GGC writes on family, Brian Daubach, and the relationships formed at FenwayAugust 14th is my youngest brother’s birthday. For privacy reasons, I’ll call him Phineas. I could also call him brother Number Four, but that’s rather impersonal. Like me and brothers Number Two and Three, he loves the Sox. Phineas was one of his aliases—Phineas Radke, as in the accurate Twins hurler. He’d also go by Bill Strangler. Bill owned Strangler Enterprises and he’d sign up for things under those names. I’d have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when I answered the phone and it was for Bill or Phineas. Phineas is schizophrenic. It is hard to hold a conversation with him. We can talk about baseball, though. He doesn’t know much about the history of the game or sabermetrics but he knows about the Red Sox going back at least 20 years.
They say that baseball is a game for fathers and sons. I suppose that is true to an extent. My dad was a fan. He’d take us up to Fenway once a year, when he’d get tickets from his company. (When we got to the Mass Pike in Sturbridge, he’d proudly tell the tollbooth drone that we were “going to Fenway to see the Sox!”) When I was young, we’d play catch and he helped coach my Farm League team one year. To me, however, baseball has been a game for brothers. We’d play in the yard until we got too big and started hitting the ball deep into the woods. Then we’d play hotbox. When we got older, we started going to Fenway on our own. There was no other way, really. We lost our dad to cancer back in ’91.
I haven’t tried this in years, but if the urge struck us, we’d hop in my car, drive up to Boston or the Riverside T station and get to the ticket window and by SRO tickets. Once, in the year 2000, I took a week off from work. Phineas asked me to take him to a game, so I went with him and brother Number Three (I’ll call him Frank) up to Boston. It was right after the All-Star break and the Red Sox were playing the Mets. Pedro was starting for the first time in almost three weeks after straining his ribcage. Mike Piazza was also coming back from an injury. The last time he was on the field, Roger Clemens beaned him. It was still morning when we got to the park. We got three tickets and we had a lot of time to kill. So we went to Uno’s for lunch.
I went into the men’s room. As I was washing my hands, Brian Daubach walked in. He was by himself. I don’t know why I did this, I’m usually too cool for stuff like this, but I said something to him. “Is that you, Brian?”
“Is that you, Brian?” I asked it like we were high school classmates who hadn’t seen each other in years; not a fan and a player.
He nodded, “Yes.”
“Good luck in tonight’s game.”
“Thanks.”I mentioned the encounter to my brothers after I got back to our table, but we didn’t think much about it except how dorky I was, gushing like a fanboy like that. I forget how we killed the afternoon, but we were serious drinkers back then. Alcohol may have been involved. A story from the Bangor Daily News about the game mentions an hour delay due to a power outage, but I don’t recall that at all. When the Fenway gates opened, we went in, right behind home plate where Jerry Kappstein and his airline ground-crewmember headphones are now permanently installed. I remember that Peter Gammons was there for ESPN and he was talking to Mike Piazza on the field. As the evening went on we wound up moving further back and further back until we were standing in the back.
It was a good game. Pedro struck out 10, but he left with the game tied 2-2. Noted team player Jay Payton batted in both Met runs with a double and a homer. Frontier (League) hero Morgan Burkhart hit a two run shot that accounted for the Red Sox runs. I remember Phineas, Frank, and I getting excited when Rich Garces came in to pitch. We emptied our lungs. “El Guapo!!” But the best part was at the end. Daubach hit a walk off double. I looked at Phineas and said “Is that you, Brian?” Then we migrated with the crowd into the steamy July night towards the T stop.
My well wished may not have contributed to Daubach’s hit, Armando Benitez should shoulder most of the blame, but it was a nice story. It was a Close Encounter of the First Base Kind.
A couple of games later, Carl Everett would bump an ump and the season went downhill in other ways that made me question my fanhood for the team (they resurrected Steve Ontiveros to pitch for them in December,) but for one night, everything was all right.
I don’t get a chance to talk to Phineas much these days. We live in different parts of the state. He is in a group home and I moved to my wife’s hometown by the shore. Occasionally he’ll call me, but mostly I’ll try and call him and he doesn’t answer. When I think of him, I think of fun times we had like going to this game. I’d rather think of those than his occasionally paranoid ramblings or the time he drove out to Arizona and had me appear in court for him for some minor traffic thing. (The state’s attorney thought that I was him and I was able to bargain down the fine.) I’ll try and give him a call tonight and talk Sox.