Gonna sail away

How sad it is to watch people who I’ve never met–but who still enriched my life in some way–cross over into whatever comes next. In just the past week, Chuck Berry died (and I’ve had Johnny B. Goode stuck in my head ever since), followed by Jerry Krause of the Chicago Bulls, Chuck Barris of the Gong Show, Dallas Green of the Cubs (and several other baseball teams) and most recently, Sib Hashian from the rock band Boston.

I can still picture seeing Sib’s image on the back of my vinyl copy of Boston’s debut album. He had the giant afro and was standing in the middle of the group, which made him look totally badass. The album was released in 1976, which was just before I discovered rock music for the first time. I regret that I wasn’t cool enough for this at age 8, but I got there once I reached high school in the mid 1980s.

I listened to the first two Boston albums over and over again back in 1985 and 1986, as I was biding my time and waiting for life to begin. I couldn’t have the kind of life I wanted to have–and I wasn’t very clear on what that should be, either–so long as I was living under my parent’s roof. So I waited, and listened to Boston every chance I got.

Sib Hashian was not the musical mastermind behind the group’s music, nor was he the voice that people hear on songs like “More than a Feeling” or “Hitch a Ride.” But his drumming was always there with me, and it will be for as long as the music means something to me, and to everyone else who feels the same way. That’s quite a legacy to leave behind, isn’t it?

Well I’m takin’ my time

1897908_10202419871312608_2246724880548952819_n

This morning Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time came on the radio, and I listened to it for the I’ll-never-know-how-manyth-time.

Twenty-nine years ago, I used the opening lyric (It’s been such a long time, I think I should be going) as my parting words to my graduating high school class of 1986. Griffin High, the school I graduated from, went kaput a few years later, but I still keep in touch with some of my classmates, mostly on Facebook.

Four years in the same place does seem like a long time, when you’re 17 and itching to get out and see the world. Now, almost three decades later, I realize that four years can pass in the blink of an eye. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.

Another line from the song that I like is “There’s a long road I’ve gotta stay in time with.” That long road has led me out of Springfield Illinois to Chicago, with assorted side trips along the way. Where it leads from here, I have no idea. But I’ll be sure to stay in time with it, all the same.

Rock and roll band

 

wpid-2014-06-21_22-41-13_982.jpg

Last night, on a soggy beach in Chicago, I saw Boston play live for the first time in my life. I’ve written about Boston many times in this space, and hearing their music in the company of thousands more who also appreciate their unique sound meant a lot to me.

I was once a dissatisfied teenager living in Springfield, Illinois, and Boston’s music spoke to me. It offered visions of going someplace else, about–as they called it–chasing a dream. I wanted that so much when I was in high school, and now I’ve accomplished it. I don’t live there anymore, and I’m more than happy to visit it on occasion, but Chicago’s my home now.

I initially had some reservations about hearing the band play without Brad Delp, the singer on their studio albums. But last night I realized that the songs were written by Boston’s guitarist, Tom Scholtz, and music that can bring so much joy to people–myself included–deserves to be heard, by whoever wants to sing it. The crowd always sings along, anyway, so whoever is onstage with the microphone already has all the help they need. Last night I finally realized that, and it made a great night even better. Those changes can open your eyes.

I’m just moving along

1986

My teenager enjoys posting TBT (Throwback Thursday) pictures on Twitter. The idea that a fourteen year-old is nostalgic for the past amuses me, actually. And because my blog is drenched in nostalgia for the past, at least sometimes, I decided to go along. I posted this picture to Facebook today, and it will hit Twitter and the other social media platforms I’m on once this post is put together.

This picture was taken in the summer of 1986, after I had graduated from high school and turned 18. The guy sitting in this car wanted to do only two things. One of them wasn’t yet legal for me to do, but that rarely stopped me. And the other was to get out of Springfield, Illinois as quickly as I could. I had to wait for the fall for that to happen, so I was stuck in one final holding pattern.

If the guy sitting in the car above had to pick just one album (I didn’t yet know what a CD was) to listen to, it would probably have been Boston’s debut album. And the best track on it, in my mind, was the last song on side one, Foreplay/Long Time. I had even quoted from it in my farewell to the rest of the students in my school newspaper: “It’s been such a long time, I think I should be going.” And it wasn’t only the four years I had spent in high school, either. It was my entire life to that point.

