The Ultimate Season by Sal Maiorana - Read Online
The Ultimate Season
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Summary

In 1978, the fiercest of baseball rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox, engaged in one of the most compelling races in baseball history, capped by Bucky Dent's unforgettable home run. All the drama of that amazing year is brought to life in 21st-century blog style fashion by three fictional characters - a sports writer, a female stadium vendor, and a bartender - and what a story they have to tell.

Published: Sal Maiorana on
ISBN: 9781452332833
List price: $8.99
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The Ultimate Season - Sal Maiorana

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Dent

Epilogue

*******

INTRODUCTION

-- Deep to left! Yastrzemski … will not get it! It's a home run! A three-run homer by Bucky Dent and the Yankees now lead it by a score of 3-2! – Yankees announcer Bill White, Oct. 2, 1978.

-- Mike is set. Here's the pitch ... There's a drive toward left! And Yastrzemski will ... watch it go into the screen! And the Yankees lead, 3-2! – Red Sox announcer Jim Woods, Oct. 2, 1978.

We all have moments in our lives - be they personal to us or of historic relevance to the world we live in – that we’ll forever remember where we were and what we were doing when they happened.

For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever met a baby boomer who couldn’t recall his or her exact location and activity when the news came from Dallas that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was walking up the 18th fairway at Blue Heron Hills Country Club near where I live in Walworth, New York, finishing my morning round of golf, oblivious to what was happening in the skies above me, until a fellow club member came speeding toward me in a golf cart to tell me what had happened about an hour and a half earlier. I got back home just in time to see the second tower crumble.

Beyond the obvious life events you never forget – your wedding day, the birth of your children, the passing of loved ones – everyone has an array of lesser but still meaningful moments that will always resonate.

As a sports fan dating back to the late 1960s when I was a young boy attending Buffalo Bills football games with my father at old War Memorial Stadium, and during 26 years as a sports writer, almost all of mine in this secondary category revolve around sports.

I was on a movie date on the night in February 1980 when the Miracle on Ice occurred, and thus did not know that the Americans had beaten the mighty Russians at Lake Placid, New York. I was able to see only the last couple minutes of the tape-delayed broadcast. And yes, we broke up soon after that.

Two other events that will stay with me forever occurred while covering them for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Scott Norwood’s wide-right field goal in Super Bowl XXV that cost the Bills a victory in January 1991, and the Bills’ amazing, record-breaking comeback playoff victory over Houston in January 1993.

And then there is the afternoon of October 2, 1978, sitting on the couch – and sometimes jumping on it – in the family room of the suburban Syracuse home where I lived at the time, watching Bucky Dent hit a three-run homer over the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

That titanic blow, struck by one of the most unlikely long-ball hitters anyone at that time could have imagined, sent the Yankees on their way to a 5-4 victory over the hated Red Sox that clinched the American League East division crown and culminated one of the greatest comebacks – as well as one of the greatest collapses – in Major League Baseball history.

I’m a Yankee fan, born and bred, so it stands to reason that I’ll never forget that day. I spent the first part of it in school as a junior at Bishop Ludden High School, watching the clock move ever so slowly. Finally, the dismissal bell rang not long after the first pitch had been thrown at 2:30, and I got on the bus for the long ride home.

Thankfully the bus driver had the good sense to have the game on the radio and while it was tough to hear, I was able to keep abreast of what was happening. By the time I got home, turned on the TV and switched to channel 9, the ABC affiliate in Syracuse, the Yankees were down 2-0. But it was only a few minutes after I’d settled in when Dent drove a flat Mike Torrez slider into the screen above the wall in left as Carl Yastrzemski looked up in shock and horror as a hush fell over Fenway.

Reggie Jackson’s eighth-inning homer gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead, the pesky Red Sox cut it to 5-4, and then in the bottom of the ninth Boston threatened to tie it, or – gasp! - win it. However, with two men on, two men out, and my heart racing impossibly fast for a kid who would turn 16 three weeks later, Goose Gossage induced Yaz to pop out to Graig Nettles at third, and the Yankees were victorious.

Much has changed in the more than three decades since that day, but that 1978 season is still considered one of the most remarkable in baseball history. As for that game, most of the players – Yankees and Red Sox alike – continue to consider it the greatest game they ever played in.

