Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Magnificent Seven

I have to admit.

I thought they were done.

I thought the Bruins were cooked down three games to one to the Montreal Canadiens. I thought it was all over...that the Bruins would be the first pro team from Boston to fail to advance to its post-season championship game in a season that started in 2007.

The Sox won the World Series, the Pats lost the Super Bowl, the Celtics are the number one seed in the NBA, and the Bruins...well...the Bruins have managed to stay alive for one more night.

The playoff series with Montreal is all tied up, with the Bruins winning two in a row now...including a dramatic come from behind victory on Saturday.

The odds are against them. It is unlikely that the Bruins will win on Monday night to make it three in a row. Of course, Saturday's victory is exactly the sort of victory that can be a back-breaker. Like the Yankees against the Sox in 2004, New York had Boston's back's to the wall late in the game - they had the opportunity to put the series away. The Yanks just weren't the same team after coughing up that ninth inning lead in the game that would have sealed their trip to the 2004 Series against the Cardinals.

Monday we find out if the Canadiens can recover from coughing up a 3-1 series lead, or if the Bruins can rise to the occasion and seal the deal against the team that has been the albatross around their neck for as long as I can remember.

RIP Mr. Marzano

I have a strange connection to former Sox catcher John Marzano.

As I'm sure most of my readers heard about Marzano's passing on Saturday - the former Sox back-up catcher found in his home, dead of an apparent heart attack at age 45.

Marzano was a South Philly guy in every sense of the word. He was born there, grew up there, and died there. Even when he was with the Sox he maintained a home in the old neighborhood.

How and why do I know this?

Because the neighborhood is deeply embedded in my family history.

My mother's family came here from Italy. More accurately, my grandfather, as a child, arrived in America from the province of Abruzzi with his family and settled in Philadelphia. His father opened a grocery that was passed to him and his brothers, at which time it came to be known as Ricci Bros (pronounced Ritchie). The small neighborhood store was in the family until it was sold by my mothers cousin just a few years ago.

Ricci Bros. became quite well known across the city, and was for some time the place to get a hoagie before going to the Vet for a game. Marzano was a regular.

When home on off days from the Sox he used to stop in the store and talk to my great Uncle Sal. This happened, according to Sal with a certain amount of regularity.

At the time, I lived in Boston.

Whenever we would have big family gatherings Sal, by that time the family elder, would always engage me in the following conversation, "you like the Red Sox, right? Their back-up Johnny, you know Johnny?"


"Yeah. You know, he's from South Philly. He grew up near the store. He still comes in whenever he's in town. Gives me his tickets to the game. I keep telling him I can't use 'em. You live up there, right? Next time he comes in, I'll make sure to mail them to you."

Sal never remembered to mail the tickets, but I always thought it was cool that there was this weird family connection to the Sox.

Sal passed away not too long ago. I know this would have saddened him. He always described "Johnny" as a "good kid from the neighborhood," and was always happy that he made it to the bigs.

Sleep well big guy, enjoy that eternal pick-up game with Ted Williams.

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