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Soup of This Day #14: Cal Ripken Moves to 3rd, Marsalis on Deck

June 10, 2011

Duke Ellington
Duke Eliington at the Hurricane Club in 1943. The. Man. Could. Play – Photo: Gordon Parks, 1943. Gordon Parks is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I like jazz. I like Springsteen and the E Street band, Weezer and the Beatles too but sometimes jazz just fits. When it’s good, when it’s right, then holy crap is it good. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane doing ‘In a Sentimental Mood’, the opening refrain is something special. When jazz is off, when the notes just don’t mean anything and the melody is aimless, then man is it bad. Pretentious, waffling garbage that just wastes your time. When I first got into jazz I used to play a mazy kind of 6 degrees of separation. I’d buy a record I liked and then I’d read the liner notes for a reference to another artist or record, figuring I could just kind of hop from good stuff to good stuff.

I’m telling you this because I’m about to try something similar with sport and in particular the 3 teams this blog thinks are ok plus a little bit of Cal Ripken. The kick-off point is the Dockers. Bear with me a bit folks, the links might not seem obvious but hopefully we’ll get there in the end… Oh and chuck on Ellington and Coltrane’s ‘In a Sentimental Mood’, it works best with a little rain on your window but give it a whirl anytime and it just seems to be right… Bounce-down

In 1995 the Fremantle Dockers made their debut into the AFL. Their first game was a narrow loss to Richmond at the MCG, going down 12.18 (90) to 12.13 (85). The next week, their first home game, played at the WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) ground, they again lost, this time 12.19 (91) to 11.16 (82), Essendon the victors. In Round 3 they travelled to Whitten Oval to play the now defunct Fitzroy scoring a 18.13 (121) to 11.12 (78) victory. It was their first of all-time and their 1st of 8 that season. Fitzroy would go on to win the wooden spoon with just 2 victories, while the Dockers finished 13th.

In 1996 the Dockers finished 13th again, recording 7 wins. Fitzroy recorded 2 wins and took the wooden spoon home one more time. They were to move north, merge with the Brisbane Bears and form the Brisbane Lions at the close of the season. Their final game as the Fitzroy Lions was in Perth when they suffered a ignominious 24.13 (157) to 11.10 (76) shellacking at the hands of the Dockers. There were two other significant ‘finals’ for the Dockers that year – They played their last game at Whitten Oval on July 14th, losing to Footscray 18.9 (117) to 15.9 (99) at the ground that had seen their first win. That game was also to mark their final match with Footscray as the Bulldogs were re-badged as the Western Bulldogs for the 1997 season.

Change was also in the air at Liverpool in July of 1996. A couple of months previously the Reds had sold Ian Rush to Leeds United. Welshman Rush is one of the greatest strikers to have played for Liverpool, scoring 139 times in 224 appearances, including 5 goals in 3 FA Cup finals, still a record. His place in the team had effectively been taken by a young Robbie Fowler. Despite the loss of Rush the team was touted that summer as the favourites for the coming Premiership campaign. Sadly, the rise of the Spice Boys culture (so named because of the attitude and antics of a core group of players) led to a late season fade-out in 96/97 and the promise was lost. Fowler would go on to be known as ‘God’ to Liverpool fans and would end his playing career for the Perth Glory in Western Australia, my home-town club. He announced his retirement on the 1st of June, the day the Red Sox lost 4-7 to the White Sox, capping a 4 game losing streak and a good ol’ fashioned brooming. At the time of writing the Red Sox haven’t lost since that game against Chicago, a 6 game streak.

Which brings us to Fenway and Yankee Stadium for 2 days a generation apart. On July 15 1996, the day after Fremantle lost to Footscray at Whitten Oval, the Red Sox hosted the Yankees at Fenway. Boston were 40 and 49 going into the game, trailing the 56 and 33 Yankees by 15. Despite the ugly numbers they’d racked up 5 wins on the trot, including a 4 game sweep of an, admittedly woeful, Tigers (then Division rivals and 30.5 games adrift of the Yanks). Starting for Boston that day was Tim Wakefield, the 29 year old knuckleballer. Leading off the bats for the New Yorkers was 22 year old short stop Derek Jeter. Jeter doubled off Wakefield. Wakefield picked Jeter off at 1st. The knuckleballer was to go 5 innings, allowing 13 hits and 6 runs. It would be enough for the win – Boston 8 to 6. Joe Girardi pinch hit for the Yanks, facing 4 for no hits. Jose Canseco with an RBI for the Sox, Daryl Strawberry with an RBI for the Yankees. Both had featured in the classic Simpson’s episode ‘Homer at the Bat’ in 1992 but that’s a red herring I’ve chucked in to see if you’re paying attention (And don’t go looking up ‘red herring’ and it’s derivation. Focus, people, eyes on the ball). The stat that is of relevance for today is that this was the first time that Jeter and Wakefield had faced off.

This morning they met again, for the 128th time (incl. post-season), 14 years, 10 months and 25 days (5442 days in all) on. Wakefield is 44, back as a starter, Jeter is 37 in a couple of weeks and is still at the top of the order. That the two are still going the rounds is something special – No one else from that 1996 game is still active. Take a moment people…

… And game on. Wakefield with the start like it was 96 all over again but the 1st was more like it was Game 1 of this series all over again. Boston jumping out of the blocks with a 3 run opener. Gonzalez (again) brought home Ellsbury and then Big Papi added 2 with a long shot. No bat flip this time and a slightly more energetic jog around the bases from the big guy. Drew’s sac fly in the second added another and then 3 in the 4th made it 7 to 0. Varitek, Ellsbury and Pedroia with RBIs and AJ Burnett with a hiding on his hands. The Yankees pulled one back off in the 4th and Wake with a nice cover across to 1st – The old man stumbled but not before he got the final out. He wasn’t so lucky in the 5th as he gave up 3 and the game was back on.

Gonzalez (again) with an RBI in the 6th that was matched by the New Yorkers at the bottom of the innings. At that stage 8-5 and Wakefield came out, finishing with 5 hits and 5 runs over 91 pitches. Enter Aceves who got the guys home with 3 and a bit innings of shut-out. The Boston bats added some icing in the 9th, Crawford with a solo shot and Drew taking Scutaro on a tour of the bases with him. The Sox 11-6 and at 35 and 26 a game out front of the AL East.

July 16th 1996, the day after shortstop Jeter faced knuckleballer Wakefield the Orioles matched up against Toronto at Camden Yards. The Orioles had just been swept by the Yankees over 4 games at home, Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees with 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, no errors and featured in 3 double plays. Ripkin at shortstop for the Orioles with 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, no errors and featured in 4 double plays. Ripkin was told on the Sunday night, ahead of the rest day that he’d be sent to 3rd as part of a shake-up. He’d started at shortstop for 2,216 consecutive Orioles games since July 1 of 1982, just over 14 years previously. For the record Baltimore got shellacked 6-0 by Toronto at Camden Yards, Manny Alexander in at shortstop for the O’s tagged for 3 errors.

If you liked the Ellington/Coltrane number try Wynton Marsalis’ Midnight Blues album. ‘The Party’s Over’ is a 3:00am special…

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