Monday, July 30, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - Rounding Third

It’s Saturday afternoon. For a number of reasons, tomorrow may – or may not - be the end.

The Bombers face elimination. If we lose to the team named Bacon, in either one of the final two games, it is death. We cannot get into the playoffs if we lose a game. So, these games may be my final two games in the Allston-Brighton Men’s Softball League.

I’ve played in this league for thirteen seasons, since MY WIFE and I moved to Watertown from Dorchester. I was 37 at the time. That’s an age when most athletes, whether professional or amateur, have either already retired or have begun counting down the years on the fingers of one hand. For me, it was the start of the most enjoyable years of my athletic life.

I’ve had a few arguments with teammates. I almost came to blows once. I’ve gone home after games cursing, wondering why I was subjecting myself to some bit of stupid crap or another. But I can count on the fingers of… well, one finger… the number of teammates with whom I’ve ended on unfriendly terms. Overall, I’ve had the nicest teammates a guy could possibly ask for.

(The one fellow I didn’t end on good terms with was an outfielder. He was playing left field as we were getting beaten in the second game of a doubleheader. The game had pretty much passed the threshold of possibility, insofar as winning went. And the other team was hitting bombs to left field; just running this guy from foul line to fence to the point where he looked like he’d just finished a marathon. As manager, I decided to give the guy a break. I asked him to switch up with another fielder. He stormed off the field, thinking I was trying to embarrass him or something. I wasn’t taking him OUT of the game, mind you. I was just asking him to move. I was trying to do him a favor. He didn’t show up the next week, which was the last week of the season, when we needed to win to make the playoffs. We lost.

He was the very epitome of a bad teammate. Whatever he may have thought of me as a manager, he pissed on his teammates by not showing up – if he hadn’t already done that by walking off the field in the middle of a game. If he had a problem with me – which he obviously did – fine. Bitch me out. Take a swing, if you want. But don’t leave your teammates in the lurch. If you think I’m a crummy manager, that’s OK. But I don’t abandon my people.)

I came pretty close to having a fistfight with another guy. He played for the Bombers for 12 years; every year I’ve been here except for this year. I’m a friend of his today, as I was for virtually all of the time he was my teammate. The almost-fight happened eight or nine years ago. Another managerial decision prompted it, of course.

We had lost game one. I was announcing the starting line-up for game two. In game one, he had played the outfield. For game two, I penciled him in as the DH. He gave a loud sigh and dropped an obscenity bomb in my general direction.

I was on a hair-trigger that day, for some reason. I shouted something along the lines of, “What the fuck! Do YOU want to do this? Do YOU want to make out the line-up? Here! Go for it!”

I then threw the scorebook at him.

He made a small move my way, but then stayed where he was, silent. He made no move to pick up the scorebook.

I said, “Don’t just talk about it! Do something about it!” I wasn’t just talking about making out the line-up, of course.

Well, he was in his early 20’s and I was in my early 40’s. He had a couple of inches on me and maybe thirty pounds. I can handle myself, but I’m glad he didn’t take me up on it. I cooled down, he cooled down, and we BOTH hit home runs in the next game and won.

(As I crossed the plate, everybody on the team was saying that he should piss me off more often.)

After that clearing of the air, we were good friends and good teammates. He played hard for me and never questioned a line-up decision again. I hope to have dinner with him sometime soon. He’s told me that he might come down to the field tomorrow to see my final game. That’s very sweet of him to even consider it.

Tomorrow may not come, though. It’s raining very hard right now and Smith Field has hideous drainage. The forecast calls for periods of no rain, however, so…

I hate being up in the air on this. I’d rather that it pour buckets or just stay sunny. I hate going to bed on Saturday not knowing if I’ll actually be playing my (possibly) final set tomorrow.


While I’m waiting, let’s talk about the Flames.

Drive – 12 FLAMES – 6
Robinson/Paige – 19 FLAMES – 10

We had two shots at basically clinching third place, but we didn’t get the job done. Now the team faces a must-win in our final game, just to secure fourth. If we can’t do that, we finish fifth. Fifth place means that we’ll have a much tougher job on our hands. I’ll explain.

In the Flames league, fifth place plays fourth place in the initial round of the playoffs. The fourth place finisher only has to beat the fifth place team ONCE to advance, while the fifth place team has to win two in a row. That’s the penalty for being the last playoff qualifier.

In Tuesday’s game, we had a 2 – 1 lead after one, but we trailed after two and were never a real threat after that. I had a very good game, my first one in a while. I had three solid hits in four times up. Unfortunately, I was erased all three times on force plays a batter or two afterwards.

I really felt good. I was using a slightly different stance, holding the bat back and level. I also started using a larger stride, timing the pitcher’s delivery. It worked very well. All three hits were stroked up the middle, right back through the box. I was on it and I felt really, really good. I was looking forward to our next one, on Thursday, to see if I could get into a real groove for the stretch run in both leagues.

On Thursday, I led off the game by drawing a walk and coming around to score three batters later, on Brian Dillon’s double. I felt good at the plate.

I was not running the bases very well, though. For some reason, I felt very slow. That carried over to the field a bit. I chased a foul pop and couldn’t get to it. I felt like I was lumbering, not running. Maybe it was my knee, but I don’t know. I just felt s-l-o-o-o-w. On another play, the batter hit a pop to short right. I was fooled and took a half step in before realizing it was going to the outfield. I couldn’t recover in time to even make an effort at it.

We led 2-0 after one. In my second at-bat, I was slightly fooled by a change-up. I got it off the handle and grounded to the second baseman, forcing Mike Minchoff.

I came off the field after the third, with us leading 4 – 1. As I got in to the bench, Pete told me he was taking me out and putting Hector Acosta in at first.

I was slightly taken aback. A win would clinch fourth and actually put us into third with a game to play. Pete had said earlier that he was going to handle this as though it were a playoff game. Hector is ineligible for the playoffs, having not played in enough games to qualify. And I’d played in every game this year, the only man on the team to do so. I had just had probably my best game at the plate all year a night ago and I had led off this one with a walk and scored. I wasn’t looking slick on the field, but I wasn’t making errors, either.

I understand Pete’s thinking. Hector has more power and a bit more range at first. Also, we’re not pros. This is an amateur league and Hector had closed up shop early – he’s a barber – to get to the game. Pete wanted to give him some time for that effort. He had replaced Dave Vargas earlier, too, and Dave is easily one of our top players. That was to get another fellow some deserved time.

OK, I understand that, but I really wanted another crack at that pitcher. I really wanted to get into that groove.

Hector went 1 for 2 in my place. He made a good play on a foul ball, getting to it when I wouldn’t have. He also booted a grounder later on, which I have to think I’d have fielded cleanly. I suppose it was pretty much a wash, so no complaints from me. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get the playing time. I really wanted to build my confidence back up.

(As noted last week in this space, managers don’t necessarily have an easy time of it. I’ve been one for way too long to start bitching about another manager’s decision on me, especially when the manager is as fair – and nice- as Pete is. I'm just talking it out here, on paper, to sort out my own feelings, so I can move on and not worry about it. So, OK, I won’t. There was another decent reason to give Hector the playing time, which I’ll talk about later.)

Anyway, the game was going well. We led 6 – 1 after four. Pete had made the right moves and things were going smoothly. Jack Atton was pitching very well. Then the roof fell in.

We gave up six runs in the fifth, on a couple of hits, a couple of walks and a couple of errors. So, we’re down, 7 – 6. In our sixth, Carl Hyman tied the game, driving Mike Minchoff in with a single. Then, in the top of the seventh, we had the worst defensive inning we’ve had all year.

We gave up 12 runs, 1 of them earned. There were seven errors. The team just absolutely imploded. It was shocking to watch from the bench. I certainly don’t feel like going over it blow-by-blow. We lost, 19 –10. We had a short rally in the bottom of the seventh, but it was too little, too late.

Now it’s on to Tuesday and a must-win to have a chance at fourth. And I won’t be there. I’ve got a previous engagement – a concert – that was planned and paid for months ago. I’ll be missing my first game all season. I told Pete about it a few weeks back. That’s the other good reason for Pete having taken me out. Since I won’t be there for the finale, it made sense for him to give time to Hector, who will probably be there. We seemed to have the game solidly in-hand; I was running tired; no real complaints. At least I should be well-rested for the playoffs, wherever we start them from.

(Forgive me, guys, but I’m hoping it rains like a son of a bitch on Tuesday. That way, I can enjoy the concert knowing I’m not missing a chance to contribute.)

And, speaking of rain, it’s still doing it tonight, off and on. I’m hoping for the Bomber games to be played tomorrow, but it’s becoming more doubtful by the minute.


We played them.

Bacon – 22 BOMBERS – 6
Bacon – 15 BOMBERS – 14

No playoffs for us. We didn’t deserve them. We had three shots at closing out some other team, clinching a spot for us, but we didn’t get it done a single time.

We lost our final 9 games of the season. We were 3 – 4 at one point. We finished 3 –13, dead last.

You know what? I had a swell time, anyway. This might be my favorite Bombers team – no disrespect to any of my past teammates, of course. Every one of these guys had a great attitude. Every one of them wanted to play every inning of every game. There was no quit in this team; not even a little tiny bit.

(That’s excluding the guys I cursed out last week, of course. None of them showed this week, either. Good. I’m glad they stayed home. The guys who were here deserved the playing time.)

Ted Williams homered in his last at-bat. Well, there wasn’t much chance of me doing that. The last home run I hit was in 2004, in the M Street League in South Boston. Before that, it might have been in 2000. When you go three or four years between dingers, you can’t realistically expect one to dramatically show up.

In my final at-bat, I singled up the middle sharply. The only thing more fitting (and funnier for my teammates, so I wish I could have done it) might have been a base on balls.

