Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We are the champions, my friend! (Cuz we kept on fighting till the end!!)

In the words of the immortal Johnny Drama:


Yes, our bunch of old men -- The Sons of Pitches -- turned out to be the best bunch of old men in the Charlotte Senior Softball League. On Tuesday night, we won our semifinal game 5-4 and then followed with a dramatic 18-17 championship game victory. Both times, we came from behind late to prevail.

What's pretty freaky is that in 14 innings of play over the two games, we had exactly two leads -- when Jerry hit the walk-off, two-out triple in the bottom of the last inning of the semifinal ... and when Rick delivered his bases-loaded deep fly over a drawn-in outfield in the bottom of the last inning of the championship game.

Going into the bottom of the sixth inning of the championship game, we were trailing 17-12. Pat, our coach/pitcher, gathered us together and shouted:

"This is something we are gonna remember for the rest of our lives. And most of you mother-bleepers are only gonna live another five years, so let's go!"

OK, it wasn't Rockne ... it was better! And funny, too. Obviously inspired by our fearless leader, we proceeded to score four times to make it a one-run game. We shut out our opponent in the top of the seventh and then scored twice in the bottom, with Moe, the oldest Son of Pitch, knocking in the tying run to set up Rick's winning hit.

Then, merriment ensued -- complete with a champagne spray from Pat.

We Are The Champions, My Friend!

Back Row: Rick, Mike (a.k.a. "Good Mike"), Bob, Jerry, Pat, Moe, Rich, Gary.

Front Row: Joe, Doug, Wayne, Bruce, Yours Truly.

I'm trying to remember if I had ever previously won a championship game in any sport at any level, and I'm pretty sure the answer is no. I'd remember, right? (I did mention I'm old, though, and the memory ain't what it used to be.)

You'd think there would have been a rec league title or an intramural win somewhere.

My freshman year at Marquette, our floor won the dorm touch football championship ... but we lost a heartbreaker to the frat team for the overall title. I played center and because the league used "everybody eligible" rules, I caught a few TD passes and PATs during the season. After we scored our only touchdown of the night, I was wide open in the end zone for the extra point, but out very good QB simply overthrew me by a mile. (I'd be happy to poke fun at my vertical leap, but LeBron wouldn't have caught that one.) It was 6-6 after regulation and we ended up losing in overtime.

And I think that's the closest I got to a title of any kind. I was kind of the Ted Williams/Dan Marino/Karl Malone of overweight, undertalented wannabe jocks -- I couldn't win the big one. Until Tuesday!

I got close as a basketball coach just last season, as documented in The Baldest Truth back in February, but my Scholars Academy Eagles lost to our archrival in the title game. Katie and Ben won a few youth sports championships, but I don't think I coached any of those seasons.

Pat and I (as pictured below, with Pat holding the champagne bottle) joined the senior softball league the same year, 2012, and we have been together since -- on three different teams.

We actually won a couple of fall league titles, and I guess those count, but neither of those were won through a gauntlet of playoff games; we simply had the best record during the season, and fall league is less competitive than the spring/summer version.

So I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this was my first championship ever as a player or coach.

I thought it would be a bittersweet feeling because I wasn't active for the playoffs. I had shoulder surgery a few days before our quarterfinal victory last week and won't be able to play for at least another month. I was worried I wouldn't really feel like part of the team. But that wasn't the case at all. The guys were genuinely glad to have me (and our other injured player, Rich) at the games, and we did our part. I coached third base and first base, Rich provided in-game scouting of the opponents' at-bats. And we were vocally encouraging at every opportunity.

When Rick greeted me at first base after his title-winning hit, we high-fived. I bounded over to Pat for a quick hug before we went through the handshake line. And I definitely enjoyed my swig (or two) of champagne!

Counting four spring/summer league teams and three fall league teams, Pat and I actually have been together for seven seasons over these 3+ years. Although we really have been fortunate to have had great teammates every time, this is a particularly special group -- and I would have said that even if our season didn't have such a special finish.

