Yes! Yes! No-No. Three Cheers For The No-Han!

Well check another item off the bucket list – one that I was beginning to think would never happen, and definitely not by my favorite team. Last night I was lucky enough to be at Citi Field with my two sons, Bobby and Danny and witness Johan Santana’s no-hitter. It was the first no-hitter in the 50+ year history of the New York Mets coming in game #8020.

When the St. Louis Cardinals went down in the first, as expected, I turned to my sons and said, “Johan’s got a no-hitter through one”. As anyone who has attended a game with me knows, I always watch for that first hit. In every one of the hundreds of games I’ve attended before, I would inevitably end up saying, “well there goes the no-hitter”. That’s not to say that I’m not superstitious. If it makes it into the 5th, then I stop talking about it. I’ve come close before: Tom Seaver on 1971 vs. the Pirates, Bobby Jones in the 2000 NLDS, John Maine’s 5 inning rain shortened game against the Braves in 2007, and the 5 pitcher combined game against the Rockies in 2008.

Last night, Johan and Adam Wainwright matched zeroes for 4 innings. The last comment I made to the boys was that Johan would need to throw 135 pitches to complete this one – not likely since the most pitched he had ever thrown (before the surgery) was around 125.

A problem with superstitions is that you end up putting yourself into some weird situations. None of three of us moved out of our seats while Johan was on the mound and we never went back to a concession stand line after inning one. In fact, even though it started to drizzle and got a little cold, I refused to put my jacket on and cover my Santana jersey. I have to admit, I had goose bumps and was shaking a little. A combination of the cold and the excitement.

The three things that we worried about most were Carlos Beltran (this was his return to Citi Field with a lukewarm reception at best), Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright. No need to go into the details and somewhat interesting plot twists for diehard Mets fans. Non-Mets fans wouldn’t get it.

The first bizarre incident of the evening was when the group of women (with southern accents) who were sitting next to us, up and left in the 5th inning. They had been going back and forth to the concession stand every half inning  but were very polite and apologetic. As they rose in unison in the 5th, they apologized again and said that this was the last time they would disturb us as they were heading back to their hotel. Really?

The next event was the Beltran line drive down the left field line. I am not going to say anything more about it other than bad calls are a part of the game. Ask Jeffery Mayer, Joaquin Andujar, Fred Merkle, et al. To those that want to discredit Johan’s accomplishment because of this – get over it!

When I mentioned Wainwright, Beltran and Yadier ‘bleeping’ Molina I was alluding to game 7 of the 2006 NLCS (I know that I said I wouldn’t get into it). I was at that game with the family and witnessed what to this day is the greatest catch I’ve seen live by Endy Chavez to rob Scott Rolen of a 2-run homerun, turning into a double play. Chavez’s catch was overshadowed by Molina’s homerun, and Wainwright’s striking out Beltran looking to end the game with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. In the 7th inning of last night’s game I saw what is the 2nd greatest catch I’ve seen. Mike Baxter made a great catch to preserve Johan’s no-hitter in the 7th. It may not have been quite as spectacular as Endy’s, however, the fact that he held onto it as he crashed hard in the wall displacing his right collarbone next to his sternum and fracturing rib cartilage was remarkable. It was one of the gutsiest plays I’ve seen.

The next bizarre moment came at the end of the 8th inning. After the Mets were retired, a couple a row in front of got up to leave. Incredulously, I asked if they were leaving. To which they replied “yes”. I couldn’t help myself and responded with “Really? When we’re on the verge of seeing something that hasn’t happened in the 50 year history of the Mets?”. They’re answer was, “we’re from England”. To which Bobby said, “that’s the worst reason I’ve ever heard”.

Johan got stronger as the game went on. Thank goodness the 8th and 9th went quickly although the 9th did have its moments. Matt Holliday’s broken bat floater looked like it might drop in before Andres Torres rushed in to grab it. Allen Craig’s flair to left was caught by an on rushing Kirk Nieuwenhuis to get to the 2nd out. After going 3-0 to 2011 World Series hero, David Freese, we glanced at the on deck circle to see Molina standing there. Our only thought was no, not again. Johan then battled back to 3-2 and the small crowd (although I’m sure 300,000 people or more will say that they were there) was in a frenzy. As Freese swung and missed at pitch #134 for strike three, Josh Thole turned to the umpire as if to confirm “game over?”. The celebration then erupted.

This was the greatest pitching performance I have ever witnessed in person, narrowly eclipsing game #161 of 2008 when Johan, on 3 days rest, on a knee that was to require off-season surgery, pitched a 3 hitter to keep the Mets post-season hope alive.

Danny said it best – this was reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s, “For The Love of The Game”.

