Monday, July 27, 2009

Final Curtain

Now is the winter of my discontent (and it’s just barely summer.)

Renegades – 10 BOMBERS – 5
BOMBERS – 11 Renegades – 10
Renegades – 7 BOMBERS – 6 (8 innings)

We lose the first round playoff series, 2 games to 1.

Honestly, I’m heartbroken by this. Our team was better than this. Good enough to eventually win the championship? Probably not, truth be told. I think we were still just a bit short of that. But, it sure would have been nice to play next week, and maybe the week after, and find out for sure, rather than going home early.

I had a pretty bad day, so that doesn’t help my psyche any. I popped out about a hundred times, but I made up for that by grounding out weakly another hundred. Felt that way, anyway. When I look at the book, I see that I went 2-for-10. Close enough.

I truly don’t have the heart to write about this at length. There were some heroics that deserve not to get the short shrift, however, so I’ll give the quick details.

Game one was just... blah. To me, it felt like we were kind of dead the whole way. We scored one in the first, held them scoreless, got another one in the top of the second, and then the roof fell in. They plated six in their half of the second inning, and we just never could get the big rally that we needed. We scored singletons in the fourth, fifth, and sixth, trailed 10 – 5 going into the seventh, and went quietly. I flied to center for the final out.

(That’s one thing about this game that has always bugged me. Since I hit a fly, and it’s in the past tense, I have always felt it should be ‘I flew out’, but custom has always had it as ‘flied’. Custom is an ass.)

Game two contained the heroics. Again, we got out to 1 – 0 and 2 – 1 leads, but the Renegades went on to lead 10 – 3 after the top of the sixth. We needed eight runs before we got six outs. And, damn – we got them!

With one out, Pat Atton drew a walk. Cam Zirpolo followed with a single. Jack Atton singled Pat home, and Big Jay Atton singled to score Cam. Dave Vargas followed with a single that drove in two more. 10 –7, Renegades, going into the seventh inning.

Dave had come on in relief of Big Jay in the sixth. After giving up a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, he got the next three Renegades batters. Last chance for the Bombers.

Joe Baszkiewicz and Fast Freddy Goodman reached, with Joey scoring as a result of Fred’s at-bat. Mike Minchoff – who probably had his best set of the season at clutch time – got a base on balls. That brought me to the plate, with a shitty day behind me, 1-for-6 to that point. As they say in the broadcast booth, I represented the winning run.

And here is the only reason I haven’t taken cyanide. I singled through the right side, scoring Fast Freddy. We now trailed by one run, with runners on first and second, and still nobody out.

Buddy Carchide pushed the runners along, loading the bases. Pat Atton hit a game-tying sacrifice fly. Now with one out, the Renegades decided to intentionally walk Cam Zirpolo, loading the bases and putting the force on all around. This brought Jack Atton to the plate.

And Jack singled me home for the game winner.

(In reality, I think it was Billy Botting who scored, since he was the guy who ran for me, but it goes in the book as my run. That's the way we've always kept the stats on this team.)

We were happy, and I was probably the happiest guy on the field at that point. It was as nice a comeback as we’ve ever produced. And, damn it, I was right in the middle of it. I felt really, really good that I finally came through with a clutch hit. I truly would have been on the verge of tears if I had choked in that spot. I’ve played so many years, with so little team success to show for it, that somebody would have had to scrape me off the field if I hadn’t come through there and we ended up losing.

Then we got off to the early lead in game three. We put up a wiggly number in the first inning, scoring three runs. Renegades got one in the third. We put up another three in the top of the fourth, for a 6 – 1 lead. We were feeling pretty good about our chances.

And those were the last runs we scored this season.

I give the Renegades all the credit in the world. They could have dried up and blown away at that point. Some lesser teams might have. They didn’t. They came right back at us with a 5-spot in their half of the inning.

Tie game, 6 – 6, after four.

And that’s the way it stayed through the fifth. And through the sixth. And through the seventh. We made some nice fielding plays along the way. Emilio Zirpolo had a hand in 7 of the 9 outs, playing some really nice shortstop. Of course, Buddy Carchide, who pitched some truly nice ball all year, was on the mound. Clutch pitching was happening for BOTH sides. Tense? Not even close to the word for it. As this brand of fast-pitch softball goes, it was as good as it gets. We put a runner on in every inning, but couldn’t push him across. Same for the Renegades.

OK, top of the eighth (which is extra-innings, which means both teams pushed it to the limit, which means we should have nothing to be ashamed of, but it still stings.)

