Monday, July 27, 2009
Now is the winter of my discontent (and it’s just barely summer.)
Renegades – 10 BOMBERS – 5
BOMBERS – 11 Renegades – 10
Renegades – 7 BOMBERS – 6 (8 innings)
We lose the first round playoff series, 2 games to 1.
Honestly, I’m heartbroken by this. Our team was better than this. Good enough to eventually win the championship? Probably not, truth be told. I think we were still just a bit short of that. But, it sure would have been nice to play next week, and maybe the week after, and find out for sure, rather than going home early.
I had a pretty bad day, so that doesn’t help my psyche any. I popped out about a hundred times, but I made up for that by grounding out weakly another hundred. Felt that way, anyway. When I look at the book, I see that I went 2-for-10. Close enough.
I truly don’t have the heart to write about this at length. There were some heroics that deserve not to get the short shrift, however, so I’ll give the quick details.
Game one was just... blah. To me, it felt like we were kind of dead the whole way. We scored one in the first, held them scoreless, got another one in the top of the second, and then the roof fell in. They plated six in their half of the second inning, and we just never could get the big rally that we needed. We scored singletons in the fourth, fifth, and sixth, trailed 10 – 5 going into the seventh, and went quietly. I flied to center for the final out.
(That’s one thing about this game that has always bugged me. Since I hit a fly, and it’s in the past tense, I have always felt it should be ‘I flew out’, but custom has always had it as ‘flied’. Custom is an ass.)
Game two contained the heroics. Again, we got out to 1 – 0 and 2 – 1 leads, but the Renegades went on to lead 10 – 3 after the top of the sixth. We needed eight runs before we got six outs. And, damn – we got them!
With one out, Pat Atton drew a walk. Cam Zirpolo followed with a single. Jack Atton singled Pat home, and Big Jay Atton singled to score Cam. Dave Vargas followed with a single that drove in two more. 10 –7, Renegades, going into the seventh inning.
Dave had come on in relief of Big Jay in the sixth. After giving up a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, he got the next three Renegades batters. Last chance for the Bombers.
Joe Baszkiewicz and Fast Freddy Goodman reached, with Joey scoring as a result of Fred’s at-bat. Mike Minchoff – who probably had his best set of the season at clutch time – got a base on balls. That brought me to the plate, with a shitty day behind me, 1-for-6 to that point. As they say in the broadcast booth, I represented the winning run.
And here is the only reason I haven’t taken cyanide. I singled through the right side, scoring Fast Freddy. We now trailed by one run, with runners on first and second, and still nobody out.
Buddy Carchide pushed the runners along, loading the bases. Pat Atton hit a game-tying sacrifice fly. Now with one out, the Renegades decided to intentionally walk Cam Zirpolo, loading the bases and putting the force on all around. This brought Jack Atton to the plate.
And Jack singled me home for the game winner.
(In reality, I think it was Billy Botting who scored, since he was the guy who ran for me, but it goes in the book as my run. That's the way we've always kept the stats on this team.)
We were happy, and I was probably the happiest guy on the field at that point. It was as nice a comeback as we’ve ever produced. And, damn it, I was right in the middle of it. I felt really, really good that I finally came through with a clutch hit. I truly would have been on the verge of tears if I had choked in that spot. I’ve played so many years, with so little team success to show for it, that somebody would have had to scrape me off the field if I hadn’t come through there and we ended up losing.
Then we got off to the early lead in game three. We put up a wiggly number in the first inning, scoring three runs. Renegades got one in the third. We put up another three in the top of the fourth, for a 6 – 1 lead. We were feeling pretty good about our chances.
And those were the last runs we scored this season.
I give the Renegades all the credit in the world. They could have dried up and blown away at that point. Some lesser teams might have. They didn’t. They came right back at us with a 5-spot in their half of the inning.
Tie game, 6 – 6, after four.
