Tag Archives: Babe Ruth

To the Help

This one goes out to the help. The volunteers. The community. The common thread found among a group. Maybe it’s a passion that you didn’t realize you had, but you couldn’t stay away knowing that things needed to be done right.

I know I have said this, maybe too many times, over the last 15 years, but I believe it, it’s all about the kids. So, when we get put to the test to host a baseball tournament at Allard Park, we do so. But we do so with a flair for the perfect. I don’t mean to say we are perfect or do everything exactly right. I will say that we come pretty close on most days. Because there’s a group of us that learned from those who came before us, then we add our creativity and our passion for getting it right.

We set the stage to the best of our abilities. We produce this little show that is the presentation of the game. But there is no agenda, in the political or personal sense, just a respect for the game. And in doing so, I, we, hope that the kids have the experience of a lifetime, playing this great game in such a beautiful setting. I equate it to something like the falling of dominoes. Everyone likes to see some elaborate design set up, only to get the enjoyment of watching the ripple effect and beautiful symmetry of one slab perfectly effecting the next, and so on, as they all fall down. Well we are the group that sets up the design, and stands one domino after the next, just so the teams can come in and enjoy the show, participating as they may. Honestly, that’s how I see it.

I cannot say enough about the folks that make these games and tournaments come together. I am truly humbled by the efforts of so many, who volunteer and work above and beyond the work that is already in their everyday lives, for the kids, for the game. I have been all over this state to more fields than I can remember, and Allard Park in its’ setting, with all the work done to present the game, is as good as it gets. Bar none.

Lamprey River and Somersworth line up during the National Anthem. Babe Ruth (13-15) State Championship. Allard Park, Goffstown, NH. 07192016. (C) 1inawesomewonder.

Lamprey River and Somersworth line up during the National Anthem. Babe Ruth (13-15) State Championship. Allard Park, Goffstown, NH. 07192016. (C) 1inawesomewonder.

I know that running a tournament is a lot of work. It’s tiring. There is always more to do. There are always folks to cater to. Then, we ran two tournaments in a row. Games were played on everyday between July 6th until July 19th, except our one day off, July 13th (an evening that our team practiced). 20 games in 13 days. 20 announcements of players, coaches, umpires, officials, and 20 national anthems. Every pitch, every out, every play, of every inning tracked, and recorded. Prepping the field in blistering heat, or recovering from thunderstorms and downpours. People worked at the gate, sold 50/50 tickets, and helped all over the grounds. Folks worked in the stifling hot concession stand to produce the best ballgame fare anywhere around. We restocked as we went several times. Often times, members of our volunteer crew would be at the field for 8-9 hours in a single day, when two games were played.

One thing I can say is that our kids learned a lot about running a tournament. They helped in every aspect of the production necessary to host a tournament. Even better, they saw their parents working hard to make this about the kids, and to do it right. There’s nothing wrong with the kids seeing ‘pay it forward’ right before their own eyes.

I thank Maurice Allard for his, and the Allard family’s blessing, for us to utilize the facilities and run with them. Dr. Moe was ever-present at games, all games, whether they included the home team or not. And, I would say that he was not only welcomed, but his presence was anxiously anticipated by many.

So, despite the home team being knocked out of the tournament with 3 days, and 5 potential games left to be played in the State tournament, the crew pulled it off. Yesterday, on a Tuesday afternoon, the final game was played. Somehow our volunteers found ways to Allard Park at different intervals, despite all the ‘real life stuff’ found crammed into everyday. Folks just stepped in where help was needed, often times wearing multiple hats in the various roles. The house was full. The concessions were flowing. The field looked incredible. The sky was blue, and big, puffy white clouds gently glided across the blue expanse, being pushed by crisp, dry, clean air coming down from Canada. Pretty near perfect.

Finally, for the newer volunteers, I am not kidding when I say that we (Goffstown Babe Ruth) are known for a quality venue, a quality presentation, and a quality experience for all who enter through our gates. It’s not a coincidence that Allard Park has hosted more tournament games in the last 15 years, than anywhere in the state. It’s not even close. It’s because we have wonderful people, wonderful parents and support groups, who all care about doing it right, for whatever their reason may be. It shows. Trust me, it shows. Remember I wrote about IMPACT recently, well what an impact you all had on the state of Babe Ruth Baseball in the state New Hampshire over there two weeks. Thank you all. You are truly amazing. Simply the best.