Pat Atton got his third hit of the final game. He’s standing on first, when Cam Zirpolo smashes a vicious line drive.

Right into the shortstop’s glove.

And he fires over to first to double up Pat.

After the third out, we take the field. And it was relatively quick, if not painless. Single, single, single. With bases loaded and nobody out, we pull the outfield and the infield in. No room for error. And there was no error, but there was a clean single over Cam Zirpolo’s head in left field. They win. We lose.

It was time for the tradition in our league, lining up to shake hands between the two teams. It’s more fun when you’re on the winning side, of course. All of the Renegades told us we played a great series. I’m sure all of our guys did the same, or at least they should have if they didn’t. We got beat, fair and square, by a team with which we’re very evenly matched.

And I left the field feeling every minute, every second, of 52 years old.

I have to make some decisions. If I can’t come up with a way to become better by next season, I don’t see why I should play. Jack has some excellent players who have made commitments to play for us, but who were ineligible for the playoffs this year. With those guys coming in, I’ve got no right to expect playing time - unless I can give Jack a reason for using me. The biggest problem is that I don't have a defensive position now. My knees won't allow me to catch much, and the additional guys make me superfluous at first base. If I can't hit better, then I'm not worth having on the roster.

Maybe I quit smoking, start exercising regularly in ways that are more strenuous, work the batting cages... something. Or not, and I just relax about the whole thing. The reason I decided to play this year was because of the bad taste LAST year left in my mouth. The final game this year was not pleasant, but I pretty much accomplished the personal goals I set for myself at the start of the year. I batted a hundred point higher, kept my on-base percentage over .500, lead the team in walks one more time, actually got a couple of extra-base hits... I could consider giving it a rest and not feel too itchy.

I think.

This really isn’t the time to consider it. I’m sad we didn’t win. I’ll see how I feel when it’s spring again and Smith Field asks me if I want to come out and play.

Before I wrap up this season (Way too early, man. Ball should go into September, at least.) I need to give credit for the team records set.

Cam Zirpolo was a magnificent addition to the team. Speedy glove in left and a dandy hitter, he tied the team mark for triples – 6.

Dave Vargas went 3 – 1, taking a .750 winning percentage into the record books. We got damn nice pitching from the entire staff this year.

And now, we come to Big Jay Atton. He had as good an individual year as anyone has ever had for us. I’m really proud of the big man. He gave us… hell, take a look at the records he broke.

Batting Average - .717 (previous record, Ron Johnson’s .654)
On-Base % - .750 (previous, Ron Johnson with .719)
OPS – 1.958 (breaking his own record of 1.823)

In addition, he led the team in Slugging Percentage, Hits, Home Runs, and RBI. He tied for the team led in Runs with Cam Zirpolo, and the team lead in Wins (pitching) with Dave Vargas and Buddy Carchide. And, my own personal favorite esoteric record? He ran his streak of at-bats without a strikeout to 147, breaking my mark – shattering the bejeezus out of my mark – of 107. And it’s still alive going into next season.


(I’ll have some lifetime stats and such later on, as I have the time.)

I just want to tell all of you guys I played with this year that I appreciate the effort you made. And I want to give a special "Thanks!" to Jack Atton, my favorite manager, ever – including me. He makes everyone feel like an important part of the team, which is way cool. Win or lose, Jack makes you glad you played. You can’t ask for better than that as an athlete.

I’ll be taking the rest of this week off from blogging. Thanks for reading.

Soon - relatively speaking - with more better stuff.


Anonymous said...

*1 more year 1more year* sully 1 more year we need you

Suldog said...

Thanks, whoever you are (44?)

Means a lot to my spirit at the moment.

Angie Ledbetter said...

It'll soon be time to start all over again! Congrats to Bombers and fans.

Michelle H. said...

Sorry to hear you're out of the playoffs. But you should be so proud of how you played for the season, and that second game proves why you are on the team.

Bruce Coltin said...

I think there are truths about what happened that won't hit you until later -- maybe much later.

The game was only an "official" loss. As hard as that can be to swallow, you'll be extracting plenty of victories from this contest.

Ananda girl said...

The end of your season always feels sad. But now you're knee will actually get better. Try physical therapy... I swear it works wonders!

Next year... can't wait for next year. Thanks for sharing the action with us. I absolutely loved it. :)

Jazz said...

Poor dear Suldog...

Jeni said...

