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All Is Not Chaos at Columbia! Baseball Lions Wins Regular Season Ivy League Title, Will Host Playoffs + Baltimore Press Box Named After Jim Henneman & "Angels in Outfield" on TCM!

I'm glad to report that all the news coming from my alma mater is not about the Pro-Palestine Anti-Israel demonstrations, police crackdowns, and inevitable recriminations that has created turmoil on the main college campus. Here's a shoutout instead for Columbia's baseball team, a perennial contender and six-time league champion since coach Brett Boretti arrived on Morningside Heights almost 20 years ago.


On the last weekend of April, the Lions clinched home field advantage in the upcoming 4-team post-season playoff by sweeping Cornell at Ithaca. There is still one regular season final home series left this coming weekend May 4-5 against second-place Princeton.  The Tigers lead the Big Red by a game with Penn's Quakers and Yale's Bulldogs another game back. 


One of those teams will not make the playoff that begins on Fri May 17 at picturesque Satow Stadium overlooking the Hudson a little northwest of Braodway and 218th Street.  Columbia will host the 3P game against the 4th place finisher with seeds 2 & 3 playing at 11A. We probably won't know the final four until after Harvard and Yale battle in New Haven the weekend of May 11-12.   


A big reason for Columbia's success has been that they always play a tough early season schedule. You learn very little from beating up on inferior competition. "To be the best you have to beat the best" is an adage that all contending teams must absorb.


(Megan Griffith, coach of Columbia's women's basketball regular season Ivy co-champions, has also scheduled tough early season foes. They performed so effectively this year in the early games and then soared to a 13-1 league record that the Lions earned the Ivy League's first-ever women's basketball at-large bid to March Madness.  There is also a lot of beaming at Columbia over the WNBA's Connecticut Sun drafting Abbey Hsu, Ivy League Player of the Year, and the New York LIberty's selecting former Lion Kaitlyn Davis.) 


After taking major lumps this season playing at the University of Florida Gators and at stops in southern California - where one of the losses was a 32-2 pasting by the UC-Irvine Anteaters - the baseball Lions enter the crucial month of May on a 9-game winning streak and a 15-3 Ivy League record. They also recently beat perennial Big East contender St. John's in a close game and routed another prominent local program, Seton Hall, 31-0. 


It is true that college baseball in the Northeast has never developed a huge fan base beyond parents, friends of the family, and confirmed baseball nuts like yours truly. The pinging sound of the metal bats turns off many purists and I myself do miss the resonant thwack of the wooden bat.


But once you make peace with this difference, I suggest you'll enjoy the quality of the game as played by these scrappy collegians. Columbia's pitching coach Tom Carty deserves kudos for turning his battered pre-season staff into an effective unit. 


Senior Derek Yoo from Los Angeles and junior co-captain southpaw Joe Sheets from Wilmington, Delaware, have become a reliable one-two punch as starters with sophomore Thomas Santana from Millburn, NJ locking in well recently into the third slot.  


The hitting has lately been overwhelming with an average of more than 8 runs a game.   A .300 hitter comes to the plate in virtually every spot in the batting order. Most have long ball power, led by senior first baseman Jack Cooper from Edwardsville, ILL, and sophomore shortstop Sam Miller from McMurray, PA (near Pittsburgh) who have each produced double-digit HR numbers. 


The lineup may have solidified when junior second baseman Griffin Palfrey from Vancouver, British Columbia, returned from injury.  Palfrey doubles as a relief pitcher, sometimes with closing responsibilities. 


There is another glow coming from the Baker Field complex with news that former Lion outfielder Hayden Schott is tearing it up in the middle of the order of the Texas A & M Aggies who have been ranked #1 in the country the last three weeks.  He is playing as a graduate student, something the Ivy League

still does not allow.  


It's a delight to tell these stories at a time when the university and our bedraggled body politic has been under fire.And let's be realistic, the crises will continue through USA Election Day Nov 5 and beyond.


I have no illusions that a winning sports team can make much societal difference.  Early in 1968 Columbia's great basketball team briefly united the campus but it blew apart by the spring at the height of the Vietnam war divisions. But I do know that winning as a team is as good a metaphor as any for what sports can teach us.



On Sat Apr 27 I was delighted to attend the press box naming ceremony for veteran Baltimore sportswriter Jim Henneman.  I've known Jim since

the mid-1970s when he was a speaker at Univ of Maryland Baltimore County in my class in Sports and American Culture, one of the first such ventures in academia. 


I was only one of a legion of sportswriters, friends and family who paid homage to a man whose wise counsel kept many of us from jumping off ledges when the Orioles seemed particularly hopeless.  Jim was brought to tears, reflecting on the honor bestowed upon a native son.


He was a batboy for the minor league Orioles and in high school pitched against another local boy Al Kaline.  The future Hall of Famer, who played his entire career with the Detroit Tigers, and the future sportswriter always engaged in friendly banter about how many times Henneman walked him. 

A longtime official scorer, Henneman gave up that duty last season. He quipped, "I can now wear Oriole orange," which indeed he did on this special day. 


