Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Worst Sports Week Ever (And How It Got Better, At Least For Me)

Where do I start? I suppose with the following illustration that encompasses most of the bad stuff.

Yup. That about says it all (but I'm going to give you another 2000 words, so get comfortable.)

We'll go clockwise from the top right.

Aaron Hernandez, of the New England Patriots, was arrested and charged with murder.

This is, of course, the least trivial of the happenings. Murder is generally not a subject for humor, so I won't joke about it. A lot of folks are asking the question, "How can someone with so much money and prestige, so much to lose, even think about doing something so vile?" That's an interesting question, to be sure, but I believe the bottom line is this: anyone capable of murder will still be capable of murder no matter how much money and prestige he may have. The gain of fame and fortune does not have a good track record when it comes to bringing out a person's better qualities. If anything, an asshole usually becomes even more of an asshole once huge sums of money enter the picture.

I'm a big believer in innocent until proven guilty. I make no judgement concerning Hernandez's guilt or innocence. I'm just utterly depressed by the whole situation.

(In a totally hideous coincidence, a former softball teammate of mine was also arrested and charged with murder this week. I've never mentioned him here before, so you wouldn't know his name. I could tell you why it wasn't a complete shock to hear the news, but I won't. I'm just throwing it in here because it's another horrific thing that happened this week.)

OK, let's get to the stuff that's only depressing in a sports-related way (which is to say it sucks, but has relatively little misery compared to the above.)

The Bruins lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final.

How they lost was the worst part of it. For those not privy to the facts (which probably means you don't give a damn, so there's probably no good reason for me to recount the details, but I will just in case you came out of a coma today) it was one of the best Stanley Cup series ever. I mean that. The team for which I was rooting lost, but that doesn't take away from the magnificence of the series itself. Three games went into overtime, one of those a triple overtime. Two other games were decided by one goal. The lone "blowout" saw the Bruins win, 2 - 0. It was tight, exciting, edge-of-your-seat hockey. With less than two minutes remaining in game six, the Bruins held a 2 - 1 lead. It looked as though they would force a game seven. Then Chicago scored two goals in the space of 17 seconds. And that was the kick in the teeth. Chicago won in a fashion that left Bruins fans with their mouths hanging open.

(MY WIFE heard me yell "FUCK!"at the top of my lungs twice within a minute. Sometimes she will say something to me if I get that upset about a sporting event, trying to calm me or to make me realize how ridiculous it is to be so emotional about a game. In this instance, she didn't say a word. It was another example of her intelligence, why I love her, and why I'm glad we're married.)

One good thing came out of the loss. I discovered that my nephew, My Godson, J. P. Sweeney, has balls made of titanium.

That's him, at the Chicago Blackhawks victory parade. Not only does he have stones the size of grapefruits, he also has a sense of humor.

(He goes to DePaul. That's why he's in Chicago.)

Next up, we have the Celtics being blown into tiny pieces by Danny Ainge.

Doc Rivers will be coaching the Los Angeles Clippers next year. He had been at the helm of the Celtics for a decade or so. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded to the Brooklyn Nets for a whole bunch of draft picks and expiring contracts.

I understand these moves in an economic sense. As a lifelong bleeder of green, though, I am thoroughly disgusted. Above all else, Paul Pierce should have never been allowed to wear anything aside from a Boston uniform. He is as much a part of Celtic Pride as Cousy, Heinsohn, Russell, Sam Jones, Cowens, Havlicek, Bird, McHale, or anyone else who retired after playing an entire career in green.

(OK, yes, Cowens and Cousy played a small handful of games for Milwaukee and Cincinnati, respectively, but it was their bad decisions to do so after coming out of retirement. Totally different animal.)

The photo is from the ceremony of raising the championship banner Pierce won with Garnett, Rivers, and the other 2008 Celtics. Yes, those are tears in his eyes. He loved being a Celtic. If it's any consolation, Paul, I am not entirely dry-eyed myself today.

Somewhat connected with the above, Ray Allen won a championship with the Miami Heat this past week. He was, of course, a member of the 2008 Celtics championship team. He decided to sign with Miami this year instead of returning to the Celtics. When he nailed what may have been the most important basket in their victory, it was just another straw toward breaking the camel's back.

But just when things were darkest, my week became a thing of rainbows and sunshine.

BOMBERS - 13  Moe Howard Club - 1
BOMBERS - 22  Moe Howard Club - 10

Yes, that's right. I'm the sort of selfish bastard who says, "As long as my team wins, the rest of it doesn't matter!"

The Boston Bombers
Front row: Pat Atton, Fast Freddie Goodman, Dave Nutter
2nd row: Joe Baszkiewicz, M.J. McCabe, Jimmy Botting, Ron Johnson, Drew Atton, Me
Back row: Jack Atton, Billy Botting, Tom Resor
(Not pictured - Big Jay Atton, Robby Costello, Mark Preziosi, Brian Pacheco)
(photo by My Sister-In-Law, Victoria Purin Turnor)

We go to 10 - 2 on the season, solidly in first place in our division. This is a great fun team to be on, and I think we'll do well in the playoffs come August.

(For those of you who hate it when I write about softball, you can relax for a little while. The Bombers don't play again until July 21st. We were scheduled to be off next week due to the July 4th holiday, but we also will not play on the 14th because the team we were scheduled to play has disbanded. I'll be beginning my M Street Softball League season sometime this week - I think - so you aren't completely safe. If I write something about that, I'll try to make it entertaining for you heathens.)