We stayed around for a while after the game and just soaked in the atmosphere and took some pictures for the scrapbook. As we finally left the jubilant stadium we needed to pass through a group that started to walk to their buses just as we approached. As the line moved past, we became part of the longest high five line that we have ever been a part of. It was a fitting end to the night.

For the numerologists, the superstitious, and conspiracy theorists: the Mets runs scored – 8, hits – 8, the sum of the digits of Johan’s pitches – 8 (1+3+4), the number of Santana strikeouts – 8, the number on the jersey of the fan that crashed the party – 8, the number on the dugouts, outfield wall and jersey patches – Gary Carter’s #8. Coincidence? Maybe. By the way, Gary lost his battle this year at the young age of 57. Santana’s uniform number – 57! By the way, remember the three players from the 2006 NLCS that I mentioned: Wainwright (#50), Beltran (#3), and Yadier Molina (#4) – 57!!! We miss you, Kid.

As amazing as this all was, let’s not forget that they still are the Mets. While running from the bullpen to join the celebration, reliever, Ramon Ramirez, strained his hamstring and landed himself on the DL.

The Alert Fire Hose Company Caps Inaugural Season With Championship

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The Alert Fire Hose Company capped its inaugural season in the Coltsville Vintage Base Ball League (CVBBL) by capturing the 2011 championship. An air of gentlemanly sportsmanship permeated the atmosphere as the Alerts played Barnie’s Blue Boys in a spirited match on October 15, 2011. It was base ball at its best and a perfect example of what this league represents.

The Alert Fire Hose Company are:

  • Bill “Firehouse” Abbott, Captain
  • Billy “Sniper” Abbott
  • Matt “Guns” Abbott
  • Lauren “Bullet” Gagnon
  • Tom “Halfway” Hare
  • Steve “Ragweed” Karavolis
  • Donald Laperle
  • Bobby “One Shoe” Ratzenberger
  • Roger “Molasses” Ratzenberger
  • John “Hammer” Saitta
  • Greg “Sarge” Sargis
  • Scott “Pig Pen” Sheahen
  • Brianna “Bumper” Sullivan
  • Andy “Porter” Venturo
  • James “Crazy Legs” Wigren

The CVBBL teams play base ball by 1860s rules in games that are held at the Hartford Base Ball Grounds at Colt Meadows in Hartford, CT. A doubleheader is played each weekend during the season with the 1st game played by 1861 Rules and the 2nd by 1865 Rules. For base ball lovers this league provides a great way to not only learn more about the history of our National Pastime but have fun living it as well.

This season was more fun than I could have imagined when I attended a match last year and decided to give it a try. We came a long way over the course of the season and I am proud to be a member of the team and the league and look forward to helping the Alerts defend our title next season. Hip Hip Huzzah!

The Friends of Vintage Base Ball promotes living history by bringing the 19th century to life through Civil War era base ball providing cultural enrichment and education programs and activities to youth and adults. As a 501(c)3 corporation, FoVBB relies upon grants, sponsorships and donations to fund its programs and activities.

The Alert Fire Company (a short game video)

A video tribute to the Alert Fire Hose Company’s Inaugural season.

The Alert Fire Hose Company

The Baseball Gods Were Smiling

OMG – what a GREAT night for baseball fans. Could there have been any more excitement on the last day of the regular season? UNBELIEVABLE! I am still exhausted and need to get some sleep tonight. The Cardinals and the Rays – who would have believed it?

Let’s set the stage. Here are the standings on September 1 and at the end of the regular season. The final chapter, played out last night and resulted in the shuffling of the final 4 teams.

 

Last night was one on the most exciting 5 hours of regular season baseball that I can remember. I spent the night flipping channels between the Red Sox & Orioles on NESN, the Braves and Phillies on ESPN, the Cardinals  and Astros on ESPN 2 and the Yankees and Rays on YES while following Ryan Braun and the Brewers on Gameday at MLB.com. My fingers are sore too.

Just think about it:

  • OK, there was one game without drama. The Cardinals/Astros had about as much excitement as you could expect from an Astros’ game this year.
  • The Rays were down 7-0 early and that deficit remained until late into the game.
  • The Phillies overcame a 3-1 deficit, tying the game with 2 outs in the 9th and breaking through with the winning run with 2 outs in the 13th.
  • The Red Sox carried a 3-2 lead through a rain delay into the 9th where with 2 outs and no one on base, the Orioles rallied to score the tying and wining runs.
  • The Rays rallied with 6 runs in the 8th, had a 2 out, 2 strike homerun to tie the game in the 9th. They won it on a walk-off solo homerun in the 12th just about 4 minutes after the Red Sox completed their historic collapse.

How much more excitement could you ask for than to have the two playoff spots come down to game 162, depending on four games: one that was decided in the 9th inning and two that had late inning comebacks and were decided in extra innings.

