Friday, November 6, 2009

I Scored!

April 10, 1998 – Red Sox Home Opening Day

Opening Days are fun. The field is fresh. The uniforms are crisp. Everyone is in a good mood. In this case, the home opener was a few games into the season. The Sox had been off to a good start. Everyone was excited about the new pitcher they had acquired, Pedro Martinez. He had already shown that he could be a lot of fun to watch. It was under all the pageantry and excitement that this game took place.

A couple quick notes about the scorecard itself. As I’ve said before, I created my own scoresheet because I could never find one with the space and set-up I wanted. In this case, I copied the scoresheet over from an old version onto my new sheet so it would present better for viewing. The old sheet had scribbles all over the margins, especially for the pitchers, since there wasn’t enough space for what I needed. Since it was a copy, I thought it would be a good chance to try the red ink. I’ve often thought if they’re the Red Sox, maybe I should score in red ink. I don’t think I like it. What do you think? You can tell this is an earlier scoresheet since I wasn’t especially good at it. I didn’t even remember to get all the uniform numbers of the players. A little research could help me fill them in, but I’d rather leave it as was.

If you look at the game, you may notice a few things. The Sox line-up was shut down early in the game. But, they were able to score a ton of runs late. Since I didn’t include the Mariners side of the sheet, the reason for that isn’t obvious. The game was started by Randy Johnson. He completely smothered the Sox for eight innings, holding them to 2 hits and 2 runs. It was only in the ninth inning, with the 7-2 lead that he was lifted. Everyone in the stands knew that the Sox might have a chance after all when the call to the bullpen went to Heathcliff Slocumb. He had been the terrible Red Sox closer the year before. He was shipped off to Seattle for a bag of beans, and we were thrilled with it. (OK, the bag of beans ended up being Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe…but who knew?) The joking went through the stands…now the Sox were back in the game.

A quick look at the ninth inning shows that we were absolutely justified in our glee. Slocumb gave up a single, walk, and double to the only three batters he faced. Old friend Tony Fossas was the reason for the maneuvering that occurred next. Once the lefty Hatteberg was announced, lefty specialist Fossas came in. Another pinch hitter nullified that, and Fossas issued the walk. With the one batter limit reached, another new pitcher came in. Mike Timlin couldn’t stop the bleeding. A singe and a hit batter, and suddenly the Sox were within 2. Yet another ineffective pitching change occurred in time for Mo Vaughn. All Vaughn did was clear the bases for a walk-off opening day grand slam. The Sox had actually won the game!

Looking back now, it’s great to see the players involved. Of course, there’s future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson. He was just at the beginning of his greatness. Slocumb wasn’t yet the answer to a trivia question. Timlin was years away from solidifying the Sox pen in the World Series. On the Red Sox side, Garciaparra was still in the lead-off spot, having just finished his rookie-of-the-year season. Varitek was still wearing number 47, and didn’t have a “C” on his chest. Steve Avery was coming out of the pen for the Sox. Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley was still pitching, in his last year in the bigs. Tom Gordon was yet to get all those consecutive saves, and yet to choke away 2004 for the Yanks. All those paths crossed in this one game.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.

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