I couldn’t wait to leave, but I still had to wait for one final summer. It was a paradox, and one that hearing that song on the radio–as I did a few minutes ago–always brings to my mind. My teenager probably feels the same way that I once did. The circle of life keeps on spinning.

Now that I’ve achieved whatever it is that the 18 year-old me once wanted, it’s funny to me in some way. I wanted to go out and live, but the anticipation of doing so kept me from appreciating the life that I had.

Chasing dreams–even if they aren’t yet well-defined–is essential, but it can also get in the way of looking around and enjoying what’s in front of you already. As Boston sang in the song, it’s just outside of your front door.

Chasing that dream

New_1_DSCF5227

As I was out running errands yesterday, I heard Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” on the radio. It’s always been a song I can listen to, and yesterday was no exception. Upon hearing the late Brad Delp’s vocals, I was reminded of how, at the end of my high school days, I quoted the line “It’s been such a long time/I think I should be going” as a farewell note to my high school.

In truth, four years isn’t really such a long time. When you’re 17, though, it seems like forever. The 17 year-old who quoted that line was ready to move on to something else in his life. And now, more than a quarter-century later, I’m at that place. I’ve chased the dream that I had when I was a teenager, and I wound up here. And that suits me just fine.

From an early age, I knew that I had to leave my hometown in order to have the kind of life that I wanted. Where I would go to was an open question, but standing still was never an option. I suppose that’s called wanderlust, and I had it bad when I was in high school. But the irony is that whatever I had back then now seems to have gone away, entirely. I like where I am now, and have no desire to leave anytime soon.

The large part of that is wanting to have a sense of stability for my two daughters. As they get older, they will probably come to feel–as I once did–that the only thing that matters is going anywhere else. But the forces arrayed against them now are so much more powerful than what I was up against. College costs are soaring, and opportunities for people with a degree–but not much else–seem to be drastically reduced. The numbers that I’ve heard for college graduates moving back in with their parents (85 percent is the number I’ve seen) are just stunning. I literally would have gone berserk if I had to do that when I graduated from college, so many years ago.

It seems silly to be giving this matter too much thought now, when my oldest daughter (shown in the picture above) is graduating from 8th grade, and not high school or college. But my hope for her–and for her younger sister–is that when they get the wanderlust themselves, they will be able to beat the odds and successfully chase their own dreams, whatever those might be.

One man’s protest

flag

Boston dominated the news this week, and it should have. I’ve never seen a more riveting story about one city and its grit. Hats off to everyone who rose to the occasion and turned a terrible event into a lesson in strength. I will always be in awe of how the city came together in the face of this tragedy.

But another tragedy unfolded in Washington DC this week. With the families of Sandy Hook Elementary victims looking on, the Senate failed to pass any meaningful gun reforms. They failed to do anything, even in the face of wide public support for measures like increased background checks. The NRA and their Republican puppets (along with a few Democrats, too) won this round, but they must not be allowed to triumph in the end. Guns kill too many people for us to close our eyes and leave the status quo in place. Change needs to come, whether the NRA wants it to or not.

The house of Congress that is made up of two members from every state, no matter what the population of the states are, is usually referred to as the Senate. While the capital S has traditionally been taken as a mark of respect for this institution, they no longer deserve any respect, in light of their cowardly failure to act. So from now on, I’m calling them the senate, and maybe even the U.S. senate, to be technically correct. But that capital S at the beginning of their collective name? No, I’m not willing to use that any more. They’re just the senate to me.

This won’t change a thing, in the grand scheme of things. They’ll continue to do whatever it is they do (or don’t do) without any regard for the actual will of the people. I’m willing to incur the wrath of grammarians, who would rather stand on tradition by affording the institution a measure of undeserved respect. But the senate no longer deserves such deference, nor will they be getting it from me.

Keep a’ goin’

Keep a Goin2

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, and it will be the second year I’m taking part in it. Last year’s poem, and the story behind it, is here.

I came across the poem I’m using this year in a small volume of poetry that I acquired a number of years ago. I’ve never been very much into poetry, and doing this is definitely outside of my comfort zone. But that could be the best reason for doing it, in the end. Pushing ourselves beyond what we know cannot be a bad thing, or else we’d never get to anyplace new.

