LONGSHOTS: A little of this and that from the good side of the sports pile
by Dave Long
With so much unpleasantness going on, like money, Mannygate, steroids, agents and drugs in the Olympics, one can get a bit caught up in the down side of sports. So today, I’m just going to look at some of the good and interesting stuff that is in front of us this week.
Of course, with all due respect to the great run by the Manchester Wolves, news that the Celtics and Yao Ming will be at the V in October and seeing Chris Carpenter back on the mound (at least until he got hurt on Sunday), the number-one happy story was the run of Manchester North that is all over this space this week.
Now I am on the record as wondering if ESPN (and now NESN) should be putting Little League games on TV and not just for the exploitation factor. But, while a bit on the weird side, how much fun was it watching Manchester North playing on TV? So after seeing them play like the champs they are, I’m going to do a flip-flop on this one that is worthy of a presidential candidate. I’ve now got no problem with anything but the financial exploitation.
I say weird, because I’ve known a few of those kids since they were toddlers and hearing Lou Merloni on NESN talk about them like they were major leaguers, while cool, seemed a little odd.
Best Hit: From the “How Did He Do That?” department was the homer by Tres (bumble) Beeson in the New Hampshire State Tournament that those who were there said went an astonishing 350 feet. From the standpoint of timing, it had to be Nick (of time) Levesque winning the Bernie Carbo Pinch Hit of the Week Award with his two-run shot on Wednesday. It took New Hampshire from down 3-2 to ahead at 4-3 in the fourth in an eventual 7-4 win over Rhode Island that sent them to the semi-finals.
Best Stat of the Tournament: Thanks in part to that hit by Levesque we got to see Collin Duffley strike out the last 14 batters he faced in the 5-2 win over Massachusetts that sent them to the finals.
Best Myth-Debunking Player: That was Carmen Giampetruzzi, who took a heartbreaking loss in the final, after seeing the lefty’s name in the box score playing second, third and short when he wasn’t pitching. Maybe it’ll start a trend for left-handers who’ve been discriminated out of playing those infield positions because someone a long time ago said they can’t play there because they were lefty and their throw might take a little longer.
Anyone know what the local connection is between the Olympic Games underway in China and the North Little League team? It’s that race walker supreme Joanne Dow (and my pick at Beijing) is the aunt of the aforementioned strikeout artist Colin Duffley.
There were a few other enjoyable things that went on while we were being taken by storm:
That was nice pub Oregon Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly got this month in ESPN The Magazine. The former Central QB was rated numero uno in Bruce Feldman’s List of Top Ten best-kept secrets in college football. To me that means once he’s not as big a secret even bigger dough might lay ahead. Thanks to brother Keith for the heads-up, as I probably would have missed it too.
I heard on the radio this week that the Beatles were turned down by EVERY single record company in England before showing up on the doorstep of “fifth” Beatle George Martin for their last chance. Even though he wasn’t all that impressed, Martin agreed to work with them and the rest is history. It kind of reminds me that most in the world don’t have the guts or the vision to try something beyond the accepted norm. And the story winds up on the sports page because it made me think of Dustin Pedroia, whose turning out to be something despite a diminutive size that turned most of the so-called experts off because he didn’t look like a player. There’s a lesson in both stories to all the non-risk-takers out there.
Now that he’s back in the saddle as Memorial’s head man, what’s the over-under in terms of years that the Crusaders will get the to Class L Basketball final under Mike Fitzpatrick?
Not sure what’s harder to believe for my producer Sean Sendal on (plug, plug) WGAM — that the great Babe Ruth died 60 years ago this week or that I wasn’t alive when it happened.
The most amazing thing about Ruth to me is that despite dying those 60 years ago and having not played since 1935, he’s still in everyday conversation about baseball. That’s why when you talk about the athlete with the greatest impact of them all, you can’t say it’s Michael Jordan until he’s been dead for 60 years and he’s still in current NBA discussions — which I do not believe will happen.
One more thing about the Babe. I’ll ask my friend and Bedford Little League coach Darrell (rio) Grande this: if he wouldn’t be able to even make the majors, as you are on record saying, because he’s too fat, how did he waddle around the bases to get the 16 triples and 17 stolen bases he had in 1921 to go along with the 44 doubles, 59 homers and the 171 runs he knocked in while hitting .371? Or for that matter, go 2-0 when he didn’t give up any earned runs in nine innings of work as well?
Best baseball player of them all — period.
When Yao Ming comes to the Verzion Wireless Arena in October, they should have Manute Bol on hand to stand back to back with the big fellow. Those of us who were there when Manute played at the SNHU Fieldhouse in early 1980s want to know for sure which will actually be the tallest person to ever play hoop in the Queen City.
And finally one more thing about Manchester North. If the glass is half full, you can say “what if” all day long. But if you look at the big picture, you’ll see what a great experience their run in the Little League All-Star play was. Even with the disappointing ending that left them one run and an inning away from going to the World Series in Williamsport, Penn., it will prove to be one of the most memorable experiences of their life. And I’m not just talking about their athletic life.
Well done, fellows — your effort made the region very proud.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.