Saturday Evening, 8:45pm
We play for the championship tomorrow. I’ve been waiting 16 years for this. I joined the Bombers during their initial season in this league, 1995, and this is the first time we’ve ever gone to the championship series.
It appears we’ll be taking the field without seven of our players.
I’m an optimist by nature, but I’m enough of a realist to know that this probably blows us out of the water.
One guy hasn’t played all year because of an injury. Even though we got him an exemption from the league rule of having had to play in half the games to qualify, it doesn’t look like he’s going to show up.
Another guy has been totally unreliable. We never know if we’d see him on any given week. The last time we saw him was two weeks before the playoffs began.
Two of our guys – Cam Zirpolo, and his dad, Emilio – couldn’t change long-standing family vacation plans for this week.
That’s four down. The other three? They chose to play in a tournament on Sunday rather than play for our championship.
I don’t know what to say. The games tomorrow are important to the guys who will be showing up.
I will never understand what goes through the heads of some people. How can you make a commitment to a team, playing with guys to reach a championship series, and then not be there when the most important games of the year are being played?
To be clear, I hold no hard feelings towards the Zirpolos. I know for a fact that Emilio is dying by missing these games. He’s been with the team seven years and he was very sad last week, following the wins that got us here, knowing he’d miss the opportunity. And Cam knows how much this means to his dad, and to the rest of us. I guarantee whatever else they’re doing on Sunday, those two would rather be on the field.
Buddy Carchide is a good fellow. He’s been through some playoffs with us, and I don’t know why he’s missing this. The injury he had was severe enough to keep him out of the regular season completely. Maybe he just can’t go physically. I won’t make a value judgment without knowing all the details.
Josh Lebron sure seems like a nice guy in general, but he’s sort of unreliable. We never knew if he’d show up, or when. When he shows, he’s a good player. I consider that he owes me a favor, personally, and I’ll consider it payment in full if he comes down tomorrow. I hope it happens.
The three playing in the tournament are Charlie Conners, Robbie Rogers, and Pat Pickup. I know that those guys had this tournament on their schedule for quite a while, and we knew the possibility existed that they might not be able to make it on Sunday. Still, this is a championship and that’s a tournament. You ask me, the championship has to take precedence. But, nobody’s asking me.
I’m trying not to get down, but this could be my last chance to win a championship as an active player. I was psyched because I knew our full squad was good enough to win it all. The team that will take the field tomorrow will be missing our most consistent hitter and what I’d consider half of our best outfield combination. Since we’ll likely have just ten players – the minimum for play in our league, because we play with four outfielders – there won’t be much possibility for strategic substitutions or to give some guys a rest. I think I know Jack’s managerial style well enough to know that four guys he probably would not have started will now be in the starting lineup, and at least one of them will be at a position he hasn’t played all year. It’s sad to have come this far and be faced with such a lessening of what we should have been for these games.
I know that the guys I’ll play with tomorrow will play with heart, courage, and determination. I’ll be proud to share the field with them. And who knows? We’re not bums. Maybe we’ll pull it off and it will be even sweeter than I ever thought it would be. We’ve won games this season without all of the guys mentioned above.
But not against the Titans.
Sunday Afternoon, 4:10pm
It’s been done since noontime, but I took a shower and a nap. I won’t keep you in suspense.
Titans – 5 BOMBERS – 1
Titans – 16 BOMBERS – 10
We gave them hell for a while.
The story in game one was the story all year – Big Jay Atton. He pitched a magnificent game, allowing only two hits through the first six innings. Not only that, he hit the home run that had us leading, 1 – 0, going into the seventh.
If there were justice in the world of softball, he’d have held them for one more inning. He deserved a win for that effort. Either that, or we could have given him more support offensively. Instead, we came up empty behind him.
(To be clear, we had nothing to hang our heads about. Nobody choked. There were a few nice defensive plays behind Jay. And we had some opportunities, putting two on twice and loading the bases once. But the Titans are the defending champs because they play solid defense, and they took us out of each rally.)
We needed three outs to take game one. No go.
In the top of the seventh, the Titans leadoff hitter stroked a solid single through the middle. The next man up could have gone down on strikes, but the umpire didn’t see it that way. It wasn’t an egregiously bad call or anything, but he could have. Instead, he walked, putting men on first and second with nobody out. Kenny Bean, one of the best hitters in this league for as many years as I’ve been here, followed with a single that was misplayed into four bases, getting by our outfield while all three runners scored. There was a sort-of collective slumping of Bombers shoulders. The tying run would have scored, no doubt, but having three at once, in such a tight game, sucked the wind right out of us.
