July 2016

Why we run to Home Base

Will Snow will be at Fenway Park Saturday morning with his daughters Teegan and Adair, watching his wife Amber in the Run for Home Base by New Balance. It is her third race. It will be his first. It took a great effort by both of them to be here.

 

Will Snow is one of ours. He is from Foxborough. Amber is one of ours, too. She is from Attleboro. They met when he was a medic in the elite Army Rangers. Three months later, they got married. Soon, they will be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. They have been dealing with the consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) for the last six years. There is unfinished business.

 

Will Snow is the type of person, Amber said, “who was put on this planet to watch out for other people.’’ He never felt more helpless than when his little sister, Courtney, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16 and he could do nothing while watching the life ebb out of her until she was gone at age 21.

 

Unable to afford medical school, he said, he turned to the Army. His grandfather was military, and he was inspired to join the Rangers, he said, after watching one of those old D-Day flicks in which Rangers scaled cliffs with grappling hooks.

 

“I thought, ‘If I ever go into the Army, I want to join people crazy enough to do that,’’’ he said.

 

Amber was eight months pregnant with Teegan in Fort Lewis, Washington, and Will was on his third deployment to Iraq when the Stryker armored vehicle he was riding en route to engage the enemy drove into a 21-foot deep canal and overturned. He sustained head, neck and back injuries. “I tried to walk if off,’’ he said. “I was the only medic in our platoon, and I didn’t want to leave.’’

 

The plan was to return home for the birth of the baby. The first Amber heard about what had happened in Iraq was when Will called and complained about a headache. “Something happened,’’ he said, using the cryptic language so typical of Rangers. “I’ll tell you about it when I get home.’’

 

It did not take long for Amber and Will to discover they were dealing with more than a headache. Will had gone to pick up some food at a takeout restaurant they frequented, and called Amber from a roundabout that was on the way back. I don’t know how to get home, he said.

 

“That was terrifying,’’ Amber said, recounting the story.

 

The personality changes were even more so. Nowhere to be found was the man who was the life of the party when they met, quick to make friends. In his place was a virtual recluse, one who says he does not remember the birth of his child or the first year or two of her life.

 

“I thought he’d come home, I’d have the baby, and we’d get back to life,’’ Amber Snow said.

 

“But I sent one guy to war, and I got another one back. Which I’m very thankful for, but it’s not who I sent.

 

“I had friends who didn’t get anybody home, so who was I to complain? I had a body next to me in my bed. But you still mourn the person you lost. I lost somebody.’’

 

Will Snow’s battles did not end in Iraq. He faced a formidable foe back here at home, coping with anxiety attacks, mood swings, depression, sleeplessness—an array of symptoms we have come to recognize as the consequence of TBI and PTSD. There was also the frustration that came from dealing with those who were skeptical of how badly he was hurt, or incapable of offering him the assistance he truly needed.

 

“He became,’’ Amber Snow said, “the most introverted introvert you could find.’’

 

Amber Snow recalled a particularly frightening incident after Will had been transferred out of his battalion to another Special Operations facility in Yuma, Arizona, and suffered an allergic reaction to a medication he was given.

 

“His entire body turned purple, his tongue swelled up, and he was talking nonsense. He was holdings his socks in his hand, asking ‘Where are my socks?’ It got to the point where his skin was falling off.

 

“When his fever went down, they let him out of the hospital, but when he walked around he felt pins and needles in his feet. That’s when people started taking us seriously and said something was absolutely wrong with him.’’

 

The Care Coalition, which assists special operations veterans, offered some relief. So did time spent at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. They were still in Yuma when Amber saw an ad for the Run to Home Base. She vowed that when the young family returned to Massachusetts, she would participate.

 

“I started running that summer (2013),’’ she said. “Running was my therapy to get out and take care of myself. One of us in this marriage has to be healthy. He doesn’t have a choice; it’s got to be me.’’

