Monday, August 23, 2010

The Final Softball Post For 2010

Fast Freddie Goodman, pre-game

Slow Suldog Sullivan, pre-game

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.

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.

Bottom, L to R - Big Jay Atton, Joey Baszkiewicz, Fast Freddie Goodman, Tom Resor.
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.


Daryl said...

I am sorry you lost but I am not sorry the season is over .. here at Casa Edelstein we're getting into football .. well one of us is ..

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Ah, man!
My heart goes out to you. I've been on the edge of the seat all season.

Cricket said...

Ouch... seven guys down?!?!? For a championship?!?!? To borrow a phrase from Roddy the Wondercar, "Good Heavens, that is most unfortunate."

Mrs. Cricket used to play softball, in a less competitive league, and she and her teammates would have been far less charitable under the same circumstances. Blood would have been spilled.

Well, sorry to hear about that, anyway.

Anonymous said...

You are a great example of what sports should be about.

Taking your loss with great class!

Chris said...

I'm not even going to sugarcoat it, that flat-out sucks. Like you, I can forgive the Zirpolos (family ALWAYS comes first) but the three that went to the tourney? Come on, man. And from reading every word of your posts about the season, Connors, Rogers, and Pickup seemed to be guys you couldn't easily replace in the lineup.

Tough way to end the season, Jim, you and the Attons (and the other long-time Bombers) deserved far better.

Anonymous said...

Great season Sully and you guys deserved better (especially you big guy!), but the games sounded competitive so you have nothing to hang your head about!

Take solace in the fact that reaching the championship and losing is still better than not getting there at all!

Enjoy the offseason and, again, great season!

My best,

P.S. - I may have to come out of retirement now that I've played my last baseball games - still got my Bombers jersey!

Michelle H. said...

So sorry to hear about the championship. But you played your heart out, and everyone can see that. You were a true teammate the other players could depend upon. Have a nice break from blogging to clear your head. We'll still be here when you get back.

Craig said...

So sorry you and the Bombers couldn't come out on top. But, you know, there's nothing to hang your collective heads about. You played your best, and were beaten by a worthy opponent. No shame in that.

Big Jay is The Man! Those kind of games are just gut-wrenching, aren't they? 1-0 going into the last inning? That's intense. And then to have the game blown open on an outfield misplay had to be just awful.

I really have no idea what to say about the guys who missed the championship series to play in another tournament. Myself, I'd probably be seething. But then, I might not be quite as gracious as you are. . . ;)

Wait 'til next year?

Jackie said...

Oh man! I was pulling for you guys....rooting and pulling...and I don't even follow baseball or softball games.
I'm so sorry that the scores weren't reversed...and I looked twice hoping they would switch...sigh.
You are a tremendous sport...your teammates sound like the best group of guys to be on a team with. (...sorry about that preposition at the end of the sentence...just feels right to leave it there.. :)) I take my hat off to your coach, each member of the team...and to your sportmanship. What a great testimony....

Sueann said...

Awww shucks!! I was sure pulling for you hun!!! That really sucks! And I will be pissed for you for the guys who couldn't stick to their commitments!! That is just wrong! I mean seriously wrong!
I am clapping for you all for a job well done!!!
Hey! I got the fiber sculpture installed!! Come see!!

Brighton Pensioner said...

I'd send cash, but I don't trust the post, so a comment instead. Look on the plus side: it's great that you reached the final.

Uncle Jim said...

Uncle Jim's winning strategy: First, while looking at the photo of the Titans, I see most are beer drinkers. If you get to play them next year all you have to do is have 10 cases of beer delivered to them BEFORE the game. Then no matter how poorly you do, I guarantee you will win. God, and to think I always thought you had some inetlligence.

Buck said...

SO sorry, Jim. The circumstances... missing seven of your better guys... most certainly suck. But your write-up is gracious and sportsman-like. I applaud ya for that.

Next year.

Carolina said...

The guys who had something 'better' to do are not really team players, are they? Apart from the Zirpolos and the guy with the injury perhaps. Sorry what was left of your team lost the game.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to all my gutsy Bomber team mates for makig it a memorable season!

