Billionaire Slim cashes in on invite
Take last night, for example. ESPN game. Sox and Yankees tied for first place. Two of the top three payrolls in baseball. Baltimore-style humidity. Four hours and 15 minutes of hardball tension. A stunning, walkoff win by the Sox when Josh Reddick singled home pinch runner Darnell McDonald in the 10th. And who do we get hanging around the Sox clubhouse late in the afternoon?
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. The richest man in the world.
Go ahead, look him up. According to Forbes, in March of 2011 Carlos was worth something north of $74 billion.
Carlos loaned the New York Times $250 million in January of 2009, which the Times is soon to repay in full. Until the debt is settled, Slim is indirectly connected to Red Sox ownership. The Times still owns 7.3 percent of the Sox, so you might say Carlos has a piece of John Henry’s team.
Slim was the man sitting closest to Terry Francona when Reddick blasted a shot into the left-field corner off Phil Hughes to win the game and the series, and give the Sox sole possession of first place in the American League East. It was the Red Sox’ third walkoff win in their last five games.
But Carlos wasn’t here last night to oversee his investment. He was at Fenway as a guest of Adrian Gonzalez’s father, David.
Adrian’s dad played amateur baseball in Mexico and was a first baseman on the Mexican national team. Joined by a few other friends, David Gonzalez made the rounds at Fenway last night with his billionaire buddy. They took photos in the Sox clubhouse with David Ortiz, then watched batting practice from a spot on the field adjacent to the Red Sox dugout. Slim watched the game from Henry’s corner seat by the dugout (he moved upstairs to hang with Henry and Larry Lucchino, but returned to the lower boxes for the ninth). When Slim was in the lower boxes, David Gonzalez sat in the seat directly behind Slim. Few of the fans and ballplayers in the area were aware that they were in the presence of the richest man in the world.
“He’s walking around like it’s nothing,’’ said Big Papi. “Then you see some rapper guy and he’s got an entire entourage.’’
Cover major league baseball for a living and you are regularly reminded that you have one of the coolest jobs on the planet. Movie stars, kings, and rich guys all love to talk about baseball. Carlos Slim is no exception.
“I couldn’t believe how much he knew about baseball,’’ said Adrian Gonzalez, who had dinner with his father and Slim Saturday night.
Indeed, Slim has a Schwab-like knowledge of our national pastime and he’s decidedly old school. He asked me to name the five best pitchers of all time.
“Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young . . . ,’’ I started.
Somewhat pleased, Slim nodded at each nomination. When I added Sandy Koufax, he stopped and said, “No. He only had nine good seasons. I go with Satchel Paige and Grover Cleveland Alexander for my top five.’’
In case you’re wondering, Slim’s top five hitters are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby.
Not satisfied with his top-five lists, Slim wanted to show off a little. He asked me to name the batter with the most consecutive home run titles.
Sorry, Slim. No idea.
“It’s Ralph Kiner, with seven,’’ he said.
And of course, he’s right.
All in all, Slim seemed to be in a spectacular mood for a guy who, according to Bloomberg, lost $6.7 billion in last week’s market crash; let’s just say he was in better spirits than Yankees manager Joe Girardi after this morning’s backbreaking loss.
Does Slim want to buy a major league team?, I wondered. There’s speculation that the Dodgers might be going up for sale.
“No,’’ said the billionaire. “I just want to buy tickets to games.’’
Great. But I’m pretty sure the Sox comped him in Henrytown last night. Unless maybe Slim called Ace Tickets and got a deal.
Slim was aware of Ted Williams’s Mexican heritage (Williams’s mom’s maiden name was Venzor). He made it a point to speak with Sox righthander Alfredo Aceves, another Mexican major leaguer.
When the Sox and Yankees took their hacks in the cage, Slim kept a tight grip on his pine-tar-saturated Adrian Gonzalez bat.
“We are proud of him as a human being and as a baseball player,’’ Slim said. “It is very special for our country to have him.’’
Meanwhile, David Gonzalez - carrying a bag of souvenirs, like any Little League dad on his first trip to Fenway - beamed as the world’s richest man talked about his son.
“I was a good hitter, but I didn’t control the bat like my son,’’ said Adrian’s dad. “I tried to tell him to get a good pitch to hit. I hit a lot of mistakes. My son, he has control of the bat and that makes him a better hitter.’’
The series finale was riveting. Down, 2-1, in the ninth, the Sox (yet again) thwarted Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera when Dustin Pedroia scored Marco Scutaro (four hits) with a one-out sacrifice fly. After Daniel Bard smothered the Yankees in the top of the 10th, Boston won when Reddick followed Ortiz’s ground-rule double with the walkoff hit to left. Most of the 38,189 were still in their seats at the finish. Including Carlos Slim.
All in all, it was quite a weekend at the old ballyard. Larry David, Woody Harrelson, Spike Lee, Steven Tyler, and Gay Talese came to bear witness. Chad Ochocinco was there last night. Even Curt Schilling made an appearance, visiting with Francona (“I thought it was Michael Moore’’ - Francona) at the same time Slim took photos with Papi.
Imagine. The richest man in the world and the most interesting man in the world. Simultaneously.
The race is on.
Forty-nine games to go.
Stay thirsty, my friends.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.