To me, it’s still THE Game

The other night Albert Pujols hit career home run number 536 to tie Mickey Mantle for 16th on MLB’s All-Time Home Run List. This is quite the accomplishment as Pujols continues his Hall-Of-Fame level career. I am not sure how many baseball fans noticed this feat. I am certain that regardless of how many home runs Albert Pujols hits, he won’t be remembered like Mantle still is, and that’s not his fault.

Albert Pujols ties The Mick on the All-Time HR List

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Baseball – I

Close your eyes. I mean, really close them. Let yourself drift off to another place. Clear your mind. As Billy Chapel says in For Love of the Game, ” clear the mechanism.” You’re sitting outside, leaning back in a rigid but somehow, tolerable seat. As you let your eyes close for a moment, your other senses heighten. You feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Somewhere a switch has been flipped and your sub conscience seeks out all that is right with the world. Now smiling, you notice that your seat is more comfortable than it was a minute before, and you slouch a little easier into the seat you are glad, now, that you chose. You smell the renewed fragrances of spring. Your senses come alive as if recovering from a long winters nap. Birds nearby sing their spring song and only now you notice. You hear the enthusiasm in voices from a distance, but those are merely background for the unmistakable sounds of wood meeting rawhide in a full-speed collision. If the trained ear listens close enough you can tell which direction the rawhide sphere is headed without even opening your eyes or disturbing your sun-seeking perch. For a split second you want to open your eyes but you decide better of it as if opening your eyes would end this pleasant dream state. So, you clench your eyes tighter still and put your favorite ball players faces from yesteryear into this dream. The sounds are the same in so many ways. And the crash of the round bat into the round ball echoing around the old yard could be the sound of Ted Williams ripping a long home run, or its Henry Aaron sending a line drive through the box, or maybe its Mickey Mantle launching a towering blast, from either side of the plate, that requires patience and a good ear to hear if it ever comes down.

You are at a ball field, it is spring, and every player, every team, shares in the renewed hopes of spring. It’s a new season. It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s spring. And then it all hits you, there is no place you’d rather be. Your eyes close a little more tightly, and the sounds fade a little further into the distance. Images appear in your mind as your body shifts and gently jolts almost voluntarily when the memories behind your eyelids appear larger than life. You feel like you can reach out and touch the vivid scene you see, but then you remember for a millisecond where you are, and you think better of raising your arm to swipe at the warm empty air. And you drift back into the scene that hides behind your sun-warmed eyelids. Now you’re smiling from ear to ear, eyes still closed. It’s baseball, in some elementary ways, the same as it’s ever been. A stranger makes his way to a seat nearby, he notices your smile with eyes closed, and he understands. He hurries along to his seat so he too can dip himself in the warmth of the magical transformation that only ball fields bring and clasp tightly the memories of boyhood dreams.

There you are back in your yard, at your school field, or sandlot, wherever you first dreamed of the game and played in the spaces you could find, to win all those World Series titles. When you played everyday because you loved the game, you couldn’t get enough of the game. You knew all the stats, who batted 1 through 9, who would hit for whom in the 7th, and every member of the bullpen. You knew who would pinch-run, whether it was to steal second base or score from second on a base hit. You remember the uniform you wore, right down to the trim, and the wayward stitch or two. You lift your leg for second and shake your foot remembering how fleet afoot you felt every time your old spikes were securely fastened to your stirrup laced feet. Somehow it seems like just yesterday when you would wipe the sweat from your brow and tug the bill of your cap a little lower to shield that bright game day sun. Your hands and fingers fidget slightly as you recall your ability to grab a baseball time after time and have your index and middle fingers perfectly aligned across the seams. Now your palms practically ache just to hold that old wood bat you took thousands of swings with. You can still feel the grain and the way the barrel tapered back to a handle that was much thicker than today’s bat handles. Listening closely to the sounds you fabricate in your mind, you swear you can still hear the ‘swoosh’ your mighty swing once created as it carved through the warm air.

