Monday, May 11, 2009
Former Boston Red Sox great Dom DiMaggio died Friday morning. He was 92 years old.
The Red Sox said DiMaggio, known as the "Little Professor" because of his eye glasses and 5-foot-9 frame, died at his Massachusetts home due to complications from a recent bout with pneumonia.
"Dom DiMaggio was a beloved member of the Red Sox organization for almost 70 years," said Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry in a statement. "Even after his playing days, Dom's presence at Fenway Park together with his teammates Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky on numerous occasions reminded us all of a glorious Red Sox era of years past. He was a great teammate and an even better human being. His loss saddens us all but his contributions to the glory and tradition of our ballclub will forever be etched in the annals of Red Sox history."
DiMaggio was a seven-time All-Star center fielder in an 11-year career with the Red Sox from 1940 through 1953 -- with three years lost to military service. He still owns the club record for the longest hitting streak -- 34 consecutive games in 1949.
His streak was broken when brother Joe caught a sinking liner in the eighth inning of a 6-3 Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees on August 9.
"Dom and I played together for 10 years and he certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," said Red Sox legend and former teammate Johnny Pesky. "He was a great player and, most of all, a great friend. I will miss him terribly."
Dom DiMaggio was the youngest of three brothers that played Major League Baseball. Joe had a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees from 1936-51, while Vince played for five National League teams from 1937-46.
In 1,399 games, Dom DiMaggio batted .298 with 87 homers and 618 runs batted in. He helped the Red Sox to the 1946 World Series, which they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
DiMaggio is survived by his wife of 61 years, Emily, three children and six grandchildren.
With David Ortiz on second base, his Wall double just having landed, the scoreboard in center field played highlights from the other Boston teams' games. There was Glen Davis's shot. There were the Bruins winning. And there was Ortiz standing on second, clapping - whether for his frustration-breaking double or the Celtics, it was unclear.
There was - again - Jason Bay at home plate, mashing his own double to the Wall to score Ortiz with the winning run and complete the Boston sports trifecta as the hour grew late at Fenway Park last night.
"I think it was already pre-scripted," said Bay after the heart-stopping ninth inning had ended with the Red Sox still on top of the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3. "Someone said, upstairs, the way Boston sports had gone the first two games, it was a foregone conclusion."
But earlier, Ortiz had looked defeated, his helmet in hand, as he walked back to the dugout after popping up to end the fifth inning. He sat down, looking depressed and frustrated. Those feelings were gone by the eighth.
Against Tampa lefthander Brian Shouse, against whom he was hitting .400 (6 for 15), Ortiz smashed a pitch that hit off the scoreboard in left. It wasn't that first home run that he's been seeking. But it put him on second base, representing the run that would break a 3-3 tie. Ortiz took third on a wild pitch by replacement pitcher Dan Wheeler, and Bay then did what he has so often done these past weeks.
"They all still feel pretty good," Bay said. "There's hitting and then there's hitting when it counts. Like I keep saying, I don't expect to do it every time. But in those situations, you want to come through. Wanting and doing are two different things."
The Sox were up by a run and had their closer coming in for the ninth. But the euphoria over Ortiz and Bay nearly ended with Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon started the ninth with a called strike. Things went downhill from there. Four straight balls to Akinori Iwamura ensued, the walk putting the Rays second baseman on first. Papelbon then put Iwamura on second, his throw over to first skipping away from Jeff Bailey. Jason Bartlett lined a single into center, putting men on first and third with no outs.
But he struck out Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford, all swinging, to end the game.
"That's just Papelbon's thing, his deception in his pitches," Upton said. "They look good, but they aren't strikes. We'll put it in the back of our heads, and then next time we see him, it will definitely be something we think about."
Pat Burrell put it succinctly: "Frustrating loss."
For Papelbon, though, it was vintage. He found an extra gear in a situation that left no room for error.
"I basically put myself in a situation where I had to go into punchout mode," Papelbon said. "That's not always the situation I want to be putting myself in, but it is what it is."
"Pap really turned into Pap," manager Terry Francona said. "He kept his composure, he didn't get frustrated, he attacked with what he wanted to do, he elevated with really, really good finish on his fastball."
The Sox had taken a two-run lead in the fourth, but the Rays tied it with runs in the fifth and sixth. In that sixth, though, they had the bases loaded with one out and could score only once.
And a blow had already been struck to the Sox, with Dustin Pedroia joining the ranks of the injured when he aggravated his right groin on a swing in the third inning. It had been bothering him since he hurt himself getting out of the way of a pitch last week.
But the Sox looked all right in the fourth. After two strikeouts to start the inning, Bailey rifled a pitch off the wall in center for a double. Jason Varitek then doubled to left, scoring Bailey, and a ball off the bat of Nick Green dropped behind Iwamura and in front of Ben Zobrist. It was initially ruled an error on Iwamura, then reversed, giving Green an RBI single.
The first Sox run came on a second-inning double by Bay and a fielder's choice by J.D. Drew. The Rays had started the scoring in the first with an infield single by Crawford that turned into a run after a Wall single by Burrell, as Crawford covered the full 270 feet from first.
Though the Sox were able to get something going against Matt Garza - who had one-hit them over 7 2/3 innings the last time - it still came down to the bullpens. Ortiz came through in a late-inning spot, a bit of the old Ortiz coming out.
But then, a bit of the old Papelbon came out as well. With a flight to California looming, there were appreciative teammates in the clubhouse once the game finally ended.
"I'm sure there's a lot of guys in here that will give him a little pat on the back," said Bay. "I'll definitely be one of them."