Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Off My Wall: Paving Paradise?

by Jeff Smith
April 16, 2008

Paving Paradise?

In my dream, I'm standing at second base of the Little League diamond at White's Park chatting it up with Kevin Costner, who's in town for a possible remake of his prize-winning movie, Field of Dreams.

Costner wants to re-make the 1989 film, this time making it a bit darker and more Warholian. He wants to change the concept of Field of Dreams from the cherished baseball field cut in the middle of an Iowa corn field to the dreams of corporate American chasing away the dreams of thousands of little kids who had played on a similarly cherished baseball field.

He may have found just the right place in Our Town.

He raises his left arm and slowly moves it from the right field foul line into centerfield and then towards the leftfield foul line that runs somewhat parallel to White Street. As he moves his arm, kids appear, kids who had played at White's over many decades all dressed in their baseball caps, t-shirts or sweatshirts, and sneakers of the day with tattered baseball gloves ready for action. The faces are those of Concord kids past and present - some spanning several generations - from their childhood days and I recognize almost all of them.

The Kallechey are there alongside the Hardimans, Callahans, Ceriellos, Flanders, Cimokowskis, Dinapolis, and the Stohrers. As Costner moves his arm towards centerfield, more kids appear. The Knees, Maihotts, Tarrs, Hardimans, Cronins, Kidders, and several families of Walkers all appear. Of course the Champagnes appear along with the Burkes, Mattices, Mullaneys, Moronos, Brochus, Craigues, Matthews, Amrols, Taylors, Bensons, Hoffmans, Mayos, and Watsons. The Degnans, McMahons, Mulligans, Tillotsons, Faretras, Harrisons, Messiers and Lessels joke with the Desmaraiss, Earnshaws, Summers, Barlows and LeBruns in centerfield while the Meads, Burneys, Lanzos, Lapierres and Maceys want to know what all the fuss is about as they tumble into left field. Coming through the various gates at White's and not wanting to be late are the Murphys, the Bonners, the Foys and the Eberharts all scurrying down the paths to the Little League field hoping to be part of the casting call for Costner's movie. And before long the word was out and old friends from the intra-park league days began appearing, kids from Rollins Park, and Fletcher-Murphy Playground, and West Street and Kimball Playground and Merrill and Rolfe Parks.

They all gather in support of their cherished ground.

They arrived professing their love for the place where they all learned how to bunt and hit and run, how to tag up on a fly ball and how to steal a base. They learned the proper way of putting on the catcher's equipment and how to hit a fastball, be it from Tuffy Olsen, Eddie Bourgeous or Danny Jameson. They learned how to turn a double play, how to take a pitch on a 3-0 count and how to line up the relay throws from the outfield. And they learned what it meant to be a teammate. It was here that friendships were born not only with the kids who called White’s Park "home," but also with the kids from the Auto Dealers representing East and West Concord and the Rotary kids who came down the hill from the Heights to play in the Concord American Little League well before the manicured beauty of Grappone Park was built.

It was on the Little League field at White's that we also played touch football and then flag football. It was there that we played other games of baseball called pitcher-catcher, rundown, 500 and home run derby. And when Gustaf (Joe) Vassaf arrived one summer from Turkey, the field saw its first soccer ball, a game now widely played by kids all over the city.

The Little League field is now under siege as the City has a plan to destroy the field and build a 92-car parking lot. The plan is in its final stages of approval. Hmmm. While the field doesn't serve as a formal Little League field any longer, I always thought it was perfect for youth and recreational softball, or for the younger kids who were just learning the skills of soccer, or even the young kids now learning lacrosse.

Hey, we aren't building any more land these days, and all I ever hear from the sports groups is they don't have enough playing fields.

That being the case, why are we destroying a decent place to play? Why aren’t we using our creative minds to find uses for the field other than a parking lot?

Sure the field looks pretty scrubby in the winter when the local patrons park their cars on the field while they skate on the frozen White's Park pond, but are we ready to trade all the recreational potential the field has for a 92-car parking lot? C'mon on.

Let's be realistic here. When was the last event at White's Park that demanded the need for parking 92 cars? And if you can come up with one or two, why are we demolishing all that perfect - well, maybe not perfect, but usable - land to put in a 92-car parking lot?

