The Face of Pure Joy

If you’ve known me for five minutes, one of the things you’ve probably discovered is how big a fan I am of the Boston Red Sox. Well, as you can imagine, Sunday was a pretty big night for me.

Not just because this is the fourth time in fourteen years the Red Sox have won the World Series.

Not just because they did it in my backyard against L.A.’s only baseball team.

No. It was big because I was there, and I watched it happen live and in person. That’s why.

The Bucket List

Since moving to L.A. in 2003 (the year before they won their first world championship in over four generations), I’d talked for years about how I wanted to see a Sox-Dodgers World Series and watch the Sox clinch live at Dodger Stadium.

I always wanted it to happen.

I never thought it would.

But I wished for it anyway.

So when it did, I knew I had to be there to see it.

I mean, you only live once, right?

And what kind of adventures will you have if you refuse to answer their call?

So, I grabbed my glove, put my jersey (#19, in honor of Fredd Lynn, Gabe Kapler, Josh Beckett, Koji Uehara, and Jackie Bradley Jr.) over my Wakefield #49 tee, and donned my lucky fitted hat… and on the sunny Sunday afternoon, I drove down to The Complex on Santa Monica Blvd. and jumped onstage as Det. Richard “Dick” Sims in Sunny Afternoon, part of The Black Bag Pentalogy.

See, the show started at 3 and ran about an hour and forty minutes, and the game didn’t start until 5:15, so I didn’t have to ask for my understudy to go on for me opening weekend. Because, y’know, you have to handle your business before you can play.

Gregory Crafts as Det. Richard "Dick" Sims (L) and LQ Victor as Det. Elmer L. Boyd in "Sunny Afternoon" by Christian Levatino, part of The Black Bag Pentalogy, playing at The Complex Hollywood

Gregory Crafts as Det. Richard “Dick” Sims (L) and LQ Victor as Det. Elmer L. Boyd in “Sunny Afternoon” by Christian Levatino, part of The Black Bag Pentalogy, playing at The Complex Hollywood

I did, however, jump in my car immediately after the show and race the five and a half miles from The Complex to Dodger Stadium. I was lucky; because I was getting there so close to first pitch, I missed most of the traffic. I listened to Steve Pearce’s 2 run dinger in the top of the first on the radio as I was pulling into the parking lot. By the time I’d walked to the stadium, I heard the place erupt in response to Freese’s homer in the bottom half of the inning, and walked into the right-field bleachers just in time to watch Manny Machado strikeout for the first time that night, ending the 1st.

I hung out in the Dodgers’ Right Field Bleachers (the “All You Can Eat” section), gorging on hot dogs and popcorn for two innings. I mean, if food’s included in the price of the ticket, get your money’s worth. Besides, if things went according to plan, I wasn’t going to be staying in right field for long.

Top of the 2nd, Game 5 of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. View from the Right Field bleachers.

Top of the 2nd, Game 5 of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. View from the Right Field bleachers.

From there, I slowly made my way around the stadium until I was watching the game from the concourse directly behind home plate.

In the sixth, I grabbed a ground-level seat (which, as I recall, was going for somewhere around $2,000) along the first base line and watched the rest of the game surrounded by… well, mostly Red Sox fans.

I even got the bottom of the 9th on video. Please forgive the shakycam:


Side Note: I kept running into older Sox fans who kept telling me that I look just like former Sox RF/1B/DH Dwight Evans.

Dwight Evans

Must be the ‘stache.

Anyhow, from that vantage point I watched the end of the game, letting out a full-throated YES! when Machado struck out for the final time. I watched the team receive the Commissioner’s Trophy. I watched Steve Pearce get his MVP. I watched the interviews. I watched everything until the team headed back down into the clubhouse to pop some #goldbottles (and then I watched them do that live on Instagram).

And I photobombed blogger and Barstool Sports Red Sox correspondent Jared Carrabis. His friend was so good-natured about my cameo, he even texted me the picture.

Greg photobombing Barstool Sports Red Sox correspondent and blogger Jared Carrabis

Photobombing Barstool Sports Red Sox correspondent and blogger Jared Carrabis

Because, again, you only live once. And when someone points a camera in your direction, you strike a pose and smile.

And then, a night that I thought would never happen at all finally came to an end.

I floated out of Dodger Stadium – my only disappointment with the night being that I couldn’t get a souvenir home run or foul ball – and drove back to NoHo. Got home in record time, and took Jenn out for a celebratory ice cream date.

The Thing About The Hat

Funny story. At Christmas last year, Jenn and I went to visit her family in West Springfield, MA. One afternoon, we wanted to take a little time for ourselves, so we headed down the Mass Pike into Boston to do a little shopping. Our first stop? Fenway Park. At the team store, I picked up a fitted team hat and a couple of shirseys (Tim Wakefield’s #49 and Clay Bucholz’s #11 – and yeah, I know they haven’t been on the team for years, but they’re both two of my favorites).

I’ve worn that hat almost every day since I bought it, and I noticed something strange; most of the season, when I wore the hat on a game day, the Sox won. When I wore any of my other Sox hats this season (and I have many), they lost.

Being the superstitious guy I am (just ask me about watching the 2004 ALCS sometime), I made sure I wore the hat almost every game this Postseason. And I made damn sure I wore that hat to Dodger Stadium Sunday night.

I know this is silly. I know there’s no legitimate correlation between my choice of wardrobe and a win or loss. But I also had the same mojo going in 2013 with my “Hanging Sox” logo hat, and, well… look how that turned out.

