April 27, 2015
I have to confess that though I am an ardent fan of the Columbia Light Blue and White, I wanted a playoff game against the Penn Quakers just like last year to decide who will play Dartmouth for the Ivy League title and the automatic NCAA tourney bid.
My love for more good games between good teams was rewarded as both doubleheaders were split, home field advantage meaning little. Columbia did succeed the hard way, losing the first games each day only to reward themselves with close victories in the nightcaps.
The Quakers and Lions are so evenly matched that no team this weekend ever led by more than three runs. So this Saturday May 2 there is a one game playoff at Columbia to decide who meets Dartmouth, winners of the 14 in a row coasting to the northern Rolfe Division title, on May 9-10 for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
College baseball in the Northeast remains a niche sport, and fields are often hidden away far from campuses. Columbia plays five miles north of Morningside Heights on the northern tip of Manhattan behind the football stadium. Robertson Field at Satow Stadium is a gem with the Hudson River streaming behind the outfield fences. The clatter of Metro-North trains and the whistles of Hudson River Day Line excursion boats add lovely touches.
If Columbia’s field is far away, words can barely describe how remote Penn’s Meiklejohn Stadium stands far from the main campus in Philadelphia. I finally figured out the location on foot by winding my way alongside historic football Franklin Field across two bridges and then down and around a circuitous path alongside a highway to finally reach the stadium located on the Schuylkill River.
One plus about Meiklejohn Stadium is that it possesses a readable electronic scoreboard that records hits and errors. One glaring negative: It does not have bathrooms – just Port-o-Johns.
Now back to the most important subject, game action:
Penn’s two victories in the opening seven-inning contests were led by complete games from senior Ronnie Glenn, a 4-3 victor, and righty sophomore Jake Cousins who won 2-0, holding the Lions to one hit. A fourth inning homer by Ivy-leading home run hitter senior shortstop Mitch Montaldo provided the only run Cousins needed. Columbia junior starters George Thanopoulos on Sat. and Kevin Roy on Sun. pitched creditably in defeat.
In its 1-0 Sat. nightcap triumph, Columbia junior starter Adam Cline pitched six gritty innings despite yielding 9 hits. After giving up a leadoff double, sophomore Ty Wiest retired 9 Penn hitters in a row for the save. Senior dh Joey Falcone drove in the only run with a fifth inning single.
On Sunday the entire Lions team contributed to the victory with every starter getting at least one hit except Falcone who drove in the first run in a 3-run first inning with a sacrifice fly. Sophomore speedster Will Savage, who previously walked four times in a row, started the 10th inning winning rally with an infield single. He raced home on junior catcher Logan Boyher’s long double to left. Ty Wiest got the save for the second straight day.
One of the joys of watching Ivy League and small college baseball is that you see the players grow from year to year. Baseball remains the most difficult game of all to master and it is wonderful to see how these young fellows try to do it. Here’s to them and their coaches, Columbia’s Brett Boretti and Penn’s John Yurkow, and their parents who have spent countless hours and significant family funds to give their offspring the chance to create memories and friendships to last a lifetime.
A FEW CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE PROFESSIONAL FRONT:
My intuition that the 2015 MLB season would be hard to predict has certainly come true in the early going. My only hope for your teams, including most definitely my Orioles, is that they stay in sight of .500 into May.
As of Monday morning April 27, 2015 only the Milwaukee Brewers at 4-15 have dug themselves a significant hole, 9 games behind St. Louis. But the loss of the Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright might bring the soaring Redbirds down to an earth in the highly competitive NL Central. The Cubs with the influx of their highly touted rookie infielders Kris Bryant and Addison Russell might hang tough as I think so will the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Joe Maddon-less Tampa Rays under new skipper Kevin Cash are tied with the Yankees at 11-8 but the tailing Orioles and Blue Jays are only two games behind with the Red Sox definitely in the mix. However, as someone not enamored with but reluctantly accepting the DH, I am offended by the Bosox having two DHs as key players - David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez who on paper is purportedly playing left field.