Fast Freddy Goodman

Eddie Bluelights said...

Very sorry, Jim. I know how much this meant to you. Such a shame so mant regular players were not available.
Feel sad as a matter of fact.

Unknown said...

Just want to clear the air on the reason Charlie, Robbie and myself were not at Sunday's games. Yes we chose a tournamnet over the championship. Why? u ask. The tournament is a charity event in its 10th year ran by Charlie Conners. This event is in the memory of one our good friends who unfortunatly is no longer with us. It was made very clear when we seen the potential date of the Championship Games that we had a prior commitment that was priority. If that is an issue with anyone feel free to continue to bad mouth us and good luck in the future of the bombers because you are gonna need it.

Suldog said...

Patrick - Everybody has their reasons for doing what they do. I can appreciate that you guys felt that the tournament was a priority, seeing as it is an annual event in memory of a friend. I was just expressing my own disappointment concerning something about which I care very deeply. I've been a part of this for 16 years, and I've been teammates with most of these guys for much longer than I've been a teammate of yours. Therefore, my allegiance, and my heart, is with them, just as I guess yours is with the tournament, and your deceased friend, of many years standing.

As for badmouthing you, all I said was what I would make a priority, and what you didn't make a priority. If you take that as an insult, that's a shame. Truly, I like you, and Charlie, and Robbie, and I've said nothing but good about you all year on this page. Nothing but compliments and praises. If my opinion, concerning what I consider the most important games in our team history, bothers you that much, I'm sorry. But it's how I feel.

As for the future of the Bombers, I guess we'll see what next year brings. So far, I've seen us come back again for 16 years. I expect we'll do so in 2011. If you mean we'll never win anything without you or Charlie or Robbie, I suppose that could be true. The main point here is that we didn't find out yesterday if we can win anything WITH you, either. I would have liked to have found out. You're good players and I enjoyed being your teammate. Believe me, given the chance, I would have gladly sat on the bench all day yesterday and watched you guys carry my ass across the finish line.

CiCi said...

You played well and you have a great team.

Jeni said...

Aw, Jim - I know how much you love this game and your team too -what a strong supporter you are of everyone on the team -and I'm really sorry to hear of the loss in the Championship games for the Bombers. You can however take some consolation in the fact that you did play two decent games, didn't just hand the wins over to the Titans on a silver platter or anything like that. And now, just like my beloved old Pirates, you can say "There's still next year!" can't you? I expect you'll be back on the diamond in some way or another, playing, urging, coaching your team on once more!

Anonymous said...

I read every word, Jim, even the Stats, and I am so sorry you didn't win, but boyoboy you put up a good fight. I know it is an American thing-winning-and our attitude probably explains why we invent games and everyone else wins them...but I am proud of the fact that we go out and give it our best anyway. 'It's how you play the game that counts' [though winning is better, I agree.]XXXX

Buck said...

Well said in your reply to Patrick, Jim. FWIW... I didn't see ANY badmouthing in your post, only heartfelt disappointment. I think Patrick needs a moment of serious introspection.

Karen said...

I'm still checking in... I read the blog title and said "hallelujah" out loud! LOL

Shammickite said...

Those Titans look like a bunch of winps. They'll sink like the Titanic.

Jackie said...

I didn't take anything in your blog as badmouthing...and I know that you respect and admire each of your teammates. I hope that the air will clear and friendships will continue.

i beati said...

at least you are out there man in the thick - dream of next year all winter. Go Sox

~j said...

hubby1 had players on his teams that were tourney players...they played leagues for fun and tourneys were always priority. i can't tell you how many evenings were spent trying to round up an extra player or two so the league team didn't have to forfeit.

i'm sorry your team didn't get to see what they could do in the championship. but kudos to you for the admirable attitude!

and just when i thought the softball stories were coming to an end, my oldest joins a league.....


Unknown said...

It is sad to read that you lost the championship to the infamous Titans this year and even though I don't follow as intently as some the posts I did get to read this year made it sound like it was your year to shine. With that said however, I think you did shine. Everyone on your team plays with class and heart and your accounting of each game shows genuine support of your teammates as well as the game itself.

Congrats on a fantastic season :-)