 

She ran her first race for Home Base in 2014. Her sister ran, too. They raised a lot of money. More importantly, Amber heard the stories of some of those who had been helped by Home Base. She told Will about the program.

 

Last August, another round of anxiety attacks struck, accompanied by nightmares. There was also an unexplained weight loss; Will dropped nearly 50 pounds. He picked up the phone and called Home Base. He had decided, Amber said, that he didn’t want to be miserable anymore.

 

“I didn’t know where else to go,’’ he said, “but once I got there, the place just reeks of competence. You sit down with people, they know what they’re doing. They give you hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.’’

 

The care at Home Base was deeply personal, and dependable. He could text his caregiver, and know that he would get a quick response.

 

“You walk in, and the second you get in there it makes you feel good,’’ Will said. “I had been in such bad place, but they don’t talk to you in military lingo, they talk to you just normal. They know what they’re doing. We feel lucky to live in Massachusetts and have this place.’’

 

The progress has been incremental. Will has gotten to the point where he can take the train in alone for his appointments, take to the kids to the grocery store, take them on Saturday to see their mama race.

 

“The therapy is one of the toughest things I’ve ever attempted,’’ he said. “You basically have to relive the experiences that are impeding your life. They recorded me talking about those experiences over and over until you can put them away in your brain. If you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get better.’’

 

Will Snow, the man whose wife says he was placed on this planet to help others, now hopes to speak with other veterans about Home Base, and how they might find hope, too. On Saturday, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, a driving force in the creation of Home Base, intends to introduce Will and Amber Snow, two very courageous souls.

 

“We bought a house, we’re moving on as best we can,’’ Amber said. “It’s part of our life. I forget my life is different from anybody else’s, but it is. It’s weird, but it’s all I’ve known for six years.’’

 

Between the support from their families here back home, and Home Base, Will and Amber Snow know that someone has their backs.

 

“Give us a minute,’’ Amber said. “Wait for us. We’re going to catch up. We’re going to get there.’’

 

If you would like to support Amber in her run, the link to her fundraising page is here:  http://www.runtohomebase.org/2016RuntoHomeBase/ambersnow. If enough of you are moved to do so, maybe we’ll just blow them away.

 

 

 

Save vs. Non-Save, Craig Kimbrel edition

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox

BOSTON, MA – MAY 15: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning on May 15, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Craig Kimbrel

I wish there was a ready explanation. Really, I do. More importantly, so do Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell.

Craig Kimbrel has been spectacular in save situations, with a 1.45 ERA, 17 saves, a 0.643 WHIP, and an average of 13 K’s per 9 innings. That’s why he’s going to the All-Star Game in San Diego next Tuesday.

In non-saves situations, however, it has been a strikingly different story: Kimbrel, who gave up four runs in the ninth inning Tuesday and failed to record an out in a 7-2 loss, has made 14 appearances in non-save situations, and has a 6.75 ERA. In 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 12 hits and 10 walks, leading to 10 runs.

“I can’t say it’s a lack of adrenaline. Even in tonight’s situation, we’re in a one-run ballgame,” Farrell told reporters Tuesday night. “You can say the same is still on the line. The numbers bear it out, it’s been a difficult spot for him.”

It hasn’t always been this way for Kimbrel. Look at these numbers since he first became a closer in 2011:

Save situation   Non-save

2011                                                     2.22                 1.85

2012                                                     1.01                 1.00

2013                                                      1.35                 0.66

2014                                                      0.89                 4.76

2015                                                      2.06                   4.02

2016                                                       1.45                    6.75

 

We wanted to see if other closers are afflicted in a similar fashion, so we looked at all the closers who have exceeded Kimbrel’s career saves total of 242 since 2001.

