Edition No. 22
August 3, 2016
STANDINGS THROUGH WEEK 17
Given that my Senators have experienced a biblical fall not seen since the days of Adam and Eve, it seems appropriate to quote the Bible for some positive energy for my team: The last shall be first, and the first shall be last. Sure. Maybe next year.
Or: Proverbs 24:15 For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. Although I haven’t actually looked, it seems like my Senators are destined for about our seventh finish in the league bowels, and so maybe it’s about time for my team to make a righteous recovery.
Okay, maybe quoting from the Good Book seems desperate, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
POINT TOTALS FOR WEEK 17
Not sure who has been running the Chiefs while BT has been running with the bulls in Spain, but the Chiefs posted a white hot total of 580.2 points for Week 17, easily besting the second-place Bears at 527.3. The Skipjacks were at the other end of the spectrum with a dismal 305.8 points for the week, just behind the Senators’ equally-torpid showing of 308.1 points.
TOP 25 PITCHERS
Commentary: And now we see why the Chiefs were so hot during Week 17, with the three top pitchers in Justin Verlander, Aarón Sánchez, and Tyler “Boz” Skaggs; as well as Nos. 14 and 15, Jeremy Jeffress and Michael Pineda. Wasn’t this the same team who early in the season was absolutely awful in the pitching department? Apparently one of those blessed reversions-to-the-mean.
TOP 25 HITTERS
The week before last, Michele and I had a terrific trip to Boston, my favorite American city*, for approximately equal parts work and play. The work part involved the deposition of a client of mine, a Panamanian woman who came to the United States at the urging of Sam Walton to attend medical school in Arkansas. She did her residency training in internal medicine in Massachusetts, and then was working on a locum tenens basis (temporary doctor placement) at a hospital in Kearney, Nebraska, where she took care of a patient who ended up suing her and several other physicians after suffering a stroke. Subsequently, the doctor’s husband (a pilot in the Spanish Air Force) was reassigned to a NATO post in the Netherlands, and my doctor client has been living in The Hague ever since.
When it came time for my client’s deposition to be taken, there was discussion about all of the lawyers from Nebraska traveling to The Hague for the deposition (I was not opposed), until it was learned that she had to attend a conference in Boston in July to keep her medical license up to snuff. Long story endless, we scheduled her deposition in Beantown together with two days of deposition preparations, and lo and behold, a plan for a summer vacation to Boston emerged as a viable and economical junket, some might say boondoggle. Staying for several nights at the sumptuous Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel was not a hard sell to the wife.
JFK PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
After landing at Logan Airport and securing our rental car, one of the first billboards we saw advertised the JFK Presidential Library on the nearby campus of UMass, and while not on the itinerary, we decided it was worthy of investigation, and was it ever.
Located smack dab on the Bay in an I. M. Pei masterpiece, the JFK Library is a fitting tribute to our 35th president, focusing on JFK’s early life, his heroism in World War II, his meteoric rise in the political arena, and the three exciting, terrifying (Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights campaign) and yet wonderful years of the Camelot White House. Very little attention is given at the Library to his assassination, which seemed right.
For those of us raised in the ’60s--which is all of us in this audience--the JFK Library brings back a flood of memories from our youth. If you are ever in the neighborhood, it is well worth the $14 price of admission.
ON TO LOWELL
Our next stop after the JFK Library was our hotel in Lowell, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston located about 35-40 miles to the north and west of the Hub. A working class city of 108,861, Lowell has long been the home of many businesses affiliated with the textile industry, and many of its colossal red brick manufacturing buildings have been repurposed into residential and retail space, after the decline and fall of the American textile industry. In fact, the baseball game that we went to see that night featured the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League, a moniker to honor the area’s proud heritage as textile producers.
Edward A. LeLacheur Park, Lowell, MA
On a warm summer evening, we plunked down our $5 to buy a cheap seat for the game and joined a healthy crowd of several thousand Lowellians to watch their beloved Spinners take on the visiting Spikes from State College, PA, who, for some reason beyond my ken, have a prancing deer as their team logo.
