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Outside the Lines: Boston's Blues
The Sox are on course to be separated from the Yaukie (ph) family name and at the same time straining to pull together a deal for a new stadium to replace Fenway Park. Just as that ballpark evokes universal romance and the growing sentiment it is a relic, so do the Red Sox spark both universal devotion and inbred fatalism.
Folk wisdom says this is less fate than a curse begun in 1920 when Red Sox owner Harry Frasey (ph), his club having recently won four World Series in seven years sold young Babe Ruth to the unproven Yankees. Through most of the 82 years since the last Red Sox championship, playing in the same park then as now, the club has been owned for the Yaukie family, known for its local identity.
That is about to change. What is not, Kelly Neal reports, is that the Sox are at the center of civic life, the same as the bare-knuckles politics that will determine this historic club's future.
State Rep. Thomas Finneran (D), Massachusetts Speaker of the House- The fierce traditions that we have as Bostonians, we hold on to them. We hold on to things and cherish them.
Unidentified male- There it goes, a long drive. If it stays fair, home run.
Finneran- We have the tea party. We have the minutemen memorial. We have all those things. And we really relish that. That applies to our sports as well.
Unidentified male- And the hit by StanLey. And a ground ball, quickly, it is a fair ball, gets by Buck there, rounding third. The Mets will win the ball game! The Mets win! They win!
Mike Andrews, Former Red Sox second baseman- I don't know if people around the country really realize the impact that this ball club and the love for this ball club and the living and dying with the Boston Red Sox that has gone on with New Englanders for a long, long time.
Kelly Neal, ESPN correspondent - It's a relationship that is loving and most certainly Calvinistic.
Dan Shaughnessy, "Boston Globe" columnist- The players don't understand this because they come and go. They don't understand why fans expect something bad to happen because they weren't here in '78. They weren't here in '46. They weren't here in '72.
They weren't here for all these bad things that happened. But for the fans who come every year, the Sox are continuous.
Ron Lutkus, Red Sox fan- They held you right into the end of it. They bring you up and then they just throw you over the bridge. That's how it feels, you know.
Neal - Is there some joy in that?
Lutkus- Yeah. Right up until September.
Mayor Thomas Menino (D), Boston- The Ruth hex is still there. We have to get rid of the Ruth hex. We have to have some witch doctors come in and cleanse the Red Sox of the hex of the Babe Ruth trade. And then maybe we'll get down to winning a World Series.
John Harrington, Red Sox CEO- I've decided to put the Yaukie Trust majority ownership interest in the Boston Red Sox up for sale.
Neal - Earlier this month, the oldest team in town with the oldest ballpark in baseball was put up for sale. Now with the Yaukie Trust 53 percent stake in the Red Sox on the block, Boston fans have something new to wrangle about.
Anthony Manning, Red Sox fan- The city needs a chance. The Red Sox, they need new ownerships. New ideas can come in. So better things could happen for the Boston Red Sox. And we could be back on top.
Neal- The new majority owner of the Sox will have a lot more than the team's record to worry about. While historic Fenway Park comes with a price tag, its tenure as home to the Red Sox is expected to end, replaced by a larger structure with more luxury boxes. Nostalgia makes way for corporate opportunity.
Howie Carr, WRKO Radio talk show host- The Bob Costases of the world, the George Wills, the "Field of Dreams" crowds, they're still going to keep coming in. They love the place. But you know what? They've been here. They've seen it. It's time to move on. Get over it.
Neal- But getting over the hurdles to build a bigger park will be a bigger dilemma for the new majority owner because of the combative nature of Boston politics.
Gov. Paul Cellucci (R), Massachusetts- Politics is a major league contact sport in this city and in this state. So decisions don't always come easy. Many times, they're hard fought.
Neal- For years, the Red Sox have been trying to secure outside financing for the new $665 million ballpark project as well as a site to build it on. Together, local opposition, Boston politics, and spiraling cost estimates have kept the deal from closing.
Harrington- There's still a long way to go. And what I've learned from over the past two years was it's a very slow process.
Neal- The ownership must provide at least $352 million towards the building of the new stadium. But that won't be nearly enough to complete it.
The state has committed $100 million to improve the streets and subways surrounding a new park in the Fenway area. But the city council says it won't approve the $212 million request to purchase land for the proposed site and construct a parking facility.
Brian Honan (D), Boston City Councilor- Most of the city councils don't want to expend public moneys for the private Boston Red Sox. They don't want to take private land by eminent domain for the private Boston Red Sox.
Menino- They'd never be for anything. They're always negative. But other councilors would be for it. And I have this large respect for the city council. And I think in the final analysis, they'll support a new ballpark in the Fenway.