Hence, an idea was born: Wouldn’t it be fun to time travel back to 1978 and re-live that season, day-by-day? And here’s the twist: Rather than simply recall the history in narrative form, I have created three fictional characters and dropped them right into the middle of all the drama to tell the story.

There is 43-year-old Rochester-based sports writer Zack Lassiter, 19-year-old Bronx resident and Yankees fanatic Maria Martinez, and 58-year-old South Boston bartender and Red Sox loyalist Jimmy O’Reilly. Together, they will recount the journey of the Yankees and the Red Sox as they careen through the spring, summer and fall on their way to the ultimate showdown.

All of the events in the book – the game accounts, the quotes, and the incidents involving the teams that occur both on and off the field – are real. However, Zack, Maria, Jimmy and the other characters associated with them, are fictitious.

Between Zack getting the inside scoops from the clubhouses as a writer for The Baseball Times, to Maria working as a vendor at Yankee Stadium and following their every move as the ultimate fan, to Jimmy pouring drinks night after night for his band of regulars at the bar and talking all things Sox, all the bases are covered.

Welcome back to 1978.

*******

Meet The Characters

Zack Lassiter: Born in Brooklyn and an ardent Dodgers fan in his youth until their sad exodus to Los Angeles, the 43-year-old sports writer now makes his home in Rochester. He got out of the daily New York City newspaper grind a few years ago and is now the American League East correspondent for the respected national weekly magazine, The Baseball Times. His primary job is to provide in-depth coverage of all the teams in the division, though in 1978 that meant spending the bulk of his time chronicling the exploits of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Maria Martinez: Her grandfather came to America from Puerto Rico in the 1920s, settled in the Bronx to work and raise his family, and became a fan of the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. Her father grew up rooting for Joe DiMaggio and later Mickey Mantle. So 19-year-old Maria, whose immediate family still lives in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, didn't have much of a choice - she was born to be a Yankee fan. Not that she minds as she proudly wears her interlocking NY cap around campus at New York University, or while working the aisles at Yankee Stadium as a vendor, extolling the virtues of Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry and Thurman Munson.

Jimmy O’Reilly: A lifelong resident of South Boston, the ruddy-faced, big-bellied, cigar-smoking owner of O'Reilly's Pourhouse has never taken a breath of air at a time when his beloved Sawx were world champions. But while they have broken his heart seemingly forever, night after night 58-year-old Jimmy pours drinks for his regular band of patrons - one of whom is Zack Lassiter when he happens to be in town - and roots with unbridled passion for Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice, just as he did for Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro.

*******

MARCH – Spring of 1978

MARCH 15 - I woke up this morning to see snow angling down from a grouchy gray sky, not vertically, but horizontally, whipped by a gusty north wind that was making that nasty whistling sound as it strafes your house.

You know the sound, the one that makes you wish you could just stay under the covers and not even bother starting your day, the one that makes you wonder why the hell you live in a place where winter can rage for at least four months of every year.

Generally, I find Rochester to be a terrific town to live in. But it’s also a town that I can’t wait to escape from right this very moment because we’re less than a week away from the official start of spring, yet old man winter is hanging on tighter than my grip on the safety bar when I ride the Jack Rabbit roller coaster at Seabreeze.

I’m supposed to be flying to Tampa today, but I’m listening to the weather guy on WHAM saying that it’s 22 degrees at the airport, the wind-chill factor is zero, and anyone flying ought to call the airline ahead of time because there could be some delays. Nice.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, lived the first 39 years of my life in the New York City area, and have now been based here in Rochester the past four years, so it’s not like I’m not used to the cold. Thing is, the older I get, the more I hate it, which is why working for the national weekly magazine, The Baseball Times, is a pretty good gig this time of the year.

Looks like you might be in for a long day, honey, my wife Ellen says from beneath those warm blankets as she rolls back over to get another half-hour of sleep before she has to get up and drive through this storm to get to her job at Eastman Kodak’s Lake Avenue complex.

I left the daily newspaper grind of New York City - where at various points I was a sports writer for The Brooklyn Eagle, the New York Herald-Tribune and Newsday - and became the American League East correspondent for TBT in 1974. The timing of that was pretty interesting because about a month later Ellen learned that in order to keep her engineering job with Eastman Kodak, she would have to move to the company’s headquarters here in Rochester.