As the Single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Spinners are the first stop for many freshly-drafted Sox players. If successful, they will work their way up the organizational ladder to the Portland Seadogs (Double A), then to the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple A), and then, if good enough and lucky enough, to the holy grail that is Fenway Park, the culmination of many a Sox draftee’s dreams. In fact, there is a board in place at the Spinners’ ballpark which lists the names of former Spinners’ players who have moved from there all the way up to the Big Leagues, and it was there that I saw the names of Mookie Betts and Jon Papelbon and several other current and former Red Sox players of note.
The Spinners’ mascot, Allie-Gator
(Eat your heart out, Stretch!)
The game itself was not especially noteworthy, with the visiting Spikes jumping out to a 7-1 lead before the Spinners pushed 3 runs across the board in the last two innings to almost make it a contest. Ronnie Williams (4-1, ERA 2.45) picked up the win for the Spikes, throwing six innings of 4-hit, 1 earned-run ball, while Kevin Stein (1-3, ERA 6.49) got battered for 5 earned runs in 4-2/3 innings to take the loss. Former Husker infielder Steven Reveles, who just finished his career as a Husker in May of this year, started at 2nd base and led off for the Spinners, going 2-for-5 with a double and 2 runs scored to up his average to .250. Tyler Hill, the left fielder for the Spinners, went 3-for-5 with a home run and a triple, and knocked in 3 of the Spinners’ 4 runs, boosting his average on the season to .375, and looking like a good bet to be promoted to Portland in the near term.
THE CANDYMAN CAN
But the best part about the Spinners’ game was what happened after it was over. After teasingly referring to a big event at the end of the game, the public address announcer invited all children under the age of 12 to take the field to get ready to go after their share of a half-ton of candy. Literally, a half-ton of candy, a thousand pounds.
As the excited youngsters lined up along the 1st and 3rd base lines, giddy in their yearning for their soon-to-be received sugar highs--a Gator pulled out onto the field with two young men pushing candy out the back. As soon as they had deposited a load of candy in the outfield, the PA announcer prompted everyone to look up into the sky to the west, and soon into the ballpark whirred a helicopter, and the adult crowd stared in disbelief while the youngsters shrieked in utter belief as the occupants of the chopper began dumping out the announced 1,000 pounds of candy.
As soon as the candy was safely deposited on the field, the announcer gave the word “GO” to the crazed pack of 100-150 kids, and they all instantly scattered across the outfield to begin filling their bags with the sugary lucre.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, the announcer then advised the frenzied mob of yoots that the helicopter was coming back to deposit more goodies, this time 1,000 pounds of marshmallows! In my head, I could hear the ardent pitchman for the Popeil’s pocket fisherman hawking his product with that resonating exclamation, “And that’s not all!” True to the announcer’s word, the helicopter occupants began dumping sacks and sacks of puffy marshmallows out of the helicopter windows, to the delighted, shrieking, open-mouthed children below. Astounding.
Now, while I understand that a certain member of our august Hot Stove League may be moaning and groaning even as he reads these words about the Spinners’ unparalleled helicopter promotion, I have to say, that was one for the ages. I’m not sure even the Godfather of wacky promotions, Bill Veeck (as in wreck), could have topped that one.
ANOTHER CAPITOL IDEA
On Day Two of our Beantown Boondoggle, we decided to hit the road and drive north to Montpelier, Vermont, the capital city, and one of the loveliest little burgs you will ever see. To begin with, the drive north through the Green Mountains was absolutely beautiful--wooded and unspoiled--and I could only imagine what the drive would be like in early October during the fall splendor. The Vermont capitol building, constructed in 1859, is a beautiful, well-preserved building where they still conduct legislative business. The senate has a total of only 30 members (18 Democrats, 3 Progressive, 9 Republicans), and they sit at small, old, wooden desks which also serve as their offices. Not one has a secretary or a legislative staff, and they earn a modest $30,528 per year. Probably not much different now than the way it worked right after the building opened for business more than a century and a half ago.
In close proximity to the capitol building, right there on Main Street, is the Vermont Supreme Court. Next door to it is the federal courthouse. Next door to it is a state courthouse. One stop shopping for the legal and legislative professions in Vermont.
Downtown Montpelier is a quaint and sightly little village with beautiful old and well-preserved homes and businesses. Our favorite such business was the Three Penny Bar, where we found frothy adult libations, an amiable and loquacious bartender, and congenial and unreserved barstool occupants on both sides. On a Monday afternoon, no less. We clinked our glasses and vowed to take up permanent residence in this delightful venue when the last of the eight kids is finally off the gravy train--in my early nineties.
