GREAT MOMENTS OF 2013: AAA Baseball and a Miracle Comeback

From August 4 of this year:
After Bobby Thomson‘s famous “Shot Heard Round the World”, Red Smith perhaps wrote the greatest lede (or lead, for those of you who didn’t major in journalism) in history:

Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.

A game in the International League in early August is a long way from the events that surrounded Thomson’s shot, of course, but last night there was another example of the can-you-believe-this nature of baseball that Smith paid tribute to in that lede, and another reminder that, as the great Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over until it’s over.

For most of the game between the Rochester Red Wings (AAA Twins) and Syracuse Chiefs (AAA Nationals), it was a pitcher’s duel, as P.J. Walters of the Wings went 5.2 giving up only one earned run and Syracuse’s Caleb Clay doing the same for seven innings. The bullpens then brought it to extra innings. And it is there that the story truly begins. Although at the time, the crowd at Rochester’s Frontier Field must have thought it was an ending, as Luis Perdomo took the mound and then, after a quick first out, allowed Eury Perez to double, walked Jeff Kobernus and then hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch. Cody Eppley came in to replace him, but with runners already on base and no room for error, the Chiefs knocked in five runs off of him, although only two of them were earned.

And so, it headed to the bottom of the tenth, with the Wings down by five. Many of the 9,000+ in attendance were likely only still there due to the fireworks scheduled for post-game, but the fireworks would come early. The Chiefs brought in Cole Kimball, a high-ERA’d mop-up guy who they probably figured they could give some work to as they recorded the final outs of the game. Early on, it looked like maybe he’d do just that, getting two outs while allowing only two small hits, hits that everyone knew were meaningless unless something big happened.

And then, the wheels came off for Cole Kimball. A wild pitch got Eric Farris and James Beresford into scoring position, and then a single from Chris Parmelee got Farris home and left runners at the corners. However, again, that run was meaningless unless something else was going to happen.

Meanwhile, in the outfield, a group of Chinese fire-balloons from a local festival appeared on the horizon:

100_6012 copyAnd then, Kimball walked Deibinson Romero. Up to bat came Jeff Clement, a low-average but high-power hitter who has had stints with the Mariners and Pirates in the past, but who hadn’t been doing well lately, being without a homer since June. Now, though, the bases were loaded, but the tying run stood at the plate.

He worked a 3-1 count, and then, on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he sent it deep into the night, a no-doubter. As soon as it was clear that it would be fair, the stadium erupted into a bonanza of high-fives, hugs and joyous screaming. Five runs down with one out left to survive, and the home team had still found a way to tie it up. Meanwhile, the Chinese Fire-Balloons faded over the Rochester Skyline.

But the inning was not over, although Kimball’s night was. Michael Crotta came in, only to walk Aaron Hicks and then give up a single to Josmil Pinto (Hicks wasn’t sent for home on the single, as he probably would have been dead meat at the plate). Crotta then was able to get Eric Farris- in his second AB of the inning- to ground out, ending the inning and sending it to 11.

The Chiefs threatened in the top of the 11th, only to have their would-be rally shushed by Shairon Martis, who came in to get the final out of the inning after the Chiefs got two men on. The Wings went down one-two-three in the bottom half. The Chiefs did the same in the top of the 12th.

And then, in the bottom of the 12th, after Chris Parmelee struck out against the Chiefs’ Jeff Mandel, Deibinson Romero walked. The speedy Eduardo Escobar was sent in as a pinch-runner. And to the plate came the hero of earlier in the night: Jeff Clement.

And again, he worked a 3-1 count.

And then, again, he sent a ball into right. It wasn’t a home run, it was just a good shot into the corner. It was close at the plate, but the throw was off, and Escobar came in to score the walk-off run of the miracle victory.

Down by five with one out left in the tenth to a walk-off in the 12th. Only in baseball do you see things like this. And when you see such a magical game, you think that Red Smith was right: only the utterly impossible can ever be plausible again.

