Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Was Smith?

View Larger Map

The Bombers play the great majority of their games at Smith Field, a 14-acre park, in Brighton (a neighborhood of Boston.) It contains 3 softball diamonds, two Little League fields, a street hockey rink, two basketball courts, and a play area - slides, swings, etc. - for children. I thought it might be nice, after all of the seasons I've played there, to actually find out who the heck Smith was.

My weekday team, The Swingers, plays at M Street. The field we play on is named after Bucky Feeney and Sam Moran, two people instrumental in the origination and success of the M Street Softball League. That’s pretty cool. If I could have a field named after ME, I’d consider it the greatest honor ever for playing this game. Mark Senna, the current commissioner of the league, and a player/manager for a couple of decades, had the great idea to dedicate those fields after those two men, and he went about getting it accomplished. Mark is a good man with a well-founded reverence for those who came before him. Someday, perhaps a part of that park will be dedicated to him.

The Flames, my former weekday team, play at Clemente Field in The Fens. That one is named after the great Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder, Roberto Clemente. Aside from his fantastic playing career, he was a humanitarian of note. He died in an airplane crash while en route to delivering food to starving people.

I play some of my Sunday games at Cleveland Circle. I assume it was named after the U. S. President, Grover Cleveland.

But, who was Smith?

Well, he was William Francis Smith. He was a marine private, killed in Soissions, France, in World War One. And that's all I can find out about the man.

I started my search for information by asking the people at the Boston Parks And Recreation Commission, the folks responsible for the upkeep of Smith Playground, if they knew anything about the man for whom the playground was named.

(We always call it 'Smith Field', but the official name is 'William Francis Smith Playground'.)

Here was my e-mail letter to them:

I've played softball [at Smith] for the past 16 years on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Do you have any information about the man for whom the park was named? I sometimes blog about our softball leagues and I would like to include such info. I'll be sure to give a real nice shout-out to the Parks Department, if you can supply me with anything whatsoever. I tried to find out by Googling all of the obvious things ("William Smith", "Smith Playground", etc.) but could find nothing definitive. Thank you, very much!

Brian McLaughlin, of the Parks Department, was speedy in his reply. After doing a bit of research, he sent me the following:

Mr. Sullivan,

Thank you for your inquiry about Smith Playground.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Commission minutes of their meeting on May 16, 1921, record the following:

"A communication was read from the City Council asking this Board to name the North Brighton Playground, William Francis Smith Playground, in honor of William Francis Smith, who was killed in Soissions, France, on July 20, 1918, and it was voted that the name of the North Brighton Playground be and is hereafter to be known as the William Francis Smith Playground."

Brian McLaughlin, Executive Secretary
Boston Parks and Recreation Commission

I'm grateful for that information, but it was a dead end after that. I have entered all known relevant information (his name, where he died, the world war, etc.), in Google, and all I could come up with was a list of deaths. I found out he was a Marine private, but no further elucidation.

It's a shame. He has this big green space named after him, as memorial for whatever he did, but it would be nice if his deeds - whatever they were - also lived on in some way. I'll assume heroism on his part, since he apparently died in the line of duty on a battlefield, and I'll say a small prayer for Mr. Smith this Sunday as I once again enjoy a morning on his field.


Did I say "enjoy"? Well, I did enjoy it, but not completely.

BOMBERS – 14 Brighton All-Stars – 4
Brighton All-Stars – 14 BOMBERS – 9

We were in first place for 90 minutes.

The Moe Howard Club did us the favor of taking their first game against the Titans, so we stood at 12 and 1, in first, with the Titans at 11 and 2. When we dropped the second game, we once again had the same record as the Titans, who had won their second game. And, since the Titans hold the tiebreaker against us, we were back in second place again.

We now have one more week in the regular season, and we need the Titans to lose one of their two remaining games while we win both of ours.

We blew our best chance yesterday. It was an upset for Moe’s to split with the Titans. If we had taken care of business…

Oh, well. On paper, it was an upset for the All-Stars to split with us, too. They came into the day at 5 and 7. They’re better than that, though. Are they better than us? No, I don’t think so. I think we'd beat them over the course of any series. They’re better than their record indicates, however, and I would prefer not having to play them again come the playoffs. Let somebody else have that headache.

The first game was fine. Big Jay Atton pitched nicely, notching his eighth victory of the season. Third baseman Manny Dominguez and right fielder Fast Freddie Goodman, batting from the 6 and 7 spots in the line-up, both went a perfect 3 for 3. Catcher Joey Baszkiewicz broke out of his recent slump with a couple of hits and three runs batted in. Charlie Conners continued to rack up the RBIs, garnering another three on a bases-clearing double. Danny Espinosa had three hits. Leadoff hitter Pat Atton, Big Jay Atton, outfielder Tom Resor, and some dope named Sullivan playing first base, contributed two hits apiece. The defense was particularly good, with the infield turning three double plays. We pretty much cruised to our 12th consecutive victory - a club record - and took over first place.

Then the roof caved in during the second game. Big Jay gave up nine runs in the first two innings, by far the roughest two innings he’s tossed for us this season. The All-Stars benefited throughout the game from miscues by our defense – a flubbed grounder here, an ill-advised throw there. On offense, we ran into outs twice rather than playing it safe. Still, we were only down 11 – 9 after four innings, and with 12 straight wins behind us, we weren’t feeling pessimistic about our ability to pull it out.