I usually don't blow my own horn too much when I write about the Bombers, but this week I'll allow myself a little ink. I finally got a couple of decent pieces (including a double), ended my day by reaching base six times in the doubleheader, had (to my surprise, when I got home and did the stats) 5 RBI, and had the chance to get all dirty and sweaty in front of my niece and nephew (who now think their Uncle Jimmy is some kind of good ballplayer, and I won't disabuse them of that notion.)

 Me, at bat. I think this was when I hit my double.

Ava and Darian (the niece and nephew) attended the games, along with sister-in-law and brother-in-law Victoria and Joe, and they dragged MY WIFE out of the house to give them directions to the field. Afterward, we all went to Donohue's in Watertown and ate a lot of good food while I apologized to the waitress for being smelly and sweaty. I wanted to go home and take a shower before we ate, but I was outvoted 5 to 1.

Ava (who doesn't wear glasses) wearing MY WIFE's glasses, while MY WIFE sports some shades.

I like playing the Moe Howard Club. Mark Dion is the manager and ace pitcher. He and I have always gotten along well. I was pleased to see his son Nick have a decent day. He took over on the mound for his dad in the final inning of game one, then also pitched game two. He was not treated well by his defense. He wasn't bad, and he struck out three Bombers. I've always liked Nick. Good kid, and I'm glad to see him perform well.

Other good days were had by just about everybody on our roster, but here are some big stats:

Tom Resor - 6 RBI, home run, double
Billy Botting - 6 for 7
Pat Atton, who had the weirdest stat line I've seen in a long time, scoring 6 runs even though he only had one hit. He reached via error or fielders choice 3 times while drawing 4 walks.

As usual this season, our pitching was strong. Big Jay Atton once again should have had a shutout, but I screwed him out of it via an error. Sorry, Jay! Jack Atton threw game two, stuck around long enough to get the win (4 innings, 4 runs, 2 earned), then gave Jimmy Botting and Billy Botting an inning each in which to disgrace themselves and perhaps discourage them from asking to pitch any more this season.

(Just kidding, Botting brothers! You know I love you both.)

Finally, I want to talk about a new addition to the squad this year. M.J. McCabe isn't flashy, but he gets the job done in every way. He's a good glove, good arm, a smart hitter, and a really nice guy on top of it all. I've been blessed to have really good teammates throughout my many years playing ball. I can count on the fingers of one hand the true pricks with whom I've played. M.J. definitely isn't one of them. Good addition.

Oh, one more thing before I forget. Ron Johnson moved within one hit of becoming the second Bomber in team history to reach 300 hits. His next hit will be the one.
BOMBERS Statistics

Thanks for sticking with me through this. No matter how bad any week is, you always make it better.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


In sporting terms, that was the very definition of pain.

With two minutes to go, I was looking forward to game seven. It had been an amazing Stanley Cup Final, full of drama and heroics. Then, with 76 seconds remaining...

No! I may have to pay off a bet, but I refuse to relive the pain.

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks. And congratulations to my buddy, Chuck. He wins.

The one consolation to losing a bet like this is that the city whose virtues I am honor bound to extol is one of my favorites. MY WIFE and I had a wonderful vacation in Chicago a couple of years ago. We found the people friendly and welcoming. I loved riding around on the CTA. The food was magnificent. The museums and other tourist attractions we visited were fantastic. Honestly, we think it's a great city.

Hey, at least I don't have it as bad as our nephew, my Godson, who goes to DePaul University. In the heart of enemy territory, he has proudly sported the B's colors throughout the playoffs. I suspect he's getting a bit of payback today.

To end this on a happy note, I'll give you a few photos from our Chicago vacation.

Architecture in Chicago is one of the great sights of the city

The Loop, heart of the subway system.

One of the hidden gems of the city - The Smith Museum of Stained Glass - is on Navy Pier

More architecture. Photos were taken while on the Chicago River Architecture Tour. If you're headed for Chicago, you MUST take this tour. I mean it. It is the best tour I've ever taken.

 Wrigley Field, of course. For a baseball fan, it's a holy pilgrimage second only to Fenway.

"The Bean", which is what a lot of folks call it, but the actual name is Cloud Gate.
The next two shots are from inside of it.

 Here are some random shots with no explanation.

And now, I am going to go have a cup of coffee, having fulfilled my obligation in a gentlemanly way.

Soon, with more better cup.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In Alphabetical Order: Apologies, Bombers, Bruins

Without any delay, here's the apology. Many of you have been coming here for years, reading me faithfully, and I sure do appreciate that loyalty. Your comments make my day. I know I wouldn't be in the position I currently find myself in, actually making some sort of living as a writer, without your encouragement through the years. Thank you.

The apology is this: I'm sorry I haven't been as faithful a friend lately. I know my visits to your places have been less than usual. I may not be commenting as much as I once did. It's not because I don't like you. It's not because I don't appreciate all of your love. Oddly enough, it's because I find myself on the internet more than ever before. In my capacity as a freelance - both writer and fact-checker - I spend much of my day doing actual work on the internet. And by the time my work is done, I need to get the hell off of the internet before I destroy my eyesight, my sanity, and my back (I have a crummy chair/desk set-up, so the more hours I'm on the 'net, the worse the arthritis in my neck becomes. I'll get a decent chair and desk someday soon, and that will take care of part of it.)

So, I just wanted to let you know that I do think of you, and I feel a fairly large amount of guilt for not being around your places as much as I once was.

Another apology, to some of you: I know there are quite a few of you who start snoring when I write about sports. So, not only am I writing less and visiting you less, when you come here, I put you to sleep. I won't say that I'm completely sorry about it; if I was, I wouldn't be doing it. But I understand. Feel free to drop down to the end of my softball posts and make some nice generic comment. I'll return the favor when you write about something I hate (if I visit you at all, which, as I explained above, has been getting rare.)

