by PATRICK CAVANAUGH
(MANCHESTER, N.H.)—It may not be the ideal night for baseball, but nonetheless, two rivals will face off in the Queen City tonight. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats take on the Portland Sea Dogs in game two of the three game series. The Fisher Cats will throw RHP Deck McGuire. The SeaDogs give righty Charlie Haegar the nod.
Haegar, 29, was drafted in 2001 by the Chicago White Sox when he was only 17! Another unique thing about Haegar is he throws a flawless knuckleball. He hurls it in at about 70 mph, and it is fairly accurate. The Eastern League has certainly seen it’s fair share of talent before, and this guy is another name to add to the list. Charlie Haegar may be a little too old to see time in The Show, but he certainly shows the big-league caliber talent that the Sea Dogs need.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats will go on to play the Portland Sea Dogs tomorrow (5/15) before they head on a seven-game roadtrip. For live updates throughout tonight’s game, you can follow Patrick on Twitter (@pcava12).
Welcome guest columnist Brian Danuff as he brings us this great commentary on the Boston/New York rivalry, also remembering the Boston Marathon tragedy one month to the day:
December 26, 1919 is a date not too many people remember. That day, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the team’s slugging star pitcher George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees.
Few knew it at the time, but the moment Frazee received $125,000 and New York received the face of Major League Baseball, a rivalry was born.
At first not really transitioning to the field, the Yankees and Red Sox quietly had a battle going on in seeing which team did better after the big “selling” of Babe Ruth. While each club had its share of glory during the remainder of the 20th century, there was a pretty clear winner of this deal.
With the trade of Ruth, the Red Sox still remained an admirable franchise however. Legends like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, and Roger Clemens all called Fenway Park home and guided the team to five division titles and four A.L. pennants.
Yet, bad luck, inconsistent play, or something called the “Curse of the Bambino” prevented the Sox from winning any World Series titles for 86 consecutive years, dating back to Ruth’s second-to-last season in Boston – 1918.
Meanwhile, things couldn’t have gone better for the Yankees.
After the Babe’s arrival, the team would become the dominant force we know today, winning four World Series and opening a grand new stadium during Ruth’s tenure in New York. Once he was gone, players such as Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle emerged, leading the Yanks to 16 more championships through 1962.
Following a 21st world title in 1977, the Red Sox had a golden chance to dethrone the Yankees in 1978. At one point they led the division by 14 1/2 games in the middle of July. But struggles for Boston and great play by interim manager Bob Lemon’s Yankees ensued, and it resulted in a tie for the division at the end of the season.
A one-game playoff (also known as game 163) at Fenway Park was played for the A.L. East title, and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead in the 7th inning. With two runners on, Bucky Dent came up and forever embedded his name into the heads of fans and both teams alike. He cranked a three-run home run over the Green Monster and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.
“The Curse” had gotten the Bo-Sox once again. The Yanks indeed repeated as world champions in 1978, and when the Red Sox finally had an opportunity to win it all with the Bombers out of the picture in 1986, their efforts were squandered by the other New York team – the Mets.
A ground ball through Bill Buckner’s legs cost the Red Sox what would have been a World Series clinching Game 6 victory, and they then lost Game 7 the following night. Saying it was a nightmare for the franchise and its fans was a huge understatement.
To make matters worse, being good, but not good enough during the 80’s and early 90’s caught up to Boston when the Yankees returned to relevance. A mix of battle-tested veterans and solid youngsters would help New York win four of five World Series in the late 90’s. The Sox had a chance to put an end to the dynasty in the two teams’ first ever playoff meet of the 1999 ALCS, but they rolled over and lost in five games.
Two years later, the Red Sox were far off from playoff contention finishing just one game over .500 (82-79). The Yankees on the other hand were steamrolling towards another division title in early September of 2001 when the world stood still.
New York City’s World Trade Center and 3,000 lives were lost on September 11th in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. Two hijacked airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers, and two others crashed into the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Suddenly, baseball meant nothing. Everyone’s attention turned to the affected areas, as MLB cancelled all games for a whole week. Players all around professional sports admitted to questioning whether or not to go back to playing at all, as it was displayed on TV stations all across America that there was way more important things in life than children’s’ sports being played by men.
However, sports did go on, and when baseball started back up every team kept New York in their thoughts, even the Red Sox. As a classy way of pushing aside the rivalry and paying tribute to the city, Fenway Park played Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York” during a game following 9/11.
That’s right. The Yankees’ anthem, known to play whenever the team wins, was being heard echoing through their rival’s ballpark. It wasn’t so much about the song, but the idea that Boston was able to put away their differences with New York and send out their support truly meant a lot to the recovery effort of the city. If the Red Sox were backing New York City, everyone must be.
