By Scott Gatzke
Saints manager and erstwhile D.B. Cooper look-alike, Todd Cornelius, has dropped the disappearing act returned to the Saints with a bang. Actually, more like a crack. The crack of bat on ball, that is. Corny’s 5 for 8 with a couple of doubles and 4 RBI so far this season and his swing looks as good as ever. “I knew the eye surgery would help him see the ball better”, said Eicher over a couple of beers at the Sports Page after the Crosstown game on Sunday night, “but I’m kind of surprised by how hard he’s hitting the ball.” “He looks really confident at the plate”, added Joe-Joe, “even when he was standing at home plate with only the bat handle in his hands after shattering it against Peyton’s best 63mph fastball.” “I think it really sucks”, exclaimed Tim ‘Tee’ Hadler after Corny spanked a single and a double and scored twice in two plate appearances against Tee’s Lakers last week, “I helped pay for his eye surgery!”
And Corny isn't the only one that’s hitting the ball this year. The Manning brothers and Gaspipe each had three hits against Crosstown and 18 had a double against them and two more against JT’s last week. “We may not be getting many guys to show up for the games yet, but the ones that have shown up have really put up some runs” said Corny. Andy’s gotten some timely hits and knocked in some runs, Lucky scored three times against Traffic and Eicher, well, he hasn’t whiffed yet.
The pitching has also been strong. Burnsy started the game against Crosstown and gave up just 1 run on 1 hit with no walks, 1 HBP and 3 K’s. Lenny came in to nail down the win by pitching to only 12 batters in four innings allowing only 1 walk and he was promptly erased on a 3-6-3 DP started by Burnsy. “I wanted to step on first and then throw to second”, said KB after the game, “but Gaspipe started hollerin’ at me to throw to second, so I did. I guess he knew what he was talkin’ about. I’m just glad I didn’t fall down while trying to find first base and catch 18’s throw. That would have been somethin’ to see.” “Well, he is a lefty so I figured throwing to second was the right play”, said Gaspipe, “I was just glad that he knew where second base was from first base.”
Now that the weather has begun to heat up so too will Minnetonka’s boys of summer as they really get cooking in their Classic League schedule. The Saints have games this Friday, Sunday and next Tuesday in preparation for the Litchfield tournament on June 10th. Stay tuned.
Saints Start To Roll
As the weather has begun to heat up, so too have the Saints bats. The boys of summer have run off 11 consecutive victories as the offense has finally started to come alive after an early season power shortage. The scores of the most recent games have been 5-0, 6-1, 9-0, 6-2, 14-0, 8-0, 4-3, 16-1, 10-0 and 10-4. “It’s about frickin’ time we started putting some numbers on the board”, griped first-year co-manager Brutus, “If these guys hadn’t started scoring soon – and I mean on the diamond, not at the bar – I was gonna put myself in all nine spots in the batting order and just let everybody run for me. Not because I need anyone to run for me, mind you, I just figured it would be easier to keep ‘em comin’ to the games that way, and I need them to play defense for me.” “I think it has more to do with gastronomics, really”, said co-manager Gaspipe, “The data is empirical when you look at it. We squeaked out a 4-3 win over JT’s about a month ago and afterward we had a huge feast prepared by the Manning clan. Then, two weeks later, on Rat’s birthday, we throttled the Groupers while the scent of another Manning cookout wafted over the field and then, just the other day, the same thing happened again as we clobbered Albertville while Foghorn was grillin’ up a mess of chicken and makin’ Tiny salivate in a very Pavlovian way. I think the guys were just hungry. Literally.”
Whether it’s because hunger pangs were suppressed or if it’s just because the warm weather makes for loose bodies doesn’t really matter. The fact remains that the Saints are starting to score runs and that doesn’t bode well for their opponents. “This team has such good pitching and defense that I almost feel sorry for other teams when we start putting up lots of runs”, said Donkey. “Almost.” “I don’t feel sorry for ‘em,” piped up Burnsy, “Knock the ball all over the park and get ‘em tired, that’s what I say. That’ll make it easy for me to get ‘em out. They won’t stand a chance against the old 98’er!” Eicher has his own thoughts on the Saints recent power surge. “I think it’s all about Corny”, he said. “Think about it. As soon as word got out that he was gonna start makin’ games again we started scoring runs. Then, when he didn’t materialize, our run production went a little south capped by that squeaker against Coon Rapids. Now that he seems to be back fulltime we’re hittin’ the crap out of the ball again.”
It’s not just about runs scored either, though it really seems to deflate opponents when the Saints jump out to a big lead. You can just see that they don’t think they can break through and score enough runs to catch up. “Pitching and defense win championships”, said Joe-Joe, “And we have both of them in spades.” Saints rookie Ken “Rat” Manning has proven to be one tough pitcher for Classic League batters to figure out while simultaneously being a big-time offensive threat and a standout anywhere he plays in the field. “I’m just havin’ a lot of fun out there”, says Rat. “I’m just living for the challenges, ya know? I really want someone to try and hit the ball off of me or try to steal a base so that our defense can have some fun and throw the guy out. I’ve played ball by the book my entire life and now I want to try to make those plays that are usually too risky to try. That’s how good this team is.”
Burnsy, even though he seems to be looking over his shoulder for Noonan to pull the rug out from under him, is still the most dominant pitcher in the league. His tenacity along with the devastating movement on his pitches just leaves batters shaking their heads as they drag their heavy lumber (that’s for you Jake!) back to the dugout. “I feel great out there”, he says, “but every time I get three balls on a batter I’m thinkin’ John’s gonna come and get me. He don’t have any confidence in me and I’ve only walked one batter in my last eight outings!”
Defense has also played a crucial role this year. “This is the most stable I’ve seen our defensive alignment since I’ve been here”, said 18, “you get into such a good rhythm when the infield is made up of the same guys everyday. It really gives you a high comfort level when you know exactly how the guy next to you is going to react in any given situation.” On the rare occasion when Saints pitchers do let batters reach base the team has turned quite a few double plays and made a number of spectacular plays in the field. “Wilgy has been incredible all year in center and a couple of the catches he made today were just awesome”, commented Donkey on Sunday afternoon in Lakeville, “He’s been a huge pick-up for us this year both on offense and defense. I just want to grab him and hug him and kiss him!” “Someone keep that guy away from me”, muttered Wilgy while hurriedly packing up his gear. “I’ve been around a lot of good teams starting with my childhood sleeping in the equipment room of the Durham Bulls”, noted erstwhile scribe Crash Cook, “and this just may be the best defensive team I’ve ever seen. They’re even better than the 1988 Bulls who kicked the holy shit out of Ashville in a three game set. I just wish I were wearing Saints blue more often than Coon Rapids gray.” Indeed the entire Saints defense has been very solid all year, rarely making errors or questionable throws. “It really makes it easy to throw the ball over the plate when you know that just about any ball hit to a fielder is going to be turned into an out”, noted Abby, “I think it gives the pitchers a lot of confidence to go right after the hitters. We just gotta get all of ‘em to stop goin’ so deep in the count.”
The combination of scoring a lot of runs while not giving many up has the Saints in control at the top of the Classic League – and a lot of other teams wondering what they need to do to compete.
Where’s My Pen!?
At the Lakeville game Gaspipe asked if 18 was showing up and was told, no, he was at a family reunion. “With all them brothers he’s lost how can they have a family reunion”, asked Burnsy, to which Lucky replied, “They have it at the cemetery.”
During a recent slump, Radam swung at a questionable first pitch. “That’s not the way to get out of a slump”, noted Eicher. “It is for me”, replied Corny.
Donkey was talking about lifting weights and said, “I did three plates two months ago.” “Three plates of spaghetti?” questioned Abby.
Noonan wanted to leave the ballpark after about seven and a half seconds of hanging out with the guys after a recent game and Abby asks, “You gotta go home and cut the grass or what?”
Abby was talking about a marathon he ran a few years back, “Man, I was tired for a year after that.”
While discussing beer at a local watering hole recently, Donkey commented that we were drinking 3.2 beer to which Joe replied. “‘Real’ beer is only 3.5 for crying out loud. I got drunk many a time at the Green Mill and that’s only 3.2.” “I bet you have”, replied Corny.
What A Short Strange Trip It’s Been
We’re about 1/3 of the way through the 2005 season now and, as I look back on events so far, I realize, to paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a short, strange trip it’s been. Some things this season I could have predicted – like the Saints would be in first place in mid June but some things, like Corny’s disappearing act or Ken Manning’s leading the team in innings pitched, I couldn’t.
The season actually started late last year when Joe, Noonan and I began discussions about team management. I was pretty much dead set against getting involved because I knew how much time and energy that would take and I know, from personal experience, how my own game suffers when I try to manage and play at the same time. I was happy just showing up at the game, playing where I was told to play and hitting where I was told to hit. Being the take-charge kind of guy I am though, I eventually caved in to pressure and decided to take a limited management role – though I wasn’t really sure what my responsibilities would be. And I’m still not really sure, either.
Nooner went on a recruiting spree over the winter that seemed to upset a number of people in the organization, including myself. First it was Scott Wilgenbusch, then Len Manning, then Ken Manning, then Dan Smith, then Greg Felling and lastly Jake’s buddy whose name I can’t even remember. And, as all of this was happening, Donkey called up asked to come back from exile in Lakerville and Crash came out of retirement to rejoin the team, left to play in the Federal League and returned again – sort of. Thankfully we didn’t get all of those guys but maybe we should have.
When we added up all of the bodies in spring training we had well over the league maximum 25 man roster. “Where the heck are we going to find playing time for all of these guys” I asked Nooner one day. “Don’t worry, Scotty” he said, “Someone will get hurt, some guys will just vanish and at least one guy will have some kind of midlife crisis. If I have to, I’ll give up all of my at bats and playing time too.” Well, I have to admit, he certainly looks like a soothsayer now. Just look at the list of missing and inactive players and it reads like a who’s who of Saints history. Lucky had a major cancer operation and radiation treatment over the winter that seems to have left him in a weakened condition and he’s played in only one game all year. Jake’s out for what looks to be the whole season with a bum knee, Sody has yet to put in an appearance at a game, I haven’t heard a word from Andy in at least three weeks, Crash has made a couple of games though he’s playing fulltime with Coon Rapids, Corny has been out for personal reasons for almost the entire season, Staller was MIA for about a month, Homerun Donny had surgery on his biceps and will probably not play much the rest of the way, Pack-Man’s hammy is still giving him trouble though he has been at most games and continues to play at his usual, skillful level, Burnsy has missed games to play with the Merchants, Kiddo has missed games to play with Chaska and Jordan, Billy has been hit or miss at games and it now appears he may be leaving town to move back home and Abby has had trouble getting enough time away from family life to make most of our games. As a result, the team that used to regularly get 15-20 players at a game has rarely had more than 11 or 12 this year. We even played one game recently, against the team that beat us for the championship last year no less, with only nine guys. If Brutus hadn’t gone on his recruiting jag in the off season I don’t know where we’d be.
While we knew pretty much exactly what we’d get in having Donkey return to the team (which is a lot) the acquisitions of Wilgy and Rat have proven to be a godsend. Donkey, Wilgy and Rat are all extremely talented, team oriented players and I couldn’t be happier with their play. They make nearly every game (and every one that they say they’ll make), and they bring such a positive attitude to each game that they’re just a joy to be around. Rat is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in a long time. He always has something good to say about everyone and never seems to say anything negative. He’s won us a couple of games with his bat and a couple of more with his arm and he’s also been a great fit behind the plate when Abby can’t make a game. His family even showed up once with a complete pick nick in tow. What more can we ask? Wilgy is just the consummate professional. He shows up early and gets himself ready to play the game with plenty of time left over to participate in all the typical pre game banter. He leads the team in hitting, OBP, doubles and walks and he’s stolen 14 bases without getting caught. The rest of the team has only 11 combined! And we have a fast team. He’s also played superb defense to boot. Donkey, like Ken, is just a gym rat that can’t get enough time at the ballpark. He shows up early and cracks jokes with everyone from the time he gets there until the time the beer is gone. I can’t express how happy I am that these guys are on the team.
The good news is that we’re winning games and having fun. Heck, we’re 9-3 on the season and 6-1 in the league. That’s not too shabby. I hope that as the season progresses some of our injured and missing will find their way back to the dugout at the corner of Return to Childhood and Field of Dreams and celebrate a championship with the rest of their teammates. The bad news is that this season just doesn’t have the same feel that some of the past seasons have had. Maybe that’s just they way it’s meant to be – I don’t know. I do know that I miss seeing everyone and I hope that we can bring things full circle and finish this season off on a high note. The way the Saints have always done it. Together.
Where’s My Pen?!
As we were losing the second game of the Burnsville tournament Joe-Joe said, “This team never sweeps a double-header. We couldn’t win the second game (of a DH) if we were playing the Little Sisters of the Poor.”
Burnsy looked at him and quietly said, “I know a double-header we would have swept last September if somebody woulda kept himself outta the game.” (By the way, Joe, we did sweep two DH’s in one week in ’03.)
After Joe-Joe made a great sliding catch near the first base dugout when Rat lost track of the popup of Joe’s first pitch in the Crosstown game Gaspipe said, “I swear I heard Abby call for it – even though he’s at home.”
Gaspipe: Joe, I’m not keeping any defensive stats this year.
Joe-Joe: That’s good. They tend to be a negative stat anyway.
Tiny: How come you’re not keeping defensive stats? Defense is the best part of my game.
On The Brink Of Another Magical Season
Well it’s that time of year again. The snow is gone, the weather is getting warmer, the grass is beginning to turn green and Major League Baseball is making its annual return. All of these things lift my spirit and put a spring in my step but none of them warm my heart as much as the anticipation of getting together with my friends and actually playing the game of baseball.
I’m twelve years old and riding my stingray bike in the rain to the ballpark where we have a game scheduled later in the afternoon. My glove is hanging from the handlebars and my bat is tied to the seat and the sissy bar. My hat and my uniform smell like wet sheep, which is really what they are being 100% wool, but, to me, that smell ranks only slightly behind that of my freshly oiled Rawlings and the newly mown grass on the field. The game isn’t for some time yet but I just couldn’t contain myself at home any longer. I’ve been waiting all the long winter for this day and a little rain isn’t about to dampen my spirits. I arrive at the park and lean my Schwinn up against the fence and run into the dugout to see if any of my friends are waiting. They’re not, but I don’t mind.