OK, so I'm a crummy friend and a boring writer. If it's any consolation, I'm also becoming a crappy softball player...

BOMBERS -  5  Mayhem - 3
BOMBERS - 19 Mayhem - 5

First, an explanation for some of my newer teammates. If you were wondering about my socks today...


... I wore them specifically for a great friend of mine. She was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and had surgery this past week to have her thyroid removed. Her name is Lime. Here's my favorite photo of her (from when she posed for a project of mine, a recording session.)

Anyway, I wore the socks in her honor. I would have promised to hit a home run for her, like some cheesy character from a 1940's sports movie, but the last dinger I hit was in 2004, so I didn't want to be responsible for making her feel worse when I failed.

Fortunately, while I'm turning into the ghost of softball past, my team is winning. Hell, I'm willing to fade away entirely if we can finally take the championship.

These two wins bring the Bombers record to 8 and 2, firmly in first-place in our division. It will remain that way at least until July 21st. That's because we lead by 3 games at the moment. Even if we lose two next week (which we won't) we'll still be in first. Then we have July 7th off. Then we also have July 14th off, even though we have games scheduled. The team we were supposed to play then has disbanded, so we already know we'll have two forfeit wins that week. So we can't possibly drop out of first until we play on July 21st, and, truly, I don't expect us to drop out of first at all this season. The team is too good.

While I have been sucking air running to first base trying to beat out weak grounders back to the pitcher, the rest of the guys have been hitting great, fielding well, scoring runs, pitching in ways to limit the other team from scoring as many runs, and otherwise making life easy for an old geezer like me. It's great to know I can go 1 for 4, like I did this week, and not have it make a difference.

I always try to throw some love to the guys who had outstanding days. Best of the lot this week goes to Mark Preziosi. He was perfect at the plate (5 hits in 5 at-bats, plus 2 walks) and he was almost as good in the field. What a shortstop this guy is! We've had some very decent shortstops through my 19 years with the Bombers - Phil Stavrinos Jr., in 2000, 2001, and 2002 comes to mind immediately, as does Joel Kershner from last year, and Danny Espinosa, who was outstanding during our 2010 just-missed-the-title season - but Mark impresses me as maybe the best of the lot. It's a small sample so far, but I love playing first base with this guy at short. Great glove, great arm. Also one hell of a good batter. In that regard, he impressed me more this week than any week so far. It wasn't just that he had a perfect day, but it was how he did it. In some of the past games, he's hit moonshots to left field all day. Sometimes they went for home runs, but sometimes they were long outs. They went for hits often enough to be impressive, but this week he varied his game by going opposite field and by driving the ball hard on the ground. He also hit one awesome shot to left when he saw that the left fielder was playing him too shallow. His day was not only perfect statistically, it was extremely intelligent. And I love to see guys who care that much, who put thought into what they do.

The pitching was very good. That's been the case for us all season. Big Jay Atton took a shutout into the 6th inning of game one (and only lost it because of an error.) His ERA is sick. Jack Atton threw game two and (outside of one small stretch where he walked a few) he was mighty impressive as well.

We're getting clutch hits from all sorts of people, mostly good fielding, strong pitching, and everybody seems to like everybody else. It all adds up to some fun Sundays, even for a guy hitting as lousy as I am. I'm at least playing a decent first base, so I know I'm bringing a little value by that. I'm hoping I can fix the hole in my bat before next week. My niece and nephew may be coming to see me play (they're 7 and 8, and they think their Uncle Jimmy is some sort of big deal, so I'd hate to look like a bum in front of them.)


Finally, the Bruins. If it's Monday when you read this, then it's game six and they're facing elimination on their home ice. I'd really like to see a game seven. This has been one hell of a good Stanley Cup Final. I think it deserves to go to seven. We'll see. Whatever happens, I'll be proud of them. They've played their asses off in this run for The Cup.

So there you have it. I apologized, then I went ahead and did what I wanted to do anyway. That's just the kind of guy I am. As Ric Flair was fond of saying, "Whether you like it or hate it, learn to love it, because it's the best thing going baby, WOOOO!"

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bombers Win Two

 Fast Freddie Goodman shows us where the Bombers are in the standings

The Bombers got healthy this week (except for Joey Baszkiewicz and me.)

BOMBERS  - 9  Flush - 3
BOMBERS - 11  Flush - 1

With two victories, and the Renegades splitting their doubleheader with the Reds, we now have sole possession of first place in our division.

It was a good day for the team. Coming off of the two close losses last week, we needed to get our mojo back. Flush hasn't been a great club in past years (and they go to 0 - 8 with these two losses) but they were game opposition. We had to come from behind in the first contest. They made us work for it, which was a good thing.

(They might give somebody a surprise this season if they keep at it. I hope that happens. The guys who are the core of their team - who have shown up every week for a few years, while knowing it wasn't going to be pretty most weeks - deserve a reward for being good guys and not giving up. I've been on a team or two like that over the course of my more-or-less forty seasons, so I definitely empathize.)

The stars for us this week were our pitchers. Big Jay Atton gave up ZERO earned runs in game one. After that, Jack Atton (who makes a habit of coming up big on Fathers Day) tossed a five-hit one-run gem. Our team ERA now sits at 3.57, a very impressive number for this brand of modified fast-pitch softball. Of course, you have to have some good fielding behind you, and we were fairly solid. The left side of the infield, especially, looks really sharp. Most impressive is Mark Preziosi at SS. He's as good as I've seen at that position during my 19 years with this club. Vacuum cleaner glove and excellent arm. He also has the big stick when he goes up to bat. He belted his third home run of the year.

