Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who's To Blame?

When names like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Bobby Orr and Jim Brown are brought up, what comes to mind? I'd venture a guess that topics such as shooting your self in the leg, dog fighting, womanizing, and other random sexual transgressions aren't first. For me, these great athletes that our fathers grew up reading about in the newspaper and seeing on TV were iconic figures, demigods almost, two-dimensional stars that they looked up to as kids on the walls of their bedrooms.

Almost all my thoughts about these sports deities are positive, whether it be The Splendid Splinter giving up five years in the prime of his career to fly planes for the U.S. Armed Forces, or Russell and Wilt's epic battles between each other on the court – and their subsequent friendship off it; And Hammerin' Hank, an African-American who endured the wrath of breaking the all-time longball record the immortal Babe Ruth held for so long in one of America's most tumultuous eras. Bobby Orr and Jim Brown seem to me men that worked damn hard to get where they got and deserved every last bit of praise for what they did on their fields of battle.

Kids, and probably adults too, looked up to these athletes because they all appeared to us mere humans clean as whistles, a more impressive breed of men that stood above all others, succeeding the most in the darkest hour to come out victorious.

But today's athletes . . . They now appear mere humans like us, except they make tens of millions of dollars and get their photos taken by TMZ, their personal lives strewn across the internet like Kool-Aid splattered across a kitchen counter. The media saturation is unbelievable. The closest thing to squeaky clean and cool-as-a-cucumber athlete todsay is Tiger Woods. The man is in some way realted to Teflon, I'm not sure how.

Other than the flesh-and-bones melting pot himself, no one comes to mind as seemingly other-worldly, a dominant figure. Tiger pulled what is commonly refer to as a "Willis Reed" in the recent past, playing in, and winning, the 2008 U.S. Open with a torn ACL and stress fractures in his tibia, and I think it was legitimate. He rose above, called upon extra will and determination, and Got. It. Done.
Somehow, Tiger seems to have stayed above the constant barrage of media pokings and proddings, while most of our other "super star" athletes' lives are hung out like a load of laundry on a clothesline across Mass Ave.
I can only assume that the idols our fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles looked up to tended to have stranger-than-normal personal lives off the courts, fields and rinks than you and I. They had skeletons to hide, I'm sure, but they stayed out of the light of day because those were different times. The Media's agenda has changed enormously since those Glory Days. Stand-up, blue collar, family-oriented stars are not featured on ESPN; trouble-makers and show-boaters are.
I don't think anyone will ever hold a candle to Orr, Muhammed Ali, Williams, Aaron or Russell, et al. They are elevated for all eternity in my eyes. The question is, do we – or will we ever – know all there is to know about these athletes? More importantly, would you really want to know if Ted Williams killed someone while driving drunk, or that Wilt had a gambling problem and had a penchant for young girls from Colorado?
If there are stories that have been permanantly swept under the rug, I'm glad. Because when it comes to the athlete-fan relationship, ignorance is bliss.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Drilled.... and Pissed

Question for you: what do Nick O'Keefe, Brian Curran, Adam Kulis, Jim Farrell and Brian Millea have in common?

Answer: earlier this week, they all plunked one batter or more in South Boston's 9-5 win over the McKay Club. It was a weird game that saw a first inning grand slam by Kent Anderson, some poor base running and flaring tempers.

While it was fun on the bench, trying to figure out what make-shift weapons we would take to the field with us in the case of a brawl stemming from seven hit batters in one game, the occurrence was more an aberration that anything else. Seven HBPs in one game? Really? That shouldn't happen.

Mike Barthel of the Beacons took the brunt of this extravaganza, as he took one off the hands in the first inning and another between the numbers in the third. After his back got zapped by a Jim Farrell (now 3-1 this season) fastball, he took two steps towards the mound, probably more in frustration than anything, and tempers flared momentarily.

But the bigger question I pose to you guys out there is this: have you ever seen a legitimate bench-clearing brawl in the Yawkey League? When was it? Was it an all-out Donnybrook? Care to share your experience?

The other, less-interesting and colorful question is, Have you ever seen seven hit-batters one a YBL game? Share if you'd like. It's such a once-in-a-career occurrence that I'd love to know if it has ever happened before.

Thanks for returning if you frequented this blog last season. If you're a first-timer, welcome and know that the YBL News Blog should be back in mid-season form soon. Summer is upon us, and the Yawkey League is teeming with story lines. If there's anything you'd like to see here this summer, shoot me an email.

Friday, February 6, 2009

YBL Board Convenes amid talks of Schedule Shortening.