Then, sitting a little more upright now, you roll your shoulders a few times, still clenching your eyes shut as not to disturb the calm and comfort found inside this daydream. Today there are no aches and pains, tightness won’t be thought of here, or at least not until you have to rise from your seat the next time. You recollect the days when you felt so strong, felt so right, you felt like you could throw all day, even throw hard all day. And you did. You think for a moment, trying to figure out how difficult it would be were you to try to calculate how many pitches you threw on any given summer day. Then you just smile, knowing it was in the hundreds, and it was nearly every day. A rest day back then was eating dinner, going to sleep, and going to school for several hours the next morning. Then it was a sprint to the ball, glove, and bat as soon as time would allow.

For me, it was my yard. After school it was the place I couldn’t wait to be. I recall thinking about scenarios that were soon to unfold in my yard while I was still on the bus riding home. Actually it started when I was a young boy and it continued throughout my school years. Often times, my desk in some classroom was just the place I dreamed from. My teacher could have just as easily been any Major League public address announcer. My reality was more often a slice of my imagination playing out the details of me playing, competing, and winning, than not. It’s almost all I ever thought about, and it would have been 100% of my thoughts were it not for school, church, and the occasional conversation. In my mind, in my yard, I was the greatest there’s ever been, yet I revered and respected the greats who came before me. I shook hands with Babe Ruth on the field at the old Yankee Stadium. Hank Aaron was there to acknowledge my gracious demolition of his home run record, and maybe we chatted on the field at the old Tiger Stadium where my record homer was still climbing as it crashed into the overhanging upper deck in right field. Ted Williams marveled at my swing while we talked baseball in South Florida in between his fishing days. At the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore I sat in the seemingly vertical upper deck behind home plate and talked with Brooks Robinson who couldn’t believe my range, and I was a lefty, to boot!

On rainy days, when I could throw the ball from just inside the dry cover of our garage roof overhang, I was being congratulated by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton as a pitcher that was among the all-time winners and clearly the most accurate of all time. Walter Johnson and Bob Feller asked me just how hard did I throw. Ron Guidry asked me my nickname, because even though he was a Yankee, he had a pretty cool nickname in, Louisiana Lightning. After I had twirled yet another complete game, especially on those rainy days, I would grab my wood bat and start to swing. I remember vividly looking down at the broken cement of our garage floor and checking out the shadow of my swing. My swing had to be perfect, both left-handed and right-handed. I would swing at top speed. I would swing in slow motion. I would swing that bat hundreds of times over. I imagined the ball jumping off of my bat and clearing fences all over the major leagues.

After church on Sundays it was a battle for me. I had to decide whether to take the extra few minutes to change my clothes or just go for it in whatever I was wearing. I knew full well that within minutes a ball would carom off of the garage door, too far to my right, and I would have to dive headfirst on the green grass to make the spectacular play. Then I would immediately regret the choice I made, not to change my clothes first, at least for a second or two. Of course, had I not hustled right out to make the play, then someone else would have been in the lineup, so, I was right, get out there and play. Worry about the clothes later. I mean, that was just a double that I robbed down the line. Shouldn’t that cover a for a few grass stains? Some how my mom never put as much stock in my defensive genius in the yard as I did, and as my thousands of fans in the imaginary stands around my yard, did. Neither were wrong, I was, but what’s a boy to do? Somebody’s gotta go out and win the World Series, and I felt that somebody had to be me.

Sox-Go-Round

I am not sure this piece needs to be any longer than the title. I just wanted to share a few thoughts as a life long Red Sox fan who knows a lot less about them than many of you. First, as the list of accomplishments were read, listed, or discussed as Terry Francona was shunned from the organization, it was apparent to me that this guy won in Boston despite the ownership group. Francona and Bill Carrigan are the only two managers in franchise history to win two World Series titles. Carrigan had a 20-year-old kid named Babe Ruth hurling for him in 1915. Ruth was 41-20 on the mound over those two seasons. Francona won more games as manager of the Red Sox than anyone else with the exception of Joe Cronin. In this age of instant gratification, and what have you done for me lately, Terry did a pretty good job considering he didn’t pick the players and personalities that were brought to Boston. Now Francona might need to buy a ticket to get into Pink Hat Park at Fenway Amusement Central. I will get to this later.