I went 3-for-4 overall in the final game. Hurray for me!

Thanks, Conrad, for the five-for-five wishes. If I had anything truly worthwhile left, I’d love to be your teammate for another five or six years.

Thanks, Jack, for the choice of positions in the last one. I appreciated the offer to pitch, but first is my home. You made the whole year a lot of fun and you saved my legs more than once.

Thanks, Jason, as always, for the laughs. I love the way you can be hard-nosed one minute and cracking a joke the next. Go have a buffalo-chicken calzone, big man.

Thanks, Eric, for bringing the cold drinks all year. You’re a hell of a nice guy and a gamer.

Thanks, Chris, for showing me what youth looks like and reminding me of the reality. I mean that. Man, you have a ton of stuff that I never had even on my best day. Enjoy it, Youth Of America.

Pat, you’re the only guy younger than Chris. You made me feel positively ancient. But, honestly, I’m also proud to have been given your respect – when you weren’t ragging the shit out of me. Listen to the advice your Dad gave you during the final game. Strengthen that arm.

Mike, you’re a pitcher’s best friend and you probably drop more sweat, per inning, than anybody on the team. Thanks for keeping us up when we came into the bench with our heads down.

Joey, I loved playing on teams with you. I hope you take this as a compliment, because that’s how I mean it: You remind me of ME more than anyone else. Any way on and no complaints. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start writing goofy shit like this in fifteen years or so, too.

Ariel, you’re a class act. You always have been. I’m very glad you came over to us this year.

(I wish I had been your height. I would have drawn about 200 more walks during my career.)

Ruby, you bastard. You couldn’t let me lead the team in walks in my final year? My one claim to fame as a ballplayer and you took it from me. Filthy hippie Jew!

Speaking of filthy hippie Jews… Hi, Fred! You’ve been my teammate longer than anyone else. Hell, I’ve known you about five years longer than I’ve known MY WIFE. You’re my good friend, as well as my teammate. I don’t expect to ever retire from that.

(I know. How corny can one guy get? Fuck it. I don’t care. You think that was mushy? Wait’ll you see what I say about the next guy.)

Ron, I have the utmost respect for you, both as a ballplayer and as a man. My biggest disappointment this year is that you were away and I wasn’t able to share the field with you this final weekend. As my manager, you were too nice for your own good. As my player, you were the guy I built the line-up around.

This is how much I respect you, Ron: I grew up in a section of Dorchester populated by a lot of folks who didn’t love black people. I like to believe that I’m not a bigoted guy, but my environment from those years is something I’ve found hard to totally discard, much to my shame. But whenever those types of moronic thoughts show up in my head, all I have to do to get rid of them is say to myself, “Ron Johnson is a black man. How can I possibly think something so stupid, knowing him?”

And I guess there’s really nowhere to go from something like that. I’ve got anywhere from one to eight more games to play in the Flames league, depending upon how the playoffs go, and then I’ll be totally finished.

Prayers gladly accepted.

(By the way, I was so caught up in the games, I completely forgot about taking a team picture. I guess that's a good thing - not that the team would break the lens or anything, but that I care so much about playing that I forget about stuff like taking photos. It's nice to have something that makes you so happy you forget everything else.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Say Cheese, Bees!

Before we get into what passes for substance around here, I want to clear up any misconceptions you might have concerning the previous post.

It was a joke.

I assume most of you got it. After reading it, you clicked onto the first link and found the story concerning the demise of The Weekly World News. You then put two and two together; came up with five; understood that I liked The Weekly World News; and also understood that this had been my attempt to write something in the style of that august journal of truly believable stuff. You then said, "Hah! That Suldog! What a card!"

Or you said, "Man, I didn't think he could go any further off his nut, but I was wrong."

(As for those folks who thought it was a real news story? God bless you. If only you had bought more copies of TWWN when you had the chance. Then they'd still be in business. And, as a bonus, everybody else here would have been spared my attempt at satirizing that which is basically a satire of itself to begin with, and we all could have gone home early.)

Now, on to the business of today.

My good friend and business associate, Dan, has loaned me his digital camera. This is so that I can take some shots of my softball teams and spice up those deadly softball reports of mine. I figure if you have some faces to put with the names, it might make it more interesting for you.

(If that doesn't do it for you, I don't know where to go from there. There's only so much I can do to make softball interesting to those of you who don't give a rat's ass about softball. Maybe I'll intersperse random porno every third or fourth paragraph.)

Anyway, getting back to photography: I have never used a digital camera before today. Truth be told, I haven't owned a camera since I was a kid. I've occasionally bought those one-time-use cameras, taking a few rolls of vacation shots and whatnot, but I'm a piss-poor photographer in general. I cut off the tops of people's heads and forget to turn on the flash and stick my fingers in front of the lens and... well, my portfolio is not full of dazzling work.

Dan has graciously been giving me a few quick lessons on how to operate the camera. And what you are about to see are my first two shots taken with it.

This is one of the cicada killers that I wrote about in a previous piece. However, rather than build a sand mound, this one decided that it liked pre-fab housing. This is a drain cover that has a piece broken out of it. This wasp has taken up residence here. He (or she) has a water supply, lots of room to move around, and didn't have to dig for ten hours with it's hind legs to build a house.

The down side to this living arrangement is that someone might come along and fix the cover. In that case, it would become a tomb rather than a home. Oh, there is also a chipmunk living in the same space. I don't know whether they actually like - or just tolerate - each other. Perhaps it's some sort of interspecies "don't ask, don't tell" thang.

Next, we have this drainpipe full of yellowjackets. They have been building a hive inside of the drainpipe for about a week now. I don't believe this pipe ever actually drains anything, so they aren't in danger of being wiped out by a flash flood.

I got right up next to the bees, as you can see. I guess I'm lucky I didn't end up with a mouthful of them. They're actually pretty mellow, as bees go. They didn't seem to mind me being there at all.

(The cicada killer-chipmunk drain-cover pre-fab housing is almost directly under this pipe, by the way. So much life in such a small area! I expect someone to kill it all any day now...)

Well, that's about it for today. I hope my teammates who may be reading this aren't offended that I'm practicing for taking the team photo by taking pictures of bees and wasps. I assure you, it's nothing personal. Nor is it because I see any resemblance, although yellow-and-black stripes would be pretty snazzy for uniforms.

Monday, with more better softball stuff - and maybe random porno.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Two-Foot-Tall Blind Woman, Denied Position On Town Police Force, Sues Local Government - And Wins!

Drewville, OK (API) - Sarah Mae Allstuff, a two-foot-tall blind woman, was denied a position as an officer with the Police Department in Drewville, Oklahoma. She subsequently sued the town - and won!

"I'm glad the court found my denial of a position on the police force to be a blatant violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act," said Ms. Allstuff, 53.

The 32nd District Court of Oklahoma found in Ms. Allstuff's favor, stating that governmental agencies, such as police departments, are not allowed to discriminate in hiring based on physical characteristics. The town is appealing the decision.

"It's the stupidest goddamned decision I've ever heard of," said Drewville Police Chief, Andy Waffleberry. "A two-foot-tall blind midget on the police force! Those judges must have been on the goofy juice that day. Next thing you know, we'll be hiring guys with no arms for the Fire Department. The whole thing just makes me want to puke!"

Meanwhile, the diminutive sightless law officer now patrols the streets of Drewville accompanied by her guide dog, Cuddles. An Irish Wolfhound-Mastiff mix, Cuddles stands three-foot-six at the shoulder.

"He's a handful, that's for sure," Ms. Allstuff exclaimed, when asked by reporters if having a guide dog bigger than she was presented any problems.

"I'll be enjoying a pleasant walk of my beat with Cuddles. Then he'll see a criminal act being committed and off he goes! He just drags me behind him, bumping along the sidewalk, as he tears off after those wrongdoers! If I'm lucky enough to be able to hang on to the leash, it's one wild ride!"

There has been more than one occasion when Cuddles took a bite out of what he thought was crime, only to have it revealed that the one being chomped on was a perfectly honest citizen going about his or her daily business. Ms. Allstuff had this to say:

"Well, it's a shame if someone occasionally gets a hand ripped off by mistake, but I think it's a small price to pay for having a relatively crime-free town."

Citizens of Drewville were asked for opinions concerning Officer Allstuff. Here's a sampling of what they had to say.

Linda Goodbody, 27, auto mechanic - "I think Sarah is a wonderful neighbor. She bakes a real nice cherry pie. As a police officer, though, she leaves a little bit to be desired. I'd say about three-and-a-half feet."

Jasper Kinchlow, 91, okra farmer - "Well, now I've seen everything - which is more than she can say. Hell, I'm stone deaf, take dialysis, can't move my right arm since the stroke - and I have to carry around an oxygen tank just to be able to breathe. I'd still make a better police officer than that shrimpy little woman!"

Nelson T. Carnegie, 46, banker - "I think it's wonderful that our town is leading the way in showing the nation what can be accomplished with a little bit of good old-fashioned American spirit. It's great that those who have had a little misfortune in their lives can still succeed in America. And we're behind that a full 110% at Drewville Savings And Loan, believe me! However, let's be honest. That damn dog has ripped four or five of my best customers to shreds. Sarah's a nice lady, for a blind midget and all, but that hellhound of hers is downright vicious. I bet it was sitting there in the courtroom, snarling at the judges, when they handed down this fool decision. That's the only explanation I can come up with for it."

For more on this story, go here.

(And thanks to The Mighty Quinn for alerting me to these goings-on.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New, Improved SULDOG! Now with less "O-Rama"!

Welcome to the brave new look of Suldog-O-Rama!

(Which isn't actually "Suldog-O-Rama" any more, but rather the much more concise - but still lovably illiterate - "Suldog".)

