By Alice Cook, She's Game Sports
I was there in 2004 when they won in St. Louis, breaking an 86 year old curse. Thousands of Red Sox fans were there, but few who actually had a ticket. When the game ended, security opened the gates to Busch Stadium and told the fans on the street to "go on in, and celebrate with your team." It was a wonderful gesture by the friendly folks in St. Louis.
I was also there in 2007 when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies. A walk off interview with Series MVP Mike Lowell was one of my proudest professional moments. It was another sweep, another champagne shower in another clubhouse thousands of miles from Boston.
Finally, the Red Sox brought the party home, and the timing could not have been more perfect. Our lovable boys of beard were right here where they should be, in the loving embrace of a city that has come full circle. Everyone loves a comeback, and this one represented much more than winning a trophy.
On April 20th 2013, David Ortiz took the microphone before a game and declared, "this is our f-king city, nobody is going to dictate our freedom." It was 5 days after the Marathon bombings. Our region was emotionally shattered. There were hundreds of victims in hospitals. There would be four funerals, and a river of tears.
Then came the stories of the heroes. The first responders. The people that did not flee, but stayed with the victims, using their belts and neck ties to stop the bleeding. The people that carried the injured to ambulances and medical personnel. There were more heroes at our area hospitals, treating the wounded, saving so many lives.
As the victims healed, the Red Sox played, and won a lot of games. The (617) Boston Strong jersey hung in their dugout. There was never a day or a moment the dead and the injured were not remembered.
Spring turned to summer and the healing continued. The bombing victims appeared at Fenway in wheelchairs or wearing prothesis. They threw out first pitches, they sang anthems, and they rejoiced with a team determined to give them something to smile about.
By July 25, 100 days after the bombing, the last Boston Marathon victim was released from the hospital. The Red Sox were half way through the season with all the makings of of a playoff team. Only 12 months earlier they had been a laughing stock, finishing the 2012 season with 69 wins. The manager was fired, the fans were disgusted, and spring training came and went without much hope.
What happened next few could have predicted.
This band of brothers grew beards, played hard, and won back the hearts their fans. They became a lovable bunch in total contrast to so many teams before them. Koji Uehara came out of nowhere as the unstoppable stopper. Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and David Ross were wonderful surprises. Kudos to GM Ben Cherrington for finding the talent and right mix. Jon Lester was a "horse." John Lackey re-invented himself. Dustin Pedroia led the league in attitude. It's amazing a heart that big can fit under a uniform so small.
And Big Papi. Like his name- he's the big Daddy. David Ortiz did it with his bat, and with his leadership. His impromtu dug out pep talk in the middle of Game 4 was the signature moment of the Series.
6 months ago, it was David Ortiz who set the stage when he dared the world to ever mess with Boston again. Nobody was going to stop the Red Sox this year.
From worst to first,the Red Sox rose from the ashes, and so has the city of Boston. There are too many heroes to count.
Follow me on Twitter @alicecooksports
By Justin McGrail, She's Game Sports
The Boston Red Sox are on the cusp of winning their third World Series in the last 10 years. They currently have a 3-2 series lead against the St. Louis Cardinals. This is the fourth meeting between these two teams, with St. Louis winning the first two matchups in 1946 & 1967 and Boston winning in 2004.
All five games of this series have been exciting and each has added something unique to the record books.
-Two hitters, David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, passed Babe Ruth in career post season home runs. Beltran sits at 9th all time with 16 homers. Ortiz hit two bombs so far this World Series and now sits tied with Jim Thome with 17 postseason jacks, good enough for 7th all time.
-Ortiz currently has a .733 batting average this World Series. That's the second highest single-series average in history. He also has the highest OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage) in World Series history (1.370). That's better than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson. OPS adds hits (H), walks (BB), and hit by pitches (HBP) and divides that total by the total of at bats (AB), (BB), sacrifice flies (SF) and HBP. The equations look like this: H+BB+HBP/AB+BB+SF+HBP. Anything over 1.000 is really, really good. Ortiz also has 11 hits this World Series. That's only two shy of the single-series record.
-Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday became the second player in the last eight seasons with six home runs longer that 420 with his solo shot off Jon Lester in game five. The other is former Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez.
-Game three ended in an obstruction call, which awarded the Cardinals the game-winning run. Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks got his legs entangled with Allen Craig of St. Louis after an overthrow from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Craig was thrown out at home but umpires decided that Middlebrooks obstructed Craig and awarded him home plate. That was the first time in World Series history a game has ended with an obstruction call.
-Game four ended with Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara picking off Cardinals rookie Kolten Wong. Wong entered the game as a pinch runner in the bottom of the ninth with St. Louis down 4-2. It was the first World Series game to end on a pickoff.