Could it be there's an 800-pound gorilla lurking in the shadows? Could it be one of the neighbors pressuring the City to find relief for one of its problems? Can we be frank, or better yet Frank, or even better yet Franklin Pierce, as in Franklin Pierce Law Center?

Could the Law Center be the reason I'm standing on the infield dirt with Kevin Costner in my dreams? Is the Law Center, with all its parking problems, the real reason we're ready to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot" (with appropriate props to songstress Joni Mitchell)?

Do the dreams in someone's field include bulldozers, graders, and a paving company rather than dozens, even hundreds of kids playing games on a field in the middle of the city over the next 25 years?

Let's think again about a parking lot in the middle of what's described as the "crown jewel" of our park system.

If you need a parking lot, fix the ones that are there, don't "pave paradise."

(The previous piece was submitted to the Concord Monitor as a My Turn article. No response yet as to whether or not it will run.)


I can’t make this up. Another facet of the White’s Park renovation plan is to pave over the hockey rink so it can be used for other activities in the summer like lacrosse, inline skating and – I’m guessing you can’t read the next word without some type of response - hopscotch!

Now when was the last time any of you saw a brutal game (and is hopscotch really a game?) of hopscotch break out at White’s?

I’m betting you can remember the old Shuffleboard court painted on the basketball court before you can recall a hopscotch game or match being held at White’s.

Is this the Red Sox version of the Pink Hats taking over White’s?

They also plan on renovating the big league diamond that is long overdue. As the hard core baseball fan knows, the infield grass is supposed to concavely crown in the middle (sort like looking at your contact lens when you put it down on its rim) so if you were flat on your stomach along the first base line you should not see the shortstop dirt, for instance.

Now, why you’re flat on your stomach along the first base line is your problem, not mine, but I swear it wasn’t the Jic-Jac soda.

Anyways, the White’s Park infield is just the opposite. The infield grass is convexed (I guess that’s the word) to the point where you could have ducks swimming in the infield grass up until about the 15th of May or even later.

Now here’s the rub on the big league diamond: I’m told that 2008 is the 100th year of Sunset League baseball and yet the City is planning on digging up the field to fix it beginning soon.

So much for a gala celebration of the 100th year.

Here’s a quote from the newspaper article on the White’s Park renovations: “The parking lot’s always been horrendous.” That from a 31-year old stay at home mom. Now just how long does her “always” encompass? This past year? A couple of years? Maybe as far back as the turn of the century? Man, she certainly has a historic perspective of White’s Park.

So if the parking lot is in trouble, fix the damn thing. Put in the stripes and handicapped spots the article cited as not being there.

But why in hell are we tearing up a baseball field, soccer field, lacrosse field, play area for 92 cars? Even when the peanut carnival or the water ballet were at their fever pitch and the Sunset League was going great guns, they didn’t need 92 parking spaces.

In fact, a couple of years ago I went to three Sunset League games at White’s and the highest attendance for any of the three games was 11!

The plan also calls for closing the road that travels through the main portion of the park. Funny, but I always thought that was a safety issue for the Concord police.

Changing subjects on the fly: If someone volunteered 37 years of his or her life to a non-profit organization, serving admirably all along the way (as in not throwing pizza at umpires in a fit of rage), the governing board would likely be thinking about naming something after this person.

So how come the Concord National Little League tried to run off Mike Sartorelli after 37 years of devoted service to the baseball and softball playing kids of Concord’s South End?

I don’t understand either.

Just to give you all some comparisons. When the Red Sox played the Dodgers in LA a few weeks ago and the fence in leftfield was 201 feet away from home plate…….well that’s one foot deeper in leftfield than the fence at Grappone Park!

Don’t want to put any pressure on him, but here’s betting that if the paving project does go through that Duncan Matthews will have a really hard time putting in a bid on the project. It would be like desecrating holy ground to a CWPG (Certified White’s Park Guy).

Monday, October 08, 2007

Just Rambling

Monday, October 8, 2007

Just Rambling
In case you missed it in the Concord Monitor recently, Mike Degnan was named this year’s recipient of the Wheelock-Nardi Advocacy Award for exemplifying a high standard of commitment and advocacy to those with mental illness.

“J. Michael Degnan of Concord received the Mental Health Center’s Wheelock-Nardi advocacy award and will be honored at the eighth annual celebration for mental health October 29 in Manchester. The Wheelock-Nardi award is presented to individuals or organizations that exemplify a high standard of commitment and advocacy to those with mental illness. In 1983, Degnan co-founded and currently serves as president of Helms & Company, Inc., a distinguished healthcare management and consulting firm.” – Concord Monitor, September 30, 2007.

