IT WAS A MATTER OF TIME; “PUT ME IN COACH”

May 29, 2010

I have to admit it that Bob Ryan, of the Boston Globe, was right in saying that “Celtic Pride” would carry the day, er- night.

“Dwyane Wade will be huddling with his divorce lawyers. LeBron James will be preparing for The Great Recruiting Tour. And Dwight Howard will be
sharpening his elbows. But if they get an idle moment or two, those three members of the All-NBA team will rendezvous in Hilton Head, or some such
getaway, to watch the Boston Celtics play for the NBA championship.
It’s official. First, they crushed Wade’s overmatched Miami Heat. Next, they took care of the 61-win Cavaliers. And now they have disposed of the 59-win
Magic. The Afterthought Celtics will be playing in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years and the 21st time overall.
And you were worried? C’mon. There’s a reason NBA teams are now 0-94 after falling behind, 3-0, in best-of-seven series and why only one of those 94, the 1951 Knicks, have even made it 3-3.
It’s pretty hard, that’s why. The fact the Bruins lost a deciding seventh game in this very building to enter the record books was never germane. The Bruins had no championship pedigree and they were playing shorthanded. The Celtics are a year removed from a title and still had the Big Three Plus one, in addition to a few other very useful guys.
It was a blissful evening at TD Garden, the game ending in the exact manner as Game 6 of the Cleveland series; that is to say, with the rival coach having
conceded by pulling his star player and with the delirious crowd chanting — what else? — “Beat LA!’’ for the entire final two minutes.
The final was 96-84, and what a shameful liar that 12-point spread is. For the Celtics trailed for just 12 seconds in this game. They led by 11 after one, 13 at
the half, 21 after three, and 24 with 11:45 to play. They were in complete control in the final 39 minutes or so.
Oh, and you had Nate Robinson in the Key Player of The Game pool, didn’t you?
Yup, Nate was a true Little Big Man last night. He had been dropped from the rotation in the regular season and had played 16 minutes, total, in the first five games of this series. But Doc Rivers liked what he saw of the 5-foot-9-inch guard in Orlando Wednesday amid that disappointing loss, and he told his
coaching staff he was going to give Robinson a shot in what was only the most important game of the season, until the next game.
Rajon Rondo come out of the gate with a spectacular 12-point, three-assist first period. He was clearly on top of his game. And Nate Robinson, amazingly, trumped him.
Who on this earth would have expected Robinson to hit the Magic with 13 points in a 19-9 run that expanded a 9-point second-quarter Celtics’ lead to
19 (51-32)? Well, you’d have to say Doc, who put him in the game to begin with, and then you’d also have to say 21-year-old Brian Kennedy, the
Needhamite who may have been the only person in the building brave enough to walk into the joint proudly wearing a green jersey with the No. 4.
“I got onto him when he scored the 41 off the bench for New York after not playing for 14 games,’’ said Kennedy.
“I’ve been telling him, and other guys, too, every day at practice, ‘Stay engaged, at some point you’re going to win a game for us,’ ’’ Rivers explained.
The Robinson outburst included a pair of threes, a pair of non-threes, three free throws, a steal, an assist, and a forced backcourt violation.
“Nate Robinson,’’ sighed Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, “was huge. That was a huge, huge lift for them.’’
Perhaps the Celtics would have won this game if Nate Robinson had done nothing more in replace of Rondo than simply not screw up. But what he did
ensured that he will at least be an italicized footnote in Celtics’ history, a la, say, Glenn McDonald. Things like that matter around here. Ask Dave Roberts.
Of course, he wasn’t the best player on the floor, or anything close to it. The best player on the floor was the Captain, Paul Pierce, who played one of his
stellar Havlicek-Bird games with game highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds, and he had 5 assists, 2 steals, and some outrageous baskets that eliminated even the slightest possibility of the Magic staging a miracle comeback. He was also a major part of a Celtic defense that held the bombs-away Magic to a
manageable 6 for 22 on threes.
In case you haven’t heard, the Magic couldn’t beat Stetson or Rollins if they aren’t killing you with threes.
There is no way to minimize what the Celtics have done by dispatching Cleveland and Orlando, who ran through the league with a combined 120-44 record.
“They made us both look bad,’’ said Van Gundy. “Cleveland was upset because they didn’t play well. We’re upset because we didn’t play well. But they’re just playing very well to go through two series like that. No. 1, they will get down and dirty on defense. No. 2, they are a very unselfish team on offense.’’
Basketball in May and June. Don’t the good people of New England love it? Any time you’re still playing basketball when the grass needs mowing and you’ve got the screens in means only one thing: You’ve got a very good basketball team.
The NBA Finals begin Thursday, with or without LA.
And you were worried?”