After knocking State Capitol No. 48 off of the list, we departed Montpelier in the highest of spirits (but still well under the legal limit) and made our way south to Manchester, NH, for our second minor league baseball game of the trip. We checked into our hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn, which to our delight was located directly adjacent to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the FisherCats, Double A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. And I mean literally adjacent to it.
After checking in, we headed down to the hotel restaurant and bar and had a pre-game libation on the patio, where we were warned to watch out for one of the home run balls which not infrequently menace the restaurant goers. As the game began, we watched the visiting Reading Fightin’ Phils launch a cavalcade of violent hits against the hometown FisherCats pitcher, Luis Santos. Crack. Line drive double up the middle. Boom. Line drive single to center field. Smack. Blue darter up the middle off the pitcher’s body. Crash. Home run to centerfield. Bam. Double to left field. Tally: 5 batters, 5 hits, 4 runs. Poor Luis was not long for the night, and after giving up several more runs, got the shepherd’s hook in the top of the 4th.
Northeast Delta Dental Stadium,
Home of the New Hampshire FisherCats,
The game ended up going to the Phils by a score of 7-4, and the Phils’ hitting star Dylan “Kissing” Cozens launched his 25th home run (tied for tops in the league) and drove in 5 on the night. Nick Pivetta picked up his 9th win for the Reading nine.
The following morning, I woke up and looked out the window of our 6th floor hotel room, which faced the field, and saw that there was a baseball clinic going on down at field level, with about 25 or 30 boys and 1 girl, probably ranging in age from 8 to 12 or so, going through calisthenics, taking grounders, and learning the skills of our great game of baseball. This on a beautiful, immaculately-groomed, multimillion dollar Double A baseball field. Not exactly the baseball field of my youth, which was located on the grounds of Lincoln Northeast High School just across the street from our home on North 63rd, with rock-hard infields with more bad hops in them than during Itchie’s days as a triple jumper, an outfield with more rabbit holes than tufts of grass, and a backstop that could have doubled as an outhouse.
If you will allow me to digress for a moment, above is a picture of the wooden bat that I used in high school, a 36”, 36 oz. Jackie Robinson model that is a hefty piece of lumber indeed. I don’t know why, exactly, but I still carry it around in the back of my Ford Explorer, just in case someone asks me to join in a game of workup. The last time I actually swung it in competition was when Will was 13 and played for the Dirtbags, and we had a father-son game at Hagge Field. I nearly ripped both shoulders out of their sockets while trying to swing this substantial piece of timber during the competition, and probably didn’t even knock the horsehide out of the infield. But I still have it. I only wish I had also kept my baseball glove I used throughout most of my youth, a Hank Bauer model that I inherited from Jack. Damn.
But back to the matter at hand. We loved Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, and I have since figured out that New Hampshire was the 36th different state in which I have seen a professional baseball game. So there’s that.
THE SIREN SONG OF FENWAY
No trip to Boston would be complete without a trip to Fenway Park, and so on the beautiful evening of Tuesday, July 19, five of us took the train to the Fens and purchased bleacher seats for the Red Sox game against the visiting Giants, the first home game since the All-Star break, and a sellout. It was an absolute raucous riot, with the crescendo coming after the crack of Big Papi’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 4th that was met with unabashed glee by the throbbing throng of Boston fans. The only down side was having to watch Possum’s ace, Rick Porcello, pick up his ninth win at Fenway on the season against no losses, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I was reminded of past trips to Boston, including my first trip to Fenway in 1987 with Big Guy and Underbelly, where we saw the Red Sox take on the Yankees, first on Friday, June 19, 1987, and then Saturday, June 20. In the first game, we saw a powerhouse pitching matchup between Bruce Hurst of the Red Sox and Ron Guidry of the Yankees. Guidry pitched 5 innings and gave up 1 earned run, while Hurst pitched through 7 frames and gave up 3 runs, and was in position for the win until Calvin Schiraldi relieved and gave up 2 runs to the Yankees in the top of the 9th to knot it at 5. The game went into extra innings and was ultimately won by the Yankees in the 13th when they pushed across five runs in the top of that frame, for a final score of 10 to 5. The train ride back to the hotel was exceedingly memorable, at least for two of us.
