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Sunday, August 19, 2007

When the Stars Align in Boston ...

I was very happy to be with my family in the grandstands at Fenway Park on Saturday evening, a perfect, cool summer night in New England. We settled into our seats early as batting practice was coming to a close. I enjoyed surveying the scene at Fenway and watching the pre-game media operation in action.

The NESN cameras were set up along the first base line and Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe was doing an interview back to the NESN studios in Watertown. I met Dan in 1981 when he was a beat writer for the Boston Globe covering the Celtics. Now, he is a celebrated columnist and author. I remember when his kids were in strollers at the NBA league meetings in Salt Lake City and now, Dan wrote of his son's senior year on a high school baseball team here in Boston.

In a non-working mode, I thought about making my way down, past Fenway security and ushers to see Dan after his report. I watched him navigate the warning track along with the first base side, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who were waiting patiently along the roped off areas on the beautifully groomed Fenway turf. But, I thought twice as I enjoyed my time with family and the assignment to 'get some popcorn' for my 10-year old.

But, guess what?

I had a great meeting with Dan on Sunday morning. It was scheduled when I opened up the Sunday Globe and read his terrific column to describe the scene playing out in Boston this weekend. Dan knocked it home, the same way that Big Papi knocked the game-winning 'grannie' out to the rightfield grandstand last night to beat the "Whatever they are Calling them" Angels last night.

It was a newspaper column at its very best. A column that is losing its place in American journalism and sports journalism in this era of 'get the story first' or worse-yet, 'manufacture the story if you can't get the story first.'

Dan's column took a few things from the Red Sox nation's weekend schedule and wove them together in a heart-warming manner.

And, in case you were busy with life or located in another time zone, the things that Baseball fans in New England witnessed this August 17-18-19th:

1. A great Jimmy Fund "Radio-Telethon" by WEEI-Radio and NESN which raised some $3.6 million to fight cancer and the most terrible form of the disease - children's cancer. The weekend of fund-raising and awareness was underlined by a terrific moment on Friday night when a 7-year old cancer patient named Jordan Leandre sang the USA national anthem and then took an impromptu circle of the bases at the request of Jimmy Fund administrator, Mike Andrews.

2. Mike Andrews was playing second base for the 1967 Red Sox exactly 40 years to the date - August 18 - when Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro took a Jack Hamilton fastball to the head/eye. The Red Sox paid tribute to Tony C last night with a "25" etched into the right field grass and a salute to Rhode Island.

That '67 Red Sox team is one of the reasons I love the sport of baseball. As a kid growing up on Long Island, I had a natural connection to Carl Yastrzemski, a native of Bridgehampton, Long Island and the 1967 AL MVP and triple crown winner. I remember following that Red Sox team and having a great poster of "Yaz" on my bedroom wall.

3. A Little League team from Walpole, Mass won a game after their outfielder, Mike Rando, made a game-saving catch to snatch a ball that would have been a homer.

4. The Red Sox are leading the American League East. The .598 winning percentage (best in baseball as of Aug 19) and five-game lead is just enough to have every Sox fan thinking World Series but little enough to have everyone looking over their shoulders at a New York Yankee team closing like a race horse on the Suffolk Downs stretch.

It struck me as 'wonderful' to see a whole nation of Red Sox fans focused on all of the tremendous things in sports and not a mention or care of the "steroids-dog-fighting-rogue referee" sports world that seems to be dominating this summer's headlines and talk radio.

So, the clear New England skies from Chatham, Mass to Portsmouth, NH were an astonomer's dream come true this past weekend. And, Dan Shaughnessy provided the telescope.

You just had to know where to look in the sky.

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