The obscurity of Frank Lebby Stanton, and an eccentric poem that he wrote more than a century ago, makes Keep a-Goin’ the perfect fit for me. If you’re going to bother someone else by reading them a poem, three stanzas is about as much of an opening as you’re likely to get. And Stanton’s dialect is something else this poem has going for it. But the poem’s message–that perseverance is needed, whatever life may throw at you–is the real reason why I chose it. It speaks to me and perhaps it will speak to others, as well.

To the people of Boston, and everyone else who has suffered disappointments or setbacks recently, I offer Frank Lebby Stanton’s simple, yet unmistakable words of advice: Keep a’ goin’!

Don’t mess with Boston

Paul.Revere.Boston

In the wake of today’s bombings at the finish line to the Boston Marathon, I feel the need to say a few things about Boston. It’s not because I have family and friends living there, or the company that I work for is headquartered there, or I have fond memories of my visits there, as recently as last summer. All of those things are true, and I’m grateful for them all, but that’s not what compels me to write at this moment.

I write because I’m an American, and I appreciate the pre-eminent role that Boston has in the history of this nation. Visiting the site of the Boston Massacre made me realize that the city was at the forefront of the resistance to British rule. The king was forever dealing with Boston, and I imagine he became sick of it as the years went by. And when he overplayed his hand and tried to bring the colonies to heel, Boston fought back instead. They fired on the king’s troops 238 years ago this month, and then kept those troops at bay, denying the British the stronghold they were seeking to gain by taking the city and its port. Who knows how–or if–the Revolution would have succeeded without Boston’s resolute defense of itself.

But Boston has given us all more than that. Horace Mann, who thought that all children should learn how to read and write, came from Boston. The Abolitionist movement, who stated the controversial idea that human beings should not be kept as slaves, also emanated from Boston. And the idea that consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry each other–no matter their gender–first came to us from Massachusetts and Boston. The city has often led the way socially, while the rest of the nation has often struggled to catch up.

The attack on the city today caused great injuries and loss of life. I’m beyond outraged that an eight-year old girl lost her life, just so that somebody could make a point about whatever it is they’re trying to say. Knowing that it happened at the site of a memorial to the victims of Newtown makes it that much harder to accept. But it seems we have no choice in the matter. What’s done is done, unfortunately.

With grief in my heart for the losses they have suffered, but thanks and respect for all they have done for us as Americans, I’m keeping Boston in my thoughts this evening. I hope that others will, too.

Far away and left behind

I love a good paradox. Elements of one thing, along with something completely different.  Salty peanut butter and sweet grape jelly. That sort of thing.

Yesterday afternoon I was confronted by such a paradox, as I was picking my young daughter up from her play rehearsal. I love that she’s in a play about Halloween, and I’m pretty sure that she loves it, too. Her rehearsal was to end at 6:30, and the afternoon traffic was moving better than I had expected it to. I still had some time, which doesn’t always happen. Running late seems to be the normal state of affairs.

As I was driving, I turned on the radio and heard the end of Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time. I began thinking of how much Boston I listened to back when I was in high school, living under my parents’ roof. The music wasn’t new or fresh, but it spoke to me all the same. I picked their lyric “It’s been such a long time, I think I should be going” as my parting words to my fellow students upon graduation. In retrospect, four years isn’t really a long time at all, unless you’re a 17 year-old who just wants to get on with his life. In that case, four years is an insufferably long time, indeed.

When the song was ending, I had pulled up in front of the place where the rehearsal was going on, and still had a couple of minutes left over. I thought I would turn the car off, walk into the building, and wait around until the rehearsal ended. But that’s when the paradox arrived.

Foreplay/Long Time was my favorite song on Boston’s first album, but the title song from their second album, Don’t Look Back, is my favorite song of all, at least as far as Boston is concerned. And, thanks to a radio station gimmick called “Block-tober”, they ended one Boston song and led into another one. I just had to hear this one.

Don’t Look Back was the kind of song that I could always put on my turntable and listen to. When I got frustrated or upset about something–which happened as often for me as it did for any other teenager, which means it happened a lot–I could play that song, and its message of “I’ll turn it around” always made me feel better. It was like a tonic for me, a magic cure-all. I can’t explain it, other than to say positive thoughts had to be force-fed into my brain, but once they got there, things were all right.