At the risk of putting a little damper on this baseball love fest, we have something else to be grateful for. Under the new Wild Card format, last night would have lost all of its glitter as all four of the teams in question would have already have punched their tickets to the post-season. Although, today, there are two teams would have loved to have played under that format this season.

The bar has been set pretty high for this year’s post-season. Let’s hope that it can live up to the night of the 162s.

God I love baseball!!!

Another Member of The Baseball Hall of Fame Fraternity Lost

I just heard the sad news of the passing of Hall of Fame manager, Dick Williams. Williams who posted a career record of 1,571-1,451 is the one of only two managers to win pennants with three different teams. He did so with the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s with whom he won back-to-back World Championships in 1972 and 1973. In 1973, his team broke my heart defeating my New York Mets in 7 games. A point that I shared with him when I met him briefly at this year’s Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand. (I recently wrote about this year’s Classic weekend in 2011 Hall of Fame Classic.)

 

He concluded his managerial career with a 1-1 record in the Hall of Fame Classic as he managed both teams. In a very strange twist of fate, he also became the third (of the last 3) managers of the Classic to pass away within a year of their managing the team. Baseball lost last year’s managers, Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew this past winter which I referenced prior to this year’s Classic weekend in Hall of Fame Classic Reminiscing. I don’t think that people will be lining up for that job next year.

 

 

Here’s saluting Dick Williams and the other two baseball greats, Feller and Killebrew, who brought a lot of enjoyment to baseball fans.

 

2011 Hall of Fame Classic

Another great time was had by all at the 2011 Hall of Fame Classic on Father’s Day. The new tradition of the Hall of Fame Classic continues to provide fun, reminiscing and new memories. The parade, hitting contest and Voices of the Game round out the main activities of the weekend.

This year an added opportunity for members to have their photo taken with the Hall of Famers in attendance. This years legends were: Dick Williams, Jim Rice, Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Phil Neikro and Ozzie Smith.

The Voices of the Game event produced a few memorable highlights as it always does. In one exchange, the Goose was talking about how he had talked Dick Williams into letting him pitch to Kirk Gibson in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. On a 1-0 pitch, Gibson belted a 3-run homerun that according to Williams, damaged three seats – in a row! Goose blamed Williams for letting him talk Williams into not taking him out of the game.

Goose also said that it now takes three people to do what relievers like himself and Rollie Fingers used to do. However, he thinks that baseball has it right now with the advent of the one inning closer. He said that relievers (closers) were abused in his time. But he also said that he liked being abused.

Jim Rice spent a lot of time poking fun at Ozzie Smith’s “power”.

As Bobby and I had our photo op with the Hall of Fame members, we had another memorable moment. The group before us had a 10-12 year-old boy wearing a Mets jersey and cap. Jim Rice wished him luck since Madoff had all of the Mets’ money. Mets fans can’t even get away from the abuse at the mecca of the baseball world. No wonder Mets fans have an inferiority complex. Anyway, as the boy walked away, Goose called to him. He said “don’t try any of that Reyes stuff or I’ll be coming after you”.

The hitting contest was nothing if not entertaining. It came down to a battle between Dmitri Young and Reggie Sanders. Dmitri Young was the official winner, however, with some loose scoring, I’m not convinced that they shouldn’t have gone back for a video replay.

The game was a lot of fun. It was a beautiful and they played two – hours that is. Jon Warden was up to his usual hijinks as the Designated Humorist. Bill Lee was impressive taking a vintage (circa 1880s) approach to the game. He played the outfield, caught and pitched. While pitching, at the urging of fans, he tossed the ol’ eephus pitch which Dmirti Young promptly deposited well over the left field fence. Playing vintage (circa 1860s) base ball myself, I could enjoy Bill’s performance and gained even more respect for the Spaceman.

It was great seeing some other favorites from the past including Dale Murphy, Rick Wise and Willie Wilson. There were a lot of empty seats, but for true baseball fans, the Classic is better than its predecessor, the Hall of Fame Game. I’d much rather see the Hall of Famers and former stars play in an “Old Timer’s Game” format than see major leaguers take an at bat or two and turn it over to a bunch of minor leaguers.

Dmitri Young topped off his weekend by not only winning the Hitting Contest but also winning the inaugural Bob Feller “MVP” award. To make the award even more special, it was presented by Mrs. Bob Feller.

Once again, it was more than worth the price of admission. However, I think that it might go over better on a different weekend. At first I thought that Father’s Day weekend was a good idea. Now I’m not so sure. In any event, if you’re a fan, its an opportunity that you don’t want to miss.

Hall of Fame Classic Reminiscing

As Father’s Day rapidly approaches, so does the 3rd annual Hall of Fame Classic. It’s hard to believe that we are only two years removed from the Inaugural Classic which provided what was probably the last opportunity to see Rapid Robert Feller pitch. He started the game and did himself proud.

