What a week. So we might as well just start at the beginning. Fenway Park celebrated its 100th birthday last Friday, and the New York Yankees were the invited guests by gracious hosts the Boston Red Sox. And a brand-new Boston Massacre took place. Before we get to that, though, we first have to go back a century, to 1912, when the Red Sox dominated the baseball world, winning their second World Championship, defeating John McGraw's New York Giants. They fielded Hall of Famers and legends such as Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis and Smoky Joe Wood.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders/Yankees had the worst record in the major leagues, with a 50-102-1 mark, even finishing behind the St. Louis Browns, which was not an easy thing to do. They didn't have one pitcher with a winning record, right fielder Guy Zinn led the team with six home runs, while first baseman Hal Chase was the RBI leader with 58. Left fielder Bert Daniels did lead the league in hit-by-pitches, though, with 18, so something positive occurred that season. And the team was filled with guys named Cozy, Iron, Klondike, Birdie, Hack, Dutch, Gabby, Ezra, Red and Homer. Not to mention Hippo Vaughn, who was the starting pitcher for the Highlanders in the first-ever game at Fenway, which the Red Sox won, 7-6, with Speaker driving in the winning run in the 11th inning, with 24,000 fans in attendance. Charley Hall was on the mound for Boston, while their offensive star was second baseman Steve Yerkes, who banged out five hits that day, including a pair of doubles. Chase, who is acknowledged as one of the great fielders of all time, went 2-for-4 for New York. But he was mainly known for gambling and throwing games.
Speaker, Duffy and Wood weren't there last Friday, but Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez and other Red Sox legends were, in the inspiring and tasteful pregame ceremonies. While donning throwback uniforms without any numbers or names (should helmets have been banned as well?), the Yankees finally got their revenge for 1912 (ok, they've avenged that year many, many times), with a 6-2 victory, featuring a batch of non-1912-like home runs (the Highlanders only hit 18 long balls that season), five in all, highlighted by two from Eric Chavez and one from Alex Rodriguez, which moved him into fifth place on the all-time list.
In the second game, in honor of Fenway's history, the two teams reenacted the whole 1978 season in one nine-inning game. The Red Sox jumped out to a 9-0 lead, much like they built a 14-game bulge over the Yankees in '78, and like their predecessors, Boston managed to blow their giant cushion, with the Yankees unfathomably scoring 15 unanswered runs. The big hits were a Nick Swisher grand slam and two homers by Mark Teixeira, with both players driving in six runs apiece. Hidden in the run-scoring barrage was the awfulness of Freddy Garcia who lasted less than two innings. The third game -- mercifully for the Red Sox -- was postponed due to rain. The rest of the week for the Yankees was not as eventful (except for some bad injury-related news): They outslugged the Texas Rangers, 7-4, in Monday's win, were baffled by Yu Darvish in Tuesday's 2-0 loss (is this a bad place to mention that Michael Pineda is out for the season?) and lost again, 7-3, on Wednesday with another subpar outing by Phil Hughes. It looks like they may really need Andy Pettitte. And soon.
