Celebrating Boston Red Sox baseball great Carl Yastrzemski.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Grandma Pierzynski

Umpire Jerry Eddings screwy call brings up more on the Bridgehampton, Long Island Yastrzemski/Pierzynski connection:

"I didn't know what [A.J.] was doing. He was going pretty slow," [Sabrina Pierzynski] said of her grandson's decision to take off for first. She added that it was a good call. "I thought the ball was in the dirt," she said.

She was speaking from her house, about a block away from Carl Yastrzemski's boyhood home. Over the years, she has seen and heard a lot about plays at the plate. She recalled that her late husband and A.J.'s namesake, Anthony, was the catcher for a Bridgehampton town team called the White Sox. Yastrzemski was the batboy.

The Bridgehampton team was apparently actually named the White Eagles not the White Sox, but we can forgive Granny Pierzynski the mistake.

Congratulations and good luck to the Chisox in the World Series!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Well, the 2005 season is officially over for Red Sox. Disappointing ending yes, but at least we no longer have to suffer the gnawing desperation of being one year closer to death without ever seeing a Red Sox World Championship. And thankfully the Yankees are gone, too! Good luck to the White Sox. They played a superior ALDS. It's their turn to get the World Series monkey off their fans' backs.

The Waterbury Republican-American caught up with Gary Waslewski at the Bobby Bonds Memorial Scholarship Classic on Sunday. "Waz", a rookie righthander who would go on to only start 42 games in the Major Leagues, was the surprise choice of manager Dick Williams to start Game 6 of the the 1967 World Series for the Red Sox trying to stave off elimination by the St. Louis Cardinals.

[Waslewski] hadn't pitched in a month, and as he recalls today, "Cliff Keane, a poison-pen scribe, wrote, 'Waslewski has as much a chance of winning as Custer.'" He laughs now. He claims he laughed then. He even claims he wasn't shocked when WIlliams gave him the ball. He'd be the only one.

"In Toronto (Boston's Triple AAA affiliate) I pitched a lot of big games," Waslewski recalled.

Waz, as they called him, won 18 games in Toronto with Williams managing. But in Toronto he wasn't facing guys named Brock, Flood, Maris and Cepeda.

Waslewski pitched the game of his life in the Series. He left in the sixth inning giving up only four hits and leading 4-2. He tired and walked Maris and McCarver. John Wyatt bailed him out. But Wyatt gave up a game-typing homer to Lou Brock in the seventh and ultimately he earned the victory, not Waslewski. The Sox rallied to win, 8-4, in a game where Rico Petrocelli, Carl Yastrzemski and Reggie Smith hit homers in the same inning to set a Series record.

Waslewski was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Cardinals after the 1968 season and bounced around the majors until retiring in 1972. Waz may be only a minor hero in the Red Sox pantheon, but he's a hero nonetheless.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Yastrzemski Award

Dating to 1968, The Yastrzemski Award is presented annually by the Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association to the outstanding high school baseball player in Suffolk County, New York.

Guess who won one?

It's a simple play, one that he perfected not long after taking up baseball in East Islip almost 20 years ago.

Catch grounder. Pull ball from glove. Toss ball to second base.

Catch, pull, toss.

He booted some balls and fumbled others, but not many. He played four years on the varsity at East Islip High School and won the Yastrzemski Award as Suffolk County's finest in 1990, his senior season. He was drafted in the ninth round by the Braves and right after graduation was sent packing for Pulaski, Va., and later Idaho Falls and Macon and Durham and Greenville, honing his skills while waiting for the big-league call-up. All along, he kept turning the simple play.

Catch, pull, toss.

"I've made that play 1,000 times," Tony Graffanino said yesterday.
The complete list of Yastrzemski Award Winners:

2005 - David Collado, Copiague
2004 - Brian Johnson, East Islip
2003 - Estee Harris, Central Islip
2002 - Scott King, Connetquout
2001 - Tim Layden, Deer Park
2000 - Jason Gouge, East Islip
1999 - Dominick Ambrosini, Connetquot
1998 - Rick Riccobono, Commack
1997 - Rob Rizzo, Half Hollow Hills West
1996 - Mark Frole, Lindenhurst
1995 - Mike Cabales, East Islip
1994 - Ross Gload, East Hampton
1993 - Bill Koch, West Babylon
1992 - Mike Ciminiello, Smithtown East
1991 - John Garside, Glenn
1990 - Anthony Graffanino, East Islip
1989 - Brady Forseth, Smithtown West
1988 - Jim Mecir, Smithtown East
1987 - Keith Osik, Shoreham-Wading River
1986 - John Thoden, Patchogue-Medford
1985 - Ron Witmeyer, East Islip
1984 - Ron Witmeyer, East Islip
1983 - Rich Vichroski, Northport
1982 - Chris Bayer, West Islip
1981 - Raf Cepeda, Comsewogue
1980 - Kevin Baugh, Deer Park
1979 - Boomer Esiason, East Islip
1978 - Neal Heaton, Sachem
1977 - Jim Walker, Whitman
1976 - Victor Nicotra, Islip
1975 - Mike Heiser, Whitman
1974 - Al Willet, Patchogue
1973 - Len Locascio, Commack South
1972 - Neal O'Hara, Northport
1971 - Tom Veryzer, Islip
1970 - Don DeMola, Commack South
1969 - Richard Walsh, Central Islip
1968 - Skip Borowicz, Huntington