To make the afternoon complete, the Orioles shut out the improved Oakland A's behind Cole Irvin's 7 shutout innings and back-to-back HRs by Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman. The rest of the weekend wasn't so fortunate for the Birds as the A's rallied in the 9th inning on Fri night and Sun afternoon, treating roughly Oriole closer Craig Kimbrel who has upper back issues but may not need a trip to the injured list.   


Starter Grayson Rodriguez has not been so fortunate.  After pitching nearly 6 shutout innings against the Yankees this past Monday, he has been IL-ed for at least 15 days.  It looks like the Yankees and Orioles will battle for the AL East title all season with the Red Sox possibly getting into the mix with their improved pitching but they know they have to improve their defense.   


The problem with all these early commentaries is that there is SO MUCH of the season still to play.  And there are TOO MANY teams that qualify for the playoffs.  So it goes (sigh).  


I close with one special TCM movie tip.

Sa May 4 at 145P EDT the original "Angels in the Outfield" (1951) airs.  I find it a neglected gem in the baseball movie category. Starring Paul

Douglas as the crusty Pirates manager who gets humanized by Janet Leigh as a Household Tips writer for a Pittsburgh newspaper. 


The wonderful supporting cast includes Bruce Bennett as aging pitcher Saul Hellman, Keenan Wynn as the vitriolic broadcaster who engages in verbal and physical blows with Douglas (watch for uncredited Barbara Billingsley as a cigarette girl) and Spring Byington and Ellen Corby as the nuns who bring the orphaned girls to ballgames, most importantly, Donna Corcoran the 8-year-old who actually sees the angels in the outfield. The photography of Pittsburgh in the early 1950s is worth watching even if you are not entranced by the story.  


That's all for now.  Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative. 










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"You Don't Win A Pennant in April But You Sure Can Dig A Big Hole," NYC-area College Baseball Notes, & "The Breaking Point" on TCM Apr 14

Happy April, dear readers.  I can now focus again on baseball with the college basketball season over. Kudos to Connecticut, the men's winner over Purdue for a second straight title and huzzahs to undefeated South Carolina copping the women's title over Caitlin Clark's Iowa. In a fascinating development that was driven in large part by Clark's popularity, the women's championship drew far better TV ratings than the men's game. 


And now onto to baseball.  It always helps to get off to a good start and rise comfortably above .500 to have a cushion for the inevitable losing streak

that occurs in the long long season. 


One of the most pleasant surprises in the first handful of 2024 games comes from Pittsburgh where the Pirates are tied with the Yankees for the best record in baseball at 9-2 (after games of Mon Apr 8). They just won a weekend series against my Orioles thanks to two walkoff victories.


In the Sa Apr 6 Pirate victory, another truism about baseball came true: Beware The Traded Player In First Games With New Team. Catcher Joey Bart, once the number two draft pick in the nation for the San Francisco Giants, hit a two-run HR in his first AB as a starter for Pittsburgh.  Bart followed that with a double and even had a chance to win the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th inning but struck out.  


Not to worry. The young and improved Buccos won it in the 11th on a single by their budding young star shortstop O'Neill Cruz that scored the ghost runner - the Manfred man - from second base. (Cruz, incidentally, is named for former Yankee right fielder and current Yankee color man Paul O'Neill). Writing with tongue firmly in cheek, I suggest that perhaps freed from the pressures of the Bay area and its BART public transit system (Bay Area Transit System), Joey Bart may find more success in Pittsburgh where the Pirates have used TWELVE catchers in the last two seasons and still haven't decided on a regular. 


There are 153 games left in the Orioles regular season so the Prince of Paranoia yours truly will not agonize over the back-to-back walkoff losses.  The Sunday game was marked by brilliant defense by the Baltimore outfield and a wonderful relay throw by Jorge Mateo, new to playing second base, that cut down a Pirate run at the plate. 


But with regular Baltimore closer Craig Kimbrel unavailable after working two games in a row, setup man Yennier Cano couldn't hold a 2-1 lead in bottom of the 9th. In a very dramatic ending with two outs and the bases loaded, the winning runs were scored on DH Edward Olivares' hot smash up the middle that Bird shortstop Gunnar Henderson snared with a diving stop behind the second base bag.


Last year's American League Rookie of the Year tagged second base with his glove but threw wildly to first and the tying and winning runs scored. 

Running towards second from first base, beefy Rowdy Tellez, not exactly known for his swiftness, made a very smart decision by not sliding into second but came in standing up.


MLB has been enforcing obstruction rules against runners who slide too aggressively and Tellez's decision forced Henderson into a difficult angle for his throw to first. Head down after his error, Henderson almost broke into tears, another example of his zealous intensity - perhaps overzealous - which makes him easy to root for.


A loss is a loss and the Orioles have slipped to 5-4 as they prepare for Boston's home opener on Tu Apr 9.  After pounding the Los Angeles Angels in the first two games of the season, Baltimore bats have gone very cold. 


Some impatient fans are already howling for the immediate callup of some of the sluggers at Triple-A Norfolk who are pounding the ball at record rates. I say it is too early to panic.  The pitching has been excellent and the defense often spectacular, but the bats of such veterans as outfielders Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins and third baseman-second baseman Ramon Urias do need to awaken soon.   


