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Thanks to everyone who helped with today’s BBQ, especially John Church and Tom Parks! And to everyone who brought some food to share!!
No, it was not Sal going six for six with two home runs or Chuck throwing a shutout. After a week of heavy rains, the Dana Middle School threw us a nasty "slider" by setting up a snow slide down the right field line on Friday, less than 24 hours before our games. "Oh, it will melt tonight," said the clueless teacher as all of four kids partook in the lame slide. Wiser heads knew otherwise.
The choices were clear - send out an emergency call to all Dana players who had snow shovels or find another place to play. Living right above the Carbrillo Recreation Center and their softball field, Dave Hunt went to the office late Friday morning to see if their field was available the next day. Yes, it was! And the nice people there even moved our Dana permit to Cabrillo. Of course, that was not enough - the infield still had puddles (but no snow). Once again, Norm to the rescue.
Just a short time later, using his newly reconditioned three-wheeler, Norm (Mr. Plow) dragged the infield for hours on Friday afternoon so that it could be dry enough for Saturday's games. Dave contaced the managers who got the word out. One former manager (who will remain nameless) said, "oh, just cancel the games, half the players won't show up." Not! In fact, every team had at least ten of their roster players for the games, even though the games had to be started 30 minutes earlier than normal.
The following Saturday, back at Dana, Norm was presented with his own customized jerseys, one for each Dana team color, in honor of all his great service to Dana. Do I hear Petco Park calling?
Going into the final week of the regular season, Purple had won but one game. Manager Ron Chesebro, having led Purple Haze to a first place finish the season before, wondered where it all went wrong. Would he be remembered in the long line of famous Purple Haze managers as the one who went from first to worst?
Facing the 8th place Green team in the last regular season game, managers Ron and Norm decided to make it a playoff elimination game with the winner going into the first week of the regular 8 team playoffs and the loser sitting out the next two weeks. Purple prevailed 20-16 to advance.
The following week, surveying the 5th place finisher Red team, Ron told Sal, "you're my pitcher for the whole game unless you keel over." At 87 years old, Sal had seen it all and simply shrugged and looked for a comfortable spot on the bench to rest until the visiting Purple took the field. Amazingly, Purple started strong, putting up 5 and 5 in the first two innings. Followed by the more usual 0 - 0 in the 3rd and 4th. Surely, they would fold, as they had so many other times this season. Midway through the next-to-last seventh inning, Sal, having walked a few batters, motioned to Ron that he was done and it was time for John Church to take over. John did just that, walking almost every batter he faced as Red closed the gap. But was there a secret strategy involved?
On to the last inning and Purple took a five run lead into the bottom of the 8th. And who took the mound (well, actually Dana has no pitching mound, but it sounds better anyway) for the fateful final inning? Well, none other than Sal, now rested after having John delay the previous inning with all those walks. Perhaps the wise old Ron Chesebro had planned this all along. Purple held on and won the game 23-19.
Now they would face Light Blue, led by "I've never seen a pitch I couldn't hit over the fence" Kevin O'Reilly, and their ace-in-the-hole "spring chicken" pitcher Chuck Eskins, some six years younger than Sal. With only moments to rest, surely it was curtains for the now exhausted Sal. Would John Church start the game as pitcher? In the first inning Purple scored 4 runs. But then put up what would be the only scoreless half inning of the game by either team. As Purple took the field, Sal slowly ambled out to the pitcher's spot. How long could he go? At 87, most of his peers were watching the game from heaven, wondering the same thing.
Light Blue started strong, matching Purple with a 4 spot in the first, and then adding 2 more to take a 6-4 lead after two innings. But something had changed in the makeup of the Purple team. Having averaged less than 13 runs per game in the regular season, their bats were rejuvenated. Purple put up two 5s in the 3rd and 4th! They were not done! Alas, Light Blue did the same to once again take a two run lead, 16-14 after four innings.
Time was running long in the game, mostly due to the large number of pitches that were not strikes. The umpire decided to make the 5th inning a one and sit inning, assuming that "this and one more" would occur during the 5th, making this a six inning affair. Or, more likely, the umpire figured a seven inning game might require the first time use of the AED.