Neal- Some community leaders question how any proposed public money going to the Red Sox could improve the quality of life within the city.
Rev. Eugene Rivers, AZUSA Christian Community- There's a lot more money that needs to be put into building more schools to meet the increasing needs of a growing student population in the city. And when we don't have gyms that can stay open in public schools so that a lot of kids don't have the after school programming that is necessary to reduce crime, then there are a whole range of things that we need to look at in balance, corporate needs against community needs.
Menino- We're not cutting money out of schools or playgrounds or police. This is not money that would go into those operations. And we're going to get our money back. And the money that we get back from the parking lot is a good revenue stream, probably do more in some of those services we need for our young people.
Honan- I have a feeling whoever purchases the Red Sox is probably going to sit on it for a year or two and not push the stadium aspect of this deal right now. I think they will sit and wait, look at the political obstacles, the legal obstacles. Obviously, they're going to have to first and foremost deal with their financial obstacles.
Lakisha Jackson, Red Sox fan- If you're buying the Sox, do something with it. Don't just buy them and just say, "OK," and leave it like that. Make them into winners.
Neal - In 1933, Tom Yaukie bought the Red Sox and Fenway Park for $1.5 million. The next owners should likely pay more than 200 times that amount for the same privilege.
City officials say it will be years before a new owner and a new stadium will be in place. It's a good thing Red Sox fans are used to being patient.
For Outside The Lines, I'm Kelly Neal.
Ley- And when we continue, we will consider the baseball state of mind in Boston with a man who played most of the '90s for the Red Sox, a veteran of the political wars in that city, and a man who has long chronicled the unique nature of a Red Sox nation.
Ley- The Red Sox in flux, their team for sale, the drive for a new stadium anything but a done deal. With the future up in the air, Bostonians must also face the insufferable present.
A New York team is guaranteed to win the World Series. Last night as the Yankees won in 12 innings, Boston fans 82 years without that championship, considered their fate.
Unidentified males- Yankees, Yankees, you suck.
Unidentified male- I'd rather die, see everyone else die, than have the Yankees win another championship definitely.
Unidentified male- I hate New York in general and any team in New York, the Jets, the Giants. New York just sucks basically. But if I had to pick one of them, I'd say the Mets even though I hate the Mets because of '86.
But I have this deep ingrown hatred for the Yankees. And I lose sleep at night when they win. That's how much I hate them. So I work here just so I can make fun of Yankees fans pretty much.
Ley- He is not alone, by the way.
To consider Boston's baseball situation, we welcome Tim Naehring, who spent his entire major league career playing for the Red Sox across eight seasons. He's now the director of player development for the Cincinnati Reds. And he joins us from Sarasota, Florida.
William Bulger is the president of the University of Massachusetts. And before that, Bill Bulger spent 35 years in the state legislature. He joins us from Boston.
And from New York City, Dan Shaughnessy, columnist for the "Boston Globe."
Dan, let me begin with you, the member of our panel stuck behind enemy lines this morning. How bizarre was it for the chronicler of Red Sox nation to sit there and watch that play out last night with everything in flux back in Boston?
Shaughnessy- I'm used to it. I mean, the Yanks have won 25 of these World Series since the Red Sox last won one in 1918. So it's not a new thing to come here and see the Yankees in the World Series doing well.
That was a great game. The city is alive. It was really fun. People stayed until the end. You know, 1-05, they're still there. It was a great night in New York.
Ley- One of the central issues we'll look at today is what the city and this team the Red Sox mean to each other. And when we were in Boston recording this story, we encountered one fan who rather succinctly encapsulates it. Let's give him a listen.
Unidentified male- What's Boston without the Red Sox? You've got the Patriots. They suck. The Celtics, they suck. The Haukie Bruins, they suck. So the Red Sox, they're the only good team that Boston has right now. So you don't want to go selling them.
Ley- Bill Bulger, does that fairly encapsulate, maybe not in the language you would choose, what this impending sale of the Red Sox means to the city of Boston?
William Bulger, President, Univ. of Massachusetts- Oh, I think that it does encapsulate it. That's obviously not a University of Massachusetts man.
But the Red Sox, the team is inseparable from us, all of us as individuals. I was going to say from the city, but from us as people.
My earliest recollection, if you don't mind, is back in 1946 fighting my way into Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play the Cardinals, Harry "the Cat" Briquine (ph) versus Joe Dobson. And the Cardinals won that game, and the series of course.
But it's a part of us, inseparable. And the fan is I think hearkening to that.
Ley- Well, you came as a kid from Ohio into Boston. How did you learn about what that city and team meant to each other?
