Category Archives: Red Sox

The Man Who Made Me a Baseball Fan

Abraham "Bob" Tubin with Red Sox second baseman Mike Andrews at Fenway Park in the early 1970s. Tubin was making a donation to the official Sox charity, The Jimmy Fund, on behalf of his fellow Boston Herald truck drivers.

Abraham “Bob” Tubin with Red Sox second baseman Mike Andrews at Fenway Park in the early 1970s. Tubin was making a donation to the official Sox charity, The Jimmy Fund, on behalf of his fellow Boston Herald truck drivers.

To my Grandpa Bob Tubin, every Red Sox player who wasn’t Ted Williams or Yaz was an overpaid bum or “primadonna,” but the TV was always on Channel 38.

I used to fall asleep on his couch and get woken up when Butch Hobson or George Scott would go deep.

Awesome that he got to see the 2004 Sox win the World Series before he died. Here he is with 1967 second baseman Mike Andrews, making a donation to The Jimmy Fund from his fellow Boston Herald drivers.

Andrews went on to become president of The Jimmy Fund and my grandfather went on to turn his grandson into a baseball fan. He would have LOVED the World Series victory last night!

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David Ortiz Ate Here: Confessions of a Grown-Up Red Sox Fanboy

Read "I Am a Red Sox Fanboy," my opinion column for CNN.com, by double clicking Dustin Pedroia's beard.

Read “I Am a Red Sox Fanboy,” my column for CNN.com, by double clicking Dustin Pedroia’s beard.

Journalism has brought me close up with political leaders, CEOs, inventors, scientists, actors, musicians and even Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley” fame.

But only baseball players can make me feel 12 years old again.

Timed for the World Series, I wrote a fun column for CNN.com about the thrill of spotting Red Sox players out of uniform — without the help of baseball cards.

Here’s a sneak peek:

“Is baseball hothead David Price right? Are the millions of us who never pitched beyond Little League just a bunch of starstruck wannabes?

During the American League Divisional Series, the Tampa Bay Rays star lashed out at the media after giving up seven earned runs in seven innings. “Nice questions, nerds!” he hissed at reporters. Then Price got mean. On Twitter, he called Sports Illustrated scribe Tom Verducci a nerd who wasn’t even a water boy in high school.” He stopped there, passing up the temptation to mock Verducci’s prom date or how much he can bench press.

Price’s snotty attitude exists for one reason. Many of my fellow baseball nuts DO think players are cooler than the rest of us. The fact is, no matter how successful we may be in our professional lives, many of us would instantly trade in our careers for a (your team here) uniform.”

Oddly, a tongue-in-cheek column like this has attracted some angry comments directed at Boston and Bostonians. I know writers are advised to NEVER read the anonymous comments beneath their stories, but I always touch the Third Rail.

Check out my column, “I am a Red Sox Fanboy,” and please share it with fellow baseball fans. Even though it’s focused on the Sox, you really could fill in the blanks with players from your favorite team — or characters from any celebrity watching endeavor for that matter.

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Undeniable Evidence of My Undeniable Role in the 2013 Red Sox Turnaround

My first cover story for New Hampshire Magazine explores the die-hard subculture of Red Sox fans in the Granite State -- and their state of mind after one of the worst seasons in Sox history. (Cover design by J Porter)

April’s NH Magazine explored the die-hard subculture of Red Sox fans in the Granite State — and their uncrushable faith after one of the worst seasons in Sox history. (Double click to read the story)

Why yes, I am taking credit for the success of the 2013 Red Sox. Back in April, my New Hampshire Magazine story foreshadowed the Redemption, the Faith and the Realignment of the Baseball Universe.

Be sure to read the story as part of your pre-World Series rituals!

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What I was doing when the other kids played with Star Wars figures*

Carney Lansford: The Batting Champion Who Needed Glasses

Lansford: The Batting Champ Who Needed Glasses

File This Under “Stories That Make Me Sound Like My Grandfather.”

I used to spend a TON of time clipping box scores and newspaper articles about Red Sox games and glue them in a thick homemade construction paper scrapbook. It looked like an overstuffed wallet exploding with receipts and bank statements.