So I’m listening to this song, and its message of looking ahead, and not backward, was completely lost on me in that moment. I could see my old vinyl cover of the Don’t Look Back album (at that point, it would be years before I ever owned a CD). I could remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, how you had to lift the turntable’s arm and place the needle down in just the right place. I could see the blue carpet on the floor, and the fake woodpaneling that walled off a section of the basement in my parent’s house. It was like I was in high school again, instead of being a middle-aged guy in a hybrid car who was waiting to pick up his daughter from a play rehearsal.

So I’m singing along, with my eyes shut, enjoying the trip down Memory lane, when it occurred to me that I was, indeed, Looking Back, and this was exactly what Boston was telling me not to do. Their advice was look forward and be positive, because looking back just brings troubles. And yet looking back was all that I could do at the moment.

So as I was air-guitaring my way through the song, and shouting the “Don’t Look Back!” lyric over and over again near the end of the song, I knew that’s exactly was I was doing.  However, I forced myself to recognize that there is some merit to doing this.

We all have times and places and people in our lives that we want to remember. Look at who you’re friends with on Facebook, if you don’t believe me. People that I hadn’t heard from in decades are now a part of my life again, and I’d much rather have it that way, instead of wondering whatever happened to them, or possibly forgetting about them altogether.

The song ended, and I turned the car off and went in to get my daughter. As I did, I realized that looking  back isn’t such a bad thing. I still love that song, and I imagine that I always will, but from this point on I’ll remind myself that looking back is how we keep the past alive. If I have to defy an old rock band in order to do it, that’s just how it goes sometimes. They’ll probably get over it.

Safe from British bullets

Mitt Romney’s gone across the pond, and so far it’s not gone well for him. If the idea was to make him seem presidential on the global stage, it’s turned into just the opposite. If you don’t believe me, consider that #RomneyShambles is the top trending item on Twitter as I write this. It won’t be that forever, I know, but this is entirely self-inflicted on his part.

What seemed to get the ball rolling, so to speak, was the Romney adviser who claimed that President Obama did not understand the “shared history” between the United States and United Kingdom. The advisor who supposedly said this has not been named publicly, and Governor Romney has disavowed it, but it’s still another case of trying to paint the President as an outsider, as the “other.” Never mind that tens of millions of Americans thought otherwise in 2008, and will vote for him again when the time comes this fall. But Romney understands that special relationship in a way that Obama can not, at least in his advisors’ warped minds.

But the “shared history” between the two nations isn’t all goodness and light. Yes, the British are our ally today, and have been for 100 years. But go back a bit further than that, and you’ll find it was once a different story.

In 1768, John Hancock of Boston was suspected of illegally importing madeira wine from Portugal on his boat, named the Liberty. The boat was then seized by British ships, who were enforcing a duty on imported goods like madeira wine. Patriots like Captain Daniel Malcom objected to this seizure, and unrest raged in the streets of Boston. It became known as the Liberty Affair, and gave Malcom and others in Boston another reason to hate the unelected and tyrannical king of the nation that is now our ally, but once upon a time was an oppressor unlike any other.

Captain Malcom’s role in this affair has been immortalized for centuries on the walls of Boston’s Old North Church, and a copy of this tale appears above. But the most humorous and ironic part of it all is the name of the British frigate that was at the center of the whole thing. Fittingly enough, the frigate was named the Romney.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Is there any connection between a British ship from 1768, and the man running for President in 2012? Not directly, no. But the name itself serves to remind us that this “shared history” isn’t without its blemishes. Which country once set fire to the White House, and attacked Fort McHenry as Francis Scott Key got the idea for the “Star-Spangled Banner“? And here’s  a hint: The Kenyans had nothing to do with it.

Quarterly Report #4

Picture from The Greenville, SC Blog

How quickly the time flies! This report, in keeping with the tradition I established after beginning this blog a year ago, is meant to take stock in what I’ve done, and where I see things heading in the months ahead.