No good reason for any of this. I was just bored. If you don't like it, wait a few days. I'll probably go back to the settings I had before.

(If I don't change to something even more hideous in the meantime.)

As for dropping the "O-Rama", I decided that I didn't want anyone who made a spelling mistake in Google to find ME when they were looking for Barrack Obama.

(I just made that up, right now, out of the thin air. It doesn't really make sense, though. If I was worried about bad typists, I'd be more worried that they'd make a mistake while looking for "Osama" and find me. And that would probably get some CIA types visiting here, wondering what connection I had to Al-Qaeda. Next thing you know, I'd be in Guantanemo and then what would you do to get your weekly fix of mind-numbing softball reports?)

Anyway, I just thought I'd let you know it's me and not your eyes.

(I'm the guy typing this. Your eyes are those gelatinous orbs on either side of your nose.)

Oh, boy! 3:30! Time for my meds! Soon, with less-confusing more better stuff, probably, maybe even a different color.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - Special Pissed Off Interim Manager Edition

It was basically an off week for the Flames – rained out in one game and a forfeit in the other. Not enough guys to make a team on that day, due to injuries, etc.

It seems 25% of the Bombers thought it was an off week, too, since three out of the twelve guys I was expecting to show up never did.

MHC – 11 BOMBERS – 1
MHC – 21 BOMBERS – 7

Nice. Here we are, battling for a playoff spot, and 3 guys don’t show up.

So, I was the manager this week, for the first time since early last year. Jack Atton was out of town, and he took Jason Atton and Pat Atton with him. I knew that Mike Minchoff wouldn’t be coming – he let me know last Sunday. That left me with (I thought) 12 players to make a line-up.

Anybody with this club during my ten-year run as manager knows that I put a lot of thought into this stuff. I didn’t just scribble nine or ten names on a sheet. I truly attempted to think it out; give every guy a fair share of playing time, while still holding the maximum possible advantages in fielding and in the line-up.

Some guys hit better than they field. Some guys field better than they hit. Yes, that’s elementary shit, but the manager is the one who has to know it and act upon it. It’s his job – my job – to give the team the best possible shot at winning. It’s easy to just write down names on a line-up card; any asshole can do that. I try to put real thought into it. And that takes a bit of time.

I’m not saying that it’s a hideous chore. I enjoy thinking about this stuff. I like to fiddle around with different line-ups and defensive sets. If I didn’t take some pleasure in it, I wouldn’t do it. I look back at past scorebooks. I try to see if there might be a guy who hits hell out of the ball against the team we’re facing, even though maybe this year he hasn’t had the best time of it. Or vice-versa. Maybe there’s a certain pitcher who gives a guy fits. Maybe one of our pitchers handles one team really well. In other words, I invest a bit of real time into trying to pull together the best possibilities for my team.

This week, I made out line-ups on Thursday and sent them out to everybody via e-mail, giving everyone a chance to know what they were going to be doing - where they would be playing – giving everyone a chance to prepare. This was important since there would be two or three guys in each game playing positions with which they might not be completely comfortable.

(This was because of Jack and the other guys being out of town or otherwise tied up.)

I worked it out so that every one of the 12 of us would get at least one full game and then partial action in the other. I kept decent defensive sets together and I thought I had done it pretty well, all things considered. I worked it out to give us what I thought was the best chance to win.

I also worked to prepare myself to pitch, something I really wasn’t expecting to do this year at all. The best interests of the team come before my ego, which was sure to take a blow when I toed the rubber. I saw our best shot defensively, in game two, with myself pitching and the fellow I had penciled in for pitcher in game one taking third base.

And then three guys don’t show up and it just blows everything out of the water.

I was missing my pitcher, my center fielder and my left fielder from the line-up I had planned for game one. So, I scrambled, at five minutes past the scheduled start of game one, to cobble together something decent from the nine good teammates who showed up. I ended up with my designated hitter catching, the guy I wanted to play catcher in the first game out in left field, a fellow I had planned to play some second base out in right field, and me pitching both ends of the doubleheader.

It really pisses me off. I know I put too much time into this shit, but put it in I do. So, I expect others to have the decency to at least tell me if they’re not going to show up. I work too hard as a manager to be dissed like this. I don’t deserve it. More important, the rest of the team doesn’t deserve such a piss poor attitude from guys they should be able to count on.

(To be fair, I got into work today and found an e-mail from one of the guys. The time stamp on it was 10:25am Sunday, way too late to do me any good. At least he had the manners to make an effort at letting me know the situation, and I thank him for that. However, I made clear in my e-mails to the team - which apparently not all of the team bothers to read - that I'd only be able to be contacted via phone after 5pm Friday, and I gave my phone number, etc., etc., blah blah blah.)

(What is it with the guys who don't read the e-mails? Do they see my name on it and say to themselves, "Oh, there's Sully. The header says 'Important Softball Information.' Nah, it couldn't really be important. I'm just going to delete it without looking at it." There doesn't seem to be any other reasonable explanation.)

You can be 27 different kinds of asshole and I can get along with you. You can call ME an asshole behind my back, too. None of that shit matters, as long as you show up. I’ve managed guys who hit half their weight and didn’t have the arm to throw out a one-legged man hopping down the first base line. What makes me prefer them as teammates is that they showed up. Don’t show up, and no excuse? There’s no greater sin on a ball team, as far as I’m concerned.

Fuck it.

So, I ended up pitching both ends of the doubleheader. Ariel Monges relieved me in the third inning of game two. The guy I wanted to catch me was playing left field. A fellow I had penciled in for second base was in right field and another infielder was behind the plate. For a team playing with a line-up thrown together out of a hat at the last minute, with four guys now playing in positions I hadn’t planned on putting them, we actually played OK. I’m extremely proud of, and thankful to, the guys who did the right thing and showed up on time, ready to play. The scores don’t reflect the heart they gave me today.

I’m not going to rehash much of the games themselves, except to say that I feel like I pitched decently. I wasn’t overpowering. I don’t really have a fastball. But I was getting batters to hit grounders and loft high flies. I struck out one and walked five, in seven innings work. Considering that I wasn’t even planning to be in the first game until the fourth or fifth inning, and then at first base – not pitching – I did an adequate job.

In the second inning of game one, we were down 2-0 and the umpire blew a call badly. Two outs, runner on second (as I recall) and there’s a grounder to Joey Baszkiewicz at third. He fields it, throws, Fred Goodman’s foot comes off the bag to get the high throw, but he gets it down clearly in time to get the out and then pulls his foot off the bag to avoid the runner’s foot coming down on top of his.

“Safe,” says the umpire. Horrible call; one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It was an easy call, blown.

(I like this ump, too. He’s a nice guy. But the call was hideous.)

That out would have put us through two innings down only 2 – 0. It surely would have helped my confidence as a pitcher. I was just beginning to feel comfortable and like I might actually be able to pull this thing off. No breaks today, and when the other team gets handed gift outs, the story is always the same. They went on to score four runs, instead of none. 6 – 0 after two, instead of 2 – 0.

(Not just the ump’s fault, of course. I could have gotten the next guy or whatever, but I didn’t. A single scores one run, then a homer. Four runs. I got the next out after that. Whoop.)

(Joey Baszkiewicz, by the way, did a real nice job at third base. He’s a catcher, mostly, but a very valuable guy to have on your team, as he can fill in just about anywhere in a pinch. And I can’t go without saying a big thank you to Ruby [Eric Rubin] who got into a crouch behind the plate for the first time in five years or more, catching both complete games. He’ll feel it tomorrow.)

We obviously didn’t hit much today, what with 8 runs total. Youth Of America (Chris Moore, who played shortstop for the first time this year and did pretty nicely on short notice) had five hits in six trips. I had a couple of cheap singles. Ruby walked four times - the bastard - taking the team lead in that category away from ME. My personal opinion is that he was so damn worn out from catching both ends, he was too tired to swing the bat and he lucked out.

(Just kidding, Rubes. You done good.)

One hit of note for the team record books: Conrad Paquette hit his 9th home run of the year. That is a new Bombers single-season record. He is also one RBI short of 40, another team record.

(I should note something else here, which I just found out today. Conrad played hardball in the MABL [Boston Men's Baseball League] until a year or so ago. It’s a good hard-nosed league, a good solid brand of baseball, and a few guys have come out of it to play in professional organizations. And Conrad is up for their Hall Of Fame this year. No wonder our ball looks like a beach ball to him, even with the pitcher being 15 feet closer. I hope Conrad gets in. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever played ball with, always trying to help out in whatever way he can. Great teammate.)

So, we're in deep trouble. We have to sweep next week, as well as get help from one or two teams. If not, I end my career – at least the half of it in this league – as far as possible from the kind of note I wanted it to end on.

You have no idea how bullshit I am about this. Three guys, not a single phone call. Barring the late e-mail from that one guy, they totally pissed on their teammates. No respect at all. The only reason I’m not going off on a full balls-out obscenity-laced rant is because of the off chance that all three had a good excuse.

Fuck it. Next week I’ll be there to play. So will everybody else who was here this week - barring Ron Johnson, who told us weeks ago that he’d be missing the next one. And I won’t be the manager next week, so it won’t be my call to say what should or shouldn’t happen regarding personnel on this team.

My suggestion is that next week we put onto the field the guys who have been here all year and who always let us know whether or not they'll be making it to the game. In other words, the guys who show respect for their teammates and their manager.

And now it’s time to calm down. It’s Sunday. The skies are blue, the birds are singing, lunch is ready, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste as much time on the back end of these games as I did on the front end of them.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Idioms Of Boston

(The following ruminations were spurred by this conversation over at Universal Hub.)

Every section of the United States has its own particular idiomatic expressions. These are pieces of spoken language which make little or no sense to the outsider. They may refer to places or things or activities.