Great guys to play with, to hang out with at the bar, to shoot the shyte with, and, yes, to celebrate with.

Here's to The Sons of Pitches -- a great bunch of winners!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Big win for Sons of Pitches, big pain for yours truly

With our come-from-behind triumph last night, the Sons of Pitches finished our regular season at 7-4. Our victory clinched the No. 3 seed -- and first-round bye -- for the playoffs. I chipped in with a couple of singles, and I also drew a walk as part of our winning 5-run rally; it's always nice to aid the effort.

Of course I wanted to win, but I admit that the victory was a little bittersweet for me. I am scheduled to have arthroscopic shoulder surgery on July 16, so the clinching of the first-round bye means this was my last softball game of the spring/summer season.

Hopefully, the surgery will be successful, I will rehab quickly and will be ready early in the fall campaign. The guys need me -- no, not on the field, but to lead the charge to the post-game libations!


The surgery will be for an "impingement" in my left shoulder -- I have trouble moving my arm laterally or raising it over my head. Meanwhile, my right shoulder also is sore, but the doctor thinks physical therapy will fix that. I hope so -- because I'm tired of throwing like ... well ... I don't even know how to describe it. A spastic T-Rex, perhaps?


I haven't touched a golf club yet in 2015, and I haven't played a round in almost a year. Those who know me will find that hard to believe ... but it's not easy to concentrate on the golf game while yelling "Owww!" with each swing.


My shoulder ailments join an increasingly tight left hamstring that makes it uncomfortable to sit for more than about a half-hour -- so you can imagine how much fun I was on our drive to and from Chicago. Many gymnastics were performed when I was in the passenger seat. I have a feeling that one of these days, I'm going to be running to first base and the hamstring is going to snap like a guitar string that was tuned too tight. Sproing! Can't wait.


And yesterday afternoon, I went to the doctor to try to find a cure for an infection on my left index finger, something that has been bothering me for more than a year. It was my third trip to this doctor, a general internist, and almost certainly my last. If I don't get rid of this infection soon, it will be time to go to a specialist -- something I probably should have done already.


How did all of this happen? I'm only 54 freakin' years old!!

I guess I have to look at it this way: All of the aches and pains remind me that I'm alive, which is vastly better than the alternative.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Can anybody use a record player ... or 7?

So much has happened in sports since my last post that I'm not about to try to play catch-up in that department. So ...

Robbie and I just got back from the Chicago area, where we spent a week cleaning out my 89-year-old father-in-law's townhouse (while he stayed with his niece in a different suburb). There are pack rats ... and then there is Frank, who merits a special category of his own.

Here is what we found -- AND I AM NOT MAKING UP ANY OF THIS:

++ 9 TVs, including what had to be one of the first gigantic projection TVs ever made, 3 TVs with screens so small viewers might have needed a magnifying glass to see the picture, and a TV/VCR unit designed to fit between the seats of a full-sized van. Ben got the newest TV of the bunch -- a 50-inch HD flat screen that Frank bought last year; Frank's niece's granddaughter got the small flat screen that was in his bedroom; and, aside from the projection TV that still sits in his living room (or, in Frank's parlance, his "parlor"), Robbie and I put the other 6 TVs by the curb with "FREE" signs on them. All 6 were taken by passers-by.

++ 7 record players. Again, my son took what appeared to be the best one -- which had a built-in 8-track player. Can't beat that! A neighbor claimed one of the others. We put the 5 others on the curb and 4 were snapped up. We ended up throwing away one that looked like it had been through several wars. Frank also has probably 5,000 albums -- 4,950+ of which he has never played. We haven't figured out yet how to get rid of those.

++ At least 100 flashlights, most cheap plastic ones Frank had gotten as freebies over the years. We threw out almost all of them.

++ Hundreds of batteries, most past their expiration dates and many corroded.

++ More than $1,000 worth of coins that Frank had collected in various desk-top banks and boxes, including $700+ in quarters alone. We took that to his credit union and got it deposited in his account. We then closed his account -- which had been paying him no interest -- and moved all of his money to an online account we had previously set up. The online account pays him 1.05% interest -- not much, but it's better than 0.00%!