Jim Caple, of ESPN Page 2, spoke of John Fogerty of CCR fame who rekindled a lot of childhood feelings about not getting into a lot of sandlot
games (I wasn’t even good enough to play Little League).
“John Fogerty could have written a song about a different position but “Middle Reliever” would not have resonated nearly as well.
Beat my head, hold the bullpen phone — another pitching change!
They’re born again, three runners on the bags.
A’heading in, and blowin’ the lead, it’s a left-handed setup man;
And everyone can tell that victory goodbye.
 

No, other positions would not have worked. Fogerty chose “Centerfield” because to him the position was special. It was the center of the universe, the land where baseball’s gods roamed.
“It was this mythical place. Center field was the place where all the greats played,” Fogerty said in a phone interview. “I had long decided that the right fielder, which was probably me growing up — if they had nine kids and No. 1 was the best player, then No. 9 was in right field. But the centerfielder was always the best fielder on the team. He was the power hitter and fast and could handle everything. If you think about all the center fielders who’ve played the game, they’ve normally been the best players, too. DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays.”
Fogerty recorded “Centerfield” 25 years ago — it came out the year before Jamie Moyer reached the majors — never realizing he was releasing not just a song but an anthem. Go to any ballpark in the country and there’s a good chance you’ll hear it playing. It is as much a part of the lyrics of baseball as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “Cold Beer Here!” and “A-Rod Sucks!” It’s the game’s unofficial walk-up music, such an integral part of baseball that Fogerty will perform the song live this summer at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
“I think I will be lifted off the ground,” Fogerty said of his emotions when he plays on induction day. “No. 1, I’ll be very keyed up and nervous and want to do a good job. The bigger the game, the more the adrenaline kicks in. I believe that my poor little brain won’t be able to comprehend it all, I’ve been working to this moment all my life, since I was a little boy. In no way am I saying I’m equal to the players but I have loved them and thought about them as little boys do — and to sing a song that is about them, there will be a lot of things I’ll be feeling.”
I don’t think I’m going out on too far a limb here by saying his performance will be more rousing than umpire Doug Harvey’s acceptance speech.
“I think of all the great players he was talking about in that song, and going through my career, every time I heard that song, I thought that song was made for me,” Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon said. “It’s one of those songs that just sticks with you. Any kid who grows up playing center field, when they hear thatsong, they get that chill.”
Well, not everyone.
Ken Griffey Jr., the greatest center fielder since “Centerfield” was released, insists that he never even heard the song until his first game in the minors with the Bellingham Mariners in 1987, and that it has no special meaning to him. “It’s about a guy who wanted to play and I was already in the game.”
That’s the whole point, though. When we stand to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” all we’re asking is to watch and chomp on peanuts and Cracker Jack.
“Centerfield” is a plea to be get into the game, a demand to play, a call to arms, a chance to show what we can do. Put me in, Coach!
“I used to use that phrase all the time,” Fogerty said. “I’d be watching the Game of the Week and there would be that time when they would show the
dugout — I feel like Ronald Reagan now — and it would just be time for Claudell Washington or Orlando Cepeda or someone to go out there and save the day. I’d be watching the game and they showed the skipper and I’d be shouting at the TV, ‘Put me in, Coach! Put me in, Coach!’
“That was a phrase I used all the time. All the phrases in the song are phrases I’ve heard a million times. Touch ’em all. A moment in the sun. Just things I
always heard as a fan.”
Fogerty says the song was relatively easy to write. “I had gotten the idea that I was going to make a song about center field. The album was called
‘Centerfield.’ It was a comeback for me. It had been 10 years since I had been anywhere near the music business publicly. So I knew I would call the album
‘Centerfield’ because it was very special to me. And I thought, you ought to try to make a song about it. I was practicing a song, and I came up with that guitar riff that starts the song. I went into the studio, playing the guitar with a drumbeat and it just came out.
“That’s the thing about this wonderful, mystical part of songwriting — you don’t realize it’s there, but it is there, and when it’s right, it shakes you and shocks you and you know immediately.”
The opening riff of “Centerfield” is contagious. You hear it, and you immediately start clapping. You hear it and you think of baseball and summer and green grass and swift, strong athletes racing back to catch impossibly long fly balls. “Centerfield” has a running time of 3:53 but, as Damon says, “That song will go on forever.”

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