Friday, October 31, 2014

Mighty Oaks

By the time I was old enough to be beyond total self-absorption and recognize something ‘out there’ the rest of us were calling ‘the world’ the National League’s Giants were in San Francisco, playing in Candlestick Park. I rooted for them as a child for no other reason than my dad did; scarce realizing for him it was closer to a religious experience as he’d not switched allegiances when they switched coasts.

Dad cheered on the New York Giants and often saw them play on their original home turf, The Polo Grounds (actually and more correctly it was Coogans Bluff), and I never really understood how he made his peace with their carpetbaggery (along with those Bums from Brooklyn landing in the City of the Angels) but he was a complicated man and I ascribe all of that as something between him and the Big Umpire in the Sky.

He was probably all smiles yesterday morning as his team, fueled by Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey (and a cast of thousands as Cecil B. DeMille might say) and led by Madison Bumgarner, “Mad Bum,” rebounded from a 0-10 hammering in Game Six at the hands of the Kansas City Royals to capture Game Seven of the 2014 World Series and their third title in five years.

I’ve always thought the two most beautiful words in any baseball lexicon about the World Series are “Game Seven” because it doesn’t happen often enough and caps and crowns what has usually been a donnybrook (I’m channeling Keith Jackson, so ‘whoa, Nelly!’ you better step back) championship series. This one was no exception.

Sitting halfway across the country as the Electric Fire flickered in the living room and the lurid lights reflected off the walls, I smiled at the hometown connection to the World Series, right here where I live, The Rose of New England (okay, we gave ourselves that name, but still), Norwich, Connecticut.

Unlike the other big-money pro sports, basketball and football, baseball (and hockey as well) relies on an almost ancient idea of apprentices and journeymen toiling in what is called the farm system, who, with enough competitive seasoning and combined with talent and ability, are promoted to The Show.

Show of hands: how many devotees of the NBA Development League do we have in today’s audience? Sir? Oh. Out the door on the right and down the hall. And next time you don’t have to raise your hand or ask first, just go. Good to see you again, Isaiah Thomas. As for a nearly-pro football league? I’m thinking not so much and offer NO apologies to Arena Football unless they go first.

But Bumgarner won nine of ten games he started when he played for the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders, right here in Norwich in 2009. In early September of that year, he made the jump from Double A to the Giants and as Kansas City learned, has been pretty much a fixture on the mound ever since.

I don’t do a lot of “I remember when” (damn memory lapses!) but to my eyes he pitched as well Wednesday as he did when I’d buy six dollar seats to catch him at Senator Dodd Stadium. Sure hope I remember to tell some of those who complain about the dearth of recreational activities and attractions here that you can still be amazed by the things you can see on Mulberry Street even if we don’t have a Mulberry Street.

Which reminds me: 139 days until Spring Training 2015. Need to build up the pocket of my glove and make sure I have enough neet’s foot oil to get me through the winter because there's no snowflakes in baseball, among other things.              

-bill kenny

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