Thursday, June 15, 2006

A True Underdog Story

If it wasn't for failure, we wouldn't have succeeded.
- Lucas Hellmer

The saga that was the 2006 Spring Adult Dodgeball League for Average Jay's Gym has come to an end. Our Cinderella run was halted in the divisional championship game against the #1 seeded defending Delaware state champions, the Polish Mafia.

If you had asked any one of us at beginning of the playoffs how far we were going to go, we all would've told you we'd be happy to get out of round one. After finishing 2-6 in the regular season, we were seeded #8 in the tournament.

As Han Solo said: "Never tell me the odds."

On our way to the divisional championship, we took out the #2 AND #3 seeds... and it took 6 games for the Polish Mafia to finally put us away.

It was an awesome run, and sets the bar high for the upcoming Fall season. Only one question remains to be answered:

Who the heck is Lucas Hellmer?

The team with our divisional runner up trophy and medals is below.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Holiday Reminder

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball

I play every Monday night in a dodgeball league. That's right, a dodgeball league.

I've never been a top notch athlete, and I used to get picked last on dodgeball teams (or, really, any teams that didn't require spelling) back in grade school.

I'm not much better now either, but fortunately my teammates on Average Jay's Gym (if you don't get it, you need to watch Dodgeball now) are QUITE good.

Last night was the first round of the playoffs. We were seeded #8, and shut out our first opponent 4-0 (you play best of seven games). That meant we earned the right to play the formidable Unknowns that same night, the #2 seeded team.

In between games we prepared by drinking beers and eating. It was a regimen that served us well, as we pulled off the upset of the tournament so far by shutting them out 4-0.

Can you say Cinderella?

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Plump Ump

Sad story in the Philadelphia Inquirer today (which I initially spotted in Deadspin).

It would seem that Philly native and former umpire Eric Gregg (affectionately known as "the Plump Ump") is in critical condition after a massive stroke. He was always a fan favorite due to his sizeable girth and equally big smile.

He lost his job, like many others, after the umpire walkout in 1999. He worked the concession stand at Chickie and Pete's in Citizens Bank Park the last couple years, obviously in an effort to stay close to the game. Fans of the infamous Philadelphia Wing Bowl will also recognize Gregg: he was the commissioner of the Bowl for 13 years.

By all accounts he is a man with a great sense of humor (I guess you'd have to be to survive 23 years of umpiring), who took the loss of his job very hard.

Here's hoping he doesn't lose more than that.

EDIT: Sadly, Eric Gregg passed away last night.

In a season with strike zones the size of postage stamps, baseball needs umpires like him more than ever.

And in a time where cynicism and uncertainty reign, the world needs men like him more than ever.

Former Phillies pitcher Terry Mulholland, who pitched a no-hitter with Gregg behind the plate, shared some thoughts about the umpire.

I also managed to unearth an interview with Mr. Gregg from 1999, given during the umpiring negotiations... just before he lost the job he loved.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Day at Wrigley

Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first baseball game at Wrigley field. This trip is an important pilgrimage that is a requirement for every diehard baseball fan, and I was excited to do all the things you're supposed to do: ride the L to Addison, drink Old Style, etc.

The Cubs did not disappoint, putting on a showcase that was like a microcosm of their last 100 years.

First, the seats. Julie's cousin did a great job of hooking us up with tickets, and we were on the first base line about 20 rows or so back from the field. The "Friendly Confines" is a great nickname for this park, because it feels like you can reach out and touch the grass from most anywhere in the place. Even though those foul poles are some of the farthest away in the majors, the park FEELS a lot smaller than most.

The game was an absolute slugfest. Some fellow named Jae Kuk Ryu made his Major League debut for the ailing Cubs, and got lit up to the tune of 6 runs in one and a third innings. The Braves were knocking Cubs' pitching silly the entire game: they hit a club record EIGHT home runs.

Point of order: Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the 7th inning.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Cubs came from 4 runs back to tie the game. Very impressive stuff, although I must admit I had seen plenty of the vaunted Cubs fan base heading for the exits in the previous inning. There were still plenty of people in the stands, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't really above average like many folks would have you believe.

Those fans that DID stay were cheering like crazy. You could see the hope in their eyes, feel it in the stadium... maybe THIS would be the game to get them off the schnide and onto a roll. Maybe with a little winning streak they could get to .500, and then from there, who knows?

But, in typical Cubs fashion, all hopes were dashed by horrible defense. Seriously, this Cubs team has got to be one of the worst defensive teams I have EVER seen. I don't just say this based on one game, but it was defense that would ultimately lose this particular game for them. A routine pop up to the third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, proved to be too much as it hit him in the face and dropped to the ground. That runner would eventually score on a two out hit to put the Braves ahead by one, and that would be the game in 11 innings.

Altogether it was a terrific experience that was everything I thought it would be. I don't "respect" Cubs fans any more or less... they seemed like pretty average fans to me, honestly. But Wrigley is a beautiful park, even with the load bearing nets inside holding up the falling concrete. It will be a sad day when the park goes down, which you know it must someday.