A MOUND OF TROUBLE; A DIFFERENT DREAM TEAM

August 10, 2010

I already told you that I enjoy it when the Red Sox have trouble, right?

Dan Shaughnessy, of the Boston Globe sees pitching problems for the Sawx, after game three.

“Josh Beckett has an interesting history with the Yankees. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2003
World Series when he was a 23-year-old Florida Marlin. He clinched that Series with a five-hit shutout in
Yankee Stadium. He has more regular-season wins (nine) against the Yankees than any other team.
But it’s been different lately. Downright ugly. In his last five starts against the Yanks (four this season)
Beckett is 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA, including 10 gopher balls. Over his last 27 1/3 innings against the Bronx
Bombers he has given up 42 hits and 32 earned runs.
The Red Sox were looking for a big game from Beckett last night, but they didn’t get it. The erstwhile ace
gave up a whopping 11 hits and seven earned runs before leaving with two outs in the fifth, trailing, 7-1.
The Sox lost, 7-2, squandering another chance to gain on Tampa Bay (the Rays haven’t won since that ball
clanged off the catwalk last week). If you’re still scoring at home, the Twins have tied Boston in the
wild-card race behind Tampa.
This was Beckett’s fourth start since coming off the disabled list and it seemed reasonable to expect a
strong performance in the wake of his recent mastery of the Indians and Angels.
Alas, these Yankees are no Angels. And Beckett struggled mightily.
“It’s hard for our guys to catch balls that are hit that hard,’’ said Beckett. “I just threw too many balls
over the fat part of the plate.’’
He gave up eight hits and two runs in the first three innings, running a high pitch count. He fanned a pair
in a 1-2-3 fourth, but after the Sox cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth, Beckett blew up.
Mark Teixeira crushed a homer to start the inning. Then Beckett overthrew the baseball and unraveled. After
the Tex message, we witnessed a walk, a hit batter, a strikeout, a double, a walk, a strikeout, and a
knockout two-run double by Derek Jeter. Beckett turned a 2-1 deficit into a 7-1 deficit. He was lifted in
favor of Manny Delcarmen.
Second baseman Bill Hall and catcher Kevin Cash compounded Beckett’s problems with throwing errors, but the
righthander wasn’t making any excuses.
“When you give up seven runs, who else are you going to blame?’’ he asked.
Cash subscribed to the overthrowing theory.
“In that last [fifth] inning you could tell he was rushing,’’ said the catcher. “We tried to make
adjustments, but he was putting a lot behind the ball.’’
The Yankees are Beckett’s Kryptonite. It’s as if the baseball gods are getting even after watching Beckett
master the Bronx Bombers when he was a major league baby.
Asked about his recent problems with the Yankees, Beckett said, “I don’t break it down that way.’’
Remember Beckett against the Yanks in May?
He staggered through one of the goofier starts of his career at Fenway May 7. He started off the night with
electric stuff and struck out the side (all swinging) on 13 pitches in the first inning. He had seven Ks
and a shutout with two out in the fourth. Then he imploded. By the time he was yanked in the sixth, he’d
given up nine hits and nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He also walked three, threw a wild pitch, and hit
Robinson Cano and Jeter. He looked like he didn’t want to be out there and a lot of the Yankees were
yelling at him after he hit Jeter.
Beckett’s next start was on a wet mound in New York May 18. That’s when he hurt his back. We didn’t see him
again until July 23.
He was impressive in his first three starts after coming off the shelf. He went 5 2/3 innings against
Seattle, seven against the Angels, then eight against Cleveland. He won the latter two starts, allowing
only eight hits over 15 innings. Over the three games he struck out 18 and walked only one. Granted, those
are weak lineups, but he looked like he was on his way to being the old Josh Beckett.
“We wanted so bad for him to be Beckett, and not be out there in name only,’’ manager Terry Francona said
before last night’s debacle. “It’s pretty exciting. He threw the ball real well. He’s had a better feel for
his breaking ball and his cutter.’’
After the game Francona said, “I thought that he gave up a lot of hits, some of them not so hard. They
really worked the count on him, that’s what they do well. Even if you are falling behind, if you leave the
ball over the middle of the plate or give them extra outs, they are going to hurt you.’’
Beckett doesn’t say a lot, but one might presume he’s a tad embarrassed that he got hurt and won only one
game in the first four months of the season after signing his four-year ($68 million) contract extension.
When he first tweaked his back, there was no doubt a temptation to keep pitching because he’d just signed
the deal. He’s certainly carrying himself like a possessed rebel since his return. We figured we’d see the
best of Beckett now that he’s working in early August with more than two months of rest.
“Health-wise, I’m fine,’’ he said. “It just comes down to making pitches.’’
Bottom line: It is Aug. 9 and Josh Beckett is 3-2 with a 6.21 ERA.”