++ Two orbital waxers that a UPS driver claimed from the curb, along with a huge bucket of car-care products. One waxer was still new in the box; the other had been used maybe once. Why did Frank need 2 orbital waxers? Because if he hadn't gotten the second, he would have only had one!!

++ A dozen or so heaters, fans and air purifiers of all shapes and sizes. These were popular items among the free stuff we left on the curb. Frank's house was so filled with dust, that he must have felt the air purifiers were a must.

++ An old elliptical trainer and an even older step-climber, neither of which worked. They sat for awhile but were eventually claimed. Frank was NOT an exercise guy.

++ Dozens and dozens of framed pieces of "art" -- if pictures of fake flowers, ducks and Dennis Rodman can be called "art." All the sports-themed stuff went to Frank's great niece, who is setting up a basement bar. The rest went on the freebie pile.

++ Tools, tools and more tools, most of which were claimed by family friends.

++ Bags and bags filled with clothes, many of which were still in their original wrappers. Frank wears a total of 2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts, so he doesn't need 200+ outfits. That clothing -- along with usable linens and kitchen dishes and utensils -- were donated to Frank's church for distribution to the needy.

++ Five boxes of self-help books, most of which were based on various conspiracy theories. Ugh.

++ Carpet-cleaning equipment and at least 4 bucket/mop combos. Frank used to be in the floor-cleaning business. Friends took some of the stuff, the worst junk got pitched.

I could go on, but I won't. Frank used to go to garage sales and flea markets and just buy crapola. I don't know if his goal was to sell it or what, but he must have done 100 times more acquiring than selling. He also was seduced by infomercials, magazine ads, etc. That led him to buy stuff like "exclusive Michael Jordan collector plates featuring genuine reproductions of the greatest player ever's autograph!" He was on every list, and he responded to far too many sales pitches. In addition to the needless stuff he bought, Frank had cases and cases of supplements, creams and other products that were supposed to ward off the aging process.

It's all a form of addiction. It gripped Frank and continues to grip many seniors like him. They are classic victims of those sales schemes.

All of the above referred to Frank in the past tense, even though he is very much alive. Why? Because his days of buying crapola are over. He no longer can drive and he is with us pretty much all the time, so there no longer is the opportunity. Thank goodness!!!

Although cleaning out Frank's place was extremely hard work -- I lost 5 pounds during the week despite daily consumption of a full breakfast, a nice dinner and 2 beers -- it did provide lots of laughs for me and Robbie. I'd be in one room and she'd be in another, and I'd hear:

"Why? Why? WHY? Why does he have 4 or 6 or 8 speakers in every room? Why? He never listened to music!!!!"

We dined three times with friends and twice with Ben and we always had plenty of fodder for conversation!

We are scheduled to go back in October as part of a whirlwind trip that also will take us to Philly for my brother's wedding. We will drop Frank off for an extended (4-6 weeks) with his niece and spend a day or two at his place -- maybe even get it listed with a realtor? Between now and then, I might go back for a long weekend, try to sell some of the furniture he has, arrange to have the rest of the garbage tossed, line up somebody to re-carpet and paint the place, etc. We'll see if I can swing it.

One thing for sure: This reinforced our resolve to NOT be collectors of crud -- so Katie and Ben don't have to go through this someday!!


Upon our return to N.C., I had so much to do that my head was spinning.

One pleasant surprise: I have moved to No. 1 in readership "rankings" for Seeking Alpha's "Dividend Investing Strategy" category.

I'm long past needing my ego stroked for such things, but it's always nice to be No. 1 at anything!


Right before our trip, I ran my week-long girls basketball camp at the school where I coach, Scholars Academy. Everybody had fun and improved a ton, and I might have a new prospect or two for next year's team!


OK, I've got to run now and declare my candidacy for president. I mean, why should I be the only one not to do it?