A significant portion of that scrapbook was devoted to new Sox third baseman Carney Lansford, who replaced my beloved Butch Hobson in 1981, but quickly won me over.  Beyond his clutch hitting, I think I identified with him because he wore big clunky glasses like me. I was not thrilled with the idea of having to wear them.

I remember reading a column about Lansford’s vision and how his hitting dramatically improved after he could actually see the ball.  But for some reason, this gem wasn’t glued down for posterity.

So I tried tracking the down the story from the source: Lowell Sun sportswriter Chaz Scoggins. I naturally assumed that all writers kept a personal archive of everything they wrote — and that they had meticulous filing systems.

In my childhood view, Scoggins had the best job in the world. Talking to Carney Lansford and getting paid for it. But he wasn’t in love with his own byline. At the end of the day, he threw his newspaper stories out.

I recently stumbled across a letter from Mr. Scoggins, expressing regret he could not help fill the gaping hole in my scrapbook. “Unfortunately,” he wrote. “like you I don’t save newspapers.”

The Sun didn’t index their stories in the pre-Internet era. He suggested I visit their offices and skim through the microfilm, even giving me the name of their librarian.

Here’s the letter from Chaz Scoggins in its entirety. So impressed that he took the time to type out such a detailed letter to a kid.

How We Looked Up Newspaper Articles Before The Internet (Double click to enlarge)

How We Looked Up Newspaper Articles Before The Internet (Double click to enlarge)

Scoggins, a highly respected sportswriter, went on to become the official scorer of the Boston Red Sox.

(*As an aside, I played with Star Wars figures, too!)

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Opening Day Meditation: How I Learned to Stop Hating the New York Yankees

(click to enlarge image)

New Hampshire Magazine’s Photoshop guy is phenomenal. Yes, I did go to Yankee Stadium for this story, but the yoga happened at their Manchester newsroom. That’s a Kevin Youkilis jersey in case you were curious. (Double click to read story)

It’s Opening Day: Yankees vs. Red Sox — and let the gloating begin!

Based on the injuries the Yanks are battling with A-Rod, Jeter and Texiera, there’s a fair chance that Boston and New York will be fighting each other to stay out of last place this year.

Sure, celebrating would be premature at this point, but fans in Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay have to like their chances in the AL East where the Sox and Yanks used to trade off the division title and the Wild Card every season.

Before the Sox took their depressing nose dive, I surprised my son with a Yankee Stadium trip to see the home team when Sox-Yanks tickets at Fenway were simply unaffordable. To my surprise, I liked many of the people sitting around me despite my lifetime of regarding Yankees fans as arrogant, obnoxious punks. You can read my humble attempt at a Nobel Peace Price nomination in the April issue of New Hampshire Magazine, on newsstands now.

contributors New Hampshire Magazine Darren Garnick
I love this cover, especially since New Hampshire was recently ranked as the Least Religious State in America by the Pew Research Center. The Red Sox is a more popular religion around here than Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism combined.

My first cover story for New Hampshire Magazine explores the die-hard subculture of Red Sox fans in the Granite State -- and their state of mind after one of the worst seasons in Sox history. (Cover design by J Porter)

My first cover story for New Hampshire Magazine explores the die-hard subculture of NH Red Sox fans — and their fragile psychology after one of the most disappointing seasons in Sox history. (Cover design by J Porter)

We left no New Hampshire baseball angle unexplored, even tracking down Carlton Fisk’s 1963 high school yearbook. He’s the guy holding the trophy on the far right.

What if Carlton Fisk had decided to pursue pro basketball instead of pro baseball?

What if Carlton Fisk had decided to pursue pro basketball instead of pro baseball?

You can read the full story here.

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Beyond Crappy Bosses: Favorite Obscure Tidbits Mined from the New Terry Francona Book

Literary Overdose? Red Sox Dominance on my Bookshelves.

Literary Overdose:  Sox Dominance on my Bookshelves.

