Former Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson was saddened to hear that Don Zimmer, the man he referred to as “the best manager I ever played for”, died on Wednesday.
Here is the Rooster on Zim, who managed the Red Sox from 1976-80 and also had two stints as a Boston coach.
“It was a wonderful experience. I was a rookie when he came over there in ’74 to coach third and I got called up basically May 1 of ’74 and he was there and of course I had him that spring. All the players loved him. Then he became manager, I think it was middle of ’76. I was with him from ’76 through ’80 as a player. So five years as a player, and seven years total.”
Burleson played for Darrell Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Gene Mauch, among some others, but he thinks Zimmer was the best he played for.
“He was the best manager I ever played for, without a doubt. Fregosi was wonderful when I was here for a brief time in ’81 when he was with the Angels. Zim was a player’s manager. He knew the game really well. The thing that you knew with him was that you were going to be in the lineup and basically where you were going to hit pretty much every day. We had kind of a set deal there in Boston in those years and he just expected you to go out there and give it your all. And that’s basically what we tried to do and he was outstanding.”
But Zimmer was more than just a manager to Burleson. He was family.
“This was a guy, when I was in Spring Training in ’77, when he was the manager, he asked if he could babysit so that my wife and I could go out to dinner by ourselves. Him and his wife came over and babysat our oldest boy Tyler.”
Burleson marveled at the fact Zimmer worked in baseball — and only in baseball.
“He probably spent 60-some years in the game and he told me at one time he never had a job in his whole life other than baseball. I don’t think there’s many people you can count on your hand that can say that. We all have to do something at some point. So I mean, I feel for his wife Soot and their family and his daughter and son. It’s a sad day to see that happen. He had a great life. He did what he wanted to do. I don’t think you can ask for any more than that.”
In Burleson’s mind, Zimmer’s door was always open.
“He was helpful, he was very helpful as a coach. And then as a manager, he was a good leader. That’s all any player wants, is for someone to be honest with them and there to talk to when you need to talk to him. He was always the guy.He will be missed and he was definitely one of our favorites here in this family, that’s for sure.”
Caught up with Mike Napoli this morning, and the time off has definitely done the big slugger some good. John Farrell said the first baseman will return the first day he is eligible — on June 8 at Detroit.
Though Napoli is sidelined with a left fourth finger sprain – an injury he originally suffered in Chicago on April 15 – he was dealing with a variety of maladies before finally being placed on the disabled list on May 25.
“It wasn’t just the finger,” said Napoli. “I was dealing with a lot of stuff. It was probably the best thing for me. I was going to keep on trying to grind it out, grind it out, but this is probably the best time for me just to get everything fixed, get better so I’m playing somewhat healthy. I think it was just time to do it.”
And the decision was easier for Napoli to accept with the Red Sox going on a tear with him out of the lineup. The club had a six-game winning streak entering Sunday.
“Seeing them playing like this and winning definitely helps,” said Napoli. “I’m concentrating on getting better and coming back and trying to help us.”
What was bothering Napoli aside from his finger?
“Toe issue, calf, hammies,” Napoli said. “My whole body was beat up. I’m feeling great now. I’m just getting treatment.”
And the finger, which he mangled backwards on a head-first slide in Chicago?
“It’s getting better. The swelling is starting to go down,” Napoli said. “I can actually fit my finger in my batting glove now. I don’t have to cut it off.”
After David Ortiz ripped David Price for plunking him in the back, the lefty responded on Saturday.
Was Price surprised that Big Papi crushed him with so many verbal barbs?
“Not really. He was mad. So I get it,” Price said. “We all say stupid stuff when we’re mad. Been there. I’m sure he probably wishes he wouldn’t have said some of the things he said. You can’t relate the game that we play to a war. Kellen Winslow got a lot ofr crap for saying he was a soldier. You’re not a soldier. This is not war. We have troops fighting for us that are in a war. It’s not a good comparison.”
Did it both Price what Ortiz said?
“No. It didn’t bother me. Not one bit, honestly, It really didn’t. I’m not worried about it. Keep going,” Ortiz said.
When the 2004 Red Sox have their 10-year reunion at Fenway Park next week, there should be great memories of the characters that helped break an 86-year World Series championship drought.
Amid a festive atmosphere, Pedro Martinez hopes that Red Sox fans rise to the occasion and give Manny Ramirez a warm welcome in his first visit to Fenway Park since 2010.
“It took a lot for him to come,” said Martinez. “He wants to make it up to the Boston fans. He wants to show everybody that he’s a different person, that he’s a Christian man and a role model to his family. His kids are going to be here. It will be nice if we all kind of get together and just make a fun day out of it and remember that Manny was the MVP [of the World Series] and he’s the biggest reason probably why we won it.”
The ceremony will take place prior to the May 28 home game against the Braves.
When the Red Sox signed Ramirez to an eight-year contract in December 2000, Martinez was one of the players who helped recruit him.
Fittingly, Martinez also was one of the key people to encourage Ramirez to come back to Boston for a reunion in which nearly every core member of the “Idiots” will be on hand.
