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REPORT

Good-Luck Charm Has Hit a Sour Note

October 15, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The lights are dimming. The microphone is about to be unplugged. The rally karaoke guy might not spark the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 85 years.

After the Angels and their rally monkey captured hearts across the land en route to an improbable title last year, rival teams presented a menagerie of goofy mascots this year, hoping for good luck, good crowds and good merchandise sales.

The Red Sox stumbled across their good-luck charm strictly by accident -- home video footage of first baseman Kevin Millar, then a teenager, singing along to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," complete with rock-star poses of him flexing his arms and thrusting his pelvis. Pitcher John Burkett got a copy of the video and smuggled it to the scoreboard operators, who happily displayed it.

"The first time, it made me want to dig a ditch at first base and hide," Millar said.

But they played the video six more times, the Red Sox won every time, and the rally karaoke guy became a Fenway fixture. When Boston trails, Millar sings.

In the American League championship series, the rally karaoke guy met his match in Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox trailed in two of the three games at Fenway Park and played the Millar video each time. They failed to rally against Rivera in either game, and now the Red Sox might have played their last home game this year.

Boston General Manager Theo Epstein relished the chance to compare Millar's rally karaoke guy to the Angels' rally monkey.

"IQ would be about even," Epstein said. "They definitely get points for originality. Kevin gets points for bravado and the courage not to be embarrassed. If there were footage of me like that, the last place I'd want it displayed is on a scoreboard in front of 35,000 people.

"When they start selling stuffed animal Millar dolls, we'll know we have a problem."

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Rain is forecast for New York this morning, and the Red Sox might want to pray for a lingering storm that washes out tonight's game. Burkett, their scheduled starter, is winless in 11 regular-season starts against the Yankees, with an 8.49 earned-run average. Burkett did beat the Yankees in the 1996 playoffs, as a member of the Texas Rangers.

Boston Manager Grady Little said Tuesday that Burkett would start today -- not knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, on one day's rest -- with Wakefield available in relief. In case of rain, the Red Sox could skip Burkett, use Pedro Martinez on regular rest Thursday and bring back Wakefield on three days' rest for Game 7 Friday, if necessary.

*

Boston authorities are continuing their investigation of Saturday's bullpen fight and have not yet decided whether to file assault and battery charges against outfielder Karim Garcia and pitcher Jeff Nelson of the Yankees, each of whom was cited in a police report as participating in an "unprovoked attack" on Red Sox groundskeeper Paul Williams. The matter could be referred to a district court magistrate to determine whether evidence warrants charges.

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