It's not a good day in Red Sox history.
Thirty-five years ago today, Bucky F. Dent was formally introduced to New England.
It was a wonderful, sunny, fall Monday in New England until about 4:30 or so. It was the best excuse I ever had to leave class early at Arlington High School that didn't involve illicit activity, lunch or Senioritis.
My family sat in Section 22, right behind home plate, using those funny-looking "E2" tickets that cost all of $4.75 apiece, tax included. [That's my brother's ticket stub, BTW]. The chronology of that game has been burned into the memories of those old enough to remember it and recited ad nauseam to Red Sox fans who aren't.
By the time Yaz popped up to end it, my two brothers and I had slithered our way down to some empty seats in the second row behind the Red Sox on-deck circle. We could hear the Yankees cheering and George Steinbrenner clapping directly across the field at our level after Graig Nettles caught the final out.
Start spreadin' the news.
The silence at Fenway and across New England was deafening.
The good news, is that 35 years later, the Red Sox and their fans are no longer haunted by that game or its outcome.
Thankfully, "Bucky F. Dent" doesn't pack the punch it once did. Time can have its advantages.
October 2, 1978 has become just another milepost during a long run of misery and frustration which ended nine years ago.
[Nine years . . . it's also been that long - as of February - since the Patriots won a Super Bowl.]
Talk about the good old days.
There's no need to relive that October 2 this October 2.
But check out this You Tube video for a couple of classic commercials that aired during the game.
When the new Yaz statue was unveiled last week, all the talk was about the cosmic bond between 1967 and 2013, the absence of Dwight Evans and Luis Tiant in the Hall of Fame and the fact that "Ben put a team together, and John pushed all the right buttons."
No mention of 1978, even though Yaz led off the second inning of Game 163 with a line-drive home run to right field off Ron Guidry.
The Red Sox spent all of "Fenway 100" 2012 celebrating the past and drowning in the present.
2013 has been all about 2013. And who had the Red Sox outlasting the Federal Government in the "October 2013 Shutdown Pool?" This October 2, the Red Sox will be focused on the future and will learn whether they face the Tampa Bay Rays or Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.
Both potential opponents are beatable, yet potentially dangerous.
Each delivers a great story line:
The Rays have matured and developed into a legit rival for Boston, even if their Game 163 victory parade had fewer cars than the 3 a.m. drive-thru at Dunkin' Donuts. The prospect of postseason Red Sox baseball in St. Petersburg means Boston has the potential for five home games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Rays beat Boston in the 2008 ALCS, which was the last time the Red Sox won a playoff game.
The Indians are managed by Terry Francona.
Winning a playoff game remains the last "must do" for this Red Sox team before it enters the "it's all dessert from here stage."
The Doomsayers have already chimed in about how Francona has a Svengarlic hold on his former players and will out-manage Farrell at each pivotal moment.
I witnessed the 1978 playoff game and Game 7 of the 1975 World Series in person. Red Sox cynicism, fatalism and trauma was seared into my childhood soul. My stripes are well-earned. But the best record in the AL seems to carry about as much weight with some "Stink Hats" as the Patriots 4-0 start. Facts do matter once in a while, even when you want to deliver a bombastic, hot take on the radio.
This October 2, the Red Sox are brimming with optimism. And for good reason. The Red Sox lineup worked the pitch count and wore down starting pitching better than any team in baseball this season. Boston led the American League in runs scored , doubles , team OPS [.795] and, of course, wins . According to CBSSportsLine, they recently went to the 17th batter in a game before someone swung at a first pitch.
The starting nine [depending on which nine John Farrell chooses] are all healthy entering the postseason. Thinking Jacoby Ellsbury's foot should be fine for this playoff/free-agent money run. Boston's rotation has solidified, with Jon Lester emerging as the missing ace. The closer is Jonathan Papelbon circa 2007 without the melodrama. The potential pothole is whatever happens between when the starter leaves and Koji Uehara begins.
Tito and his Little Indians had a spectacular run in September, going 21-6 and winning 10 straight to finish the season and clinch home field for Wednesday's play-in game.
He even had some fun the other day with the disaster that was 2011.
What was Indians' secret to success in September? "We stayed away from chicken and beer," Francona quipped.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 30, 2013
So, yes, the Red Sox, their fans and the media members who cover the team can even laugh about "chicken and beer" these days.
Guess time does heal all wounds.
Even on October 2.
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