Here are the numbers:

Mariano Rivera                                    1.95                        2.29

Francisco Rodriguez                           2.71                         2.70

Joe Nathan                                             2.40                       2.68

Trevor Hoffman                                    2.71                         3.15

Jonathan Papelbon                            2.37                         2.39

Francisco Cordero                                3.61                         3.10

Huston Street                                        2.97                          2.79

Jason Isringhausen                               3.49                         2.76

Jose Valverde                                          2.52                          4.22

Fernando Rodney                                  3.45                            3.76

Craig Kimbrel                                         1.49                            2.51

Clearly, it’s not a universal affliction. And chances are it’s correctible. Kimbrel certainly believes it is. There’s lots of season left to do so.

 

All-Star facts, Red Sox style

BOSTON RED SOX vs. HOUSTON ASTROS

Brock Holt was Boston’s only All-Star in 2015 (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

The Red Sox will be well represented in next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in San Diego. Here’s a primer on past Sox doings in the previous 86 All-Star Games.

–Future Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell was Boston’s first All-Star, in 1933. His brother Wes, who played for Cleveland but would join Rick on the Sox the following season, also made the team.  Twenty of the 36 All-Stars that season would eventually be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Babe Ruth hit the first home run in All-Star history.

–All-purpose fielder Brock Holt was the last Sox All-Star, their only representative in 2015. There have been seven other All-Star Games in which the Sox were represented by just one player: David Ortiz in 2012, Manny Ramirez in 2001, Nomar Garciaparra in 1997, Mo Vaughn in 1996, Scott Cooper in both 1993 and ’94, and Dwight Evans in 1981.

–The most All-Stars the Sox have had in a single season was eight, in 1946: Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Boo Ferriss, Mickey Harris, Hal Wagner, and Rudy York. The Sox have had seven All-Stars four times, the last in 2008: Jason Varitek, Jonathan Papelbon, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis.

–The Sox have had four All-Star MVPs: J.D. Drew in 2008, Pedro Martinez in 1999, Roger Clemens in 1986 and Carl Yastrzemski in 1970. No MVP award was given before 1962.

–Derek Lowe, in 2002, is the last Red Sox pitcher to start an All-Star game. Six other Sox pitchers have started: Pedro Martinez (1999), Roger Clemens (1986), Dennis Eckersley (1982), Bill Monbouquette (1960), Mel Parnell (1949), Lefty Grove (1936).

–Eleven Sox pitchers have been credited with a decision in an All-Star game. The first seven decisions were losses: Lefty Grove (’36), Tex Hughson (1943), Frank Sullivan (1955), Bill Monbouquette (1960), Dick Radatz (1964), Luis Tiant (1974) and Dennis Eckersley (1982). The last four have been wins: Roger Clemens (1986), Pedro Martinez (1999), Josh Beckett (2007) and Jonathan Papelbon (2009).

–Two Sox pitchers have been on the mound for walkoff losses. Dick Radatz gave up four runs, the last three on a two-out home run by Johnny Callison, in a 7-4 loss in New York’s Shea Stadium in 1964. Frank Sullivan, who had already pitched three scoreless innings, gave up a walkoff home run to Stan Musial leading off the 12th inning in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, giving the NL ‘Stars a 6-5 win.

–The Sox have hit 18 home runs in All-Star Games. Ted Williams has 4. Fred Lynn has 3. No other Sox player has more than 1. The last Sox player to homer in an All-Star Game was Adrian Gonzalez in 2011.

–The 2004 All-Star Game is the only one in which multiple Sox players homered. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez both went deep in the 2004 game in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Papi and Bobby Orr

David Ortiz, here with Bruins legend Bobby Orr, homered in the 2004 All-Star Game (Photo courtesy of Boston Red Sox)

–Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski were both named to 18 All-Star teams, a club record. Williams was left off the team in his rookie season, 1939, even though he was batting .306 with 12 home runs and a league-leading 70 RBIs at the break. In 1941, the season he batted .406, Ted was one of four future Sox Hall of Famers on the team. The others were Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr and Jimmie Foxx. Dom DiMaggio, who some contend should be in the Hall of Fame, was the fifth Sox All-Star that season. Lefty Grove and Roger Clemens were both five-time All-Stars for the Red Sox, most appearances by a pitcher.

–Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski share the record for most hits in an All-Star Game (4) with Joe Medwick of the Cardinals. Williams hit two home runs and two singles in the ’46 All-Star Game at Fenway. Yaz had four singles in 12 innings in the 1970 Game. Sox players have had multiple-hit All-Star games 16 times. Ted and Yaz are the only players to do so multiple times, three apiece.

–Tony Conigliaro went 0 for 6 in the 1967 All-Star Game, which went 15 innings in Anaheim before the National League won, 2-1. Tony C. faced four Hall of Famers in that game: He flied out against HOF Juan Marichal, struck out against HOF Fergie Jenkins and HOF Bob Gibson, flied out against Chris Short, fouled out against Mike Cuellar, and flied out against HOF Tom Seaver. The day wasn’t a total bust; Conigliaro made an outstanding catch in right field to take a hit away from Orlando Cepeda.

 

All-Star tales, Red Sox style

Pedro Martinez reaches the 300th strike outs in Fenway Park.

Pedro Martinez, here about to strike out his 300th batter in the ’99 season, gave an All-Star performance for the ages (Photo by Jack Maley / Boston Red Sox)

 

J.D. coming off the bench. Papelbon’s torment. The lovefest for Ted. Pedro’s whiffs. Roger’s perfection. Yaz’s MVP. The Monster’s nightmare. The fractured elbow. The eephus pitch. The walkoff in ’41.

The Red Sox have had their share of memorable moments in the 86 All-Star Games that precede next Tuesday’s gathering in San Diego. Here are a few  that stand out. We’ll offer them chronologically.

 

2008, Yankee Stadium

Drew, who entered the game in the sixth inning when he replaced Ichiro Suzuki in right field, hit a two-run home run off Edinson Volquez to tie the score at 2 in the seventh, then walked ahead of Michael Young’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th. Both managers fretted they were about to run out of pitchers in an encore to the 2002 fiasco, which Bud Selig declared a tie in the 11th inning.

Drew, who also singled and stole a base, joked he would have taken the hill for Terry Francona if called upon, even though he hadn’t pitched since high school.

“I’d have been ready,” he said. “I’ve had an opportunity to throw a lot in the outfield.

“I don’t know if I would have gotten anyone out, but I’d have thrown something up there.”

A great night for Drew. Not nearly as fun for Papelbon, who the day before the game had made himself a lightning rod for the scorn of Yankee fans when he made a case for closing instead of Yankee icon Mariano Rivera.

It got ugly. “Papelbum” was the headline on one New York tabloid, and a raucous crowd jeered his appearance on the pregame “red carpet” ride down Avenue of the Americas.

“Brutal,” he said of the coverage. “They missed the point I was trying to make. What kind of closer would I be if I didn’t want to close? But I said I was willing to step aside.

“The whole shebang was messed up. My wife was really upset. We got threats, everything. I wish I hadn’t taken her.”

All of the Sox were booed. “I learned two things,” Francona said of the parade. “They want Rivera to pitch, and I [stink].”

 

1999, Fenway Park

The consensus choice as the best All-Star Game of all. The Team of the Century was introduced, and when a golf cart, with Al Forrester at the wheel, brought out Ted Williams, All-Stars young and old gathered around him in heart-tugging tribute.

“You know, there were a lot of guys out there that were teared up,” Mark McGwire said. “The Hall of Famers out there, and the All-Stars, when you see Ted Williams and he has tears running down his eyes, it’s an emotional time.”

Then, in a pitching performance that rivaled one of the All-Star Game’s most legendary moments — Carl Hubbell of the Giants striking out Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in succession 65 years earlier — Pedro Martinez struck out the side in the first inning, then struck out two more batters in the second inning, and was a unanimous choice as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Martinez’s victims were Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa in the first inning, McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in the second. Larkin is in the Hall of Fame. The others ranked among the best hitters of their generation.