I sit, for a while, staring out at the field and the big lake, Superior, beyond the leftfield fence, past the big hand-operated scoreboard and down the hill a mile or more. I daydream the same wonderful daydreams young boys have had for generations. I see myself making a spectacular diving stop and throwing the runner out at first. I make a great pitch to strike out the other team’s best hitter with the bases loaded. I hit a homerun in the bottom of the sixth to win the game. I sit there, staring out, for what seems like hours. The scene, to me, is beautiful. Dark brown dirt on the base paths, deep green grass on the infield and outfield and bright white chalk lines contrast with the gloomy gray sky overhead. I’ve never been to a major league park in my young life but I can’t imagine that it’s much better than my little field.
I become restless in my reverie and begin throwing a ball against the dugout wall and snaring the return. I become my favorite players, Dave Concepcion, Brooks Robinson or Joe Morgan as I make diving stops on the dugout floor. My footwork and my hands are flawless, or so I think. It seems I could spend countless hours lost in this dream world, making remarkable stops of balls surely destined to become base hits. After making all the sparkling defensive plays I could, I decide it’s time to add some offense. There is still no one else here at the park to pitch but that doesn’t bother me. I take my bat and ball and stand alone at home plate as the crowd roars in my head. I throw the ball high in the misty air and strike it with my Louisville Slugger as hard as I can and then run the bases as far as the hit will take me before running through the wet grass to retrieve the ball. I return to home plate and repeat the process again and again and again, sliding into bases when necessary. I always get a hit and the crowd always cheers.
Game time is approaching and no one else is here as it begins to rain a little harder.
I am unfazed. I know the rain will stop and my teammates will show up and we will defeat our enemy just as a glorious sunset covers the sky from horizon to horizon. I need to work on my arm so I stand at shortstop and field an imaginary ground ball in the hole. I backhand the ball, plant my foot and heave the now soggy ball toward first base. The trajectory is probably more like a mortar round but to me it’s a missile across the diamond just in time to get the speedy runner. I run and get the ball and repeat the process from every position on the field. I throw out a runner at home from centerfield, cut down a base stealer from behind the plate and nab a runner trying to go from first to third on a base hit down the rightfield line. The crowd is amazed at my versatility.
It’s game time and I’m still alone. The sky looks like it’s getting brighter. I think.
I am now a little worried. I’m pretty sure the rain will stop and we’ll start the game only slightly behind schedule but there’s an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d better work on my pitching in case the coach wants me to start the game. The clay on the mound is like standing in axle grease and it coats my spikes and makes my feet heavy. I toe the rubber and go into my best Luis Tiant windup. I hurl the ball toward home plate but it’s slightly off target. The imaginary batter hits the dirt. Bob Gibson would be proud. I run to the backstop, get the ball and return to the mound to throw another pitch, then another and another. The batters are no match for my Bob Feller-like fastball and they go down in order nearly every inning. I finish with a three-hit shutout.
It’s now well after game time and there is no sign of anyone else. The sky seems darker and the raindrops bigger.
I am starting to get depressed. I think the rain may still stop and we can get at least a shortened game completed before the sun goes down, but where is everyone? I realize that I haven’t worked on catching any fly balls yet. What if the coach wants me to play the outfield? I take my muddy, sodden ball and throw it as high in the air as I possibly can then scramble to get underneath it to make the catch. My spikes are still coated with clay from the mound and there is a trail of small, brown footprints in the green grass following me wherever I run. I make all the routine catches and dive for balls that are far from my reach. If I fail to catch a ball it’s because it was hit into foul territory and I made a long run to get to it. The crowd roars their approval for my effort.
It is now long after game time and beginning to get dark. The passing cars all have their headlights and windshield wipers on.
I am unhappy. I realize the rain is not going to stop and I will not get to play a game today. I walk, slowly, toward home plate and pick my bat up out of a puddle and leave the field, dragging my bat behind me as I go. Dejectedly, I put my glove back on the Schwinn’s handlebars and tie my Slugger to the seat. I walk my bike to the sidewalk and then climb on taking one last, long look at my field of dreams before riding off toward home. The crowd quietly files out of the stadium into the murky night.
My mom comes to the front door as she hears me climb the steps and lean my bike against the porch railing. “Look at you. You’re filthy!” she exclaims as I remove my glove and bat and head for the door. “Don’t even think of going in the front door looking like that young man! Go around to the back door, take off your shoes and go straight down to the basement and take off all your clothes and put them in the laundry,” she says as I head down the steps. “What am I going to do with that boy?” she mutters under her breath. “I hope you at least won the game after getting so dirty,” she says as I walk along the side of the house toward the back door. “No mom, we didn’t win. We didn’t even have a game. We got rained out and nobody showed up.” I don’t understand moms. Why on earth would she think we played a game in weather like this?
To this day this is how I feel on game days. My mind wanders from the task at hand and I find myself thinking about getting to the park, putting on my uniform and running out onto the field. I’m twelve years old all over again and excited at the prospect of being able to play baseball with my buddies. To me, that’s the magic of baseball. It transports me to a time when anything was possible and I had no worries other than getting a hit or catching the ball. And now, with the first game of the season only a few days away, I find myself looking forward to seeing all of my friends on the Saints and just having fun. I can’t contain myself here any longer. I’ll meet you all at the ballpark.
Saints Claim Regular Season Crown
8/24/2004 Minnetonka (Al Jezeera)
The Saints extended their second long winning streak of the season to seven games as they beat the Lakers 2-1 Monday night in a thriller played under ominous skies at Big Willow. The win clinched the regular season title and assured the Saints of the #1 seed in the playoffs. “It’s a big win for us, no doubt” said Corny after the game, “It takes all the pressure off of us for the scrimmage with J Thomas this weekend.” As regular readers of this column will remember, last season the Saints tied for the best regular season record with Woodbury but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker and therefore actually took second place. This year the Saints wanted no part of any tiebreak and vowed to play aggressively to the end to hang onto sole possession of first place. “Make no mistake, we wanted to show the rest of the league that we’re the best team” crowed Swilly over a cold one at the Spur, “And tonight, by beating the Lakers like a drum for the third time this year, we’ve served notice that we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.”
The game featured a match up of two of the league’s best pitchers. Kevin “Old 98’er” Burns going for the Saints against Jim “I had dinner with Gretzky” Wheeler and was reminiscent of last year’s meeting between the two clubs at the Metrodome. “Yeah, it was a lot like that game” noted Burnsy, “a good quick game, same score, except I didn’t let Joe come in and give up a bomb to Wheels in the seventh inning.” “I had a run to play with!” was heard from somewhere in the corner of the dugout. Leading off the game, Schmitty got hit in the back with a pitch, moved to second on a groundout by Swilly and then scored when Abbey hit a laser onto the road beyond leftfield for an early 2-0 lead. The Saints, however, wouldn’t muster much more offense on the night. Wheeler pitch well allowing scattered hits to 18, Pack, Brutus and Kiddo but they just couldn’t put any hits together to mount much of a threat.
The score remained 2-0 for quite a while as Burnsy mowed the Lakers down in order through 3 and 1/3 before they finally managed a hit off the glove of a diving Lucky at third base. “I really wanted to make that play” moaned Lucky in the dugout. “Those are the kind of plays you have to make to get your pitcher a no-hitter.” “Shit” said Burnsy, “That ball was smoked. There was nothin’ you could do. I don’t care about a stinkin’ no-hitter. I just wanna win.” As much as he claimed he didn’t care about losing the no-no I’m sure he would loved to have thrown one, especially against the Lakers. And his teammates would loved to have provided one for him the way he was pitching. He threw seven strikeouts on the night and most of the rest of the outs came on soft popups and groundballs. The only run he allowed was when Wheeler hit a one-out grounder to 18 who threw onto Kiddo at first but Kiddo couldn’t quite handle the throw allowing Wheels to reach safely. Andy Patrias ran for Wheels and tried to take second on a wild pitch and moved onto third when Abbey’s throw hit the lip in front of Gaspipe and careened into centerfield. After Kurt Johnson struck out for the second out, up stepped “Big” John Tatley who proceeded to rip a single to right to score the runner. “You guys know I can’t hit” said Tatley after the game. “The only reason I managed that one was because I catch Burnsy so often I can see exactly what’s comin’ on every pitch. Really I was just happy to get a piece of it.”
And so we moved to the bottom of the seventh with the Saints holding a slim 2-1 edge. Burnsy got the leadoff hitter out but then, after a tough at-bat, allowed a walk to Paul Jaunich who was promptly replaced by none other than the speedy Patrias – again. So it was that Wheels, one of the league’s best hitters, stepped to the plate with the tying run at first and a chance to be the hero for the Lakers. But fate is a fickle lady and she was not with Big Jim on this night. After fouling off a couple of pitches he hit a sharp two-hopper to Gaspipe at second who started the game ending, series ending, title clinching 4-6-3 double play. “The ball took an ugly hop and ate me up a bit” said Gaspipe afterward, “but I was damn sure gonna keep it in front of me and get at least one out. After making a slightly awkward catch on the return throw Kiddo said, “I saw 18 come across the bag and turn a bit and drop his arm angle. That’s the same thing he did earlier in the game when I dropped that one but I said to myself I wasn’t gonna miss this one – though my catch wasn’t pretty.” “What a great game” said Pipe afterward, “Kev just pitched outstanding. I tell him all the time but now I’m telling everyone, I’d pay to watch Burnsy pitch.”
The real key to the game, however, didn’t actually take place on the field but rather a couple of hundred feet above it. Once again, as has happened in almost every Saints victory lately, a flock of geese flew above the field in the middle innings signaling that the boys in blue would again be victorious and that the big Saints train was still on the right track.
Brutal E. Frank (Al Jezeera)
Where’s my iPod?!:
18, watching Gaspipe and Tiny climb into Tiny’s truck to leave Burnsville: “They look like the Haney brothers heading for the Shady Rest Hotel”.
Burnsy says “An athlete has a major decline in performance every seven years.” “Oh yeah?” says Gaspipe, “When’s you’re next decline due Burnsy?” “Thursday”.
Driving home from a recent Twins game Staller’s girlfriend, Shari, said “I’ve only slept with one major leaguer”, to which Tiny replied, “What a coincidence, me too”.
Gaspipe and Corny were talking about how sweat-soaked a cotton T-shirt becomes while wearing it under your jersey during a game and Corny said, “I don’t play hard enough to sweat.”
Eicher asked Burnsy if he was doing a good job catching him and Burnsy replied, “You’re doin’ fine except you’re flashin’ the signs too fast. Whadda ya think, I got DSL plugged in out there or somethin’?”
Sody, after asking to see the hole in the butt of Joe’s pants that Joe wants replaced, “Oh that’s not nearly as big a hole as I fantasized – uh, I mean, imagined.”
Gaspipe: After Schmitty got hit in the back by Wheeler, “It was a friggin change-up and he went down like he was shot with a bazooka and then he stayed on the ground for like 12 minutes. I thought we were just gonna have to play around him there for a while.”
Corny: “I’m pissed off because I’m not hitting my weight.” Andy: “If I hit my fuckin’ weight they’d sign me!”
At the Lone Spur Billy asked, for the second or third time, “Are we gonna order any more beer?” Pretty much everyone answered, “We already did – and we drank it!”
I want to send a special shout-out to Tiny who’s probably reading this while sitting in the bar at DFW after arriving at his gate just in time to watch his plane push back from the gate and takeoff without him. I can picture him standing there with his nose against the glass mumbling, “Where’s it going. Wait for me.” Bummer dude. Pass the lemons!
Saints Rally For Big Win
8/1/2004 Minnetonka (UPI)
Everyone’s favorite cast of characters rallied from three runs down to beat perennial powerhouse and arch rival/good friends Minnetonka Lakers Sunday to remain in the top slot in The Classic League standings. It was all Lakers early in the contest starting with their very first batter. Matt Miller, leading off for the Lakers, hit a sinking line drive to right that gave Swilly a little trouble as it came right out of the sun and a hazy, humid sky. Swilly made several jukes to try and line the ball up but still had a little trouble gauging the distance. At the last moment he made a lunge forward, dove and caught the ball just above the turf but the ump, incorrectly, ruled it a trap much to the dismay of the boys in blue. “I felt like a salmon swimming upstream on that one” said Swilly, “I was looking right into the sun and the sky was kinda hazy too or maybe that was just a leftover from my refer days. I really couldn’t be sure. I did catch it though.” Hadler followed with a sacrifice bunt that wound up going for a base hit. Miller was then forced out on a grounder to Gaspipe but Hadler later scored with two outs nonetheless. The Lakers then added two more runs later in the game to take a commanding 3-0 lead which seemed safe as pitcher Jim Wheeler held the Saints to one hit (a single by Schmitty, the second batter of the game) through six innings.
The heat must have gotten to Wheels though as he had trouble running the bases earlier in the game and looked very tired in his sweat-soaked uniform. Schmitty led off the top of the seventh with a base hit to left then Abbey, who had said “I’m gonna take four” just before the at-bat did, indeed, take a walk (though he did swing at a 2-0 slider in the dirt just for good measure) as Wheels refused to give him anything good to hit. “So much for taking four” shouted Joe-Joe from the dugout. 18 then got a base hit scoring Schmitty and moving Corny, running for Abbey, to second. Swilly then completed his initiation into The Klan, striking out for the third time on the day, “Don’t be burnin’ no crosses on my lawn” heckled Abbey from the corner of the dugout. Gaspipe followed with a knock to center scoring Corny and then the wheels really fell off of the big purple machine. Homerun Donny dropped a base hit into shallow left that Tim Lueder charged in anticipation of throwing to home to stop the runner at second from scoring the tying run. Unbeknownst to Lueder, Joe-Joe was holding 18 at third so there was really no reason to charge the ball that hard but still he tried to scoop the ball and throw home but the ball went just under his glove and rolled about 20 feet past him allowing 18 to score, Gaspipe to move to third and HR Donny to move up to second. “They keep putting me out there and plays keep happening” said Lueder afterward. “I keep waiting for them to figure out that I’m a second baseman, not an outfielder.” The Lakers wanted no part of Pac-Man and walk him intentionally to load the bases with one out. “Wheeler’s a big puss” was all that Pack had to say after the game. Staller then put a horrible swing on the first pitch he saw, a curveball no less, and popped up to Hadler at third. Asked why he swung at a curveball since he’s obviously a fastball hitter he said, “It just looked so big coming in that had to swing even though everyone told me to wait for a good fastball. I sometimes have trouble waiting on pitches but I didn’t think I’d be ahead of a curve.” Staller should have ended that statement six words earlier. Joe-Joe, who had really tagged one in his previous at-bat only to see Andy Patrias make a sensational leaping catch on the warning track, then strolled to the plate with the game on the line and retribution on his mind. “After I hit that ball and started running, the only question I had was whether it was going to be a double or a triple” said Joe-Joe at the time. It was a moot point, however, as Wheels completed the Lakers’ unraveling by delivering a wild pitch on his third offering allowing Gaspipe to score the go-ahead run and moving the other runners up 90 feet as well. Joe-Joe eventually made the last out but the damage was done and Minnetonka’s favored sons took a 4-3 lead to the bottom of the seventh against a stunned Lakers team.
