The BLOG: Culture

Red Sox & Baseball Math

Legend has it Yogi Berra said “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” If you love baseball, the way so many Red Sox fans do, both the sentiment and the math square inside the diamond ~ especially ’round Fenway Park.

To date the Red Sox have won 8 World Series titles, 13 American League Pennants, and 8 Eastern Division titles. Some say it’s talent that gets a team to the World series but just as many say it’s luck. The debate has sparked water-cooler conversations and trash talk since 1901 when the Boston Americans, as they had been called, became one of the original eight teams of the American League franchise. As an early power-house of the sport Boston won the inaugural World Series in 1903, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a best of nine series.

Ace, Denton True “Cy” Young kept heat on competitors between 1901-1908. Celebrating it’s new home on Lansdowne Street the Club won another World Series title in 1912. Flame-throwing, homer-hitting George Herman ” Babe” Ruth Jr. joined the right-field roster in 1914 fanning the team’s reputation around the bases as the Sox won World Series match-ups in 1915, 1916, and 1918. Two years after that streak the legendary lefty with blazing stats was sold to the New York Yankees. Playing in pinstripes the “Bambino” smoked 714 home-runs driving the Gotham team to 7 American pennants, 4 World Series and Beantowners into a mental state of spontaneous combustion.

Despite generations of All-Star line-ups, after trading the Bambino the Red Sox were denied World Series success. Immortals of the sport Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, and Carl Yaztremski as well as later generations of team-mates such as Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Carlton Fiske, to name a few, were amongst the players who competed but never succeeded in capturing a Series for the Sox. For Fenway fans, bad-luck plays turned superstition to legend. Reluctantly, Boston’s Boys of Summer came to beleive themselves to be under the Curse of the Bambino.

Hysterical attempts to break the Curse were numerous. Soon after being traded to the Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling appeared in a truck ad as a hitch-hiker en route to Boston saying he had an 86-year-old curse to break. Jimmy Buffett performed a curse-breaking ceremony at Fenway. Others suggested retrieving a piano Ruth pitched into the pond of his Sudbury, Massachusetts “Home Plate Farm.” Former pitcher “Spaceman” Bill Lee even suggested exhuming Babe Ruth’s body from Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York, to be brought back to the Park to publicly apologize for trading him to the Yanks.

With a plan of his own, John Henry purchased the team with others in 2002. Henry, with Tom Warner, and Larry Lucchino shuffled the deck on and off the field with numbers crunching help from author, historian, and statistical guru Bill James. Two years later the Fenway faithful found them selves watching in awe as Boston’s beleaguered big-leaguers battled back from a 0-3 deficit against the Yankees to win the American League Champion Series. Moving into the 100th edition of the World Series the Boston Red Sox won the title of Champs on October 27th,2004 by sweeping St. Louis Cardinals.

After 86 years, mentally and physically the Curse of the Bambino had finally been broken. Since then the Sox have gone on to win World Series contests in 2007 and 2013. Last year the team finished first in the AL East with a record of 93 and 69. This year, for the first time in seven years, the Sox met Opening Day at home. To fanfare the Boston Children’s Chorus performed the Nation Anthem, twin F-15C’s flew over the Park and Superbowl Champs Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski with owner Bob Kraft called the team to “play ball.”

Two games deep into the season the teammates of high expectations are off to a scorching start. Reigning Cy Young holder Rick Porcello won the Opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chris Sale debuted in Boston and the team won again. Appreciative fans experienced more than ceremony and exhilaration at those games, they were surrounded by amenities aimed at delivering comfort to generations of fans awaiting new halcyon days.

Last week John Henry and his wife Linda welcomed Major of Boston Martin J. Walsh, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans and others to a pre-season walk though of the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, Fenway. Red Sox President Sam Kennedy lead a tour highlighting off-season enhancements around the diamond. He pointed expansion of the out home-team and Visitor dug-outs and the addition of 124 new seats near home-plate. In back of the Right Field Grandstand seating was removed to build “Tully Tavern”; an open air bar with swivel stools, menu service, charging stations and wi-fi capacity.

Other enhancements to the Park include a refurbished Pesky Pole, and private party-suites providing a view of Boston’s sky line while watching the game. Just inside Gate K an expanded virtual reality batting cage gives fans a big league hitting sensation adjacent to umbrella’d picnic tables, and concession stands. While Fenway Franks remain a staple of the Park, locally inspired up-scale menu options include a variety of lobster rolls, and make-your own salads from the Park’s Fenway Farm system. Pizza, steak and turkey tip sandwiches are other family approachable options as are brown-bag kids fare of PB&J, grilled cheese, or mini-dogs served with a bag of chips and bottled water.

This year, the Club marks the 117th season of Big League baseball in the heart of Boston. Brother and sister Green Monsters Wally and Tessie, nodded as Sam Kennedy said protecting the “shrine” of Fenway is always the top consideration when planning improvements to the idyllic facility. Accessible by foot, T, and private transportation the Kenmore Square venue is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and remains a vibrant source of neighborhood and national pride.

Even with Big Papi’s retirement, Mayor Walsh said he looks forward to watching the Sox play October ball expecting the spirit of Dustin Pedroia to lead the young team with luck and talent to win 95-97 games, and perhaps another trip to the World Series. This is not the Clubhouse of our great-grandfathers days however and the sentiment of water-cooler conversations and superstitious trash talking sound very familiar.

This year’s quest to be the best will be like those of the past, filled with bang-bang plays proving the mathematical Yogi-ism to be true, “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.”

7 down 155 to go!