(Odd thing about this league is that all games are played on diamonds that basically have no outfield fences. Yeah, there are fences out there somewhere, but they're so far off it really doesn't matter for most of us. There are also four outfielders in these games, so even shots that might have hit a gap can be corralled. Mark hits the sort of shots that would clear fences in many parks, but most of those have been long outs in this league. For instance, I know for a fact that if our games in this league were played at, say, M Street in South Boston, he'd have about 8 or 9 home runs instead of 3. He's a scary hitter, though, and I do love to see him up with men on base. I wouldn't be so surprised that I'd drop dead on the spot if he clears one of the long fences before the season is over.)

The first sentence said Joey Baszkiewicz and I didn't get healthy. Joey, catching game one, took a hard shot off his left knee. Even as late as the end of game two, I looked at his knee and saw the imprint of the stitches.

(Some of you, unfamiliar with ball, might think I'm joking. I'm not. An hour after being hit, the dents were still there in his skin. Most catchers in this league - and that includes me and Joey - don't wear the usual protective gear you expect a catcher to wear. Sure, we wear masks and a cup, because we're not total idiots, but chest protectors and shin guards are rarely seen. So the ball got through to Joey's knee and hit bare flesh. He immediately left the game, while I moved from First Base to behind the plate. He iced it, and will probably be OK aside from some swelling and soreness for the next couple of days. I guarantee he'll be back behind the plate next week because Joey is a tough bastard. Most catchers are.)

My unhealthiness is more in my head. The way I'm hitting, I could be taking a salami up to the plate, instead of a bat, and get pretty much the same result. Of the guys with double-digit plate appearances, I have been the weakest by a large margin. Since the team is doing so well, I won't slash my wrists. As long as we keep winning, I'm happy overall. I wish I was contributing more, though. My 1 for 5 today was seriously anemic.

OK, let me tell you about the best laugh I had.

After the game, I'm dragging the equipment bag to my car. The field we played on is about a quarter-mile from where I park. I've caught in two games and I'm tired. The bag is heavy. Even though it has wheels, pulling it through the outfield grass is a chore. I also have my own equipment bag slung over one shoulder, adding another burden. I get to my car and I'm beat from a combination of the bags, the games, the heat, and my advanced age. After loading the bags into the trunk and back seat (that's how big the equipment bag is, OK? It doesn't fit in my trunk.) I get in the car and go to start it up. That's when I notice something tucked under my windshield wiper.

I see it and start talking to myself.

"What in the FUCK is that? Shit."

I get out of the car, grab the piece of paper, and throw it on the passenger seat. I start the car. Then I decide I'd better see what in hell it is. I unfold it. And I start laughing like a loon.

It was the photo of Fast Freddie Goodman you saw at the top of this post. FFG had left it there for me, to give me a laugh. He succeeded. Honest to God, it was just what I needed. A laugh like that is worth years onto your life (even if you're hitting .286 on the season.)

Thanks, FFG! And thanks for being a good sport when I called you, telling me, when I asked, that I could scan it and use it here. It's not everybody who would be willing to appear in public in a johnny.


Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sgt. Damon's Art

What would you do if you lost both of your arms?

Sgt. Pete Damon became an artist. And a damn good one, too.

In October of 2003, while serving as a helicopter mechanic in Iraq, Pete Damon lost both arms.

Since that time, he has made truly beautiful paintings.

Guys like Pete Damon amaze me. I have both of my arms. I couldn't do work this beautiful if you gave me 100 years and private lessons with a master. Pete does it with a prosthesis and his natural God-given talent.

 Here he is, at work.

His story - which you can read more about at his blog (and at stories done about him in publications such as The Boston Globe, TIME, and others, to which there are links at his place) - is courageous and heartwarming, but arms or no arms, the guy is just plain GOOD.

Within three months of losing his arms, he took up painting. He had drawn before, but now painting,“became my therapy,” Damon says. “It really uplifted me. It lit a spark. It has really evolved from therapy to a passion that consumes most of my time.” It's time well-spent, wouldn't you say?

 In January 2009, he presented one of his paintings to President George W. Bush. The painting of a soldier saluting the president from a wheelchair reflected Damon’s own views. “I told him I had no regrets. I think I’m a better person because of my military experience,” Damon says.

 I think I'm a better person for having found out about Sgt. Pete Damon.

Please visit Sgt. Damon's blog. His paintings are for sale. If you're not in a position to buy one, why not do the world a favor and feature him and his artwork on your blog, as I've done here?

Thanks for your service, Sergeant. And thanks for making my day a better one via your art.

Oh, one last thought: Before his injuries, Damon was right-handed. He has accomplished all of this as a lefty.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lord Stanley's Cup

The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks begin battling tonight to see who will take home the most famous trophy in team sports, The Stanley Cup. Besides being a Bruins fan, I have a small wager on the outcome.

You may recall that I had a bet in the previous series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was with Michelle. She made good on the bet HERE. The terms were simple: Loser had to post the hated logo of the other team and then say a few good words about the city of the winner; something like that. The terms were loosely-constructed. In any case, I enjoyed winning and I enjoyed Michelle's payoff.

The current wager is with Chuck, a Chicago fan. The terms are as loose. And I expect the payoff will be fun, no matter which of us (him) loses.

(As soon as I lose my humility and start predicting I will win, I will lose. It always happens. Therefore, I take back the part about him losing and I predict the Blackhawks will annihilate the Bruins by a combined score of 23 - 0 in a four-game sweep.)

The quest for The Cup is a long and storied one. I'm not going to recount every story connected with it, but I'll crib a few notes from other places, such as Wikipedia and the National Hockey League website, that might make your viewing of the games more enjoyable even if you have no particular rooting interest (aside from rooting for me to win the bet, of course, since you're reading my blog and I have to assume you aren't doing so because you hate me.)