As good teams will do, the Lakers refused to go quietly in the bottom of the inning. Burnsy induced Patrias to ground out to Gaspipe for the first out but then JJ reached first on a single. Miller followed with a ground ball to 18 who flipped to Staller for the second out but the relay to first was not in time to complete the game-ending double play. JJ slid hard into Staller who then fell on top of JJ’s head and just sorta sat there. “I really had no idea what had happened” said a woozy JJ afterward, I just knew that the smell was making my eyes water.” Hadler then followed with a single to left moving Miller to second and bringing a good hitter in Kurt Johnson to the plate with a chance to at least tie the game. After an epic battle, Burnsy got him to hit a weak grounder down the third base line where Gaspipe dropped to a knee, smothered the ball and tagged the bag to force the runner thus ending another classic match up between these two longtime rivals.
Where’s My Pen?!
Joe telling Andy about Burnsy’s fielding prowess: “He dove for one on Friday night.” 18: “But that was at the Lone Spur after the game.”
Solid Defense, Consistent Hitting Lead To Win
7/25/2004 Minnetonka (Bertelsmann)
The Boys of Summer continued to play good baseball and extended their winning streak to a franchise record nine games after beating the Millers 7-1 on Sunday. The contest was close early on as the Millers made an inspired decision and started probably the slowest pitcher in the league against the Saints. “It was a good call on their part”, said 8-Ball after the game. “At least half of our guys had little or no chance to hit a pitcher throwing that slow.” “I’m going home and I’m taking my ball with me” pouted Corny after whiffing against the thumber in the first inning. True to form, many of the Saints were too anxious and got out in front of a number of pitches creating several easy popups to infielders and the catcher. Luckily for the Saints, the Millers fielders weren’t much better than the pitcher so a number of catchable balls dropped. Not all of them however. “How come the guy can catch it when I hit it but not when Elvis hits it?” grumbled Corny after popping out to the catcher in the third inning. “Because you popped it up right on top of home plate instead of making him run for it”, chirped 18, “He has an equilateral problem and gets dizzy when he runs.” “You mean an equilibrium problem” countered Pac-Man. “No, I mean he runs a perfect triangle around the spot where the ball is gonna drop.”
The Saints did manage a run in the first, third and fourth innings and two each in the fifth and sixth and never went down 1-2-3. “The key today was that everybody contributed with the bat. Except Eicher, that is. He popped up on a 3-0 pitch so he owes us a case of beer” explained Abbey. “In most kangaroo courts that’s at least two cases but he did get a walk later in the game and managed to get all the way around the bases by himself so we reduced the fine. Of course, I think he barely made it to second on a single, was forced to third on a walk and scored on a single so it’s not like he hauled-ass around the bases or anything. Come to think of it, maybe it should be two cases.” “It was really a team effort,” noted Kiddo after the game. “Jake started the game with a hit, Brutus, Pac-Man, Schmitty, Gaspipe, Corny, 18 and Foghorn all had at least one hit and I’m sure there were others as well. I thought I had one too when they had the infield playing in on me with the bases loaded, but the second baseman made a good play to snare the liner that I ripped. It’s a good thing for them too because I was diggin’ for two right outta the box on that one.”
“We played a really good game today” said Swilly. “We hit pretty well and we played good defense. Well, except for that one throw to home that Joe had. Where was he throwing that anyway? I thought it was gonna take out the Gatorade jug.” That throw allowed Northfield’s only run of the day to score though they did put together one other threat, loading the bases with no one out. But Burnsy, as usual, managed to squash the rally. He got the next batter to strikeout, then got a popup on the infield and then Tiny made a nice diving play at third on a hard hit ball down the line and beat the runner to the bag ending the inning and, for all intents and purposes, any chance the Millers had on the day. “I thought they were going to get at least two runs on that ball” said Burnsy after the inning, “Eunice made a sweet dive to get that ball and then he came rumblin, bumblin, stumblin, over to third to get the guy. When he was tryin’ to get up he looked like his favorite Fort Myers bar – The Beached Whale.” “I don’t know why I got so much grief about that play” wondered Tiny in the dugout, “I thought I moved pretty well although diving twice on one play kinda took a lot out of me. I could have thrown to first to get the batter, but Burnsy would’ve had to relay the throw for me.”
The stars still seem to be aligned for the Saints as they continue to roll through another magical season. Now, if they could only get the whole team to show up for a game, we may get to see what they’re really capable of.
Harley Worthett (Bertelsmann)
Where’s My Pen?!
After looking at Tiny’s newly shaved head Corny said, “You’re head kind of comes to a point on top. But that’s good – if it rains you won’t flood.”
When his girlfriend, Shari, left the table at the Spur to have a smoke at the bar, Staller said, with not a little contempt in his voice, “She’ll just sit there and smoke a six-pack and drink a pack of cigarettes.” (Are you sure you don’t drink, Mike?)
Corny: “Staller is so cheap they call him ‘Dutch’.”
Joe to Gaspipe and Corny, “Which one of you guys is more anal?” Staller: “They’re both single.”
Discussing the unimaginable lack of speed coupled with the tremendous arc displayed by one of the Millers pitchers Swilly said, “It looked like he was throwing dirty underwear into a laundry basket from across the room”.
Corny was having trouble deciding what to keep and what to throw away while moving out of his apartment recently so Gaspipe suggested, “The rule of thumb is, if you haven’t used it in two years, throw it away.” To which Corny replied, “Well, here’s my nut cup, I haven’t used that in way more than two years do you think I should toss it?” “I don’t know”, replied Gaspipe, “are you planning on having kids?”
After Eicher made a nice diving stop of a ball at third and then struggled to get up and get to the bag just ahead of the runner Corny said, “It’s a good thing you cut your hair off or else you wouldn’t have gotten to the bag in time.”
Big Hit Wins It For Saints
7/14/2004 St. Paul (UPI)
The Saints pulled out another come from behind win on Wednesday night against St. Paul JT’s for their seventh straight victory. It wasn’t a pretty win but it was scrappy and showed, once again, the tenacity and resolve of this team even when playing shorthanded. The Saints got the leadoff batter on base in each of the first four innings but, each time, failed to plate him. Time and time again good hitters came to the plate with runners on but couldn’t deliver against the St. Paul righty. “Taney looked better on TV today talking about that computer problem at the airport than he looks on the hill tonight. We’re gonna murdalize him”, said Kiddo who then proceeded to go 3 for 3 off big Joe. “It looks like a frickin’ beach ball up there but I just can’t stay back long enough on him to hit it fair”, Elvis bemoaned in frustration. “You couldn’t stay back on a .44 Magnum”, muttered 18 under his breath. “I don’t know what all yer problems are”, said Burnsy after not attempting to bunt in two straight situations that clearly called for one, “I’m gettin’ pretty good hacks at him.” Foghorn did manage to get into one with a runner on in the first inning but pulled it foul toward, and nearly into, the setting sun. “I really didn’t see the pitch”, he later admitted. “I knew he threw that crappy little curveball but I lost it in the sun and just swung from my heels. I don’t know how I hit it. I really don’t.” The ump obviously didn’t know either as he just stood there looking down the third base line hoping the ball would eventually appear somewhere in the distance so that he could make some kind of call. “I never really saw it so I just called it a do-over”, he later confessed. The ball was hooking quite a bit but landed on the other side of Cretin Avenue so it’s possible that the ball passed the foul pole in fair territory but, since the ball was so high as it left the park that it interfered with the traffic pattern at MSP International, no one bothered to question the call.
In the meantime 18 was doing a pretty good job on the hill giving up only one well-hit ball. The second inning started with a groundball to Homerun Donny at third who made a nice pick up and threw to Kiddo at first. Kiddo’s glove apparently didn’t have enough stickum in it though and the ball dropped to the ground allowing the runner to be safe. “I didn’t think Kiddo needed to jump for that ball”, lamented HD afterward. “I think he jumped just high enough so that the ball hit the heel of his glove rather than the pocket.” Then big Jim Block stepped to the plate and laced a double to left center which scored JT’s first, unearned, run. “Where did you leave that one to Block?” questioned Gaspipe after the inning. “Pretty much in the middle of the plate but I really didn’t think he could handle a pitch there. I guess I’ll have to remember that the next time he comes up”, sighed 18. After that the St. Paul boys started hitting little Texas Leaguers, duck snorts and just plain old turds that kept finding holes in the defense. “I’ve seen every part of the field except the part where I’m standing”, said an exasperated Swilly after chasing, in vain, another blooper over third base. “I’m gonna play him shallow since he dropped one into short center last time”, said 8-Ball when Brad “DWI” Linder came to the plate. He still dumped one in between Elvis and a sliding 8-Ball. “They were really starting to piss me off”, griped 18 after the game, “They hit like a bunch of catholic school girls. I really wanted to drill one of them but my mom taught me not to hit girls.” “It’s tough catching 18”, noted Foghorn afterward. “On one pitch his fastball will dance like Baryshnikov and the next one is straighter than John Wayne. I didn’t know what to call so I just stopped giving him signs. I figured it’s pretty crowded in his head anyway so why should I get in there too.”
There were several bright spots on the night defensively for the Saints. Kiddo fielded a hot smash off of Taney’s bat and started a nifty 3-6-1 DP to end the first and Brutus made a nice running catch in right to also end an inning. Gaspipe made a nice leaping grab of a soft liner up the middle and, with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth and a runner on first he made a diving stop of a groundball on the right side of second and flipped back to Elvis who had overrun second but managed to get back to the bag just ahead of the runner to end the threat. “Best play I’ve ever seen a Saint make”, roared Brutus in the dugout. “I get dissed a lot on this team for not having the range to play shortstop”, huffed Gaspipe afterward, “but plays like that prove my critics wrong. I can’t hit the ball out of the park to win games but pitching and defense win championships. I just do what I can.”
The big blow, however, came in the top of the seventh. With the score still tied 8-Ball led off with a hit, stole second on a bunt-and-run that bounced to the plate and took third on Gaspipe’s groundout to short. “I’m glad it worked out but why in the heck did he go to third on a groundball to short?” questioned Brutus after the play. Homerun Donny then popped up to third and, for the second time in two trips to the plate, JT’s intentionally walked Foghorn to get to Brutus. “They’re dissin ya Brutus! It’s time to make them pay!” exclaimed Gaspipe from the first base coaching box. Brutus settled into the batters box with fire in his eyes and a determined look on his face and… walked, to load the bases. That brought up newly acquired Swilly Ferris with the bases loaded, two outs and the game on the line. Swilly glared out at the pitcher, a former teammate, Denny Darwin, who, incidentally, had no idea that it was Swilly standing in the batters box. Swilly got ahead 2-0 and then swung wildly at a pitch in the dirt. “We just need a base hit”, was the general consensus coming from the dugout but Swilly had more in mind. Darwin reared back and fired a fastball right into Swilly’s wheelhouse. Swilly didn’t miss. He drove a liner to left center that brought the throng of Saints fans, five strong counting little Sophie and Grace Radam, to their feet as it cleared the fence. “That was a great hit”, said Jennifer Radam. “Grace loved it, but I think only because she thought daddy hit it.” Well, daddy did get to bat next and reached on an error followed by an Elvis hit but then Kiddo grounded into a force to end the inning. 8-Ball, pitching in relief of 18 since the fifth, got the first batter before giving up a solid base hit to Taney and then throwing a wild pitch to send him to second. 8-Ball then settled down and got the final two outs to nail down the win just as the sun set beyond the trees in center. It was a beautiful sunset and one more sign that things are going right for the Saints this season. Cold beverages were enjoyed by all in the parking lot while the players were serenaded by young college co-eds dancing at the windows of their dorm rooms. Yes, all was most definitely right with the Saints.
When Eicher was hit by a pitch recently Corny said, “It sounded like it hit a loaf of bread”.
While hanging out with some of the Lakers after the game was cancelled the other night Andy said “I never knew Tatley drank until I saw him sober”.
Joe: “Is a duck fart hit worse than a duck snort hit?” Gaspipe: “Ya know, they say a duck’s quack doesn’t echo. Do you think its fart would?” Joe: “I think it bubbles.”
By Scott Gatzke
All The Signs Are There
7/8/2004 Minnetonka (AP)
In a twist worthy of a John Grisham novel everything seems to have fallen into place of late for the hometown boys of summer. During recent games geese have been seen flying nearby, a full moon has risen above the field, Jake found a four-leaf clover and wore it in his hat along with the yellow daisy he’s had there since his protesting days in the late 60’s and even the third base coaches new signs have become clear to those who actually bother to look. The Saints season began with more unanswered questions than a round of Jaywalking All-Stars on The Tonight Show. Who was coming back? How many more players could possibly defect to the Lakers? Who was going to manage the team? Would Pack ever show up for a game? Which uniform were we going to wear? Which new vehicle would Noonan drive to the games? Would Corny ever wash his jacket? But after all the turmoil and a shaky 1-2 start to the season, the boys have regained their composure and put together a series of makeshift lineups that has them at the top of The Classic League standings once again.
The one new face on the team this year, Bill “Swilly” Ferris has had an immediate impact throwing a runner out at the plate in a close game and hitting the ball all over the ballpark. Swilly has a long and dubious history in baseball leagues throughout Minnesota but one thing has always been clear – the guy can play ball. Swilly will be a good addition as he brings a little intensity to a team which has been somewhat lacking intensity recently, he’s a good outfielder, he hits and runs well and he can pitch some too. If he can keep his volcanic temperament at a nice, steady simmer, and not let it boil over (and I know you can Bill), he’ll help this club immensely. The team looks forward to having him around.
The look of this year’s team is still taking shape as the whole squad hasn’t been together for a game yet. The outfield, in particular, has been a patchwork of players sharing the duty and the infield has had several different looks as well. One pleasant surprise in a recent game was the play of Joe “8-Ball” Perzel at second base. “I don’t know why you’re so surprised that I played well at second” noted 8-Ball afterward. “I’m the best player we have at every position except catcher. I think I’ll bat myself fourth in the next game.” Despite the fact that the team has, at times this year, struggled to get the desired personnel to show up, there are still enough good, quality players at any one game to take on any competitor in the league.