Jerry Crowe wrote in the LA Times about the drive that pushed Bob Boozer, the No.1 pick in the 1959 NBA
draft, to delay his professional basketball career for a year.
“Knee injuries delayed the professional basketball debuts of No. 1 NBA draft picks Greg Oden and Blake
Griffin.

For Bob Boozer, it was national pride.

The top pick in 1959, he kept the Cincinnati Royals at arm’s length for more than a year to maintain his
amateur status in hopes of playing for Team USA in the 1960 Olympics.
“I always had this deep desire to represent this country on its Olympic basketball squad,” Boozer says,
“and at that time, you only had one go-round at it. Everyone told me, ‘Your chances are remote,’ et cetera,
et cetera. Each person that tried to get me to sign on the dotted line expressed that, but I said, ‘Hey,
this is something I’ve got to go for.’

“I knew I only had once chance.”

The 6-foot-8 former forward made the most of it, taking his place on a team coached by Pete Newell that
tore through its Olympic competition in Rome by an average of 42.4 points a game.

Considered the greatest amateur basketball team ever assembled, it featured future Hall of Famers Oscar
Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy.

“We,” Boozer says, “were the first Dream Team.”

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will pay homage Friday, enshrining the team en masse along
with the 1992 Dream Team ( Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, et al) and eight individuals, among
them Jerry Buss, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Cynthia Cooper and the late Dennis Johnson.

Boozer, 73, is delighted to be in their company.

A member of the Nebraska State Board of Parole and a former Laker, he never regretted his decision to
postpone the start of his NBA career to chase his Olympic dream.

He’d been a two-time All-American under Tex Winter at Kansas State, where the Wildcats utilized the
triangle offense in reaching the Final Four in 1958, but was in no hurry to go pro.

“I had tunnel vision,” says the gold medalist, who is no relation to Carlos Boozer of the Chicago Bulls. “I
was going to stay out that year and try out for the Olympic basketball squad. No ifs, ands or buts about
it, that’s what I was going to do.”

Still, he notes in a phone interview, “I couldn’t possibly do it now, with the kind of money they’re giving
away.”

But 50 years ago, while working for Peoria Caterpillar and playing for the company’s team in the National
Industrial Basketball League during the 1959-60 season, Boozer says he earned only slightly less than he
would have made playing for the Royals.

At the AAU national tournament, the Cats won the championship, and Boozer was the tournament’s most
valuable player.

After the Olympics, Boozer rejoined Robertson in Cincinnati and launched an 11-season NBA career in which
he played for six teams, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds a game.

In 1966, he helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals and in 1971 he won a championship with the Milwaukee
Bucks.

“That season with the Lakers was the most enjoyable season I ever had in the NBA because it was Hollywood,
Los Angeles,” Boozer says. “Jack Kent Cooke had parties at his place and you got a chance to meet movie
stars. It was a fun time.

“I hated to leave, I know that.”

But after the Boston Celtics broke the Lakers’ hearts in Game 7, Boozer was left unprotected in the
expansion draft and picked up by the Bulls. In Chicago, he enjoyed his most productive NBA seasons, making
his only All-Star appearance in 1968.

“If good players get minutes,” he says, “they’re going to score.”

In Milwaukee, Boozer rejoined Robertson and capped his career playing alongside a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

All the while, he was preparing for life after basketball, having spent several summers before his
retirement working in a management-training program at the Bell System.

“You can tell when your career is over,” Boozer says. “The training camps were harder, your body didn’t
bounce back as readily as it used to. It was more of a job, rather than fun.

“If we won the championship, I definitely was going.”

They did and he bolted, spending the next 27 years working for Ma Bell, the last 10 as a federal lobbyist
in Washington. In 1997, after a fitful month of retirement, Boozer was appointed by then-Nebraska Gov. Ben
Nelson to the State Board of Parole, “and I’ve been there ever since.”

He and Ella, his wife of 42 years, are grandparents.

In Springfield, Mass., this week, Boozer will be reunited with teammates who might be unaware of the path
he took to the Olympics.

“I didn’t realize he’d waited a year to make the team,” Lucas said last week. “I think that’s fantastic. I
mean, he had the dream and he accomplished it. It’s a tremendous story.”

Boozer couldn’t have done it any other way. Maybe it was a gamble, he says, but the reward was worth the
risk.

“Winning that gold medal and standing on that podium with ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ being played — that’s
a feeling you can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it,” he says. “It’s very moving, something I don’t
think you can duplicate.”

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