-Red Sox starter Jon Lester joined Babe Ruth as the only two pitchers in Red Sox history with three World Series wins. Lester also became the fifth pitcher in MLB history to allow one run or fewer in at least his first three World Series starts, and the first since World War II ended in 1945. Additionally, his 16 and 1/3 scoreless innings streak was the third longest such streak in World Series history. Lester has a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings pitched, which is second all time in World Series history. Lester is the only active pitcher in the top 10 for career World Series ERA.
-Closer Koji Uehara is continuing his remarkable regular season with an equally amazing postseason. He's logged seven saves this posteason, tying him with four other closers. Of those seven saves, four of them were four or more outs. Only three other pitchers, Goose Gossage, Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon have recorded the same number of four out saves as Uehara. He could potentially surpass Rivera's record for most strikeouts without giving up a walk. Rivera has the record with 14 and Uehara is sitting at 15 with the World Series still going on.
The 2013 World Series has been one for the ages. Each game has provided something unique for the history books and Boston hopes to add another entry to the record books with its first World Series clinching win at Fenway Park since Reversing the Curse.
By Alice Cook, She's Game Sports
Bill Shields and I worked in the same newsroom for 25 years at WBZ. Born and bred in the heart of Texas, Billy never lost that southern drawl. He proudly displays his "Texas" decal on the rear window of his Jeep. Billy can make anyone laugh at any time. He never takes himself him too seriously in a business that breeds self absorption. He can be a pit bull reporter and a sweetheart at the same time. He is the only person I have ever seen who could put his feet on top of his desk, lean back, and take a "power nap" for ten minutes- complete with snoring. Everyone loves Billy.
Now he has lung cancer.
Bill shared the stunning news with this colleagues last week in an email shared with the station staff.
"You know how life is full of irony.. sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it can anger you," he wrote. "Well I find it frustratingly ironic that after finally quitting smoking (the 100th time), I have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Within a few days I will unleash my own aggression on the cancer. I will start chemo and radiation at Dana-Farber next week."
Two days before Bill's announcement, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman held a fundraiser at the Pine Brook Country Club in Weston. Over $150,000 was raised to benefit the Uniting Against Lung Cancer's national research program.
Raisman was also honoring her grandmother. Nancy Raisman died before she could see her grand daughter win Olympic gold.
"Just 8 months before the London Olympics my grandmother died," said Raisman. "The woman who encouraged me to fight so hard for my dreams wasn't there to see me reach the biggest dream I ever had."
It is impressive to see someone as young as Raisman (age 19) take on a cause and commit to making a difference. I first met Aly at the annual TD Garden "Tradition" event last month. When I thanked her for the interview, she told me about her fundraiser, took my business card, and said she would follow up. Which she did.
The event was hosted by Susan Wornick of WCVB fame, along with Channel 5's Heather Unruh, and Kiss 108's Matt Siegel. Also in attendance were Olympic Gold medalist Kayla Harrison, NHL Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, and Aly's coaches Silvia and Mahai Brestyan. Her special guests were Boston Marathon victim Jeff Bauman, and Carlos Arrendondo who heroically saved Jeff's life.
Raisman, after losing her grandmother is determined to help others fight the battle.
" It was important for me to her memory, as well as the countless others affected by lung cancer," she said. "This includes the patients and doctors who battle this terrible disease every day, the lung cancer survivors, and the families and friends of those individuals who lost their battle."
I am counting on my friend Bill Shields to win his battle.
"You guys know me," he said in his email. "Yet you might not know this: underneath my easygoing laughter is a street fighter (a few have witnessed it)... I will fight this with everything I have and win."
My vision is this:
Next year when Aly Raisman holds another event to raise funds for Uniting Against Lung Cancer, Bill Shields will be her special guest. Billy will be a living, breathing, completely healthy example of how it is possible to defeat lung cancer.
And my friend Bill Shields will be there to watch his boys play football, surf, graduate college, and start families of their own.
Good luck Billy- now go kick some butt.
follow on twitter @alicecooksports
By Paula Maloney, She's Game Sports
Bethany Hamilton. Devandra Jhejheria. Zach Hodskins. All three share a common denominator in their life. Each are outstanding athletes who 'make the impossible seem possible' in their respective fields of athletic endeavor. Hamilton as a world class surfer, Jhejheria as a world class javelin thrower, and Hodskins, who is defying all odds by being selected as a a preferred walk on for the University of Florida Men's basketball team.
All three compete with one arm.
Who is Zach Hodskins? The pride of Alpharetta, Georgia is being hailed as the " best one armed basketball player in the world." He caught the attention of Billy Donavon and John Calipari , Division I coaches at the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky respectively. Hodskins came off a sensational summer playing on the AAU circuit and caught the attention of the elite universities early on.