First things first. The blog celebrated its first year in existence last month, and I see no sign of slowing down. I think about writing in this space a lot, and when big things happen in the baseball world, or in the real world, commenting on it here my first instinct. Telling my blog, and anyone who may ever happen upon it, what’s on my mind at such moments–and all moments, if I’m being honest about it–really is therapeutic for me.

With that said, my level of baseball writing in this space has fallen off lately. The horrible Cubs team that we’ve seen for half a season now is undoubtedly one reason, and another is that I’ve found other outlets for my baseball writing. And, to top it off, I have discovered that writing about life experiences wholly unrelated to baseball can be pretty fun, too.

I’m toying with the idea of dropping out of the BBA, so that their tweets of new postings on my blog won’t disappoint someone who wants news on the latest draft results or thinks that baseball can best be understood through stats like BABIP. Any changes in this regard will probably be made over the coming few months.

I also got to do some fun things like present my daughter’s poetry to the world, collaborate (in a sense) with Josh Wilker, who is the best writer I know of on the Internet, and pat myself on the back for making a much-needed lifestyle change. None of these would have been possible a year ago, so I’m happy that I can do all these things now. I recommend having your own blog to everybody I know, even though few will ever take the necessary steps to make it happen.

A story I haven’t written about yet might be instructive for where things are heading. I was in the Old North Church in Boston recently, and I stumbled upon a pew (or maybe it was a box) with a nameplate on it that read “Capt. (my name), 1724.” I told my children they can refer to me as “The Captain,” but they haven’t yet taken me up on this offer.

But the idea of being the captain of this space appeals to me a great deal. I set the course, I determine where this is going, and I achieve a degree of control that I never have had in everyday life. Things might go great, or things might go badly, and it’s all up to some combination of my efforts and things that I have no control over. And I get do what I love doing along the way. It sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.

Whether this new sense of things leads to a redesign of the blog, a renaming so as to set up a concurrent Twitter account (@BlueBattingHelmet is a few characters more than what is presently allowed), or a spin-off of the baseball content from everything else is still to be determined. But everything changes in life, and the old ‘Helmet won’t escape this truism, either.

So as Year Two begins in these parts, I’ll hope that this enterprise continues to be a source of good things for the Captain that runs it.

Avast, ye good readers! Thar’s some good sailing up ahead!

When in Boston, don’t miss this

There are lots of historic sites in Boston, but this is one that I’ve never considered before. Along the Freedom Trail is a gem of a cemetery called the Granary Burial Ground, which I recently visited for the first time on a beautiful sunny day. Imagine, if you will, some of the biggest names from the Revolutionary era.

George Washington? No, sorry, he was a Virginian and isn’t buried here.

Thomas Jefferson? See the above answer.

Benjamin Franklin? Not buried here, but his parents are.

Paul Revere? Yes, he’s buried here.

Sam Adams? Yes, but there’s no mention of his brewing activities ; )

The victims of the Boston Massacre? All buried here.

John Hancock? Buried here, beneath a strangely phallic tombstone.

If there was such a thing as Who’s Who of the American Revolution, you’d find some of its most prominent members there. And for this reason it shouldn’t be missed on a future trip to Boston. The City Hall building, on the other hand, can be safely ignored.

Ask what you can do for your country


Monday afternoon, Hyannis, Mass.

Hyannis is one of those places that you’ve heard about before. This is probably because the Kennedy family has their “compound” here. It’s actually in Hyannisport, but Hyannis is the short-hand version. I probably first heard of Hyannis as a line in a Boston song called “Rock and Roll Band” on their debut album. This seems like it was probably based on a gig that they played there back in the 1970s. How I wish they had put out more than the three albums they did. And no, anything post-Brad Delp doesn’t count for me.

So yesterday was a day trip to Hyannis, to see a potato chip factory and a baseball bat company (that was in Centerville, actually) and then a visit to the main drag, which is literally called Main Street. There is a JFK Museum and the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame, located in the same building along Main Street, but I bypassed that in favor of a book sale at the Hyannis Public Library. It’s housed in a building that was built in “17-something” (the actual date doesn’t seem to matter very much) and many books were available. I picked up a baseball yearbook from 20 years ago, and a book of American-themed sayings and observations, for the more-than-reasonable sum of $1.60 (which would have been $1.50 but there wasn’t enough change on hand).