The Mets have built a 7-game cushion in the NL East with the surprisingly underperforming Washington Nats in the basement. But there is a long long way to go. My advice remains enjoy these wonderful days of spring with increasing daylight until late June and games every night to enthrall you and yes occasionally infuriate you.
That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever),
TENY YMOTA (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)
PS Teny just saw the musical “An American In Paris,” inspired by the Gershwin score and the Gene Kelly movie. All who love dance and great American music should put a visit to the historic Palace Theatre on Broadway and 47th Street on their calendar.
April 20, 2015
“History never repeats itself exactly,” noted American historian Charles A. Beard once opined. Don’t tell that to fans of Ivy League baseball.
As the final weekend of the regular season nears, the Penn Quakers and the Columbia Lions are tied with stellar records of 14-2 atop the Gehrig Division. Just like last year. And this Saturday and Sunday, they will meet four times to determine who will qualify to meet Dartmouth, the perennial Rolfe Division winner, in a best-of-three championship series the following weekend. The survivor gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament beginning at the end of May.
And just like last year, it may take an extra winner-take-all game to decide the Penn-Columbia winner. Both teams feature plenty of hitting and solid pitching.
Penn features six regulars hitting over .300 with Matt McKinnon an all-Philadelphia area selection. Starter Mike Reitcheck also made the all-Philly team and the Quakers also possess lefty Ronnie Glenn who was effective last year against the Lions.
Columbia has some thunderous left-handed sluggers in seniors Gus Craig, Joe Falcone - the Iraqi-Afghan war veteran, the oldest player in Division I who blasted three home runs last weekend in the four game sweep of Cornell - and Dave Vandercook. Another lefty powerful slick-fielding first baseman, junior Nick McGuire, bats eighth in this lineup.
Last year's Ivy League batting champion Will Savage may bat seventh ahead of McGuire.
After a slow start in tough non-league games, Columbia pitching has come around led by junior righthanders George Thanopoulos and Kevin Roy. Ivy League rules mandate that the first game of each doubleheader is seven innings followed by a regular nine-inning nightcap. So it is imperative that a strong pitcher starts the first game and goes as deep as he can.
There is no attendance charge for Ivy League regular season games though there is usually a nominal charge for the championship series. Though the sound of the aluminum bat does make many a baseball purist cringe, I have become a big fan of the college game. Without interminable TV commercials between half-innings, the games move swiftly and the curious fan will be surprised at the crispness and near-professionalism of the players.
Adding spice to the Columbia-Penn rivalry is the alternation of home fields: The Saturday doubleheader will be played at Columbia’s Satow Stadium – located behind the football field up the hill off 218th Street west of Broadway - and the Sunday twinbill moves to Meiklejohn Stadium on the edge of the Penn campus near the Schuylkill River.
Batter up on both days will be 1pm.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE MLB SEASON
I journeyed to Citi Field on Sunday April 19 for the Matt Harvey show. Unbeknownst to the ticket buyers, the Mets star young right-hander reported in sick early in the day, but after missing more than a year for Tommy John surgery he was not going to miss a precious start.
He pitched six very efficient innings and the Mets batters helped out with a seven-run fourth inning. But trying to save the overworked bullpen, Mets manager Terry Collins let Harvey start the seventh inning. He quickly gave up three hits and a run and then disaster struck (though the Mets held on to win the game, 7-6).
First, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins got struck by a line drive on his pitching arm. He will be in a splint for six weeks and no one can accurately predict how soon he will come back. Even worse, in the bottom of the seventh inning, rapidly improving Mets catcher Travis D’Arnaud got hit on the wrist by Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos. He suffered a fracture and will be out indefinitely.
The Mets have still won eight in a row and have come from behind in many of those wins, always a good sign for a potentially contending team. They have another promising young catcher Kevin Plawecki ready to replace D’Arnaud for the near future, and with solid starters like Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and perhaps Jon Niese too, there might be regular nights and days of fun and hope in Queens this year after a long dry spell.
However, there is always something to criticize about these Mets.
