Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 23, 2004

Sixth in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.

Friday, October 22, 2004
FOB Speicher, Iraq

It’s stuck in my head like a song from one of those boy bands that my Yankees fan-brother-in-law Chris loves so much. But I’ve come to embrace it, and I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Sometimes I get creative and switch things up, “Theeeee Red Sox Win!” Usually, though, I just stick to, “Theeeee Yankees Win!” Then I laugh like a little girl. It’s as if a demon has been exorcized, and now I realize that the demon was really just Casper, the Friendly Ghost. The Yankees are now cute to me. Hearing that call from now on will still make me think of Tim Wakefield on the mound at Yankee Stadium at the end of Game 7. But now that vision is from the end of Game 7, this year, when he went out to that mound as a conqueror, looked around at the half-empty stadium and exorcized some of those demons which surely weren’t cute or friendly.

For the past few days, I’ve been approached by a lot of different people, wanting to discuss either the greatest comeback or the greatest choke. It’s kind of funny, too, because a lot of them are congratulating me, as if it were me, not Alan Embree who retired Sheffield for that sweet final out. I think it’s kind of like being a proud father at your child’s wedding. You’re not the one getting married, but you sure invested a lot over the years getting to this point, and you have every right to enjoy the moment. I guess in that case, you just smile and say, “Thanks, we sure are proud.” That’s the way I feel. I am one proud Papi!

For this special event, I had to find a special place to watch the game. Since I’d seen all three Red Sox defeats in my room (and I was at FOB Danger for the three wins), my room was out of the question. My roommate and I decided to watch it on a 42” plasma screen at a recreation center near our living area. The big screen is in a theater room set up in a building right next to the gym we have. By the time the game ended, around 7:30 AM, many had finished their morning workouts and passed by the TV, sticking around to watch history unfold. Most watched and thought the celebrations were cool. Some asked who the old guy was wearing ear plugs. But most were gone within five minutes of the single most exciting 4 to 3 put out I may ever see.

I couldn’t get enough, though. I wanted to see Ortiz win the MVP award. I wanted to see Gabe Kapler make Peter Gammons admit that he was at least a little bit excited. And I wanted to see Tim Wakefield on that mound, staring down his past.

That afternoon, the game was replayed on AFN for those who couldn’t watch in the middle of the night. The joke now was making everyone think that I was watching it for the first time. I faked anger when they “ruined it” for me, by telling me the outcome. (We get a lot of tape-delayed games over here, and a lot of times, people have avoided knowing the results, so they can watch it as if it’s live.)

When the replay of the game got into the late innings, about 15 people gathered around the TV in the middle of the TOC. Every one of them already knew the outcome. The only Red Sox fan in the room, I stood there accepting congratulations, as if a proud father, showing my child’s wedding video.

I’ve been getting a lot of support from others who aren’t here, too. These really haven’t picked up during the Series; they’ve been a constant. Agree or disagree with this war, there’s one thing that is very refreshing: everyone’s supporting our troops. That doesn’t go unnoticed. During most games I watch, the announcers make a mention of appreciation to the Armed Forces. A family friend of ours has contacted me about sponsoring some soldiers who don’t get a lot of mail. My roommate gets a care package about every other day from someone new that he doesn’t know. My cousin Fred mails me Boston Globe sports sections, for a little taste of home. And, while my internet access was more limited, my brother Jay would write the “Out of Towne Weekly Recap” for me, a very detailed summary of the Old Towne Team’s key events, starting from the very first day of Spring Training. In response to all that support, I’d like to take this opportunity, at a time when people will read anything on the internet that says “Red Sox-Yankees,” to say, “You’re welcome” and “Thank you!”

These days a lot of that support from home comes via email. Over the last couple of days, there were a lot of extended family and friends offering their views on beating the Yankees, and all of them succeeded in bringing me a little closer to home. There were a few, though that are definitely worth sharing.