In spite of all the changes this season has brought with it one thing hasn’t changed, the Saints are still a force to be reckoned with.
Have you ever noticed that when Kiddo bats he never wears gloves but when he reaches base he spends about five minutes donning a pair of sliding gloves? Has anyone EVER seen Kiddo slide? Especially headfirst?!
Andy: “Larry’s so slow he has to speed up to stop.”
Eicher: “When Gaspipe wears that tight Under Armor T-shirt, his bellybutton looks like a tiny little covered swimming pool.”
Corny, on his Can O’ Corn articles: “I often make things up anyhow, so what I write is usually about 40% fact and 90% fiction."
Moe Lester (AP)
By Scott Gatzke
Listless Lumber Leads To Loss
5/28/2004 Minnetonka (AP)
The mighty Minnetonka Saints struggled with the bats Thursday night in a 2-1 loss to public enemy number 1, Edina Crosstown Traffic. Twice the Saints had a runner at second base with no outs and failed to plate him. The two teams combined for only eight total hits – four for each squad and three of Edina’s hits were gifts that should have been converted into outs. Joe “8 Ball” Perzel pitched six very effective innings even though he threw the ball where new Saints catcher Benny “Soup” Suapaia set up only twice. “I’m not sure what happened out there”, Soup said after the game. “He never hit the target I gave him and he crossed me up like 23 times but he sure kept the hitters off balance. The one I took square in the chest sure hurt though. Maybe I should have tried to get some leather on it but 8 Ball throws harder than most of the guys in the Goulash league. How come the blue didn’t call that one a strike?” Kevin “Old 98er” Burns threw the last inning and allowed two runners but sandwiched a double play between them to limit the threat.
The Saints were without at least six players and it really took a toll on the team as they never really found their rhythm. Nearly half of the players on the field at game time were playing out of position and it didn’t help that Edina hit a few turds that landed in front of our outfielders. “I was thinking about laying out for that ball” quipped Andy “Spats” Stavast after one of the aforementioned bleeders dropped in front of him in the first inning scoring Edina’s only two runs, “but I feared it might cause a seismic event. Plus my wife just washed my uni and she always bitches about the grass stains I get when I stretch before games.”
On the positive side John “Guns” Noonan roped a one-out double to start the seventh inning rally which would account for the Saints only run and The Snake had two hits on the night though he did get picked off first to end the third. Mike “Plain Jane” Staller accounted for the other Saints hit after standing at the plate watching a long drive drop 18” foul. “Why didn’t you run when it was that close?!” questioned an incredulous 8 Ball. “I knew it was foul all the way” Staller replied. “He should know” muttered Gaspipe, “He hits enough of ‘em.”
In off-field news, local legend Jim Botten, in town visiting his daughter, dropped by to watch the game and catch up with old friends and the team learned that they had been sold to a new owner and GM known only as ‘Eric’- apparently some sort of friend of Noonan’s. The deal was reportedly brokered for a warm Mitch-pack and a case of Icy-Hot. The new GM did show some hustle in chasing down foul balls but after wrestling one away from a six year old girl it became apparent that he was just trying to keep team expenses down. “I don’t think now is the right time to ask for a raise” bemoaned a disconsolate Mike “Tiny” Eicher.
In any case, the boys now have a long layoff for the holiday weekend but vow to be ready for the Litchfield tournament next weekend.
Brae Kwind (AP)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS SEASON CONCLUDES WITH A BANG – AND A WHIMPER
9/16/2003 Minnetonka (AP)
The Minnetonka Saints wrapped up the 2003 campaign last week not knowing exactly how to feel. On one hand, the team had a great season – winning more than 40 games. They took the regular season title and also won the playoff tournament in the Federal League and they tied for first in the Classic League regular season. But, on the other hand, they got bounced in the Classic League tournament and wound up a disappointing (by their own, self-imposed, high standards) fourth behind Woodbury, JT’s and the Lakers. The mood on the bench during, and in the parking lot after, the last game was subdued, despondent, melancholy. The players expected more from themselves and wanted to finish an improbable season in improbable fashion – by celebrating a second championship in as many weeks the way they had celebrated everything else for the last four months – together.
Together. That’s the key. Truth be told, the team probably peaked a week early. The bats, which had for several weeks been driving baseballs all over ballparks from Coon Rapids to Northfield, became suddenly quiet. The feet seemed a step slower, the arms slightly less powerful. Did playing fulltime in two leagues and in two tournaments simultaneously finally take a toll? Perhaps. Would any of the players go back and change any of it if they could? Probably not. Yes, they were unhappy with their finish but, more importantly, they realized they would no longer be together. This is a team that started the season with a lot of question marks. They were missing some players from the previous year and the availability of several others was questionable. There were numerous new faces, unsettled struggles for positions, questions over playing time and a new coach with new ideas. So how did this team handle all of the early season adversity? By coalescing into one of the most cohesive, fun-loving and talented teams I have ever seen. All of the players genuinely enjoyed playing and hanging out together. If you don’t believe that, just check out the tab at the Lone Spur. This team had more fun, together, this year than most teams have in a decade. This may well go down as one of the most successful Saints teams ever but, more importantly for everyone involved, it will probably go down as one of the most fun.
What was it that made this team so much fun? Was it watching a 50 year old have the season of his life and reveling in it with childlike enthusiasm? Was it having Jen Radam’s water break while sitting in the stands during a playoff game and 12 hours later giving birth to a beautiful baby girl? Was it reading all of these silly stories and seeing the pictures of everyone on a goofy website? Was it hanging out at the Spur? Was it standing on a beautiful green field at sunset watching geese fly overhead? Was it listening to Jake tell some batter that Mr. Hudson was drawing him a map to the hotel? Was it the constant banter that involved EVERYONE and left no one unscathed? Was it Lil’ Donkey going through the handshake line after each game? Was it going to parties at Noonan’s? Was it watching Crash give the kids rides in his MG? Was it the shared experiences? Was it the camaraderie? Was it hearing Corny one-up Yogi? Repeatedly. Yes. It was all of these things and a thousand more. We are all grown men, with families and jobs and responsibilities, playing a children’s game. But, for us, it’s the people with whom we play the game that make it all worthwhile. If it weren’t, we’d probably all be out playing golf. It’s the joy of watching 18 drive a ball out of the park or the beauty in watching Burnsy’s curve ball freeze some poor batter or the absurdity of seeing Crash knocked unconscious by a lazy pop-up along with the ability to rehash, relive and laugh about each event equally afterward, and to do it together, that make all of this, and this team, so special.
As this season ends, the team is on the brink of a major change. According to Joe, we will not play next year in the Federal League and we will probably split into two teams. Over the next few months we will all have to discuss the situation and decide just what is to be done. With so many good players and such wonderful personalities, I have no idea how we can do it. I really don’t. So, raise your glass with me one more time: “To the 2003 Minnetonka Saints: Together, the class of both leagues.” But just one more – I have to be home by 9:30.
I want to thank everyone for such a wonderful, fun year. I’m sad to see it end.
Joe: Thanks for having me on this team. Your patience and temperament have been an inspiration.
Corny: I know you haven’t had an easy year and I haven’t necessarily helped. Thank you for doing a difficult, thankless job and doing it well. One criticism: You need to bat more!
Burnsy: As always, it’s a pleasure to watch you work. I’d pay to see you pitch. And hanging out with you is a gas! I can’t wait for Florida!
18: Life’s ultimate winner. You have a beautiful family, a good job, you’re a great athlete and you have the admiration of all your many friends. You deserve it all. I love being your teammate. Watch that Tourette’s.
Nooner: You have the heart of a lion, the tenacity of a pitbull and the energy of a man on Red Bull! No matter what you think, I love hangin’ out with you and I admire you for all that you’ve accomplished.
Lucky: It was a tough year for you with your injury but seeing you throw guys out at first was priceless. PS I need your money for Florida!
Crash: Watching you this year was inspirational. I’ve had so much fun with you these last couple of years. Your intelligence and wit are astounding albeit slightly odd. Don’t quit on us. We want you back. Visalia sucks anyway – I’ve been there.
Jake: You’re a trip! Last year I didn’t know what to make of you, and this year, I still don’t. All you do is hit rockets and run like the wind. I wish I had half of your energy. Send ‘em to the HO-tel!
Staller: You’ve been a good friend for a long time. It was fun playing ball with you again. Try to hit the ball fair next year!
Eicher: What can I say? It’s been so much fun having you on the team. Kind of like Florida stretched out over six months. I love your sense of humor. Pass me a lemon, will ya?
Tee: Once again I’ve had a great time playing next to you. You’re consistency is really amazing. I wish I could hit like you. And I wish you could show up for games like me.
Darcy: It’s been fun getting to know you better this year. I’ve always known you were a good player but now I know you’re a good guy too. Watch those short hops!
Pac-Man: What a guy! You’re a solid ballplayer and a great family man too. It’s been a pleasure to watch you play. Hit the cut.
Donkey: You’ve were the best pickup we made in the off-season – and it only cost us a Mitch-pack!. What a great season you had. Don’t fret over the playoffs – you weren’t the only one that struggled. Let me know when you’re going to swing away! My ankle still hurts.
Andy: How do you do it? You could walk up to the plate wearing penny loafers, hit a rope and then steal second standing up – because you never slide. Your good humor and your presence are invaluable to this team.
Schmitty: I hate you! You’re too skinny, too fast and you hit too well! How do you do that at 41? Call me next time you go looking for chicks. I’ll clean up the leftovers.
Jerome: Man, I wish I had your talent. It’s a pleasure to watch you pitch. Quit nibbling and go after the hitters!
Kiddo: I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. You got me to go to Florida and for that I’m eternally grateful. Watching you hit the last few weeks has been a joy. Just pick up the pace a bit. Run, Forest, run!
Sody: We didn’t see you much this year but, when we did, it was hilarious! I love having you around to keep everyone loose. What were you doing parked in the bushes the other day?
Abercrombie: What fun it was to watch you behind the dish. I’ve never played with anyone as solid as you. You finally picked up an aluminum bat the other day and got two doubles – go figure. I still think you’re a perfect Foghorn Leghorn.
Smitty: I’m really glad you joined our team this year. You’re an excellent addition to our staff, a smart ballplayer and a damn fine drinker!
Sody, upon hearing that Jay’s new nickname was Donkey, “I think I’ll just call him an ass.”
Early in the season, Corny had to stop practicing the signs at his apartment because he kept fooling the guy in the mirror.
Corny, when Brooke asked if he wanted his leftovers wrapped to go, “No, that’s OK. I’ll just go through your garbage when I leave.”
Eicher: “I have a chance with Brooke.”
Gaspipe: "No you don’t."
Burnsy: “Start diggin’ the dirt for the grave. She’s gonna mess you up!”
18: “Everything you see at Noonan’s, he owns outright.”
Corny: "Including me!”
Newman: (Corny’s cat) “Hadler was stale tonight because he’s grumpy and doesn’t smile.”
Smitty: “Pac, you should have called Donkey off of that short fly ball to left just to piss him off.”
Pac: “I would only do that to Noonan.”
Burnsy, on the price of the beer at the NCO club: "It’s “Super Saver” night here, Scotty!”
Smitty: “Do I drink? Yeah, I’ve had one long beer since I was 18.”
Sody: When Corny was looking for his hat, “What number is inside your hat?”
Corny: "I don’t have anything in my hat."
Sody: “You don’t have anything in your hat when you put it on your head either.”
Joe-Joe: When Noonan wanted to bat left-handed, “You can’t even spit left-handed.”
Brutus says he wants to take a bath with Tiny and Burnsy replies, “If you market that movie right, you can make a lot of money.”
Sody, trying to motivate the team during the playoffs: “Look at me. If you don’t workout this is what it looks like! This is as fast as it moves, this is a sexy as it gets!” The entire team joined Lifetime Fitness the next day.
Corny: “18, just because you’re batting for me doesn’t mean you have to swing at the first pitch.”
Joe-Joe, after a Big Dog at bat the featured several foul balls: “He just had five Corny at bats in one at bat.”
Gaspipe: "None of us are as good, or bad, as we sometimes think we are.”
Smitty: “Every good team will have good players sitting on the bench.”
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS ARE LIKE THE KIDS IN SPECIAL ED CLASS
NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY WITH THEM
The Minnetonka Saints seem to be the lepers of the Classic League lately as three games were forfeited to them within a two-day span recently. Edina backed out of a scheduled double header ostensibly to avoid another incident like the one that marred the game on August 15th. “They’re not playing us because Ogie Oglethorpe wasn’t available tonight”, quipped Smitty, referring to the most feared opponent in the Federal Hockey League. “Ogetorp?!”, questioned a quivering mass of Jell-O that had once been a goaltender, “I tought he ees stil in jail?” “Perhaps they could get Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken to take his place,” pondered Gaspipe, alluding to the hard-skating defenseman who has been known to “take out a man’s eye with the flick of his stick”. Then, just one day later, Burnsville cancelled a game because they were unable to find enough players to show up. “At this rate, we may be able to forfeit our way to the championship,” said a dejected Corny on Monday afternoon. “We went from scrounging for pitching to not being able to get guys enough innings this week,” said Joe-Joe with a nervous laugh. “We need to keep everyone sharp for the playoff run, and that means getting guys playing time here at the end of the season.”
Not to fear, the boys got plenty of playing time in the final two games of the regular season. An 8-6 victory over Northfield in the last Classic League game that started out looking like it might be a rout for the Saints. But a few chink hits and a couple of errors later the Millers had suddenly made a game of it. Nevertheless the Saints held on in the last couple of innings to win it and proceeded to have a merry time drinking beer in the parking lot afterward. “All I know is the next time the Big Dog tells a story, I’m gonna pay real close attention,” said an excited Brutus as he was leaving the park. “That Darcy, he’s nuts! I want to party with him sometime,” added Corny. “That’s like every fantasy I ever had in high school come true,” said Schmitty. “Not mine,” said Joe-Joe, “I was too busy playing cards with the guys in homeroom.” Of course, they were all referring to the Big Dog regaling, to the assembled crowd, a story about his conquests as a young man so tantalizing, titillating and taboo, that decency and decorum prevent me from recounting it here.
