Blasts from the past
SEATTLE - Forgive me if there are any typographical errors in this column. I just shook hands with Wily Mo Pena and I’m now soaking my right mitt in a bucket of ice, hoping the feeling returns by the middle innings.
Wily Mo was called back up to the bigs last night by the Mariners and batted in the No. 5 spot against Josh Beckett at Safeco Field.
Wily Mo Pena was our very own John Coffey at Fenway Park in 2006 and for part of the 2007 season. He was all homers and strikeouts and smiles in the clubhouse.
He’s the guy who hit a 451-foot shot for the Red Sox in Kansas City. There was another one at Fenway that careened off the back wall of the Monster Seats and almost rolled all the way back to shortstop.
Wily Mo is also the guy who was acquired, straight up, for Bronson Arroyo, one of the worst deals Theo Epstein ever made.
The Sox gave Wily Mo a championship ring for his 73 games of service in 2007. He keeps it with him wherever he goes, and he goes a lot of places. Since the Sox traded him to the Nationals in 2007 (Chris Carter, thank you very much), Pena has been released by the Nats, the Mets, and the Diamondbacks. The Padres also let him go. Now he’s a reclamation project for the Mariners.
“That’s my baby brother,’’ said David Ortiz, when he learned that his Dominican countryman was back in the majors.
“He gave me a bear hug and almost broke my back,’’ said Dustin Pedroia.
“His power was off the charts,’’ said Sox manager Terry Francona.
We remember. Folks in Cincinnati are still talking about a 498-foot shot Pena hit for the Reds.
During batting practice yesterday - which commanded a lot of attention - Pena hit one off the back row of the upper deck in left-center, where no one had ever hit one before.
But . . .
“There were a lot of misses in there, too,’’ said Francona, who watched Pena go 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in the Mariners’ 5-4 victory. .
With Boston, Pena struck out 148 times in 432 at-bats, hitting 16 homers and batting .271. He could not hit the breaking stuff, and no team has stayed with Pena as long as the Sox since 2007.
“I’m happy for the opportunity,’’ Pena said yesterday after shaking hands with everybody (ouch!) in the Mariners clubhouse. “Here I plan to help the team win and do my stuff.
“I’m getting older and I’m hitting like I’ve never hit in my life [.363 at Reno, .333 at Tacoma]. I just need to keep doing it up here. I need to recognize pitches and make contact.’’
Safeco Field is a notoriously bad park for home run hitters.
“If I make contact, something will happen,’’ said Pena.
■Anyone else starting to think Jonathan Papelbon might actually be back with the Sox next year? He had converted his last 22 save opportunities (going into last night) and was working on a string of 12 straight scoreless innings. All along, the plan has been to get six great years, then watch him walk, but the Sox might have to rethink this and match anything Papelbon is offered this winter.
■ Great to see Bill Russell in the Sox dugout, chatting at length with Francona before Friday’s game (let’s not forget that Francona managed Michael Jordan in the minors). After listening to Russell for several minutes, Tito turned to Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick and asked, “Jack, can he stay in the dugout during the game?’’
Russell went to McClymonds High School in Oakland, where he teamed on the hardwood with the likes of Frank Robinson. Big Bill did not play baseball at McClymonds, but Frank had guys named Curt Flood and Vada Pinson coming up behind him. Pretty good high school team.
Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino, watched Friday’s game with Russell and said things are looking good for the Russell statue in downtown Boston.
“Bill told me Boston has changed a lot since the days when he played in our city,’’ said Mr. Mayor.
Russell lives in greater Seattle. Menino was on his way to Alaska.
■The Red Sox owe a tremendous debt to the great Pacific Northwest. Johnny Pesky was born and raised in Portland, Ore. The Sox had their Triple A club in Seattle in the early 1960s and it was in Seattle that minor league manager Pesky converted young Dick Radatz into a closer.
Jacoby Ellsbury was born in Madras, Ore., and starred at Oregon State. Jed Lowrie graduated from North Salem High School in Oregon and remembers going to the Kingdome when he was a kid and running the bases on family Sundays after Mariners games. Jon Lester graduated from Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma.
■Jon Lester Sr. was at Safeco Friday and Saturday, looking rested and strong. It’s been three years since his successful bout with cancer.
■Ellsbury needs one steal to tie Carl Yastrzemski for third place on the Sox’ all-time list. It’s Harry Hooper (300), Tris Speaker (267), Yaz (168), and Ellsbury (167).
■ The Mariners have 11 rookies on their roster.
■ Woe is he who has a wedding or any other family obligation on Sunday, Oct. 9. That’s shaping up as potentially one of the greatest sports days in New England history. You get the Jets in Foxborough at 4 p.m., and if all goes according to plan, it’ll be the Yankees and Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALCS.
The Rangers, Tigers, and a couple of other contenders could ruin the plan if they eliminate Boston and/or New York in the Division Series. But if the Sox finish in first place and both kingpins advance, we’ll have Jets at Gillette followed by Yankees at Fenway on a Super Sunday.
■Who are you liking in that John Lackey vs. Erik Bedard audition for the No. 3 playoff starter?
■ Here’s what the Angels’ Torii Hunter said to the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan about the Red Sox: “They have an ungodly team, the team they have is not real. They really paid for that one. They got all these athletic guys, power guys, power pitchers, they’re supposed to win. Their team is actually better than the Yankees.’’
■ Tim Wakefield’s quest for victory No. 200 is beginning to feel a little bit like the Yaz Watch of 1979. Yaz went 0 for 13 over three days while we all anticipated No. 3,000. Peter Pascarelli of Dorchester and the Baltimore News American quipped, “This is like waiting for Franco to die.’’
Wakefield makes his fourth attempt today, and on the mound for the Mariners is Charlie Furbush of South Portland, Maine. Southpaw Furbush played at St. Joseph’s in Maine before transferring to LSU. He pitched for Hyannis in the Cape League in 2005 and 2006.
■ Watching Little League World Series playoffs on ESPN, it’s amazing how many players answer “Dustin Pedroia’’ when asked to name their favorite player. “Smart kids,’’ said Pedroia. “They’re teaching them right.’’
■ While in Seattle, it has been tempting to make the 2 1/2-hour drive north and check out the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets in downtown Vancouver. Tomorrow is the two-month anniversary of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win. Sweet memory.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.