The announcement showed up in the newspaper the day after Deggie’s 60th birthday party, a typically loud and raucous event (just kidding about the loud and raucous part…..perfectly tame for a Degnan bash) at his School Street abode, which he confides is the same house he’s lived in for all 60 of his birthdays. Sorry, but the Monitor piece is not on-line so I can’t attach the picture of Deggie all decked out in his bow tie. Congrats, Mike. The mental health industry is most appreciative of your service. (congrats can be sent to:


Have you seen that McDonald’s commercial where the two kids are standing in the parking lot rapping about chicken McNuggets? If the one on the right isn’t a drop-dead match for Matt Bonner at about age 14 – albeit a few inches shorter - then I’m giving my Double Cheeseburger discount card back…..and that would be serious action on my part.

And speaking of young Bon-Bon…….had a chance to chat with him at Green Street a couple of weeks ago at the Summer A League Championship game. Despite all his success, he still remains incredibly grounded. Said he’d be picking up his NBA championship ring at opening night this season.


Congrats to NHTI hoops coach and athletic director Paul Hogan on his recent induction into the Plymouth State University (College?) Hall of Fame. Paul was the long-time basketball coach at Plymouth State. From an inside source, I understand that there is but one father and son HOF combination in PSC(U) history and that would be the Hogans.


Who the hell is in charge of Wayne Newton’s publicity these days? Whoever it is: FIRE HIM OR HER. If you haven’t seen The Dancing Fig do his gig on Dancing with the Stars, spare yourself. His face has had so many tightening procedures that the temperature on stage has to remain below 68 degrees for fear of his face bursting like a mid-July hot dog on my overheated barbecue grill.

And I swear they’ve sewn his eyes open. Honestly.

Poor Cheryl Burke, his partner. After reaching the finals in both of the past two years, Cheryl might as well book passage out of town soon because Wayne-O isn’t going very far in this contest. In fact, he’s gone too far already.

Probably shouldn’t complain about this one since it keeps McCarver and Morgan off the airwaves, but how in hell did TBS ever get the contract to televise the MLB playoff series in both leagues? And when you’ve answered that one, who was the mindless wonder at TBS or MLB who decided to tank broadcaster Skip Caray, the long-time voice of Atlanta Braves baseball on TBS, from the broadcasts? Hey, maybe he’s not that good, but long service must count for something.

The moment the leadoff hitter for the San Diego Padres took his place at bat in the top of the first inning and looked at one pitch in the playoff (or play-in) game, MLB should have interceded and forfeited the game to the Rockies. No team should ever be allowed to play a game wearing such ghastly colored uniforms as the Pads do. I swear I turned the laundry that color one day when I frigged up the wash at home and put in some funky colored t-shirt with the white clothes.

Or was it one of the kids’ diapers that snuck into the wrong hamper? Shame on the Padre ownership for picking such a putrid color to wear at all let alone on the national stage for a playoff game.

With one of our men’s basketball league team alums in the middle of the picture at its unveiling, do you suppose we might be able to use the marquee at the soon to be opened Red River Theater to post scores of games, leading scorers and upcoming games? Not likely.

Before any of us get all gah-gah over Jacoby Ellsbury, please note that fastballs in the low to mid-90 range on the inside of the plate as well as anything above the letters with a count that includes two strikes morphs Jake into one of those wimps who get sand kicked in their face on the beach. You should also notice that not many pitchers are throwing low breaking balls from the middle of the plate in after Jake showed early that he could smack them around the lot.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s just fine. But don’t anoint him with the oil of Freddy Lynn just yet.

Answer me these questions:
1. How much would Jerry Remy charge to come to my house and do the color commentary for Red Sox games throughout the playoffs and the World Series? He might as well because I’m muting the damn thing and making up my own story lines.

2. Does TBS have to pay MLB extra for carrying the crowd noise over the air? They’ve killed the crowd noise, which I guess is OK because if you kill the play-by-play you’re killing the crowd noise, too. It was deathly quiet in Denver Monday night when the noise should have been starting avalanches in the mountains and the din from the Sox first game win over the You Pick a City/County/State Angels could have been heard from an open window in a dormitory room in the Upper Valley, but you could barely hear it on the TV.