The final game of the regular season was a 15-0 blowout of Lakeville on Thursday night at Big Willow. The team knew that all was right when a large flock of geese flew from west to east directly over the Saints dugout early in the game. “Is that a great omen, or what?!” exclaimed Brutus. “We’ve got this game in the bag now,” added Lucky. “Look out! They’re pooping!” screamed Corny as he ran for the dugout like Anna Nicole Smith for the last Krispy Kreme. After that, the team played loose and easy as everyone contributed in some way to the victory. “Do I have a target on my back?” questioned Gaspipe after being hit by a pitch for the second time that night. “No, just a sign that says, ‘kick me’,” noted Kiddo. “Well, take it off of me.” replied Gaspipe. “Why,” said Kiddo, “I’m the one who put it there.”
On a disappointing note, Crash failed in his bid to get 50 hits this year. A mark he has had his eye on for quite some time now. He did, however, finish tied with Donkey for the team lead with 47. That’s not bad for a 50-year-old Bull Durham junkie, switch-hitting, cliché spewing, ambulance-chasing, never met a waitress he didn’t want to do lawyer. On the bright side, he did get a burger and a turkey leg at the Spur.
Before the Lakeville game Big Dog wanted to get some practice on short hops at first base so he had Donkey throw a bunch of balls to him in the dirt. He took a bad hop in the snout and broke it. The doctors reset it on Wednesday. Help me out here. Was that a successful practice?
Speaking of Donkey, he hurt his back last Saturday wiping his bum. You can’t make this stuff up!
Tiny stumbled slightly getting out of the dugout recently and paused with one foot on the dirt and one in the dugout. Donkey was standing directly behind him in the dugout and was heard to mutter, “That’s a bigback porch.”
Abercrombie on Jim Wheeler’s toughness, “It would be a waste of a bullet to shot him.”
During a typical cacophonous discussion at the Spur 18 spoke up and said, “Somebody tie a thought together.”
Corny: “When’s your birthday?”
Crash: “August 12th.”
Corny: “So you just had one?”
Crash: “Yeah, you ate the cake right here at the bar.”
Corny: “Oh, yeah.”
Corny: “Kiddo is coming over to fix my car.”
Gaspipe: “Is he bringing a gun?”
Joe: “I saw Seabiscuit last night. It’s a great date movie. I brought my 22 year old daughter.”
Cuz: “With a guy like me that has money, looks, cars and boats, all that’s left is love and sex.”
Corny, worried that Jennifer Radam may have her baby during one of the playoff games asks Poison, “Can you deliver a baby?”
Poison: “Uh, well, ahhh, yeah. But I don’t want to.”
Tiny: “We’ll be right in the middle of a game and she’ll yell out ‘IT’S COMING NOW TODD!’ and 18 will go running off the field.”
Joe: “No, she knows enough to wait until between pitches.”
18: On Crash’s running on the grass on the inside of the line while running out a routine grounder to second, “He was so far inside the line that he had a better shot at getting to third than first.”
Tiny: Upon hearing that Corny has quietly racked up 70 at bats this season, “70 AB’s, 1 walk and he’s only seen 78 pitches."
18: After Corny tried the roast pork sandwich at the Spur, “Was it good? Would you call it ‘The Corny’.”
Corny: “No, maybe ‘The Gatzke’.”
18: “So it’s not that good then?”
Joe-Joe: “Corny, do you want to play touch football this year?”
Corny: Can I get hurt? I only have one good eye. And that one’s bad too.”
Brutus: “When Jen Radam gets ready to have her baby, does her cervix have to dilate to 18”?
Cuz: “Chicks come before baseball. What matters most is chicks.” (He’ll never really make it with this team.)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS STEAMROLLING TOWARD PLAYOFFS – WRITER MISSING
8/14/2003 Twin Cities (AP)
Editors Note: The reporter usually assigned to cover the Minnetonka Saints has been AWOL for some time now and this office has heard only sketchy reports of drunken debauchery and nefarious goings on, along with which we have also received some outlandish expense reports. I didn’t know I hired Hunter S. fucking Thompson for this assignment! It’s just a baseball team for God’s sake. This lack of communication with our vanished reporter just so happens to coincide with Scott “Lucky” Lawrence (a.k.a. Drinking Buddy)’s placement on the DL and his sabbatical from the team. We can only speculate on a possible connection but, rest assured, we will get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, we will try to update you on the progress of your favorite group of misfits.
7/24/2003 St. Paul. The Saints play St. Paul JT’s at Arlington Field which is in a rather questionable section of town. More than one fight broke out in the surrounding neighborhood during the game and the field was a disaster with short fences and it faced the wrong direction causing serious vision problems for the third baseman, shortstop and left fielders. “If I told you once, I told you three times, if I drive up and it’s a shitty field, I’m not stopping,” said Tee halfway through the game, “This place sucks!” And so it did. For the Saints, after jumping out to a 6-1 lead, lost in a most embarrassing fashion 18-7 in five innings.
7/25/2003 Minnetonka. The Saints take on long time rival the Minnetonka Cavaliers and win 7-3 in a game that I really can’t remember. I’m sure something funny happened though. (Insert laugh here.) Trust me, it's worth it.
7/27/2003 Minnetonka. The Saints beat up on the new kids on the block, the St. Paul Senators, 12-2 in five innings. Albert Linderman gives up nine runs before being relieved in the first inning. The umpire takes exception to our team’s whining when he starts calling strikes on balls that are clearly out of the strike zone. “You’re up 9-0, I’m gonna call it a strike so get in there and hit”, the ump griped. “I’m looking for a pitch in the zone that I can drive. Why should I swing at shit like that?” Questioned Abercrombie, “Call a strike a strike.” “I don’t need to take that from you, you’re gone!” exploded the ump as he tossed John out of the game. John then dropped his helmet and bat next to the ump at home plate, “That’s it,” screamed the ump as he dropped the game balls at home plate. “I’ve had enough! You guys have a nice day. I’m leaving!” And with that, he walked out. Well, it’s a good thing there weren’t a lot of bugs out that night because many would have been swallowed as 28 guys were standing around, mouths agape, watching, dumbfounded, as the umpire actually left the field and went home. “I’ve never seen that before” seemed to be the general consensus among all of the incredulous onlookers. Abercrombie stayed in the game and Noonan took over the umpiring duties and the game proceeded without further incident. Except for Noonan “moonwalking” behind home plate while showboating for the remaining crowd of seven fans.
7/30/2003 Richfield. The Saints lost a tough one after having the lead going into the bottom of the seventh. Poison was in to close out the game but proceeded to walk a couple of guys and give up a couple of hits, most notably, to Tom Tuttle with the bases loaded, two outs and a one run lead. Corny told Poison to pitch form the stretch on Tuttle to try holding the runner at second close and Donkey, in left, had a conniption fit. “I think his Tourette’s has started kicking in,” said Elvis. Donkey called Corny just about every name in the book and then some while running in from the outfield after the winning run had scored. He even went on to suggest that Corny’s managerial ability wasn’t quite up to snuff and that maybe Corny himself was a taco short of a combo plate. “You’re gone, Jay!” was Corny’s predictable response. “I mean it,” Corny told the other players, “it’s him or me. I don’t have to take that!” Cooler heads prevailed in the following days. Donkey apologized to both Corny and the team, sat out a two-game suspension and returned a bit more humble and, once again, the world revolved in greased grooves. “A closed mouth gathers no feet” Donk opined upon his return, “you won’t see me do anything like that again.” His bat has been on fire ever since.
8/3/2003 St. Paul. In the first game of a split double-header the Saints defeated the St. Paul Senators 10-2 at Arlington field. There isn’t much to say about this game. The Senators were never really in this one and the Saints cruised the whole way and just had a good time with it. The conditions at the field were much better for this game than for the previous game there against JT’s. The sun was not a factor for the fielders this time because of the noon start time, but at least it was really dusty, hot and humid with no shade to be had. The Saints were leading 10-0 going into the fifth but couldn’t keep the Senators off of the board and therefore had to play all seven innings. The team stopped off at Famous Dave’s for some lunch before heading out to Big Willow for the game with the Lakers. Kiddo ate everyone’s cornbread muffin.
8/3/2003 Minnetonka. In what many witnesses consider to be one of the best games ever played in this league, the Saints beat the Lakers, for the second straight time this season, 5-2 in nine innings. The Saints took an early 2-0 lead by the fourth but the Lakers came back in the sixth when Saints starter Dan “Dudley” Smith gave up a two-out walk to Alan Arthur and dinger to JJ to tie things up. Burnsy came in for the seventh and lasted to the end, staving off defeat on several occasions. “The defense came up big for me,” noted Burnsy at the Spur. “I gave them guys plenty of chances to win it but everyone did their jobs and we got through it okay.” “All of the pitching was awesome tonight,” noted Gaspipe after the game. “Dudley gave us a great start and allowed us to get our confidence up and Burnsy got us some ground balls and strikeouts when we really needed ‘em in the late innings.” Jim Wheeler went the distance for the Lakers but an intentional walk to 18 loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth with Abercrombie coming up. “They were dissin’ me, man,” quipped Foghorn after the game. “They didn’t think I could hit and that pissed me off. I guess I showed them.” Abercrombie promptly spanked a three-run double well over the right fielder’s head to break the game open. Burnsy then shut them down in the bottom half of the inning and the game was in the books. “That’s a big win for us,” said coach Corny after the game. “Man, I was nervous. I didn’t want to watch but I thought I’d look like a sissy if I sat there with my hands over my eyes the whole time.” Both teams celebrated the game afterward, at the Spur, where everyone was happy to have been part of such an exciting game. Every game should be as much fun.
8/4/2003 Minnetonka. The Saints won another Federal League game defeating the Lakeville Panthers 6-0 in another unmemorable game. ‘Nuf said.
8/6/2003 Coon Rapids. The Saints began a miserable five-day stretch for the boys from CR defeating them in a pretty good game 5-3. Once again Dudley pitched a pretty good game going all the way for the win. This despite the fact that Tupper took exception to the fact that Dudley was wearing a gray T-shirt beneath his blue vest. “Lots of teams have gray sleeves,” protested Dudley. “Not under a vest, not under a vest!” Tupper squealed, sounding for all the world like a three-year-old who had just had his lollypop stolen. The attempt to fluster big Dan had just the opposite effect, causing him to focus that much more as he kept the Diamonds off balance all night. The only trouble he had all night was in the first inning when catcher Schmitty was trying to break in his new mitt again and couldn’t hold on to anything. He left the Jerome Ivy model mitt in the bag for the second inning.
8/7/2003 Woodbury. In his managerial debut, 18 turned in a spectacular performance when the Saints defeated Woodbury Gopher Bar 3-1 in nine innings. It’s just too bad 18’s on-field performance didn’t match his tactical prowess. He had a tough night at the plate, made a throwing error in the field, and failed to turn a double play when his throw to first bounced and Big Dog was unable to coral it in time. “Corny can have it back,” said 18 of the managing duties. “Now I know what he goes through and I want no part of it.” Burnsy pitched all nine innings for the Saints giving up just the lone run in the sixth though there were a few hard hit balls. “They kept Donkey working out there in right,” Burnsy said after the game. “I thought a couple of those were over his head but he made some great catches out there.” “Gaspipe deserves a lot of credit for the job he did behind the plate tonight,” noted 18. “No one stole off of him, nothing got by him, he threw the runner out at second on a bunt and he kept Burnsy sharp and the hitters off balance with his pitch-calling.” “Considering the limited number of players we had here tonight,” offered Pac-Man, “We did a great job. “Donkey was unreal out there with those tough catches and he hit three doubles to boot! It’s just too bad we only scored him once.” No matter, for the second time in four days the Saints won a really good, exciting, extra inning game. Those are the kind of games that really bring a team together.
8/10/2003 Coon Rapids. The bad luck continued for CR in a Sunday double-header. The first game was a tight affair going down to the final strike. Joe-Joe pitched pretty well giving up just one earned run in five plus innings. Burnsy came on to quell a rally in the sixth and then held them scoreless in the seventh. With the score 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Saints loaded the bases with no outs but failed to drive in the winning run in their first two chances. Gaspipe came up with two outs and worked the count to 2-1 before the ump called a high curveball for a strike. “Wasn’t that a little high?” Gaspipe asked the blue after the call. “Hey, if you look at a hanger right down the middle, don’t blame me,” countered the ump. “It’s just that it was higher than the first pitch that you called a ball. I guess I’ll just have to drive him in myself” chirped Gaspipe. He promptly hit a Texas Leaguer into shallow center to plate the winning run. The nightcap would have none of the drama of the first game.
“Mark my words, these guys are gonna fold’ said Brutus between games. “That loss really took it out of them and they won’t have anything left for this next game.” He was right. Burnsy pitched the first six innings to pick up his second win of the day 11-2 as Big Dog pitched a scoreless seventh to put the game to bed. The Saints scored five in the first inning and never looked back. The toughest part of the second game for most of the Saints was trying to stay cool as the sun came out and was shining directly into the visitor’s dugout. Everyone contributed in another example of team unity and, for the second Sunday in a row, the Saints swept a double-header. When was the last time you could say that?
8/13/2003 Minnetonka. The Saints laid some hurt on Albertville in a 15-0 laugher. The only problem was not many guys were laughing as eight different Saints batters were hit by pitches. This led to some nasty exchanges between some of the players, most notably the Albertville catcher. Of course, no one was trying to hit anyone. Albertville just didn’t have any really good pitchers that night and those that did pitch just tried their best. Joe-Joe went the first four innings for the win allowing Kiddo to come in and pick up the three-inning save even with the lopsided score. Once again, everyone contributed to the win and no one did anything really stupid except for Cuz who went to bat with his willy hanging out because he still hasn’t gone out and bought a jock. But that’s a story for another time.
With six games to go the Saints are at the top of both leagues and look primed for a strong playoff run. Buy your tickets early; the remaining games are sure to sell out quickly.
(AP) Filed for the beat writer in absentia
Eicher left a rather large tip for the waitress at the Lone Spur recently as Burnsy looked on. Burnsy, a little stunned by Eicher’s generosity said, “I’d be your cabin boy!”
Burnsy to Gaspipe, who was going to catch, before the Woodbury Gopher Bar game “I’m gonna hurt your hand today, Scotty”. And he did.
Corny: After missing a joke said, “I don’t get it much”.
To which Sody replied, “And you got divorced. Go figure.”
Corny, after a late game at Coon Rapids. “I realized I can see better when there’s no light. No, really, I can.” He was serious.
Larry “Lightning” Gessler got an infield hit recently. The last time that happened Gerald Ford was in the White House!
After Crash told us a joke during warm-ups the other day Corny asked, “What’s the end of it?”
Corny despairing over a lack of players for a recent game: We have 11 guys but four are first basemen and 2 are DH’s!
Eicher: On playing first recently and trying to let Burnsy know that the runner was getting a big lead. “Did you get my nod?”