Sometimes the outsider tries very hard to change these expressions, ridiculing the native speakers. This is the ultimate in snobbery. How dare you go into someone's home and try to rearrange the furniture? You are a guest. Leave that fridge where it is.

(Fridge = refrigerator, unless you're over 65, in which case it might be an ice box.)

Now, as a professional voice, I'm not talking about defending the Boston accent. It is not without its charm, but I had that drilled out of me in broadcasting school. I probably speak more like a Chicagoan now than I do a native of Dorchester, which is what I am. Anyway, regional accents are less and less defined with each passing year. That's the inevitable result of widespread mass communication.

(Of course, the more insular the community, the more the local accent is retained. I find the strongest Boston accents among politicians and state workers. There's probably a correlation between retention of the accent and patronage, but that's a subject for another day.)

What I am here to defend are the labels that natives use for places and things. For instance, you might think a sub is a vessel that travels underwater - or perhaps a replacement teacher - but we Bostonians know better. It is a sandwich, known in other parts of the country as a grinder, a hero, a spuckie, a po' boy, a torpedo, etc.

By the same token, you might think you know what a milkshake is. It's milk, ice cream and a flavored syrup, mixed together into a thick, frothy delight, correct? Wrong! That, my friend, is a frappe. A milkshake is milk and syrup, shaken.

Insofar as place names are concerned, it is up to the people who live someplace to define what that place should (or shouldn't) be called. Someone who lives in Roslindale has every right to call where they live "Rozzy." If you don't like it, we couldn't care less.

(We also couldn't care less if you say "COULD care less.")

Other locations in Greater Boston:

Southie = South Boston

JP = Jamaica Plain

Dot = Dorchester

(But only in some instances. For one, Dorchester Avenue is never called Dorchester Avenue by anyone in Dorchester. It is "Dot Ave". And Dorchester Park is "Dot Park", even to the lowliest crackhead waiting to jump out of some of its bushes and rob you. Likewise, if you come from Dorchester, you might refer to yourself as a "Dot Rat". But, if you are "OFD", then you are "Originally From Dorchester", not "Originally From Dot". Ask a resident of Dorchester to tell you where he or she lives, and you will NOT hear "Dot". Only people from Southie call Dorchester, "Dot".)

Mass Ave and Comm Ave = Massachusetts Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, respectively.

The People's Republic = Cambridge

The Garden = Where the B's and C's play.

(NOT The Public Gardens, which are across the street from The Common, which = Boston Common.)

The Mystic River Bridge = The Tobin Bridge

(This is fairly interchangeable, but older residents are more likely to use the first.)

The Ted = The Ted Williams Tunnel

Rte. 128 = I-95 sometimes, I-93 other times, and sometimes just itself. The rule of thumb is that, whatever road you may have been traveling on, as soon as you hit 128 you're on 128. Eventually there will be a sign telling you where to get off and continue on the road you came in on. Don't take a nutty.

Some idiomatic expressions lose their currency, falling out of favor naturally. "Don't take a nutty", for example. I wouldn't argue for these things being set in stone and pillorying anyone who dares not use them. For instance, if you can find someone in Boston who has actually said "Wicked Pissah!" within the past fifteen years - without it being either sarcastic or part of a comedy routine - you will have found a linguistic archeological relic.

Don't take a nutty = chill, relax, don't sweat it, calm down.

Wicked Pissah! = extremely good, something you really like or admire a lot

("Pissah" as a stand-alone was actually more likely to be heard in my neighborhood. Depending upon the tone taken by the speaker, it was a compliment or an insult. You had to notice the inflection to gather the intent.)

Within the conversation referenced at the top of this piece, someone mentioned the word "tonic". That's what most Bostonians used to call soda pop. It has mostly vanished, hanging on only in certain enclaves of the city and there only in pockets. If you go to JP and ask for a tonic, you're less likely to get one than if you ask for one in Rozzy. To save yourself some trouble, just specify a brand name, instead. Everybody knows what a Coke is, even if they live in Vevere.

Probably the deadest of Boston idioms is one that I always found most charming. I'll leave it up to you to tell me if you know what a "bubblah" is.

(If nobody can, I'll do it later.)

Anyway, those who wish that these idiomatic expressions would just go away will get their wish. They all go away, sooner or later. Sometimes it takes a coon's age, but go away they do. Just like some retahd who tries to bang a uey on 128 in front of a statie.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(Which isn't so much an idiomatic expression as an idiotic one.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - XII & 1/2

The Bombers are in trouble.

Reds – 12 BOMBERS – 6
Reds – 18 BOMBERS – 17

TEAM       W-L  GB To Play Bombers vs.

Titans 12-0 - 4 0-2
Dot Rats 9-3 3 4 0-2
Renegades 7-5 5 4 0-2
GangGreen 6-6 6 4 1-1
Reds 5-7 7 4 0-2
Moe Howard 5-9 8 2 -
Rockies 5-9 8 2 2-0
Bacon 4-8 8 4 -
BOMBERS 3-9 9 4

The story of this week: Not enough hitting in the first game and not enough fielding in the second game.

The defense played well enough to win the first game. Not that we didn’t make a whole bunch of bad plays. We did. However, we also made enough good plays to negate most of the bad ones. Trouble is, we didn’t hit in the first game.

This team can whale the ball, as you know if you’ve been following this diary from the beginning of the season. You also know that we have the shakiest defense in the league. When we play decent defense, our hitting should be able to pull us through.

Going into these games, I figured us to win them both. I saw them as perhaps 15 – 12 or 16 – 13 games, with us on the winning side of that. We have a better offense than the Reds. They have a better defense, excluding pitching. We have the better pitchers. As long as we limited our defensive gaffes and took care of the hitting, these games were ours for the taking.

We didn’t get the job done. We scored four runs in the first and then pretty much died. The middle of the order – the guys who have been producing big for us all year – went a combined 2-for-9.

Those guys might be feeling badly about that. Yes, a timely hit here or there would have been big, but this is a team game. Those guys bashed the ball all year. You have to expect an 0-for once in a while. It’s just human. And when it happens, the rest of the team has to pick up the pace. That didn’t happen enough, even though there were a couple of nice games at-bat by other fellows. In any case, you can’t lay the blame at the feet of the big power hitters alone.

We just didn’t get it done, as a team.

In the second game, we hit well enough to win. But, once again, we didn’t catch the damn ball. And when we DID catch it, we made some bizarre choices of what to do with it. Throws went to home when they should have hit cutoffs, behind runners that were just a step from the bag – stuff like that. Throws that maybe should have been allowed to go through DID get cut off. We tried to make fancy plays when we could have had sure outs instead.

In the second game, we had a three-run lead going into the Reds last at-bats. I could go over the downfall, play by play, but I won’t. The final play was an interesting one, though, so I’ll tell you about that.

We were down to a one-run lead. The Reds had runners on second and third, one out.

Youth Of America, Chris Moore, is playing left field for us. He has speed to burn. He had been inserted for his defensive range at the start of the inning.

The batter lofted a fly to foul territory in left field. Chris got to it and made the catch. Two outs. However, the path he took to get to the ball left him with his back half-turned to the plate, and he had to go a step or two before he could stop. The runner on third tagged up. Chris wheeled around and threw.

The runner scored as Chris’s throw went into the other team's bench area by third base. The runner on second was awarded home on the out-of-bounds throw. Game over.

It’s an interesting play because of the choices involved. I don’t know what Chris might have been thinking – whether he realized the possibilities - but he had a choice. He could have let the ball drop. That would have left the situation as it was at the beginning – two men on, one out, us up by a run. By catching that ball, you almost ensure that the man on third will tag-up. It gives you two outs, however.

What would you have done?

I know what I would have done. If I was 25 years younger, with speed and a decent arm - like Chris - I would have caught the damn ball and then tried to throw the son of a bitch out at the plate. I would have done exactly what Chris did.

Chris held his head in his hands and then walked in as though he were headed to a funeral. I say sleep soundly, Chris. For one thing, we all still love you and it IS just a friggin’ Sunday softball game, despite all of the crap I write so over-dramatically here. But, for my money, you made the right play. And you also want to remember that you were put into the line-up exactly for a play like that. You got to that ball, whereas most of our other outfielders wouldn’t have even been in position to have a choice at all.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

from IF by Rudyard Kipling

Oh, did I mention that next week I become the Bombers manager again? The Attons are all going out of town, to Ohio, so Jack gave me the helm again. With four games remaining in the regular season, we need at least two wins to grab a playoff spot. We may need three. And, as I already mentioned, I’ll be missing all three of the Attons for the first two games. That doesn’t make my job easier, that’s for sure.

(I'll especially miss Jason. He struck out 11 of these guys in one game last year, which has to be a record for our league. Of course, he lost the game, 8-6, when his outfield dropped two easy fly balls, both times with two men on. The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

Of the three teams directly ahead of us, we own the tiebreaker on one and we play the other two the last two weeks of the season. We still have our fate in our own hands. If we win, we're in. If we lose...

For the Bombers reading this, all I know for sure so far is that Sandy will pitch game one and I'll be throwing in game two.

(Yes, I’ll pitch - and, considering this, I'll ask God to have mercy on my face.)

Chris can expect to play shortstop. Conrad and Dave will be in the outfield. Beyond that, guys, just prepare yourself and start thinking about how you can maximize your value. I'll let you know more as soon as I can. I’ll see you Sunday morning, by 8:30 at the latest if you please, at Smith Field #2, Harvard.

(For directions to Smith Field, put "175 N. Harvard, Allston" as your destination in MapQuest. That will get you to the parking lot of Harvard Publishing, which is where most of us park. It is right next to the diamond we will be playing on this Sunday.)


The Monday Softball Diary - XII (Even If You Don't Give A Flying Wallenda About Softball, This Might Entertain You...)

