In yesterday’s post I gave the definitive reasons why Curt Schilling will not be Senator from Massachusetts. But it got me thinking. What if our next United States Senator had to come from the ranks of former Red Sox pitchers?
To start you can just eliminate some guys. There are certain Sox pitchers, mostly relievers, that just have no chance with the electorate: B.K. Kim, Calvin Schiraldi, Mike Torrez (remember Bucky Dent? I do, I was there!), Curtis Leskanic, “Heathcliff” Slocum are just a few of the many that spring to mind. There are just too many painful memories there.
And when I think back on the starters it doesn’t get much better, because the Red Sox management in my early years of fandom believed you could win pennants by stacking the line-up with hitters and pretty much let the pitching take care of itself. They were wrong. So there are guys from that era that did a pretty good job, but just don’t have that much name-recognition anymore like Dave Morehead, Dick Drago, Reggie Cleveland, Rick Wise, “Oil Can Boyd,” Roger Moret, and Bruce Hurst.
And we can’t count pitchers who came to us late in their careers, but made their reputations in other towns. Tom Seaver is a Met, Frank Tanana is an Angel, Bret Saberhagen is a Royal, Mike Boddicker is an Oriole, and Frank Viola is a Twin. They may have played for the Red Sox, but it’s just not their team.
So who else is there? Let us think big. When you think of iconic Red Sox pitchers the first name that comes to mind is Cy Young. He has great name recognition, with the eponymous award and all, but he died in 1955, and nobody except Strom Thurmond ever served in the Senate when he was dead, and Thurmond was alive when he was first elected, so that rules out Cy Young. Same thing for Babe Ruth; sorry Babe, most folks don’t even remember that you were once a pitcher, and a good one at that. Actually, most people don’t remember that you ever played for the Red Sox, but we don’t want to get into that.
There are some other high name-recognition guys, but they all have fatal flaws. Jim Lonborg, the star of the 1967 Series (although we lost) is probably not remembered by the younger generation. Besides, he went to Tufts Dental School and became a dentist after retiring, and why be a Senator when you can be a dentist; the pay is better.
Roger Clemens was once very popular with the voters, I mean fans, but now is universally scorned in New England for committing the unpardonable sin, and I don’t mean the doping. And he is so from Texas.
Pedro Martinez was about as good as it gets for several years with the Sox. The dominant (and Dominican) was 117-37 (not a missprint) for his career with them, although marred by the infamous Grady Little 100 pitch non-decision. The non-citizen thing might be a problem, plus going to New York (even if it was to the Mets).
The next name that comes to mind is Luis Tiant, who for many years of my fandom was the only decent Red Sox pitcher we had. In 1966 he pitched four straight shut-out victories, one of only five pitchers to do that. “El Tiante” has some valuable gifts for the Senate. For one thing he can look one way and pitch the other.
Tiant is personable, wise, and colorful, although sometimes I have trouble understanding what he is saying, but that shouldn’t really be a problem in the Senate. Besides, he has a new documentary about him just out called Lost Son of Havana
, which would give him a quick media bump. He actually lives in Massachusetts, and I think he is a citizen, which is a plus. If not, he was born in Havana in 1940 (more or less) before the revolution, and we pretty much owned Cuba then, so I’m sure with a little paperwork from the State Department it could be worked out. People here love him. So he’s a possibility.
guy that would probably make a good senator is Bill Lee. The former left-handed pitcher, nicknamed “Spaceman,” is articulate and has outspoken views on most subjects. He once said
his marijuana use allowed him to jog to work at Fenway Park without being bothered by the bus fumes. He also said that since the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, only left-handed people are in their right minds. Sounds good to me, but I’m right-handed, so what do I know. But the downside for Bill is that he isn’t a resident of Massachusetts (he has a lumber company in Vermont), and his appearances on Charlie Moore’s NESN fishing show looking like the Unabomber might scare away some voters.
So that leaves me with the last, best, obvious choice. Yes, you guessed it, Dennis Eckersley! Hall of Famer Eck had two smoking seasons with the Red Sox in 1978 (20 wins) and 1979 (17 wins), but then, frankly, he was pretty bad until he left in 1984 when he was traded for Bill Buckner (Oh, the irony!).
Eck never really had it again as a starter, but in 1987 he got traded to the Oakland Athletics and Manager Tony La Russa used him as a long reliever. When closer Jay Howell became injured Eck filled in and never looked back. He won the AL Cy Young award as a reliever in 1992 as well as the MVP. He ended his career with 390 saves and went straight to the Hall of Fame. Most Sox fans forget how bad he was here toward the end, and those like me who remember have forgiven him long ago. So we can all feel good about this extraordinary Red Sox reliever who is in the Hall of Fame, even though he wasn’t a reliever for the Red Sox. Eckersley is the final proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong when he said, “There are no second acts in American lives.”
Today as a commentator for NESN Eck is extremely popular with the fans, and he even lives in Massachusetts (although he is such a California dude). He is smart, funny and articulate. He does have his own unique lingo and likes to coin new words or use old ones in new ways. He coined the term “walk-off home run” after Kirk Gibson victimized him in the 1988 World Series.
I can imagine him in the Senate kibitzing with Al Franken, saying something like, “Wow, that new Senate Environmental Bill is hard cheese with hair on it!” It’s true that he might not want the job, or move to Washington, since it would cut into his golf time, but it never hurts to ask. People should approach him and see if he is interested.
If we have to have a Former Red Sox pitcher for United States Senator I vote for Eck.