“Yeah, I tried to talk him into it,” Martinez said. “He wants to make up with Boston again.”
There were many highs and lows for Ramirez in Boston, but nobody can dispute he is one of the best hitters in club history.
In eight seasons with the Sox, Ramirez was a .312 hitter with 274 homers and a .999 OPS.
Ramirez was traded for Jason Bay in 2008 after several incidents, including a dugout skirmish with Kevin Youkilis and an altercation in which he pushed traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground.
After his departure from the Red Sox, Ramirez was twice suspended for violation of MLB’s performing-enhancing drugs policy, the latter of which occurred during his brief stint for the Rays in 2011.
But Martinez can sense how regretful Ramirez is of those incidents.
“He made a couple of mistakes,” said Martinez. “He knows it, but now he knows he’s a different man. He’s a Christian man and all he wants to talk about is God.”
This will be the first time Ramirez has done anything in affiliation with the Red Sox since his controversial departure from the club.
“His kids, I’m pretty sure, are very excited to come over and see their dad again in Fenway,” Martinez said. “I think fans should take that in consideration.”
Stephen Drew’s presence was missed enough by the Red Sox that the club has opted to bring the free agent shortstop back.
And thus ends an odyssey that started with Drew rejecting Boston’s qualifying offer of $14.1 million last November, only to return on a one-year deal that will pay him $10 million for the remainder of the 2014 season, multiple sources confirmed to MLB.com
While the Red Sox haven’t announced the signing yet, manager John Farrell acknowledged that Drew will undergo a physical in Boston on Wednesday. Assuming there are no complications, the deal will become official then.
“I think Stephen helped us out a lot last year,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “Great player, great teammate and hopefully he brings the same attitude that he had last year and helps us win some games.”
Before Drew makes his debut for Boston in 2014, he will need a Minor League rehab assignment of roughly 25 at-bats, according to Farrell.
Rookie Xander Bogaerts, who has been the starting shortstop through the early part of the season, will move to third base once Drew is activated. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is on the disabled list for the second time this season after fracturing his right index finger last week.
When Middlebrooks returns, he could at least start at third base against lefties, with Bogaerts supplanting Drew at short for many of those games.
The Red Sox had a 20-23 record entering Tuesday’s game with the Blue Jays.
“Provided everything works out [with the physical], we’ve added a very good player to improve this team,” said Farrell. “That’s the one thing that [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and ownership have repeatedly shown — when a need exists, they’ll do whatever is capable and available at a given time to improve the team. Stephen’s return to us could very well do that. It’ll add stability to the left side of the infield.”
To Wil Myers, Fenway Park isn’t just the place he got heckled in the playoffs last year, but also the place he made his Major League debut earlier in the 2013 season. He was the American League’s Rookie of the Year, though Boston fans remember him most warmly for losing sight of a flyball by David Ortiz in Game 1 of last year’s playoffs.
“Yeah, it’s good to be back here where I made my debut. But I’m excited to get back here after the playoffs,” said Myers. “As bad as it was last year, it was kind of a cool experience to have all of the Fenway faithful chanting my name. So that was kind of cool. Obviously, it sucked that it happened. But the whole stadium cheering my name was kind of cool.”
Throughout Games 1 and 2 of last year’s ALDS, Fenway fans taunted the young outfielder with “Myers, Myers, Myers.”
“I was just trying to make light of the things and just kind of move past what happened and looking forward to the game today,” said Myers.
Though Tuesday night’s game was set to be played under chilly conditions, Myers expected the Fenway faithful to light up at him given the chance.
“Absolutely. I think for sure they’ll cheer or chant my name — I don’t know about cheer. They’ll definitely chant my name tonight. It’s all in good fun. But we’re looking to come out tonight and win” Myers said.
Myers admits he underestimated just how strong the crowd reaction would be to his gaffe.
“Yeah, I was. I was definitely not expecting that. The fans here are smart baseball fans. They knew that play really turned the momentum. They’re smart about what they did.”
It was a tough offseason for Myers, he can now admit.
“To be honest, it stayed with me for most of the offseason, to know that play kind of turned the series, especially the momentum. It really made helped me work harder this offseason to get better. It’s definitely something I learned from, the playoff experience,” Myers said.
As the Red Sox welcomed one key hitter back to the lineup in Dustin Pedroia, they lost another — at least for the night — in Mike Napoli.
Pedroia is leading off tonight, with Bogaerts hitting second and Gomes hitting fourth. Napoli dislocated his left ring finger on Tuesday night in a gruesome-looking head-first dive into second.
He is day-to-day.
Daniel Nava will play first base in Napoli’s absence tonight.
Dustin Pedroia admits he had some concern that something was seriously wrong with his left hand. Instead, it was just inflammation, and the invaluable second baseman could be back in the lineup as early as Wednesday.
“Very [relieved].” Pedroia said. “If it was broke, I would have been out a long time. It’s good news. Hopefully I’ll be in there tomorrow. They gave me a shot to calm everything down. Hopefully, it takes, they say 24 to 48 hours to kick in and then get out there and go.”