Boomer Esiason?

It ain't over till it's over. I'm not sweating it. Bosox in 5.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bridgehampton White Eagles

Painful start to the ALDS as the White Sox paste Boston 14-2 thanks in no small part to a double dinger contribution from White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Boy, did Clement look bad! At least the Red Sox weren't depending on him in an elimination game against Cleveland.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Downey points out that Pierzynski hails from the same Long Island hometown as another Polish ballplayer. In fact, the Yaz connection is pretty tight!

Pierzynski is from Bridgehampton, N.Y., where his father played a little semipro ball. A photograph of that team includes a batboy with another long, Polish name - maybe you've heard of him? Carl Yastrzemski? He played a little Boston Red Sox ball, you may recall.

The semipro team was the Bridgehampton White Eagles.

In time, [Yaz] became the batboy for the Bridgehampton White Eagles. The team was an outgrowth of the social club for Polish-Americans founded by, among others, the Yastrzemskis. ``We used to hire bands and run dances,'' recalled Tom Yastrzemski, Carl's uncle and godfather, during a visit to the farmhouse that has been in the family for the better part of the century. ``We put the money we made into uniforms.''

All five Yastrzemski men played for the White Eagles. So did the Skoniecznys, brothers of Carl's mother, Hattie. Several cousins filled out the roster but the catalyst was Carl Yastrzemski Sr. He was the shortstop and he hit enough line drives in his youth to pique the interest of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

``They offered a Class D contract for $75 a month,'' the father once recalled, ``and the kid was born by then. I had to say no and stay on the farm. I'm not sorry.''

Oddly, if you ever looked at the back of a Yaz baseball card, his hometown is always listed as Southhampton instead of Bridgehampton.

No special significance to the White Eagles - Sing Sing ticket. Just an image I found floating around the web. 1936 was three years before Yaz was born and I'd imagine it's likely his dad was in the lineup that day against the Prison Nine.

Wells vs. Buehrle tonight at 7:05. Let's go Red Sox!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

An All Star from the Neck Down

The Red Sox square off against the White Sox today in Game 1 of a surprisingly rivalry-less A.L. Wild Card series.

In June 67, White Sox skipper Eddie "The Brat" Stanky was asked if he considered Yaz an All-Star and offered nastily that Yastrzemski was "an All-Star from the neck down."

The FlyingSox Network records the thoughts of a few of the Chisox players who were in the mix of the 1967 pennant chase on Stanky and Yaz.

Catcher J.C. Martin:

    ML: Eddie Stanky arrived as manager for the 1966 season. He was a lot different from Lopez. What was he like to play for?

    JC Martin: "He was tough. He was so different from Al. He intimidated. He’d fine guys for anything. He knew baseball... no question, but he couldn’t manage people. After a little while the players would lose interest and loyalty. He actually pumped up the other team more because he was always getting on them. I’ll never forget, it was in 1967 we got into Boston and went to bed. The next morning I pick up a Boston paper and see this big headline..’Yaz an All Star from the neck down...’ Stanky ripped him to the press. Man, Yaz wound up hitting everything we threw at him but the rosin bag! "

Outfielder Ken Berry:

    Ken Berry: “It didn’t make a difference to me. A lot of the guys would laugh about it. Eddie just didn’t like Yaz for some reason. Eddie could be that way. If he didn’t like you, he’d do anything he could to get into your head. I’m sure there were times when Eddie regretted something he said or done but he wasn’t going to show any weaknesses by apologizing for it.”