(1) The elevators from the upper decks run very sporadically after the games (unlike at Yankee Stadium). And believe it or not, the one escalator I found was running up and not down at the end of the game.
(2) Their half-inning contests for fans on the big video screen need work. The most embarrassing was a hula hoop twisting "competition" between Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, recorded on video, and a not particularly athletic woman who had trouble even getting the hoop on her body let alone spinning it. Where do these ideas come from?!
Meanwhile, injuries have struck my Orioles, too. Their fine second baseman from Curacao Jonathan Schoop (pronounced “Scope”) suffered partially torn knee ligaments in a collision with Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli on Friday night at Fenway.
The early diagnosis is that Schoop might not need surgery and he is already starting rehabilitation at the Orioles fine all-year facility in Sarasota. We fans can only hope that he won’t be out for most of the season. When Schoop’s teammate Manny Machado hurt his knee last year, they also said he might not need surgery. But he did for the second time in two years. And Manny's off to a slow start with the bat and there are troubling signs that he may be taking his offensive problems out to the field which is an absolute no-no.
Schoop’s stumbling over the base leads me to pose a serious question: Is there any reason to still require the bases being attached firmly to the ground? Wouldn’t softer pads serve the same purpose? They are used in many amateur games.
That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever), Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man On The Aisle)
April 13, 2015
I just happened to attend the Red Sox-Yankees Friday night game that went 19 innings. My scorebook ran out after 11 innings and since I didn’t feel like starting a new page, I took the escalators downstairs to the giant screen in the new Stadium lobby.
After a long AB, I saw Alex Rodriguez rope a double deep into left-center. His professional at-bats have been one of the highlights of the unsettling early Yankee
season. The crowds have greeted him warmly because I think (a) he paid his dues
finally accepting his year-long suspension and (b) the Yankees need his offense.
I didn’t wait around to see if Alex scored (he didn't) – good decision because a light failure halted the game for 16 minutes just after I left. The game was still going on when I returned home by subway to my Upper West Side abode.
I watched on TV as the Red Sox took two leads in the later extra innings only to have the Yankees answer with solo home runs by Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira.
Wasn’t quite awake when the Red Sox won it on a 19th inning SF by promising rookie Mookie Betts.
Ah the wonder of baseball! The Yankees slept-walked through a Sat afternoon 8-4 loss to the Bosox but then scored 7 runs in the first inning Sunday night on their way to a convincing 14-4 rout of their fierce Northern rivals.
Masahiro Tanaka got the win, pitching 5 not wholly outstanding innings. How long his fraying elbow can stand the stress of big league pitching is anyone’s guess now.
One thing after one week is clear: Toronto at 4-2 is a team to be reckoned with – their rookie pitchers are performing well as are the rookie Canadian-citizen center fielder Dalton Pompey and rookie second baseman Devon Travis - he was obtained in a trade for center fielder Anthony Gose who is one of four Detroit Tigers, 6-0, hitting the cover off the ball.
Should be a wonderful race to watch between Tigers and defending AL champion Kansas City Royals, also off to a 6-0 start. Never thought the Tigers with that questionable bullpen and bench would start so well or for that matter the Braves at 5-1.
But folks it is only one week so let’s keep our shirts still buttoned, OK?
Meanwhile on the Ivy League baseball scene, it could be déjà vu all over again, to quote the incomparable Yogi Berra who turns 90 on May 12. Columbia and Penn are the class of the 8-team league with 10-2 records. Only one can go to the championship series, though, most likely against Dartmouth.
Last year Columbia and Penn split their traditional end-of-April doubleheaders leading to a one-game playoff that Columbia won. It could happen again but no predictions here. Just excitement about the building drama at the end of a much-too-short Ivy League baseball season.
That’s all for now but back to you soon as finally finally finally spring weather has come to NYC and I hope most of the Northeast.
Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
Yours In Baseball Forever, Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)
PS on a cultural note from Your Man On The Aisle, make every effort to see the documentary "Seymour: An Introduction" directed by actor Ethan Hawke. It's about the renowned classical piano teacher Seymour Bernstein and it will brighten your day and deepen your soul.