And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
They Did It: On Saturday, the New York Rangers didn't play poorly but they lacked the urgency and intensity that is required in the playoffs, looking like they were playing a regular-season game in February. And the result was a not-too-surprising 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Craig Anderson was rock solid, and his teammates outmuscled, outhustled and out-Rangered the Rangers. They were more Ranger-like than the Rangers themselves. And the cherry on top for the Senators was a questionable Chris Neil hit that concussed Brian Boyle, as the grating Senator has become Public Enemy No. 1 in New York. But all that turned around on Monday, in the Blueshirts' inspiring 3-2 victory. The desperation and urgency were finally there for the Rangers, as they outworked and outplayed the Senators in every area (including goal, where Vezina-finalist Henrik Lundqvist was stellar) and played the Ranger Way but turned up a few notches. The turning points were Brandon Prust's fisticuffs with Neil and Derek Stepan's goal, which lifted a heavy weight off the offense's shoulders. The power play produced a pair of goals, and Chris Kreider's first NHL goal proved to be the game-winner. And while neither team can complain about the officiating (or maybe both teams have an equal right to complain about the officiating is more like it), as both were whistled for any and every infraction while still committing uncalled penalties, the only explanation, at least from the Ranger point of view, for the botched replay review of Neil simultaneously interfering with Lundqvist and kicking the puck in the net is that the refs from the 1972 Summit Series were the ones making the decision up in Toronto. The cherry on top of this game for the Rangers was the revenge on Neil when he was sandwiched and flattened behind the net by Michael Del Zotto, with Neil then comically throwing a tantrum -- before threatening Del Zotto after the game that is. But all that set up a Game 7. And all the nonsense and goonery disappeared in this exhilarating, hair-raising thriller, with the Rangers pulling out a 2-0 victory. How did they do it? By being the New York Rangers. Which means working hard, blocking shots (23), scoring just enough (and by an unlikely duo at that, in Marc Staal -- from a perfect feed from Stepan -- and Dan Girardi) and when all else fails, they have the King behind them. With the Senators spending patches of the game appearing as if they were on the power play, Lundqvist polished off his Vezina credentials with numerous spectacular, clutch saves, including too many to mention in the final flurry, saving the game and the series for the Rangers. And what do you know? Even Neil was a true sportsman at the end, graciously and sincerely shaking hands with the Blueshirts when it was all over. Next up: The Washington Capitals on Saturday.
And So Did They: On Saturday, the New Jersey Devils fell to the Florida Panthers, 3-0, with the first two goals scored in un-Devil-like ways: One came on a Florida power play (well, in this round, giving up a goal while trying to kill a penalty is become more and more Devil-like), while the other was scored after Martin Brodeur, probably the best goalie to ever handle the puck around the net, mishandled the puck around the net. With that contest setting up a do-or-die Game 6 for New Jersey, and with a 1-6 record in elimination games since 2003, the Devils breathed a sigh of relief after 65-plus minutes when Travis Zajac scored the winner in overtime off a nice feed from Ilya Kovalchuk. Before that, though, they almost blew a 2-0 lead, which has been one of their weaknesses all season. But almost doesn't count in the playoffs, so they lived to see another day. And that day came on Thursday, in Game 7. And it was the Devils who pounced on the Panthers, with early goals from Calder finalist Adam Henrique and Stephen Gionta -- yes, the Stephen Gionta with one career goal. But -- surprise, surprise -- New Jersey couldn't hold the lead and let in two more power-play goals, the second coming on what could have been the Delay of Game Heard Round the World by Marek Zidlicky, which allowed the Panthers to tie the game with only a few minutes left. But in the second overtime, after the ageless Brodeur made 43 saves on the 20th anniversary of his first playoff game, Henrique got Zidlicky off the hook with the winner. Amazing. Next up: The Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
1912 or 1962? While the Red Sox and Highlanders were battling over the weekend, the New York Mets welcomed the 1912 World Series losers, the New York/San Francisco Giants back to their former home, and the Keystone Kops might as well have taken the field, too. On Friday, with a couple of home runs by Jason Bay and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (and a diving catch by the center fielder as well) to keep things close, the seemingly always clutch Josh Thole drove in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, only to see Frank Francisco lose the game in the next inning. That excitement was nothing compared to the next day, when the Mets and Giants put on a clinic in buffoonery the likes of which have not been seen since 1912 (or maybe 1962). After Mike Pelfrey threw eight stellar innings, Ike Davis was picked off first, which was quickly followed by David Wright getting thrown out attempting to steal third, in the bottom of the eighth. So much for first and third with nobody out. Not to be outdone by Davis and Wright, Francisco was brutal again, and a should-have-been game-ending pop fly turned into a three-ring circus when Nieuwenhuis overran the ball, which allowed the tying runs to cross the plate. But wait, there's more! With the a Met on first and second and one out in the bottom of the ninth, a should-have-been game-ending double-play ball was hit (or at least an easy force out), but Aubrey Huff, playing second base for the first time in his career, never bothered to cover second. Everyone was safe. Nieuwenhuis then hit another should-have-been game-ending double-play ball, but Scott Hairston made a heads-up slide into home, hooking Buster Posey's leg forcing an errant throw, which allowed the winning run to score. Mets win, Casey's Amazin's-style. The rest of the series was more disastrous than adventurous, as the Mets were swept in an old-fashioned doubleheader on Monday and Bay and Pelfrey (who will undergo Tommy John surgery) both had to go on the DL to boot.