#GoldBottles, 2013 style

So, when I headed to Game 5, I chose my wardrobe very carefully: the lucky fitted team hat, my #19 home jersey (JBJ!), my red team fleece, and my #49 Tim Wakefield shirsey.

Why Wakefield?

I waited for years to get a #49 tee. I wanted to get it from the team store in person, and it was a really special moment for me when I did.

Tim Wakefield is one of my all-time favorite players. Not because he put up the best numbers (although he was an All-Star in 2009 and recorded over 2,000 strikeouts during his career), but because of how he played the game.

When he played, he was the kind of guy who did whatever he could to support the team.

Coming up in the Pirates farm system as a 2nd baseman, he was told he’d never make it out of the minors as a position player. So, he volunteered to become a pitcher, instead. He didn’t have elite stuff there, either, but he was open to trying anything, and the coaches in Pittsburgh worked with him to develop his knuckleball.

The knuckleball has been considered a last-resort kind of pitch; a trick pitch guys learned to extend their careers after their better stuff had faded away. And here Wake was learning it in the minors before he ever made it to The Show.

But he didn’t just learn it; he worked at it until he mastered it. And he landed a spot in the Pirates rotation for three seasons as a result.

Of course, the knuckleball is a fickle bitch of a pitch, and pitchers who throw it are prone to inducing walks and having a significantly higher number of passed balls per game, on average – two stats pitchers need to keep down if they expect to stay in a starting rotation. Eventually, he was released by the team.

Six days after he got cut by the Pirates, though, he was signed by Boston. From there, he spent the next fifteen seasons helping the team out by being willing to work in every role, starter, reliever, or closer, and in every situation.

Need a reliable #4 or #5 for the rotation this season? Put in Wake.

Starter shit the bed and got yanked in the second, and you need 5+ innings of long relief? Put in Wake.

Down 21-2 and need someone to come in for mop-up duty? Put in Wake.

Need someone who can go 200+ pitches in a complete game without their arm falling off? Put in Wake.

Got a two-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, facing the meat of an elite lineup and really need to dazzle them? Put in Wake.

He gave up the chance to start Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS by agreeing to come in for 3 1/2 innings of relief in Game 3 in order to save the ‘pen for the next day. Because of that, the Sox were able to stay in Game 4 and mount the greatest comeback in sports history.

Like the knuckleball itself, results, when he was on the mound, were mixed and unpredictable. Sometimes he’d be lights out, sometimes he’d be throwing batting practice. The latter always seemed to happen when I’d see his starts at Angels Stadium (home of the California/Anahiem-but-don’t-call-them-L.A.-Angels. Yes, I have strong thoughts on that, too.) But he consistently went out there and gave 110%, always doing his best to do what was asked of him, no matter the circumstances.

That’s the kind of work ethic I’ve tried to apply to my artistic endeavors in the entertainment industry. It’s also a quality I look for in potential collaborators.

What I also love about Tim was that his generosity extended far off the field, as well. He was known throughout major league baseball as one of the most charitable and giving players and was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010 for his kindness, philanthropy, and sportsmanship.

Even more, though, Wake made Boston his home. Towards the end of his career, he agreed to a “rolling 1-year, $4 million deal” that the team could renew at the end of each season. He didn’t want to play anywhere else, and the Sox were happy to keep him.

That’s something else I admire about him; his loyalty.

As much as I love Papi and Pedey and Bogey and Mookie and JBJ and all the rest of the team, when it comes to picking numbers, the one I’ll always look for first is 49. And that’s why that’s the shirt I wore to Game 5.

The Glove

Although I only had one ticket to the game, I brought a friend with me.

Back in high school, I used to hang out with this guy named Robbie Tucker. Robbie was an even bigger baseball fan than me. He was an O’s fan (not unusual for Northern Virginia, pre-Nationals), but he hated the Yankees as much as I did and didn’t mind the Sox. We bonded over a bunch of stuff, including baseball. When we were in college, we’d see each other during the summer, or occasionally visit each other. I spent a few days down at his place at the University of Delaware, and he spent his spring break up in Boston with me one year while I was at Emerson. I lived in the dining room of a shitty little waterfront townhouse Dorchester with a few friends during my junior year and he crashed with me there for a few nights. When he went back to school, I realized he’d left a few things behind at my place: some clothes, his student ID, and his baseball glove. We corresponded over e-mail (this was pre-Facebook, hell pre-Google… I’m old) and made arrangements for me to get everything back to him in a few months when we would both be visiting NoVA.

Unfortunately, I never had the chance; he died in a swimming accident that summer.

I kept his glove.

It reminds me of him.

I take it with me whenever I go to a game, no matter who’s playing.

It’s been to Fenway, Citi Field, Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium, and Nationals Park. It’s been to a couple of minor league games, too: the Lancaster Jethawks and Durham Bulls.

I’ve played catch with it, caught batting practice at games with it, and one day, I’m gonna catch a foul ball at a game with it.

And even when I go to a ballgame by myself, as long as I’ve got that glove, I’m not alone.

Out of all of the people I know and love, I think Robbie would have appreciated being at a World Series game the most. I was so glad to have him there with me Sunday night. Especially because Machado, the former Oriole was the final strikeout. I would have loved busting his balls over that.

The Boston Red Sox are the 2018 World Champions.

And we got to see it, live and in person, in our backyard.

Dreams do come true.

Be ready.

Onward and upward.