“Bernie is the only man I know who turned fall into summer with one wave of his magic wand.”
– Bill Lee
Summers are never the same once your days as a student come to an end, so in a way my last real summer came in 1990, just after I graduated from college. That last summer ended with a thin rice-paper letter from China.
I’d been planning to return to Shanghai to teach and to live with the young woman I’d fallen in love with during a recent semester abroad, but the letter from the woman let me know I’d have to make other plans. She’d met another guy. I’d been working on the college campus maintenance crew to save up money for a ticket to China, and when I got the fractured-English Dear John letter I used the money to meander around Europe instead.
The Red Sox were battling for a playoff berth as I left, and the first time I bought a Herald-Tribune to check on them I read about Tom Brunansky extending summer a little longer by making a spectacular game-winning, division-clinching catch in the very last moment of the regular season. The magic-wand catch made me wonder if this was going to be the year when summer finally lived forever for the Red Sox. But by the second time I checked a Herald-Tribune, which seems in my memory to have been the next day, but which must have been at least a few days later, the Red Sox had already been dumped from the playoffs by the Oakland A’s. Summer was gone for good, and all I could do was wander around until the money ran out.
Another summer may soon be over for the Red Sox, but you never know. They’ve been in worse spots. In 1975, for example, the Red Sox trailed the Cincinnati Reds three games to two and were losing by three runs with two outs in the 8th inning when the man pictured here was sent in to pinch hit. He fell behind in the count, barely fouled off a pitch to stay alive, then drilled a three-run home run over the centerfield fence. Summer was back. Not only that, Carbo ensured that the summer of 1975 was one of those rare seasons that would live forever; as Boston’s native son Jonathan Richman might have put it: “That summer feeling’s gonna haunt you the rest of your life.”
No telling if there’s any summer feeling left in the 2007 Red Sox. But they’ve been told in other years that summer was over and have refused to listen. Even some of the players who weren’t around in 2004 have experience turning sure fall back into summer, chief among those being relative newcomer Josh Beckett, tonight’s starting pitcher, who started the Marlins improbable comeback in the 2003 NLCS by beating the Cubs with his team down three games to one, just like his team is tonight (Game 5 set to start at 8:21 ET on FOX). Though the Indians seem to want to obscure that memory of Beckett’s with a memory more redolent of endings tonight (they have hired Beckett’s ex-girlfriend as their National Anthem singer), I’m hoping Beckett has one more day of sizzling summer in his right arm.