The most satisfying came from my cousin Josh, the Yankees fan. “I was just wondering, is it normal to have chest pain during a game? I also went to bed with the worst headache last night. Just kind of managing to pick myself up now... Michelle and I went to Game 6, pretty disappointing. I guess we could’ve gone to Game 7, but I didn’t want to be there for what I thought was the inevitable--shows you how much confidence I had in them, huh? I didn’t have much confidence in the Yanks even entering the postseason, didn’t really think they’d get past the Twins for a second year in a row... then they go up 3-0 on the Sox, who are really a better all around team, and I was sucked in all the way again (making plans for the World Series and all). Ok, better go... I have a headache again. Go NATIONAL LEAGUE!!!!” Josh, you have so much to learn.

The most ironic email had to be from SGT Brian Pearson. It was a reply to a simple email that I sent the day before: “Game 7. Unbelievable! Can you believe this?!” I was trying to send it to CPT Brian Pearson (the Yankee fan who helped come up with the idea for this column). Since I mistyped by one letter, that allowed SGT Brian Pearson to write back, “I don’t think I know you, but I can believe it. I’m a Sox fan. How about you? GO SOX!”

Go Sox, indeed! All this talk about beating the Yankees could almost make one think it was over. As if the World Series doesn’t matter. This is just simply not the case. Beating the Yankees in the playoffs was unbelievable. The way the Sox did it was absolutely poetic. But we’ve beaten the Yankees before. Every division or A.L. Pennant that we’ve ever won was a win over the Yankees. That didn’t make the 1986 World Series fun, though, did it? For this truly to be the “the year,” this team needs to be thinking one thing and one thing only: World Series Champions.

That goes for the Clemens factor, too. I admit I was one of the many in Red Sox nation who thought it would be fitting for the Red Sox to beat Roger Clemens in the World Series. Beating Clemens would have been nice, but it would’ve been a shame to have that story line overshadowing a Red Sox World Series. Take heart in the fact that we already took a World Series lead off of Clemens, by securing homefield advantage in the All-Star Game. Manny hit a 2-run bomb off the Rocket in the only inning Roger pitched during that Clemens-Lovefest. (Incidentally enough, he then struck out A-Rod and got Giambi to ground to second, before Yankees cast-off Alfonso Soriano tacked on another home run in the inning. Karma was changing…) Just this past week, Clemens and his Astros were just good enough to take the Cardinals to seven games, keeping them from waltzing into the World Series with a perfectly aligned rotation and rested bullpen. It’s like network TV not even acknowledging the naked fan running around on the field during the Superbowl. Just let Clemens run around naked and pretend like you don’t see him.

In reality, though, the Cardinals are the opponent that Red Sox Nation should have been gunning for. You want revenge on behalf of the Red Sox and the Fenway Faithful? The Baseball Gods understand that and have lined it up perfectly. St. Louis twice beat Boston in Game 7 of the World Series. In 1946, the Red Sox finished SEVENTEEN games ahead of the Yankees, to go to the city’s first World Series in 28 years. With the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning the Sox lost in dramatic Red Sox fashion. Twenty years then passed without a World Series game involving the Red Sox. And when that drought ended in 1967, St. Louis was there again to knock off Boston in a winner-take-all seventh game. Between 1918 and 1974, those two series were the only World Series that the Red Sox would play in. Still want to beat Roger Clemens?

I don’t mean to downplay the importance of beating the Yankees, but that is only one leg of this long journey. Manny started changing our karma by homering off Clemens in Houston. It continued with Wakefield’s gutsy performance in Game 5, earning the most important win of the ALCS. And now it will culminate when two of the most traditional baseball cities host this year’s Fall Classic. Maybe it will be Dale Sveum waving home Johnny Damon as he aggressively goes from first to home on a single to centerfield in the bottom of the eighth. And maybe it will be Edgar Renteria who appears to hesitate, allowing the game winning run to score and indeed exorcizing that last demon.


"From the Far East I send you one single thought, one sole idea -- written in red on every beachhead from Australia to Tokyo -- There is no substitute for victory!"

-- General Douglas Macarthur

Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:37 PM | Patriot Games | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Go Sox!

Posted by: Sarah at October 25, 2004 09:00 AM
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