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Soup of This Day #17: Badass Moon Rising

June 17, 2011

Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a Red Sox Moon – Photo: Jiyang Chen, 2010. Jiyang Chen is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Astronomy is cool. Probably not the cool you’re thinking of – Lady Gaga, Twilight and… Ok that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge of conventional cool and I got that from Google. Let’s call astronomy the Longworth72 kind of “cool”. Partly because in this universe we’re just a fragile dot in a vast sea of space, partly because the light from the nearest star takes just over 4 years to get to us, but mostly because if you had a bath big enough Saturn would float in it. ‘Wait a minute…’ I hear you say, ‘First jazz, now “cool” facts about astronomy…’ It’s ok I’m still a sports guy. I think Star Trek would be better, maybe even watchable, if they made it into a game. With bats. Where they wear cleated boots. And maybe scored goals. While driving the Enterprise round a street circuit. It could happen – They’ve already got the uniforms.

Point I’m making here is that I’m in to outer space. I volunteer at my local observatory, where I drive telescopes and tell people about stars, nebulae, globular clusters and Jupiter’s moons. I’m also in to sport. The two don’t often go together and we’re not really counting Alan Shepard playing golf on the moon. For one, there was no competition and for two golf is crap on tv. So I’m going to climb all over any opportunity to bring sport and the cosmic ballet together.

I’m not into ballet. That was just a figure of speech and an excuse to show a Simpson’s moment. In Spanish. I don’t do dance.

In 2004 the Boston Red Sox were in the ALCS series against the Empire. The Stormtroopers from New York had taken the first 3 of the series. In the bottom of the 9th, Game 4, the plucky Rebel Alliance was down 4-3, just 3 outs from oblivion. I was in Carnarvon, Western Australia, at work, following the game via play-by-play text. At that point I just wanted it done. Rip it off like a band-aid, nice and quick, get back to normal life, Sox lose out again.

Only they didn’t.

Dave Roberts stole second and Bill Mueller’s single scored him. In the 12th Big Papi knocked a 2 run shot to right and the series was 1-3. Flickers of hope, doused by reality – The Boston Red Sox did this. They dragged out the death, built the hopes and then crushed them slowly.

Game 5 and God’s favourite knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is on the mound. Again the Sox are on the ropes. This time, 2 down, bottom of the 8th. Again Big Papi, now with a solo shot and Jason Varitek with a sac fly and the game goes past 9. It goes past 10, goes past 11 and 12, and then 13. Finally, bottom of the 14th, after 5 hours and 49 minutes, Big Papi (who else?) with an RBI single.

And now hope is alight. Game 6 and Curt Schilling has the start. He has 3 sutures in his ankle, stabilising the tendon there. Part way through the sutures rip or something and the blood soaks his sock red. In a frantic game the Sox lead by 4 to 2 bottom of the 9th. The Yankees have the pennant-winning run on board with 2 outs. Sox closer Keith Foulke has a full count and gets Tony Clark swinging. Boston is back.

Hope has been surpassed and certainty is in. Curt Schilling’s sock turned red for f@#k’s sake. The Red Sox came back from the dead. There is no way they are not winning Game 7.

So they do. 10-3 at Yankee Stadium. They take the pennant 4-3. The greatest comeback in the Majors and they’re in the World Series against St Louis. You could have forgiven them for resting on this. Taking the attitude that just being there was a bonus. But somehow this seemed like fate had maybe forgiven the Sox whatever slight they had made on the capricious beast. The Curse was looking beatable.

In Game 1, at Fenway, the Red Sox out-shot the Cards, from 9-9, bottom of the 8th to 11-9 at the close. Boston 1-0. Game 2, also at Fenway and with Curt Schilling with the start, sutures, bloody sock and all, it finished 6-2 to the Sox. Boston 2-0. Game 3 was in St Louis and the Red Sox led from the start to a 4-1 finish. Boston 3-0.

Game 4 and the Red Sox on the brink of earning a World Series win, the first for 86 long years. And this is where the astronomy figures in folks. During the game there was a Lunar eclipse. These are relatively rare beasts, this was the first time this had happened in a World Series. Essentially the Earth gets between the Moon and the Sun and casts the Moon into shadow. The result is a Moon that appears blood red. Blood red Moon, blood red socks. There was only ever going to be one outcome. Boston 3-0, bottom of the 9th, 2 outs. Edgar Renteria grounds back to Sox closer Foulke who underhands it to Doug Mientkiewicz at 1st and that’s it. The Red Sox win the World Series. The Curse is done. The. Red. Sox. Win. The. World. Series. Say it loud and it sounds good, even in Carnarvon, Western Australia, where it’s on nobody else’s radar.

Flash forward via a wormhole to June 15th, 2011. The Red Sox have Tampa Bay down Florida way but of more significance for hockey fans is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Boston Bruins in Vancouver against the Canucks. A 39 year drought and each game of the series has gone with the home team. Enter Tim Thomas, Bruins shotstopper. He keeps the Canucks scoreless on their home ice, 37 from 37 saves, meaning 238 for the series, a record (It’s ok Bob – I don’t think he needs his tyres pumped up). At the other end the Bruins manage 4 goals of their own and the title is Boston bound. The key stat here though is not Thomas’ epic finals effort it’s that on the night there is a Lunar eclipse, the Earth once again casting a shadow on it’s only moon.

The Red Sox were also up for the night, playing Game 2 of a 3 game road-stand against the Rays. Josh Beckett with the start as the Sox sought to bounce back from a shutout loss that had ended a season best 9 wins on the trot. Fortunately Beckett brought his A-game. Actually he brought one of the best A-games of his career, going through 97 pitches across the distance. In the process he gave up just the 1 hit and allowing just the 1 base-runner. He retired the last 19 straight and looked unplayable. For the Rays Jeremy Hellickson was good too and on another night, maybe one without a Lunar eclipse, that might have been ok. The problem for Jeremy and the Rays was what looked to be a good tactical manouver in the 7th, walking Gonzalez (again) to get to the 0 and 5 Youk, backfired big time. Youk took an 0 and 1 pitch, smacking it low and long, just over the fence at left for 3 runs. They were to be the only runs of a pitcher’s duel that broke for Boston. Hellickson was good, Beckett was brilliant.

So 2 Lunar eclipses over 2 nights just under 7 years apart. 3 Boston wins, 1 Stanley Cup for the Bruins, 1 World Series and the 40th win of 2011 for the Red Sox. A red moon shining down on Boston’s teams? Well, not quite. You see the Red Sox played the Rays down in their St Petersburg, Florida, home. Tropicana Field is the only Major League venue with a non-retractable roof. A total eclipse of the eclipse. For all that Lunar eclipses sure ain’t a bad moon rising for Boston’s best.

Told you I wasn’t cool.

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