If you haven't been here in a while, no need to worry – nothing has changed. There have been no aesthetic changes to the Yawkey League News and Action blog.

But now, in the doldrums of February, with snow blanketing our splendid playing surfaces and the bitter cold freezing nipples at an alarming rate, there is news coming from the bowels of the YBL. As many of you probably already know, the West Roxbury Devils and Cambridge Spinners have been contracted and are no longer a part of the YBL schedule. At the time news broke, League President David McKay said "more [contractions] may come," but at this point, the number of teams still stands at 15.

As a result of this, the Board of Directors is convening on Sunday, February 8 to discuss chopping as many as six games off the season schedule, bringing the total down to 26 games.

I know last season in the comments section of this blog (where many a feeling was hurt), there were rumblings of players who advocated the contraction of teams and a trimming of the schedule. Well, now those rumblings have come to fruition, pretty much, and I'm happy about it.

I think the YBL had become slighty watered down over the last two seasons, and since the number of games forfeited went up last season (not just the weather-related ones), the contraction and possible schedule-trimming will be a good thing. My only gripe will be if the number dips as low as 26 games, because 28 are needed if there are going to be 15 teams in the league. A 28-game schedule would give very team a chance to play the other 14 teams twice – once at home, once on the road.

Also, some of the impact players from the Devils and Spinners can reintegrate with other YBL teams, bumping up the overall talent of the league.

Count me in. The Board of Directors gets my vote.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Doctor's Orders

As a silhouette of oranges, pinks and blues cascaded across the evening sky in left field at Trum in Somerville, you could sense that a great game would ensue. The Alibrandis would not go quietly into the night, down one games to nothing in a best of three series against the Bluefish of East Boston.

It took only one lucky hop for Somerville to find it's bearings and beat the Bluefish 4-1 in front of a sparse home crowd Sunday night.

After two singles sandwiched around a bunted third strike gave Eastie runners on first second with one out, Marc Desroches broke a curve off that bounced in the dirt, allowing both runners to advance. Two pitches later, a fastball sneaked by Somerville's catcher.

East Boston's Kyle Jones broke for the plate immediately, but Somerville's short backstop created a favorable bounce and, with Desroches covering plate, he was able to slap the tag on Jones just in time to cut down the run and preserve the scoreless tie.

After a pop out to the third baseman ended the top of the third inning, a resounding "let's go!" rang from Somerville's already chirping bench, a clear sign that the Alibrandis would not let this game slip away.

East Boston's Matt Vezina had pitched well through two innings, but the third would prove to be his undoing. After a single and an error by the shortstop gave Somerville two on and no one out, a 3-2 curve missed in the dirt to load the bases for Dave Scioli.

After a chat on the mound, Vezina and his sharp curve ball faced off against Scioli and his quick bat. Somerville's short stop jumped on the second pitch he saw -- a waist-high fastball -- and deposited it high and deep over the scoreboard in left field to give his pitcher all the run support he would need on this night.

A smattering of Malden Bulldogs were in attendance as well, presumably scouting out their potential next opponent.

I know Somerville and Malden aren't the most popular topics in these parts, but who in their right mind wouldn't want to watch these two teams duel for five games?

In fact, if you're not interested in that, you can not consider your self a baseball fan.

There, I said it.

Please Check all Bats at the Door, Please.

Now that’s the way baseball playoffs should be: Crisp, quick and full of pitching duels.

I love pitching. Especially great pitching. The winning pitchers in the game ones (Sandini, East Boston; Tenney, South Boston; Del Rio, Malden; Christina, Brighton Brewers) combined for 26 innings. Only 12 hits were surrendered and no runs or earned runs were allowed by the fantastic foursome.

Sandini did his beat heart attack impression by walking seven Alibrandis.

Del Rio was his old dominant self, whiffing eight and walking one over five innings.

Christina proved me wrong by pitching his ass off in a two-hit, two-walk, four-strikeout complete game win. Mucc 26 is probably smiling as he reads this

Tenney reminded me what South Boston is capable of with his seven-strikeout, no walk effort against Gildea and the Medford Maddogs. Gildea worked it as best he could, hopefully silencing some of his nay-sayers. Props to him.

More to come tomorrow.

An appearance at a playoff game tonight may be in the works.

Boo, rain. Hooray, pitching!

Monday, August 11, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is the Playoffs

With weather that Seattle residents and the Irish are used to, I figured a few photos of worse scenarios would be a good way to uplift the spirits of the Yawkey League faithful.

Check these out:

This is a Field in Zionsville, Indiana. This is the wretched destruction that happened in May of 2002.