So we packed up our life - me, Ellen, and our two kids, David and Julie - and headed upstate, settling in the quaint little town of Pittsford. I would have preferred to stay in Manhasset where we had been since I joined Newsday back in ’67, mainly because we had put down roots there, and also because I could get a direct flight out of Kennedy or LaGuardia to just about anywhere, but Rochester has worked out fine because the people here are great, and it’s centrally located in terms of where I have to travel for my job.

That’s a big deal to me because I’m on the road an awful lot during the baseball season, and moving here definitely altered how I do things. I concluded after our first year in Rochester that driving was, in most cases, logistically better than flying, and I have to admit I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Plus, it sure beats dealing with crowded airports and the hassle of renting cars.

I can get to New York, Boston and Detroit within about six hours, give or take an hour depending on traffic; Toronto’s about three hours unless the Peace Bridge is backed up; and Cleveland is about four. If I’m going from home to Baltimore or Milwaukee I’ll fly, but even that’s not bad because I can usually get a direct flight to Baltimore, and I can go through Chicago to get to Milwaukee.

Normally I would have been down in Florida nearly a month by now, making my way around the spring training camps of the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and Tigers. And I would have already flown out to Arizona to visit the Brewers and Indians as well. But I suffered a pretty severe ankle sprain playing pickup basketball one early February night in the gym over at Pittsford Sutherland, and as I hobbled around on crutches for about three weeks, it hit me that I’m not as young as I used to be, and maybe I should start thinking about golf as a hobby.

Believe me, as I looked at the snow bank at the end of my driveway, it hurt more than the throb in my ankle to call my editor and tell him I couldn’t go down to Florida until the middle of March. He wasn’t too thrilled with me, but he also realized that driving around from camp to camp, and trying to lug my bulky Smith-Corona electric typewriter while maneuvering on those crutches really wasn’t possible, so he told me to take it easy and get down there when I was able to walk on my own.

Well, assuming my flight to Tampa isn’t canceled, that day is today. I’ve been keeping tabs on all the teams in my division, but now it’s time for me to get to work. With the always-interesting Yankees coming back as the defending World Series champions, having won their first title since 1962 amidst compelling daily drama which thrilled all of us who covered their never-ending soap opera, and the Red Sox and Orioles primed to give them a bitter fight to the end, I get the sense that 1978 could be a very interesting year indeed.

MARCH 17 - George Steinbrenner is a beauty. That's all there is to it. Here we are in the middle of March, St. Patrick's Day is upon us and everyone's in a jovial mood drinking green beer, reciting limericks and singing various versions of Danny Boy, and the owner of the Yankees is in a snit because his defending world champions look lousy.

George doesn't care that it's only spring training, and nobody pays attention to who wins or loses these games. George cares. All the time. Today the Yankees got blown out 9-2 in Tampa by the Reds who, because it was St. Patrick's Day, wore special green uniforms. Because Steinbrenner lives in Tampa, he was there in person to watch his team lose for the fourth time in its five spring outings.

George decided to speak to the media, and as an icebreaker someone asked him what he thought of the Reds' green uniforms. I think the green uniforms matched my complexion after seeing the inadequacies of the team that is supposed to be world champion, said Steinbrenner. We're at the point where Billy better start buckling down on them or we won't repeat. We'll have trouble winning the East. Some guys better start thinking of defending the championship.

I had to check my calendar to make sure it was still March and not August.

Rather than worrying about the score, George should have been encouraged on two fronts: Catfish Hunter, coming off the worst season of his career due to arm trouble, threw three scoreless innings and appeared on track to be ready for the start of the season. And the news that Andy Messersmith's shoulder injury, which he suffered the day before tripping over first base, may not have been as severe as we were all told. Nope. George was too busy getting pissed about a loss that no one besides him was even going to remember five minutes after the final out was recorded.

Naturally, before the team boarded the bus to head back to their home base in Fort Lauderdale, manager Billy Martin was asked to comment on Steinbrenner’s irrational spring expectations, and Martin just rolled his eyes and declined comment.

Then I asked Billy about Messersmith and what the injury might mean to the Yankee rotation because the club was banking on Messersmith to fill the void created by Mike Torrez’s free agent flight to Boston. As he usually did with me, Martin got just a bit testy, looked right at me, which felt like it was right through me, and said You talk about all the pitching and all of a sudden we're short one. Why do you think we say we never have enough pitching? You think we were joking?

I never said you were joking, Billy, I replied, which was certainly true because I just got down here. I'm sure he noticed the incredulous look on my face, but he let it go and fixed his gaze on someone else as another question came regarding Messersmith's injury.