But, as you already know, we didn’t get the job done. The All-Stars scored again in the fifth, and we wasted a couple of nice innings of relief work from Josh Lebron (1 run, 0 earned) when we didn’t score over the final three innings.

The big games, in defeat, were had by Tom Resor (triple, home run, 4 RBI) and Emilio Zirpolo (3 for 3, following his 1 for 10 over the previous three games.) Fast Freddie Goodman and Danny Espinosa continued hitting, both ending up with 5-hit days. Charlie Conners had a double and a triple, good for another two RBI and an astounding 29 RBI in total for the 8 games he’s played for us this year. Not enough to overcome the poor start, though, and we finish the day in second place.

The good news is that our single victory clinched second place for the season. We can finish no lower than that, no matter what happens next week.

The Titans play the Reds at 9am next week, at Cleveland Circle, and we have our final two on the same field, following theirs, at noontime. I always get to the field early, but next week I’ll be there very early, three hours before our gametime. I’m going to head down and watch the Titans, while rooting for the Reds to take one. If they don’t, our two games become meaningless to us.

(They’ll still mean something to other teams, so we won’t just tank them, of course. But it would be more fun to actually be playing with a chance at first place.)

Since this is my blog, I always tell you about my day. I finished 3 for 5, two runs scored and an RBI. Playing first base in the first game, I made no errors. I raised my season average to .500, which is really nice for an old fart. Even nicer would be to win that championship I’ve always wanted, and I still feel pretty good about our chances.


(In case you were wondering, the Swingers – M Street Softball League – did not play this week. We now have three games remaining and need to win only one to clinch the last playoff spot in our division. We next play on Tuesday at 7:30. Wish us luck!)

As always, thanks for putting up with the softball talk. I’ll actually have something NEW, and non-softball, tomorrow.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Shrinky said...

My daughter's football (soccer) coach is also called Moe, a nicer guy I have yet to meet.

Facinating stuff about this other guy called Smith. Whoever he was and whatever he did, seems he deserved that field named after him, and it's nice that, even after all these years, someone cares enough to know who he was.

Uncle Skip, said...

It could be that Pvt Smith had no particular deeds,other than being a casualty of war. He may have been a local, who the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission wished to honor for that very reason.

Jazz said...

I often wonder who these people are, the ones streets and parks are named after.

I want a street named after me!

Michelle H. said...

Lots of luck for both your teams! You do some mighty fine research. Too bad you couldn't find any additional information. Ever think of trying the local library? Don't know if they would still have newspapers on microfilm or digital in their computers. But they might have something about the day the park was named.

Buck said...

Good on Mr. McLaughlin for coming back to you so quickly. I'm with Uncle Skip in that the Parks Dept. may have been remembering a local hero. And there's everything right with that.

Keep the faith, Bombers! Luck is wished for both your teams.

TechnoBabe said...

I think that's really cool that you go after info when you want to know something. Including contacting others who you would think have more info. Huh. Not much info about the lad though.

Craig said...

Join my voice to the others (and a tip of the hat, as well) in mild awe of your mad research skillz. (I don't suppose the Dept. of Defense would tell you anything re Mr. Smith's ultimate sacrifice?)

Does finishing in a tie w/ the Titans still get you into the playoffs, or is the 'regular season' all you get?

And what if Cleveland Circle is named after, you know, Cleveland (or its namesake, Moses Cleaveland)?

Chris@Knucklehead said...

Disappointing to not take over first, but at least you clinched second. I'm guessing if you'd been offered that result at the start of the season, you'd have signed up pretty quickly.

On another note, I need you to clear something up for me. What is "The Fens"? I've heard it referred to in novels (especially those of Dennis Lehane) and I've sort of assumed it was some cutesy nickname for Fenway Park. But the context of your piece here leads me to think it's something else.

What gives?

Suldog said...

For those with similar wonderings as Craig, we will make the playoffs no matter what. Barring rainouts, they will begin on Sunday, August 8th, with the championship scheduled for Sunday, August 22nd.

All series are best 2 of 3.

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - "The Fens" is actually the name for a section of Boston, in which is located Fenway Park. Here's a bit more info than I feel like typing at the moment:

Daryl said...

Maybe he was the first to die in battle from a unit that came from that area .. or his parents had influence .. at least you solved the who Smith is problem ...

Maggie May said...

Would be good if SMITH'S descendants knew about the green. They would be proud.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Carolina said...

Good luck tonight (it's Tuesday 8.15 am here now)

At least we know who Mr Smith is now ;-)

lime said...

i love that you have done some research both about the street you grew up on and now smith field. love that you share that with us and remember honorably the men who gave their names.

Hilary said...

Just as Lime said, I like that you think about the people behind the names. Have you tried the online "Find a Grave" site? It might yield a bit more info if he's listed.

Ericka said...

huh. cool. have you tried or the veterns online? i found my grandfather's grave that way.

in my home village, bridges, roads, streams, parks, you name it were usually named to honor our fallen heros when a grieving relative requested it. the minutes read by mr. mclaughlin kind of sound like they were the answer to a petition.

congrats on the ball game thing!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Congrats on clinching second place, also your overall average for the season, all good things there! Its too bad you weren't able to find more info on Mr Smith but considering that guy sent you info direct from minutes from the 20's as the most recent bit about him that's definitely saying something!