Based on my stockpile of baseball books, my home could be turned into the Red Sox Library of Congress. A quick snapshot of the Boston volumes on my shelves:

* Idiot by Johnny Damon.
* Deep Drive by Mike Lowell with Rob Bradford.
* Big Papi by David Ortiz with Tony Massarotti.
* Now I Can Die in Peace by Bill Simmons.
* Why Not Us? by Leigh Montville.
* Ted Williams by Leigh Montville.
* Watching Baseball by Jerry Remy.
* Have Globe, Will Travel by Bill Lee and Richard Lally.
* Red Sox Where Have You Gone?  by Steve Buckley.

That doesn’t even count all my other baseball books like Designated Hebrew by Ron Blomberg and Dan Schlossberg, and Big Hair & Plastic Grass by Dan Epstein. If unauthorized autobiographies for Orlando Cabrera, Randy Kutcher and Jack Brohammer ever come out, you can be sure I will be first at the book signings.

How many books about the Terry Francona Red Sox can one guy really read? I leaped on the ex-manager’s memoir as soon as it came out because I felt he was unceremoniously treated like crap and scapegoated on his way out of Boston. I was thrilled when I saw this billboard in Kenmore Square, only a few steps away from the Popeye’s Chicken restaurant favored by Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey:

Ballsy Billboard for Francona's Revenge

Ballsy Billboard for Francona’s Revenge

Yet, although I’ve always respected Terry Francona, he’s always bored me. Over the years, his press conference answers were straight out of the Bull Durham Cliche School and he cared more about keeping peace in the clubhouse than speaking his mind.  It’s definitely worth the $17 — less than a Fenway bleacher seat — to “listen” to him let loose on his unappreciative bosses and the occasional player (read: MANNY) who treated him like crap.

As is often the case, the big revelations in the book were leaked before the publicity tour, but I found the minutia fascinating. A few favorite snippets:

1. At the 2007 World Series, security at the Colorado Rockies park refused to believe that diminutive Dustin Pedroia was a Major League ballplayer:

Page 193 (Click to enlarge)

Page 193 (Click to enlarge)

2. Pete Rose was a Mean Boss:

Page 243 (Click to enlarge)

Page 243 (Click to enlarge)

3. A Burned Down Bridge Can’t Be Burned Any Further:

Page 342 (Click to enlarge)

Page 342 (Click to enlarge)

4. You Never Know What You’ll Overhear in the Verizon Wireless Store: 

Page 333 (Click to enlarge)

Page 333 (Click to enlarge)

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Baseball Records of Another Kind — When the Spaceman Was the Posterboy For Stereo Speakers

Just stumbled across this advertising masterpiece in my 1975 Boston Red Sox souvenir program, the same precious archive that stores the Bob Montgomery denim leisure suit from Jordan Marsh.

Spaceman Stereos

Spaceman Stereos

Strangely, I never knew the real origins of Bill Lee’s “Spaceman” nickname. But it’s the “cool guy” hat (reminiscent of Rudy from Fat Albert) and the turntable that make me smile.

Bill Lee has long been a media darling for saying what’s on his mind, demonstrated on this autographed baseball below:

Staying (Kinda) Classy -- Red Sox legend Bill Lee sometimes autographs baseballs "Yankees Suck Pond H2O."

Former Red Sox star Bill Lee sometimes autographs baseballs “Yankees Suck Pond H2O.”

I caught up with Lee recently for an Atlantic Magazine story on the waning Red Sox-Yankees T-Shirt War.

This quote from our conversation has nothing to do with stereo speakers or 1970s fashion, but it sums up life:

“Without rivalries, there is no game,” Lee adds. “You have to respect your opponent, but when your opponent is down, you must step on them and never let them get up. You want to make sure the enemy isn’t still breathing.”

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Fashion Flashback: Carlton Fisk Apparently Didn’t Want to Pose in This Denim Suit

Jordan Marsh, now part of Macy's, had no idea the 1975 Red Sox would become American League Champions when they signed backup catcher Bob Montgomery as a spokesmodel. (Click to enlarge).

Jordan Marsh, now part of Macy’s, had no idea the 1975 Red Sox would become American League Champions when they signed backup catcher Bob Montgomery as a spokesmodel. (Click to enlarge).

This was almost three decades before Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield went on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to makeover their wardrobes.

I love the 1970s — people took you seriously when you wore clothes like this.