3. Are the Red Sox allowed to play Dirty Water at home if they win? How about Sweet Caroline? If TBS wants to do something good, ban the Wave.

4. Does Remy and Tina Cervasio even attend the games when they aren't broadcasting? Orsillo isn't because he was hired by TBS to do play-by-play.

5. Whatever happened to the bullpen cart? And why don’t they use it anymore? Couldn’t they squeeze out some more revenue by selling advertisements on the old rig?

You heard it here first. From Dan Morin comes the following: Watch Theo in this off-season. Before the lilacs come back, the hometown team will have Yuke at first, Pedroia at 2B, ARod at SS and Mike Lowell at 3B. Ellsbury will be in LF, Torii Hunter in CF and Soriano in RF.

Lugo, Drew, Coco, and a quality young pitcher or two will be listening to Take Me Out to the Ball Game at Wrigley next year. Manny will be somewhere, likely in California, and his money will help bring in ARod and Hunter and re-up Lowell.

As for a lineup – top this one:
1. Soriano 2. Pedroia 3. Ortiz 4. ARod 5. Lowell 6. Hunter 7. Varitek 8. Yukilis 9. Ellsbury.

Order up the WS rings for 2008!

The second greatest license plate apparently has been retired. In driving down Rockingham Street the other day, I couldn't help but notice that AUEN no longer rests upon the back of Tucker Golden's Jeep. AU, of course, is the symbol for gold and when added to EN one gets GOLDEN. It's been there a long time, but has been replaced with 426.

The greatest license plate? TRHS on the back of Donnie Tuttle's 1965 Ford Mustang.For those who don't remember, or didn't know, Tut was a David Janssen as "The Fugitive" groupie before there were such things. The very last lines from the ever-present commentator on the last show were: "For David Janssen, the running has stopped."

Next vehicle registration, Tut shows up with: TRHS on his Mustang. Remember, acronyms were no big deal back in the 60s, so for a while no one had the faintest idea of what his license plate meant.

Then one day he caved in and confessed: "The Running Has Stopped" made into an acronym for a license plate of: TRHS.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Long Gone

A friend of mine recently mentioned that he had strolled through White’s Park the other day, after a lengthy time away, and seemingly didn’t notice much different with the beautiful park. A few trees had grown larger, but other than that……nothing.

Funny, and not to be argumentative, but I sat along the first base side of a recent Sunset League game for a few innings and thought just the opposite……at least as far as the big league baseball field is concerned.

Odd, isn’t it, but we always, always called the large diamond the “big league baseball field.” Never the Sunset League field. Or the Legion field. Or the Concord High field, all teams that played there on a regular basis.

Our “Big League Field” was sort of our field of dreams - not that many of us were even remotely good enough to make the “big leagues” - before there was such a thing.

Before I go one syllable further: God bless Stephen DeStefano.

Steve has a wonderful family. A vast real estate company. Represents the town of Bow in the Legislature.

Yet if it wasn’t for Steve, I suspect the Sunset League, the oldest after supper league in all of America, might be dead. Steve has put together an enjoyable brand of baseball in the area with mostly college players from all around the state.

So what I write next is by no means a complaint about the Sunset League or the efforts of DeStefano. It’s more about the times we live in.

Gone: The crowds at Sunset League games. Old-timer Shammy Angwin used to tell me stories of how there were hundreds of people at the games back in his day (1930s). In my day, the number probably hit 100 on a very good night. Now…….the attendance in the three games I attended last month: 7, 9, and 11.

Gone: For the above reason, members of the home team don’t walk through the crowds with their baseball caps in hand hoping for a donation to help defray the costs of the league. No, they don’t pass the hat for collections any more.

Gone: There’s no little kid towing a red wagon filled with metal numbers across the field from the stone storage shed deep down the left line across the field to the green wooden scoreboard in foul territory down the right field line.

Gone: In fact, the scoreboard isn’t used any more for Sunset League games at White’s.

Gone: The official scorer – Jim Jeannotte, Allen Lessels, Jimmy Heath, Jim Rivers, Bob Lauze, Scott Taylor among many others - gathered the starting lineups from the respective managers, scored the game and then wrote up the game story for the Concord Monitor, hustling down to the Monitor’s office on North State Street to hand in their story. Every single game. All season long.

