Monday, June 29, 2009

Just Your Usual Softball Post

I love old ballplayers. My heroes are the guys who get past age 40, which is the demarcation for "ancient" in most sports, but who keep on going.

Today – Saturday – I’ve been watching 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, of the Boston Red Sox, throw six shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves before being removed for a pinch-hitter. Wake is a hero of mine, anyway, due to his charity work, but the fact that he’s 42 years old and leading the American League in wins is wonderful and amazing.

(Throw in that he’s a knuckleballer and you get just about the perfect guy to be my baseball favorite. I’m a knuckleball groupie. There’s something incredibly cool about a guy who has the guts to throw 65mph pitches in a league where everybody else throws 90mph on a regular basis. No matter what team they were pitching for, when Hoyt Wilhelm, Eddie Fisher, Charlie Hough, Stu Miller, Tom Candiotti, Phil Niekro, Wilbur Wood, or any other junk master came into the game, they became the guys for whom I’d root. The pitch itself has always fascinated me, but so have the guys who throw it. They seem to be, for the most part, an extremely even-keeled – perhaps even somnambulant - lot, which I suppose is a necessary part of the psychological makeup when your few mistakes often result in moonshot home runs.)

I think My Dad trained me to like old guys. When I was very young, I’d watch football with him and he’d wax rhapsodic when George Blanda came into a game. Blanda played something like 27 seasons in the NFL and seemed to always be hitting the game-winning field goal while we were watching. And he wasn’t just a kicker. Blanda played quarterback, too. My Dad was only in his 30’s while this was happening, but he had found his own playing days ended while he was in his 20’s – as is often the case with footballers, since there aren’t a lot of amateur opportunities for tackle football players once they’re beyond college – so Blanda, and other relics like him, let My Dad dream of perhaps resuming his own career.

That’s where it’s at, of course. Every guy who’s had some level of success in a sport will always harbor the fantasy of actually playing professionally, so long as he hasn’t been irreparably crippled. The pull of that dream is as strong as anything that exists in the American male psyche. Seeing some other guy who’s older than you - and who may actually appear to be in worse shape than you physically - still getting the job done at the highest level, allows guys like me (and you?) to envision miraculous comebacks, even if the place we might be coming back from is Never-Was-Land.

So, my heroes are 42-year-old Tim Wakefield and his superannuated cronies.

(By the way, when you reach a certain age in sports, your age becomes part of your name. I first noticed this with a past favorite of mine, Steve DeBerg, who, at age 45, came out of retirement to play quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons during the year they went to the Super Bowl. DeBerg was a coach/backup, but the starter went down and DeBerg came in to start, and win, three or four games. Every time he was first shown on-camera, the announcers would say, "And there’s 45-year-old Steve DeBerg..."

From that point onward, I noticed that the same thing happened with every other player over 40 [in basketball, over 35, and in women’s gymnastics, over 16.] Listen for it yourself. Sports announcers can’t resist it. "And there’s 43-year-old Doug Flutie... and here’s 46-year-old Jamie Moyer... 46-year-old George Foreman will attempt to regain the heavyweight boxing crown tonight versus Michael Moorer...")

In my own case, being 52 and irreparably crippled, I’ve finally given up the dream.

Nah, not really. I bet if I could learn to throw a knuckler, I could get some team to sign me and… No, really, I’ve given up all hope, unless maybe I could have a tryout and hit a few 30-yard field goals. What the hell. I still have one good leg.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I’ll be dragging my one good leg to Smith Field to play for the Bombers. If we can win two from MHC (the Moe Howard Club, which is close to what I would have called a team had I started one; I’m more of a Shemp man, myself) then we will be almost mathematically assured of a playoff spot. And, if there’s a scout from the Red Sox in the stands at 9am on Sunday in Brighton, and I get a couple of hits, maybe… no, I don’t want to put the jinx on myself.


Now THAT’S the way this game was meant to be played. Superb pitching from both teams, timely defense, clutch hits that had to be worked for, some thought put into the decisions made by the coaches, and hustle all around. Softball – modified fast-pitch, anyway – doesn’t get much better than that.

Dave Vargas started game one for us, the first start he’s had for us this season. And he was mighty impressive. In seven innings of work, Dave gave up TWO hits. He had a no-hitter through 5 and 1/3, giving up the two runs in the sixth via a walk, a run-scoring clean double, and then a two-out single. He showed amazing grit and determination in the seventh, striking out the side (sandwiched around two walks and an error) to preserve the win. With the bases loaded and two outs, he punched out the final batter with some nasty smoke on the paint. As he walked off the field, I shook his hand and told him that I hadn’t seen such a gutty performance in a long time, and I sincerely meant it. Dave was just plain awesome on the mound yesterday.

His counterpart in game one for MHC, a fellow named Manny, was no slouch. He wasn’t blowing anybody away, but he was as cute as they come, mixing speeds and working with very good control. He sure didn’t give us much, but we pulled it out thanks to Dave’s beautiful work and some nice clutch hitting.

In the first, Billy Botting mashed a pitch to center, slightly misjudged by their center fielder – he started in, and he couldn’t recover in time as the ball sailed over his head. Billy, with his great speed, circled the bases for a 1 – 0 Bomber lead.

In the third, Jack Atton doubled with one out. With two outs and Jack on third base, Mike Minchoff dropped a single into left to put us up 2 – 0. We didn’t score again until the sixth, when, with Emilio Zirpolo on second base and two outs, his son, Cam Zirpolo, punched a double to left center to put us up 3 – 0.

After MHC got their two runs in the bottom of the sixth, to make it a nailbiter at 3 – 2, we added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a Jason Atton triple and Dave Vargas’s sacrifice fly. Then Dave did his thing in the bottom of the seventh and we had one damn satisfying win.

So, I started this thing by talking about old warriors. In game two, we faced one. Mark (I wish I knew his last name, and I should because I’ve played against him for years now, but I can’t recall it) started for Moe Howard and he was as tough for them as Dave had been for us in game one. Mark is a graybeard, for sure, but man can he pitch! He struck out seven (I was one of them) and limited us to a lone run in the first inning. After that, we really threatened only once.

On our side of the ledger, we got another great pitching performance. Buddy Carchide has been throwing well all year. He had the misfortune of being on the opposite side of Mark’s gem, but had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in the loss. Buddy spread 8 hits over 7 innings, but took the loss. Sometimes life isn’t strictly fair.

We were home team for game two. In the top of the first, MHC got a run on a home run that might have been more a matter of miscommunication than pure power. Their second batter lofted a deep fly to left center, but from the bench it looked as though Cam Zirpolo had a bead on it. However, he sort of pulled up as Billy Botting approached from center, and then the ball kept going past both of them. By the time they recovered, it was 1 – 0.

In the bottom of the first, I led off with a single.

(This was the first time I’ve batted leadoff since 2007, and it’s a spot in the lineup I really take pride in. I ended up 2-for-3 in game two - in the book, anyway. I don’t think I hit the ball all that well, and I think whoever was keeping the book at the time gave me the benefit of the doubt. I’ll take it. Last week, I stroked the ball and went hitless. It all evens out.)

After a strikeout, Emilio Zirpolo reached on catcher interference. MHC started arguing that Emilio had actually hit the ball before his bat contacted the catcher’s mitt, but if that had been the case, then the catcher would have had to have had his mitt out in front of the ball, almost a physical impossibility – and patently illegal even if he had been able to pull it off. We won the argument via logic (good umpire, by the way, even though his strike zone was a little expansive for my liking as a hitter.) So, first and second with one out.

Following a Jason Atton walk that loaded the bases, Billy Botting hit a vicious line drive right back at the box, the result of which made every man on the field wince. Mark caught the line drive... well, in truth, the line drive caught him, right in the cojones. It is a testament to his manhood and his competitive spirit that he actually tried to fire the ball to second base for a double play before he collapsed, face down, on the pitchers mound.

Everybody from both teams ran to the mound. Mark looked to be in severe pain, and he no doubt was. Even though he was smart enough to be wearing a cup, a 100mph line drive back at your nuts, from 42 feet away, will still leave you feeling abused. Happily for Mark, he recovered and pitched. Perhaps as a result of being a bit shaken up, he walked Joey Baszkiewicz to force in a run. Tie game, 1 – 1. Mark then recovered his form and got a strike out to end the inning.

The pitching the rest of the way, from both men, was truly excellent. Buddy gave up two runs in the third, on a walk and three singles, but held MHC scoreless from that point. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get anything much started against Mark. We had one good shot in the fourth inning, when Billy Botting followed a Jason Atton single with one of his own, but Billy was out trying to stretch it into a double. Jason took third on the play, but was stranded there. After that, we had only one man reach second base the rest of the way.

Superb ball, really, from both teams, and perhaps fitting that each team got one win out of the deal.