Bob Montgomery is a classy guy, but I can’t imagine that the backup catcher was the first choice of Jordan Marsh or Haggar to walk the runway.

Carlton Fisk must have said “No way!”

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The Virtual Hassles of Virtually Begging for (Non-Virtual) Red Sox Tickets

When the best players in the Major Leagues "only" earned $1 million salaries, $5 tickets were still a reality. (Autographed by Sox closer Bill "Soup" Campbell).

When the best players in the Major Leagues “only” earned $1 million salaries, $5 tickets were still a reality. (Autographed by Sox closer Bill “Soup” Campbell).

For the first time in my 30-plus years worshiping the Red Sox, I’m going to Opening Day!

My son and I will be sitting behind a pole in the infield grandstands, where we have been warned that either the catcher, the pitcher “or both” will not be visible, but hey, seeing 7 out of the 9 players is better than only seeing five or six. Maybe I won’t need to see home plate if the Sox don’t score. And maybe I’ll be happier NOT seeing Jon Lester depending on whether he’s having a Charlie Brown kind of day on the mound or not.

Pretty much describes the 2012 Red Sox starting rotation.

Pretty much describes the 2012 Red Sox starting rotation.

Healthy cynicism aside, I’m looking forward to experiencing the pageantry and eternal hope of a new season and bragging rights of being there. My dad has been a great dad but he would’ve been even greater if he had taken me out of school to see a ballgame.

What I’m not so thrilled about is the Red Sox tradition of Crappy Customer Service.

I entered an online drawing for an EXCLUSIVE TICKET OPPORTUNITY to buy up to four seats for Opening Day or for a Yankees-Red Sox game later in the year. I “won” a spot to enter the Virtual Waiting Room yesterday and logged on promptly at noon, the first moment they were taking orders. I stared at the screen (while typing other work) and a running shot clock told me how many seconds were left before they’d try to let me get to the Virtual Ticket Window.  This took at least 40 cycles.

Once I was in, I clicked on every seat category under $55 (see my childhood ticket stub above) and the computer said there was nothing left. Meanwhile, a 2:30 shot clock runs at every stage of the process, warning you that another fan will get your slot in the waiting room if you don’t finalize the transaction (this involves typing in credit card numbers, security codes, passwords, mother’s maiden name, blood types, etc.)

With no tickets showing up as choices, I clicked on “Best Available,” knowing that if they gave me the $170 Pavillion Club, I’d have to bail out. The system is not forgiving. If you don’t want what they offer you, you cannot log back on for more options.

After finally making it to the purchase round despite my unreliable Internet connection, I was greeted with the following screen:

"We're sorry, we were unable to process your request due to high transaction volumes. Please try to submit your request again." (Click to enlarge)

“We’re sorry, we were unable to process your request due to high transaction volumes. Please try to submit your request again.” (Click to enlarge)

Blaming my frozen screen on HIGH TRANSACTION VOLUMES?  Isn’t that the reason for shoving us all in the virtual waiting rooms in the first place? Yes, I know I have become one of those unstable angry Internet people I try to avoid whenever possible. The kind of people who would call me up when I was a newspaper reporter and yell at me for getting their paper tossed in the snow or missing the Sunday coupon section.

I’ll be able to focus on the moment when I’m at Fenway Park and will try to channel that feeling of being there as a kid again. But right now is time to vent. I know I’m a sucker for fighting for tickets to see the Last Place Boston Red Sox, but do we all have to put up with Last Place Customer Service, too?

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My Day With Squiggy — Yes, That Squiggy!

Actor David Lander as Squiggy

Actor David Lander as Squiggy

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Squiggy’s Secret: Even Pop Culture Icons Can Get MS”
Originally published in The Telegraph
May 18, 2001

One of the Golden Rules of Journalism is “Thou Shalt Not Ask an Interview Subject For an Autograph.” The rationale makes sense. Reporters who giddily ask for autographs are unlikely to ask tough questions.  Editors also  resent the idea of their publications being confused with fan club magazines.  Lacking self-control, I broke that sacred rule last week.  I broke it for “Squiggy.”