Feller Starts the Inaugural HOF Classic at Age 90

It is even more difficult to believe that we are only one year removed from the 2nd annual game where the honorary captains were Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew. Both of whom we lost within the last year.

 

The Highlight of the Parade

Baseball lost its greatest ambassador in Bob Feller and a class act in Harmon Killebrew. They don’t make them like that anymore. I’m excited about this year’s weekend events, however, it will be tempered by the reminder of the loss of these two immortals. They will be sorely missed and will never be replaced.

Fox Sports: Unbiased, Not

How about some unbiased broadcasting? Fox Sports is about as “Fair and balanced” as their brethren, Fox News. Tim McCarver has been anti-Mets since they dumped him. The Mets have been terrible but have not been pathetic over the last 8 years as the baseball genius stated. And the rooting for Brave HRs by his partner? The Mets may be bad but the Fox broadcast is worse!!! BTW, Tim accurately described the last 4 Mets losses as bitter. If there’s one thing that Tim knows, its bitter.

I wonder why Fox Sports didn’t like this post.

Paradox: The Vintage Spaceman?

A couple of weeks ago, the Hall of Fame celebrated its 3rd Annual Hall of Fame Classic. I briefly chronicled the weekend in The 2011 Hall of Fame Classic. After musing over the “Classic” weekend, I felt that I wanted to elaborate a little on the previous blog entry. In it I mentioned that seeing the Vintage Bill Lee was a treat but, I decided that I’d like to share a few more thoughts as well as additional photos.

I always was a fan of the Spaceman – who always stood out as a a player that really enjoyed life and the game. I must admit that I struggled a bit with the paradox of the Spaceman as a Vintage player, but in name only. If you overlook the nickname, he’s a natural.

Playing Vintage base ball (yes, two words), I understand the fun and sheer enjoyment of the game. My league plays 1861 and 1864 rules and I would guess by the glove that Lee plays 1880’s rules. The thing that impressed me most is that it’s one thing to play Vintage base ball, however, it’s another to play old school in a modern game. And that’s just what Bill Lee did. Not only that, he played 1st base, outfield, behind (or catcher) and hurler (or pitcher).

Bill Lee is an ambassador of the game of baseball. Something that the game needs more of in this era. Especially at a time when the game lost its biggest one in Bob Feller. As I said, I’ve always been a fan of Lee – but this just took it to another level.

So, Mr. Lee (Spaceman just doesn’t seem appropriate), kudos from a member of the Alert Fire House Company of the Coltsville Vintage Base Ball League. I hope you keep playing, enjoying life and the game. I with the rest of your fans will hope to see you again at next year’s Hall of Fame Classic.

Some Bill Lee Hall of Fame Classic moments. Click on a photo for a larger, full view.

 

 

Mourning The Passing Of A Baseball Legend

Very sad news tonight. Hall of Fame pitcher and the premier ambassador of baseball, Bob Feller, died tonight at 92. I count myself lucky to have seen him pitch in the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic last year at the age of 90 and throw out the first pitch and manage a team at this year’s event. It was always a pleasure to hear him speak. The last two years spoke at the Voices of the Game events in Cooperstown, and was the center of attention even while be surrounded by several other Hall of Famers. Bob always told the story about how his fastball was clocked at 107.9 miles per hour in 1946, however, he still said that Walter Johnson was the fastest pitcher that he ever saw.

I will never forget an early summer night at Yale Field in 1994. Our 5 year-old T-ball team was the New Haven Ravens team of the night. To our pleasant surprise, it also turned out to be Bob Feller night. Bob, in uniform, was there to throw out the first pitch. He actually pitched to one of our parents in a pre-game event (to this day I wish it were me). Our parent who still played baseball at the time, could only manage to dribble one ball through the infield. Bob was in his 80s! His fastball wasn’t what it once was, however, he still had his curve ball.

Prior to our team running on to the field for the National anthem, they surrounded Bob and tugged at his uniform. He patiently talked baseball to the children, and asked if anyone knew the name of the Indian on the Cleveland hat. To this day, the children (now in their 20s) can all tell you that the name of that Indian is Chief Wahoo. They will also tell you that they know because Bob Feller told them so!

Bob Feller lived and breathed the game of baseball and was its penultimate ambassador. He will never be forgotten nor can he ever be replaced.

Congratulations To The San Francisco Giants

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on their 1st World Championship for the Bay area. The Texas Rangers had a great run but ran into some great pitching. I don’t care what the ratings say – it was a great series. Better luck next year, Nolan.

As the season has come to a close, Bart Giamatti’s description of baseball still rings true:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

Looking forward to an interesting Mets off-season and pitchers and catchers on Feb 18, 2011.