Sunday, June 29, 2014

20 Years In The Making

Bombers, 2013 (I'll try to get a new team photo for this year soon)

I haven't written too many fast-pitch softball postings this year.

Yeah, I know; for some of you, even one post is too many. In any case, I've been too busy to write softball. My job these days is writing, so when I sit down to write I usually try to make it something that could bring in a buck or two. As much as I like softball, it doesn't fit that category (I know because I've submitted a couple of softball-themed pieces to the Boston Herald and they have thus far not seen print. I did get one printed, concerning my efforts to diet before the season began, but it was more about dieting and religion than it was about softball.) Also, I'm playing in three different leagues. If I did a write-up of every game of my teams, in all three leagues, it would take up way more time (and cost you way more patience) than is available.

Quick synopsis: All three teams are fun, full of good guys, and worth some writing. Here's a paragraph each for two of the teams, then I'll go on at length about the third.

Harp & Bard, in the M Street Softball League, will make the playoffs. That's because every team in the M Street Softball League makes the playoffs this year. Harp & Bard is currently 2 - 5 - 1. Click on the link and you'll see that my participation has been minimal (I've played one full game and parts of three others.) I don't mean to sell the team short with that crack about everybody making the playoffs. While that's true, we were originally slated to play in the "B" division where the less-talented teams reside. One game was enough to show the league commissioner we belonged in the "A" division and so he switched things around. It's taken us a little bit to get it together in the higher division, but it is happening. We'll be a very tough out in the playoffs, at least, and maybe more besides.

In the Fenway Mens Softball League, our team is battling for a spot in the playoffs. We're not appreciably worse than any other team, but we're not appreciably better, either. Odd little league. A combination of juiced balls, juiced bats, and short outfield fences, puts the league completely up for grabs. With conditions being what they are, every player in the league is a home run threat. Games end up with football scores more often than not. Some pitchers are (justifiably) afraid to pitch there because of the velocity with which balls come off the bats. My contributions to that team have been more solid than at M Street

Finally, there's the team I've been a part of for 20 years: The Bombers. And I couldn't be more proud to be a Bomber than I am right now. This past Sunday, we moved into sole possession of first place with a doubleheader sweep of last year's champions, the Titans. It was the first time the Bombers have ever swept a doubleheader from that team. In doing so, we broke a 30-something game winning streak they had stretching back to last year (they were undefeated last year and undefeated this year - until this weekend.)

The Titans are multiple-time champions of the league for some very good reasons. They are solid. They play good defense, have good pitching, hit smart, take advantage of every mistake you make, do not make dumb mistakes themselves, and they also do not quit. You have to earn victories over those guys. We did, this time.


Once again, Brian Pacheco ("Cheeks") was an animal on the mound. He ran his record to 9 - 1 - 1. His earned run average went up, however - all the way to 1.22, for God's sakes. I absolutely love catching that guy. The first game went 10 innings, and...

OK, here's where I have to explain an odd rule in our league. Due to time constraints (another league has the field after us) our doubleheaders are limited to three hours total. If the second game goes into extra innings, as one of ours did a couple of weeks ago, we just play extra innings. If, however, the first game is tied after seven innings, we start the second game and the start of that game also counts as the extra innings of game one until a decision on the first game is reached.

Our first game against the Titans was 5 - 5 after 7 innings. Therefore, we started the second game and it would also decide the first game. Nobody scored in the first two innings. Cheeks hung tough, but so did their pitcher. Then, in the third inning, with two men on, Pat Atton hit a triple to right center that plated two. He himself scored on a bad throw. Cheeks held them scoreless again in the bottom of the third. And so the first game ended with an official score of 8 - 5 Bombers, in 10 innings, and we also held a 3 - 0 lead after 3 innings of game two.

(If none of that makes sense to you, don't feel stupid. Like I said, it's an odd rule. If you truly want more explanation, write to me at, and I'll be sympathetic. I won't give you any more explanation, though, because I've pretty much explained as best I can already.)

Due to the odd rule, Pat Atton had the game-winning hit, for both games, on one trip to the plate. We went on to win the second game, 6 - 1, with Cheeks picking up victories for both.

We'll meet the Titans again, probably twice; once in a round-robin at regular season's end, and then in the playoffs. They will be ready for us, and we will be ready for them. It promises to be some very good ball.

BOMBERS stats for 2014

One more thing that needs saying: Jack Atton, our manager, did a great job today. I had some doubts about one of his changes for game two, but it was absolutely the correct move. The proof is in the pudding, as someone once said, and it worked magnificently. Good job, Jack.