David L. Lander, who played the quirky character in the 1970s sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” was in town to discuss his 17-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis and why he hid his condition from the public until 1999. I was working behind the scenes for a TV network doing the typical “Celebrity Disease of the Week” feature. President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) on “The West Wing” revealed he had the same illness this month, giving MS enough temporary status to merit media coverage.

Our day began at Squiggy’s hotel and wrapped up at Fenway Park, where we shot footage of him watching the Red Sox and Mariners during batting practice. Lander’s publicist shared Squiggy stories to kill some time. Earlier that morning, at the Philadelphia airport, a fan rushed up to him with a baseball and blurted, “David Lander?  I have autographs of every ‘Laverne & Shirley’ cast member except for you!”  Lander signed the ball, not bothering to ask why the fan happened to have a baseball at the airport. The publicist suspected there might be a Squiggy stalker on the loose.

At the end of our assignment, we were in the Red Sox press box with Lander as he filled out his scorecard. I pulled a baseball out of my pocket and said in an ultra-serious tone, “David, at home I have autographed baseballs of every cast member of ‘Laverne and Shirley’ except for you. Would you please sign my baseball?”

He nodded without hesitation, but neither he nor his publicist picked up on the joke. “I was kidding,” I said. “I was referring to the psycho you met today at the airport… But I still would like to get it signed.” Lander smiled, thinking it was a strange coincidence, but was too polite to compare me to his stalker.

The conversational banter continued to flow naturally until I said I wanted the autograph because I was a “big pop culture buff.”

“Oh, is that what I am?” Lander replied.

Following an awkward moment of silence, I felt instant guilt. From Squiggy’s perspective, I had just reduced him to Archie Bunker’s chair or Dorothy’s ruby slippers. I may as well have built a glass display case around him.  But it was true: I would have been far less gung-ho about meeting a non-celebrity struggling with MS.

The whole time I was with Lander, most of our small talk was about baseball. He seemed ecstatic that I not only had heard of the Portland Beavers (the AAA minor league Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate), but mentioned Luis Tiant’s comeback there. Turns out that Lander had paid some of Tiant’s salary when the team couldn’t afford it, making him a five-percent owner. It was genuine sports talk, but for me it was sports talk with Squiggy.

Squiggy loves the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Squiggy loves the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I wasn’t the only one.  At the ballgame, a few fans recognized Lander and asked him to sign their Red Sox programs, insisting that “Squiggy” be written in addition to “David.” Perhaps unaware that “Laverne & Shirley” was scripted, one guy said, “You always seemed to enter at the right time!”

Lenny (Michael McKean) and Squiggy were the forefathers of characters like Kramer on “Seinfeld.” The socially awkward best friends would enter a room unannounced whenever Laverne and Shirley would daydream about their missing Romeos.  Squiggy had the honor of triggering the laugh track. “Hello!” he’d say in a nerdy voice, which is simply not as funny on paper.

What happened to Lenny after that show is well known. Part of the Rob Reiner-Christopher Guest-Harry Shearer collaborative team, he’s been churning out clever comedies (“This is Spinal Tap,” “Best In Show.”) ever since. What happened to Squiggy is outlined in “Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn’t Tell Nobody,” his autobiography released last fall.

MS first strikes people in their 20s and 30s and gets progressively worse with age. It is a particularly scary disease because it causes muscle weakness and extreme fatigue without warning.  Some people first lose strength in an arm or leg; others later feel numb in all four extremities.  MS wreaks havoc with the central nervous system, stripping people of their balance and eventually, their freedom to walk.

For 15 years, Lander let people think he was an alcoholic every time he stumbled at an inopportune moment. That image was more preferable than being known as a victim of MS, a stigma he feared would make him unemployable in Hollywood.

Watching Lander limp around the batting cage at Fenway Park, his balance preserved for now with the help of MS drugs, made me a little less cynical about “Celebrity Disease of the Week” stories.  Squiggy was still smiling.

In Lander’s eyes, I saw him as a walking, talking 1970s relic to be auctioned on eBay. Sure, I devoted more brain time to Laverne & Shirley in a few hours than I had in my entire life. But I also spent much of the day thinking about Multiple Sclerosis. For that alone, Lander’s post-Squiggy role is a huge success.

**

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