Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine from Boston. Now, said friend is one of my closest and is as die-hard a Sox fan as I’ve ever encountered. Still, we get along famously and both hold a deep respect for the greatest rivalry in Sports. We will go back and forth and take well placed shots at one another whenever possible, but at the end of the day we just love to
watch our clubs play baseball.
At this point in the 2014 season neither my friend nor myself have much to brag about. The Yankees swim in the Sea of Mediocrity and the Sox have just nipped a prolonged losing skid in the bud. It’s still early, but both of us know that unless something changes for both clubs, the Sox and Yankees could find themselves on the outside looking in come October. So after a few minutes of commiserating over topics like Kelly Johnson playing first or the limp Boston offense, we ended up discussing what players we’d have like to see wear the opposing team’s uniform. Now I am sure if we were given more time we could have outfitted an entire team, but decided to pick our top 5 of all-time.
I gave my buddy first swing. He rattled off three names instantly, and they were not stretches by any means. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Paul O’Neill were his selections. His reasoning for Mo was delivered as only a Bostonian could. He jabbed, “Gawtah have Rivera. He was the greatest…and helped us win ah first ring, kid.” Wiseass. For O’Neill he was matter of fact. He simply uttered, “Irish, angry and played it win or die. This town would have loved him.”
I got to say it was great to hear how the Warrior’s reputation was known far and wide. He then came to the Captain and said, “Jeter. What else can I say?” I absolutely agreed with his first picks…though the shot at Mo stung a bit. He wrapped up his top five with two deeper cuts. Ron Guidry is one of my favorites, but I didn’t think he was going to be picked.
My buddy said he always loved Gator. As a kid he went to Fenway and saw Guidry throw. To quote my friend, “He looked like he weighed 90 pounds and I could hear the catcher’s mitt pop like a balloon every time he let the ball loose. He was just a guy I liked…though I’d never tell my boys in school that.” I knew exactly what he was saying. As a kid you never admitted secretly rooting for a Sox player. Finally he chose a name that surprised me more than Guidry.
Willie Randolph came in at number five. His reasoning was similar to the way he selected Gator, Willie was just a guy he liked. He’d always felt the former Yankee second baseman to be a class act and even wanted him to be the Red Sox skipper when they had canned Grady Little years back. Not a bad list at all. It was then my turn.
I have said many times that there are just some players you can’t help but like. The tough thing for me is that a handful played in the shadow of the Green Monstah for a good part of their careers. So I thought for a few seconds and then listed all five of my picks in a row. Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Tim Wakefield, Jim Rice and Dustin Pedroia. Yep, they are all guilty of giving the Yankee faithful ulcers and headaches, but they are also players that would have fit right in in the Bronx.
The Red Sox Captain is first on my list. If ever there was a player who had Munson-like qualities it’s Tek. He was all heart. He earned that Captain’s C on his uniform and much like a Paul O’Neill, he lead by playing the game “Win or die”. Jason is just one of the players I wished had worn Pinstripes and that is in no way a slight on Jorgie. Posada was every bit the competitor and leader.
Trot Nixon also was a no brainer for me. I loved his hustle, but what made him a lock for me was when I heard he got in Manny’s face for loafing in the field and down the first base line. That is what you want from a player. If somebody, especially one of the team’s talented super stars, doesn’t pull his own weight, you need a guy that will take him to the woodshed and set him straight. Nixon was that guy. I would have loved to have him in Pinstripes…wearing a different number of course.
Tim Wakefield is and always was a class act. The thing that sealed his selection to my top five was the way he handled the 2003 ALCS. He gave up the walk off to Aaron Boone, something that would have ended many a career, and still found a way to take responsibility and come back stronger. That was amazing to me. He would not allow himself to be a Buckner story. Wakefield tipped his cap, regrouped and returned. He is a player the City of Boston can forever be proud of.
Jim Rice also makes my list. Much like my friend I saw Rice play at Yankee stadium as a kid. After a game I went looking for Yankee autographs with my game day program. Jim Rice was one of the first to emerge from the clubhouse exit. I called over to him just to see if he would say anything. He walked up and I handed him my pen and program, apologizing that my club had beat his 6-2 that day. Rice smiled and signed over his picture. He said, “Hey, we’ll be back. Take it easy, my man.” Not only was he an outstanding player, but Jim Rice was a good guy. He didn’t have to sign an autograph for a 9 year old Yankee fan, but he did all the same.
Finally there is Dustin “Pedy” Pedroia. This guy was hard to pick for me. Not because I wouldn’t love to see him suit up for the Bronx Bombers, but because he really makes me crazy. I hate watching him play against the Yanks. He is clutch. He hustles on every play. He is fiery and passionate and is the epitome of “Gamer”. I have said many times that Cano could have learned a great deal from Pedroia, but that ship has sailed off to the Pacific Northwest…never to be heard from again. Pedy is the reason I lose sleep sometimes, but there is no denying that I love the way the guy plays the game. He is truly a player that will go down as one of Boston’s favorite sons.
Hopefully the Yankees will shake off this up and down mediocre funk and grab number 28 this year. I’d wish the same for Boston, but let’s not get crazy. I like some of their players and respect the rivalry, but I’m not going much further than that…and my friend wouldn’t either. We ended our conversation with some well wishes and a few more well placed digs at the Sox and the Bronx Bombers. It’s the rivalry and it NEVER gets old.
** Here is one by some good Boston guys for my buddy up in Beantown. I won’t wish your boys luck, but I will say NOBODY can touch our rivalry. THE BATTLE RAGES ON!**
--Mike O'Hara, MLB Fan Cave Host, Season 1
"Paulie was always my favorite player."
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