We have no games next week, due to the July 4th holiday. With the win we got yesterday, we’re sitting in a decent position for the playoffs, but we aren’t in yet. We’ll need a win or two more, for sure. In the meantime, we get to rest things (knees, in my case; other things, in Mark’s case) and then back to it in two weeks time.

Sundays like this are why this old warrior is glad he's still playing.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Asparagus = Cigarettes

How could you NOT be intrigued by a title like that?

If you want to find out what the hell it means - and have a couple of good laughs - please go to my other blog, The Talkback Button. Be sure to hit all of the links (so my boss sees how much traffic I'm generating) and leave a nice comment (so my boss knows what an amazingly talented individual I am!)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Juneteenth 2

It’s amazing how much of a jumble of crap is floating around in my head concerning racial prejudice. Here’s where I let some of it out.

(If you didn’t read the first part of this, Juneteenth, last Friday, please do so now. Really, please do. If you don’t read that, this will be even more embarrassing to me than it already is. In any case, if you don’t read part one and then you make a comment here? It’s likely to be entirely uninformed. If so, I’ll shitcan it, with no apology.)

So, as you know – if you've read part one – I grew up with vastly differing input from my family concerning race. Some tried to instill tolerance, while others taught me (via actions, rather than actual sit-down-and-listen lessons) that black people were to be considered inferior. For my part, tolerance was the winner more often than not, but tolerance isn’t necessarily something to be praised. It’s not quite acceptance of someone as an equal, is it? No, it isn’t. I was willing to live and let live, but that didn’t mean I was denying of thoughts concerning my own racial superiority. I had received more than enough bigoted input to cement that proposition in my mind.

(For what it’s worth, I think everybody harbors at least a smidgen of that inside of himself or herself. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, either – unless you nurture it and make it your entire self-identity. There’s nothing harmful in, say, watching a sporting event and rooting for someone from your own race to do well, all other things being equal. Where it becomes problematic, in my humble opinion, is when you wish evil upon the folks from differing races. Your mileage may vary.)

I had other very interesting lessons regarding race, from both sides of my family.

I’ve written about Si Rosenthal, a Jewish ballplayer for the Red Sox. He was paralyzed from the waist down while serving in World War II. Anyway, he was a friend of the Sullivans, most especially of my Grand Uncle Jim. And, when a black priest from Mississippi, Charles Burns, also a friend of the Sullivans, needed to raise some money to be used in his home state to build a school gymnasium, the Sullivans worked hard with BOTH of these men to see that it got done. The full story is HERE.

The thing of it is, the Sullivans – many of them, anyway – were very outwardly bigoted. They’d toss around pejoratives like coon and nigger, when speaking of black people in the abstract, but when it came to actions with individuals, they more often than not did the right thing. Though not to as virulent an extent as some of the Sullivans - thanks to the influence of the other side of my family - I matured with a somewhat bigoted attitude. I had black friends in school, and I played sports with black kids, but I hardly gave a second thought to casual use of hurtful words, and I generally held a different attitude towards blacks on the whole than I did to the people I knew personally.

I mentioned the influence of the other side of my family. That would be the Drowns, my Mom’s folks. On the other side of my family, there was nothing BUT tolerance and decency. I’ve already told you about how My Mom set me straight on a few things, and softened some of the nastier stuff. Her folks were… well, I’ll relate the most sterling example I can think of at the moment. Actually, I’ll let My Mom relate it to you, as I wrote to her for details when I knew I’d be writing this piece. I pretty much knew the story, but I wanted to be sure I got it right. Here’s what she told me, about my grandfather and his friend, Baron.

Grandpa was working as a claims attorney at the T [Boston public transportation system] when Baron Martin, the first ever black person hired at the T in other than a menial position, was brought into his department. I believe he was brought in as some sort of clerk and Grandpa immediately took him under his wing. Others in the office were not at all accepting of him, but Grandpa stood up for him at all times. When he learned that Baron wanted to go to law school, he helped pay for his education. They became close personal friends, going on trips and vacations together. The story goes, which I'm sure you've heard, that
one time at a restaurant, when the check came, the waitress gave it to Baron and Grandma, because Grandma's tan was so dark they assumed she and Baron were a couple and Grandpa was their guest.

Baron went on to become a judge and always credited Grandpa for his education and rise in the judicial system.

[Explanatory for what follows: Bill is my step-father, Maryanne my step-sister, and Grandpa had died by this time.]

Once, when Bill's daughter Maryanne was doing a mock trial with her law school at Baron's court, Baron saw Grandma in the audience and stopped the proceedings and took us (Bill, ME, Grandma and Maryanne) into his chambers for about 20 minutes for a short reunion with Grandma. When he returned to the courtroom, before starting the mock trial, he gave a very moving speech, pointing out Grandma and telling everyone, in detail, what an inspiration Grandpa had been to him.

Grandpa told me once (and Baron corroborated it when speaking to the courtroom that day) that Baron would arrive at work and find "nigger baby" candies at his desk. I don’t remember what he or Grandpa did, but whatever it was they stuck together through it all.

[Jim note - Yes, the candies were actually called "nigger babies". Sigh.]

So, I had those things in my family history to be proud about. And I had the other input, from family and childhood friends, that told me black people weren’t as worthy of the same level of respect and caring as I afforded to white people. I wasn’t an outright racist, nor was I ready to march for civil rights.

The scales tipped one day in 1968.

I was in downtown Boston with three friends. I was 11 years old; my friends a bit older, 12 and 13. We were at the Prudential Center. We had been bowling someplace, as I remember, and then just goofing around, nothing in particular in mind. We were walking down a stairway that led to Huntington Avenue when six black kids, all of them probably in their late teens, jumped us. They came at us from behind, shoved us down the stairs – I fell about three or four steps – literally jumped on us, and tried to take our money. We fought as best we could, having been surprised and being outnumbered, but they reached in our pockets, got what little we had, and then took off running.

From that point onward, we accepted as gospel anything anyone said that cast a black in a harsh light. And, shortly thereafter, I did what was probably the most reprehensible thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I was going to Boston Latin School at the time. In order to get there from Dorchester, I took a trolley, then a train, and then a streetcar. On the way home, obviously, the order was reversed. Well, one afternoon on the way home, my friends and I were riding in the streetcar. It traveled down Huntington Avenue, the street where the earlier robbery took place.

We always sat in the back because there was a bench seat there and we four could all sit together. In those days, the streetcars on that line had windows that could be opened. It was a steamy day and we had the windows open. I was sitting next to the window on the right side of the streetcar.

We stopped to let some passengers on. And, right next to my window, two black guys – late teens, early twenties – stood. I didn’t see human beings. I saw two representatives of a species that had recently caused me pain. I snuffled up what I could from my nose, brought it up from my lungs, and spat right in their faces. Then I slammed the window shut and laughed at their startled faces while the streetcar started moving again.

As the streetcar rolled, they took off running after it. They kept a pretty good pace, and at one point I thought they might catch it by the next stop. They didn’t. If they had, they would have had every right to get on, drag my sorry ass off, and beat the shit out of me. I almost wish they had, now. For many years, I’ve wished there was some way I could make up for that stupid action. There isn’t, really. Just as the black kids who mugged us generated hate against all black people, I wouldn’t doubt that my actions contributed to those two black guys hating all white people.

What a hideous waste of thought and energy. What a stupid life to live.

A few other things happened that kept the crosses lit on the lawn of my mind. Pa, my grandfather on my father’s side, had his apartment in the projects robbed. Two black kids climbed through his kitchen window and stole his television. He had been sleeping. He heard noise, came out of his bedroom, and saw them as they were exiting.

My home on Caddy Road was broken into. Unlike Pa, I didn’t see it happen. My Dad and I came home and found things awry. Some small things were missing. The cellar door was left open. We had no hard evidence that black folks had done it, but it was now way past my childhood, the neighborhood was more black than white, and so we assumed in favor of the odds.

As I went to Boston Technical High School, located in a black neighborhood, I was, on more than one occasion, shaken down for money as I walked in the neighborhood. "Gimme a quarter, white boy." That happened a good four or five times, at least (and once or twice, it was a dollar instead of a quarter.)

Well, all of that sucked, but it wasn't a reason to automatically treat everybody with black skin as though they were assholes, same as it’s no reason for a black person to consider all white people to be jerks because of the rotten things that happened in the past. But, I had one more idiotic deed to do before I started on the road to recovery from stupidity.

My Mom and Dad had divorced a couple of years prior to the break-in at our house. I would occasionally write My Mom – she had moved, while I stayed in the same house with My Dad – and, after the burglary, I wrote her a letter filled with racial invective. It was “niggers this” and “niggers that” and I basically blamed every societal ill in Dorchester on the influx of black neighbors.

My Mom, once again, spoke truth. This time, she didn’t defend my innocence. That was long gone. She decided to tell me, in nice terms, that I was being an ass. She told me how much that language bothered her, and she asked me to never use it again. She gave me examples of good black people. She may have reminded me of my own black childhood heroes, like Earl Wilson and the Celtics players. Anyway, she started the tide turning the other way.