Burnsy: I just saw you starring at my mid-section. I was readin’ what you were thinkin’!”
Joe-Joe on watching Crash eat his second turkey leg of the night at the Spur said, “The best white meat is dark meat.”
Corny: You guys are gonna drive me to the funny farm.
Gaspipe: Because his car won’t make it.
Crash: Regaling us all before a recent game with tales of all the free drinks he gets from people mistakenly thinking he plays for the St. Paul Saints when he wears his uniform to the bar. (Like any of them would wear their uniform when they leave the ballpark!) “Yeah, they asked me who we played and I said ‘Fargo. We won, I went 3 for 5 with two doubles’.”
Corny: These are guys buying you drinks?
Crash: (Sheepishly) Yeah…
Corny: The 90’s must really like the Saints.
My time is up. You’ve been a great crowd. I’m here all week – two shows on Saturday!
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS TAKE WEEKEND TRIO
7/23/2003 Minnetonka (UPI)
The Saints completed a three-game sweep after defeating Northfield, Apple Valley and Chaska this past weekend. First up was Northfield on Friday night at Big Willow in which the Saints managed a 5-2 win despite some early sluggishness. “I saw a show on Animal Planet the other day where a three-toed sloth showed more life than our team did in the first couple of innings tonight,” said Corny after the game. “I think the team got really pumped up though when Schmitty caught a pop-up behind the plate for the first time this year. You can never overemphasize the importance of good defense on a team’s psyche. And Lord knows this team is about as psycho as they come.” The game remained scoreless as it moved along quickly for the first few innings. Northfield scored the game’s first two runs and looked to have the Saints on the ropes as the good guys struggled to get the bats going. “This is a funny team,” said 18 from the bench. “But you mark my words, it’s just gonna take one hit or one quirky little play and we’ll break through and get a bunch off these guys.” Sure enough the Saints came right back in the next inning when Schmitty led off with a single, stole second on a wild pitch and kept going to third when the catcher tried to throw behind him at second but instead threw the ball into center field. After standing on third and watching T and Donkey fail to drive him in, Schmitty was getting a little antsy. “I was like, ‘What the heck?’” bragged Schmitty after the game “I busted my ass to get over there with no outs and the two and three hitters can’t drive me in? What’s up with that?” Things looked bleak when 18 (a.k.a. gimpy) hit a high popup to short for what appeared to be the third out of the inning. With the third baseman and the shortstop standing shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for the ball to come down and gimpy ambling his way toward first base, Schmitty crossed the plate with what would be the first run for the Saints when the fielders let the ball drop at their feet. “I don’t know if they lost the ball or just didn’t communicate well, but we’ll take it”, said Gaspipe, who had been picking up his hat and glove in preparation to go back into the field. “18’s prescience has always amazed me. Never underestimate that man!”
The supernatural play wasn’t over yet, however. Brutus led off the fifth inning with another towering pop fly to short – well, not quite to short. Actually, it didn’t even make it out of the grass. The shortstop stood his ground and dutifully put his arms out in the universal sign for “I don’t have a fuckin’ clue where that ball is”. The problem lay in the fact that none of his teammates bothered to look at him and he failed to vocalize the fact that he was as lost as a three-year old in the toy department. Once again, the ball dropped harmlessly, 20 feet from the nearest defender, for a, a-hem, solid single. “That was a SHOT”, exclaimed a grinning Brutus upon his return to the dugout, “Make sure you put that down as a hit!” Corny promptly changed it to an error. The Saints then took the lead for good when Gaspipe drove in Elvis, who was pinch running for Brutus, from second on a base hit to right, took second on the throw to the plate and then scored on Pac-Man’s shot up the middle. “They told me it was an error on the second baseman”, commented the team-oriented Pac-Man, “But I don’t care about that at all. ‘Pipe scored and we got the lead. Period.” The Saints tacked on two more runs and never looked back.
The second win of the weekend came on Sunday when a split-squad beat Apple Valley 8-0. It was one of the Saints best-played games of the year to this point. 18 started on the hill and pitched four strong innings getting into, and out of, trouble a couple of times. Burnsy, in town only because Dillon had come down with some mysterious contagious illness, pitched the fifth and sixth without incident and Smitty came in and nailed down the game with a 1-2-3 seventh. Smitty got help with a spectacular diving catch by Big Dog Ruff at the fence in foul territory off of first base. “I don’t know what came over me, but I wasn’t gonna let that ball drop.” Said Big Dog after the game. “I knew it was gonna hurt when I hit the fence, but I wanted our guys to get the shutout today. So I did what I had to do.” The defense actually played very well not committing any errors on the day. Schmitty, in particular, had a good day. He had two hits and actually caught two foul pop-ups. On the first one, Schmitty just stayed in his crouch, not looking, thinking the ball was out of the park until he heard Gaspipe screaming his name. “When I heard Gaspipe yell I knew I had better go lookin’ for the ball.” Commented a jovial Schmitty after the game. “When I turned around I saw the ball was pretty far back and I just ran as fast as I could to it. Without time to think, I just stuck my mitt out and caught the ball. I think not thinking helped.” The second one was a little more routine for Schmitty. After catching it he turned the he infield, grinned and said, “That’s three in a row!”
The offense was also consistent, if not overpowering, scoring runs in nearly every inning. T was another player with a multi-hit game including a two-run blast to left that pretty much iced the game. “What did you hit?” Asked Gaspipe questioning the pitch. “A dinger”, replied T. Only two incidents marred the contest. The first came when the Apple Valley manager, Chuck, questioned Corny’s courtesy running strategy after he tried to run both Smitty and Burnsy for the injured 18. Both had previously been in the batting order and Corny, unfamiliar with the change to the rule this year, thought that one of them should be able to run. Chuck got upset and started whining, which infuriated Corny who let fly with an effinheimer directed at Chuck. “Nice language, Cornelius”, replied Chuck. “There are kids here! You don’t need to talk like that.” “That guy’s a prick,” said Corny. The other ugly incident, unfortunately, also involved coach Corny. Late in the game he was batting against a puss-ball relief pitcher who refused to throw anything hard to Corny. On one pitch, fooled by an off-speed pitch, Corny actually threw his bat at third base coach Gaspipe. “Every time I throw my bat it’s at Gaspipe.” Said Corny after the game. “That must mean something.” Then, after striking out, Corny walked back to the dugout spewing derogatory comments at the pitcher. “Don’t you have a fastball? Are you afraid to throw the ball?” And my favorite, “Take your skirt off and throw a fastball!” To which the heretofore unheard from umpire said, “Hey, that’s enough.” “I was just kidding,” snapped a completely humorless Corny.
The third win of the weekend came from the other half of the split-squad Sunday in a game against Chaska. The game actually finished before it started as Chaska showed up with only seven players and therefore had to forfeit the contest from the start. Brutus and a friend of one of the Saints players went over and played for Chaska so that a game could be played. Brutus had the Saints on the ropes early by pitching to their weaknesses and left the game with the lead. “Those guys are good, but they can’t touch MY stuff,” said Brutus after the game. “I had them so messed up, when Elvis came to bat I put every player on the left side of second base except the first baseman. He popped up to left twice. Am I good or what?! I want the rock against the Lakers.” On the positive side for the Saints, Crash pitched one inning, shutting Chaska down in order. Crash has since announced his retirement from pitching, citing his stats, lifetime 0.00 ERA as Hall Of Fame-caliber credentials. “Never fuck with a winning streak,” Crash said before leaving the contest early. The Saints bats did come alive after big Brutus left the game for Chaska and they managed to score a bunch of runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the game 9-4. Corny, fresh from the Apple Valley win and watching the poor pitching and fielding of Chaska from the dugout lamented, “This must be what they mean by the “Dog Days Of Summer”. Joe-Joe came on and threw a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the win and the weekend sweep was complete.
Next up for the Saints is St. Paul JT, Thursday night at Arlington field.
Jacques Strapp (UPI)
Overheard at the Lone Spur:
Andy: I have to go to Canada.
Corny: Why? Were you drafted?
Sody: “Watching Noonan stretching is like watching bad one-person gay porn.”
Andy was talking about a TV show he saw where a polar bear dove through a hole in the ice, grabbed a whale and dragged it up onto the ice to eat it. To which Corny replied, “That would be like Noonan helping Eicher up after he fell”. Ouch!
Corny: What’s the hottest place in the world?
Andy: My bedroom!
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS ROLLING – PITCHING, HITTING AND DEFENSE KEYS
7/2/2003 Minnetonka (UPI)
Tim “T” Hadler pitched a strong game against Burnsville in his first start of the year and Burnsy, Joe-Joe and Radam also had strong outings and all got W’s as the Saints continued to climb in the standings. Abercrombie was not sure what to make of the staff though. When he showed up for the game against Gopher Bar he asked who was pitching that day. “Burnsy is”, replied Corny. “Burnsy?!” questioned Abercrombie. “Are there any other pitchers on this staff? Every time I show up Burnsy’s pitching. There’s got to be another pitcher here somewhere.” The boys have recently taken it to Burnsville, The Cavaliers and Gopher Bar as they prepare for a showdown with the Lakers on July 7th in the dome. The bats have finally begun to come to life for the team as well with Pack, 18, Tiny and T all hitting big home runs in the past week or so. Tiny’s was a granny that really helped spark the team past Burnsville. “I’m just pissed because I finally do something pretty special for the team and I don’t get any ink in the Pipeline”, muttered Tiny “but I take one in the cup and it’s headline news, baby!” Crash, Donkey and Rattle Snake all continued their season-long onslaught against opposing pitchers as well. “I’m a little miffed right now”, snapped Crash after Sunday’s 6-2 win over Gopher bar. “I’ve hit safely in every game so far this year until that, uh-hem, fielders choice today. I’ve been praying to the god Eleggua this year and so far it’s been working. But he can be cruel as well as generous and maybe I’ve done something to upset him. I’ll have to go and make him an offering of rum and cigars over at the Spur. Either that or I just have to get Schmitty to run for Larry next time he’s on base in front of me.” Timely hits have also been a part of the recent magic. It started with the JT game when the team had back to back to back two-out doubles and has continued right up to Sunday’s game when at least five of the six runs were scored on two-out hits. Gaspipe and Mr. Cool (running for Schmitty) scored the first two runs of the game on Donkey’s two-out hit, T hit a two-out two-run shot and Lucky plated another run with a two-out single. “The BP pitching won the game,” offered Joe-Joe after the Burnsville game. “You see, I pitched BP and I did a really good job getting everybody ready and…” he trailed off as he realized that nobody was really listening, “Shitheads!” he yelled, to no in particular.
It’s not only the offense that’s been on fire lately, however. The Saints defense is really starting to come around as well. The pitchers have all fielded their positions well, the outfielders have made some very nice catches after long runs and the infielders have really been getting outs in key situations. “I think it’s because we’re starting to stabilize the defense a bit,” said 18, “Gaspipe has been playing a great third base and T looks great at short. Now, if I could just get some time at second base I think we’d really get it going. But I need to be a little careful with my hammy injury and not try to do too much too soon. You know, I lost a brother that way.” “I think we’re starting to look pretty good defensively”, affirmed Gaspipe, “except at first base where we’ve got one guy playing that’s still having trouble seeing out a swollen eye and another that can’t lift his arm high enough to wash his own hair – what little he has left, that is. Though, I must say, Crash has gotten more mileage with the ladies out of a black eye than I would have thought possible. Even for him.” “I’m not so sure anymore if that’s such a good thing”, Crash noted. “The other night I was at the bar when this overripe wench, with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, wandered over to me, leered suggestively, leaned in close, and whispered in a voice made gravelly by years of nicotine and bourbon, ‘I think black eyes are sexy!’ I really think I’m starting to loose it, man.” Not everyone is impressed, however. “You know that guy I was throwing a ball with?” Little Alec Abercrombie asked his dad, referring to Kiddo. “You mean Larry?” responded Big John “Yeah”, sighed Alec, “He throws like a girl.”
About the only time recently when the team didn’t fare well was at the Litchfield tournament. But that was not altogether a surprise. The team was a little thin on players and was playing against guys that could be their children. “You know,” theorized Brutus, “Staller grew up pretty close to these parts. And most of these guys look like bastards, maybe they’re his.” “Hey, don’t look at me”, stammered Elvis, “I didn’t like girls back then.” Schmitty also grew up in the area but denied making any weekend road trips to the Litchfield area as a young man claiming that the girls in his own neighborhood wouldn’t let him, and his pearly whites, leave town for that long. He also agreed that Staller didn’t like girls. The tournament started pretty well as the Saints out-hit Winsted but eventually failed to push any runs across the plate. “You can’t win if you don’t score any runs”, said Corny over a beer at the local Legion Hall after the first game. “No need to state the incredibly obvious, the merely obvious will do just fine”, quipped Gaspipe. Brutus was hurriedly pouring beer for all of the players in a desperate attempt to get the start at short in the second game. 18 was having a little trouble holding on to his glass in all the excitement. “Can I get some pine tar for my glass” 18 asked the waitress, but she was apparently in no mood to take any crap from some ‘Pretty Boy, City Boy’. 18 also thought it might be a good idea to get one of those pre-school strings that they tie to each student so as not to loose anyone, and use it when the team headed to Eden Valley for the second game. This was because only Kiddo (a.k.a. GPS Larry) had any real idea where the town of Eden Valley was, let alone the actual baseball field. “I’d like to bench some of you guys right now”, snapped Corny, thinking the team was perhaps over-indulging a bit “but with only ten guys I can’t. What’s the use? No one ever listens to me.” “What?” asked Rattle Snake.
The second game turned out much like the first except that the Saints would actually score a run in this contest on a solo shot to left by 18. It would turn out to be a short, happy life for 18’s bat, however, as Donkey broke it on its very next swing. “Did he just break my bat?” wondered 18 aloud as he heard the dreadful sound across the field. “She was far too young to go like that. Maybe I should hold a memorial service for her.” That game may be best remembered, however, for that fact that all three outfielders made highlight-reel type plays. Unfortunately, it was a “Bloopers” reel. The trouble started when one of the Litchfield players hit a ball to deep center. Donkey got on his horse (there’s a visual for you) and started back as fast as he could. After about ten steps his feet could no longer keep up with the rest of his body and he fell flat on his face and then did a summersault as the ball dropped harmlessly about 15 feet away. “I don’t know if it was the beer or the shot of Wild Turkey, but I know I’m never going to drink before a game ever again!” stated Donkey while sipping a beer after the game. “Hey, at least it didn’t hit you in the eye while you were rolling around on the ground”, offered Burnsy. The next one came when another rope was hit to leftfield and Corny tried to make the catch only to have the ball go off the tip of his glove and then he did a header as well. “I didn’t really fall down so much as that ball was hit so hard it knocked me down”, said an agitated Corny after the game. “I think you should go to anger management therapy”, Donkey said trying to settle Corny down. “I’ll go to anger management if you go to Detox, Donkey”, replied Corny. The triumvirate was completed when Brutus raced in trying to catch a blooper in shallow right-center and near the end of the run took a tumble and went sort of ass-over-teakettle with the ball dropping well in front of him. “Hey, that was a dive, not a fall”, fumed Brutus after the game. “Yeah, mine too”, said Corny unsympathetically.