Gone: There are no little kids chasing foul balls and bringing them back to the older gentleman sitting on the top row of the first base bleachers. Last I knew the going rate was $0.25 per night, but that was a time ago. My grandfather Charlie proudly performed those tasks as did Tommy Curtis who just recently passed away.

(For an extra Jic Jac and a Whoopie Pie, can you tell me the first names of Gunther and Catty Curtis, two of Mr. Curtis’s sons?)

Gone: If you were never a batboy, shame on you. There are no batboys now. No one hustling to get the bats out of the way or running down to first base with a jacket if the pitcher got on base.

Gone: The pitchers seldom wear jackets on base. Never understood why a perfectly healthy young man needed to wear a jacket on an 85-degree day in the summer.

Gone: One of the treats of being a batboy was that you got to keep the broken bats at game’s end. No more. The bats aren’t wooden any longer. You break one of those aluminum jobbies and you’ve done something. Although, I’m betting my next Wayne Terwilliger baseball card that Hopkinton’s David Foster could have broken one.

Gone: The Great Resin Bag Sprint. The batboys and all the other urchins left over at game’s end used to line up around the dugouts (or benches depending on the year) and prepare for the end of the game resin bag race. The speediest kid got to keep the resin bag from the back of the pitcher’s mound. What we did with those resin bags completely escapes me now, but back then there seemed to be a purpose to grabbing the bag at game’s end.

Didn’t notice any resin bag resting quietly behind the mound at White’s the other night.

Gone: The pathway from the opening in the left field fence at Charles Street diagonally across the outfield to the flagpole in right field foul territory. The pathway was scuffed that way primarily by one of the town drunks, Red Gray, on his way to and from Carlen’s Café down on the corner of Center and North Main Streets.

Gone: Carlen’s Café, but that’s another story.

Gone: Or at least really obscured is the old stone storage house deep down the left field line, a stone’s throw away from the opening near the Lugg’s house at the end of Beacon Street.

Gone: The old set of bleachers just off third base where Red Sox area scout Jack Onslow would sit with his wide brim hat and his packet of index cards, jotting down notes on the local players in the Sunset League. Just one time I’d love to read what he wrote about the slow-footed blond kid with the big head.

Gone: The local flavor of Concord area players. No more Hardimans, Steenbekes, Lassondes, Berniers, Johnsons, Shaws. The Sunset League has teams from outside the area filled with plenty of college talent. But not many Concord folks.

Gone: The crowned infield. Really good baseball fields are crowned from the pitcher’s mound towards the baselines. Supposedly for drainage, but I suspect the original groundskeepers hated bunters so sloped the field towards the baselines thus helping all but the well-placed bunt roll foul. Now the inside portion of the infield has to be 6 inches lower than the baseline.

Rumor had it that the city was planning on moving the baseball field so home plate would be elsewhere (no, you smart aleck Rollins Park guys, the dump isn’t where they planned on moving the field).

Gone: The cars parked high above the knoll on the third base side. Obstructions are in place so cars cannot park there anymore.

Gone: The water fountain behind home plate. Swallow your spit.

Gone: Dan, Dan the Ice Cream Man. Bring you own bottle of water.

Gone: Base coaches. Most times, no one is coaching first base and third base has a coach only when a runner gets in scoring position. Man, what I would give to hear the rantings and ravings of Richard (Arab) Labnon coaching in the third base coaches box just one more time.

Gone: The long ski jump well off the left field line. Used to be a great hiding place in our daily game of Chase.

Gone: The tall hill (King Hill) down the left field line, now purposely cut short by trees planted about half way up the hill. One too many sled/toboggan lawsuits, I suspect.

Not Gone: An enjoyable two hours spent watching America’s pastime (don’t start the football/basketball/soccer/golf/NASCAR argument, please!) in the wonderful setting we all know as White’s.

So, maybe my friend was right: nothing has changed at White's Park. Sort of.


Duck(y) Matter

Got some great responses from the piece on Ducky Mead. Steve Bamford suggested he has five or six Ducky stories that would keep you rolling on the floor. Bill Luti still smiles remembering the time he ventured to Albany to a coaches clinic sharing the front seat of the car with Walter Smith as Winnicunnet's Bob Dodge and Ducky held down the back seat. Bill swears he laughed the entire trip.