A few other things happened that helped.

In school, the black kids and white kids mostly kept separate, but in gym class, everybody played basketball. Teams just formed at random, mostly, and I played ball with both black kids and white kids. And the black kids were mostly much more accepting of us white kids than we were of them. I noticed that, and took it to heart.

There was a white kid named Michael. He lived in Roxbury, the black section of Boston, and he was quite poor. He invited me to his house once and it was very rundown. His bedroom contained a mattress and that was about it. He slept on the mattress on the floor, and it was a shockingly bare home to me who had come from relative middle-class wealth. Anyway, Michael hung mostly with black kids, as they were from his neighborhood. And the white kids, behind his back, would call him a nigger lover. Well, the black kids were his friends from the neighborhood, Michael was a nice guy, and I liked him. I hated that epithet being used to describe him. Another point for not being a racist asshole went up on the scoreboard in my head.

Then, after I graduated high school, I needed work. After hanging around and not doing much – being a security guard, driving cab, a few other nothing jobs – my Uncle Jimmy used his political pull to get me hired on with the city. I was assigned to a crew that cleaned streets in Boston’s Back Bay. And I was the only white guy on our crew of eight. They accepted me immediately, in a way that I knew in my heart guys from my neighborhood would NOT have accepted a lone black guy. We shared work, we shared meals, we drank together, we smoked some weed together, we played some ball together, and they became my friends. And then another white guy was assigned to our crew.

One day, early on, we found ourselves alone together. He had seen the way I interacted with the other guys, and how they interacted with me. He said to me, "Do you really LIKE hanging with all those jigs?"

I said, "Yeah, I do. They’re good guys. And I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't call them 'jigs'. They’re my friends."

I didn’t make much of a dent in his prejudice – he still called them jigs – but it was a big step for me. I was, more than ever before, seeing black people as human beings, not some sort of animals.

Later, I went to broadcasting school and my best friend in class was a wonderful black kid by the name of Kenny Cumberlander. Kenny was a gentle giant with a great goofy sense of humor. He could make me laugh so easily! We were partners in a few class projects, always enjoyed each other’s company, and shared one particularly funny incident.

In a class on sports broadcasting, we were teamed doing play-by-play and color commentary. Well, later on that day, we were both in another class, and somehow the conversation, with our teacher, came to what we had done earlier in the day in the sports broadcasting class. I was explaining what we did. I said, "I was doing the play-by-play, and Kenny was my color man, and..."

Another black student, a young woman named Keisha, jumped out of her seat, indignant. She snarled, "What did you just call Kenny?"

I was befuddled by her seeming anger at me. What the heck did I say? Kenny then turned in his seat, and said, "Keisha, he called me the COLOR man. That’s what they call the guy who does the commentary. Calm down." The entire class – about half black and half white - had a good laugh. Keisha, of course, thought I had called Kenny a colored man, which would have been just about a half-step above calling him a spade.

Since then, I’ve had far too many wonderful associations with black people to think of them ever again as anything lesser than equals. My teammates on the Bombers softball team, for instance, have included beautiful black souls, most notably my current teammate of 15 years, Ron Johnson, whom I consider as good a friend as it is possible to have on a ballfield. He’s shown his intelligence and compassion continually. He was my manager for a couple of years, and then he made me his successor as manager, a job I did for 10 years. As manager, he always treated me fairly and with respect, and as my player he never once complained. Now we're both old softball farts, enjoying our declining sporting years with much shared laughter.

My former teammate, Jimmy Jackson, was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever played ball with, and he never once let me down when I was manager. He’d do whatever I asked, even to his own physical detriment. I loved Jimmy Jackson. And there were others, of course. Carl Hyman of the Flames, my former weekday team, is one of the most intelligent and classy ballplayers I've ever shared a field with, and Bobby Ridley, the ageless wonder, is still kicking ass at close to 80 years of age. When Bobby started playing the game, black folks weren't even allowed in major league baseball. I consider it a true honor to have shared a field with such a fine gentleman.

I could go on naming black teammates, but you get the point. And I never had a single beef with any of them, something I can't readily say about my white teammates.

Most recently, my nephew, Darian, was born. He’s three now. He’s the product of a white mother and a black father. And he’s a nice little guy who loves playing with me when I come over to his place. And I love playing with him.

If I ever find myself thinking a stupidly racial thought – and, I hate to admit it, but I still do on occasion – I immediately think of Ron Johnson and Jimmy Jackson and Kenny Cumberlander and the good guys I’ve worked with, and I know immediately that for me to think such stupid things about an entire race of peoples is just ignorant and ridiculous. And now, I have black blood in the family. How can I hate black people, as a group, when one of my own is black? Talk about stupid!

And, to get back to the start of this whole thing, My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle Hickman, is a lovely person, regardless of her shade of gray.

I’m not bucking for sainthood here, by any means. I’m still an asshole. But, each day, I hope I’m less of one than I was the day before. I guess that’s the best a lot of us can strive for, black or white.

Thanks for letting me get some of this off of my chest. I owe you one.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 22, 2009

No Fun

No fun my babe no fun
No fun my babe no fun
No fun to hang around
Feeling that same old way
No fun to hang around
Freaked out for another day
- Iggy Pop, "No Fun"

It’s Saturday morning. As usual, I’m up early on the weekend. I love the morning on days when I don’t have to go to work.

I get up on Saturday, type a little, and then go do the grocery shopping. On Sunday, I get up, put on my uniform, and then go play ball. The afternoons of both days are reserved for laziness: watching a ballgame on TV, reading, taking a nap. If I feel motivated to do anything constructive, I’m generally able to fight off such ridiculous notions.

The problem with this plan, of late, has been getting my body’s cooperation. In order for me to feel truly lazy on Sunday afternoon, I need to play ball on Sunday morning. Since my knee has been balky all year, I haven’t had as much exercise as I’d like. More often than not, I’ve been taking a courtesy runner in our games.

In our league, a player who reaches base can be replaced by what is termed a "courtesy runner." He is another player, healthier, allowed to run for someone with a physical malady. Unlike with a pinch runner, the original player is not penalized for this. He can return to his fielding position the following inning. So that no team gains an unfair advantage via this lenient rule, the manager can’t just pick the fastest guy on the bench and send him out to run. The courtesy runner has to be whoever made the last out previous. Thus, the courtesy runner is assigned by a limited lottery, by dint of the runner not having done well in his own previous at-bat. It’s a decent rule. It saves someone (like me) from further serious injury, and also allows someone who just recently played poorly to contribute more to his team’s effort.

I hate having a courtesy runner.

I realize that I have to have one, some days, but it still galls me. I used to have decent speed. I’ve led some of the teams I’ve played for, including the Bombers, in doubles. I wasn’t hitting the ball one heck of a lot further then than I am now. It was just that I always hustled out of the box and always looked to take an extra base. Half of my doubles were a result of my being able to run well. Now, instead of having speed, I’m somewhat at risk of being thrown out at first base by a rightfielder playing especially shallow. It hasn’t happened yet – and I might strip off my uniform and quit, then and there, if it DOES happen – but I’ve noticed a couple of outfielders watch me hobbling to first and then mentally note what they’d like to try the next time I’m up.

So, my knee. I’m feeling better than last week (when I knew I wouldn’t be able to play at all) and I think I might be able to play this week. The knee is still sore, but no longer swollen. It’s probably at about the same functionality as it was the week I jammed it and put myself on the DL. Could be I’ll jam it again, missing games scheduled for later on in the season. I don’t know. I’ll find out for sure when I warm up tomorrow.

If I find that I can’t play, I’ll take those photos I promised you last week.

I’m off to do the grocery shopping now. I don’t get through the aisles as fast I did before hurting my knee. I can still get almost as many frozen pizzas and chocolate cookies to the checkout as I once did, however, so my overall production hasn’t suffered.


Renegades – 16 BOMBERS – 6
Renegades – 18 BOMBERS – 6

That wasn’t much fun. As a matter of fact, it pretty much sucked. It was drizzling, cold, muddy, and blew chunks.

All due respect to the Renegades, who are about as nice a bunch of guys as there are in our league, but we’re much better than those scores indicate. We shouldn’t be losing to those guys by 10 and 12 runs.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We shouldn’t be the Bombers. We should be called Murphy’s Law.

Eh. Do you want to hear a whole bunch of whining? No, of course not. If I keep going, though, that’s all you’ll get. For instance, my day as a hitter. I went 0-for-5, but it should have been a 3-for-5 (or maybe even a 4-for-5.) I hit two balls right on the screws, both line drive outs. I hit another into center field, but short enough so that a charging outfielder scooped it and threw to second to force the man on in front of me. And I pushed one into short right field that the outfielder made a running semi-diving catch on. The only time I reached base (on an error) was on the worst at-bat of the day, a slow roller to short. These days happen, the same way a crappy day of pop flies and seeing-eye grounders will result in three or four undeserved hits, so no complaints.