In order for the following story to make any sense, you’ve got to know a thing or two about our league and about Boston in general. So, if you weren’t expecting to learn anything today... Surprise!

The Flames play every Tuesday and Thursday. Our games are scheduled for 6:15, 7:45 or 9:15. We play our games on Clemente Field, which is located in a section of Boston known as The Fens. There’s another team whose home field is located in The Fens. You may have heard of them. They’re called the Red Sox.

When the Red Sox are on the road, parking is no problem for our games. We all park in a lot behind a bar on Kilmarnock Street, which is about one block from Clemente Field and about two blocks from Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. The parking there is free because this bar sponsored our team until this year. They’ve since gone out of business.

(Despite the way we’ve played sometimes this year, there is no correlation between our play and the fact that the bar went out of business.)

When the Red Sox are home, parking is a problem. The lot behind the bar sells parking to Red Sox fans, at about $25 a pop. Every other lot or parking garage in a one-mile radius raises their rates to a similar price. There are no spots to be found on the streets, of course, since most of these spots require a resident parking sticker. Lucky Red Sox fans arriving two or three hours before the game take the few metered spaces. Even if you find one of the resident spaces open, and decide to park there without a sticker, the police cruise all night looking for illegally parked cars and towing away offenders.

The best option for many of us is the parking lot at the Museum Of Fine Arts. It is located beyond our outfield, adding another two or three blocks to the walk to Fenway Park. This makes it just far enough away so that most Red Sox fans don’t consider it as an option. The price for this lot is lower than the $25 (or more) being charged at other places on Red Sox game nights. As a matter of fact, if you’re a member of the Museum – or you can wrangle a membership card from someone else, such as I do from MY WIFE – parking is just $10. The possibility also exists that you might even find an empty metered space on the street where this lot is located, thus making your parking a freebie.

(The other option available is to take the T, Boston’s public transportation system. I used to do this on nights when both the Flames and the Red Sox played. The problems with this option are numerous.

First of all, I had to leave my car parked in Newton – where I work – and walk about a half-mile to the train station. Then the ride itself was about 20 minutes, usually during a time of day when finding a seat was an iffy proposition. The nearest station to Clemente Field is then another half-mile or more walk. All of this was done wearing my full softball uniform and carrying a bag containing my bats, catchers mask, glove, cleats and other stuff. Since the train was generally filled with Red Sox fans on the way to their game, I looked like some sort of middle-aged wannabe nutso baseball player – which I suppose I am, in a way, but let’s not get into the psychology of this whole thing.

Finally, on the way back, I repeated the whole process. This time, though, I was sweaty and dirty. I’ve got to say, this did help me to get a seat on the train – and a seat for my equipment bag, too, some nights – but I felt even more conspicuous than I did on the trip to the game. After all of that, I still had to drive home from Newton – another 15 or 20 minutes.

Add it all up and it comes to two hours (or more) of travel filled with embarrassment AND it still cost me something like $2.50 for the train. I decided a long time ago that I’d rather pay $10 to park at the Museum, have a short walk and not look deranged.)

This past Thursday, the Red Sox were in town and we had a 9:15 game. It was the best of both worlds. I would get to pay for parking and I was guaranteed to arrive home no earlier than 11:30, smelly and dirty and needing a shower before bed, with work beckoning the next day. I did what any sane man would do. I quit the team.

No, no, no! Just kidding! Since when am I a sane man? What I did was arrange to take Friday off so that I could thoroughly enjoy the game without worrying about when I would get home. And I decided to drive in to the game about an hour earlier than I usually might, so that I’d have plenty of time to try and find a free parking space. If no free spaces were available, the Museum Of Fine Arts lot would be my backup.

I was in the area of the field at around 7:30. This is for a 9:15 game, mind you. I spent about a half-hour cruising the many streets around both our park and Fenway. Finding absolutely nothing, I then resigned myself to parking at the Museum. I drove over there.

When I got to the Museum, the lot was full.

“Shit,” I said to myself, which neither changed the capacity of the parking lot nor made me feel much better, but it did neatly sum up the situation.

Needless to say, the metered spaces on the street were also filled. Now, there’s a garage on the other side of the street from the Museum. I had never parked there before, but the sign saying the lot was full also suggested parking in the garage. I started to drive into it. Then I saw another sign.


Well, hell, our game wouldn’t be over until 10:45 and I wasn’t about to take the chance of having to ride the T home, smelly and sweaty and getting stares from all of the Red Sox fans, while my car was overnighting in Boston, and then having to come back early the next day to retrieve it and pay for the privilege, too. So I kept driving, looking for some reasonable place to park.

(You know I didn’t find one, right? Why the heck would I be telling you all of this if I found one? So, let’s skip ahead to where I actually park the car.)

I ended up parking in a garage on Longwood Avenue, about a mile-and-a-quarter from Clemente Field. The good news was it only cost six bucks. The bad news was it was a mile-and-a-quarter from Clemente Field.

I now got all of my equipment from the trunk of the car and started walking. It’s perhaps 8:30 by this time. I tried to figure if there was a shorter way to the field than returning up Brookline Avenue, which is how I approached the garage by car. I decided to walk Longwood and then take a left somewhere, trusting my instincts to approximate when I’d be parallel to the field.

I ended up turning left onto Avenue Louis Pasteur. This was pretty much the first good decision I made all day. It came out about a block from the park. However, I had to walk past the building that at one time housed Boston Latin School. I went to Boston Latin, TWICE. I hated it. As a matter of fact, I hated it so much that I made a special trip back to piss on the building about 25 years ago. I would have enjoyed doing so again, making it an every-25-year tradition, but I didn’t have the time to spare. I kept walking.

(The story of my stints at Boston Latin, and how I came to be enrolled there two different times, is a sad and interesting one. It does, however, include me pissing on the building, which was the highlight of any time I spent there and that should tell you just about all you need to know about it. I’ll tell you everything you DON’T need to know about it some other day. But right now, back to Suldog The Softball Bum, in that thrilling adventure, The Long Walk To Clemente.)

I got to the field at maybe 8:50 or 8:55. When I started talking to the other guys, they all told me how they had found spots at this place or that place or some other place I had gone by about six times already that evening. Jack Atton and Keith Goodrich both told me about how they found FREE SPOTS ON THE STREET BY THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS.

See, I came to the game too early. The Museum was open this evening. That’s why the lot was full, as well as all of the spaces on the street. However, the Museum closes at 9pm. That’s why the garage was only open until 10:30, because they figure that’s more than enough time for everybody to clear out, even the employees. If I had been smart enough to put two and two together, I would have been able to dope out the fact that some spots would open up by around 8:45. Instead, I was just a doofus parked in a different zip code from where our game was being played.

That’s just the story of me getting TO the game. I could also tell you about getting home. As a matter of fact, I think I will. I hope you packed your lunch.

Jack Atton was kind enough to give me a ride back to the garage on Longwood Avenue. We walked to his minivan, conveniently parked at a metered space over by the Museum Of Fine Arts. I threw my bag in the back and we took off.

And, about 300 yards later, we stopped. The Red Sox game had let out and there was traffic, both auto and foot.

The first thing we stopped for was some of the foot traffic. Two extremely cute girls waited at a pedestrian crosswalk. Jack, being a gentleman, let them cross. As soon as they stepped in front of us, about twenty guys came out of the woods and also started crossing. It was like seeing a pretty girl hitchhiking, so you stop and pick her up. As she’s about to get into the car, she says, “Wait a minute…” and five goons come out of the bushes and pile in. You’ve been sucked in.

Jack leaned out the window, smiled, and yelled at the guys, “You’re taking advantage of THEIR good looks!” The guys gave a thumbs-up and an alcoholic yell. The Sox had won and everybody was in a good mood. We finally moved on and then came the vehicular variety of traffic.

Jack is one hell of a driver. I had never taken a long ride with him before, but I saw him in action on this trip and it was pretty cool. He weaved in and out of traffic with that minivan as though he were Dale Earnhardt at Daytona. I sat back and enjoyed the performance. As a former Boston cabbie, I had to admire his skill behind the wheel.

When the traffic became so thick that it was impossible to weave, Jack really showed his stuff. He turned left into what appeared to be a cul-de-sac. He went to the end and there was an alleyway between buildings. Unfortunately, a car was parked right in the middle of the alley, blocking any egress.

Undaunted, Jack did a three-point turn and headed back out into traffic. He again took a left, this time into a dead-end. No go. We turned and got back into the traffic one more time. Taking yet another left, Jack hit paydirt. This time there was an alleyway unblocked by anything. Jack wheeled the minivan into the narrow space and away we went, down one alley and then into another, leaving behind the traffic jam paralleling us to the right.

We had one more alley to navigate and then we’d be beyond the traffic and almost at Longwood Avenue. Problem was, there was a pile of five or six trash bags blocking the right of this alley. Well, no problem. We had come too far to be stopped by rubbish. Jack just gunned it and ran the damn things over. The sound of broken bottles and crushed cans echoed off the walls of the apartment buildings as we exited the alley. As we drove through the now traffic-free street, we both let out a sort of rebel yell. I would have given Jack a high-five, but he was driving.

Finally, Jack pulled up to the garage and I thanked him for a most excellent ride. After I claimed my baggage, he started on his way home. I went into the garage to get my car.

The garage attendant supplied the final crappy note of the evening. He was trying to be nice, but...

As I paid the fee, he asked me how my game went. I told him. He said that no matter what happened in the game, he admired someone of my age playing, period.

Now I felt like some sort of softball zombie, dug up and given a reprieve from the eternal dirt nap just long enough to get a few at-bats. Thanks, Buddy!

As you must imagine by now, I’ve spent all this time bullshitting because the games this week were very... I don’t know. What’s a good word? Stinky? That doesn’t quite capture the exact flavor, but it will have to do because I’m tired of typing.