And that’s the way it stayed through the fifth. And through the sixth. And through the seventh. We made some nice fielding plays along the way. Emilio Zirpolo had a hand in 7 of the 9 outs, playing some really nice shortstop. Of course, Buddy Carchide, who pitched some truly nice ball all year, was on the mound. Clutch pitching was happening for BOTH sides. Tense? Not even close to the word for it. As this brand of fast-pitch softball goes, it was as good as it gets. We put a runner on in every inning, but couldn’t push him across. Same for the Renegades.
OK, top of the eighth (which is extra-innings, which means both teams pushed it to the limit, which means we should have nothing to be ashamed of, but it still stings.)
Pat Atton got his third hit of the final game. He’s standing on first, when Cam Zirpolo smashes a vicious line drive.
Right into the shortstop’s glove.
And he fires over to first to double up Pat.
After the third out, we take the field. And it was relatively quick, if not painless. Single, single, single. With bases loaded and nobody out, we pull the outfield and the infield in. No room for error. And there was no error, but there was a clean single over Cam Zirpolo’s head in left field. They win. We lose.
It was time for the tradition in our league, lining up to shake hands between the two teams. It’s more fun when you’re on the winning side, of course. All of the Renegades told us we played a great series. I’m sure all of our guys did the same, or at least they should have if they didn’t. We got beat, fair and square, by a team with which we’re very evenly matched.
And I left the field feeling every minute, every second, of 52 years old.
I have to make some decisions. If I can’t come up with a way to become better by next season, I don’t see why I should play. Jack has some excellent players who have made commitments to play for us, but who were ineligible for the playoffs this year. With those guys coming in, I’ve got no right to expect playing time - unless I can give Jack a reason for using me. The biggest problem is that I don't have a defensive position now. My knees won't allow me to catch much, and the additional guys make me superfluous at first base. If I can't hit better, then I'm not worth having on the roster.
Maybe I quit smoking, start exercising regularly in ways that are more strenuous, work the batting cages... something. Or not, and I just relax about the whole thing. The reason I decided to play this year was because of the bad taste LAST year left in my mouth. The final game this year was not pleasant, but I pretty much accomplished the personal goals I set for myself at the start of the year. I batted a hundred point higher, kept my on-base percentage over .500, lead the team in walks one more time, actually got a couple of extra-base hits... I could consider giving it a rest and not feel too itchy.
This really isn’t the time to consider it. I’m sad we didn’t win. I’ll see how I feel when it’s spring again and Smith Field asks me if I want to come out and play.
Before I wrap up this season (Way too early, man. Ball should go into September, at least.) I need to give credit for the team records set.
Cam Zirpolo was a magnificent addition to the team. Speedy glove in left and a dandy hitter, he tied the team mark for triples – 6.
Dave Vargas went 3 – 1, taking a .750 winning percentage into the record books. We got damn nice pitching from the entire staff this year.
And now, we come to Big Jay Atton. He had as good an individual year as anyone has ever had for us. I’m really proud of the big man. He gave us… hell, take a look at the records he broke.
Batting Average - .717 (previous record, Ron Johnson’s .654)
On-Base % - .750 (previous, Ron Johnson with .719)
OPS – 1.958 (breaking his own record of 1.823)
In addition, he led the team in Slugging Percentage, Hits, Home Runs, and RBI. He tied for the team led in Runs with Cam Zirpolo, and the team lead in Wins (pitching) with Dave Vargas and Buddy Carchide. And, my own personal favorite esoteric record? He ran his streak of at-bats without a strikeout to 147, breaking my mark – shattering the bejeezus out of my mark – of 107. And it’s still alive going into next season.
BOMBERS STATS for 2009
(I’ll have some lifetime stats and such later on, as I have the time.)
I just want to tell all of you guys I played with this year that I appreciate the effort you made. And I want to give a special "Thanks!" to Jack Atton, my favorite manager, ever – including me. He makes everyone feel like an important part of the team, which is way cool. Win or lose, Jack makes you glad you played. You can’t ask for better than that as an athlete.
I’ll be taking the rest of this week off from blogging. Thanks for reading.
Soon - relatively speaking - with more better stuff.