Here are a few fun facts about The Stanley Cup.

Lord Stanley
Lord Stanley was appointed by Queen Victoria as Governor General of Canada in 1888. Soon thereafter, he became a huge fan of ice hockey. His sons persuaded him to donate a trophy for the championship of the sport. Stanley purchased a punch bowl for 10 and 1/2 pounds ($48.67 in US funds, equivalent to about $1,250 today.) The bowl was made of silver and was a bit bigger than 7 inches high.

Since that time, the original cup has grown to about 35 pounds of silver and nickel.

Stanley himself never saw a Stanley Cup championship game! He was forced to return to England in July of 1893, due to the death of his elder brother, the 15th Earl of Derby. Lord Stanley succeeded him as the 16th Earl, and he never did see the cup awarded.

32 different teams have won The Cup. Only 18 of those teams are still in existence. The Montreal Canadiens have won it more often than any other team - 24 times. As of this writing, they are the last Canadian-based team to have won it. The first American-based team to win The Cup were the Seattle Metropolitans (no longer in existence) who took it in 1917.

In 1919, Seattle and Montreal played to the only Stanley Cup tie. Due to a severe Spanish Flu epidemic, the deciding game of their series was never played. They remain deadlocked at 2 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie, and no resolution is expected in the near future.

The only other time The Cup wasn't awarded was in 2005, due to a season not being played at all that year.

The NHL does not actually own the trophy. They use it by agreement with the two appointed Trustees of the Cup, who each serve (by tradition) until death. When one dies, the remaining Trustee names a successor.

The Stanley Cup is the only one of the four trophies awarded to the champion of the major North American sports that is singular. By that, I mean it is not copied and given to that year's winner. There is only the one, and the winner keeps it only until another team gains victory. It has the names of all winning players, coaches, and management engraved on it.

(There have been numerous mistakes and oddities in this regard. Some are fairly inexplicable. For instance, in 1972, the Boston Bruins team name appears as "Bqstqn". In 1963, some grammarians apparently were unable to decide if it should be Toronto "Maple LEAFS" or "Maple LEAVES", so they compromised and spelled it "Leaes")

Henri Richard, of the Montreal Canadiens, has his name on The Cup more times than anyone else as a player - 11 times.

Overall, Jean Beliveau of the Canadiens has his name appear more times, due his career as both a player and an executive - 17 times. Red Kelly, of the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, appears 8 times, the most of any non-Montreal player or executive. Twelve women have their names on The Stanley Cup. The first was Marguerite Norris, who won The Cup as President of the Red Wings in 1954 and 1955.

As for the combatants this year, it will be Boston's 19th trip to the finals and Chicago's 12th, which rank 4th and 5th overall respectively. Boston has won 6 Cups, Chicago has won 4, and this will be the first time in history they have met in the finals.

List of Stanley Cup champions

One final note : It's going to be fun. It always is.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tebow + Patriots = Fun!

Well, I wasn't planning to post anything new here until Wednesday. At that time, the Boston Bruins will begin their battle with the Chicago Blackhawks for Lord Stanley's Cup. I have someone lined up to make a bet with the same rules as the bet that Michelle lost and has made good on. But something just happened (or, at least, was announced as going to happen) that has my sports fan soul all hot and bothered.

The New England Patriots are signing Tim Tebow.

I think it's a fantastic fit. Tebow is a winner, plain and simple, and Bill Belichick has brains enough to utilize his skills in ways that Rex Ryan and the hideous New York Jets never even considered. I'm looking forward to some serious fun whenever Tebow hits the field this fall.

Most everything I had to say concerning Tim Tebow was said in a post here 18 months ago. Here it is again (with small addendum at the end.)


Tim Tebow is my favorite athlete. And I don't mean just right now. I mean ever.

I grew up with the eventually-tragic Tony Conigliaro as my sports hero. I've had others whom I liked, a lot: Babe Parilli, Larry Siegfried, John Havlicek, Murray Oliver, Steve DeBerg, Dunc Wilson, Rajon Rondo, Doug Flutie, and Tim Wakefield, to name those that come immediately to mind, have all had a special place in my heart, for various reasons I won't go into here. Tebow, though, is something entirely different and special.

There's a lot to like about him as a football player, of course. He's a fearless runner, with a fair amount of speed, and defenses have to plan to contain him in that regard. He's not a stumblebum when it comes to passing, despite what some critics of his would have you believe. He may not have the most beautiful throwing motion, but if you give him the opportunity to drive a stake through your heart, by showing him open receivers, he'll kill you just as effectively as any of the more highly-touted quarterbacks in the league.

However, it's more than performance that makes him my favorite. He's also intelligent, personable, gracious, and humble. He always defers to his teammates and coaches, never pointing toward himself with a "Me! Me! Me!" as so many football players and other professional athletes do. He's a fantastic role model for kids; a non-drinking, non-drugging, non-womanizing college graduate. And he's just plain fun to watch.

And it's also undeniably tasty to see people who criticize him floundering about whenever he wins.

The biggest problem that some people have with Tebow is that he's a Christian, and a very vocal Christian at that. When a microphone is thrust in his face, he first takes that opportunity to thank Jesus Christ. He then answers whatever questions are asked of him, in a polite manner, usually praising his teammates, coaches, parents, or whomever else he feels like showering with love at the moment. And, as I say, some folks have a problem with this.