We lost 13-6 on Tuesday. On the night of the amazing adventures detailed above, Thursday, we lost 22-3. That was pretty disheartening considering what I went through to actually get to the game. Oh, well.

We clinched a playoff spot, amazingly enough. The Ghost Riders dropped two games and we went in the back door. Five games remain and the only question is whether we finish third, fourth or fifth. Third is the goal, of course. The fourth and fifth finishers play each other in a prelim. It’s always good to avoid something like that.

There were some decent individual performances. Dave Vargas went 5-for-6 in the two games, while his buddy John – a recent recruit, unfortunately ineligible for the playoffs due to lack of games played – went 4-for-6. Jack had three hits and so did Brian Dillon.

We were missing a few regulars. Carl Hyman, our regular left fielder and currently batting .571, was on vacation. That’s a big hole. Jason Atton, the only guy on the team with a higher batting average than Carl, also couldn’t make the games this week. He works evenings and just couldn’t swing it.

Mike Vosseler, another .500 hitter, is out. Mike ripped up his knee a few weeks back and he’s in a cast. He hopes to make it back for the playoffs, but the general feeling among the rest of us is that it will be a minor miracle if he does. From his description of the injury, it sounds a bit too serious to rebound that quickly. A shame, as he’s one excellent shortstop. Brian Dillon has done a good job filling that position in his absence, but if Mike were there, we could swing Brian to someplace else and really tighten things up.

I went 1-for-5. I had a couple of decent pieces caught, but they weren’t so well hit that I sulked back to the bench or anything like that. I got under them just enough to give the outfield time to get to them, so that’s the way it goes. My knee is still weak, but that’s no excuse. It doesn’t affect my batting - just running the bases and fielding. I should be OK for the Bombers games on Sunday, which it must be by now considering how long I’ve been typing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with that story. See you then. Bring a sandwich.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Return Of The Cicada Killers

I work in Newton, Massachusetts. At the building where I work, we have an interesting and recurring insect problem. Every July, the Cicada Killers come out to play.

If you've never encountered a Cicada Killer, you're missing something big. And I do mean BIG. They are the largest damned wasps I've ever seen. Here is a picture that provides some idea of their size.

And that doesn't really do them justice. When they're alive and flying around, they're actually bigger. They stretch out to full length and you also have the wingspan to consider. The thing about them, though, is that they appear dangerous, but are actually almost completely harmless. Unless you're a cicada, of course, in which case they will KILL YOU.

The first time a visitor to our building encounters them flying around near our entrance, they're likely to get frightened. You can't blame someone for feeling that way. These things are almost big enough to saddle and most wasps would just as soon sting you as look at you. However, here is the thought process of a Cicada Killer:

He flies up to within ten inches of your chest and looks you over.

He says, "Duh... are you a cicada? Doy... guess not! Ooooh, look! I think that's a cicada over there!"

He flies off to look at a big rock.

A minute or so later, he comes back to within ten inches of your chest. He looks you over.

He says, "Duh... are you sure you're not a cicada? Doy... guess not! Ooooh, look! I think that's a cicada over there!"

He flies off to have a look at a Buick.

And so on.

After a while, you know they won't harm you. So, you walk through bunches of them, telling them, "Get out of my way, you stupid bastards!" And they do, too.

Some folks in this building kill them. Why? I suppose because it makes them feel big or something. I can't imagine a less thrilling sport than hunting these thick-as-a-brick creatures. I mean, they fly right up to within a foot-or-so of you, with no more guile or reticence than Paris Hilton. Where's the thrill in bringing your boot down on such a thing as that? Hell, if I took one of my softball bats out of the trunk of my car at lunchtime, I could swat them all out into the street by the time my lunch hour was over. Big deal.

I like to watch them, actually. They're amazingly industrious, once they figure out you're not something to eat. When building a nest, they get down on the ground and dig dirt like a dog, throwing it out with their hind legs in prodigious amounts. I've gone into work in the morning, not a sand mound of theirs in sight, and come out in the evening and seen four or five piles, each four inches high and maybe ten inches in circumference. Dug by ONE wasp, mind you. That's like you or me building a three-story house in a day.


With only our legs.

And while taking time off to go up to passing tractor-trailers and see if they're good to eat. Or something like that.

Oh, one last thing, in case you didn't click on the link above and find this out already? The Cicada-Killer adults don't actually kill the cicadas. The females - since the males have no stinger - paralyze the cicada and transport it back to the nest. They then place the still-living-but-paralyzed cicada in the nest with a new Cicada-Killer egg. When the new one hatches, it eats the cicada.

(Yuck! I'm mighty glad I'm not a cicada!)

(As are you, no doubt.)

They all go away by the end of August at the latest, having finally caught a cicada and laid eggs and whatever else they do during their brief lifespan - perhaps catch a Buffett concert or some other summery activity like that. Anyway, if you run into some of them, just say, "Get out of my way, you stupid bastards!" Unless you actually are a cicada, in which case you're toast, pal.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Day (5 Of Them, Actually - All Saturdays) In The Life

Saturdays in the life of me, at various ages.

AGE 10 (1967)

5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and that there’s no school, I literally bounce out of bed and hit the ground running. I take a pee and haphazardly brush some of my teeth. Going downstairs, I turn on the huge black-and-white Admiral television. While waiting for it to warm up, I feed the cat and then pour out a huge bowl of the now-defunct cereal, Quake. I drown the cereal in whole milk and also sprinkle three tablespoons of sugar on top of it, even though it’s already 50% sugar.

5:10am – I carry the enormous bowl of cereal to the living room, possibly spilling a bit along the way. It’s a cold summer morning, so I turn the thermostat up to 76. The TV is showing an Indian Chief test pattern. Turning the knob that changes channels, I find nothing but snow on any of the other three Boston stations. I settle down on the shag carpeting and eat the cereal, waiting for the fan-forced gas heat to come pouring out of the vent in the wall. I stare at the Indian Chief and wonder why he’s on the test pattern.

5:15am – The heating system makes the distinctive sound that tells me the heat is just about to come on. I get my body right up next to the vent, in anticipation. The heat comes on. Ahhhhh! Nice! The cat, having finished her breakfast, comes into the living room and curls up next to me - and the heat.

5:20am – An announcer comes on and tells me what station I’m watching, how many megahertz they’re broadcasting at, and where they’re located. He has a distinctive and soothing baritone voice. I wonder if he owns the station and maybe, if I write to him, he’ll tell me why there’s an Indian Chief on the test pattern. Finishing the cereal, I drink the sugary sludge of milk from the bottom of the bowl while listening to the National Anthem and the Morning Prayer. Mom and Dad are sleeping soundly upstairs. They don’t get up until at least 9:30 or 10 on Saturday morning. I am king of the castle!

5:25am – Farm And Market Report comes on. It’s complete gibberish but somehow soothing, anyway, because I know that something to actually watch will be coming on next. I wonder if there are any real farmers in Boston, listening to this stuff and saying to themselves, “Corn ain’t gittin’ a good price today. I’ll wait fer next week to sell it.”

5:30am – Public service program comes on, produced by UNICEF. It wants to tell me about dam building in Africa. I get up and switch the station, to see if any of the other channels have cartoons yet. Nope. It’s either UNICEF or test patterns. I watch a test pattern of (no doubt many glorious colors, but on our black-and-white TV, gray) bars for a minute or so, then decide that dam building in Africa isn’t so bad. While it plays in the background, I open a volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia (Volume XIII, Rabbits to Signaling, as a matter of fact), a gift from my grandfather and my favorite set of books. This particular volume tells me all about the races of man (Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid) and shows a drawing of an Asian in colorful silk robe and funny tasseled hat in front of a pagoda, while a black man is tap dancing. A Caucasian, meanwhile, is pictured in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright split-level with a neatly manicured lawn. He is sharply dressed in suit and tie, staring off into the middle distance as though the cure for cancer lies just beyond his square jaw and steely-blue eyes. I think Caucasians MAY have been the target audience.

6:00amBoomtown comes on. While Rex Trailer and his sidekick, Pablo, are in the bunkhouse deciding what to do today, I go out to the kitchen and start mixing some Aunt Jemima batter to make pancakes. I put bacon in the frying pan.

6:10am – Popeye is saving Olive Oyl from Bluto. Meanwhile, I’m saving bacon grease in a tin can we keep on the kitchen counter. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever using that grease for anything. I guess we just didn’t want it down the drain. I pour pancake batter into the greasy pan.

6:35am – I take the bacon and stack of pancakes (smothered in maple syrup) out to the living room. I eat them while watching Rex and Pablo. I give a piece of bacon to the cat.

– Rex and Pablo ride into Boomtown. I go get the newspaper that was just delivered on our front porch. I read the funnies and the Red Sox box score. My favorite player, Tony Conigliaro, hit a home run last night. The Red Sox are in first place for the first time ever in my entire life. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, The Wacky Races and Tom & Jerry await me.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, friendly well-fed cats, good things to eat, fan-forced heat, interesting people, loving parents and the promise of a sunshiny day playing baseball with friends. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

AGE 20 (1977)

7:15am – The radio is playing something by Barry Manilow. I roll over, curse the DJ, and shut it off. I light a Kool and lay back in my bed, smoking. I then realize that it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work. I sit up on the edge of the bed and roll a joint. My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about five years now, and my Dad is out of town on a business trip. I figure to carry a steady buzz all day, but I especially want to be stoned for the Saturday morning cartoons. Being stoned gets me closer to how I felt when I was a kid and watched them. Not completely, but closer than when I’m straight.