All in all the tournament was a good time for all involved even if they did only score a single run in two games. The camaraderie is high and the players are starting to play for the good of the team rather than individual accolades. These are good signs for a jubilant Saints team as they head into Wednesday night’s game against St. Michael at Big Willow.
Mike Rotch (UPI)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS WIN AGAIN BUT LOOSE
6/20/2003 St. Paul (Reuters)
The Saints continued their domination of St. Paul JT with a convincing 11-2 victory Sunday but the win came with a high price. Both 18 and Crash were injured during play and no determination has been made for either’s return to the lineup. JT started the scoring early when the leadoff hitter took Burnsy’s second pitch of the game deep for a solo shot. Left fielder Donkey took one step back and then turned back to the infield knowing there was no way to bring that one back into the yard. “I wonder if they were serving drinks on that flight?” posed Donkey after the hit, “I’d kinda like one right about now”. Burnsy settled down after that and the Saints went to work, tallying twice in the next frame. Then in the third inning with Rattle Snake on third and Schmitty going from first on a hit-and-run, Gaspipe doubled into the leftfield corner and moved up to third on the throw to the plate. “Schmitty was supposed to go on the previous pitch but didn’t get a jump”, commented Gaspipe at the post game meeting. “He got a good jump on the second pitch and I wasn’t going to let him down. The guy hung a breaker and I turned on it pretty good. What I couldn’t figure out was why they threw home and let me walk into third. Like they had a chance to get Schmitty? I don’t think so.” 18 then stepped up to the plate and hit a little popup in foul territory near the first base bag. Frustrated with his swing, 18 never really left the home plate area until it became apparent that the ball might drift back into fair territory. The ball did come back fair, was dropped by the first baseman, and as 18 tried to beat the throw to first he severely pulled a hamstring and had to leave the game. “That’s just pathetic”, lamented 18 in the dugout after the incident. “I need to put a better swing on the ball in that situation. I just needed to drive the ball somewhere to score the run and I do that. And then to add insult to injury, or vice versa, I get hurt. Somebody shoot me.” “I’m not sure what he was doing”, said Corny after the game. “Maybe he was watching me when I didn’t run out that grounder to the pitcher in Chaska and he thought it was okay to do the same thing. I’d vote to give him the Turkey Award, but I think he already feels bad enough. On the bright so though, he can still pinch run for Kiddo.”
The offense kept tacking on runs including one particularly nice stretch in the fifth inning when, with runners aboard, Donkey, Pack and Corny hit back-to-back-to-back two-out doubles. “I felt like I was the only guy on the team that hadn’t hit a double yet this year and the time was ripe, so I hit one. No biggie”, boasted Corny afterward. “It’s not many guys that can turn a triple into a double, but you just saw me do it”, said a still winded Donkey after scoring on Packs two-bagger. “Really, I wasn’t sure if Gaspipe had the legs to score from first on the hit so I stopped at second just in case. Never make the first or third out at third base. That’s what Gaspipe always says.” In the meantime, Crash had shown up at the ballpark and was ready to play despite downing a boatload of Tequila on Saturday night. “I feel great”, exclaimed Crash in a moment dripping with presentiment. “What’s the worst that could happen?” As luck would have it, Crash stepped in to hit for Corny with runners on and delivered a key two RBI single. “Nothing to it”, noted Crash. “I told you, I feel GREAT!” Burnsy kept cruising and the team was up 10 going into the bottom of the sixth and everyone was sniffing a 10-run job. Everyone other than Schmitty that is. He was sniffing something different – but that’s another story.
The first two batters in the bottom of the sixth hit tough fly balls but both were caught for outs and then the trouble started. The third batter of the inning hit a routine popup to Rattle Snake at second but Crash, now playing first for Corny, decides he’s going to make the catch. It became apparent to all observers, as Crash kept drifting toward second, that he’s having trouble with the ball. As the ball neared earth Crash was clearly heard to mutter “Uh-oh”. This is never a good sign. As the ball passed to the right of Crash’s outstretched arm, he lunged in a last-ditch effort to make the catch that would end the game. Unfortunately, he was unable to snare the ball but did manage to visually follow the ball all the way to the ground by turning his head and looking down as the ball went by. This also had one negative effect. Namely that he was looking straight down at the ground – only about three feet above it – at the time the ball landed. With the day being as hot, dry and sunny as it was, and St. Thomas’ field being what it is, the ball took a pretty good hop and clanked Crash right in the noggin. Crash decided to sit right down on the ground and then promptly took a 30 second nap while his teammates gathered round. When Crash came to he found Schmitty applying an ice pack to his rapidly swelling left eye and unbuckling his belt. “I can understand the ice”, Crash mumbled, “But just what the hell are ya gonna do down there?” Schmitty assured him they were just friends and that he was only trying to help Crash breath a little easier. Crash still looked a little worried but it could have just been the bump on his head.
After a few minutes he was helped to his feet at which time his pants promptly dropped to his ankles making it even more difficult to walk. After correcting this oversight he was helped to the bench by teammates where everyone showed great concern. “How’re you feeling Rocky?” asked 18 from his perch on top of a bag of ice while nursing his hammy injury. “Are you ready to go a couple more rounds?” Shouts of “Yo Adrienne!” and “Ya gotta cut me, Mick” could be heard up and down the bench. The next two batters both got hits scoring one run before the Saints got the final out. So, with only a nine run lead, the team had to play the seventh inning, which was pretty uneventful, and the final score remained 11-2 for the good guys. Later, at the hospital, X-rays were taken of Crash’s head but showed nothing. Of course, being the consummate professional, and not wanting to let the team down, Crash called Corny on Sunday night to find out if he had been charged with an error on the play. On the bright side, Crash ran into Abercrombie’s wife working at the hospital and she supplied him with the telephone number of a fine 28-year-old hottie with a weakness for butterfingered ballplayers. And later that night, while licking his wounds in a local watering hole, Crash met another young lady who felt sorry for him with his injuries and left him with her number as well. So I guess things could be worse for the guy. Only Crash could turn an incident this graceless into his own personal version of ‘The Bachelor’. After all, the doctor even gave him baseball-themed Band-Aids.
Next up for the Saints, a doubleheader Sunday at Big Willow against the Cavs and Burnsville.
Hugh G. Rekshun (Reuters)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS STUMBLE – SALVAGE SWEET SWEEP
6/12/2003 Chaska (UPI)
Amid a heavy entomological infestation that even the new 3M product, Deep Woods Chaska, was unable to control, the Saints struggled a bit against Chaska but managed to hold on and win 1-½ games Monday night in Chaska. 18 started the first game and got the 7-6 win pitching 5-2/3 strong innings despite a stunning lack of support from the defense in the first game. “I thought maybe I was wearing Lucky’s jersey out there”, said 18 referring to the way the team seems to play defense when Lucky pitches. “I thought I pitched OK but nobody could seem to catch the ball or throw it to first base. It was a little frustrating. Maybe I’ll go play co-rec softball instead.” Gaspipe started things going downhill in the second inning when he cleanly fielded a routine grounder off the bat of Shamu and promptly threw the ball into the parking lot. “As god is my witness, I thought Burnsy had a 40” vertical and could’ve caught that ball.” Gaspipe said afterward. “Actually, as soon as I let go of it I knew it was high and I was sorta hoping Burnsy would back up into foul territory and just catch it, but he didn’t.” “I really thought I could catch it”, said a stunned Burnsy after the play, “I guess I just don’t have much ‘up’ as I used to”.
The offense didn’t get off to the best of starts either. After sending out an e-mail extolling the virtues of getting a good pitch to hit and ‘working the count’, Corny, batting lead-off due to some sort of mishap with the scorebook, swung at the very first pitch of the game and hit a little turd for an out. Corny, upon returning to the dugout, was promptly greeted with a round of congratulations for working the count so well and getting a good pitch to hit. “I never called myself a lead-off hitter!” he snapped in response. “Neither did we.” replied Tiny. The boys, however, managed to get back on track and started hitting the ball often and hard. Burnsy smoked one right at the third baseman’s nads – it turned out he wasn’t wearing a cup – and the guy somehow managed to hold on to the ball. “Boy did that guy shit his pants or what?” asked Burnsy afterward. “Did you see his eyes? They were big as beach balls. He was just tryin’ to save his manhood. What little he has, that is”.
The team jumped out to a 7-1 lead and held on as just about every player on the field made some kind of mistake in support, or lack thereof, of 18. This could, perhaps, be attributed to the mysterious fan “355” who made her presence felt for a second straight time at Chaska. “I think she’s puttin’ a little of the old whammy on us”, said Elvis later in the game. “I asked Shamu who she was with and he said she’s not related to anyone on the team. She just shows up and starts chanting “355” for some reason.” “I think she’s referring to Leviticus 3:55 ‘thou shalt not hit a homer’ or maybe Nehemiah 3:55 ‘thou shalt send up a hitter’”, opined Crash. “Either way I’m really feeling a spiritual vibe happening here. It’s sort of like that day up in St. Michel when St. Michel and St. Michael had that big duel except I really think she ought to be invoking St. Jude’s name because this Chaska team really is a lost cause”. (Editor’s note: St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes) “Weird things started happening out there, man”, noted Gotta Beer “Like Corny losing that fly ball in left. How often do you see that happen? Oh, wait, that’s a bad example”. He was referring to a play in the fifth inning when Corny lost a fly ball in the twilight and never really moved for it even though all the other players were yelling “back, back”. “I didn’t want to go back for the ball”, said Corny later at the local watering hole, Pauly’s. “It might of hit me on the head”. Corny also received the Turkey Award for not running to first base after hitting a one-hopper right to the pitcher. I believe he also mentioned something about “hustling” in his aforementioned e-mail as well.
Burnsy finished Chaska off pretty uneventfully over the final 1-1/3 innings and then started the suspended game and was never in any trouble. The Saints started that game with a commanding 13-2 lead and then started to pour it on offensively the way they should have in the first game eventually winning 19-3. Brutus pitched the last two innings allowing only one hit, though it was hit well right up the middle. “I shoulda’ stuck my glove out”, said an upset Brutus after the play, “I could have had it!” “I don’t know”, surmised Gaspipe, “It was hit pretty hard and it just missed your ass”. “Really?” questioned Brutus. “How could it possibly have missed MY ass?” Next up for the Saints is Richfield on Thursday night in Richfield.
Tyrone Shoelaces (UPI)
By Scott Gatzke
KIDDO MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN
TEAMMATES UNHAPPY HAVING TO RETURN SHIRTS
6/9/2003 Lakeville (AP)
Larry “Kiddo” Gessler got one hit, an RBI and scored a run in his return to the Saints lineup. “I’m just happy to back with the big club”, exclaimed Kiddo after the game. “I just want to help the team any way I can. We gave 100% today. We just need to take it one game at a time and the good lord willing, things will work out”. Not everyone was completely happy with the day’s events, however. Mike “Elvis” Staller, in commenting on Kiddo’s return grumbled, “I’m happy to have Kiddo back and all, it’s just that I was really starting to like that T-shirt and now I heard we have to give ‘em back so that Brutus (John “Brutus” Noonan) can have the roman numeral II added to the back.” Elvis’ sentiments were echoed by Dave “Pack Man” Packard, “I think we should get to keep these shirts AND get another one the next time, uh, I mean, if, Kiddo leaves again!”
The Saints turned in a solid, if not spectacular, performance Sunday beating Lakeville 6-1 before a near sellout crowd of 15. Joe “Joe-Joe” Perzel pitched six innings and got the win despite having less than his best stuff. “I had my C- stuff today”, said Joe-Joe after the game “though Gaspipe (Scott “Gaspipe” Gatzke) might disagree with me”. “C-?” Gaspipe chirped, “I’m not sure your stuff was good enough to use the A-F scale. Maybe L-Q would be more like it”. Despite the less than rave review from his catcher, Joe-Joe mixed up his pitches and kept Lakeville off-balance enough to have a shutout going through five innings. The defense did its part to keep the game in check with only a few minor exceptions. On one routine double play ball Todd “18” Radam fielded the ball cleanly and threw a perfect strike right at Elvis’ head, which Elvis promptly muffed. “I put my glove between me and the ball, and then I couldn’t see the ball anymore”, protested Elvis after the inning. Asked why he didn’t pick up the ball lying at his feet to record the putout in the 17 seconds between the time he dropped it and the time the runner actually made it to second base, Elvis intoned “I didn’t know where the ball was. Hey – it was a really tough sky out there!” After playing in his first game of the year Tim “TK” Krieg was less than enthusiastic about playing third base in the future. After cleanly fielding one ball, TK threw a one-hopper to Jeff “Crash” Cook at first base for an error and later took a bad hop off the side of his face. “Third base sucks, man”, muttered a somewhat glassy-eyed TK after the game. “I wanna go back to second. If I had stood any f’ing closer to the batters I would have been behind ‘em! And that throw to first base? That’s like a cheap cab ride away! I thought my arm was gonna come off every time I threw over there. Second’s the place for me…”
Some players, however, were completely in the zone on this day. The ozone, that is. Crash, playing first base, proceeded to charge over to the vicinity of second base to catch a pop-up that was clearly hit right to Elvis. This even though the runner at first was stealing second on the play and had actually passed Elvis before turning and heading back to an uncovered first base, thus negating any chance of a double play. “Elvis said he called for it, but I’m not buying it”, Crash stated after the inning. “I have tunnel vision out there, man and I was gonna catch that ball no matter how far I had to go or who I had to run over”. Later in the game Crash batted left-handed wearing his right-handed, single earflap helmet. After hitting a laser for an out and being questioned about the helmet Crash snapped, “I could go to bat wearing nothin’ but my spikes against this pitcher and he couldn’t hurt me! Sliding might be a little dicey though”. Several teammates within earshot shivered visibly.