And you thought Ronan Park had pooling water...

Speaking of Ronan Park... This photo was taken by Stefanie Burns, loyal McKay Club fan and girlfriend of the Blog Man. This was Sunday, as lightning sparked up Boston's inner harbor and rain turned Ronan's infield from clay pot to mud puddle.

Oh, look at that beautiful sunset over that lake, er, I mean ... baseball field? Yup, Carol Kathleen, care of Flickr submits this photo of a baseball field from a school in her area.

Admire the splendor and despise the water. If only Ross Field were this beautiful...

The weather will figure its self out. The water will be gone eventually. It always evaporates. That's the great thing about Mother Nature. She's a catch-22 bitch, isn't she?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Playoff Previews

With all but one playoff spot sewed up (thanks again, Mother Nature), I figured it was time to preview a few of the upcoming playoff match-ups, compare teams and make first-round predictions.

The first round should be like a UFC fight: quick, and fun to watch.

first up . . .

#2 Somerville Alibrandis vs. # 7 Revere Rockies

2007's Champion takes on a team that got bounced in the first round last season. The Rockies and the Alibrandis split their regular season meetings with the road team coming out on top each time.

I hear that Alibrandis Steve Durant will not be eligible for the playoffs, but a fresh Doc and Co. will take care of business on the mound. With Bucci setting the table and Steve Corda and Ned Coffee cleaning it up, Revere might be able to get some work done offensively, but the absence of base path menace Pete John will prove costly for the Rockies here.

Mike McCarthy is a solid number one starter, but he can't start every game and I don't have enough confidence in any other Revere pitcher silencing Somerville's bats long enough to escape with a win in this series.

My prediction is Somerville in two.

# 3 South Boston Saints vs. # 6 Medford Maddogs

This series could be the one to watch in the first round. South Boston's Jon Tenny is well rested and ready for the playoffs, only throwing 32 innings this season. Opposing him on the mound will be Cy Young candidate Sean Gildea, whose 0.50 ERA will be tested by an offense that was sixth in batting average, fifth in home runs and seventh in sacrifices this season.

The Saints' well-rounded offense is led by Rob Linn (only 5 K's in 103 AB, 20 RBIs), while Medford's cagey offensive game relies a lot on sacrifices, running and timely hitting.

Even though Southie took both meetings against the Maddogs this year, these two teams seem evenly matched. I want to give the edge to Medford, but I need to know if Gildea can put the 2007 playoffs behind him and keep his spectacular season going into the playoffs. Whoever wins game one wins the series.

Look for Gildea to step up and Medford to advance in three.

#4 East Boston Bluefish vs. #5 Brighton Brewers

Teams don't win championships with offense, but they could win a three game series with it. This series has the potential to be a barn-burning fiasco, with East Boston and the Brewers top three in the league in hits, hitting, slugging, RBI's and OPS.

The Brewers are the most patient team at the plate with 159 walks and they have nine players with at least 10 RBI's. The Bluefish are second in home runs (11) and first in triples (14), but have also swiped 47 bases and sacrificed 17 times, showing their ability to play different styles of baseball.

What East Boston possesses that the Brewers don't is power arms. East Boston's pitching staff has the most strikeouts in the league and they defeated the Brew Crew twice this season, 8-1 and 4-1 respectively. Their high walk numbers are a bit troublesome and may haunt them in later rounds, but against the Brewers, Kyle Jones and Chris Sandini need not worry. They should have just enough pitching to make it by the Iafolla-led Brewers in the first round.

East Boston in three lengthy, high scoring games.

Pitcher and Hitter of the week, 7/28 - 8/03


Pitching was Where It's At this week in the Yawkey League, as 9 shutouts were thrown and 21 times a team was held to two runs or less. Hooray, Location!

Another one of the Maldenites has earned himself one of these awards made out of milk chocolate, fiberglass and shrapnel.

Ken Olinsky threw his best game of the season against a Savin Hill team who came ready to play.Malden sqeaked out a 1-0 victory behind Olinsky's 10 K's, 0 BB's and two hits. He needed only 80 pitches to swat the hornets away in complete game fashion and the game took only 90 minutes to play. Umpires everywhere smile.


I'd first like to acknowledge the Yawkey League single-game performance of the week. Doesn't happen very often (actually, it's never happened), so enjoy it. Somerville's Justin Crisafulli drove in all four runs in his team's 4-1 win over the South End Astros with two homeruns. He also hit a double.

In related news, Somerville is on fire at exactly the right time. Giggity.