7:25am – Get out of bed, take a pee and brush my teeth. Go downstairs and put the heat under the coffee. While waiting for it to warm up, I go out on the back porch and smoke the joint. Go back in and pour the coffee, adding three teaspoons of sugar and a lot of cream. Feed the cat (a different one) and then go to see if the newspaper has been delivered yet. It hasn’t.

7:40am – Flip around through 20-or-so channels on cable. The best thing available is Boomtown, with Rex Trailer and (now) Sergeant Billy. A Popeye cartoon comes on. Popeye is still beating up Bluto and eating spinach. The spinach looks delicious. I realize that the buzz is creeping up on me.

7:50am – Mix pancake batter and put bacon in frying pan. I decide that I can’t wait that long. Put pancake batter in refrigerator. Leave bacon in frying pan. I can heat it up later. Eat cold leftover egg foo yung.

– Eat cold leftover egg rolls and pork strips in living room while flipping through channels. Hear big crash from the kitchen and then see the cat come running by with half-cooked bacon hanging from his mouth. Go out to the kitchen and mop up grease from the linoleum. Stop cursing only when I hear the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner theme song start playing. Yay!

8:01am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets caught in one of his own traps.

8:02am - I then begin to wonder if Wile E. Coyote has a charge account with ACME. How does he buy all that crap? Why doesn’t he just have a side of beef shipped to him and save himself all this trouble? And what does the ACME delivery guy think when he carts a crate of birdseed, a see-saw and a two-ton weight to the middle of the desert and a coyote signs for it?

8:03am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets hit on the head with his own two-ton weight.

8:04am - Smoke another joint.

8:23am – Come to realization that there is only one Pepe Le Pew script, recycled for each new cartoon. Heavy, man!

9:00am – It’s another hour until The Three Stooges come on, so I plug in my bass and put Master Of Reality on the record player. My band has a gig tonight, so this counts as practice. Halfway through Children Of The Grave, I hear the newspaper hit the front porch. I unplug the bass, shut off the record player, and go get the paper. I read the funnies slowly, admiring the artwork. I read the Red Sox box score and then it’s time for The Stooges.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, larcenous cats, good things to eat and smoke, interesting coyotes, loving (if absent) parents, the promise of a day watching baseball on TV, and an evening of being on-stage playing rock-n-roll, with an order of sex and drugs on the side. I could ask for more, but I’m not that greedy.


AGE 30 (1987)

11:05am – The radio is playing a paid program about bowel cleansing. I realize I’m awake. I have a vicious headache. My head feels as though someone filled it with shredded brown paper bags and then lit them on fire. My nose is clogged beyond belief and there’s a spot of blood on my pillow.

I remember that – again - I have spent every penny of my paycheck on cocaine and vodka. I have no desire at all to leave my bed, but my Dad is downstairs and he hasn’t seen me since Thursday evening. He probably waited up until 2 or 3 in the morning, hoping to hear me pull into the driveway safely, but then gave up and went to bed. The least I can do is drag myself downstairs, force a bleary-eyed smile, and try to eat a bite or two of the lovely breakfast he’s cooked – and for which I have absolutely no stomach.

I light a Kool and shuffle into the bathroom. I pee, dark yellow and foul smelling. I brush my teeth, but it doesn’t help much. I climb into the shower and turn on the hot water full blast. I stand there, letting the steaming water hit me, hoping to quell the headache somewhat and loosen the crap in my nose. My father waits patiently downstairs.

I have a dead-end job and an ongoing dead-end relationship. The only thing I look forward to doing is drugs. I sometimes enjoy playing softball, but half the time I’m coked up when I’m doing that, too. I haven’t played the bass more than three or four times in the past year, and I haven’t been in a band in ages. I don’t give a damn about the Red Sox or anything else. The funnies aren’t funny any more and the latest cat just died from feline leukemia.

The world is a place full of times to endure until I get more money for drugs. I have the promise of a day filled with lying on the couch, blinds drawn, feeling guilty. The only reason I don’t want to die is because I’m already dead. I wouldn’t ask for more because I don’t deserve it.


AGE 40 (1997)

7:00am – The window is open and the birds are singing. It’s sunny, but cool. I realize it’s Saturday and I don’t have to work today. I get up, go take a pee, and brush what’s left of my teeth. MY WIFE is still asleep. I have a doubleheader this morning at Smith Field in Brighton.

7:05am – I light a Kool and sit in my underwear, going over the scorebook from the season thus far. I’m the manager of the Bombers, a good group of guys to play ball with. I’ve played ball with them on Saturday mornings since moving to Watertown in 1994. Today we play at 9am. I’ll be at the field by 8am at the latest. I’ll have 10 minutes, at least, until anyone else shows up. It’s nice to sit there in the cool morning, listening to the birds sing, doing some light stretching and imagining all of the possibilities that the day might hold in store.

7:15am – I finish my cigarette, strip down, and hop into the shower. I turn on the hot water full-blast, letting it wash over my body and loosen the muscles. While standing in the shower, I reflect on how much my life has changed this decade.

I have a good job, which I got as a result of having gone to broadcasting school. I’m off of drugs. I play softball in two different leagues full of good people. Best of all, I’m married to a beautiful and supremely funny woman.

My Dad is dead. He died three years ago. I was clean and sober, and pretty much had my act together, long before he passed away. I thank God for that. If he had died while I was still an asshole, I would now have unbearable guilt. At the time of his death, though, he was proud of me and of what I had worked to become. I had a chance to pay him back for some of those times he stayed awake worrying with a broken heart.

I’m sporadically playing the bass again, as well as keyboards. I also have a collection of other odd instruments, courtesy of MY WIFE. She gives me one every Christmas. I have a thumb piano, a chanter, a triangle, an ocarina, a ukulele and a tongue drum. Someday, I’ll get my act together and make a recording using all of them.

12:15pm – I stop and buy a newspaper on the way home from the game. When I get home, MY WIFE asks me how we did. She likes it best when we split, because then she thinks everybody is happy. After a shower, I settle in, reading the funnies and checking the Red Sox box score. Later today, we’ll go out for Chinese food with my Mom and stepfather, Bill.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, good things to eat, lovemaking, caring relatives, good friends and co-workers, and the promise of many more years playing fast-pitch softball. There’s no cat, because MY WIFE is allergic. I’ll take that trade any day.

AGE 50 (2007)

7:15am – I started writing this blog entry.

1:00pm – I’m finishing it up now. I’ve taken breaks for coffee and cigarettes, to talk to MY WIFE, to eat some leftover sushi, and to play the bass a bit. Still no cat, but later on I’ll watch the Red Sox play some Tigers. This evening, we’ll probably watch Pirates Of The Caribbean. I got it from the library when I returned Shrek 2, which we watched last night. I've got new teeth (implants) that are way better than the old teeth. We’ve got three air conditioners, two televisions (with 80+ channels of interesting stuff on cable), all the food and drink we could possibly want, 49 teddy bears (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) and I have - at the very least - 10 more sunshiny days of playing fast-pitch softball to look forward to this year.

The world is a miraculous place, indeed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary, In It's Entirety

This is basically just some housekeeping. I wanted a place where anyone interested in reading the entire softball diary would be able to easily find every entry. I think there may be one or two masochists among you who would like to read it straight through, so here it is.

I'll be putting up a link on the sidebar at some point.

Final note: The links within each entry will probably only direct you to the homepage for each team, rather than up-to-date stats as of that entry; perhaps they'll take you nowhere at all. When I update the stats, I usually trash the old stats page. I never figured on anyone having a reason for wanting to see them. Oh, well.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight - Part One

Chapter Eight - Part Two

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven - Fourth Of July Break

Chapter XII

Chapter XII & 1/2

Special Pissed Off Interim Manager Edition

Rounding Third


My (In Some Ways) Greatest Hits

The Finale


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - July 4th Break

It’s 10:45 on Saturday night. I figure I’ll write about the Flames two victories this week and maybe that will put me into the right frame of mind for tomorrow’s two Bombers games versus the Titans.

The Red Sox just finished losing to the Texas Rangers. Back in the 8th inning, about 45 minutes ago, I had put on a kettle of water to make a pot of coffee. I promptly forgot about it. So, after I turned on the computer and waited for it to boot, I went out into the kitchen to get a drink. It was steamy enough in there to peel wallpaper.

The kettle had been boiling for about 40 minutes. Good thing I decided to write this, rather than just going to bed. Is it a portent of things to come? And, if so, is it a good omen or a bad omen? I mean, the kettle was almost boiled dry. That could be a metaphor for what little remains in my own tank. But I shut off the heat before the whole freakin’ house went up in smoke, so maybe I’ve got enough left to actually get through the rest of the season before I crash and burn.

(I’m really stretching this thin, huh? OK, let’s get on with it.)

FLAMES – 14 Robinson/Paige – 6
FLAMES – 11 Drive – 9

We’re back on the winning track, obviously. These two wins got us to .500 again and put us in sole possession of third place. Here are the standings:

                   W  L  GB  Flames vs.

Warriors 11 3 - 0-2
Hawks 11 3 - 0-3
FLAMES 7 7 4 -
Robinson-Paige 6 8 5 2-1
Drive 6 8 5 3-0
Ghost Riders 1 13 10 2-1

There are six games left in the regular season. One more win (or one more loss by the Ghost Riders) clinches a playoff spot for us.

I wish I could say that my own performance was instrumental in these victories, but I can’t. I was just a little bit short of pitiful. I reached base twice on walks, but other than that, I was one-for-six, striking out three times. I don’t think I had one good swing in all eight at-bats.