“When you have a guy like Pedro, whether he’s throwing the fastball or the changeup, with his arm speed it’s like trying to hit in a dark room,” American League manager Joe Torre said of Martinez.

The night will be remembered by many for one other moment, when four F-14’s flew very low over Fenway, seemingly skimming over the light stanchions, as Dorchester’s Donna Summer finished the anthem, rattling windows–and nerves—throughout the Fens.

“I almost fell to the ground,’’ Walker said. “They scared the daylights out of me.”

The losing pitcher by the way? Curt Schilling, five seasons before he came to the Sox.

 

RED SOX PITCHER THROWS PITCH AT FENWAY, 1986

Roger Clemens went nine up, nine down in outshining Doc Gooden in 1986 game played in front of his home crowd in Houston. (Photo by Peter Travers /Boston Red Sox)

1986, Houston Astrodome

The game’s best two young pitchers, 23-year-old Roger Clemens of the Red Sox and 21-year-old Dwight Gooden of the Mets, squared off in what became a preview of the World Series. This was a homecoming for Clemens, and he set down all nine batters he faced, emerging with a win and the MVP award, just as Martinez would 13 years later.

Clemens, who was pitching on two days’ rest, threw 25 pitches, 21 for strikes. At one point, he threw 14 straight strikes, and set down 4 NL MVP winners:

“It’s been like a fantasy camp this year,’’ he said. “The Red Sox are playing well and I’ve pitched pretty well this season. Coming home and pitching like this in the All-Star game, with my family [here], is like a dream come true.’’

 

1970, Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium

Carl Yastrzemski had three singles and a double while playing all 12 innings, none at his best position, left field. Yaz played six innings in center field, six at first base. The game, attended by President Nixon, is best remembered for Pete Rose crashing into catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run in the 12th.

Dick Radatz at Spring Training in 1964

The Monster, Dick Radatz, gave up a walkoff home to Johnny Callison in the ’64 game **Note: Brearley Collection, donated by Boujoukos family (Photo by Dennis Brearley/Boston Red Sox)

1964, New York’s Shea Stadium

Johnny Callison of the Phillies hit a three-run walkoff home run off “The Monster,” Boston’s hulking reliever, Dick Radatz.

I wrote this while at the Globe in 1999:

Dick Radatz was so close to being named Most Valuable Player of the 1964 All-Star Game that he was already imagining what it would be like to slip behind the wheel of the Corvette that the game’s MVP received.

“But then that son of a gun backed it right out of my garage,” said the former Red Sox fireballer.

“That son of a gun” was Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison, who took Radatz deep for a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the National League a stunning 7-4 win over the American Leaguers, who did not take kindly to losing.

“My locker was in between {Mickey} Mantle and {Rocky} Colavito, and there must have been 30 reporters around me after the game,” Radatz said.

“One of the reporters asked, `What did he hit, Dick?’ Mantle turned around and said, `One of the damnedest home runs you’ve ever seen.’ And he wasn’t laughing, either.”

Radatz was an All-Star in both 1963 and ’64, when he reigned as the AL’s best closer.

“Yeah, I struck out 10 guys in 4 2/3 innings in those games, and all I have to show for it is an 0-1 record and a 7-plus ERA,” Radatz said.

 

1950, Chicago’s Comiskey Park

Ted Williams had often said that he had no intention of running into walls in pursuit of a catch. “What’s the sense of it?” Ted had told Time magazine that spring. “You hit the wall and maybe you don’t get hurt, but you’re out of position to play the ball and the guy takes the extra base.… If you get hurt bad, you’re out for a long time and how the hell does that help your ball club?”

Williams paid a steep price for not heeding his own advice in the first inning of the All-Star Game, when he made a fine running catch of a Ralph Kiner line drive, then crashed into the left-field wall, using his left elbow to brace for the collision. He remained in the game and played eight innings, but was in agony on the four-hour flight back to Boston.