The Return of Reyes (But Wright Steals the Show): Jose Reyes received a not-so-welcome welcome in his return to Queens on Tuesday, getting a mixed reaction from Citi Field's fans in his first at bat, which resulted in a long out after an acrobatic catch by Nieuwenhuis. Reyes went 0-for-4 (and 1-for-12 in the series) and was mainly met with boos the rest of the way in the Mets' 2-1 victory, a pitcher's duel between the two teams' aces -- Johan Santana and Josh Johnson. The Mets scored their first run on four consecutive walks by four different pitchers, which had never happened before in major league history. On Wednesday, David Wright blasted a two-run homer, which broke Darryl Strawberry's franchise RBI record and was all the runs R.A. Dickey would need, in the 5-1 victory. And in the finale, it was former-Met Heath Bell's turn to walk four batters, which tied the game, and then he coughed up a Nieuwenhuis game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth, as the Mets completed the sweep of the Miami Marlins. It was a good series to be a Met, but not such a good one for ex-Mets.
NFL Draft: The New York Jets chose defensive end Quinton Coples out of North Carolina, while the New York Giants nabbed Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. We could analyze these picks for hours, days and weeks, but the reality is, we really won't know if the two teams made the right choices for another year or even more. But if you do want analysis, Gang Green Nation and Big Blue View have everything you need.
Playoffs Here We Come: We finally know for sure who the New York Knicks will be facing in the playoffs: The Miami Heat, with the series beginning on Saturday. But before the Knicks discovered their upcoming opponent, they had to welcome back Amar'e Stoudemire and make him fit in to their most recent lineup (it seems like the Knicks have spent the whole season trying to get one player or another back into the lineup without confronting one problem or another). On Friday, in the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stoudemire stood out like a rusty, sore thumb, but the whole team looked out of sorts, and they may have been suffering from a playoff-clinching hangover. Things looked a lot better on Sunday, though, when Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire teamed up to score 62 points in the 113-112 win over the Atlanta Hawks (with Tyson Chandler taking the game off). On Tuesday, the team announced that Glen Grunwald had the interim tag lifted from his title, which makes Mike Woodson's return closer to a sure thing. They then went out and beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and the hapless Charlotte Bobcats on Thursday to end their eventful regular season.
The End of an Era: It's all over for the New Jersey Nets. The team warmed up for their final home and road games with a 106-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. On Monday, the Nets bid farewell to New Jersey, with an (appropriate?) 105-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Armon Johnson scored the last-ever points for the Nets in their now-former home. During halftime, a long line of former Nets came out of the woodwork for the eulogy-like final honoring of the franchise, from Albert King to Otis Birdsong to Darryl Dawkins to Kenny Anderson to Derrick Coleman to Kerry Kittles -- they were all a reminder of the team's colorful, if not-so-successful time in Jersey. Fans did not storm the playing surface, though, as they did back in 1957 when the old Giants and Dodgers played their last games in New York -- they just quietly left the building and went home. And on Thursday, it really ended, with the Nets' 98-67 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The league wouldn't even let the team end this chapter of their history in their own country.
And that's the New York week that was.