I’d pass out the compliments to my teammates, but not a whole hack of a lot to pat them on the back about. Not that they all played badly or anything, but it just wasn’t a day filled with heroics. Billy Botting made one of the most spectacular outfield catches I’ve ever seen in our league, a full-out running diving grab on the very first batter of the day. You see a catch like that and you think it’s definitely your day. Nope.

Billy had a great day as a hitter, too, going 5-for-7. He turned 21 on Saturday, went out and got stinky-ass drunk, had about two hours sleep and played probably the best game of anyone on the team. Nice to be young…

Jack Atton threw both ends of the doubleheader, the first two he’s pitched for us all year. Big Jay Atton and Buddy Carchide not making it to the games necessitated this. They’ve been going one and two every week, but Jack was forced into double-duty service with their absence. This shouldn’t have been a bad thing, as Jack has a very good career mark against the Renegades, but his control was very poor today (17 walks, 4 strikeouts) and you don’t win too many games when guys from the other team are going up there thinking, "OK, I’ve got a walk if I want it, but I’ll see if my pitch comes in the meantime."

(I love Jack, dearly, and it’s not my intention to hang the losses on him alone – it’s a team game, so wins and losses are a team effort - but he’d be the first to tell you that the Renegades batters were thinking that way.)

Jack went 4-for-5 as a batter, which would make some guys feel pretty good, but I know it’s cold comfort for him. He’d rather go hitless and have the team win. So would I.

(I got the hitless half of it.)

I mean, nothing went right. I even brought a camera with me, to take those promised snapshots for you, but I took one shot – of Pat Atton – and the flash didn’t go off, the low battery light came on, and that was that.

However, MY WIFE to the rescue! Last night, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t find the battery charger for the camera. She said that she’d draw some pictures of guys on the team, just in case the camera didn’t work. Since it didn’t work, here are the pictures she drew.

I don’t think any of the guys are going to be too thrilled with their likenesses, but I look as bad as anyone else, so it’s all bad, thus all good. From the top, left to right, it’s Fast Freddy Goodman, Jack Atton, and Big Jay Atton. Next row: Joe Baszkiewicz and Ron Johnson. After that, it’s the umpire and Jack’s kids, Pat and Drew. Finally, down the bottom, with the elf ears and hurty lines emanating from my left knee, it’s me.

Yikes. The only good thing about this week is that next week can’t possibly be worse.


Soon, with line drives that don’t go directly into a fielder’s glove.

Friday, June 19, 2009


MDGF (which stands for "My Darker Gray Friend", which is what I call Michelle Hickman, much as she calls me "MLGF", which stands for "My Lighter Gray Friend", which goes back to a comment Michelle once made concerning race relations and how it would be so much nicer if, instead of black and white, we thought of skins in terms of varying shades of gray, and... Hmmmmmm. It seems my parenthetical got away from me. They often do. I start with the best of intentions, hoping to relay a bit of useful information, but end up confusing hell out of you, instead. I'll start over, assuming you’re still here.)

I had some correspondence with Michelle Hickman. During the course of that correspondence, we asked each other a few interesting personal questions; questions that might have been considered too personal by more-easily-offended people, but we pretty much understand that the other one won’t shy away from such stuff. Anyway, one of my questions to Michelle concerned the subject of race. See, she’s an African-American, and I thought I knew from reading her past writings that she had grown up in an area where her family was the only African-American family for miles around, and I wondered what that might have been like for her.

(Here’s another parenthetical, but I promise to keep a firm hold on this one. I use the term "African-American" because, as I recall, that’s how Michelle self-identified in her reply to my question. In addition, she used the term "Caucasian" to identify those NOT African-American. For the sake of flow – and because the others are just plain too much work to type - I’m going to use the simpler "black" and "white" from here on out. I realize that this somewhat negates Michelle’s lovely sentiment concerning shades of gray, but she knows where my heart is at.)

Here was my question to Michelle:

Were there any puzzling racial episodes for you? Was your neighborhood - your part of the world - multiracial? Was there some instance when you thought, "Huh? Why is this person saying that?" or "Am I missing something here?" and you were brought to a realization concerning skin tone that was either enlightening or painful?

She answered in a stark and truthful way, and it was fascinating reading. So much so, as a matter of fact, that I asked her if she might like to do a sort-of joint posting concerning our racial experiences while growing up. She could expand a bit on her original e-mail, while I would write something about what it was like to be a white kid from an almost wholly white neighborhood in Boston. I offered the suggestion that we could co-publish on Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday on the American calendar which is celebrated pretty much exclusively by blacks and the very existence of which is unknown to many whites.

(For a detailed explanation concerning Juneteenth, please go HERE.)

Michelle agreed to write her piece; I said that I’d write mine; and we agreed to link to each other on Juneteenth so that our readers could read both of our pieces and (I hope) enjoy them. And so, here we are, finally, at the point of this thing. Sorry for the delay!

HERE is Michelle's piece. Mine follows the pretty asterisks.


I expect that, as with many a tale concerning American history, the white person will come off sounding like more of an ass than the black person. And, as is the case in many of those tales, I’ll aver that it isn’t so much a matter of the white person being hateful as it is just abysmal ignorance coupled with societal conditioning.

When I was growing up, my part of Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston) was Leave It To Beaver land. Today, when I tell people that I grew up in Dorchester, they go "Ooh!" and make a scared face. This is because the Dorchester of today has the highest murder rate in the city. I’ll trade on that for street cred, but the truth of the matter is that my neighborhood was as devoid of trouble – and of anyone unwhite – as Theodore Cleaver’s Mayfield had been.

I’ll give you an idea of just how lily white my childhood was. When I was perhaps three years old, I was outside in the front yard when a black woman walked down our street. I stared at her in amazement. I had never seen such a person. And, after she was out of sight, I went into our house and asked my mother about her. I offered the suggestion that perhaps she had fallen into some mud. I was puzzled as to why her clothes looked clean, and only her face and hands still had mud all over them, but my young mind, uncluttered by any thoughts of diversity, honestly couldn’t conceive of a better explanation for how she looked.

My Mother, never one for prejudice, set me straight. She explained how people came in different colors, and that this, in and of itself, didn’t necessarily make them better or worse. I was fascinated. I soon learned from other relatives, however, that niggers were an inferior type of human. Having been inculcated with similar information from many of their relatives, I received even more bad knowledge from my friends. We grew up mostly reinforcing each other’s ignorance. General neighborhood consensus was that they smelled different. Also, we were willing to concede that there were some good ones. We decided that there were black people and then there were niggers. Basically, the more like a white person you were, the more you were accorded the honor of just being black.


I vividly recall an incident with my grandfather, my father's father. I’ve written at least one story that shows him in a wonderful light – Solomon The Milkman – and it was a nice story, a true story, and he was a decent family man with good core values. However, as with so many of his generation and in those times – the early 1960’s - he was of the firmly-held belief that black people were from a lesser breed than he was.

I had just become aware of baseball, starting my lifelong love affair with the game. Being a young kid, I had my heroes on the local team, the Red Sox. My grandfather, an excellent ballplayer in his youth and also a huge Red Sox fan, was thrilled to hear that I liked baseball. One night, as we visited him and my grandmother, we talked about it at their kitchen table. I said I wanted autographed photos of my favorite players and had written away for them. The first one I named was Tony Conigliaro, who was always my favorite. Nice Italian kid who had grown up locally in Revere. No problem. He asked me which other players I wanted a picture of. I told him Earl Wilson.

He got a look on his face as though he had just discovered me finger-fucking a dog. He put down his drink, grabbed a nearby piece of paper and a pen, and drew a big black squiggly blob. He pushed it toward me and said, "There’s Earl Wilson!" And then he laughed.

I didn’t understand, at all. I liked Earl Wilson because he was a pitcher who had thrown a no-hitter, and he was something of a rarity in that he was a pitcher who could hit well, sometimes actually being used as a pinch-hitter by the Sox. I had never even considered the fact that he wasn’t white.

Until then.

Again, My Mom was the one with the explanation. Later, when I asked her why Pa had done that, she explained about Earl Wilson being black, that Pa was making a sort of joke – something to do with an old musical group called The Ink Spots – and it didn’t mean I had to stop liking Earl Wilson. Nor did I, until he was traded to the Tigers.

Of course, as you've gathered if you've been reading me for any appreciable length of time, the Boston Celtics were my favorite team. Despite having a leprechaun for their mascot, the team often included more black players than white players. They were the first basketball team to draft a black player; the first to have a starting five comprised of solely blacks; and the first to have a black head coach. As you might imagine, I didn't mention my love for the Celtics to my grandfather. And I was the only kid in my neighborhood who liked them. Everybody else adored the whiter-than-white Boston Bruins hockey team (and so did I, I might add. Boston was very much a hockey town, and the racial make-up of the team was NOT the leading factor. Folks just liked hockey. However, had the team had any black players, it would have been interesting to see how they would have been received.)