I proceeded to the benches which were in front of the JFK museum, which is literally next door to the public library. I began reading through the America book, which was probably pushed to market sometime after the 2001 attacks (it even had a 2001 copyright date). There were literally hundreds of these sayings, many of which I had heard or read before, but some were new and all were thought-provoking (my favorite was by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Democracy cannot be static. Whatever is static is dead.”).

I was jumping around in order, not making a linear progression through the book, when I came to the famous Kennedy quote of “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”  After reading these words I paused, looked up at the statue of the man who said these words, and felt a sense of inspiration that the cynical part of me rarely allows in.

I try to be as hopeful as I can be in the course of day-to-day living, but there are so many instances of self-interest and self-aggrandizement, especially in the political realm, that it’s easy to forget that public servants are supposed to inspire us. They’re supposed to make us want to do great things. And Kennedy’s words, unlike many of the words that were written or spoken in centuries past, were broadcast on television and on the radio, to the eyes and ears of those who wanted to be inspired.

President Kennedy was shot and killed, and he is, in my mind, a martyr for the cause of America. He created the Peace Corps, led the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe (and fortunately no further than that), and took on the entrenched segregation practices of the Jim Crow South. It’s easy to overlook these things, if the Kennedys are (as some would like to have it) reduced to a bunch of philandering elitists. But I don’t see them in that way. They (and I’m counting Bobby Kennedy in this, for he was also killed a few days before I was born) served their country–North and South, Black and White, Rich and Poor–and paid a heavy price for doing so. And being in Hyannis made me appreciate this in a way that I never really had before.

The day before going to Hyannis, I was at the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, staring at the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and those who were killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre. They are known because they helped to overthrow a despotic ruler and replace it with something better. Their words and actions inspired Americans of the 18th century, and the words of John Kennedy had the same impact on Americans in the 20th century, during the hottest and most threatening time of the Cold War. And, as I discovered yesterday, his words resonate in the 21st century, as well.

Are you happy, Rock Hall?

Word of Axl Rose dissing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just days before the induction ceremony, struck me as vindication for what I wrote last year about the band not being suitable for induction. I stated, at that time, that Appetite for Destruction was worthy of Hall of Fame induction, and the “November Rain” video was, as well. Both are achievements that I’d be hard-pressed to find a parallel to.

With that being said, the band itself has been a dysfunctional mess for almost 20 years. Or at least the lineup that produced those great achievements is a mess. Without Slash’s guitar, there is no Guns n’ Roses. As far as Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler, and Matt Sorum are concerned, it would be nice to have at least some of them involved in the induction, too. But the head member, the one who apparently owns the band’s name all to himself, is the one I can do without.

Rock bands have tended to operate on the opposite principle. Journey somehow soldiers on without Steve Perry. Boston is going on tour without the late Brad Delp. Judas Priest got by for a decade without Rob Halford. And Queen without Freddie Mercury is about to become a reality, too. There is lots of precedent for this sort of thing.

But Guns n’ Roses  (i.e., Axl Rose) has turned that on its head. You and I could be in Guns n’ Roses, if that’s what Axl wanted. And Slash and the others can play together, as they have in Velvet Revolver, but they can’t use the name that Axl controls. So you have the mess that now exists: Axl wants Guns n’ Roses to be thought of as the band he leads, while if they tried to show up and play at the induction ceremony, nobody there would know who any of them were (besides Axl, that is).

If the Velvet Revolver contingent showed up at the induction ceremony and played “Paradise City,” with Kid Rock or anyone else on vocals, Axl would feel pretty stupid (if he can even feel this way at all. I have my doubts). His letter states that he doesn’t want to be inducted in absentia. But for this one moment, he doesn’t have control over what Guns n’ Roses is. He could have issued this statement months ago, and the people who are planning to be in Cleveland to see them perform on Saturday night may or may not have gone ahead and booked the flights, reserved the hotel rooms, and made other necessary arrangements.

Would the ceremony still be sold out, as the website claims it is, if Axl’s intentions were made known last winter? We can’t know that for certain. But just as Axl routinely disrespects fans by starting concerts hours later than they’re supposed to start, he also disrespected, I have to believe, the fans who were planning a trip to Cleveland this weekend. I’m hoping that Slash and the others who once made up Guns n’ Roses show up instead, to deliver a pointed message to Axl. He sure has left himself open to getting one, in my view.