Ah yes, the joy of covering the AL East when it meant I had to swing through Yankee land and deal with Billy. Sometimes he could be such a jerk, and for some reason, he had it in for me. I guess it was because I was a national writer, not one of the local New York beat guys, and maybe he didn't always trust me. Then again, I often wondered if he actually read the New York City tabs because man, some of the guys seemed to extract joy in ripping Martin whenever he'd make a questionable decision that cost the Yankees. Not that I could blame them. Martin was a prick, plain and simple.

Martin did make me and the other reporters laugh, though, when someone asked him if the loss of Messersmith meant he'd have to turn to Ken Holtzman, a crafty left-hander on the downside of his career who had been struggling in the spring, to chew up some of the innings Messersmith would have been responsible for. That's if he gets somebody out, Martin wisecracked. He still has to get somebody out.

Yes, he could be a prick, but the trade-off with Martin is that he could also fill up a reporter's notebook, and in the end, that's all I really cared about.

MARCH 19 - I was sitting in the U-Hall Commons Cafe at NYU today, really enjoying the slice of pizza that I won in my bet with my best friend Lydia. She loves the Mets. I love the Yankees. So naturally when our two favorite teams play in spring training, like they did in St. Petersburg last night, we always make a bet.

This time it was loser buys the winner a slice at the Cafe, and my pinstripers won, 6-2, because Reggie Jackson hit a two-run homer early in the game, and Dick Tidrow pitched pretty good for four innings before he came out with some sort of injury, though I didn't catch what it was watching Bill White, Frank Messer and the Scooter on the WPIX broadcast.

We started making bets on these games years ago, back when we were in grammar school at PS 90 on Sheridan Drive in the Bronx, over on the other side of the Grand Concourse. It was pretty easy to be a Yankee fan growing up in the Bronx as I did, on East 165th between Girard and River avenues, less than a mile from Yankee Stadium. Lydia lived directly across the street from me, but for some inexplicable reason, she was a Mets fans.

I guess it has to do with how you were raised. My Grandpa Jorge Martinez came to America from Puerto Rico back in the 1920s and he settled here in the Bronx, met my grandma Margarite, got married and lived in a tenement house over on Hegney Place for years and years. Grandpa Jorge was a big baseball fan growing up on the island, and when he came to New York he was captivated by Babe Ruth and the Yankees, and really, could you blame him?

He didn't get a chance to go to the stadium too often because he couldn't afford a ticket, but he used to tell me he'd go once or twice a year and sit out in the bleachers in right field and hope he could catch a home run ball by the Babe or Lou Gehrig, although he never did.

Naturally, my papa, Antonio, became a Yankee fan, and he grew up in that same tenement house rooting for the great teams of Joe DiMaggio in the 1940s and Mickey Mantle in the 50s, a time when the Yankees seemed to play in the World Series every year. My twin brothers, Miguel and Roberto, were born in the winter of 1956, and then I came along on October 13, 1958. Given how baseball was so important to the men in our family, my mama, Luisa, always joked that she had the good sense to have her children when the season was over, though I was pushing it because I was born just four days after the Yankees had won the World Series that year.

Of course, Mama also tells the story of my second birthday party, October 13, 1960, which happened to be the day the Yankees played the seventh game of the World Series against the Pirates. All the men, and a few of the women, pretty much ignored me and were huddled around our little black-and-white television set watching the game. And when Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski hit his famous home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the Series, they were all screaming in Spanish watching the ball fly over the fence at Forbes Field as Yogi Berra looked up helplessly out in left field.

So yeah, I was predestined to become a Yankee fan. Not that I mind, although it was pretty tough in the late 1960s and early 1970s of my childhood when the team stopped winning the World Series, and pretty much stopped winning at all. Anyway, everyone who lived in our building was a Yankee fan, and most of the people in the other buildings on our street were, too.

But not Lydia. Her dad had been a Dodgers fan growing up in Brooklyn, and when they fled to Los Angeles, he refused to switch his allegiance to our side. And then in 1962 when the Mets were born and filled the city's void in the National League, Mr. Bassovich hopped aboard, and Lydia did the same when he passed down the baseball fan gene to her.

Still, me and Lydia are the best of friends. Always were at PS 90, and then at Christopher Columbus High School, and now at nursing school at NYU. Baseball is never going to get in our way. And besides, the Yankees and Mets are never going to play in the regular season anyway, because Major League Baseball won’t ever allow inter-league play. I mean seriously, are you kidding?