But as we all know, life went on. Eventually, the Yankees and Red Sox were able to focus on baseball again, and it was the perfect time for it. Fresh off a stinging loss in the 2001 World Series that ended the team’s championship dynasty, the Yanks saw many old faces leave and new ones come in. Meanwhile, the Bo-Sox hired the youngest general manager in baseball history Theo Epstein, and he began building a dominant team.
New York had finally fallen back to Earth, and Boston had taken a step up. It was only a matter of time before the rivalry intensified once again.
The ability to “Cowboy Up” allowed the Red Sox to return the playoffs in 2003 with a 95 win campaign, good enough for the A.L. Wild Card. Boston would then defeat the A’s in the ALDS and advance. The Yankees, at 101 wins, won the division and breezed past the Minnesota Twins in the first round. Therefore, the stage was set – Yankees and Red Sox, the winner going to the World Series.
Everything from that ALCS is mostly a blur, however, except for the final pitch – or should I say “swing”. Aaron Boone launched a home run into the left field seats at the old Yankee Stadium to give New York the pennant and send Boston golfing.
The following year once again looked promising for the Red Sox – until, once again, they met up with the Yankees in the ALCS. This time, 2003 seemed like a distant memory, as the Bo-Sox didn’t even put up a fight in the beginning. Three straight dominating wins by the Yankees seemed to have prove two points – that New York was once again the better team in 2004, and that the Curse of the Bambino would never end.
Keeping the faith, Red Sox outfielder Kevin Millar entered Game 4 with the mindset that New York can’t let Boston win tonight, or they’d be in a heap of trouble.
He wasn’t far from the truth at all.
A 6-4 win in 12 innings, followed by a 5-4 win in 14 innings, led to a 4-2 win in just 9 innings in Game 6. The Red Sox had won three straight, and the Yankees had lost three straight. While some call it a “choke”, New York did lose those three games by very small margins. It was only Game 7 where they really embarrassed themselves.
Losing 6-0 after just 2 innings at home was the kiss of death. The Yankee Stadium crowd fell silent and then ferociously cheered – for the Red Sox, that is, when Pokey Reese threw to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out of a 10-3 victory. The Red Sox had won the pennant in historic fashion over their arch rivals, and even though the World Series was yet to be played, it was safe to say the Curse had ended right then and there.
A sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals followed and the Red Sox had won it all. As anti-climactic it was, it ended generations of suffering and doubt from sports fans around the world. Three years later, Boston would win the division over the Yankees, and the World Series again in 2007. One championship in 86 years was plenty. But two rings in four seasons? Unfathomable.
Even Boston’s other sports teams joined in on the fun in the 2000s. The New England Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years, the Celtics won the 2008 NBA Finals, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010. It was an unprecedented run, for a city so deprived of national recognition, to suddenly crank out championships faster than Apple releases iPhones.
New York has had two “Giant” Super Bowls and another Yankees’ World Series in 2009, but the past decade without a doubt belongs to Boston when comparing success in sports.
But at the end of the day, as we all know sports can often be just a distraction from the hardships of life. The events at the Boston Marathon last month shook the nation, Red Sox and Yankee fans alike. Yet, in the days following the attack, the most bitter of rivals easily put aside their differences to help cope and mourn with the victims.
As detailed, after 9/11 the Red Sox played “New York, New York” to honor the city in which the Yankees play. So, the Bombers returned the favor on the day after the bombings.
During their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks (the team the Yankees lost to in the 2001 World Series), the first few bars of “Sweet Caroline”, rang through the speakers at the new Yankee Stadium. Neil Diamond’s Red Sox anthem was being played and sung to by the Yankees and their fans. This wasn’t opposite day, nor was it a mockery. This was a true, genuinely kind tribute to a city so strong, and so rooted in its sports traditions.
Yet, as we all know, life moves on. The city of Boston has recovered admirably since the tragedy, and in a few weeks the Red Sox will make the trip back down to the Bronx to play the Yankees. Already defying the odds and putting away the troubles of last season, the Bo-Sox have symbolized the strength of their home town throughout their history. And it will be no different when the rivalry heats up again later this May.
So without further ado, “Play ball!”, as they say. Surely, the Yankees and Red Sox will focus on doing just that. But it can not be ignored, that sometimes, that is the last thing these teams need to do in order to lift the spirits of their fans, and suffering citizens around the country.
by JOSHUA KUMMINS
BOSTON — If it were up to UC San Diego head coach Brad Kreutzkamp, the NCAA National Collegiate Water Polo Championship would be held at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool on an annual basis.
Despite only having an opportunity at fifth place, the Tritons’ fourth-year head coach had much praise for the host staff and city as the tournament moved to east for the first time.