Why? I'm not truly sure. It seems like a waste of energy to me. But Tebow engenders absolute hatred from some corners. And the people who hate on him come off as the sort who would kick a puppy. Tebow does absolutely nothing to deserve such treatment, other than declaring his religious values in public. I can understand where it might become tiresome to hear him say such things, but the viciousness of some commentary is amazingly vitriolic. And that puts it over the top for me. I'm a sucker for almost any underdog, and Tim being batted around in the media, in on-line commentary, and kicked around by blowhard pundits, just makes him all the more loveable to me as a fan.

Here's the kind of kid he is. Your reaction to the following says a lot about you.

Chicago Bears linebacker, Brian Urlacher, following Chicago's loss to Denver, was asked what he thought of Tebow's play. He said:

"He's a good running back. He does a good job running for them."

(Tebow is a quarterback, not a running back, so that's what you'd call damning with faint praise. If you don't understand that, you don't understand football.)

Tebow's response?

"Coming from a really good player, that means a lot."

He could have gotten righteously indignant. He had, after all, just completed EIGHTEEN passes against Urlacher's team, in the fourth quarter alone. Instead, he was gracious in victory.

Even better was his response to the Detroit Lions.

The Lions croaked Denver. Demolished them. It was not a pretty game for Tebow or his teammates. During play, one of the Detroit players, following a sack of Tebow, got down on a knee and mocked Tebow's now famous posture of prayer. Asked about it in the locker after the game, Tebow said:

"He was just celebrating, having fun with his teammates, and I don't take offense to that."

Do you really want to denigrate a guy who says stuff like this? Really? You may not agree with his religion, or his way of displaying it, but I think the world would be a much better place, overall, if more people had the attitude that Tim Tebow displays. And if your mileage varies, that's truly sad for you.

The best thing about Tebow, though, the absolute best thing, is when a stunning coincidence occurs, such as happened yesterday when Denver beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

The winning play came in overtime, an 80-yard Tebow touchdown pass to teammate DeMaryius Thomas. With that completion, Tebow ended with a total of 316 passing yards. Now, if you don't immediately get why this is so delicious, consider this photo from Tebow's college days...

Notice the inscription on Tebow's eye black? While at Florida, he often would write such messages, touting one scriptural passage or another, knowing that the cameras would be on him. A favorite was John 3:16, which reads...

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Following Tebow's team winning the national collegiate championship, during which he displayed that message on his eye black during the telecast, there were over 94,000,000 hits on Google for "John 3:16". It pays to advertise!

He can't write such messages while in the National Football League, as they prohibit that sort of thing. But yesterday, on the biggest stage he's thus far been given, during a playoff game, his final winning pass brought his total yardage to 316.

Do I believe this is a message from God? To be truthful, I heard the number and didn't think anything of it. However, a whole bunch of folks in the media have latched onto it, and I suppose, if God really did care about sending messages via football games, that would be a pretty dandy way to do it.

(If you want more fun, tell a hater that the very first shot on TV, after those of the players celebrating, was of JOHN Elway, Broncos legend and current executive. Get it? John? 316? It's all too marvelous for words, really.)

Anyway, it's just great to hear the venom spewing from so many folks this morning. There was a fun article about the 316 yards and Tebow, written by a Boston blogger. Find it HERE. Good read, just fun stuff. But scroll down and read the comments. Yikes! You'd think this guy had just pissed on somebody's mother, by the tone of some of them. And every time I watch Tebow, and see him do something well, I know that there are thousands and thousands of these angry and miserable people pulling their hair out and gnashing their teeth.

You can't get entertainment value like that from any other athlete in the world.

God bless you, Tim Tebow (well, He does already, Tim, but you know what I mean.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Yesterday's win by Denver brings them to play my New England Patriots next Saturday. Only one of them can win and move on, of course, and I'm a bit torn. I suppose, in the end, I'll be rooting for the Patriots, and I do see them winning rather handily over Denver. If Tebow pulls off another improbable win, though, I won't be heartbroken (or totally surprised.)


Here's the addendum: The Patriots beat the tar out of Tebow and the Broncos. He was sent packing to the New York Jets. The Jets had no earthly idea what to do with him (starting him in place of Sanchez would have been the obvious move, but they're the Jets and they haven't done anything right since Super Bowl III.)

The Patriots won't start him, of course. They have Tom Brady. It would make no sense to start Tebow. What they will do is find spots for him to totally and completely drive opposing teams round the bend. Belichick, and coach Josh McDaniels, will spot him as a RB or slot receiver, with an option always available for him to pass. Oppositions will have to gameplan for those possibilities. And that will make Brady all the more effective. This is going to be amazing. Trust me. If this deal happens - as it seems it will - we're likely to see a revolution in offense unlike anything previously seen in the NFL.

Thanks for this, God. I can't wait.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, June 09, 2013


FFG & The Dog


Gamer (n) – In sports, a complimentary term denoting a player who gives his or her all, someone who “answers the bell” under adverse circumstances.

A former teammate of mine, Conrad Pacquette, paid me what I consider to be the best compliment I've ever received concerning my softball playing. It was after the end of the season in 2007, in personal correspondence wherein we discussed the next season to come. I had expressed the thought that I was going to retire. He said that was nonsense, and the reason he gave was that I was one of the biggest "gamers" he knew. He said when next season rolled around, I wouldn't be able to resist playing. And he was right. I played that season, and I've played every season since.

Now, I like all of my teammates, and I think all of them have some gamer in them. I've seen guys play with injuries and illnesses. For instance, Jack Atton once pitched a doubleheader for us while battling kidney stones. That took some wicked guts. He was in pain most of the day, but he sucked it up and did the job. Big Jay Atton was back on the field a week after taking a line drive to the face. That took mental toughness. I couldn't possibly list all of the guys who have continued playing with ripped open knees or elbows. Sometimes, it's just a matter of fighting the normal wear and tear of the position you play. Catchers, like Joey Baszkiewicz or Dave Nutter or myself, get to the seventh inning of game two and their legs feel like cement. That's just the way it is when you play that spot - you've been doing squats for about three hours - and it's the reason you don't see a lot of catchers with blazing speed on the basepaths.