Then there was the time I bought a comic book and... well, here's the story.

Luke Cage (Hero For Hire) was the first black superhero character to have a whole title devoted to him. I remember visiting an older female relative at her house in Brockton and lying on a bed reading that first issue. She came into the room where I was doing so, looked at Luke Cage on the cover, and got a look on her face as though she had been physically violated. She said, "Is that a comic book about a nigger?"

Until that point, I hadn’t thought that what I was reading was all that unusual. Luke Cage just looked really cool on the cover; that’s why I bought it. The story was good, and made sense, too. He had acquired some special powers – I forget exactly what and how - so he decided that he’d hire himself out, for money, to solve folk’s problems. I figured that’s what I might have done, too, if I had somehow gained superpowers. Anyway, thoughts concerning the race of the main character hadn’t entered into my decision to buy it. Her comment, however, made me feel very radical for reading literature that had such a startling effect on grown-ups. I became a big Luke Cage fan. I bought every issue during its short-lived tenure, and whenever I was outside with one, I made sure that I carried it with the cover showing, just in case anyone was unsure of my credentials as a freedom fighter.


Back and forth chronologically... bits as they come to mind.

By the time I reached the fourth grade in elementary school, it was 1965 and steps were being taken to integrate some of the Boston Public Schools. Our neighborhood school, the Gilbert Stuart, had nothing but white students prior to 1965. That year, however, some black children would be put into the classes, arriving by bus from their own neighborhoods. This was mostly a curiosity to us kids, but a cause for alarm to some of the parents.

My Dad was not a member of the NAACP, but neither was he a Klansman. He had a couple of close black friends from work, and he'd go golfing with them or otherwise socialize, but he wasn't averse to throwing around words like jigaboo and spook, either. Generally, I think he understood that being black wasn't an advantage in America. When discussing some darker-skinned person whom he felt was trying to do the right thing, but who had gotten the short end of it, he would often say something akin to, "The poor black bastard!" with the idea being that the person's blackness was already a strike against him and it was entirely unfair to have the added indignity of whatever else had occurred. His heart was in the right place.

Anyway, on the first day of school that year, he (not so) surreptitiously trailed Stephen Murphy and me as we walked the third-of-a-mile to the Gilbert Stuart. He tried to stay hidden behind trash cans and whatnot, a half block behind us, but we knew he was there (and I can only imagine what the neighbors thought he was doing, skulking along in the shadows.) The idea, of course, was that he would be on the ready to scoop us up and carry us away should any trouble develop, though what trouble might have been instigated by a half-busload of eight-year-olds is still a mystery to me. Needless to say, no trouble developed, he went home, and we kids got along OK.

[Photo from end of school year, 1966. I'm the red-headed kid, whose pants and socks don't quite meet, in the front row. Snazzy bow tie, though!]

The major racial memory I retain of the black kids was of us discovering, one day during recess, that the palms of our hands were all more-or-less the same color. Oh, and they smelled pretty much the same as white kids.


I wasn't an innocent lost in a world of hate, floating along on a cloud of my own pure thoughts. Lest I leave you with that mistaken impression, I'll admit to a few reprehensible acts. I won't admit to them here and now, however, as this is already entirely too long for one day's post. I'll be back on Tuesday (Monday being reserved for softball, as usual) with the darker side of my journey towards enlightenment. It won't be heroic, but it will be the truth. And, I hasten to add, it is NOT where I'm at now. I've learned...

Enough. Come back then, please.

Remember to read Michelle's piece, please!

Soon, with more (better?) stuff.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More From Donatello's Obscenely-Titled Recipe File

I truly love my swell pal Donatello. Whenever I'm bereft of original ideas...

(No, I have to re-phrase that. I'm almost always bereft of original ideas.)

Whenever I'm willing to admit that I'm bereft of original ideas, he allows me to publish some of his wonderful stuff. Sooner or later, he's going to glom onto the fact that I'm using him unmercifully. Until then, I'm making hay while the sun shines, which isn't anywhere near as tasty as what Donatello will teach you to make. So, without any further ado (or, perhaps, in this case, adobo) Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Donatello!

Hey Kids! If you don't have a grill but you want one, National Get-A-Free-Grill Day is coming up! It happens yearly on the evening of Father's Day. In your neighborhood, this holiday might be commuted to Trash-Day-Eve that week. Or in someone else's neighborhood for that matter. Perhaps, I might suggest, a snootier one?

Want to join the festivities? Just go for a cruise Father's Day Night (or Trash-Day-Eve) and look for grills. There will usually be quite a few to choose from, charcoal or gas. I recommend gas. The only thing wrong with most of them is that they're not as cool as the shiny new grill Dad just got for Father's Day.

The burner might be shot but a replacement burner is cheap, $12 - $20, depending on the size. You might even find one curbside. Pop off the retaining clips and slide it out. The ignitors rarely work but they're not worth replacing anyway. Get a grill lighter at the dollar store. You may have to pay the deposit on a gas tank, but sometimes you can snag that too. Take only a tank with a triangular knob.

Bring appropriate gear (gloves, basic tools, bungees &c.) and shop the open market. If you see a likely candidate, grab it. If something better turns up, swap it for your first pick. Early birds go out at dusk the night before Trash-Day; 5 - 7am day-of for the less committed. Remember, the scrap metal guys are after these too. Still, for the price of a tank of propane and maybe, if your sensibilities require it, a can of Easy-Off, you're set. As long as your lease allows a grill, that is.

A couple of tips for beginners: be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover your trunk or truck bed. Also, used grills often have a can of grease hanging off the bottom! Check before you lift! If it's there, pop it out carefully, leaving the clip, and toss it... probably in the barrel that will be right nearby. Finally, it was mentioned above, but one more time for emphasis: gloves. Better to have 'em and not need 'em....

Of course, you can "shop" for grills anytime, but this is the big week. I love shopping at the Free Store, probably the Abbie Hoffman influence again. I keep the basics in my trunk always, just in case a "bargain" turns up unexpectedly.

Happy Hunting!


Once you've got your grill up and running, you're going to have to put something on it. As the t-shirt says: if God didn't want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat? If you have no better ideas, you might try one of the following:

MY WIFE just loves boneless breast of chicken.

[Ed. Note: Despite the resemblance, Donatello means HIS WIFE, not MY WIFE.]

I think boneless breast is as exciting as Cream o' Wheat. Yawn. One night, in desperation at the thought of facing another meal of chicken, I made this. She really loved it. And I could eat it without nodding off. A fair compromise, and isn't that what marriage is about? At least there's a dish I can make when I have to eat...

Friggin' Chiggen

2 lbs boneless breast (2 big cutlets)

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for the grill

2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1 tsp. hot sauce, or to your taste. (I use Sriracha)

Adobo if you have it, garlic salt if you don't.

Fillet the cutlets very thin, about 1/2 in, like you're filleting a fish. I get 3-4 thin ones from one whole boneless breast. Put them in your favorite marinating container, something you can shake without spilling. I use old plastic bread bags, myself.

Add the rest of the ingredients, top with a good shake of adobo, and shake it up. Put it in the refrigerator to marinate, shake it up every now and then if you think of it. Two hours will do, but longer is better. A day is good, if you have the time.

[Here's the thing, the acids in the citrus juice will practically cook the chicken by themselves. When it's ready it will be white... all the way through if you cut it thin enough and left it long enough. Tender and tasty and ready to grill. By the way, don't let the purists fool you. Fresh lemon and lime juice is great, but the bottled stuff works just fine here, thank you.]

Lay the cutlets on a hot, oiled grill and turn the heat to medium, close the top and cook 5-8 mins.

Brush the top sides with a little more oil, give them a little shake of adobo, and turn them. Close the top and cook another 3-5 min. I like mine cooked just through. If you like yours cremated, well, use your best judgement.



(for pork or chicken)

1/2 cup prepared chopped garlic. Don't chop your own. Not only is that a lot of work, the prepared stuff works better for this.

1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers

1/2 cup red wine (or wine vinegar)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1-2 T. sugar

Hot sauce to taste. (I use about 1 T. Sriracha)

Puree the lot in your blender or food processor. Pour it over meat of your choice. Marinate for 3 hrs. to 3 days. Grill appropriately. I particularly like:

Bone-in, skin-on, chicken breast, slow-grilled over indirect heat, about 1 hr.

Fire up both burners and get the grill really hot, put the chicken on over one burner only, spoon a little extra marinade on top, then turn off the burner under the chicken. Turn the other down to medium, and close the top. Try not to peek too much, you'll just let the heat out. Rearrange them after 1/2 hr. if you like, possibly basting with a little butter or olive oil. You might also fire up that second burner to finish them for a few minutes before you take them off.

This will work just fine with any cut of bone-in, skin-on, chicken.