The bats finally returned, somewhat, for the boys in blue, even if the base coaching left a little to be desired. The Saints tallied six times on 10 hits for their best output in more than a week. Afterward, when asked for his thoughts on the game coach Todd “Corny” Cornelius said, “Someone once told me, ‘This is an easy game. You catch the ball, you throw the ball and you hit the ball’. We didn’t do any of those particularly well today, but we did them well enough to beat these losers”. Jay “Gotta Beer” Wright hit probably the two best balls of the day when he stepped on a rake earlier in the day while working in his garden. (That one’s for you, 18) Gotta Beer was robbed on two well-hit balls as was Kiddo in his last at bat. “Move me outta the four-hole”, Gotta Beer moaned to Corny after the game. “I’m like ofer hittin’ there, man. Move me down a little”. Corny replied that he would be happy to move Gotta Beer to the ten slot in the next game. With Brutus at second, Corny at first and Elvis batting with no outs, third base coach Pack Man gave the steal sign and confusion reigned. The half of the bench that was paying attention to the game suddenly jumped to their collective feet and screamed for Elvis to step out of the box. Pack Man had intended to give the bunt sign but was confused by being on the ‘giving’ end of the signs. “I’m just barely used to recognizing the signs when I see them. But giving them is, like, totally different dude”, Pack Man said of the incident. When asked afterward for his opinion of the play, Brutus said simply, “I didn’t see the sign”. When asked if he would have gone had he actually seen the sign he said, “Come on, dude. Of course I would have”!
The view from the dugout was much better on this day than in recent memory and seemed to signal a return to form for the Saints. The boys were happy, enthusiastic and positive. “I missed these guys”, said a thrilled Kiddo after the game. “This is where I want to play ball and who I want to play with. Besides, being in Florida by yourself sucks”! Next up for the Saints is Chaska on Monday night. Another good game and a win see almost predestined.
Joe King (AP)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS WIN CLASSIC OPENER – VOW TO BE MORE OFFENSIVE
5/19/2003 Burnsville (AP)
The Saints won their Classic League opener 3-1 over Burnsville Friday night. The game was crisply played in 1 hour 35 minutes with neither team putting many runners on base. “We just didn’t get many hits”, lamented Saints manager Todd “Corny” Cornelius “Maybe that’s why we didn’t get very many base runners.” When asked how he felt the team would fare this year Corny responded, “Well, we have to be way more offensive if we want to beat the good teams. Not that we’re not already one of the most offensive teams in the league, but with a little work we could be even more so.” Of the hits the Saints did have, one was a laser to left-center by Jeff “Schmitty” Schmitt. “When I hit it, I thought I could get an inside the park job, but then I heard someone on the bench yelling ‘go for three’ and I thought ‘I’m not gonna waste my energy legging out yet another triple’ so I just stopped at second. I could score from there on a groundout anyway.” Another big hit came in the form of a double off the bat of Jay “Gotta Beer” Wright in the third inning. “Well, we didn’t get any hits in the first two innings and my family made the long drive here from, well, Burnsville, so I figured I’d better do something impressive. I just closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could. Sometimes good things happen.”
“I could tell it was a Classic League game”, general manager Joe “Joe-Joe” Perzel said before the game, “We have 18 guys on the bench. How many did we have for the last Federal League game, 10? Hell, even Poison (Jerome “Poison” Ivy) made it.” “I got here a little late”, chimed in Poison, “but that’s only because I had to put gas in my car. All those U-turns I made really burned through the fuel. Then the battery on my cell phone died because of all the calls I made trying to get directions to the ballpark. I just turned in here to make another U-turn but then I saw Brutus’ (John “Brutus” Noonan) hummer and I knew I was here. It’s a good thing too, I’m almost out of gas again.” It’s true, the boys did have a deep bench and they wasted no time in extending their league-leading use of timeouts using courtesy runners whenever necessary, and sometimes even when it wasn’t. “We’re doing great”, exclaimed Todd “18” Radam in the fifth inning “We still have four 30’s (second timeouts) and a handful of 20’s left. That should easily last ‘til the seventh.” Andy “Polo” Stavast, who finally showed up at a game with his uniform, jumped up off the bench like he was shot out of a cannon when Corny told him to pinch-hit late in the game. Polo, having no at bats yet this year and precious little practice did one quasi-deep knee bend and promptly spanked a single to left. “Conditioning and BP are highly overrated”, quipped Polo “It’s all about attitude.”
Pitching and defense were the keys to this game, however. The defense was solid except for one odd play by shortstop Tim “T” Hadler early in the game. With a runner at first the batter hit a routine grounder to T for an apparent double play. Unfortunately, T threw the ball wide to 18 and all the runners were safe. When asked after the game about the play T said, “I heard there were scouts in the stands and I know 18 is still hoping to get a shot, so I thought I’d give him something to show off his athleticism. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that he didn’t have any left. Next time I’ll just throw it right to him.” Kevin “Burnsy” Burns pitched a great game, striking out quite a few, giving his defense lots of ground balls and some easy pop ups while only getting into minor trouble in the seventh inning. “Corny come out to the mound there in the seventh and told me the guys on the bench told him to”, said a disgruntled Burnsy after the game. “I told him to quit breaking my rhythm and go tell those yahoos on the bench to shut their traps, I know what I’m doin’. I really didn’t mean nothin’ by it. I just don’t like Corny comin’ out to the mound all the time. He’s always got chew in his teeth and it’s kinda’ gross, ya know?” Burnsy then settled down and got the last two outs and the game belonged to the boys in blue. The team celebrated with a few malt beverages and some male bonding in the parking. Gotta Beer offered up his humble abode for the post-game festivities but the boys declined citing the lengthy travel involved and relative comfort of cold asphalt.
Next up for the Saints is St. Michael Sunday night in St. Michael.
Nora Spect (AP)
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS STEAMROLL CHASKA – NOONAN PROVIDES INCENTIVE
5/15/2003 Chaska (Bertelsmann)
John “Brutus” Noonan kept the Saints from their first multi-game Federal League losing streak in more than a year by pitching a 217 pitch, complete game gem against Chaska on Tuesday night. “Brutus threw some awesome pitches, dude”, commented Saints catcher Mike “Tiny” Eicher after the game. “I just wish I could have caught more of ‘em. It would have saved me a ton of work running to the backstop all the time.” “Man, I feel great!” shrieked a pumped-up Brutus after the game. “I threw everything up there but the kitchen sink and they were just guessing, man. I think I coulda’ been under 210 pitches but the blue squeezed me on a couple. Luckily Corny (Todd “Corny’ Cornelius) gave me some leeway with a 14 run lead in the seventh. I really think it’s the Red Bull.” Rumor has it that Brutus was rallying support from his teammates to finish the game by offering to provide them with beer in return for their lobbying Corny to leave him in the game. Of course, this is only speculation. At Pauly’s after the game, none of the players would comment on the rumor.
Corny made the defensive play of the game on a two-out, bases loaded smash down the first base line in the sixth inning. “I was just kinda lookin’ around to see if Snake (Keith “Rattlesnake” Jacobson) dropped any change on his way out to right field. I heard the guy hit the ball just as I was about to pickup a quarter and I kinda’ stumbled toward the line. The ball took a big hop and just sorta’ stuck in my armpit. From there it was just a race to the bag. I sure wish Crash’s (Jeff “Crash” Cook) hotties had been there to see it.” “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve seen all night!” exclaimed Brutus, as Corny bent over to pick up the quarter. Dave “Pack-Man” Packard made another outstanding defensive play tracking down a laser off the bat of Chaska’s leadoff hitter in the sixth inning. “When I was young I would have made that play look routine”, opined Pack-Man. But now that I’m older and wiser I realize it’s way better to make it look really hard. That way the batter gets frustrated thinking I robbed him of a hit and my teammates think I’m stud. Which I am – just ask any of my wives.”
It wasn’t all pitching and defense on this night, however. Chaska took an early lead behind the encouragement of one rather dull-witted fan that kept chanting “355”. “I can only assume she was trying to get the players to hit the ball toward the sign in the leftfield power alley”, said Andy “Polo” Stavast from his perch in the dugout, “because they sure as hell weren’t going to hit it OVER the sign the way Brutus was pitching.” After trailing 4-0 in the second inning the Saints bats came to life and the rout was on. They tied the score in the third on hits by Tim “T” Hadler, Scott “Gaspipe” Gatzke, Todd “18” Radam, Tiny and Crash. “I wanted to drive the runners in but I really didn’t want to have to run too hard”, said Tiny after the game about his towering, two RBI double over the left fielder’s head. “I was still tired from jogging to the backstop all the time. I thought that if I hit it hard enough the blue would just give me second and I could walk back to the dugout while my pinch-runner went out to second for me. It didn’t work though. I had to run – again.” Tiny finished the night with seven RBI while T, Gaspipe and Corny each scored three times. “I kind of like running the bases here”, said Corny. “It’s a nice looking ballpark from that vantage point. The last time we played here, you might remember, I was delivering phone books in White Bear Lake.”
The rain started in the third inning and the weather threatened to turn this game into another “Waterworld” debacle. Play continued through a light drizzle until the bottom of the fifth when, with an 8-4 lead, and the game becoming official, the Saints really started to get going. “They’re gonna be sorry they didn’t call the game off before letting us hit in this inning”, muttered Gaspipe in the dugout before the Saints tacked on 7 runs in the inning. “Their pitchers were throwing the ball so slowly I was startin’ to fall asleep in the box”, lamented Mike “Elvis” Staller after driving a clean shot through the hole. “It was all I could do to keep from hooking it into the parking lot.” By this time, “355” was nowhere to be seen. “I was trying to get 18 to stay back and wait on the ball”, laughed Tiny, “I kept saying ‘swing tomorrow’, but he was still WAY out in front of the ball, so I told him ‘swing the day AFTER tomorrow’!” The boys in blue tallied four more times in the sixth inning and gave up one run in the top of the seventh to hold on for the 19-6 win.
The real action for the evening, however, didn’t take place until the players assembled at the local hotspot, Pauly’s, after the game. Upon arriving the boys couldn’t help but notice an attractive brunette sitting alone at the bar. Crash immediately took matters into his own hands and sent her a drink ostensibly from Corny. When the young fan, Lisa, from Prior Lake, approached a stunned Corny to thank him for the drink, he proceeded to regale her in his own particular idiom. “I thought I had her when I got her to look at the false lens in my eye”, murmured a dejected corny “that one usually gets me a kiss.” Crash looked on in horror as not one of the players managed to make any real headway with the buxom beauty. “This is like a textbook situation”, he lamented, “I set these guys up with a ‘gimme’ and not one of them is going to be able to put it in the hole!” Only Scott “Lucky” Lawrence and Gaspipe seemed to make any progress with the lass, hanging out with her until nearly 1am. “Hey, at least she asked me for my phone number”, bragged Gaspipe. “Of course, it was only because I said I could upgrade her computer. But it’s a start!” More on this story as it develops.
Next up for the Saints is the first Classic League game of the campaign Friday at Burnsville.
By Scott Gatzke
SAINTS STRUGGLE – LOSE FOR FIRST TIME
5/15/2003 Minnetonka (Al Jazeera)
In a comedy of errors that proved to be no laughing matter, the Minnetonka Saints dropped a contest for the first time this season. The boys looked good early, tallying four runs in the first three innings on big hits by Todd “18” Radam, John “Brutus” Noonan, Jay “Gotta Beer” Wright and Jeff “Crash” Cook among others. “Heck, I hit that ball so hard I was sure I had three” lamented Brutus after one particularly well-struck ball, “but I was catchin’ up to 18 in an awful hurry so I just stopped and went back to second.” When asked about speculation that the coaching staff was trying to stop him from switch-hitting Crash grumbled, “One guy wants me to hit only from the left side and one only from the right. I’m hittin’ the crap out of the ball from both sides right now so just leave me alone. Never **** with a winning streak!”
The real story of the night, however, was the Saints defense. Or lack thereof. “I think them demons they chased outta Poison’s (Jerome “Poison” Ivy) glove last week got up inside my arm.” Commented a shaken Scott “Gaspipe” Gatzke after making two throwing errors. “I felt good throwin’, but as soon as the ball left my hand I just kinda looked at it and thought, ‘now where the hell is that goin’?” On the other end of those plays Darcy “Big Dog” Ruff did his best to scoop the balls out of the dirt, but to no avail. “I saved his bacon on the first play of the game. I don’t know what more he wants from me”, snapped the Big Dog. The other half of the left side of the infield had its share of trouble too. Mike “Tiny” Eicher, after making a sensational diving stop on a hard-hit ball said, “I tried to get up and throw the ball, but something was holding me down. I don’t have a uniform yet and I think my T-shirt Velcroed itself to the turf.” David "Soddy" Sodergren watching the play from the dugout was heard to say, “I told you dude. It’s bad karma to be out of uniform. Big Dog isn’t wearing the right uni either. If he were he would have picked those throws from Gaspipe. Mark my words.” After being taken out of the game in the sixth inning, starting pitcher Kevin “Old 98er” Burns intoned, “I ain’t been around anything so stinky since I was cleanin’ some walleye up at the big lake this mornin’.” Old 98er promptly left the park to go home and fry up a batch of those walleye and down a couple of cold ones in an effort to forget what he had just witnessed.
But all was not lost for the boys in blue. They were still tied in the bottom of the sixth inning and worked into a two-out bases loaded situation. Mike “Elvis” Staller was the batter and he worked the count full before taking a called third strike to end the inning. “After I hit that deep foul ball earlier, I was sure there was no way they’d pitch to me in that situation” Elvis moaned. “I think he (the opposing pitcher, Mike “Mental” Nentle) was tryin’ to give me one of them ‘unintentional’ intentional walks but he just missed his spot and threw the ball for a strike. How was I supposed to know that would happen?!” The boys gave up two runs in the top of the seventh and then went down quietly in order in the last half of the inning. Upon the last putout, the Loretto players began jumping up and down and shrieking like little girls at an *NSYNC concert. “You’d think they just won the f’ing World Series”, said 18. Commenting on the loss, relief pitcher Joe “Joe-Joe” Perzel said, “It really wasn’t my fault out there. I pitched pretty well and hit my spots; the defense just didn’t help me out. I don’t think I’m going to count this loss against my stats.” When asked to comment on the game coach Corny said, “Gosh, I’m not really sure what happened out there. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the game. Crash brought those hotties along and I just spent the whole night trying to look good while giving signs. Oh boy, I hope I score!”
The Saints, however, are still the cream of the crop in the Federal League and they aim to prove it again tonight against lowly Chaska, in Chaska. Not to worry folks, the boys will get off the schnied, right themselves and once again the world will revolve in greased grooves.