Team wins. Everybody contributed in some important way, whether via great pitching, timely hitting, good defense, or just being where they were needed in order to help. I'll say it again - I'm proud to be a Bomber.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Babies On A Train

What do we do when we ride the subway? Above all else, we avert our gaze. We look out a window, if possible, or maybe we stare at the floor, at our shoes, at other people's shoes. We read the paper. If we don't have a paper, we read the same overhead advertisement six or seven times. If a phone is part of our accoutrement, we stare intently at whatever is on the screen. We shy away from contact with strangers, always.

I'm on the Red Line the other day. A man gets on the train and he has a baby with him. The kid is about a year old and overwhelmingly cute; a boy (I think) with red hair, big blue eyes and a huge never-ending smile. Across the aisle was a man, doing his part as a passenger by not making eye contact. He looked up and saw the kid. And the kid saw him. The kid smiled wide. The man smiled back and gave the kid a little wave. The kid laughed and waved back. The man laughed and returned that wave. And so on, for two stops.

A woman got on. She sat near the waving man. The kid looked at her. She looked at the kid. The kid waved. She waved and smiled. The kid laughed and waved back. Then the kid looked at the man again, waved again. The man smiled and waved back. Everyone else who saw this action smiled.

The father and child were white. The waving man and woman were black.

Later on, I was at the Chinatown stop on the Orange Line. A man entered the platform area with his son. The son was perhaps two, in a stroller. As the kid was wheeled down the platform, he happily informed every person he passed – and I quote - “I ride train!” And everyone responded with a smile, a little laugh, a wave, or even by saying something; “You tell 'em, kid!” or “Good for you!” or “Me, too!”

The man and his child were Asian. The responders were of all colors and ethnicities.

At Community College, a woman got on with a young girl. The girl was playing with a used Charlie Ticket (for some reason, kids love those things.) It slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor. The old gentleman next to her picked it up and handed it back with a smile. She said, “Thank you!” in a cheerful voice. As the ride continued, this happened another four or five times. It fell this way and that, with a different person picking it up each time (I was one of them.) Each time, the kid smiled and said a bright “Thanks!” to her helper. The helpers smiled back, and kept smiling for a little while after.

The woman and child were black. The ticket picker-uppers were white, maybe a couple also Hispanic.

What does it take to get people to acknowledge their fellow riders on the T, while also providing for an enjoyable ride? Apparently, a smiling, laughing, good-natured kid. And, in every instance mentioned, race became a total non-factor in human relations.

Nice, huh? It appears we can all get along just fine, if we're willing to act like children.

[photo from]

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Fathers Day Column In The Boston Herald

If you'd be kind enough to journey to the Boston Herald website, you'll be able to read my Fathers Day column.

Please read it HERE.

It concerns My Dad, of course.

Blurry, but one of my favorite photos of us together. This was in Hong Kong, 35 years ago.

Thanks for reading it (if you do) and extra-special thanks if you leave a nice comment at the website or write a nice letter to the editor.

Last, but certainly not least, a Very Happy Fathers Day to those for whom it applies!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup Story

[You faithful readers will recognize this as a re-run. Don't tell the newer folks. They'll think it's all fresh and stuff since it has to do with The World Cup.]

[What's that? I already spilled the beans? Mannagia di... Oops! Almost gave away the punch line!]

I've told you before that My Dad worked for the airlines. I was, therefore, fortunate enough to grow up being able to travel to many wonderful places that otherwise wouldn't have been possible for a kid from a middle-class neighborhood in Dorchester. This story takes place in Italy - Rome to be exact - where I had traveled with my parents in 1970. I was 13.

You need to know that My Dad often used to hang out in the North End of Boston, which was (and is) the Italian section. He did so because many of his friends, fellow airline employees, lived there. He enjoyed their company, and they enjoyed his. He was the token Mick, the only non-Italian member of a social club called The Sulmona. Anyway, because of the time he spent immersed in this culture, he became facile with certain idiomatic Italian expressions.

Most of these expressions were innocuous enough. He might call someone a chadrool, for instance. I have no idea if I'm spelling that correctly, but it's certainly the way it was pronounced. In any case, it meant cucumber - or so I was told at 13 years of age. I have since found out it is most like the Italian equivalent of the Yiddish word "schmendrick", which is to say "fool". The word was bandied about easily and caused nobody any particular embarrassment.