This is also really good with boneless ribend pork, or pork chops, grilled the usual way, or whole pork tenderloin, grilled as above. I just love me some pork-products. If I could grill the squeal, I would.


Well, there you have it. Another couple of recipes from Big D's Dangerous Kitchen. While these aren't as cheap as FTM tuna, they're just as easy, and making them a couple days ahead improves them. And don't forget, food tastes better cooked on a free grill! Happy Get-A-Free-Grill Day!

Your swell pal,



I have little of value to add. Though that's rarely stopped me in the past, it will now.

Soon, with more better stuff

(Oh, just in case you want to buy a brand-spankin'-new grill, the fine folks at Weber sell swell ones. I tell you this because I stole the photo from their website and I figure it's only fair.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Color Is Your Applesauce?

I know, I know. That’s a provocative question, and not one that’s usually asked in polite company. However, I need your honest answer. Don’t be shy! We’re all friends here. Nobody’s going to laugh at you if you say that your applesauce is a different color from everybody else’s applesauce.

So, what color is your applesauce?

Really, think about it – or, since it’s not really the type of question that should require deep thought, don’t. I would appreciate it, though, if you’d give me your answer in the comments section. Perhaps you’d like to do so now, before you’re unduly prejudiced by anything that follows.

I will now tell you why I’m asking what color your applesauce is.

The other night, during dinner, the subject of the color of applesauce came up in conversation.

(Yes, this is why MY WIFE and I have such a successful marriage. We’re not afraid to tackle the really important issues head-on.)

I have no idea why the topic even came up, but I had served us both a small dish of applesauce, on the side, as part of our meal, so we had the evidence for answering the question right in front of us. All we had to do was look at the applesauce and report to the other person on what color we considered it to be.

I said applesauce is green.

MY WIFE made the same sort of face as you’re probably making right now. She said, "Green? You think applesauce is green?"

"Yeah. What color do you think it is?"


"Yellow? No way! It’s not YELLOW!"

And so forth.

I should explain that we’ve previously had minor skirmishes concerning color. I have a blue shirt that she swears is green. Or it’s a green shirt that she swears is blue. I forget now. Either way, I was right. She won’t admit that I was right, and she says that I’m colorblind.

OK, I am a little bit colorblind. But it has nothing to do with green. I sometimes can’t tell whether something is blue or purple. It usually turns out to be Deep Purple, which is my favorite band, though the thought now occurs to me that every time I’ve seen them in the past, perhaps it wasn’t them at all and was just a bunch of impostors called A Tad Lighter Than Navy Blue.


Putting aside the blue-purple thing - which, if something is blue-purple, it’s probably a good idea to put it aside permanently - I’ve taken tests for colorblindness. You know the ones, where there are all of those differently colored dots and there’s a number hidden in the dots? Like this:

I always see the correct number (which, by the way, is 29 in this instance. If you see 70, you have either red or green colorblindness. If you see neither 29 or 70, you're just plain blind, I think. Seriously.)

I’m not colorblind.

(Except for a very slim range of blue and purple.)

However, I took a really good look at the applesauce in front of me and I have to admit it looked more yellow than green. I’m not saying it didn’t have any green sort of look to it, but...

Oh, hell, it was most definitely NOT green. Not that I was willing to admit it. Not yet, anyway.

The next day, at work, I asked some of my co-workers what color they thought applesauce was. I didn’t say, "Hey, co-worker, applesauce is green, right?" I just asked them what color it was, with no indication of what answer I desperately wanted at least one of them to give me. Here are their answers:

Light Brown
Puke Yellow
Light Beige

After receiving these answers, I ventured forth the thought that, perhaps, under certain circumstances, given the correct lighting conditions, applesauce might be considered green.

Upon hearing that theory, the verdict was unanimous. I was a nut.

The only one who offered me any hope concerning my sanity was Dan (he of the "light beige" response.) He asked me what color my kitchen was. I told him blue.

He said, "What about your kitchen when you were growing up? Could it have been green?"

I said, "Maybe. I can't recall for sure."

He replied, "Well, since applesauce is light beige, which is really just another name for off-white, maybe your applesauce was reflecting the green from the walls of your kitchen."

I thanked him for the out he was trying to give me, but, by that time, I knew the game was over. Applesauce isn’t green. Not even a teeny tiny bit.

Now, I want you to understand something important. When MY WIFE and I had the original debate about the color of applesauce, I didn’t say my applesauce was green because I had just then looked at it sitting in front of me and, after careful consideration, come to the conclusion that it was green. No, this was just something I thought I knew. If you had come up to me on the street, totally out of the blue (or purple), with no applesauce anywhere to be seen, and you had asked me what color applesauce was, I would have replied, "Green, of course. Anything else you need to know? How much 2 + 2 equals? How to spell cat? What planet we’re on? Duh!"

I truly don’t know how I came to think that applesauce was green, but it’s something I’ve considered a rock-solid truth for 50 years. Now that I know I was wrong about that one, what other of my assumptions must I question? Are cigarettes actually bad for me? Were The Beatles NOT a cynical moneymaking rip-off of The Monkees? Is Roger Clemens actually a nice guy? Is my nothing but red meat, cheese, and peanut butter with saltines diet unhealthy? Does Pauly Shore have talent? In any case, I am completely flummoxed, bewildered, stunned, and flabbergasted to find out that I could have held such an obvious untruth in my head for so long.

All dark clouds have a silver lining, though. At least, they look silver to me; I may be wrong. In any case, the other night, after my extremely beery excursion to Fenway Park with my Cousin David, I arrived home in a less-than-sober state. I was also horny as hell. MY WIFE, being MY WIFE, helped me recover from that. Afterward, I decided that I wanted something to eat. I went out to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. This is what I saw.

I laughed like a loon. While I was off getting drunk at a ballgame, MY WIFE was home dyeing our applesauce green. Now that's true love.

She rocks my world, whatever color it may be.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Full Irish Rainout

Johnny Most always used to open his radio broadcasts of Boston Celtics basketball by saying, "This is Johnny Most, high above courtside at The Boston Garden, where The Boston Celtics are getting set to do basketball battle with [fill in the opposing team.]"

(In those olden days, Most sat in an overhang jutting out from the first row of the balcony at the old Garden. You had to have no fear of heights to be the Celtics radio man.)

Why do I grace you with the tidbits of trivia? Because I’m sitting… well, let me try to do it as though I were a latter-day Johnny Most.

"This is Suldog, next to a potted poinsettia in my dining room, where I’m NOT about to do softball battle with The Dot Rats."

It’s Saturday, the afternoon before gameday, and I already know I can’t play tomorrow morning. I’ve pretty much known it since last Sunday night, but I kept hoping my knee would heal enough for me at least to suit up. No go. It hurts just walking. There’s no way I can run.

I’ve been having trouble with my left knee all season, but I really jammed it a couple of times last Sunday. I was OK to keep playing then because the adrenalin was flowing, but once I had showered and cooled down, the knee kept throbbing and became swollen. I was limping on Monday, slightly hobbled through Wednesday. It’s reached the point where I can now walk normally, but if I make any sort of twisting motion with my knee, it complains mightily. If this were the last round of the playoffs, I’d suit up and give it my best shot until the knee blew out completely, but since we have another two months in the season, I figure I’ll trade off sitting out this week for (I hope) playing the rest of the way.

Since I’m sitting out, I get a chance to do something that might make these softball reports more interesting for my friends who read them even though they know little about the sport (which I am very grateful for, by the way. I can’t honestly say I’d be as loyal if every Monday you wrote about, say, knitting a quilt for your iguana, which is a pretty good analogy for what some of you must feel slogging your way through this stuff.)

Anyway, I’m going to take some photos of the guys. In that way, you’ll have some faces to put with the words.

(I’m afraid Chris Mauger is going to be terribly disappointed, though. I know for a fact that his favorite player from these reports, Cam Zirpolo, will not be present tomorrow. He has some sort of school function to attend. Perhaps it’s for the best. The first time people saw Bud Collyer, the cartoon voice of Superman during the 1940’s, a lot of them were crestfallen to find out he didn’t look anything at all like The Man Of Steel. It is sometimes better to remain a mythic character.)

[Bud Collyer, left; Superman, right]

So, now to bed. In the morning, I’ll be coaching first base, keeping score, and taking pictures. I’m tired just thinking about it.


And here it is Sunday morning. And The Lord said, "Let there be full Irish breakfast." And so there was. And it was good.

We were rained out. The good news is that I get to let my knee heal without missing two games. The bad news is that you don’t get any photos of the guys. I’ll take some next week, if I’m not too busy playing.

(This means that, when I take the pictures, there’ll be one of Cam Zirpolo, too. Be still, Chris Mauger’s beating heart!)