“I’ve been to five of these – three on the men’s side and now this is the second on the women’s side,” said Kreutzkamp, a San Diego State product. “I can honestly say…that this is, hands down, the best tournament that’s ever been. It’s professional top-to-bottom. I actually want to put in a proposal that it’s hosted here every single year.”
During the press conference after UCSD’s 15-8 win over Division III Pomona-Pitzer, junior center Melissa Barrow flanked Kreutzkamp and certainly agreed to cosign his proposal.
“It’s kind of been a dream for some reason to always come to Boston,” Triton junior center Melissa Barrow said. “Every time I’m in the van, I’m not playing with my phone anymore like I usually do on road trips. I just look out. These buildings are just gorgeous, so it’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Playing for the national title on Sunday night at 5:15 p.m. will be a pair of very familiar foes to big-time college sports fans and the most bitter of archrivals – USC and two-time defending champion Stanford.
The top-ranked Women of Troy steamrolled Hawaii by a 16-9 final, thanks to seven of the first eight goals over the first nine minutes of the game, six power-play tallies, and a strong 13-save effort from Hungarian junior Flora Bolonyai.
“It’s really amazing,” Trojan senior Chelsea Silvers said of the opportunity to play for another national championship in her final outing. “It’s coming full circle. Being on a championship team my freshman year was really exciting. I think I took it for granted, how hard it is to really get to the finals and win.”
It was much of the same in Friday’s quarterfinal for the Trojans as USC allowed an early goal to Pomona, before rattling off 27 unanswered goals against the hands of the inferior Sagehens.
While the players recognized the “all business” attitude heading into the final day of competition, one of the sport’s most recognizable figures agreed with his California counterpart Kreutzkamp about the success of Boston as a host and has enjoyed some free time as a tourist.
“I personally love the city,” 11-time National Coach of the Year and native Yugoslavian Jovan Vavic of USC said. “I love the hotel where we are staying; it’s right on the water. … I really like all the old bridges. I really feel like I am in Europe. It’s such a European type of a city with so much history. You don’t see this in LA, so I kind of enjoy this.”
MAAC champion Iona and Collegiate Water Polo (Eastern) victor Princeton each fell short in Friday’s quarterfinal round matches, but met in Saturday’s opening match as the only two teams in the field that did not represent California or Hawaii.
Led by world-class Floridian netminder Ashleigh Johnson, the Orange and Black cruised its way to a 12-2 victory over the Gaels for a shot at fifth place and UCSD at 1:45 on Sunday.
“We have seven freshmen this year, so I think that we have a lot of girls who have never experienced this before,” Iona junior Erika Lauraitis said after scoring both goals for the Gaels. “For me as a junior, this is my third time here. … [We don't] want to take a seventh or eighth place win. Let’s move up and get a win for our school, the MAAC in general and represent the East Coast a little bit.”
Stanford and No. 3 UCLA played a tight game in Saturday’s finale, but the Cardinal were just too stingy defensively in a 5-3 duel, earning the victory despite its lowest scoring output of the season. Senior Kate Baldoni, last year’s National Collegiate Championship MVP, made 12 saves to pace the Stanford defense.
“That was an impressive performance by two sensational goalies,” said Stanford head coach John Tanner. “I was extremely impressed with our response to the gameplan. … We kept our composure as the game was close and unfolding and did not allow our missed opportunities to frustrate us.”
As for Sunday’s final game, it is the one everyone wants – No. 1 vs. No. 2, a pair of Moutain Pacific Sports Federation foes, for the fourth time this season.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity,” coach ‘JT’ said. “To be playing our rivals. As Stanford water polo, we love playing USC. It’s a great rivalry, and to be playing it here at Harvard, our academic rivals whom we measure ourselves by. Our student-athletes are stoked to have this chance.”
It was well documented after two successful days that water polo is not just a West Coast sport anymore and that Boston, led by energetic Harvard head coach Ted Minnis, has played fantastic hosts.
“I like the idea,” Barrow said with a smile of Harvard returning as a future host. “I would not mind coming back to Boston for my last year.”
BOSTON — The Boston Bruins could clinch their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which they lead 3-1, with a win tonight at the TD Garden.
The Bruins are coming off game where they overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night where center David Krejci finished off his hat trick with the game winner at the 13:06 mark in the first period of sudden-death overtime. The B’s took both their games in Toronto, having won Monday night’s affair 5-2, and drew even with the Leafs in Boston, taking the first game 4-1, but fell 4-2 in Game 2, aided by a goal from former Bruins forward Phil Kessel.
Momentum would seem to be on the side of Boston tonight as the Bruins have been the better side of late and will be backed up by a full house of the Garden faithful.
Earlier this afternoon, coach Claude Julien made to changes to his roster, with forward Wayne Redden a sudden scratch at afternoon practice and recalling defenseman Matt Bartkowski from Providence, who has been an important member of the P Bruins playoff team that advanced to the AHL Eastern Conference Semi-Finals after defeating the Hershey Bears 3-2 Wednesday afternoon.