“Ted was holding his hand in his shirt, and he said, ‘This [expletive] thing, I think it’s broken,’’’ Walt Dropo, another Sox All-Star recalled.

His instincts proved correct. Two days after the game, doctors removed seven bone chips from the elbow. Williams did not return to the starting lineup until Sept. 15, when he had four hits, including a home run, in a 12-9 win over the Browns that drew the Sox to 1 ½ games of first place. But over his next dozen games, Williams, the elbow still hurting, batted .159 (7 for 44). The Sox finished four games out of first, and that season would be the last in which Williams was in a pennant race.

 

1946, Fenway Park

There had been no All-Star Game in 1945, because of wartime restrictions on travel, so this gathering in Fenway Park took on the aspect of a grand reunion, with many of the stars having been away at war. Eight Sox players were on the team, which is still a club record.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more festive occasion,” remembered Phillies All-Star Frank McCormick, quoted in the book, The Victory Season, by Robert Weintraub. “Guys who hadn’t seen one another in years were crossing back and forth before the game to shake hands and visit. It was great.”

And here was a fan, Virginia Hanley, recalling the atmosphere in the Melrose (MA) Mirror in 1999: “Everyone was in a relaxed, happy mood. We had won the war and most of our favorite players had come home safely. The men in the stands had fought in the same battles as the athletes and shared memories that they never spoke of to us ‘civilians.’ There was a strong feeling of togetherness in the crowd, both on and off the field.’’

Rip Sewell was a journeyman pitcher who shot himself in the foot prior to going hunting, and in the aftermath of that accident developed a lobbed pitch that became known as an “eephus” pitch. The nickname came from a teammate. Maurice Van Robays, who said that “an eephus ain’t nuthin’ and neither is that pitch.”

The American League was leading, 9-0, when Ted Williams, who already had homered and singled twice, came to the plate to face Sewell, who made no secret he intended to throw his eephus, which supposedly was homer-proof. Williams fouled off the first one, then took a fastball for strike two. Sewell’s third pitch, an eephus, was off the plate.

His next delivery, Sewell would say later, was his “Sunday Super Duper Blooper.’’

“It was amazing how high Sewell threw it up in the air,” Bobby Doerr recalled much later. “It came straight down on you.”

Williams hit it into the bullpen.

“I guess if anyone would hit it out, it would be Ted,”  Doerr said.

1941, Detroit’s Briggs Stadium

The National League held a 5-4 lead with two on and two out in the ninth, with Ted Williams coming to the plate to face Cubs’ ace Claude Passeau. The pitcher describes the moment in “Red Sox Nation:”

“We had an out and a man on first base, and the ball was hit by Joe DiMaggio to the shortstop. He threw over to Billy Herman playing second base, and Herman has been quoted that he kind of showboated and threw to first base and missed it by a foot. DiMaggio was safe at first on the play, and he should have been out, and I would have been out of the inning.

“So Williams got a chance to hit with two on, and that was the second time I ever pitched to him—nobody ever talks about that I struck him out the first time. And I got the ball where I wanted to, inside; that’s where I had to pitch all left-handed hitters. He hit the ball inside the trademark, a fly ball, but it hit the façade in right.’’

That three-run walkoff home run by Williams produced one of the enduring displays of unbridled joy by Williams, who cavorted around the bases like the 22-year-old he was.

This is how Joe Cronin remembered the moment, as recounted by Leigh Montville in Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero.

“I was sitting in the dugout when he hit the home run, and I jumped up and ran as fast as I could to home plate to meet him. As soon as Ted hit the ball, he stood in the batter’s box, watching the flight of the ball. While he was watching it, his arms shot straight over his head like a football referee signaling a touchdown, and as soon as the ball hit the top of the façade, he started clapping his hands and jumping up and down. He did this all around the bases.’’