The Irish breakfast comes into this because, after we were the only team to show up at the field – we’re all hopeless optimists – six of us went to Donohue’s in Watertown. And they serve a tremendous full Irish for $9.95 – 2 eggs any style, Irish bacon, sausage, ham, beans, fried tomatoes, home fries, white pudding, black pudding, and toast. One of the best values in good eating on the face of the planet.

Four of the guys had no idea what white pudding and black pudding were. I tried to explain that it isn’t like pudding you think of here – a goopy sweet dessert – but more like a sausage patty, fried and delicious. The major difference between the two – white and black – is that the black has blood in it. Well, the mention of there being blood in it put three of them off from ordering it. The only one who decided to dive in the deep end was Fast Freddy Goodman, despite Leviticus forbidding the eating of blood.

(I think if you asked Fast Freddy who Leviticus was, he’d probably take a guess and say he used to be the bass player for Quiet Riot and why the hell should the bass player from Quiet Riot tell him what he can or can’t eat?)

Everybody else ordered pancakes, omelets, and the usual non-pudding suspects.

When our full Irish arrived, Billy Botting got brave and asked me if he could try the white pudding. I gave him a piece to sample. He didn’t die, and he said it was decent, but nobody else wanted to hazard the attempt. Fred liked both varieties. With breakfast foods, as with women, Fast Freddy considers variety the spice of life. The only thing he didn’t eat were the fried tomatoes, so I inherited those and thus had my vegetables for the week as well as my daily minimum requirements for grease, fat, and cholesterol.

So, that’s that. No games this week, but I still got 1000 words out of it. Of course, I could get 1000 words out of a ketchup stain on my tablecloth – and it would probably be just as full of pulse-pounding excitement as this was, too.

Tomorrow: a story about applesauce! Oh, Boy! You can hardly wait!

Soon, with that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Real Heroes

So, enough about softball. Let's talk baseball.

On Monday evening, MY WIFE and I attended the Pitching In For Kids gala at Faneuil Hall. Pitching In For Kids is a wonderful organization that helps children and teens in the New England region. Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, of the Boston Red Sox, were the sportsmen behind the evening's endeavors.

I suppose, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you how we came to be at the event. It was, as with many things in my life, a serendipitous bit of luck.

A long time ago, blogistically speaking, I wrote a series of pieces about my past employments. One of them, Ladies Shoes, concerned my time employed by Wilbar's - a going concern in female footwear then, a gone one now. Another fellow who worked at Wilbar's, though previous to my time there, came across my story and enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, he enjoyed it so much that he wrote to tell me about his enjoyment of it. He also filled me in on a few details about the store. He knew his business, too, because Wilbar's actually was his family's business at one time.

His missive came to me on a company letterhead. After reading his far-too-fulsome praise, I looked at the company stationery it arrived on and I saw that his firm had dealings with Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. I wrote back, giving thanks for the undeserved praise, and mentioned my high regard for Mr. Wakefield's charitable work. In return, I received another e-mail, this time from an assistant to my original correspondent, informing me that there was to be a gala benefit - the aforementioned Pitching In For Kids event - and the fellow who was my fan wanted to extend an invitation to said event. Cool!

Even cooler was the fact that tickets to the event were going for $100 a pop. MY WIFE and I would be getting in for free. It pays to blog about your past!

(It really does. The ads that appear on this site give me a couple of bucks - pretty much literally a couple of bucks - for my efforts, but the really good stuff has come from people who have read something here, liked it, and decided to reward me out of the goodness of their hearts. Here's a nice little list:

I got a gift certificate from the owners of The Pleasant Cafe because they loved my frequent nice comments about the place.

I got tons of fruitcake because of THIS. Yummy it was, too!

I've received a few wonderful books from readers, as well as some vintage Frank Zappa vinyl from good buddy Stu.

I got teddy bears from Jason Atton, my softball teammate. I think, when they saw Jay handing them to me, our teammates questioned our respective manhoods. That's all well and good for Jay because he's about 6'8" and could squash all of those guys like bugs if he so desired, but me? Just the fact that I write a blog probably makes me suspect already. Ah, what the hell. I like teddy bears. Sue me.

On the personal side, I've been contacted by old school chums a few times, as well as neighborhood friends and old bandmates. I reunited with my Cousin David through this blog. I think we're about even on what we've given to each other via sporting tickets and beer, but more on that later. I had some wonderful visits with my Cousin Dorothy and her feral cats.

I've also given my Uncle Jimmy many a reason to wonder about my sanity, such as the time I...



We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this news bulletin.

The Boston Red Sox have beaten the New York Yankees, 7 – 0, in the first of a three-game series. In related news, the Sullivan cousins drank a shitload of beer. The elder cousin, James Shawn Sullivan – and, with a name like that, you know he’s done this sort of thing before – was last seen sitting at his computer thinking he was terribly clever to come up with this “newsflash” bit while still under the influence. The younger of the two, David Sullivan, is still at large. He is accompanied by his lovely and charming wife, Lori, and his Uncle Mack. He is unarmed, except for blarney, but should still be considered very dangerous, especially if you’re his older cousin, four inches shorter, and you match him beer for beer when he’s drinking Bud Lite and you’ve decided to take on Harpoon IPA as ballast. There is no reward being offered for their capture, and both of them find this highly insulting, so next time they get together, they’ll try to do something more heinous.

We now return you to whatever bullshit Suldog was cranking out.


... but, putting that aside for the moment - and, of course, I should have put it aside a moment earlier and saved us all five minutes - in Alabama, the Tuscaloosa.

Anyway, the important thing is that we got in free. We decided that we’d bid on a couple of items in the silent auction and, if we made the highest bids, donate in that way. I bid $75 for a Luis Tiant autographed baseball and MY WIFE bid $100 for dinner at some fancy-schmancy restaurant. However, we were outbid by the end and so that sort of evened out our previous disastrous encounter with a silent auction. We had opportunity to buy a whole bunch of raffle tickets, and we bought a few drinks (I'm sure the bar proceeds must have gone to the charity, also) so we weren't total slugs.

The event was billed as a chance to see your Red Sox heroes in person, and they were there in force. Wakefield and Varitek, as previously mentioned, were the stars, but David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, George Kottaras, Nick Green, and Jonathan Papelbon were unannounced attendees. In addition, Coach Bill Belichick of the Patriots was there; a player from The New England Revolution soccer team, whose name I can’t recall at the moment; local sports reporters and TV personalities, including Steve Burton, Heidi Watney, Tom Caron, and The Mad Fisherman, Charlie Moore (who lived up to his name while he held a mic, but who was also extremely generous during the live auction); various comedians and musicians from the area who donated their efforts, the most notable being the hilarious Tony V, who ran the live auction; and, last but certainly not least, Captain Richard Phillips of Somali pirate fame.

I was personally thrilled to see old-time Sox greats Luis Tiant and Bill Lee in attendance. They were both big-time sports heroes of my misspent youth. I briefly spoke to Lee, got to shake his hand, and haven’t washed my hand since (which has more to do with my personal hygiene than it does Lee, truth be told, but now at least I have an excuse.)

The highlight of the evening, though, was the two speeches given by young men who were representative of the type of people being helped by the charitable foundation. As was made patently clear by Wakefield and Varitek – and more power to them for doing so – the real heroes of the event were these (and other) kids, their families and friends, and the staff from the hospitals and other organizations who helped them.

The first speaker was Paul Coskie, who had been in a terribly crippling accident at age 13. Now in his late teens, his speech is halting, and his walk to the stage was slow, but the fact that he was able to walk or talk AT ALL was the amazing thing. His talk to us was peppered with really good jokes. He is an intelligent and funny kid. And his heartfelt praise for the good folks at Franciscan Hospital, who brought him to the point where he could make such a speech while standing on his own two feet, was both moving and inspiring.

The second young man, Brenden Getchell, is currently a communications major at Boston College, and I have no doubt he’ll be a great success someday. He spoke with both confidence and professionalism. His story was one of rising up from a bad childhood and finding that there were good people in the world who truly cared about him. He was effusive with thanks for the folks at the Ron Burton Training Village, for other helps he had been given, and vowed to pay it back via similar effort of his own in years to come, for others in similar need.

Needless to say, both of these fine young gentlemen received loud and prolonged standing ovations.

I don’t suppose there’s much else of import to tell about the event. They raised a lot of money for a good cause, of course, and that’s the best news.

As for the Sox-Yankees game the following night, I suppose I should begin by telling you all about...



We interrupt that totally contrived sentence for a breaking development in the Sullivan cousins story. We have received word that JIM’S WIFE actually tried to meet them at the Cask 'n Flagon prior to the game, since she had an appointment downtown around the same time period. She acted upon a whim while approaching Kenmore Square and decided to surprise the boys. However, while she thought it would be relatively easy to spot Jim, since he was wearing a bright red baseball jacket emblazoned with “BOSTON”, it turns out that every other guy in the joint was wearing a bright red baseball jacket emblazoned with “BOSTON”, this being a bar right next to Fenway Park on game night and all. She had about as much success in specifically finding Jim as she might have if she had stuck her head in the door of any bar in Boston and yelled, “Hey! Is Sully here?”