It will be up to the Leafs to slow this momentum and force a Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre, then win on the road and at home, in order to win the series. Joffrey Lupul leads his team in scoring this series, with the Canadian forward having scored three goals, one more than his teammate Kessel.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the Leafs way of crawling back is the man in goal for Boston, top goalie Tuukka Rask, who has a .932 save percentage for the series against the franchise that originally drafted him.
If Rask keeps playing as he’s been, the Bruins top offensive players keep making chances, and with the Boston fans behind they, the B’s should be able to finish the series off and advance to the Conference Semi-Finals, as the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators have done in the East, defeating the Minnesota Wild and Montréal Canadiens respectively , and the San Jose Sharks in the West, who swept the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup rivals, the Vancouver Canucks.
PROVIDENCE — A one seed should have no problem beating the number eight seed, right? As we have seen many times in hockey, the seeding doesn’t matter as much as in other sports. With nothing to lose, the Hershey Bears came into Providence facing a deep Bruins team with an MVP goaltender. Someone who didn’t know the seeds would have guessed it was Hershey that was the one seed. Outplaying the Bruins in almost every aspect, the Bears took a 2-0 lead in a best of five series, shocking the Bruins and their fans.
Goaltender and Bruins MVP Niklas Svedberg looked like a completely different player than in the regular season. He was uncomfortable and didn’t look very confident while in the crease, something that hasn’t happened all season long. While some of the goals were not really his fault, there were plenty of shots that hit the back of the net that he has consistently stopped all season. One had to wonder if the rookie was struggling because of fatigue after a long first season.
The team did not look good in general aside from Svedberg. While in their own end, the team made many turnovers leading to Hershey scoring chances. In a physical two games both teams hit hard and were aggressive, but the P-Bruins aggressive play led to odd man rushes. The penalty kill, which was 5th best in the AHL during the regular season, was awful. The team allowed 5 goals while shorthanded, including a game tying goal with less than 2 minutes left in game two.
The team put a lot of heart into game two, and when they lost it was obvious how much it hurt. Anyone in the Dunkin Donuts Center who thought the Bruins were going to come back was lying to themselves. Despite being down, the P-Bruins proved that they were not out.
Game 3 saw Hershey score first, riding the emotion of their crowd. Former Bear Chris Bourque scored a huge goal less than five minutes later to swing the momentum of the game and the series. From there everything seemed to click for the Bruins, looking like the team that earned the best record in the AHL. Providence took a 2-1 lead when Bobby Robins scored his first goal of the playoffs, followed by converted a power play by Jamie Tardif, Bourque, and Ryan Spooner to make the score 3-1. A penalty kill that looked dreadful returned to form by stopping eight minutes of second period penalties and were a perfect 6-6 on the night. Bourque and Carter Camper scored insurance goals in the third period, giving the team a 5-1 win and new playoff life. Svedberg looked solid making 30 saves for the Bruins, and the team looked ready to come all the way back.
Game four was tightly contested right to the finish. After Providence used goals from Camper and Graham Mink to go up 2-0, the Bears tied the game 2 aside in the third period and if not for a disallowed goal would have taken 3-2 lead. Camper netted his second goal of the day to give Providence the 3-2 instead, but Hershey took a 4-3 lead with less than 5 minutes left in the game. Once again the Bruins looked like they were done, but once again clawed back. Craig Cunningham scored on a late power play to tie the game at 4, once again swinging the momentum in favor of the Bruins. Camper secured the victory and a game 5 by scoring a hat trick goal with 1:04 on the clock, giving the P-Bruins a 5-4 lead.
Game 5 was more of the same: tough, close, physical, and exciting hockey. Hershey scored early to go up 1-0, but Providence caught what might have been the break of the series. A Justin Florek shot deflected off the skate of a Hershey skater into the open net, tying the game at 1. Both teams had power play chances, but the first would end in a 1-1 tie. The two teams went back and forth to start the second period, though Providence had trouble with turnovers and puck clearing. That being said, they were still out shooting the Bears in the period. The P-Bruins finally broke through with five minutes left. Camper and Tardif set up Jordan Caron, who ripped it top shelf to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead after two periods. The third period saw Hershey tie the game at 2 with a chance to take the lead on the power play. The Bruins power play showed why it was top 5, killing it off without much problem. The team used that momentum swing on their own end of the ice. Tardif stood firm in the crease, grabbing a loose puck and slipping it through to give Providence a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish. The final minute saw the Bears pull their goalie while on the power play, but it did not matter. The defense held up, and the Bruins won the series and the game 3-2.
With the win, Providence moves on to Round two of the playoffs against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. This seven game series begins Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center at 7:05.