MARCH 21- Danny Fitzgerald is one of the regulars here at my place, O'Reilly's Pourhouse. Our neighborhood mailman comes in just about every day after he finishes his route and plops his butt down at the corner of the bar on the stool that offers the best view of that nice 24-inch color television I have up on the shelf. All my regulars know he's my No. 1 regular, and they stay off that stool as if there's some evil curse buried inside the leather cushion.

Danny orders a Captain and Coke for starters. Then he orders another. Once that second one is gone and he's chewed up what's left of the ice cubes, he tells me to pour him a shot of tequila, and if there's someone sitting next to him, he'll tap the bar and say Right here, too, Jimmy.

Usually right around the time Danny is contemplating what he's going to do next - sometimes he goes back to the Captain, and then sometimes he'll start in with the Budweiser - the rest of the gang starts filterin’ in. But not today. It's snowin’ like a mother again down here in Southie and I guess the boys and girls just don't feel like venturin’ down to the joint.

Jeez, we just got through that damn blizzard last month - record one-day snowfall of 27 inches in the city, lost power for five days, people dyin’ out in the conditions. It was brutal. Now I know what my pal, Zack Lassiter, is always complainin’ about with the snow they get over there in Rochester where lives. Well, it's snowin’ again, and it's hard to believe Opening Day is only three weeks away over at Fenway.

Anyway, I love it when the gang's all here; they like to feed the 'ol tip jar, and they make the shifts fly by cuz even though I'm workin’ behind that bar, I love a good conversation, and we always have plenty of those while we're watchin’ the Sox, or the Celtics or the Bruins, or whatever else is on the TV.

Naturally down here in South Boston, the Irish pols always have something to say. And the other day we were even talkin’ about this test tube baby thing that's goin’ on over in England. Don't get me started on that one, please.

But today it's just me, Danny and my longtime assistant, Nora Murphy who was back in the office checkin’ out the books cuz we’re gettin’ ready for tax-filin’ time.

Danny was tellin’ me how he read in the Globe that Sparky Lyle, who used to do his pitchin’ for us over at Fenway before we traded him to the damn Yankees for Danny Cater - yeah, don't get me started on that one, either - well, apparently he's still pissed at the Yankees cuz they signed Goose Gossage in the off-season.

Sparky's afraid the Goose is gonna be the Yankees closer, and he's probably right, Danny tells me. That just don't seem too fair being that Sparky won the Cy Young last year and them damn Yankees don't win the World Series without him. Jeez, they don't even get to the World Series without him.

I gotta say, Danny's right, and if I was Sparky, I'd be pissed, too. But that's the way they do things down there in New York. Steinbrenner's never happy. That said, I'll be honest, much as I hate him, and the Yankees, and everything about New York, I wouldn't mind it too much if he owned our Red Sox. All the man wants to do is win. I'd sign up for that. And if Sparky wants to come back here to Boston where he started his career and never should have left - I mean Danny Cater, you gotta be kiddin’ - we'd take him back.

MARCH 23 - I walked into my house just before dinner tonight, and right away Mama knew something was wrong.

What’s the matter with you Maria? she asked me as I slipped off my shoes on the welcome mat, then started to take my coat off so I could hang it on the hook behind the door.

Oh Mama, I don’t think I did very good on my exam today, I said to her.

You studied, I know you did. Were there some questions that you weren’t expecting?

Not really, it was just a lot harder than I thought it would be. I need to do good in this class, Mama. It’s really important.

Oh Maria, you’ll do fine, you always do. You’re my smart girl.

Mama turned back to stir the noodles she was cooking, and then she said Oh, and before I forget, a Mr. Naples called for you today. Do you know who that is?

And just like that, my stupid test didn’t mean a whole lot.

Did you say Mr. Naples? I asked in an excited voice, my eyes as big as Frisbees.

Yes, Mr. Naples. Who is that, a professor?

No Mama, that’s the man at Yankee Stadium who does the hiring for the concession vendors. What did he say?

He wanted you to call him today if you got home before five o’clock, and if you can’t today, then call him in the morning. I wrote his number down on the pad next to the phone.

I looked at my watch and it was ten minutes to five. I skipped over to the phone, saw the number, and dialed it in the hope that the director of customer services at Yankee Stadium was still in his office.