Back to Italy in 1970. The World Cup was going on, and Italy was in the semi-finals. It was an exciting time to be in Rome. The semifinal match, against Germany, was being telecast and there wasn't a single place in Rome that didn't have the game on the television that night. The entire country was glued to it. My Dad and I were watching it in a common TV room at our hotel. My Dad, in his usual gregarious fashion, had become quick friends with many of the Italian men with whom we were sharing this spectacle.

The game was a real nail biter, even for those of us (me, My Dad, My Mom) who knew merda about soccer. Italy led 1-0 for most of the match, but Germany tied the game in extra time, in the 92nd minute. In overtime, there were FIVE goals scored, with the Italians finally winning by a score of 4-3. The city went berserk following the game. The noise was deafening, and nobody - least of all us in our hotel on a main drag - slept that night.

(Italy lost the final to Brazil, as I remember. We were in Denmark by that time, so it didn't impress itself upon me as much as the semi-final did. However, I digress.)

Back to the night of the game. We're sitting there watching the overtime, on the edge of our seats, and a member of the Italian team takes a kick at the ball and misses an open net by a wide margin.

One specific phrase that my father learned, while hanging out with his Italian friends from Boston, was used to express strong dismay. I'm not sure if my father knew the literal translation of it, but he knew the sentiment of it, so he now wished to show solidarity with his new Italian friends. He wanted to assure them that he was strongly rooting for the Italian team and sorry that they hadn't scored. My father uttered the phrase, loudly.

The room went completely and utterly silent, even in the midst of what might have been the most exciting overtime ever in World Cup history. Eyes bugged out all around. From the reaction he had gotten, My Dad might just as well have announced his intention to go find an Italian flag and wipe his ass with it. He looked back and forth, from face to face, finding nary a single kind one.

Finally, one man had the courage (and manners) to say, "Eh, Mr. Sullivan, 'at's-a no sometin' you say inna public. At's a very, very bad saying." There was a general nodding of heads around the room. My Dad looked appropriately ashamed, and he blushed. This won him a few smiles, as many of them realized he probably had no idea what he was really saying. Since My Dad was a good one for jollying along anyone he may have inadvertently offended, he worked his way back into their good graces before long, and we all cheered and hugged when the Italian side finally won.

As I have since come to understand it [even since the first time I published this story...] the phrase could be roughly translated as "The damn Virgin Mary is a prostitute", but it may have contained other even less-printable obscene shadings. I would put it out here, spelled phonetically as I remember it, but I don't want to risk offending anyone inadvertently. I try very hard to offend you only on purpose, as you know.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. My longshot pick for The World Cup is England. Therefore, since I am a class-A 100% jinx whenever I predict something in public, they will no doubt lose every game they play and go home in utter disgrace. Sorry, England!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Not Safe For Work (If You Work With Fillies & Mares)

As most people are aware, California Chrome has a chance to win the Triple Crown this weekend.

(If you're not most people, here's the deal: California Chrome is a racehorse; a 3-year-old, to be exact. He has won both The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness. If he wins The Belmont, being run this Saturday, it will be the first time in 36 years that a racehorse has captured the so-called "Triple Crown".)

My uncle, knowing my vast experience as a handicapper, wrote to ask me if I thought California Chrome would win.

(Much of my vast experience has come via picking losers, but that's how you learn to pick winners. Experience is costly, but effective.)

Anyway, here's our e-mail exchange. If you're looking for a hot tip, here it is.

From: James Sullivan <>

To: James Sullivan <>

Sent: Wed, Jun 4, 2014 6:50 pm

Subject: California Chrome

Will he win?


I think so, but I wouldn't bet on it. The odds are too low. He's been installed as a 3 to 5 favorite; by post time, I wouldn't be surprised if it's 2 to 5. If I was desperate for a wager, I'd take Wicked Strong, who will likely go off at 7 to 1 or so. But I'm not desperate, so I'll just enjoy the race.

Here's a good tip, though. Before The Preakness, California Chrome was being led around the paddock (they were showing all the horses before they entered the track; they have a couple hours of TV time to fill for a one-and-a-half-minute race.) Anyway, they show him and he has a HUGE hard-on.

I've been to many racetracks and seen thousands of races, as you know, and that's the first time I have ever seen a horse with a hard-on before a race. So, since he won that one, I'd wait to see if he has a hard-on before the Belmont. If he does, then bet the house!


So, in case you need to know what to look for, here's a handy visual aid...


If he's sporting wood, the bet is good!

Soon, with more bettor stuff.