Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Red Sox Go Toe Sox

Not the actual Red Sox Toe Sox

NYTimes: With a New Sock, The Red Sox Add Some Distance

In 2004 Curt Schilling’s bloodied socks — the ones he wore that October while he conquered the Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals on the way to Boston’s first World Series championship in 86 seasons — were the symbol of the Red Sox.

Now the Red Sox are riding high again, far ahead of the Yankees in the American League East. Appropriately enough, a sock is the team symbol again. Only this time it is a five-toed version popularized by their two new Japanese pitchers — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

The socks, which fit like a glove with each toe individually encased, were met with curiosity in Boston’s clubhouse during spring training. Before long, Matsuzaka began offering pairs to anyone who expressed an interest. And a number of players did, including Mike Lowell, Álex Cora and Doug Mirabelli, who are now playing in them regularly. Looking for a reason for Boston’s great start to the season? Maybe it is the socks.

“At first they feel kind of weird,” Mirabelli said. “They got some sticky things on the bottom, like little kids would have on the bottom of their socks. But you get used to them.”

The socks that Matsuzaka wears are covered with hundreds of tiny rubbery beads on the sole for better traction. As for Okajima, the individual toe slots help with his balance because he can firmly grip each toe, he said.

Before the Red Sox played the Yankees on Monday, Matsuzaka ran in the outfield wearing his five-toed socks and no cleats. The pitching coach, John Farrell, could not figure out why, so he asked Matsuzaka’s interpreter, Masa Hoshino, for an explanation.

“He likes the feel of the grass on his feet,” Hoshino said with a smile.

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