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GREAT MOMENTS OF 2013: The Pepsi Max Field of Dreams Game

This was cool, and is from May 19, 2013:

You may have heard of the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game, probably semi-heard during commercial breaks of MLB Network. Well, basically, it’s part old-timers game, and part fantasy camp. Two teams play a 6-inning game… with the catch being that each team is half made up of former MLB stars (almost all of them either Hall of Famers and ones that one day will be) and the other half is made up of ordinary Joes who won a contest. There are also some ringers (mainly guys who either play or coach locally and had professional careers) thrown in to fill spots in later innings. This year, it was was in my home town of Rochester, New York, and myself and 13,715 of my closest friends were there to see it.

(By the way, any picture you see in this was taken by me, and can be enlarged if you click it.)

Go below the jump for more, this is a photo-heavy post.

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GREAT MOMENTS OF 2013: Ham Fighters, Grandserows, Sleepwalkers and Robots of Doom: Great Names of International Baseball

From March 1….

As the World Baseball Classic starts, people are writing articles about it, usually falling into two camps: telling people they don’t know what they are missing, or telling everybody they think the tournament is stupid. You know what camp I am in, and another person who is in that camp is Emma Span, who recently wrote an article over at Sports on Earth about it.

And she finished her article by mentioning this:

Did you know there’s a team in the Netherlands’ Honkbal Hoofdklasse called the Hoofddorp Pioniers?

Yes, I did. And as awesome of a name that is, it but scratches the surface of great names in overseas baseball. Oh, sure, we have fun names here in America (such as the Albuquerque “Named for the plot of an episode of The Simpsons” Isotopes), but for some reason, none are quite as charming as those we find overseas.

They don't fight ham, but it'd be funny if they did.

Take, for example, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the NPB (the logo is to the right). They are perhaps the most well-known of great international baseball team names, and the fact that they have have their names not because they fight a porcine menace but rather because they are sponsored by the “Nippon Ham” corporation does not lower the greatness of that name.

Although none of the other NPB teams have a great name on par with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, other parts of Japan’s baseball structure have tried to do so. An independent league in Japan called the Baseball Challenge League, for example, has such great names as the Shinano Grandserows*, the Gunma Diamond Pegasus (shouldn’t it be the Diamond Pegasi?), the Fukui Miracle Elephants (they aren’t just elephants, they’re MIRACLE elephants) and the Ishikawa Million Stars. Another independent league in Japan, based out of the Shikoku Islands, also has excellent names, like the Tokushima Indigo Socks (INDIGO! And they spell it with a “-cks” instead of an “x”!), Ehime Mandarin Pirates (“Mandarin” as in “Mandarin Oranges”- check out their logo) and the Kagawa Oive Guyners**, which make the other team in that league, the Kochi Fighting Dogs, look downright normal.

Let it not be said that Japan holds a monopoly on great names in Asia, or even the Pacific Ocean. Korea has the KBO’s NC Dinos and the Futures League Goyang Wonders***. Taiwan has the Lamigo Monkeys, Brother Elephants and the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions. And, well, those are just teams that are currently around. Earlier in history,

Down in Australia, the Perth Heat are sponsored by the “Alcohol. Think Again” program. So, guess what you see when you go to their website? Well, you see “Purchase your Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat tickets today!” and similar sentences. In other words, the Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat, in addition to being one of the most confusing grammatical team names in the world, are also presumably what the bizarro version of the Milwaukee Brewers would be named.

But it is in Europe, where those Pioniers are, that some of the best baseball names are. There, so far away from American eyes, there are some great names, either intentionally or unintentionally. From the Hoofdklasse‘s Mr. Cocker HCAW**** and the lower-division honkbal club called the Tex Town Tigers, to the Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere in Germany*****, Europe is the center of awesome baseball names, with some of them especially being fun when said aloud.