Tim Naehring, Former Red Sox player- Well, I started I guess in 1975 watching the Cincinnati Reds growing up with Pete Rose as an idol. And I was real happy in '75 that the Reds won it. And once I was drafted in '88 and became a major leaguer in '90, I was looking back thinking maybe it would have been a better situation if Boston would have pulled one off there.
But going to Cape Cod league I guess as an amateur, getting a chance to watch Sam Horn and Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell and Wade Boggs play on a daily basis, you started to get a feel for just what Boston baseball meant to those people.
And I heard Dan speak earlier that some of the players come and they go. I would disagree that we don't realize what the Boston mentality is. I think it stuck with me. And I take it back with me to Cincinnati every year.
I remember the scars that these people have. And you know what? I think it is a pleasure knowing that I had a chance to put a Red Sox uniform on. And the fans still today recognize me for the effort that I try to give them.
Ley- Let me throw this out to any one of the three. Why is it important who owns this team now? Senator?
Bulger- I'm leaving that to the experts...
Ley- Someone's got to take a crack at this. Come on, Bill.
Bulger- ... Well, why is it important?
Ley- Yeah, why is it important who owns this team since the Yaukies have had it since 1933?
Bulger- Well, I think just exactly what we've been talking about, that whoever does own the team has an understanding of the relationship of this team to the people of this community. And by the way, I think the people in the political realm will be very supportive.
There has already been an indication from the state about $100 million worth of infrastructure improvements and the rest. I would be optimistic about that.
But the person, whoever it is, I think has to be respectful of an old relationship. Whoever it is will have come I think more recently to the situation and has to be mindful that it's an almost spiritual relationship. It's been alive for a long, long time. And the people here will be very, very sensitive to how much there is by way of respect for it.
Ley- I'm going to ask Dan, it's going to be an expensive spiritual relationship. The joke is, how do you become a millionaire? You start with $1 billion, and then you buy the Red Sox.
Shaughnessy- Well, I think it's a good point the senator brings out. And we hope it's a fan, someone who likes baseball and who has deep pockets who wants to spend money. It's probably going to be a number of people. It might be a media company. Who knows? There's all kinds of possibilities on this.
But it's very important that it be someone who understands Red Sox nation, the history of the team, the continuousness of the Red Sox and what they mean to the region. And this is going to be the stewardship of moving into the next facility. They will be somewhere else in a number of years.
I always say I look at the bright side. We'll all be dead by the time they're in the new ballpark. So I'm hoping that I never see it.
But I know that it's going to happen. And that's a big responsibility on the back of the new owner.
Ley- All right, you heard Howie Carr earlier say, "Get over it," about Fenway Park and move on.
Well, in just a second, as we continue with Tim Naehring and Bill Bulger and Dan Shaughnessy, we'll look at the prospects for a new Fenway Park and when and if it just may happen.
Ley- We continue with Tim Naehring and Bill Bulger and Dan Shaughnessy of the "Boston Globe."
Tim, let me ask you, as a former Red Sox player and as a front office man now in baseball, make the case for a new stadium in Boston.
Naehring- I think we all know change is inevitable. Looking at our situation in Cincinnati, I think with the ticket prices today you have to offer a total package.
I think when you go to Fenway Park, everybody realizes the tradition that is there. They also realize that the seats are probably a little bit smaller. The moms realize that they can't get a nice chef's salad.
I really believe that you have to offer more today, whether it's luxury boxes, whether it's a better family atmosphere. The game has changed a little bit. It's no longer father and son going out just to watch a ball game.
And whether the park is 50 years old or two years old, that doesn't matter. Today, I think you have to offer the whole thing. And being on this side of the game a little bit, I'm starting to understand that.
Yeah, the finances come in. The economics come in. The amount of luxury boxes is very important. We were lucky enough to get Ken Griffey Jr. this year.
Sometimes when you look at it, kids today leave the ball park. They might not remember whether it's a win or a loss. But they remember that they went and saw Ken Griffey, Jr. play. And the more things you can offer people, I think the better off you are.
Ley- And, Bill, already though in Boston, they've torn down the Boston Garden. You've got the Fleet Center. It's a very different experience for the fans. All for the good, though?
Bulger- No, not all for the good. I don't think the Fleet Center has any of the intimacy or the personality of the old garden. And there was no attempt even to be respectful of what the old garden offered.
Now that's my own sense of the Fleet Center. It's a personal one. I'm not certain how all of the fans find it.
Shaughnessy- You're right, Senator, it's a file cabinet.
Bulger- It is.
Ley- And it's not even a given, Dan, is it? Go ahead, Tim.
Naehring- I think it's going to be very important that the people who design the new Fenway Park, they have to realize that tradition is a part of those people. And Fenway Park is definitely a part of those people.
But they also have to realize that there's going to be new young ones coming along. And whatever park they build, they have to pay attention to that tradition.