Pitcher Joel Horlen:

    JH: “What I remember is a funny story between me and Carl Yazstremski. I’m in the clubhouse before the game relaxing and reading the paper by my locker. I had the paper in front of me and it basically blocked my vision. I glanced down and I saw these feet wearing a pair of shower shoes that had ‘Yaz’ written on them right in front of me. I just had on a pair of shorts and my shower shoes at the time. So I put down the paper and there’s Carl looking at me. Now I was never a big guy to start with. I was six feet maybe 175 pounds and by July I’ve already lost weight. Carl looks me over and says, ‘you mean that friggin’ skinny, shallow body has been getting me out all season?’ I laughed and said ‘yea and it’s gonna keep getting you out!’ (laughing)

    ML: At the end of August, the beginning of September the Sox went into Boston for what was at that time, the biggest series of the season. As a backdrop to it the Red Sox players and fans were angry at Sox manager Eddie Stanky over his comments about Yazstremski. Red Sox coach Eddie Popowski said Boston would ‘knock the tar’ out of the Sox. Boston fans threw garbage at you guys during the games but the Sox won three of four... you handled Jim Lonborg 4-1 in the Saturday ‘game of the week’ on national TV. I imagine that was a tough series for you guys because of Stanky’s comments wasn’t it?

    JH: “I remember that game beating Lonborg. That’s the way Eddie was. Our deal was that it didn’t matter what he said, we had to go out and win games.”

Monday, October 03, 2005

Big Papi

The no-longer-accursed Dan Shaughnessy offers up his version of the now-obligatory '67 Yaz/David Ortiz column.

    --- snip ---

    En route to becoming the last big league player to win a Triple Crown, Yaz dominated the greatest pennant race of them all, hitting .417 (40 for 96) with 9 homers and 26 RBIs after Sept. 1. When the Sox needed to win the final two games of the season in order to stay alive, he went 7 for 8.

    How does that happen? How did Yaz do it? How does Ortiz do it?

    ''You just get so locked in," said the greatest living Red Sox player. ''Nothing bothers you at all. You don't hear the fans. You don't hear anything. You just have this tremendous focus. You think you're the only person in the ballpark.

    ''It's like, 'Get the ball up here, you're not going to get me out.' On the other hand, when you're not in the zone, the catcher can tell you what's coming and you still can't hit it."

    --- snip ---

Cone of Uncertainty

University of Hawaii professor R.W. Burniske ruminates on his battle with cancer through a Red Sox prism in this affecting Honolulu Star-Bulletin piece. Be well, friend.

    --- snip ---

    My introduction to uncertainty began as an undergraduate, when I suffered an existentialist professor who claimed, "Ambiguity is perfectly precise; only the immature mind craves detail." Easy for him to say; he wasn't a Red Sox fan. My immaturity had long manifested itself in a craving for the details of a box score. That began when I was a Little Leaguer growing up in western Massachusetts; I made my first trip to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, during the summer of '67.

    I grew up in a farm town that featured no stoplights at the intersections most frequented by its 3,000 citizens. There seemed to be more people than that in Section 33 at Fenway, where I sat with our group of howling Little Leaguers that afternoon. We perched atop the left-field grandstands, just a few feet from the Green Monster, a 37-foot wall that prevents line drives from leaving the premises.

    Beneath me, my boyhood idol, Carl Yastrzemski, played catch with the centerfielder. I couldn't take my eyes off the scarlet "8" emblazoned across his back. When "Yaz" came to bat in the bottom of the first inning he launched a high parabola toward the left-field corner. The ball bounced off the top of the wall and plopped softly into a large net behind it. A thunderous ovation erupted, literally shaking the old ballpark, while I sat open-mouthed, staring at a baseball resting blissfully in a safety net that had suspended its journey less than 20 feet from where I sat.

    --- snip ---

Captain Carl

Boston Globe reporter Stan Grossfeld spends a day fishing the Merrimack River with Number 8.

    SOMEWHERE NEAR PLUM ISLAND -- The striped bass are in a feeding frenzy, splashing about in shallow waters, gorging on bait fish. Carl Yastrzemski glides his boat upriver, grabs his fishing pole, and sends the lure screaming toward them. A line drive throw that approximates the distance from Fenway's Green Monster to second base. A throw Captain Carl perfected in a 23-year Hall of Fame career.

    Yaz works the rod, making the lure zigzag like a minnow. One striper breaks loose and chases it, snaps and misses. Strike one. Yaz giggles, and slows down his reeling, ever so slightly. The striper bolts again and there's a big splash as it gulps the lure. Yaz laughs, pulls back, sets the hook, his fists wrapped tightly over the rod, his hands up high, as in his old batting stance. He reels in the striper, which is not a keeper. Then he pulls out the needle-nose pliers and releases the hook. He leans forward and asks the striper a direct question: ''Where is your father?" The fish disappears back into the river.

    The great Yastrzemski, the last man to win the Triple Crown in 1967, is drifting downstream. It is a perfect September day. The weather is warm, the pennant race is hot. We will see more geese than people, and Yaz likes it that way.

    --- snip ---