I’ve written about how the ongoing exclusion of KISS from the Rock Hall is wrong, in my view. They wrote the rock anthem that everyone knows, judging from the reception they received on Dancing With the Stars this week. That song is Hall-worthy all by itself, but it’s looking like KISS might not ever get in. RUSH is worthy of getting in, too, but they’re also on the outside looking in.

The Rock Hall people–apparently not embarrassed enough by the spectacle of Van Halen’s induction without any actual Van Halens being present–have upped the ante with Guns n’ Roses this year. We’ll see how it all plays out, I suppose, but there will be lots and lots of awkwardness in Cleveland on Saturday night. Welcome to the Jungle, Jann Wenner.

Hard to believe

The last post I wrote was a celebration of the career accomplishments of Mariano Rivera. He’s been great, he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes, and I don’t think we’ll see another one like him again. But, having said that, there’s at least one instance where he didn’t come up big. So naturally that’s what I’ll be discussing here.

The 2001 World Series, where Arizona came back at home in Game seven to snatch the Series from the Yankees, doesn’t really count. That Series, from the games being played in November to the fact that the home team won every single game, feels like an aberration on some level. And the idea that it was the end of the Yankee dynasty seems a bit overblown to me.

Instead, it was the Yankees’ unprecedented collapse in the 2004 ALCS that sticks out in my mind. Rivera was certainly at the heart of it, and the player on the other end for the Red Sox is Dave Roberts. The extremely limited extent of Dave Roberts’ career with the Red Sox is worth delving into for a few paragraphs.

At the trading deadline in 2004, the Red Sox shook their fan base by trading away Nomar Garciaparra. But also made another move that received far less attention. They traded a prospect named Henri Stanley–who never played a game in the majors–to the Dodgers for the unheralded Roberts.  Roberts had speed, and that’s why the Red Sox acquired him at literally the last moment.

Roberts played in some of the Red Sox’ games down the stretch, but he seemed to disappear during the playoffs. He pinch ran in Game Two of the ALDS against the Angels, but did not play in the first and third game of that series. Nor did he play in games 1, 2, or 3 in the ALCS against the Yankees. By the time Game 4 rolled around, he hadn’t played in 10 days. But his time was actually close at hand.

With Rivera on the mound in the ninth, especially in the postseason, the game was usually over. But walks can be a killer, and Rivera walked Kevin Millar. Roberts came in to run for Millar, and everyone in Fenway knew what he would do next. Rivera did too, because he threw over to first several times. Roberts’ intentions were certainly no secret to Rivera.

Roberts had run against Rivera once before, in September, and he made some mental notes about the closer’s delivery.  It took a lot of stones to take off toward second with the season on the line, but Roberts did it, and it paid off. It was such a big moment that it’s now known simply as “The Steal.”

I remember seeing it as it happened, and I thought at the time the call could have gone either way. The umpire made his call, but a different call would have made him the most hated man in Boston since King George III. But let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that it was a home town call. My cynicism could power a major city for weeks on end, but I’m actually not that cynical.

Roberts came in to score on Bill Mueller’s single, and the Red Sox had new life. Rivera had failed to nail down the win, as he had done so many times before, and has done so many times since. The Red Sox won that game, and the next three as well to capture the series and the AL pennant. No team had ever surrendered a 3 games to zero lead in the postseason before, much less the Yankees with Rivera on the mound. But it just proves that anything’s possible.

Dave Roberts played one more time in the ALCS, when he pinch ran and scored the tying run in the eighth inning of Game Five. He did not play in the World Series against the Cardinals, and was traded away to the San Diego Padres in November of 2004, while some World Series parties were probably still going on in New England. If ever you see a Dave Roberts card in a Red Sox uniform, take it because there just can’t be too many of them to be had.

Dave Roberts never came to bat in the 2004 postseason, and he never took the field, either. But he was voted a full postseason share by his teammates, has a ring to show to all who want to see it, and enjoys a celebrity-style name recognition among the Boston faithful. You won’t ever find him in Cooperstown along with Rivera and Derek Jeter, but I’m pretty sure what he has is special enough.