You go to Camden Yards right now. I can't imagine a young person going to that ball park and not being influenced by the game of baseball. It's a beautiful place. Yes, it's modern. And yes, it offers a lot of the new things to the families and to the mothers. It's clean bathrooms. But you definitely have to bring what some of the old Fenway has to the new one.
Ley- Well, Tim, let me ask you, you were very active in the city of Boston in charitable works when you were playing with the Red Sox. You heard Reverend Rivers talk about, out of Dorchester (ph), better use could be put to the money.
We're talking about over $600 million for a ballpark project, some of it private, some of it, about half of it, public. Are there better uses for that money than building a ballpark and infrastructure?
Naehring- Well, that's going to be an ongoing argument. When you look at Fenway Park, I started a little charity called Athletes Reaching Out. And I was lucky enough to play nine-plus years in Boston.
I built a little Fenway on the actual Little League field that I played on as a kid. It's a 90 percent replica. I wanted to see what -- I wanted to bring home a little bit of what I experienced in Boston back to the place where I grew up.
Yes, there's probably good ways to use that money. But I think we're not just talking about building a normal ballpark here. We're talking about what these kids believe in. It's a part of all those people in Boston.
And now I'm with the Cincinnati Reds. And it's always been a dream of mine to be with this organization because I grew up watching it. But there's a big chunk of me that's always going to be a Boston Red Sox person.
And I hope that the right people do buy this organization, the Boston organization. And I hope that they do remember what these people need up in that part of the country.
Ley- But, Dan, it's going to be tough, is it not, for an individual to have a face as the next owner because of the amount of money. You're talking corporate money at this level, $300 million.
Shaughnessy- Well, that's a good point. I hope it is an individual, someone with accountability. I mean, even Mr. Steinbrenner, for as bad as people think he is, it's one guy, you can blame him, you can give him credit, he's out front.
The Red Sox for the last -- since Mrs. Yaukie died -- have been owned by a trust, a trust that you can't see. It has no face. John Harrington is the CEO. But there's no person that's accountable for what goes on with them.
And I think the fans, they want someone who's out front saying, "We're going to get this player, or we're not going to do this. We're going to build this park." So I hope there is a face on this new owner.
Ley- Tim, in one sentence, what do you think a change of ownership could mean on the field for this team?
Naehring- I think the on-field things will continue. I think Dan Duquette orchestrates a pretty good ball team. And I hope -- with Jimmy Williams at the helm, you never know what that team is going to do with Pedro starting every five days.
Ley- And Bill Bulger, do you think that this Fenway Park deal is going to stay intact? Ten seconds, please.
Bulger- Oh, yes indeed. No question about it. It's a matter of balancing.
Reverend Rivers makes a very good point. But it's a matter of balance.
Ley- All right, gentlemen, thanks. We'll leave it at that point.
Thanks to Tim Naehring and to Bill Bulger and to Dan Shaughnessy as we talk about the Boston blues during a Subway Series.
As we continue, your thoughts on the former Duke place kicker and a $2 million victory.
Ley- Heather Sue Mercer's landmark $2 million verdict against Duke University sparked opinionated e-mail this week to our inbox. The former Duke place kicker convinced a federal jury she was the victim of gender discrimination in her three-year quest to make the football team.
This observation from Washington, North Carolina- "In order to avoid painful situations like this, the NCAA needs to say that women play women's sports and men play men's sports, period. Mercer may think she's breaking down a door. But what waits behind that door is confusion and hardened prejudice rather than a step towards greater appreciation of female athletes in competition against one another."
A young woman in Tulsa writes- "I would just like to say that my high school football team recruited me this year to be the backup kicker. The kicker they have now was the one who asked me to come out and see if I could kick the football as well as I can a soccer ball.
"When the kicker got hurt on Thursday night, I got into the game. I made two of three extra points. I think if the girl kicker is recruited by either the coach or the players, I think there is no reason why she should not be allowed to play."
Well, Outside The Lines is online at ESPN.com. The easiest way to our site, type in the keyword otlweekly on the ESPN home page. You'll find complete libraries of past shows, streaming video, and transcriptions as well as links to learn more on this week's topic. Our e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ley- A reminder of our re-air today at our usual time, 10-00 a.m. Pacific, 1-00 p.m. Eastern over on ESPN2.
"SportsCenter" is back in 30 minutes. Chris Berman and the gang with "NFL Primetime" coming along in 60 minutes, including the Rams' Marshall Faulk explaining his past catching success to Sterling Sharpe.
Next up from the ESPN Zone, we go to Times Square in New York City. Dick Schaap and "The Sports Reporters." We will see you next Sunday 9-30 Eastern Outside The Lines.
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