This week, two true gamers have had their mettle tested.

Robbie Costello suffered a hairline fracture while pitching in another league. He was the recipient of a line drive that smashed off of his leg. He missed the games last week, and it was expected he'd be out for at least another couple of weeks. However, he has said he'll be there for us this Sunday. He pitched a game earlier this week and came through it none the worse for wear. That's pretty amazing, if you ask me.

The other gamer is Fast Freddy Goodman. He will NOT be playing, but it's not because he doesn't want to play. As of this writing, FFG is in the hospital and will be for the next day or two, at least. He has been diagnosed with pancreatitis. That's a good enough excuse to lay low, for sure. It's a hideously painful condition, and Freddy has been hooked up to a morphine drip for the past two days. Still, he asked his doctor if he could play ball on Sunday. That's how much of a gamer he is. The doctor, of course, told him not to play.

If I know one thing for certain in this life, it's that not playing is eating up Fast Freddy, even if it's under doctor's orders. Goodman hasn't missed more than a handful of games since he joined the team in 1997 and I've never known him to miss two weeks in a row. About half of the season, he makes a four-hour drive back from New York on a Saturday night in order to play on Sunday morning (Fred has a season ticket package for the Mets, so he drives down to see the game on Saturday, then drives back to play games on Sunday. That's a guy who loves the game.)

So, we're a bit banged up in some spots this week. We'll see what happens. I'll be doing the managing again, at least in game two. Jack will be there at the start of the day, but has a family commitment to attend to later. He's asked me to fill in for him as I did last week. If I find us down in game two, and I need to rally the troops, I might consider a "Let's win one for the New York Jew Boy!" speech.

(I know that sounds as politically incorrect as can be, but if it's OK with Freddy - and I guarantee it is - then it had better be OK for you, too.)


Something I forgot to mention last week (and I should be kicked in the ass for forgetting to do so)...

Big Jay Atton, with his win in game two, broke the all-time record for wins by a pitcher in a Bombers uniform. It was Big Jay's 31st career victory, breaking Jimmy Jackson's record of 30.

The reason I should be kicked in the ass is because Big Jay was so kind to me when I got my 300th hit in 2011. He stopped that game and retrieved the ball from the pitcher, for me to have as a memento. That was a nice gesture. I owed him at least as much for his milestone.


Here's what happened.

Reds - 3   BOMBERS - 1
Reds - 10 BOMBERS - 9

Two games we could have won, but we didn't. No complaints. The Reds won them, fair and square. More power to them. I wish we had them in our division, though, because I'd sure like another shot at them in the regular season. It won't happen. We only play them the once, so if we want revenge it would have to be in the championship. It could happen. No way of knowing until 9 or 10 weeks from now.

In the first game, we got a pitching gem from Brian Pacheco. He just joined the team this week. Great guy. I've known him for several years from the M Street Softball League in Southie. With Big Jay Atton not available for us this week, he was recruited to take care of a game pitching. And he did a marvelous job of it, too, holding the Reds scoreless through the first 5 innings.

We took a 1 - 0 lead into the bottom of the 6th. Our bats were fairly dead throughout. The only run was driven in by Joey Baszkiewicz, Pacheco's catcher, back in the 2nd inning. Joey Baz has been a hitting machine so far this season, coming through in the clutch over and over. With two outs, and Tom Resor on second base, Joey stroked one, coming through again.

Bottom of the 6th brought the only crack in Pacheco's game. He gave up a leadoff home run to tie it, walked the next batter, then another home run gave the Reds all the cushion they needed. In the 7th, I led off by lining softly to short center for the first out. Jimmy Botting (4 for 7 in the doubleheader, one of the few bright spots with the bat) singled, but he was erased, and so was the game, on a 5 - 4 - 3 double play. Give the Reds credit. They played good defense all the way.

Game two was a bit harder to swallow.

Robbie Costello took the mound and he looked great, even coming off of his hairline fracture. Our bats showed some life, and we led 5 - 0 through four complete. In the top of the 5th, Robbie gave up a single and two walks, to load the bases with none out. Next batter hit a decent ground ball to me at first base. I couldn't corral it cleanly, but recovered in time to make a flip to Pacheco - playing second base in this game - who had hustled over to cover the bag. We got the out, but a run scored. After another base on balls, bases are loaded with one out. Robbie was squeezed a bit by the ump, walked in a run, making it 5 - 2, then it fell apart for us. An error let in another two, a sacrifice fly scored the run that tied it, then two singles followed to put the Reds up 6 - 5.

We tied it in the bottom of the 6th. Tom Resor singled with one out, and, after a second out, scored on an M. J. McCabe double. Costello walked, but we couldn't get either of them home.

In the Reds seventh, it was 3 hits, 2 errors, another sac fly... 10 - 6.

Bottom of the 7th, last call, the first two batters reach. Pacheco singles sharply to score one. I'm up. I hit it hard, but right at the shortstop, possible double-play ball. Pacheco was forced at second, but the throw to first skipped by the first baseman, out of play, as Dave Nutter scored, 10 - 8. I took second on the bad throw.

Jimmy Botting singled, sending Pacheco (running for me) to third. Pat Atton walked, loading the bases. The situation is three men on, one out, trailing by two. And Mark Preziosi, big stick, coming to the plate.

