The World Series: beards and music

Superstitious, I guess.  I didn’t want to write about the Red Sox in the World Series for fear of jinxing them.  Not that I have any such power, but with the baseball gods one never knows.  But now each team has had one horrid game – the Cardinals were worse than the Sox – and the Series is tied.  The Sox need to win at least one game in St. Louis to get back home team advantage.  This is beginning to feel like the games with Detroit that got them where they are.  That turned out OK, so we can still have hope.  All we need is for Jake Peavy to live up to his hype and for some combination of Clay Buchholtz/Felix Dubrount to pitch well and there is a chance for two wins.  And then we get Lester again.  So I’m feeling OK about the situation.  I feel badly for John Lackey who has had a great pitching year, but can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to run support and wins.

The player who did his job last night was Koji Uehara the accidental closer.  Once more.  3 outs on 10 pitches.  The beardless one.  I think we all assumed he didn’t have a beard because he couldn’t grow one.  We were wrong.  A few days ago, this story was in the New York Times.

Long, bushy beards have become the unifying trademark of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but the most valuable player of their American League Championship Series victory stands out for more than his pitching.

The series M.V.P., the cleanshaven closer Koji Uehara, was given a pass on the team’s unofficial pro-beard policy because most of his teammates thought he was incapable of growing one.

But that is hardly the case. Well before the Red Sox’ shaggy faces entered the national consciousness, Uehara was a longstanding member of the antirazor brigade.

Until January, when he shaved it off on Japanese national television, Uehara had one of the most famous beards in Japan: light, Fu Manchu-style scruff with a wraparound beard connecting to his sideburns. It was considered ugly and brutish by many of his friends and countrymen, but he wore it defiantly for several years after coming to the United States in 2009.

Koji in Baltimore

People must have known.  I watched him pitch when he was with Baltimore, but I guess the beard never registered.  He also had a beard with the Rangers.

“I just didn’t know where I was going with that beard,” Uehara, 38, said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon before the final game of the A.L.C.S. “So I thought it was best to shave it off. It was a good time to do it, and I think many people were happy. They said I looked younger.”

Without facial hair, Uehara posted a career-low 1.09 E.R.A. in the regular season and had 21 saves after taking over as Boston’s full-time closer June 26. In the playoffs, he has been just as good, allowing one run in nine innings over eight games. He has five saves this postseason: two in a division series against the Tampa Bay Rays and three in the A.L.C.S. against the Detroit Tigers, including the save that clinched the pennant Saturday night.

But has shaving made him a better postseason pitcher?

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “I am not sure about that.”

Whatever.  If being beardless got him MVP for the ALCS, then it is good for him and for us.

In one way, it makes sense that Uehara is now clean shaven in the midst of players who look like desert-island castaways. He originally grew his beard to stand apart from his teammates in Japan and from Japanese players in the majors, many of whom did not have facial hair.

Now that he is with a rowdy band of bearded Red Sox, he is distinguished in a different way.

“If I had a beard now,” he said, “I would not stand out.”

Meanwhile the symphony orchestras in Boston and St. Louis are getting in the act.  Even if you don’t root for either team this clip is wonderful.  I have to concede that the brass from St. Louis are better trash talkers, but the BSO has Seiji Ozawa.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_k8oICRBH4&feature=youtu.be

By the way, Boston in six.  With ZZ Top on our side, how can we lose?

Photograph: Mark Duncan/Associated Press

The BSO and the Red Sox

I loved Seiji Ozawa when he was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and part of what I loved was that he was a regular part of Boston life, including going regularly to Red Sox games.  The new music director, Andris Nelsons has indicated that he would like to see a Bruins game – being from Latvia I would guess that ice hockey would be his thing – but one can’t say he isn’t game.

27namespedro1 Nelsons who said he had only seen a few baseball games threw out the first pitch Tuesday night.

The first pitch at Fenway capped a full day for Nelsons.  The Globe story had the details

As night fell, Nelsons headed into Gate C at Fenway for perhaps his most difficult assignment.

Early in the morning, over breakfast, he told Volpe he had watched some baseball but was concerned. He didn’t know how he was going to throw a pitch past a batter. Volpe explained that nobody would be at the plate except a catcher.

Later, while chatting with BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, Nelsons made two different throwing motions, one sidearm, one more overhand.

“It is this way or this way?” Nelsons asked as he made a pair of throwing motions.

At Fenway, after getting a uniform with number 15, Nelsons ran into Red Sox great Pedro Martinez, who offered advice.

“Just don’t bounce it,” he said, smiling.

Nelsons didn’t. A few minutes later, on the mound and in uniform, the maestro let the ball go hard. It sailed through the air, arcing a good 25 feet over the catcher and into the hands of a photographer.

“At least he didn’t bounce it,” Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg chuckled as fans cheered, another signal the Nelsons era had begun.

I suppose we have strange rituals here in Boston where our symphony music directors are initiated by throwing out the first pitch at Fenway, but Andris Nelsons seems to be adapting.  I haven’t seen him conduct yet, but as a BSO subscriber I’m sure I will soon.  And I love the fact that Pedro is back with the Sox.  I wonder if he can still pitch and fill in for Clay Buchholz.

Photograph: Stu Rosner