More on the injury: “Yeah, I was a little bit worried. It was getting worse every day. it happens. I get taken out every day. it’s my job. I just felt like it was part of the deal. I’m still obviously doing the rehab on my thumb stuff. they wanted me to get checked out and make sure everything is fine.”
What is the issue? “Just inflammation in this area spot in my wrist. It was basically with my rehab stuff with my thumb. Just a spot where I got caught in a weird angle when I got taken out. everything just got inflamed and then I keep swinging and playing, it just adds up and so, you think something is really wrong.”
He hopes it doesn’t linger. “Yeah, that’s why I’m not playing today. I’m trying to strangle John and get in there but you know if one more day can, this can go away, that’s great.”
The personal collection of late Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky will be up for auction on Saturday at noon at Fenway Park. The event is open to the public and free of admission.
There will be over 200 items available, including Pesky’s 2004 and ’07 World Series rings and his AL championship rings from 1975 and ’86. Other items include autographed baseballs, trophies, Pesky’s Rolex watch and more. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund, which was always a cause near and dear to Pesky’s heart.
The way Pesky’s son David looked at it, those items hadn’t been getting much use.
“We kept quite a bit. You’d be surprised,” said David Pesky. “We kept a lot of stuff that means something to the family or might be more personal things. It’s always tough to move on and have these things. Frankly, they weren’t getting displayed or seen by anybody.
“The rings were in a box in the bank, and that’s no fun for anyone. I really do think that some of Johnny’s memorabilia should be out there with the fans. They loved him so much and he was such a public person. He loved the fans. This is something that he would definitely appreciate. Having it at Fenway, even better. that’s his second home. He loved Fenway. He loved the Red Sox.”
Pesky, who had his number 6 retired by the Red Sox in 2008, died in August, 2012.
He was one of the fabled “Teammates” written about in David Halberstam’s book, along with Dominic DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. In fact, Doerr, the last surviving teammate, turned 96 earlier this week.
“Isn’t he a wonderful guy? I went out to visit him last summer and saw him out in Oregon,” said David Pesky. “Had a great time seeing him and talking about the old times.”
As for dealing with the loss of his father, David Pesky said, “I’d give anything to have him back but that’s the way life works.”
Live bidding for the auction will begin on Saturday, April. 12 at 12:00AM EST. Bids can either be made in person at the auction, via telephone at 610-524-0822, or online at www.HuntAuctions.com. Online pre-bidding ends on Friday, April 11th at 9:00PM EST. Absentee and phone arrangements must be made by Friday, April 11 at 6PM EST. More information on the event and photos of all the items being auctioned can be found at www.HuntAuctions.com.
Courtesy of Red Sox PR, here is the press release on Friday’s Home Opener.
BOSTON, MA – The Red Sox open their 114th home season this Friday, April 4, with Opening Day festivities set to begin at 1 p.m. The Red Sox play the National League’s Milwaukee Brewers at 2:05 p.m.
The pre-game ceremonies will include the presentation of the World Series rings, presented by Samsung, the performance of the national anthem, a helicopter fly-over, the Ceremonial First Pitch, and the call to “Play Ball.”
The ceremonies will include a moment of silence in tribute to Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, who perished last week when a 9-alarm fire raged through a Back Bay home a mile and a half from Fenway Park. The firefighters were from the station on Boylston Street that also protects the ballpark.
The singing of God Bless America in the middle of the 7th inning will be performed by the Boston Fire Department Quartet.
The Dropkick Murphys, along with Keith Lockhart conducting members of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, will perform during the ceremonies. Members of the Hanscom Airforce Base military will line the length of the Green Monster wall as the American flag drops for the anthem.
To maintain the Opening Day tradition of a fly-over at Fenway Park, the United States Coast Guard will fly a single MH-60T helicopter, representing all of our armed forces, at the conclusion of the national anthem.
In honor of the 2013 championship, players will wear special gold-trimmed Red Sox jerseys with gold stitching around the World Series Championship patch on the left sleeve, and around the letters and numbers on the front and back of the jersey.
Fenway Park gates will open at 11:35 a.m., 2 ½ hours before the first pitch. For the rest of the regular season, gates will open 1 ½ hours before the game, except for Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members, who may enter at Gate C 2 ½ hours before each game.
As always, and especially on midweek day games, the Red Sox urge fans to take the T. In addition to the familiar Green Line stops at Kenmore Square, the MBTA has also built a new Yawkey station for its Commuter Rail service.
The refurbished station, located just 511 feet from the doorstep of Fenway Park, now has as many as 40 scheduled stops per day, up from only 17 flag stops previously. Yawkey Station is part of the Commuter Rail’s Framingham/Worcester line, which runs from Worcester to South Station. The last outbound train from Yawkey Station departs at 11:36 p.m. on weekdays and 11:10 p.m. on weekends. Departure times for the last train leaving Yawkey Station are subject to change based on the length of the game.