For the next bit of play-by-play, you have to understand Mark's day so far. He had absolutely crushed the ball to left field three or four times already, but the Reds were playing him somewhere in downtown Chelsea, about 300 feet. All of those shots had been chased down for outs, unfortunately. My thinking at this point (I'm coaching third) is that Mark is likely to launch another moonshot. If it goes for a hit, wonderful. We win. If not, I've got the fastest guy on the team on second base. Pacheco will score on the sac fly and I'm willing to take a chance at sending Jimmy Botting for two bases on the sacrifice. That would tie it. They would need to make two good throws to get him - left fielder to cut off, cut off to catcher. Jimmy has a 50 - 50 chance of beating a good throw. A bad throw is a sure thing for us.

(The other scenario is to stop Jimmy at third base, leaving us with two on, two out, and Tom Resor coming up. That's not anything to sneeze at. Tom's a fine hitter. But I figure when you have a very good shot in that situation, take it. Not that I wouldn't trust Tom to deliver, but you have two outs either way and the opportunity is there, and it's a bit of a surprising play, they need two good throws, a good tag...)

Mark launched the deep fly I had anticipated. Pacheco scored easily, making it 10 - 9, and I sent Jimmy careening around third to try and tie it. They made the throws and the tag. We lose.

Right call? I don't know. Since it didn't work, I guess I have to say no. I think it does work more often than not, though, so I'm not destroying myself with second thoughts.

We remain in first place in our division, with a record of 4 - 2, but we now share that lead with the Renegades. Since we have beaten them twice, though, we hold the tiebreaker. Next week we have the winless Courtesy Flush to play, so the prospects are good for us to get healthy.


(Since it's my blog, I know some of you care about my stats. I was a fairly weak 1 for 5, 1 run scored, 1 RBI. I didn't kill us at first base, but I didn't do us too many favors, either. Pretty average, I suppose. Eh. With the coaching decisions, I'm not the happiest guy in the world, but it's not so bad I'm going to have arsenic with my dinner or something.)

Soon, with more.

Friday, June 07, 2013

On To The Cup!

What can I say? I love this team. But I have been, and probably always will be, a goalie freak. That's because I played that position, a lot, when I played hockey (mostly because I was a crappy skater, but also because I had great reflexes.) I love a great performance in goal, and Tuukka Rask had one for the ages during this series against Pittsburgh. So, to celebrate, here are some Tuukka Rask photos.

Yes, it is.

I expect My Darker Grey Friend, Michelle, will have something posted, in payment of her bet, any moment now. I thank her in advance. Now I want Los Angeles to make a comeback so Mauger and I can get it on.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Now THAT Was A Hockey Game!

The Bruins win, in double overtime, 2 - 1. It was one of the most exciting hockey games I've ever witnessed. And I was going to say that no matter which side scored the winner. It was a battle that both squads can be proud of having engaged in.

The Penguins pounded 54 shots onto Tuuka Rask, the Bruins goalie, but he only let one into the net. Both goaltenders were great. Tomas Vokoun, for Pittsburgh, had a game that would be talked about glowingly had Rask not been a superhuman in goal and denied Vokoun's teammates so many times.

Last time the Bruins won, I gave you The Bear doing his victory dance. This time, we'll have something a bit different. The Bruins make magnificently funny promotional videos, all of them starring The Bear. Try these on for size. If you don't laugh out loud at some point, I have to believe you need to get your sense of humor in for a tune-up.

Soon, with more bear stuff.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


My goodness. Everything worked out exactly the way I wanted. This is scary.

Bruins - 3  Penguins - 0

The Bruins take a 1 - 0 lead in the best of seven. They played well, but it could have gone either way. The Penguins had two or three shots go off the post. Tonight (Monday) they play game two. It should be fun.

BOMBERS - 23  TNC - 5
BOMBERS - 23  TNC - 4

It was an easy Sunday for us (and for me as interim manager.) TNC is new to the league, so we had no idea what we might be facing. As it turned out, we cruised. They're a nice bunch of guys, probably better than the scores indicate, but there was no doubt who was the better team, at least today. They made a boatload of errors. I suspect they might field their positions more proficiently by the next time we meet later in the season. Fair enough with the bats, but they also ran into a couple of outs.

(It was interesting. As I say, they made some hideous errors, but they also had a couple of spectacular picks out there, robbing a couple of us of hits. I guess some of it will always even out. That's the way ball goes.)

On days like this, everybody fattens up. The overall team averages, percentages, and other stats are amazingly inflated after the first four games. As a team, we're about 100 points over what might be normal for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And, as hinted at above, these things tend to even out over the course of a season. I hope they even out slowly instead of us having one or two totally hideous outings.

Who gets the big props this week? Everybody. Seriously - NOBODY had a bad day. The best day was probably Tom Resor's, with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. Billy Botting outdid him in the RBI department, with 9 to his credit. He had a double and two triples while doing so. Pat Atton had 8 RBI. Joey Baszkiewicz has been an on-base machine so far; he leads the team with 11 (of 14) plate appearances having resulted in him reaching base. And Big Jay Atton ran his record to 3 - 0, starting and winning both ends of the doubleheader.

(Since this is my blog, I know some of you care about my day. I started both games at 1B, went 1 of 2 with 4 walks, 3 RBI, and 4 runs scored. I'll take it, thanks.)

Bombers stats available HERE.

So, we're 4 and 0, alone in first place in our division. How nice! Next week, we expect a bit of tougher opposition (the Reds, a good solid team) so we'll need to keep our heads from swelling and be ready for a test. On the bright side, we were missing a couple of guys this week who will strengthen us next week.

Soon, with more batter stuff.