I’ve got to readjust my stance. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so coiled up and scrunched down, looking to draw walks, that I can’t release my swing with any authority at all. If I’m not drawing the walk, I’m dead meat. So, I’m going to have to give the pitcher more target in exchange for my loosening up. What I’ve been doing is keeping my right elbow in, holding the bat level and back, while bending my right knee very low and leaning back in an exaggerated fashion. It’s worked to draw a lot of bases-on-balls, but I can’t afford to be in such a vulnerable position if a pitcher gets the ball over the plate, which is what happened the last two games. So, I’m going to get my right elbow away from my side, bring the bat up a bit, balance my stance and look to grab a little power by bending both knees and coming up on my swing. I should be able to get some arm extension on the follow-through and not leave myself vulnerable to the low outside corner as I’ve been doing. I’ll try it out on Sunday and we’ll see what happens.

Enough about my crappy play. There were some really swell performances by my teammates, so let’s talk about them.

Carl Hyman has been Mr. Consistent all year. He’s a heck of a fine all-around ballplayer, with a good arm, decent range in the outfield, and the ability to hit for average as well as power. He went 4-for-4 in the Robinson/Paige game, and followed it up with 2-for 2 (plus two walks) in the game against The Drive. A double, a triple and a home run were included in his overall 6-for-6. Carl generally bats #2, while I’ve been batting leadoff. If I had managed to get on base as much as I should have, he would have had more than just 3 RBI to add to his total.

Dave Vargas had a good one against R/P. He went 3-for-4 (including a triple and a home run) with 5 RBI. He’s got more speed than anyone else on the team. He covers so much ground in CF, that he basically took one out of Carl’s glove in left on one play. We gave him a lot of grief for that.

“Hey, Dave, what’s the matter? Don’t you trust Carl?”

“Hey, Carl, Dave is dissing you, man. He doesn’t think you can catch the ball. You shouldn’t have to take that crap from him. Next time you go out on the field, take a bat with you and whack him when he gets near you.”

“Hey, Dave, man, if this was football, you would have been flagged for encroachment.”

And this, from Pete, our manager (while Dave was standing right next to us):

“Sully, how do I score that play? I mean, a fly to left is F-7 and a fly to center is F-8, but the center fielder caught the ball in the left fielder’s territory. I guess I’ve got put it in the book as F-7-and-a-half."

And he actually did, too.

Of course, knowing that you’ve got an outfielder who can basically cover the whole damn field is pretty comforting for our pitchers.

Speaking of pitchers, Jack Atton and Jay Atton both came through with pretty nice games for us. Jack threw the game against R/P, giving up 6 runs in the first inning and then giving them zilch after that. Jay started against The Drive, held them to two runs until tiring in the final inning, and then Jack came in and picked up the save.

Everybody – even my sorry old ass – contributed something to make these two wins happen. It’s a real nice feeling to go into the break on a winning streak, especially when playing for a team that’s having fun and a few laughs while doing so.

FLAMES Statistics

And now, it’s off to bed. Tomorrow, the Bombers play the Titans. We get to find out if we really have what it takes to compete for a championship this year and whether or not my new stance will be any help in doing so.


Titans – 33 BOMBERS – 7
Titans – 20 BOMBERS - 14

The new stance didn’t produce much. I went 0-for-4 with a walk.

The Bombers weren’t good, but we weren’t as bad as those scores look. The first game was out of hand quickly because of some (surprise!) errors. The second game was a one-run affair until the seventh inning. We could play with anybody in the world if we could catch the ball.

That sounds harsh, but I’m including myself in that today so I can say whatever I want. In the continuing quest to see just how many positions I can’t play anymore, I took a shot at left field in game two. I was just as shaky as everybody else we’ve put out there and I wrenched my knee as a bonus.

Prior to the game, I shagged a few flies and felt decent doing so. I mentioned to Jack that I wouldn’t mind going out there in an actual game if he wanted to try that. He took me up on it and there I was to start game two.

I had five balls hit to me. Only one was a possible catch, but I pulled up at the last minute. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t catchable with a dive, but not certain. I just haven’t been out there enough, having not played the outfield in about five years. I had one scoot by me, under my glove, thankfully backed up by Conrad Paquette in left center.

The fifth one was the one that put me out of the game.

It was a sharp hit to left center. I ran over and picked it up on the bounce, stopped, pivoted and threw back to the infield. On the throw, I tried to get a little extra on it and sort of did a jump throw. And my knee didn’t like it, no, not even a little tiny bit. I said a bad word, dropped like I was shot, grabbed my knee, and then generally felt like a fool. I stood up as Jack was getting out to me. I needed to reattach my leg with staples and masking tape, so I did and play continued.

No, just kidding. My leg was still attached, but when I tried to walk a bit, it was obvious I was done. I walked back to the bench, gingerly. As long as I was careful and didn’t make any sudden movements or put a lot of weight on that one leg, it didn’t hurt. After the inning, Jack was making changes to the line-up and inserting someone in my spot as a hitter.

I piped up and said, “I can still hit, Jack.”

(That was a huge lie, since I hadn’t had a hit all day to begin with.)

Jack said, “Yeah?”

The way he said it, I could tell he didn’t believe me. So, I got up off the bench to grab a bat and show him I could swing. As soon as I stood up, my knee buckled. I immediately sat down and said, “Uh, maybe not.”

It was the best thing I did for the team all day. Mike Minchoff, hitting in my spot, went 2-for-2 to finish the game. As previously mentioned, that was two more hits than I had been able to produce in five tries at it.

The ten-day break between games is the best thing that could have happened to me this year. Usually, I’m really pissed at not playing for such a long stretch every July. This year, I not only need the time for my knee to heal, I need the time to clear the stench of my last four games out of my head. I mean, sure, I’m retiring after this year, and I wouldn’t be doing that if I thought I could still play as well as I ever have in the past, but I’ve never had a four-game stretch that stunk this much. I’m truly embarrassed right now and if I hadn’t been producing at such a high rate previously this year, I’d never hit the field again. I’d be ashamed to show my face.

(That sounds way too melodramatic, but it’s true. It’s not just that I’m making outs; it’s the type of outs I’m making. Nothing but weak grounders, pop-ups and strikeouts. Over the last four games, I’m 1-for-10 with three walks. And the one hit was a questionable scoring decision. I really, really need this time off, just to get my head together.)

Again, there are better things to talk about than my shitty game. For one thing, we almost had an on-field brawl with the Titans.

There were a lot of calls going against us in game two. Some were missed big-time by the umpire. Now, I'm willing to cut any umpire some slack in our league because he's just one guy trying to cover the whole field. He's going to miss one every now and then. But after three or four go against you, you start getting frustrated.

There was jabbering back and forth between the Titans bench and our guys. We basically told them to shut up because we were arguing with the ump, not them. Our pitcher in game two, Sandy, started getting into it with Kenny Bean from the Titans. Sandy is not the most complacent guy in the world, so as the exchange continued, he got more and more agitated. Finally, he reared back and threw a fastball at their bench.

(I should note that there's a fence in front of each bench, and Sandy's pitch hit the fence. Nobody was hurt.)

Kenny Bean came off the bench and started towards the mound, while Sandy started towards Kenny Bean. Just about everybody else started towards the two of them, to grab them and keep this thing from getting out of hand. I came off the bench and yelled, "Everybody calm the fuck down!" I wasn't the only one, as this is a very friendly league and the only two who probably wanted a fight were Sandy and Kenny Bean, and maybe even they didn't really want to go at it.

Order was restored and the game went on. The most amazing thing is that the umpire didn't run Sandy. I assumed, as soon as the ball left his hand, that he was gone.

Individual glories:

Conrad Paquette had three more home runs. That gives him eight on the season and ties him for the team single-season record. We have at least six more games to play, so I’m expecting he’ll break that mark with ease. He’s already got 33 RBI, which is just 7 shy of breaking that team record, too. The man can hit.

Mike Minchoff, who replaced me in the second game, had a perfect doubleheader. He went 4-for-4 with a walk. Ron Johnson (the only guy aside from myself to be on this team since it’s start in this league) reached base 5 times in 7 tries. My good buddy, Fred Goodman, went 3-for-3 in the second game – but was out trying to stretch a double into a triple.

(He didn’t slide. He was wearing shorts and his legs were sunburned. You got to slide anyway, Fred. That’s how the game is played. Besides, when you give up the body, the chicks dig it...)

The other half of the Mazel Tov Connection, Eric Rubin, had three solid hits, including a triple he didn’t have to slide for.

(Before anybody gets all PC on me, I’ve called Fred a New York Jew Boy for years and he’s called me a Boston Mick for the same length of time. We love each other. Those are terms of affection for us. And if I’m any judge of Eric’s character, he’s fine with a little ethnicity, too. If he isn’t, I suppose I’ll get a bat upside the head next game. And deserve it, too.)

Last kudos go to Pat Atton, who also had three hits, as well as a walk.

This team hits better, overall, than any Bombers team I’ve been a part of over the 13 seasons we’ve existed. Sad to say, we field about as bad as any team I’ve been a part of, too. Can we start making enough plays in the field to win 3 or 4 more? That’s all we need to make the playoffs. And once we’re in, with our bats, we’ll make a few teams sweat facing us.

(When I say “our bats,” I’m including myself. I’ve got to believe I’ll come back strong after the break. If not, the next thing I’ll be writing here might be a suicide note.)

Titans        10-0
Dot Rats* 6-2
GangGreen* 5-3
Renegades 5-5
Rockies 5-7
Moe Howard* 4-6
Bacon* 3-7
Reds 3-7
* = yesterday’s late games not included

My combined stats, at the break, for the season:

G   AB   H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  AVG  BB  K  OB%  SLG%  OPS   R
24 58 25 2 0 0 10 .431 20 6 .577 .466 1.043 35

If you had told me before the season that these would be my stats at the break, I wouldn’t have broken down crying. I wouldn’t have rejoiced, either. All in all, I’m OK with them.


No games until a week from Tuesday, so no diary next Monday.

Soon, with more better stuff.