Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sunday Afternoon Tea

If there's one ingredient the Red Sox have lacked in the modern (post 1966) winning era, lefthanded pitching stands out. Yes, Bill Lee did win seventeen games three years running with his constant Perils of Pauline pitching and Leephus, but the Sox haven't had lefthanded dominance.

From the right side, they've had Luis Tiant, Dennis Eckersley, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and a season of Curt Schilling. While the great Martinez won 20 games twice for the Sox, Tiant won twenty three times, with equal style if less dominance.

All of which brings me back to left-handed pitching and one of Boston's epic pitchers, Warren Spahn. Roger Kahn profiles Spahn and others in his baseball masterpiece The Head Game. Spahn isn't a baseball memory for me, but his accomplishments stagger the imagination. His creative pitching intelligence produced 363 victories and THIRTEEN twenty game winning seasons. He and Johnny Sain led the 1948 Boston Braves to the pennant pitching almost half the games. Spahn also fired two no-hitters, his first at age 39.

Spahn also missed three seasons to World War II service, receiving distinction for valor in combat. He won 23 games at age 42 in 1963 and led the National League in complete games that year with 22, more than Koufax, Marichal, and Drysdale. He had 382 complete games in 665 starts and 63 shutouts. Last season there were 148 complete games 4856 starts during the regular season.

Tonight David Wells goes back into the lions den, this time not wearing pinstripes but facing them. We can only hope that he has similar to success at an advanced baseball age to the legendary left. Wells certainly won't be the Sox answer to the Diogenesian search for portsided (not portly) greatness, but we hope a trip to the House that Ruth built will inspire him to more than mediocrity.

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