Fenway Memories

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Fenway Memories

Fenway Park has seen a hell of a lot of history over these last 100 years. So much so that its almost impossible to look back and focus on just one game, one player or even one moment from the parks decorated past.

But thats what I wanted to do.

So, I sat down at my desk last night, closed my eyes and thought: OK Fenway Park! Whats the FIRST thing that pops into your head?

The answer was slightly weird and entirely unexpected.

Rico Brogna.

Yes, Rico Brogna.

THE Rico Brogna.

The man, the myth, the Brogna.

As you remember, Boston grabbed Brogna off waivers in August of 2000. At the time, he was only 30 years old, a solid first baseman and less than a season removed from back-to-back 20 homer100 RBI campaigns. Did I mention he was a local guy? Yes, Brogna was born in Turner Falls, and had grown up cheering for the Sox in Watertown. So all things considered, people were pretty excited to add him to the mix. (When youre making a run at the pennant, theres no such thing as too much insurance for Brian Daubach.)

But unfortunately, like many moves from that era (or every era), Brogna never panned out. He was never healthy, and never found a rhythm. He appeared in only 40 games, hit .193 and managed one measly home run.

Still, somehow, when I sat at my desk last night and played mental roulette with my Fenway memories, that ONE home run was the first thing that clicked.

It was August 14, and the Sox 59-54, four games back in the AL East were hosting the Rays. But more importantly, Pedro Martinez was on the mound. This was his third season in Boston; the height of reign as the leagues most dominant pitcher. Back then, it didnt matter who the Sox were playing the Yankees, the Devil Rays, the Park League All-Stars when Pedro was on the mound you did everything you could to be there. And on this night, I was. Section 13. Row EE.

Fast-forward to the ninth inning, and things had NOT gone as planned. Pedro had left the game after only four innings with a stiff right shoulder, but not before giving up a three-run homer to mighty Miguel Cairo. The Sox got three back in the sixth, but that was it. The teams moved to the bottom of the ninth, tied 3-3.

Heres what happened next: Darren Lewis led off with an HBP, stole second and moved to third on a sac fly by Trot Nixon. Then, Jason Varitek struck out. So now the winning run was on third, with two outs and the only two legitimate threats in the Sox line-up (Carl Everett and Nomar Garciaparra) were coming up next.

What did Tampa do? They intentionally walked Crazy Carl. They intentionally walk Nomar. They intentionally walked the bases loaded for the one and only Rico Brogna!

As you can imagine, the crowd was buzzing. Not only because the Sox were on the verge of victory, but also because the Rays had just intentionally walked the bases loaded! How dare they steal a Nomar at-bar from us?! How dare they disrespect our hometown Brogna?! Now, we were excited, but also a pretty angry. (Those two emotions dominated just about every summer back then, especially when the division was within reach.) Everyone was standing. Everyone was screaming. At this very moment, regardless of anything that was going on in anyone's life, Rico freaking Brogna was the only thing that mattered!

Five pitches later, he turned on a 2-2 fastball and sent a rocket into right field bullpen.

A walk off grand slam!

And Fenway went nuts.

Absolutely nuts.

I dont remember what song was playing in the background. I don't remember if Wally was doing a celebratory dance on the dugout. I don't remember anything but watching through a sea of waving hands and screaming fans as Brogna made his way around the bases. Back then, we didnt need songs or gimmicks or anything to help us love this team, or that stadium. Fenway and the Sox were all were had. Just a team and a ball park, and to be honest, neither of them were that good. But they were enough. They were always enough.

Especially on that night.

To be honest, I'm still not sure how or why Rico Brogna's walk grand slam was the first Fenway memory to come flying through my brain. But I'm glad it was.

Because that's how this park should be remembered. That's how I'll always remember it. Not for what it is today. You know, Fenway Sports Group's perverted Magic Kingdom. A cheap whore that Larry, John and company keep throwing money at and make-up on just so they can show it off to their horny old friends.

To be honest, these days I feel bad for Fenway. I hate what it's become.

But thankfully, these guys can't ruin what Fenway once was.

We'll always have the memories.

We'll always have Rico Brogna.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

WR Brandon Marshall provides player's perspective to owners on Day 2 of meetings

PHOENIX - When league owners, coaches and executives come together for the NFL's annual meetings, those meetings are often devoid of those who have the biggest say in making the product what it is. 

The guys who play.

Brandon Marshall, newly-acquired wide receiver of the Giants, had an opportunity to provide the meetings with a player's perspective on Monday morning. 

The focus, he told reporters after addressing owners, was to highlight the importance of continuing to foster stronger relationships between the league and its players. 

It seemed to go over well, judging by a tweet sent out from Niners owner Jed York. 

"I think it's important for us to continue to do things like we did last year giving the players more of a voice," Marshall said. "You saw the campaign during Week 13 last year, My Cause My Cleats. That was super successful. It gave the world and our fans and the NFL the opportunity to see that we are people,  we're not just gladiators. It humanized us. 

"It not only gave people outside of the game that opportunity to see who we really were but also people in the game like owners, executives and even players. . .We want to continue to do more of that. If we want our game to continue to be on this track that it's on, being super successful, as far as being a pillar in the community, then we need to make sure that our relationships between players and owners is healthy."

Day 2 of the owners meetings will be highlighted by a decision on the fate of the Raiders franchise. The team is expected to have enough support from owners around the league to uproot and head to Las Vegas. 

Around midday in Phoenix, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected to speak to reporters about league affairs as well as his team's offseason activity. 

Jaylen Brown steps away from social media to prepare for playoffs

Jaylen Brown steps away from social media to prepare for playoffs

BOSTON –  Like most of the NBA’s Millennials, Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown is active on social media.

But if you holla at him on Twitter or Instagram these days, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back anytime soon.
 
That’s because Brown is stepping away from the social media game to better focus on his first postseason journey with the Celtics, which begins next month.
 
Brown said he isn’t the only player inside the Celtics locker room who has pledged to do things differently leading up to the playoffs.
 
More than anything, the changes Brown speaks of are symbolic to illustrate the need for everyone to make sacrifices critical for a team’s success.
 
“I’ve paid attention to that, how a lot of guys are making the sacrifices necessary to add to this team,” Brown said. “Some guys are only drinking water. Some guys are cutting out cursing or other aspects. Some guys have some personal stuff...Everybody is putting themselves in that mind frame to sacrifice for the betterment of the team.”
 
He added that taking a step back from social media was just one of a handful of changes he has made leading up to the playoffs.
 
“Some are personal, but some, just being a lot more focused and more locked in, eliminating distractions,” Brown told CSNNE.com. “This generation, we’re so social media dependent. So just eliminating that, filling that in with other stuff whether it’s gym time or film or just time to yourself instead of it being so predicated on the cell phone.”
 
Brown understands the battle Boston (48-26) is in for the top spot in the East heading into the playoffs and how important getting that would be to this team.
 
“It means a lot, especially being a rookie from my perspective, being on a team that’s number one seed in the East and being a contributor.” Brown said. “What more could you ask for, coming in to the league, coming into the NBA. It’s been great for me. It’s been a blessing.”
 
While Brown has had his share of ups and downs as a rookie, there’s no ignoring the fact that he’s progressing at a brisk rate.

“Offensively, I’m getting a little more comfortable scoring the ball; mid-range game, I’m developing,” he said. “Defensively, being in the right spot at the right time, stuff like that. I’ve come a long way and I still have a long way to go.”