Purple still managed three runs in the 5th. In their half of the 5th, Light Blue wore out Sal again, who departed for the return of John "I never faced a batter I couldn't walk" Church. Was the switcheroo strategy being employed again or was Sal really done for the day? This time, John crossed up a few Light Blue hitters and held them to four runs. It was now 20-17 in favor of Light Blue. The open inning awaited. The crowd (well, actually a small handful of spectators with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon) became anxious.
Purple batted and batted and batted. Even John Collins, having iced his shoulder after tripping and falling earlier in the game, batted, knowing to depart the game would mean an out would be recorded, ending their rally. When the dust and dirt had cleared, Purple had scored 7 runs to take a 24-20 lead. Who would pitch for Purple in the bottom of the sixth?
Well of course any nincompoop would know that Sal would once again trudge to the mound but how many would fathom that he did so without assistance? Light Blue was not done. They scored two and loaded the bases with two outs with Chuck Eskins due up. Chuck and his eagle eyes were not to be trifled with. He drew a walk and in came the 3rd run of the inning. Now it was 24-23 and the tying run was a tantalizing 70 feet away. But it was Purple's day. The batter grounded to 3rd and it was an easy step-on-the-bag to conclude this epic game. Remarkably, with the wind blowing out, not a single home run was hit.
Next week, Purple faces the Cardinal X-Men in the semifinal game. What further surprises await?
No one imagined the overstacked XXX-Men, superbly and masterfully drafted by the legendary manager Coach Mackey, would not win the league this past season. How does he always get two first rounders in the draft? And as expected the XXX-Men started the season with no fanfare, but marched through the start of the season, scoring at will and demoralizing their opponents. Coach Mackey wondered out loud one day, “just how many times does the letter X fit on one trophy”. With that in mind the XXX-Men decided to allow other teams to bask in the fleeting glory of winning a few games.
So with the Dead Arm pitcher, who took a Comebacker to the forearm and bloodied up the dugout, the XXX-Men, let the banjo, dying quail, Texas League, hitting teams have a chance. (Good to have an ER Dr. on your team, thanks Lennie) And so the cunning well-managed XXX-Men purposely slid to 7th place in the Dana League. All the other Skippers in the league, are thinking, “the XXX-Men aren’t what they used to be.” One game just to show how unthreatening the XXX-Men were, the Manager was INTENTIONALY WALKED FOR THE CYCLE. But Rules Commissioner, shortstop, Mick Parker pointed out that the last one was only a single because it was the last inning.
During this stretch; Jim “there’s a hole in my basket” Smyth, Dave ‘I stepped in something” Stanforth, Leroy “email is just a fad” LaRoche, Bill Pietz, and Norm “grasshopper” Young, were letting so many flyballs drop in the outfield, it looked like a Texas hail storm. The revolving door at 1st base with, Ron “grunt” Damschen, Mike “loud and proud” Cannon, Lennie “doc” Schulkind, and “grasshopper” made real, the phrase “WHO’S ON FIRST?” The rest of the infield was as solid as an ice pond in Palm Springs. With Kevin “let’s see how far I can hit this one” O’Reilly, Mick ‘Let’s see how far over the first baseman I can throw” Parker, and Ralph “I’ve never played on a championship team before” Reyes, manning the bases, it was up to the pitcher to hold the scores down. The Ace, came with everything, chin music, beanballs, brushbacks, change-ups, heat, high cheese, junk, knuckleball… he punched out and plunked more batters than Bob Gibson.
But in this era of “everybody is a winner” and we all make the playoffs, the XXX-Men were right where they wanted to be, in the “Fall Classic” as an underdog! The bats came alive, nearly every player on the team had at least one round tripper. In the 2nd playoff game the XXX-Men’s clean-up hitter, Kevin, hit a tater, four bagger, frozen rope, off Dave “the human rain delay” Hunt, toward the Short porch in left, that has not landed yet. Leaving the XXX-Men to play without their slugger for the next game, against the mistakenly hopeful Blues Brothers that had stolen first place in the regular season. It was brutal and there were contentious moments and a near Rhubarb over a bat, pointed out too late by Pat “ smokeless” Canney. The XXX-Men, true to their plan, overcame that and were in the championship game, with their five tool slugger back in the lineup against the baby Powder Blues. How many blues are there in a rainbow anyway?
So the XXX-Men win another championship. Norm ‘grasshopper” Young has been schooled and mentored well by the master. He will be out on his own now with a team that will have to face the new X-Men, and wonder if his master taught him “EVERYTHING”, or not.