I grew up in Chicago near Wrigley Field. Cubs’s fans cheers resounded though out the neighborhood with a Cubbie home run. I remember one of Mayor Daley’s patronage office holders (the fire commissioner?) turning on the the toddling town’s air raid sirens to celebrate the 1959 White Sox American League championship (the White Sox lost to the by-thenThen LA Dodgers 4 games to 2).
But that’s where my troubles began—when I was afflicted by the baseball germ.
Of course, I wanted to play baseball and tried out for my high school team where my dissonant relationship with the coach reached its logical conclusion. I played one season of Pony League and switched over to bar league softball.
Anyway, yesterday I watched my hometown high school baseball team, the Newton North Tigers, complete their two day (the game was called in the 13th inning on account of darkness,* with the score tied 4-4) first playoff game in the 14th inning vs Catholic Memorial—an inning that lasted all of 20 minutes(the teams spent more time warming up)with an exciting bit of baseball magic.
With two outs in the Tigers’s half of the penultimate inning, the speedy and crafty Ben Porter, worked the count to 3-2 and with amazing speed beat out a grounder to the shortstop. As he has been known to do his entire baseball career, Ben stole 2nd base handily. This brought second basemen Johnny Little( aka Johnny Baseball) to the plate. Now my son played one season of Babe Ruth Baseball(on Paul Howley’s Warriors) with Johnny and we both shared the opinion that this Little kid was a quintessential ballplayer. Anyway, Little singled up the middle, Ben Porter scored from second easily. Game over,Tigers, 5 CM 4.
Thankfully, unlike most high school baseball games this 2 day affair was well-attended( school football games are like Friday Night Lights. And the sense of joy was palpable—reminding me that watching kid sports were the closest one could come to enjoying the purity of sports. Parents, friends relatives, scouts,media, the town’s altekockers comprised the audience and the Tigers’s victory—both its exciting manner and the fact that the team battled back after falling behind early, brought joy to the land.
This championship season, no doubt, has many authors, not the least the players on the squad. But it should not go unsaid that the Tigers’s coaches clearly have melded a diverse pack of boys into a high functioning team. The Tigers’s season earned run average was 0.50 over 20 games. A number I find as impressive as Ted Williams’s life time on base percentage (.452)…
Up until recently, all I knew about head coach Joe Sicliano was that during this run he had achieved 300 career victories as a coach and that he had been at Ted Williams’s last game at Fenway Park, an event immortalized by John Updike. Thanks to a unusually straightforward piece by the acid-penned Dan Shaughnessy, I know a bit more—such as Siciliano was inducted into the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame last winter.
The Tigers play next on Sunday in Brockton MA—games I will have to miss as I am umpiring 2 Little League games. Hopefully some of those Little Leaguers will be playing for the Tigers in a few years.
Go you Tigers!
*imagine a $200 million dollar school campus with unlit athletic fields ( a throwback move or a funding problem?)