Category Archives: Sports Psychology

What Does a Bad News Bear Say to an Overweight Panda?

Engelberg-Sandoval-Cards

On the 40th anniversary of “The Bad News Bears,” I tracked down once-chubby catcher Mike Engelberg for his observations on the “Fat Panda” controversy with overweight Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval.

You can read my interview at The Hall of Very Good baseball blog.

In the classic movie, Engelberg got melted chocolate all over his uniform and the ball. 12-year-old actor Gary Cavagnaro wound up losing 70 pounds and gave up his movie career. The producers didn’t think a skinny catcher would be “funny” in the sequel.

Cavagnaro, now a 52-year-old sales manager for a multinational electronics company (we all have to grow up), is a fascinating guy!

P.S. I recently defended the besieged Sandoval in a WBUR column, “We Are All Fat Panda.”

P.P.S. The awesome 1977 Mike Engelberg baseball card at the top of this post was designed by the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.

 

 

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Filed under Bad News Bears, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports, Sports Psychology

Are we bad luck charms for the 2015 Boston Red Sox?

DustinPedroiaHeightChart

Consider this: Every time that Erik and I have posed with the Dustin Pedroia height chart at Fenway Park, he has gone on the disabled list. Mere minutes after this photograph was taken, the Sox second baseman pulled his hamstring.

Granted, this has only happened once, but I wonder if we might be bad karma for the 2015 last-place Red Sox?

I say this despite once having the following riveting conversation with Pedroia in a hotel lobby:

Me: “Hey, good game tonight!”

Pedroia: (Making direct eye contact) “Thanks.”

That historic moment was documented on CNN if you’d like to learn more.

 

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Filed under Red Sox Schlock, Sports Psychology

Fan Mail Can Go Both Ways – A Note From My “Pen Pal” Dan Quisenberry

I was a Red Sox fan growing up, but how could I NOT love Dan Quisenberry, the guy who led the league in saves throwing underhand!

I was a Red Sox fan growing up, but how could I NOT love Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, the guy who led the league in saves throwing underhand!

Handwritten letters are endangered species.

About the only places they live on are birthday cards, thank you notes and summer camp letters, which kids are forced to write because nostalgia keeps their parents signing those checkbooks (another endangered medium).

On the occasion of one of my favorite childhood baseball players, Dan Quisenberry, missing out on the Baseball Hall of Fame, I just wrote a column for The Atlantic reminiscing about the thrill of receiving a two-page letter from him in 1981. (“How Athletes Ensure Immortality: Not all greats make the Hall of Fame. Not all Hall of Famers are remembered. But a player who forges personal connections with fans with live on.”)

You can read the story here, but I’d also like to share the full text of the letter for the benefit of the world’s Kansas City Royals fans — or anyone who still cherishes the power of handwritten letters.

The idea of a professional athlete, let alone the American League’s best closer, taking the time to write a two-page letter to a kid he thought was “creative,” is unfathomable to me as a jaded adult. Sadly, Quisenberry died of brain cancer at age 45 — younger than the age that many of the kids watching him pitch would be now.

Here’s Dan’s letter for you to read for yourself:

Dan Quisenberry Letter - Page 1 of 2 (Double click to enlarge)

Dan Quisenberry Letter – Page 1 of 2 (Double click to enlarge)

** Continue reading

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Filed under Dan Quisenberry, Sports, Sports Psychology, Submarine Pitchers

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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Filed under advertising, Fashion, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports, Sports Psychology

Who Sucks Now? An Inside Peek at the Red Sox-Yankees T-Shirt Wars

CLASSY AND CONFIDENT: Yankees Captain Derek Jeter humors Red Sox fans at Fenway Park. (Photo courtesy of Sully’s Brand)

I grew up with a homemade “Official Yankees Hater” poster in my childhood bedroom.

But I never understood Red Sox fans who hate Derek Jeter, who probably has taken the brunt of the mockery on Boston’s raunchy souvenir t-shirts over the years.

Turns out that these kind of crass souvenirs don’t sell well in Boston anymore, but they are selling like hotcakes in the Bronx.

I explore the fascinating reasons why in The Atlantic:

Bronx t-shirt vendor “Bald” Vinny Milano shows off his wares after a Yankees-A’s game. (Double click to read the story)

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Filed under Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports Psychology, Yankee Stadium

Kerry Rules, Yankees Suck?

Did John Kerry lose the 2004 presidential election over improper messaging?

From the right-hand corner of the political button display in my office: The Fred Flintstone presidential campaign shares equal time with Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon (notice the name of his running mate?).

But my most curious political souvenir comes from the streets outside Boston’s Fleet Center at the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Kerry Rules, Yankees Suck.

Strangely, there is no punctuation. There should be one if not two exclamation points.

Given that Red Sox fans have been known to inexplicably chant “Yankees Suck!” at Celtics, Bruins and Patriots games, as well as at concerts, it’s not so surprising it would surface on the national political stage — regardless if the voters in the 44 non-New England states ever got the joke.

Now that the Red Sox unfortunately do suck, it will be fascinating to see what happens to the “Yankees Suck!” cheer.

Here’s betting that the bitterness and resentment outside Fenway Park gets much much worse.  Ironically, scapegoating the Bronx Bombers just made a cameo in the Scott Brown / Elizabeth Warren U.S. Senate race.

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Filed under Asinine Baseball Analogies, Red Sox, Sports Psychology, Yankee Stadium

Wish it were a Cubs fan in 1986…

Like all NY Post coverage of landmark events, this Khadafy farewell is an instant collector's item. (Click pic for more info)

There are now doubts as to who actually killed Moammar Gaddafi, but the accuracy and brilliance of the subhead cannot be challenged.

Two more thoughts on the drama:

1. Khadaffy (we’re using the different spellings to take advantage of SEO options) died like a villain in a Carl Hiaasen novel. As his killers (who could be as mean as Gadaffy) put it, he lived his last moments like a rat in a sewer pipe.

2. A damn shame that President Ronald Reagan didn’t take Khaddaffy out in his reprisal strike after the Berlin disco bombing. Then the Libyan dictator would have been offed by a Chicago Cubs fan.

For more “Culture Schlock” Libya coverage, see Khadaffy’s earlier vow not to surrender “like a woman.”

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Sports Psychology