However, Jim is reported to have thought that HIS WIFE is truly one-of-a-kind for even making the attempt, and he especially got a kick out of seeing a “Vote For Youk!” poster on his door when he arrived home, since a radio station had been handing them out near the bar and he was entirely flummoxed as to how in hell one made its way to Watertown.

We now return you to a semi-humorous half-sentence.


...and so, the poodle was drenched in peanut butter. It resembled some sort of filthy barking toilet brush.

(I never thought I’d have the guts to tell that story in a public forum. It must have been the 8th beer. I’ll certainly never put it in print again, so consider yourself blessed that you were here at the right time.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Of Birds And Bombers

Well, that’s enough of that. And that. And especially that. Back to serious stuff – softball and horse racing.

Three weeks ago, my softball team, the Bombers, faced their most serious test of the season. We played the Titans, overwhelming favorites to win the league title almost every year I’ve been in the league. In the Preakness Stakes, Mine That Bird faced Rachel Alexandra, with the filly the overwhelming favorite.

The Bombers and Mine That Bird came up short that weekend. The Titans won both softball games, while Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness.

Since that time, the Bombers have won a couple of games and now have another chance against top competition. Sitting in third place, with a record of 4 and 2, we will play the Reds, currently in second place with a record of 5 and 1. Mine That Bird, meanwhile, has regained jockey Calvin Borel on his back and Rachel Alexandra is not competing at the mile-and-a-half.

We are both well-placed and of a better frame of mind. Neither of us is facing competition as stiff as we faced at that time.

Three weeks ago, despite his defeat in the Preakness, I declared that Mine That Bird would definitely win The Belmont. I also said that the Bombers, despite their losses to the Titans, could most definitely play with that team, the greater meaning being that we could win the league.

Now we get to find out if I was right in either case.


Mine That Bird did NOT win The Belmont. At the sixteenth pole, Calvin Borel had him at the lead, and it appeared that he might be able to pull away. However, Calvin MAY have made his move to the lead just a tad too early – and he had to ride Mine That Bird on a bit more of an outside route than he would have liked, no doubt – and the 12-1 shot, the similarly-named and therefore somehow not aesthetically pleasing in a poetic sense, Summer Bird, came from behind to win. Mine That Bird finished third.

The good news is that I saved some money. I was going to lay a few bob on Mine That Bird’s nose, but that was when I expected Rachel Alexandra to be an entry and Mine That Bird to go off at 4-1 or so. With her out of the race, Mine That Bird went off as the 6-5 favorite, too low of a return for my taste. So, I didn’t bet and I didn’t lose (which is, for most folks, myself included, usually the best way to approach the pari-mutuel wars; imagine yourself making all sorts of wagers and treat yourself to a nice ice cream sundae when you realize how much money you’ve saved by not really betting.)

I’m hoping we have a better day versus the Reds than Mine That Bird had at the Belmont. Whatever happens, I’ll probably have an ice cream sundae. This is because I know how to live. It will be sweeter, of course, if we win.


BOMBERS – 14 Reds – 13
Reds – 11 BOMBERS – 9

Odd doubleheader. We got out to a huge lead in the first game and hung on. We trailed 11-6 into our final at-bats in the second game, scored three and had the bases loaded with one out, but came up short.

My first four times as a batter resulted in 2 hits and 2 walks, so I had a streak of 11 consecutive plate appearances without making an out. My final three at-bats, including one with the previously mentioned bases loaded, sucked. Soft liner that the pitcher knocked down and then threw me out at first, and two cans of corn to the center fielder.

The final at-bat is still sticking in my craw. As I say, we had climbed back to within two runs. Bases loaded, two outs, and the Reds were giving me a vast amount of right field to work with, and that’s my meat. All I have to do is drop the ball into right. A single will tie the game and something more will give us the win. On a 2-2 count, the pitcher gives me one on the outside. That’s what I’m looking for. I swing.

Easy high fly to center. Ball game.

I’m trying to figure if I was just so anxious for that pitch I got out in front of it, or if maybe it was high and I should have let it go. Or maybe both. In any case, I didn’t get the job done and it will bother me until next Sunday.

(That’s the problem with playing one doubleheader a week. When you have a poor game, you don’t get a chance to get out there again in a day or two and get the bad taste out of your mouth.)

My fielding in game two was also something out of Mine That Bird’s ass. Two errors, one absolutely unforgivable. The first was a somewhat hard grounder, so OK, nobody’s perfect. The second, though, was a routine throw from Jack Atton at third and I just plain dropped it. That gave the Reds an immediate run and a shot at two more, which they then proceeded to cash in on. So, in my mind, between the bad fielding plays and leaving three men on in my final at-bat, I’m responsible for us losing that second game.

(It’s a team sport. I know that. But if I’m not willing to take the blame, then I’m a shitty teammate. Is that understandable? It’s dead clear in MY mind. Sure, since I score twice in the first game and we win by one run, yada yada yada, I could take some credit for the win in that one. But it’s the circumstances that bug me and make me take more blame than credit. In the first game, my contributions were just part of the continuous flow of the game and were important only in retrospect. The second game situations were clear cut as they happened, called for specific actions, and I didn’t make them.)

To top off my bad attitude, my left knee is killing me. I jammed it a couple of times while running. On the good side, Jason Atton gave me two little teddy bears because of THIS. Well, it's kind of on the good side... I appreciated the funny gesture, but the rest of the guys looked at me kind of weird when Jason was handing me teddy bears on the bench.

Let me send out the kudos for some guys.

Buddy Carchide, our pitcher in game two, is really good. He’s been getting some kind of crappy defense behind him, though, including mine. There were a few bad throws, a missed catch (mine), and blown grounders (mine and one or two others.) Just hideous. He deserved much better than to be hung with a loss in that game.

On offense, Cam Zirpolo is a dandy young hitter. He went 6-for-7, including a home run. Ron Johnson, the oldest player on the team (he’ll love being singled out that way, but I just want it in print that he’s even more ancient than I am) had a swell day, 5-for-7. Pat Atton had a really nice game two, with three hits (he sat in game one.)

We added a couple of good players this week, Mark Bates and his buddy Tom. I played for three years with Mark on weekdays before I started limiting myself to just Sundays. He’s a great all-around player, especially smart. I don’t know as much about Tom, but what I’ve seen impresses me. In game one, they were the middle infield, turning two double plays that I was fortunate enough to be the tail end on. Defensively, those guys were big-time rally killers, and we don’t win game one without those nice plays. There’s some question about them being able to make enough games to qualify for the playoffs, though, as a player needs to appear in at least half of his team’s games to be eligible. They might not be able to make both ends of the doubleheaders, and they pretty much need to do so. I hope they can. Good guys, good players.

The Bombers are hitting hell out of the ball, getting good pitching, and have added a couple of superior defensive players. We’re sitting in a tie for third, I believe (don’t have all of the scores yet.) We have the tools to make a serious run at the championship. I want it so bad, and that’s why it bugs me when I have a chance to bring us a step closer and don’t get the job done.

Next week, Jim. Next week.


I’m going to a benefit for Pitching In For Kids tonight - gave you details about that HERE - and that should be fun. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to Jason Varitek, show him how crappy my knees are, and scare him about his future. Then, Tuesday night, I’m going to the Sox-Yanks game with my cousin, David. So, busy (but fun) times, and there will be little possibility for me to write up anything for a couple of days. I’ll tell you all about those events late in the week.

Until then...

ADDENDUM: A protest concerning the first game was filed by the Reds. So far as I know, the result is now being held up. More as I get it.

ADDITIONAL ADDENDUM: The Commissioner upheld the Reds protest. Game one will be picked up from where it left off - Bombers leading, 14 - 13, top of seventh. This extra play will likely occur on the final day of the regular season, when we are likely to have another game versus the Reds scheduled.

(Final day is a round-robin for playoff seeding. I expect that both teams will be in the "A" group of 1 through 4 finishers, and thus playing each other that day.)

The protest concerned a time limit, for those interested. League rules state that no inning may begin after 10:20 for the first game, and after 11:50 for the second game. The sixth inning of game one was completed and then the Reds took the field for the seventh at a slight bit past 10:20. We contended the game was done. The Reds felt that they had taken the field prior to the time limit. The umpire was one who did not usually work our league, and this is a league rule, obviously, not an ASA rule. Thus, he was unaware of the impending time limit and somewhat flummoxed as to what to call when presented with both team's pleas. Whichever way he called it, the other team would have filed a protest. He ruled the game over. Reds protested and got a re-scheduling of the final inning.

Eh. I have no great problem with this. It - the original ending to the game - was just the slightest bit on the chickenshit side of things, for my taste. It was right on the time limit and I'm sure, if roles had been reversed, we would have tried to get that final inning in, too.