Two more batters reached. Jay got the next three Titans to ground out, but both runners were able to advance home during the outs. 5 – 1, Titans.
And our seventh produced no rally.
It was a great game for six innings… Hell, for the whole game, and just because we came out on the wrong end, that shouldn’t diminish the greatness. The Titans played with guts to take it from us.
It made me proud as hell to be a Bomber.
Game two started out well enough. We finally scored some runs in the top of the first, on a three-run homer by Danny Espinosa. Jack Atton started game two by holding the Titans scoreless in the first. Going back to his shutout of The Moe Howard Club in the semi-finals, it ran his scoreless streak in the playoffs to eight innings.
We put three men on base in the second, but again failed to score. Then the roof fell in.
Jack gave up a single, a base on balls, and then a tying three-run homer. He pulled himself from the game in favor of Big Jay, who got two quick outs on a 6-3 grounder and a fly out to right, but then the next six batters reached, five of them scoring, and it was 8 – 3 Titans after two.
The next two innings saw us fail to do anything of significance. Meanwhile, the Titans pushed across another 4 in the third, which finished the day, and the season, for Big Jay as a pitcher. Josh LeBron (who did show up) took over, and the Titans scored another 3 in the fourth. It was 15 – 3. We weren’t surrendering, but we knew.
We rallied a bit in the sixth. Titan’s pitcher Jimmy Mac lost his control. Five straight walks scored two for us, a sac fly scored a third, and then a couple of singles brought home another. I scored the fifth run of the inning on a fielder’s choice, but the inning ended with us trailing, 15 – 8.
In the seventh, the Titans added one more for insurance. In our final chance, we scored two (one on a home run by Tom Resor) and it made it look a bit more respectable, but that was all she wrote. The Bombers fell, 16 – 10, and the Titans were champions.
I’m not particularly thrilled with my own performance in the finals. I went hitless (I drew two walks) and only got good wood on the ball once. I played OK in the field, making a couple of nice plays to save outs at first base (albeit after we trailed heavily in the second game, so sort of hollow.) I feel worse for Jay than I do myself. He played like a champion, and he spent half of his time apologizing to ME because he knew how much it meant to me if we could have won. I told him then and I’ll tell him again: You have nothing to apologize for, Big Man. You almost single-handedly got us a win in game one.
Here are the batting stats, overall, for the finals.
(Ben was on loan to us from the Renegades. It was nice of him to fill in for the guys who played for us all season but who didn’t show for the championship. Drew Atton played for us this year, but not enough to qualify. He played briefly here, anyway. In both cases, a debt of gratitude is owed Scott of the Titans, who also acts as commissioner for the league. He allowed us great leeway with players for these finals, possibly to his own team’s detriment going in. A lesser sportsman might have told us to go screw. He didn’t, and we owe him one.)
Pat Atton 2 – 4, 2 walks, run
Ben 1 – 7, RBI, run
Danny Espinosa 4 – 7, double, home run, 3 RBI, 2 runs
Big Jay Atton 1 – 6, home run, walk, RBI, run
F. F. Goodman 1 – 6, walk, RBI, run
Tom Resor 1 – 6, home run, walk, RBI, 2 runs
Ron Johnson 2 – 5, 2 walks, run
Joe Baszkiewicz 3 – 4, 2 walks, RBI, run
Jim Sullivan 0 – 4, 2 walks, RBI, run
Manny Dominguez 0 – 4, RBI
Jack Atton 1 – 2
Josh LeBron 1 – 2
Drew Atton 1 – 1, RBI
Stats for the entire glorious season – which it was, all things considered – are available at the Bombers website, as usual.
And that’s that for another year. I would have rather won, of course, but I’ll say again I was proud and happy to share the field with the good guys I saw on Sunday, from both teams.
Middle, L to R - Manager Jack Atton, Jim "Suldog" Sullivan, Pat Atton, Ben (Renegades)
Top, L to R - Ron Johnson, Drew Atton, Danny Espinosa, Josh Lebron, Manny Dominguez
I’ll be taking some time off from blogging to clear my head. I’ll be back sometime next week, probably. Thanks again for listening, and empathizing.
Soon, with more better stuff.