Baseball Start Off With Great Ceremony
April 23, 2012

Dodger Stadium turned 50 earlier this month, but it has nothing on Fenway Park. Boston's venerable home of the Red Sox celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday, and it was quite a party. Every living former Red Sox player, coach, and manager was invited to attend, and over 200 showed up. There were Red Sox for fans of every age to appreciate.

Recent fans, and youngers ones, got to see Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Lou Merloni. If you are a little older, you were happy to see Mo Vaughn. Jose Canseco was even there, kissing his bicep as he made his entrance from center field (you may have forgotten that Canseco spent two seasons with the Red Sox and hit 52 home runs). The next generation stood up for guys like Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Jerry Remy, Dwight Evans, and Bill Buckner. They kept coming. Luis Tiant, Rico Petrocelli, Jim Lonborg, and Reggie Smith. Recently fired manager Terry Francona wasn't sure whether he should attend, but he did, and maybe got the biggest cheers of all.

But wait, there's more. Even older still, out came Johnny Pesky (age 92) and the oldest living Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr (age 94). Both were in wheelchairs, escorted by Varitek and Wakefield respectively.

The ceremony included the Boston Pops playing “Fanfare for Fenway”, written by conductor John Williams. The game that followed was fittingly played against the Yankees, who were known as the New York Highlanders when the Red Sox played them on April 20, 1912. And the uniforms were as close to 1912 as you could get. Neither team had numbers on their unis. The Red Sox wore all white with 'Red Sox' in red across the chest, and plain white caps. The Yankees wore gray with an NY logo on the front, and their regular Yankee caps. By the way, the Yankees won 6-2, but Red Sox fans won't think about that. I'm not a Red Sox fan, but you didn't have to be. Any fan of the sport would have loved the day, and what a living museum Fenway has become.

A's celebrate '72 champs: On Saturday night, the Oakland A's had a pretty impressive ceremony of their own, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 team that won the World Series—the first of three consecutive championships. Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, Rollie Fingers, Ken Holtzman, and Joe Rudi were just some of the honorees. They were all introduced by former broadcaster Monte Moore. The wife of the late Jim “Catfish” Hunter threw out the ceremonial first pitch. An interesting twist to this ceremony was all of the current A's players were on the field to shake hands with the '72 players. Credit for that touch of class goes to A's manager Bob Melvin.

Trivia Time (stealing this idea from the old 'Morning Briefing' column in the Los Angeles Times years ago): Who is the all-time winningest Jewish pitcher in the Major Leagues? It's not Sandy Koufax.

More anniversaries: There are a few more baseball milestones this year. 2012 is the 20th anniversary of the opening of Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, considered by many as the first of the “new” ballparks (Chicago's New Comiskey Park opened earlier, but from what I hear, doesn't have the special feel of the parks that followed). This is also the 35th anniversary of the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays—American League expansion teams in 1977, the 40th anniversary of the Texas Rangers—who were the Washington Senators until 1972, and the 50th anniversary of the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s—National League expansion teams in 1962. The Colt .45s became the Astros when the Astrodome opened in 1965. The '62 Mets lost 120 games that year, leading manager Casey Stengel to say, “Can't anybody here play this game?”, which later became a book title about that team.

Perfect game: Before Saturday's games, I couldn't decide whether I felt sorry or happy for Fox viewers in Seattle and Chicago. They were the only ones in the nation that didn't get (or didn't have to see) the Yankees-Red Sox game. As it turned out, they got to see Philip Humber's perfect game in its entirety. Fox switched the entire country to the White Sox-Mariners game for the bottom of the ninth, and the completion of Humber's perfecto. Humber's unlikely performance reminded me of Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2010, which I did get to watch in its entirety on local television.

The old man did it: With his win last week in Denver against San Diego, Jamie Moyer of the Colorado Rockies became the oldest pitcher in major league history to win a game. Moyer was born November 18, 1962 (six months after Dodger Stadium opened), and made his big league debut in 1986 (two years before NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was born). Moyer is not a fluke, either. With a 1-2 record and an ERA of 2.55, he's currently the best starter on the Colorado staff. I've mentioned this before, but Moyer is the only remaining major leaguer older than me.

The Hamilton-Scully Connection (sounds like a title for a Big Bang Theory episode, doesn't it?): There is at least one active Major League broadcaster older than Vin Scully. 84 year-old Milo Hamilton is still doing radio for the Houston Astros for their home games. Hamilton is more of a homer than Scully, and didn't have much of a call when Matt Kemp hit his eighth home run of the year Friday night. Hamilton, though, who said 1953 was his first year as a big league broadcaster, shared some stories about late Dodger catcher Roy Campanella. Hamilton, who is 88 days older than Scully, is probably best known for his radio call for the Atlanta Braves when Henry Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking the then-record held by Babe Ruth. That home run came against the Dodgers, and Scully had the call on Los Angeles television.

Trivia answer: Holtzman. He won 174 games with the Cubs, A's, Yankees, and Orioles from 1965 to 1979. I learned this from watching a documentary on bringing professional baseball to Israel. Koufax won 165 in 11 seasons, but retired with arm and elbow problems at the age of 30.

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