Tonight is the opening night of play in the M Street Softball League. This marks the 43rd season since it began. From the league website...
The league began play in 1970 when Ray Flynn [later Mayor of Boston, beginning in 1983, and I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find another softball league that can boast that - Jim] and "Bucky" Feeney came up with the brilliant idea of starting a league for returning South Bostonians who had served in Vietnam. With the guidance of Flynn and Feeney, M Street Softball grew beyond belief in the late seventies and into the early eighties. In fact, the league was so successful that on many a night one couldn't find a seat in the packed grandstands.
It has been my pleasure to be a (minor) part of the league since 1999. I'll be in the stands tonight. I'll be on the field tomorrow.
Since this is July, and such things as baseball and softball usually start in April or May, you may be wondering why the season is beginning on such a late date. Play at M Street usually begins much earlier, but the field was completely dug up by the city, re-sodded, given a new drainage system, and other cosmetic improvements, and wasn't ready to go until last week. It will be a somewhat short season. It will be contested just as fiercely as any other season, though, I can guarantee you that.
M Street may be the best fast-pitch softball league in the state. Certainly, some of the best talent in the state competes in it. Many of the players who participate at M Street travel out-of-state to play in prestigious tournaments of one sort or another. Folks who have trod the field at M Street have also participated with teams vying for national championships.
There is quite a history associated with the league. That is, there are actual records to refer to if one has a penchant for such things. I enjoy that sort of stuff. For instance, I like browsing the lists of past champions and Most Valuable Players. Some quick stats:
The L Street Tavern team is credited with the most championships in league history - 6
The most consecutive championships won has been 4, with Sidewalk Cafe taking it from 2000 - 2003, and Shennanigans (that's the way they spell it) having tied that record last season. They will be back this year for an attempt to break that mark.
Larry Lucas, an amazing pitcher, holds the mark for most MVP awards - 4
(I batted against Lucas once, in the twilight of his career, and he set me down on three straight swings. He had a vicious rise. I'm pretty sure I swung under all three pitches.)
I look down the list of former MVPs and see that anywhere from 5 to 7 of them will be competing this year at M Street (I'm not completely sure of a couple of them being there.) I know that one of them, the living legend, John Gregorio, will be pitching for my squad this year (Southside Tavern). John won the award three times. He has been a dominant pitcher in the league for years. Here's hoping Johnny G can crank it up again for at least one more title run.
(Here's where I get to brag a little and make up for the Lucas story. It will be at John's expense, but we're teammates now and I hope he won't mind. My first game batting against John resulted in a 3 for 4 night for me, including a triple. After the triple, a teammate of mine asked me how in hell I hit the nasty curve John had thrown. I was honest. I said, "I closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could just in case I connected.")
Year Team W L IP H R ER BB K ERA 2002 Sidewalk Café 21 3 149 167 81 52 33 100 2.44 2003 Sidewalk Café 18 0 133 116 48 37 21 117 1.95
This is no toss-it-in-over-the-plate-on-an-arc league. This is mens modified fast pitch (and barely modified, believe me.) The league leader in strikeouts has topped 100 often. No-Hitters will be thrown occasionally. On most evenings, it is damn good ball being played.
I wrote a sort of 'love letter' to the league and it was posted on the website. If you'd like to read about some of the more personal reasons I have for loving it, why not travel on over and give it a read?
My Love Letter To M Street
I could go on, but if you want more you know where to go. And if you can't stand any more you know where to go, too.
Games are at 6:30 and 8:15 on Wednesday and Thursday this week. See you at the park?
Soon, with more better stuff.