April 3, 2015
Meet a new pseudonym from yours truly: Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York [for Weaver of course] Your Man On The Aisle.
2015 will go down as the first year I saw spring training games in both Arizona and Florida. First stop was mid-March in Phoenix - the 22nd annual NINE Baseball Magazine conference, probably the most stimulating one in its storied history.
In 2008 I was proud that the founder of NINE, the late social work professor and former Boston College running back Bill Kirwin, asked me to keynote the conference. I still like the title of my speech, “Whatever Happened To the Marvelous Importance of the Unimportant?” Of course, it is wistful thinking to think there can be a return to a time when baseball talk wasn’t obsessively focused on money.
My vote for the best sentence at NINE 2015 goes to Villanova law school professor Mitchell Nathanson who in an excerpt from his upcoming biography of Dick Allen said: “By saying so little he became the symbol of so much.” Hard to beat that pithy insight into the
U.S. of A.’s ongoing fractious racial discourse.
The NINE conference always includes two afternoons of “field work,” taking in MLB exhibition games. At the first game we attended the starting time was moved up to noon to accommodate Will Ferrell’s farcical attempt to play every position in several spring training games. It’s for an upcoming HBO special.
The startled look on Oakland starter Scott Kazmir’s face when he saw Ferrell playing shortstop in the first inning of their home game against Seattle was priceless.
I like much of Ferrell’s work, esp. his imitation of George W. Bush.
But it took retired football coach/TV analyst John Madden to take Ferrell publicly to task for such a publicity stunt.
Former San Francisco Warrior basketball star Rick Barry once tried something similar at Madden’s Oakland Raiders training camp and the coach made sure that his “gentlemen” defensive backs Jack Tatum and George Atkinson were prepared for Barry if he ran into their territory.
The NINE conferees also saw a ragged White Sox-Angels exhibition at Tempe’s Diablo Stadium. In truth, though, the great baseball-watching highlight of my trip was a thrilling 1-0 Oregon State Beavers victory over the Sun Devils of Arizona State.
Each starter tossed shutout ball into the eighth inning. Elapsed time? Under two hours. Then the bullpens took over and the last two innings needed nearly an hour to complete. The Beavers have an effective lefty reliever with a striking name – Luke Heimlich. Need I say what we should call his summons from the bullpen?
The Heimlich maneuver, of course.
My Florida trip was briefer, beginning with a Saturday afternoon game at the Braves’ home field at the Disney complex in Kissimmee outside Orlando. It was scorchingly hot and there is not much shade at the ballpark. Heavy-duty Neutragena sun screen sure came in handy. A highlight of the field is lawn seats back of third base that have an excellent sightline on the pitcher’s mound.
The Braves held off the Nationals in a close game. But it is unfortunate planning when many spring training games are played between teams in the same division. Who wants to let opponents know what you may be working on when games don’t count?
My trip ended with a Sunday afternoon game in Sarasota between the visiting Cardinals and the Orioles. For almost a half-century the Cardinals trained in St. Petersburg and seemingly more St. Louis fans than Baltimore rooters came out for the Cardinals’ first visit to the Florida West Coast since they moved to Jupiter several years ago.
Ed Smith Stadium is a great place to watch a game – more shade than in most spring training ballparks and reconditioned seats from Camden Yards give it a distinctly Baltimore flavor. Do wish that there were more leg room for yours truly. I did make a close survey for next spring of seats with double leg room!
In a very lackluster spring season for my Orioles, Adam Jones did provide a couple of home run highlights as did Manny Machado for one laser shot. Early in the game
huge Matt Adams belted a lazy 3-0 Bud Norris offering for a big Cardinal home run.
Fortunately I was on my way to the airport when St. Louis won the game with a Grishuk 9th inning home run.
I’m hoping that the 11-18-2 spring training record of the Baltimore birds (as of the morning of April 3) will not be indicative of a mediocre season. Won’t need much time to find out as the bell at long last rings on Sunday night for what should be a very unpredictable and exciting 2015 season.
That’s all for now – always remember: Take it easy but take it!
YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever),
Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)