But the one guaranteed to put a smile on your face comes from former New England College hoop coach and athletic director George Hamilton.

If you know Ducky, can you imagine waking up in the morning to one of his funny stories? That's what happened to Hamilton.......for an entire school year as Hamilton and Mead were roommates at Springfield College.

Hamilton's jaws hurt for a year later from laughing so hard.

Concord’s Big Dig

Correct me if I’m wrong, but with all the baby boomers readying to retire, doesn’t the Concord School Board’s plan of creating its own Big Dig come at about the worst time possible? Seems like just when the largest number of our towns folks head towards their limited earnings years, the school board shouldn’t be planning on building and/or renovating all those school buildings.

Make Up Your Mind

Guaranteed to happen: Sometime during the upcoming school year, an article will appear in the national news telling us that our youngsters are overweight and out of shape and our local educators/teachers will be tasked with finding a way of combatting this malady.

It's at that point that someone should bring out a picture of the local middle school's current sign out front of its building imploring its students to enjoy their summer AND READ FIVE BOOKS A WEEK.

If you're reading five books a week, you're not out exercising, now are you?

Missed Opportunity

Walk with me for a minute. The San Francisco Giants were in Boston from June 15-17. Barry Bonds – hate ‘em or not – was in town with the Giants. Bonds is chasing Hank Aaron’s career home run record. To do that he has to HIT the baseball.

So wouldn’t you think a conversation with the San Francisco Giants’ hitting instructor would be an interesting story?

Especially when that hitting instructor is none other than Joe Lefebvre (Concord High ‘74/Post 21) a former major league player with the Yankees, Padres, and Phillies (where he played in a World Series with some guys named Rose, Schmidt, Morgan)?

The large red ball on my personal left field wall is blinking “E” on that one for the Concord Monitor.

Where in the World Is….

I hope he’s just on vacation, but I haven’t seen Ray Duckler’s byline in the Concord Monitor recently. I just know he would have written something about Matt Bonner being a part of an NBA championship team. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect Ray would have penned a line or two about the passing of one of Concord's great hockey supporters, Leonard (Red) Brochu.

When is 100?

If something started in 1909 and is still going, is the 100th anniversary in 2008 (which is the 100th year of partipation) or is the 100th anniversary in 2009?

Going Rate

At $10 per game, how many games do you think Matt Bonner would have to had scored and timed for Andy Pappas in the Concord Men’s Basketball League to equal his winner’s playoff share in the NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs? Bon-Bon becomes the most famous scorer-timer in CMBL history.

Stop It, Now

To every sportscaster, newscaster, or anyone in the sports writing field: Stop calling the pitcher’s mound “the bump.” As in, Dice-K will be on the bump tonight for the Red Sox.

It’s not a bump. Never has been. Should never be. It’s a mound. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now let’s stop it. You’re just showing your baseball ignorance.


Gotta love that commercial for Encore tabs. The ad suggests you take one tab 45 minutes before sexual activity and you will have tremendous staying power.

How the hell do you know when to start the 45-minute clock? If some of my cronies, or high school classmates for that matter, took one every time they thought about it, they would down a caseload of Encore in about two days and likely have their left leg turn to stone.

And on that note, have a wonderful Fourth of July.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Memorable April Afternoon and Other Spring Thoughts

Best Concord Individual Sports Achievement ? Top this one
No doubt, Tommy Hardiman and Happy Simpson had some great ball games. Ditto Bobby Wheeler, Joe Hargen, Bobby Hurst, Donnie Soderstrom, Andy Ansaldo, Frankie Alosa, Donnie Pope, and Aleck Warren.

I'm sure that Danny Jameson, Joey Lefebvre, and Richie Lassonde can come up with some pretty wonderful games to add to a list.

[Someday I'll share with you a game in the State Little League tournament that Jameson had in 1960 that I'm not sure anyone in this town can top.....but that's for another day]

Certainly Rusty Martin and Doug Everett had more than a few great games in their careers playing hockey at Concord High. Of course, Tara Mounsey's highlight reel is full, too.

Naturally, Matt Bonner could put together A Million Shining Moments with his achievements here in town. And one could fill an afternoon just listing the tremendous athletic achievements of the Concord High, St. John's and Bishop Brady stars of years gone by.

And goodness knows how spectacular the cross country runners and tennis players have been in Concord over the years.

