Dick Durrell called last week from Connecticut to tell me the trophy was coming to Fairfield. “It’s going to be here on July 21,” Dick said. “I’ve been talking to our friend Jay about it for a while, and he’s been talking to the club. Jay told them if they wanted to do it, it should be by the end of July. The season’s really getting on, and people are starting to feel that the trophy’s too much about the past. Don’t you feel that way?”
I guess I do, a bit. So much is different, it’s inevitable that the trophyonly a symbol, after allis starting to feel as if it’s about something else: the Red Sox championship, not the Red Sox on the field. As you gaze at the splendid Waterford glassware that is the World Championship trophy, which for all these weeks and months has been making a whistle-stop tour of one New England burgh after another, the team that you conjure consists of a Foulke who is a lights-out closer, not a DL’ed basket case; a Schilling who is a bloody-socked titan, not a 250-pound question mark; a Millar with home runs in the double digits; a bullpen that can hold a lead and a starting five with two aces. Clement has been a nice surprise, Wells has had his moments as has Arroyo, Wakefield’s been characteristically gutsy and Miller has shown that, when he regains full strength, he’ll be throwing a bender to be reckoned with. Damon certainly hasn’t let celebrity or wedded bliss go to his head (well, maybe he has, but he’s still playing great, turning in a salary-drive year for the ages). Tek, Trot, Manny, David: What more can you say? Bellhorn . . . well, Bellhorn. And the left side of the infield’s been too quiet, but that should pick up.
Still, yes, ultimately: a different team, and as we drift ever farther from the magic moments of the fall of ’04, and our relationship particularly with the Yankees enters new chapterswitness the weekend’s eventsthis becomes the Sox reality we have to deal with. The trophy, still thrilling to the touch, is a vessel of the past.
When last you and I met in this electronic space to hash over affaires du Sox, the season was brand spanking new, the championship rings were just out of their boxes, Fever Pitch was hitting the theaters and the “World Champion Red Sox” were launching their defense. The mood, as it had been for six months, was one of giddiness, gaiety, jollityeternal sunshine, no fear of failure. Don’t get me wrong, here: We’re still cheerful (we’re in first place, after all), but . . .
Fever Pitch is a useful marker. Jimmy and Drew were everywherethey were on the Today show all week long, and so were the Farrellys. Weren’t they? Letterman. Leno. The EW cover with Johnny. Big smiles everywhere. And everyone said the movie was sweet and lovely and you had to see it. But not everyone did, and it closed pretty quickly, and life went on. It’s mid-July now, and you just know Fever Pitch is going to be out on DVDa lesser experienceany second. Drew and the Farrellys are off to make their next, more successful pictures, and all of that rapturous baloney Drew was giving Katie about her fairy-dusted Red Sox experience is on a grimy-dust-gathering tape in a Rock Center closet somewhere, where it belongs.
Meantime, the Soxand we, their fanshave had a job to do. Which is: Get on with 2005. Get on with our Bosox lives.
I’ve been uniquely placed this spring and summer to surf the Soxian waves and judge the swells, the ebbs and flows, the high tides and lowsthe demeanor of the great sea that some call Red Sox Nation. I’ve been to only one game in Fenway, that glorious first one. But I’ve found myself in this other situation that has delivered to me serendipitous opportunities of communion with the faithful. It’s been interestingsometimes funny, sometimes odd (the ghost of Joe Cronin!), alwaysto me, at leastinteresting.
How have I come to be positioned thusly? When I was on WFAN one Saturday morning in May, Ed Randall introduced me as one of the many guys who had authored what was already, by then, “a flotilla” of Red Sox books. Ed’s a very nice guy and he said it jokingly. I interjected that it was more like “an armada.” We chuckled and proceeded onto more serious subjects, like Foulke’s bygone fastball.
The book in question, Our Red Sox: A Story of Family, Friends, and Fenway has hardly become the lead galleon. That would be Stephen King’s, I’m sure. But Our Red Sox has found its little audience, and in doing so has allowed me to meet new people, see new things, get to know my Bosox brethren a little better.
There are a lot of new ones to meet. You may know, from previous missives, about the BLOHARDSthe Benevolent Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York. Among us Sox fansamong you, if you’re with us now that we’re World Champsthe BLOHARDS are, today, something bordering on semi-famous. ESPN found out about us in early ‘04, and FOX followed, as FOX is wont to do. We got better known throughout the season, and Jim Shea, a diligent BLOHARDS exec, now tells me the membership roll is climbing up to some crazy number like two thousand. Front-runners are certainly among our rookies, but, hey, what the hell. They pay their dues, they’re fine with me.
The BLOHARDS are popular. We’re “in.” Like all things Sox, we’re riding high. I saw this at the year’s first BLOHARDS luncheon, which coincided with the Sox’ second visit to the Stadium this season. My friend Jim Powers called me in advance of the date and asked if I would join the entertainment slate, which already included Jerry Trupiano interviewing Bronson Arroyo, Dr. Charles’s State of the Franchise address and, not least, Powers himself, regaling and cracking wise. “Shaughnessy can’t make it,” Jim said. “Hell with ’im. Your book’s better anyway.”
“Thanks, Jim,” I said without undue sarcasm. “Sure.”