Second, Theo Epstein now heads to the North Side of Chicago with hopes of reversing another curse, or six (the goat, the black cat, ball through Durham’s legs, Buckner’s batting glove, the dropped fly ball, Steve Bartman). Sorry Cubs fans, but my family and I already had to deal with 86 years of this stuff. Even with the signings that completely back fired while Theo was here, his resume is still impressive. I also wonder how many of these acquisitions were handed down to him from ownership and how many were him performing as a good GM, or as a bad GM. It’s hard to tell from where I sit.

Third, David Ortiz talks of the drama in Boston when asked about his future. Think about this for a minute, Ortiz was Mr. Clutch in Boston’s Championship runs in 2004 and 2007. Over those two post seasons he only hit .386 with 8 HR’s, 29 RBI’s, 27 Walks, 29 Runs scored, in 28 Games played. He was our Mr. October, the guy who could do no wrong. The player that would be welcome here forever, right? (That’s what we thought about Francona too) He’s still a fan favorite in Boston, but given that he’s a free agent DH, who hits left-handed, and just lost his biggest advocate in Boston, where do you think he will end up? Oh and did I mention that the Yankees were in the bottom half of almost every single offensive category for DH’s? True. By the way, Boston and Mr. Ortiz were ranked first in many of those same offensive categories. Just some food for thought.

Fourth, I love Fenway Park. But I am thinking I love the Fenway Park that was introduced to me when I was a kid, not the one entering its 100th season next spring. I can still remember walking up the ramp towards the light of day, emerging from the cool, concrete depths, the hard, cold hand railings, and rising up above the field. As I neared the ramp top, I could see the net come into sight, then the Green Monster, and it was all green. I saw the green, green grass, the greenest grass I had ever seen. The brown infield dirt with the infielders whipping the ball around the horn like a blur. Back then they still took infield before the games like the rest of America still does all the way through college ball. The playing field was pristine, the rest of the park was not. Why should it be? Smokey Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Yaz, Luis Tiant, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Nomar, Pedro Martinez, Manny, and thousands others all played on that field. The greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled came together for an impromptu meet and greet with the greatest hitter who ever lived on that field before the 1999 All-Star Game. It’s an old ball park and I am glad it’s still there, but it’s been through a lot. I mean, Ted Williams actually hunted pigeons in that old ball yard. I wish all the old ballparks were still around even if the Major League teams weren’t in them. Countless memories are attached to those old ballparks. And sometimes it’s okay for something old to look old, as long as it is here and still functions.

Fifth, I have no problem with the idea of pink hats at Fenway, or anywhere else, for that matter. I know many people who were wearing pink Sox hats long before the term was coined, and these folks are as die-hard Sox fans as I am, if not more so. We shouldn’t always paint with such a broad brush, because there’s beauty in the detail of individuality. There’s also beauty in the simplicity of something designed just right. Something that stands the test of time and becomes an icon for those who have interacted with it. That something is Fenway Park, not the monstrosity it has become. The Sox sell out every game as they draw from all over New England. Many of these sellouts consist of a family who makes a pilgrimage from not only New England, but from around the world just to see Fenway. Many of these people can afford to come see a game there just once, or once a season.

Sixth, Fenway was a destination for most of us without seats and suites all over the place. We went to the park to see the home team play in their sanitary home whites and those unforgettable red numerals on the back. We came to see the ball slam off the monster and how an opposing left fielder would play it. We came to see our generation’s ace on the mound and we didn’t need a radar gun to know how overpowering he was. We came to see a ball rattle around in the door on the left field line, or a ball hug the base of the wall and roll forever in the right field corner. We came to see speed and courage run a ball down in the triangle. We came to see our favorite players, our baseball heroes play a kids game on the pristine playing surface sunken between massive green walls. Knowing full well who had come before them and sensing how those heroes past looked on that same green sanctuary. We came to hear the unmistakable sound of the bat meeting the ball. We came to sing one song that we all knew, our National Anthem. We came to hear the umpire yell, “Play Ball !” Because after all it was baseball that brought us in.