He was. And when I hung up after a brief conversation, I let out a scream that nearly scared the life out of my poor mother.

I got the job, Mama, I got the job! I yelled, jumping up and down.

After I turned 18 and was eligible to work at Yankee Stadium, I had applied for a job there as a vendor and I was as disappointed as I’ve ever been when I wasn’t chosen. Never let it be said that Maria Martinez isn’t persistent because I applied again this winter.

I remember it was right around this time last year when I found out I didn’t get the job, and for the last few days I had started to think that I was going to get passed over again because I hadn’t heard. But Mr. Naples said there were a couple of spots open, and he wanted to know if I was still interested.

Yes sir! I said.

Very well, he said. Can you come by the stadium in the next day or two and you can fill out the forms and we can figure out what we’re going to have you do? And then we’ll have to set up your training schedule.

I told him I had to be in class at ten o’clock the next morning, but I only lived a few blocks away from the park so I could be there first thing in the morning if that was OK.

He said that would be fine, and welcomed me to the team.

Oh my God, I’m going to be working for the New York Yankees. Wait ‘til Lydia hears about this.

MARCH 25 - It was pretty slow for a Saturday afternoon, but Danny Fitzgerald was in his usual spot, a few others were scattered about the place, and then along came Louie Carbala, our token Italian.

Down here in Southie, we don't see too many Italians, though it ain't like the old days when we never saw any Italians. When my father, Jimmy Sr., opened this place at the corner of East 8th and Brewster right after prohibition was abolished in 1933, he always said he didn’t care if any Italians came in. They wanna drink at my place, their money counts the same, he used to say.

It’s just that the Italians never came in cuz they were never down in our neck of the woods. That’s just the way it was back then, and for most of the time that my dad ran the place until he died in 1960 and I took over. The Irish lived in Southie, the Italians mostly lived up in the North End, and our paths didn’t cross that often. To a large extent, it’s still the same. Hey, we Irish, we stick together, and we stay put. Why do you think I've been in business so long? My fellow Micks, they're a loyal lot they are.

But Louie started comin’ in here years ago, and he fits right in. What a piece of work, that one. Every day he's got a joke, and I'll be damned, he's got a different one every day.

He walked in today, and like every other day when he walks in, I said Hey Louie, what's up?

Hey Jimmy, how do you find a blind man in a nudist colony?

I don't know.

It's not hard.

We both laugh, Danny usually laughs, if Nora’s here workin’ she usually just rolls her eyes, and then Louie orders a Seven and Seven and starts talkin’ about the Red Sox.

Did you see what happened to Wise yesterday? he asked me and Danny, as if we didn't, which of course is not possible. Gave up five runs in the first inning. What the hell happened to him? If he don't get it straightened out they're gonna ship his ass outta here.

Rick Wise has been with the Red Sox since 1974 when he and Bernie Carbo came over from the Cardinals in a trade for Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum. He won 19 games for us in '75, won a game against Oakland in the championship series, and then he was credited with the win in relief in the famous sixth game of the World Series against the Reds when Carlton Fisk hit the home run.

He kept chuggin’ along in the next couple years, won about 25 games combined, and we figured he'd be in the rotation again this year with Luis Tiant, Bill Lee, and the new guy, Mike Torrez. But givin’ up five in the first inning against the Cardinals ain't gonna help his cause. I read in the Globe that Don Zimmer, the manager, was startin’ to get impatient. After all, Wise has never been one of Zim's favorites.

Ya know, Louie, I said, he's gettin’ up there in age; what is he, about 32 or so, I think?

Age ain't got nothin’’ to do with it if you're a pitcher, Louie said. It's all about knowin’ how to pitch, not throwin’ it 100 miles an hour. Look at Tiant, that old guy just keeps bafflin’ 'em with his slop and all those crazy motions of his. And Jeez, Jimmy, wouldn't you mind being 32 again? That ain't that old.

My 50-year-old Italian friend and Carnation Company salesman made a pretty good point there. A couple, actually.

Anyway, we didn't spend too much time on the Red Sox today. Had college basketball on the TV – NCAA Final Four and the Fighting Irish from Notre Dame were playin’ Duke in the first semifinal, and Kentucky and Arkansas were in the second game.

Sure, we’re partial around here to our Catholics over at Boston College, but there’s a reason why I’ve got a Notre Dame pennant hangin’ on the wall: Most of us