The Mets started the season losing 5 games in a row at home before salvaging the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers in walkoff fashion.  Going on the road has been a tonic because after winning a weekend series in Cincinnati, they held on to beat the Atlanta Braves, 8-7, on M night April 8.  Brandon Nimmo had 2 HRs and 5 RBI, a career offensive night for the leadoff man.


April 8 marked the 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career HR record of 715 and the Mets SNY cablecast team did themselves proud.  Before the game they ran a lengthy excerpt of Kevin Burkhardt's interview in 2014 of Al Downing who threw the fateful home run pitch. 


Burkhardt, a graduate of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey who used to do commentary on Mets telecasts and now is the top voice on Fox Sports NFL football coverage, asked probing questions of the classy Downing, a former 20-game winner for the Yankees and their first African-American pitcher.  He finished his fine career with a 123-107 W-L record and 3.22 ERA and later became a broadcaster himself. 


Born in Trenton, NJ a year and a day before me, June 28, 1941, Downing made it clear how much he treasured his friendship with Aaron and how much his stoic poise in the face of hatred meant to not only black people in the U.S. but all decent people of any color. Downing recently appeared as an insightful talking head in moving Yogi Berra documentary, "It Ain't Over". 


During the game, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez invited Dusty Baker into the SNY booth for his remembrances of being on-deck on the night that Aaron broke Ruth's record. Dusty is one of the great raconteurs in the sport and he described how his locker and teammate Ralph Garr's locker were on each side of Aaron.  Hank never talked about the hate mail he got for daring to break Babe Ruth's record, but they could see his concerned reaction to the venomous bigoted words.   


Thank you SNY for making it a broadcast that made me feel proud to be both a passionate baseball fan and a concerned citizen that sees the larger good that baseball has done for American society in its pioneering role in racial desegregation. The cherry on the sundae last night was the Mets narrowly holding on to their come-from-behind 8-7 victory.    


On the college baseball front, I am happy to report that my alma mater Columbia is riding a 8-game Ivy League winning streak into Homecoming weekend against Yale this weekend April 13-14. At 8-1, the Lions are 2 games up on Cornell (6-3) and 3 ahead of defending champ Penn (5-4)   


Columbia's 2014 Ivy League champions will be honored between games of the Sat Apr 13 twinbill with first game starting at 1130P and second game approximately at 3p.  The single game will be Su Apr 14 at noon.  There is no charge for the games played at Satow Stadium/Robertson Field in the Baker Field complex, north of Broadway/218th Street. 


BTW After sweeping Dartmouth this past weekend in Hanover, NH, Columbia coach Brett Boretti has become the winningest coach in school history, 351 and counting.


St. John's is on a roll, too - 3-0 in the Big East, 22-5-1 overall. 

After playing the April 12-14 weekend at UConn in Storrs (605P, 205P, 105p), the Red Storm host Columbia

in a non-league game on Tu Apr 16 at 330p at Kaiser Stadium in Queens not far from Union Turnpike.

They host Butler of Indianapolis the weekend of Apr 19-21 (6P, 3P, 1P)

The Big Ten's Rutgers come in for non-league game on Tu Apr 23 at 3P


Rutgers is enduring a 5-game losing streak and is 1-5 in Big Ten though 19-12 overall.

Tu Apr 9 they head to Seton Hall at Shepard Stadium/Carroll Field at 4p in South Orange NJ in a non-league game.

Weekend of Apr 12-14 Nebraska comes in to Bainton Field in Piscataway at 6P, 3P, 1P

Tu Apr 16 3P Monmouth (from Long Branch NJ) comes to Bainton Field.

Tu Apr 23 6P St John's visits. 


Seton Hall is 1-2 in Big East and 17-14 overall but pitcher Ryan Reich nearly threw a no-hitter at Georgetown on Sa Apr 6.   


Division III NYU (3-5 in Univ. Ath. Assn., 16-8 overall) returns to the Staten Island Hospital Stadium near the ferry on the weekend of Apr 19-21 to play a top rated Case Western Reserve team from Cleveland (7-1, 21-6).  Fri at 4p, Sa doubleheader 12N & approx. 3p, Su 11A.   


And before I wrap up this first April post, here is word of a special Noir Alley ahead on Sat midnight/repeated on Sun 10A April 14:

"The Breaking Point" (1950) John Garfield's last commercial film for Warner Brothers. His testimony before the Red-baiting Hollywood committee

led Warners to cease promoting this film which is a classic and extremely worth seeing. 


Directed by Michael "Casablanca" Curtiz, based on the Ernest Hemingway story "To Have and To Have Not".

Screenplay by Ranald McDougall who wrote "Mildred Pierce" and later Harry Belafonte's fascinating exploration of race in a nuclear-destroyed NYC,

"The World, Flesh, and the Devil" (1959). 

Co-starring Patricia Neal as a femme fatale to end femme fatales.

With other fine actors Wallace Ford, Juano Hernandez, Phyllis Thaxter.

The intro and outro will feature commentary by Noir Alley creator Eddie Muller and the late Robert Osborne.


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it.   





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