well.
- Clay Buchholz's wide eyes in the stands as he watched Pedro speak.
- After the players told their stories of Johnny, they walked out to the big "6" that had been painted into the infield, and laid roses on it. Papi lingered with a faraway stare next to the number after his teammates had moved on, until Pedro Martinez walked over, took David by the arm, and gently led him away. That moment was just breathtaking.
By the time the players past and present were all signing the Pesky Pole, I was a complete mess. But I had remembered the deep emotions that has made baseball a passion of mine, after a period of unfortunate forgetfulness about that.