Jim, after reading all your baseball posts this year and probably most of them from your past postings too (yea, occasionally I do dip into people's archives) I think you've nothing to be ashamed or feel guilt for -either for your own performance and certainly not for your team, overall. Everyone, at some point in time, must face the facts that they just aren't quite up to par to be continuing on with a favorite past time. For some, knowing it is time to hang it up, comes a lot earlier than for others. That you have been able to play this game these many years and still be effective, I think is remarkable. That even beats George Blanda in the age column doesn't it? (And yes, I know he played football -just saying, ya know...) The fact you even are thinking about these issues says a little there that you may not feel completely up to snuff. But who knows, perhaps next spring you will survey the situation -again -and decide which way to go as time and the ravages it can make on our body doesn't always move at the same pace all the time. Maybe next year you'll feel you're still able to be there for your team, for yourself too. Cross that bridge when you come to it and you'll know it yourself when your body says "It's time to go." If this year turns out to be your final one, at least you know you gave it all you could and that is the important thing -that you kept on trying to do your best. Just don't take the guilt trip along with you no matter what transpires between mow and spring 2010. Anyway you cut it, it's been a good run!

Chris said...

Starting to relate to Brett Favre, are we?

Of COURSE they intentionally walked Cam Zirpolo. Can't pitch to that stud with runners on.

Whatever you decide, Suldog, I'm sure you'll have no regrets . . . have you thought about maybe umpiring? I'm sure you'd be great, and it's kind of a middle ground. Just a thought.

Buck said...

Sorry about your season's end, Jim. Words can't ease this sort of pain, so I'll just stop right here.

Theresa said...

Looks like all the games were close and you didn't get swept. That's good. And as someone said, "all good things must come to an end" and even though you didn't get to play one more week, you had a hell of a season and I've enjoyed reading about every game.

Take the week off, it is well deserved.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

This fits into that pesky category of all good things must end, so irritating, but true.

Brian Miller said...

nice job with the clutch hit. sorry to hear the season come to a premature halt. next year...

xxx said...

So sorry to read that all didn't go as well as you would have liked.

I have no real passion for sport but feel that I should after reading your blog posts. I envy the passion, but not the blood sweat and tears.

take care and enjoy your rest from blogging.

best wishes

J.J. said...

I'm sorry... At least you put forth your best effort. I'm no stranger to baseball injuries and losses myself. But I won't put you into perspective. (I hate to advertise but it's relevant... subject of today's post on my blog)

J.J. said...

Sorry again...

Gennasus said...

It's a shame that your season has ended but hopefully it's not THE end for you. Wish I could cheer you up.

Anonymous said...

I have read every word of this post, Sully in the hope that, if I persevered, understanding would occur spontaneously. It did not. I felt I was reading an essay in ancient English. I did however understand the passions that drove it and I shall continue to read your sporting posts. Osmosis might still occur.

thank you for the lovely comments you made on my last post.XX

Shrinky said...

Aw hon, you really have taken this hard, haven't you? Sorry you feel so down about it, but as they say, there is always next year, eh? Hugs.

jason said...

5 reason why suldog shouldn't quit
Number 5
I will give you your glove back
Number 4
Donna wants to have a suldog free sunday morning
Number 3
I won't read your blogs anymore
number 2
we all want you back
and the number one reason
I love a SULLY in UNIFORM and you will miss it to much

*44* 1 more year

Unknown said...

Definitely sorry to hear you were eliminated but happy to read how many records were broken and that you were one of the guys responsible for the second game win! Whatever you decide about going back it will be the right choice at the time. Have fun at the show tonight & during your time off.

♥ Braja said...

Jeez, the title was alike a flippin' death notice...don't DO that...:)
Have a good week off; join the club, huh? :))

Hilary said...

I think I play for the same team which Moannie captains. I do care though, and I'm very sorry that you're sad.

bluntdelivery said...

ok. i'm not gonna lie. in reading this post all i heard was blah blah blah something about sports blah blah.

Carolina said...

Moannie, Hillary and Bluntdelivery have put it so nicely already. Oh, and Braja with the little heart also expressed my feelings.
Maybe some pictures of you in your sportsgear will spark up my interest in this sport, whatever sport it may be. According to Jason it's a sight not to be missed ;-)

Janet said...

I'm sorry you're feeling badly about the season. Hopefully soon you can extract the good parts and leave the rest behind.

jennifer aniston and kim K. said...

That jay atton sounds dreamy