I know that managers, owners, coaches, and players come and go. I also know that the Red Sox fan base, as large as it is, can be a tough group to answer to. Good organizations are good because they have good people in key positions throughout their structure, not because analytic’s generated in a bubble overlooking reality, spit out a player’s name to go and get. The Red Sox just lost two good people in my opinion. Best wishes to the new manager and GM as they stake their livelihood on spreadsheets and computers. People make the world go ’round, and good players win ballgames, but good people who can play well together win championships. I am not ready to say Terry and Theo were the problem yet. I may never say it. Because I love the Red Sox and when they resemble an actual team again I will be here watching and cheering. I just wonder how many fans will lose their grip over the cold winter, and fall off the Sox-Go-Round.

Sox collapse at the Babe’s birthplace

I wrote this in the wee hours of Thursday morning after the Red Sox completed their implosion. I set this site up today and have posted this as my first post.

Where do I begin? I know it all ended in Baltimore, the birthplace of Babe Ruth. When the Sox do collapse there’s always something that can be tied to the Babe.

On September 1 the Sox were in 1st place and the Rays were 9 games back. The Yankees were a half game behind the Sox.  In September, Pedroia, Scutaro, and Ellsbury were our best players, they all hit well over .300 in September.  In the last 10 games when the pressure really mounted, these three hit .442, .405, and .354 respectively. That said, our pitching and team play were a major disappointment and it led to a meaningful game 162. Where’s Ford Frick when you need an asterisk? After 154 games (the number of games played per year prior to Maris’s magical 1961 season) the Sox led the Rays by 2 games, and one in the loss column. So here we were, Red Sox Nation geared up for game 162. What a final day of the season the baseball gods had lined up for us.

Drawn to the drama and taking the approach (hope, but understand it’s likely not to happen, no matter how close it looks) to the Sox that I have done for most of my life, I switched from NESN as soon as Crawford’s “all out” effort (didn’t he win a Gold Glove! Come on!)came up short; over to the ESPN channel showing the Yanks-Rays game and waited for the other shoe to drop. It did. It only took a couple minutes before 2nd half MVP, Longoria, hit a laser reminiscent of Big Mac’s 62nd homer in ’98 (you knew it was coming but weren’t sure you wanted it to happen) to put us all out of our misery. Damon (one of the original Idiots) goes to the playoffs for the 4th time in 6 years since leaving Boston.

As I tossed and turned in bed last night, unable to go to sleep, trying to avoid what I had just seen, and several thoughts ran through my mind.

  • First of all, why couldn’t I go to sleep? I mean I kind of expected the outcome the way this team had been going.
  • Secondly, I thought about the scene in Fever Pitch when Ben finally misses a game and the Sox score 7 in the 9th to beat the Yankees. Kind of like what the Rays did in the 8th and 9th last night.
  • Thirdly, I wondered how many players on this Sox team cared about this less than I did. Except for Ells, Scutaro, and Pedey, this team played September like they were watching the pennant race on TV and not actually participating in it.
  • Fourth, good for Lavarnway, the rookie who was raw enough, and prima dona-less enough, not to be tense the night before and put the Sox in the position they were in for game 162.
  • Fifth, I thought, and maybe I am wrong, that players used to play through more pain in the past. Or at least they played and contributed to their club more times than just the days they felt 100%. That’s when teams were teams and when players weren’t their own multi-million dollar organizations. I know injuries are real and I also know what a shot in the arm it can be to a team when someone plays, even at 75% because it’s the team thing to do. Oh and maybe so they can earn their contract, big or small. How many games were missed this year for reasons that we would have gladly contended with, and played through if we had a chance to play?
  • Finally, I thought that the baseball playoffs just became must less interesting for me (even though I will watch), and that Thursday night brings us the one Bruins pre-season game on NESN, and next Thursday they hang the banner. Go Bruins!