Names like:

Paderborn Untouchables (Germany)

Barracudas de Montpellier (France)

Dohren Wild Farmers (Germany)

Jimmer’s de Saint-Lo (France)

Brasschaat Braves (Belgium)

Rättvik Butchers (Sweden, now defunct)

Therwil Flyers (Switzerland)

Tempo Titans (Czech Republic)

Espoo Expos (Finland)

Oslo Pretenders (Norway)

DOOR Neptunus (Netherlands- yes, DOOR is a sponsor, but the idea of Neptune playing for a door is too good to pass up)

Szentendre Sleepwalkers (Hungary)

Pops CB (Spain, long defunct)

Nottingham Thieves (UK, possibly defunct)

But all of these are nothing compared to perhaps the greatest, best-of-the-best name for a baseball Behold it!team anywhere in the world: The UK’s Bolton Robots of Doom. Look upon it’s logo and despair at the sight of a Killer Robot that has taken up hardball to bring doom to the enemies of the Bolton 9! Look upon it and know that no team anywhere in the world will ever be able to top this. None.

What is truly impressive about the Bolton Robots of Doom is not that they have such a name, but because they went so all-out on it. They could have just stuck with “Robots”, or kept their old name, the “Blaze”. But, no, they had to have the robot be OF DOOM. And that, my friends, is devotion to coming up with an awesome nickname.

Although the team may not have done well last season, finishing 0-16 in the AAA North Division of British Baseball. They’ve been relegated to a lower league. But none of this matters.They could have gone 0-17 or 0-1000, but with a name like that, they will forever have a place in my heart, and the Robots of Doom will forever strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.

So, enjoy the WBC, or you could go to sleep instead. But remember: The Bolton Robots of Doom never rest.

* A Serow is a goat or antelope-like mammal. The Japanese variety looks like this. Presumably, Shinano is meant to be one of those, only more… grander.

** As far as I could tell from research “Guyner” is a slang word in the local dialect for a strong person.

*** Do you think they were originally called the “Oneders”?

**** The “Mr. Cocker” is from a sponsor, before you ask.

***** That’s “Bookbinder Legionnaires” in English.

GREAT MOMENTS OF 2013: My over-the-top word choice at Kenny Lofton dropping off the HoF ballot

On January 9 of this year, I lamented the fact Kenny Loften had fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot. While my thoughts were legitimate, I think calling it a “tragedy” was a bit over-the-top…

Yes, nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame today, meaning that the only people going into the Hall this summer will be long-dead old-timers. It is sad to see Biggio and Piazza not get in when their connection to the steroid era has been innuendo at most, and for returning candidates like Bagwell, Raines and Jack Morris not to get in either (although Morris, at least, is more of a iffy pick to start with).

But want to know what the true tragedy is? Kenny Lofton just being dropped from the ballot entirely, only receiving 3.2% of the vote, just behind Bernie Williams (who also deserved to remain on the ballot).

Now, I’m not saying Kenny Lofton is a Hall of Famer. He isn’t, but he is not a player who should have been dropped after his first appearance. After all, he was, as I was growing up, a near-constant presence in baseball, seemingly always making the All-Star Game, winning a Gold Glove, or leading off for a playoff contender… and this was after his best years. In 1994, for example, he may well have had a chance to get the MVP if not for the season being cut short. He is 15th in career stolen bases.

In other words, he shouldn’t have just been dropped from the ballot. He never should have been a major threat to make the Hall, but he should have gotten his 15 years on the ballot.

GREAT MOMENTS OF 2013: The clever baseball reference in the “Parks and Recreation” book

As 2013 comes to a close, I’ll remember the good times we had by reposting some of the most popular things from the Continuum in the past year. Today, from September 19, a look at the clever David Aardsma reference in the Parks and Recreation book:
In 2009, Parks and Recreation first aired. A spiritual spin-off (but not an actual spin-off) of The Office, it follows the life of the Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and the rest of the staff of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional, Springfield-like city of Pawnee, Indiana.

In 2011, Knope released a book on Pawnee in the show, entitled Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. NBC released the book in the real world.

In 2013, as part of a Netflix/Hulu binge to get caught up on Parks and Recreation before the next season starts, I also read Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. I got it from the library (thankfully, my local library is not run by Ron Swanson’s second ex-wife Tammi). In doing so, I was able to catch a clever baseball reference in it during a section on Pawnee’s school board- which is filled with people who have lots of A’s at the start of their names in order to be at the top of the ballot, helping them win simply through the laziness of the voters of Pawnee. I’ve put the page up below the jump*, can you spot it?

*(Please don’t sue me, NBC!)

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