Alot of people counted Hodskins out on the court, yet he has proved the naysayers wrong. He has been selected as a preferred walk on for the Division I powerhouse University of Florida.
Hodskins can drain a three pointer, is an accurate passer and, quite simply, has got game. His work ethic is unparalled and his mantra is that " a disability will never hold him back."
"When I am out on the court I forget that my arm is not there." Passion and love for the sport helps me overcome all obstacles."
Zach has been turning heads since the tender age of six as he showcased his skills early on. This 6'4" 200 pound unassuming enigma played several sports but basketball caught his attention and a basketball became his best friend.
How has he been received on the court as a player missing his left arm below his elbow? " I have felt that a lot of players went easy on me, at first, and then slowly they could see that I could play." It would be fair to say that the word " pity" is not in his repertoire.
Zach, a native of Lexington, Kentucky hails J.J.Redick, the all time leading scorer for Duke University as someone he admires. Redick went on to play pro basketball for the Orlando Magic and currently is with the Los Angeles Clippers after a storied career playing under Coach Mike Kryzewski and the two recently spoke.
Redick publicly stated that " He did not expect to be a star but rather a team player."His humbleness yet ferocity on the court made him a player to aspire to in the eyes of Zach.
Athletes such as Hodskins need not be discounted due to their visually physical limitations. Hard work, determination and discipline are common traits seen in elite athletes and Zach is ready to showcase those hard earned results on the hardwood at the O'Connell Center.
"At Florida, I am going to have every opportunity to go on the floor and play." " If I work hard, Coach Donovan told me I will have a chance to play."
Zack Hodskins, you are a shooting star. I look forward to seeing your name on the Gator Nation and for several three pointers to be sunk from behind.
No doubt, this Gator will be leaving his mark on the court.
By Justin McGrail and Alice Cook, She's Game Sports
The Red Sox are baseball's comeback story of the year, and perhaps no player symbolizes the turn around better than Koji Uehara. The 38 year old relief pitcher wasn't the first option at closer heading into this season. He wasn't the second option either. The Sox acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates and they also had Andrew Bailey healthy after missing last season due to injury. Hanrahan and Bailey both went down with different season-ending injuries and along came Koji.
Uehara has been stellar in his new role as the Red Sox closer, but his career path to the big leagues is more unorthodox than most. Most Japanese pitchers gain attention from scouts through Koshien, the national high school baseball tournament which is comparable to March Madness here in the states. Former Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka made his name in Koshien before playing professionally in Japan and the United States. Uehara didn't participate in Koshien. He wasn't even a pitcher in high school. He was an outfielder.
Japan's university testing for incoming students is very demanding. Uehara didn't pass his initial entrance exam so he spent the entire year studying. He didn't even play baseball at the time. To pay the bills, he took a job as a security guard. Baseball was the furthest thing from his mind. "I wasn't even playing at that point," he said. "My dream was to teach."
In that year off, Uehara read Nolan Ryan's "Pitching Bible". From it, he learned new weight training techniques that helped him bulk up, which in turn led to an uptick in his pitching velocity. He entered Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences and picked up baseball again.
"My college was not really a baseball school," Uehara said, "so the manager told us just choose whatever position you want to play. The last year in high school, I pitched five innings and I thought it was fun. I thought pitching would be fun."
He began attracting scouts from the U.S. and Japan in his junior year and he eventually signed with the Japanese powerhouse Yomiuri Giants. In 1999, his rookie year, he won 20 games and won the Sawamura Award as Japan's best pro pitcher, the equivalent of the Cy Young Award. He won his second Sawamura Award in 2002 and was named an All-Star eight times in his 10 years playing in Japan.
Uehara signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 and made it clear that he only wanted to be a starter. He had mediocre numbers as a starter and made two trips to the disabled list. He was moved to the bullpen in 2010 and converted 13 of 15 saves for a 96-loss team.
He was acquired by the Texas Rangers during the 2011 season to bolster their bullpen during their playoff run. Uehara gave up a home run in three consecutive playoff appearances, becoming the only pitcher in MLB history to do so, and was subsequently left off the Rangers' World Series roster. His brought his numbers down in 2012, posting a 1.75 ERA in just 27 appearances due to a strained lat muscle.
He was signed as a free-agent by the Red Sox this past offseason and has been worth every penny.
"What he's doing is phenomenal," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's having a historic year."
The outfielder, turned pitcher, turned security guard, turned bullpen ace is also getting his wish to be a teacher. His lesson is a good one.
"Never give up."
Follow Alice on Twitter @alicecooksports