The following day, we saw a pitching matchup between Al Nipper of the Red Sox (who gave up only 5 hits, but 4 earned runs, and pitched a complete game) and Tommy John, who lasted only 4-2/3 innings and gave up 6 earned runs and took the loss. Dewey Evans hit a home run for the Red Sox, and Wade Boggs and Marty Barrett doubled. Mike Pagliarulo cracked out a 9th inning home run off Nipper for the Yankees, and Willie Randolph and Dave Winfield had doubles. Some of the other great players that we were privileged to see that day included Mike “Hit Man” Easler, Willie Randolph and Dave Righetti of the Yankees; and Ellis Burks, Jim Rice, Don Baylor, Dave “Hit Man” Henderson, Spike Owen and Mike Greenwell of the Red Sox. Wow, now those were a couple of star-studded teams.
And then of course there was the 1994 Hot Stove League swing to the East Coast, in which we witnessed A-Rod’s major league debut in a Red Sox game at Fenway against the Mariners, as well as John Valentin’s unassisted triple play. Although, my favorite moment on that trip may have been when Tip O’Neill’s doppelgänger jumped up at the outdoor bar that we were patronizing and spontaneously began singing, “Oh, Danny Boy.” Priceless.
There have been several other trips to Boston and Fenway, less memorable than the above, but more importantly, I am hoping for a future trip with the Ernst lads, since our Opening Day travels have not yet taken us to Fenway Park. Oh, what a ballpark! The very definition of a green cathedral.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, JACK AND PHYLLIS!
On the 3rd day of August, precisely 64 years ago TODAY, a handsome 26-year-old school teacher and future principal was married to a beautiful young Topekan secretary six years his junior, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the Oakland area of Topeka. The lovely couple met at a roller skating rink in Topeka, where the dashing Jack showed off his best roller skating moves to impress the coquettish young Phyllis, moves that were originated and perfected on the roller skating rink in rural Soldier, Kansas, that was hand-built by George Washington Ernst, the proud and bespectacled farmer who had lost his means to a living in the Depression and built the skating rink as a way of supporting his family during harder times than I hope any of us will ever face.
Witnessed by their proud parents, George and Hallie Ernst of Holton, Kansas, and Leo and Marie Grittman of Topeka, the newlywed Ernsts weathered the sweltering temperatures and humidity of a Dog Day Topeka afternoon, and then took up residence in a nearby apartment where they would remain for a few years until they headed west with their infant daughter to Imperial Beach, California, where Jack took a position as assistant principal at a school delightfully named Sweetwater Union. The following year the adventurous young couple was blessed like nobody before or since with the birth of their first son at the nearby Chula Vista Hospital,
Kathi and Dave, circa 1957
and soon the ecstatic Mr. and Mrs. Ernst took their future four-time Hot Stove League champion and his older sister home to their tidy little bungalow located at 230 Elder Street, just blocks from the iconic Imperial Beach pier.
230 Elder Street, Imperial Beach, CA
Sadly, any hopes of their strapping male scion becoming a Southern California sensation at baseball or surfing--and most likely both--were dashed when their homesickness for the Midwest led them to relocate to the less breathtaking Nebraska burg of Beatrice, home of, well, not much. In Beatrice, Jack served as a vice principal, coach of the girls’ softball team, and driver of the school bus, a man for all seasons. Within a few yearS--in 1960 to be exact--Jack had upped his game and took a job as the principal of Huntington Elementary School at 46th and Adams Streets in Lincoln, the first of his many assignments in school administration in the Star City. And now, as Paul Harvey might say, you know the rest of the story.
7th INNING STRETCH
Thanks to McBlunder for his excellent special edition of the 7th Inning Stretch last week, always a good read. And thanks especially for the kind comments about my better half, who was deeply touched by the kind comments, and I will here return the favor with a tip of the cap to the vivacious and truly delightful Deb, whose company is likewise always enjoyed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we share a strong penchant for adult beverages, a common denominator if ever there was one.
NEXT WEEK: CURBSIDE CHRONICLES
That’s it for this issue of FTB. Looking forward to next week’s special edition of Curbside Chronicles.
* My ranking of favorite American cities to visit, for what it’s worth:
2. The City by the Bay
3. Mile High City
4. The City of Big Shoulders
5. The Big Apple
6. The District of Columbia
8. Steel City
9. The Emerald City
10. The City of Brotherly Love