Al Becker takes home this week's trophy with this body of work: 7-for-12 over three games with a homerun, four RBI's and five runs scored. Becker's home run, his second of the season, came against the South End Astros, who seem to be giving up home runs to just about everyone, including the milkman. Becker is having himself quite the nice season in East Boston, where he's hitting a robust .407, and getting on base once every two at bats.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Sinker and the Sniper

Prior to July 14, the last time Eamonn McDonough threw a pitch in the Yawkey League was the last time we were this upset with Manny Ramirez. On August 5, 2006, McDonough, the Medford Maddogs' ace at the time, pitched against the Revere Rockies and was hit hard, allowing five runs on 14 hits over seven innings. He absorbed that 5-2 loss and the 14 hits he allowed (a career-high through two-plus seasons) and said goodbye to his Maddog teammates and the Yawkey League for 23 months.

Then, during the second week of June, 2008, Maddogs head coach Dave Henley received a phone call from his 6-foot-7 pitcher. Still in Iraq, Army Sergeant Eamonn Mcdonough had a question for his coach. The answer was easy for Henley.

"He called us [the Maddogs] about a month before he was coming back and said 'what are the chances of me pitching when I get back there?'" Henley recalls. "I said 'hah, just come to the game. I'll have a uniform ready for you."

On July 14, in his first game back on the mound in almost two years, the Maddogs' missing ace was rusty, not his usual formidable self. In a case of ultimate irony, McDonough allowed 14 hits, which led to 11 Savin Hill runs, eight of which were earned. The good news, though, for McDonough, Henley and the rest of the Maddogs, was that they won the game and their other ace was back.

For the time being, anyway.

Eamonn, prior to the game on the 14th, had been through the U.S. Army's basic training and gone to Iraq as a Military Police officer. He was part of a team of body guards and was given the responsibility of protecting a Sergeant General in the middle of an unpredictable and unstable Baghdad city. "He's been hit with shrapnel," says Henley, also McDonough's friend of six years. "You know, not bad, but he's been shot at [too], and he's shot back."

Like many soldiers returning from overseas deployments, McDonough needed something to get his mind off, something to fill the void. Baseball was at the forefront for him, the same way it was for Yawkey League veteran Chris Deane 16 years ago.

Deane, currently a member of the Malden Bulldogs, spent a year between Somalia and Iraq as a U.S. Marine in 1992 after the battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. When he got home, he only had two things on his mind: His family, and baseball. "For me," he says, "I [wanted] to see my family and play some ball.

"It was awesome to come home and not have to worry about anything. You go to baseball and that's all you think about."

Although McDonough's stay back home was short -- only two weeks -- he managed to pitch in five games for the Maddogs, a team that has as legitimate a shot as any other at knocking off perennial powerhouse Somerville. He finished his 2008 stint with the Maddogs with a 2-0 record, one save and a 4.20 ERA in 15 innings pitched. Those numbers don't portray just how good Eamonn was before he joined the army.

Starting in 2004, when Medford first entered the Yawkey League, the rotation consisted mainly of McDonough and Sean Gildea, who is currently one of the front-runners for this season's Cy Young award. Henley says it was between him and Gildea as to who the ace was. In 2004, McDonough had more innings pitched (72.2), more strikeouts (76) and a lower ERA (1.44) than Gildea. In 2005, Eamonn matched 2004's win total of seven games while his ERA dropped to 1.36.

Back then, Deane says, the battle for ace status was fierce. "He [Eamonn] was always Medford's number-one and Gildea hated that. He was the number-one guy, he was the go-to guy, so if he's a number-one with [Gildea there ...] then that says something about him.

"He's definitely a very good to great pitcher in this league."

What makes McDonough special in Henley's eyes, and in his former teammates' eyes, is his unselfishness and his great attitude at all times. "He's the perfect teammate," says Henley. "Whatever you ask him to do, he'll do it. He never gets upset.

"You could make 42 errors behind him and he wouldn't open his mouth. He'll say 'gimme the ball, we'll get him next time.' He never, ever complains."

Henley adds that "the kids love playing behind him" because he works quick and throws a lot of ground balls due to a three-quarters delivery that produces a high-quality sinker.

"They'd just like to see him come back [from Iraq]."

The odd thing is, says Henley, is that he wants to go back to Iraq. Eamonn wanted to go back so badly that he re-upped his service time. "He had six more months of a tour and he already extended it an additional six months," Henley explains. "He would obviously much rather stay here, but he knows he can't."

Luckily for McDonough though, there's a chance to play softball while he's back in Iraq for another year.

It'll be as close to baseball as he can get for now.