But perhaps the greatest single game performance in Our Town may have come from someone who you'd never guess in a game of 20 Questions. Maybe 50 questions or even 100 questions wouldn't yield this name.

And when I give you the name, most of you will be hard pressed to guess the event, maybe even struggling to determine the sport as this person had a memorable event in Concord High basketball history as well. Many of you may not even know his name.

But what he did at White's Park one chilly April afternoon 45 years ago has to go down as the greatest single game accomplishment in Our Town.

So here goes:

Patrick Skarp.


Not surprised.

Back on April 28, 1962 Pat Skarp, a 5'8" fireballing right-hander, toed the mound at White's Park against the vaunted Nashua High Purple Panthers, with their legendary baseball and football coach, Buzz Harvey.

Skarp, a veteran pitcher for the Crimson Tide team, pitched all 12 innings that day in a 2-1 loss to the Panthers. He held Nashua scoreless through eleven innings before tiring and allowing two runs in the 12th.

Despite his size, Skarp could really fire a baseball. An all-state football player (an offensive end, or wide receiver in today's parlance, or is it now called a wideout?), Skarp was a starting guard on the 1962 championship basketball team, canning the two winning free throws with seconds remaining in the championship game against Manchester Central.

CWPG Jimmy Watson caught all 12 innings that day and remembered calling almost exclusively fastballs as Skarp was unhittable. With a high leg kick, Skarp threw a heavy fastball that just plain exploded as it reached the plate.

"His fastball had so much movement that it seldom settled quietly in my old Del Crandall mitt," confided Watson.

Skarp gave up only five hits, three of them of the scratch variety according to the Old Scout, Ruel Colby who covered the game for the Monitor, naturally.

But here's what makes this a remarkable, almost unbelievable, event, and thus ranks it right up there at the top of the single game accomplishments in Our Town history (until someone can tell me a story to beat it):

He struck out 25 hitters that day and walked 12. Assume, if you will, that each strikeout was on three pitches only and each walk was on four pitches only - which we all know is impossible - his pitch count would amount to 123 pitches on just the strikeouts and the walks.

Amazing. My guess? Somewhere around 250 pitches.

Diamond Notes:
Tide second year baseball coach Mike Garrett started four sophomores in the lineup: George Towle (LF), Billy Beall (CF and batting third), Jim Watson (C), and Doug Walker (1B).

Bobby Grappone, now a most successful local automobile dealer, was the starting shortstop and lead off hitter. After graduation, Grappone matriculated at East Carolina where he continued his playing career including a game against Watson who played for Springfield College.

Not that he's fanatical or anything, but Watson remembers he had steak and ice that night after the game. A raw steak and bags of ice applied directly to his left hand that was so puffed up from a bone bruise inflicted by Skarp's fastball. He claims that with all the catching he did after that game his sophomore year, his hand never puffed up like that again.

"You know, I had the good fortune of catching some pretty fine pitchers in Concord including Dickie Anderson, Mike Blake, Mike McGrath, and Jimmy Shaw as well as some pretty decent pitchers at Springfield and Salt Lake City (where Watson played minor league ball for the San Francisco Giants) who threw hard and were crafty," Watson suggested, "but none with a 25-strike out performance like Pat's.

"There were no radar guns back then, but I know Pat would have been clocked between 90 and 95 that day."

Nashua had a familiar name at second base: Greg Landry, who played QB at UMass before going on to a highly successful career as a QB in the National Football League.

Having played my fair share of baseball as a middle infielder, I got taken out at second base only twice: Geno Valade (Manchester Central at Athletic Field - Gill Stadium) and Landry at Holman Stadium. In fact, my only sports related scar comes from the cleats of Landry.

Did anyone know that Landry's cousin is married to Roger Jobin (CHS '67)?

Ken Jones, the longtime postmaster at the Penacook branch of the USPO, umpired the plate and Bill Heinz, a CHS teacher/coach, umpired the bases.

Here's a test for you: Ask a young teenager you may know how many local police officers can he or she name.

If my kids were any example, the answer will be very few.

BITD (Back in the day), it seemed we knew them all: Norton, Isabelle, Manning, Mayo, LaPierre, Roy, Simpson, Chief Carlson, Ash, .......

Might have been the relationship the police department had with the Boy's Club....or more likely the relationship we had with the officers working the football games at Memorial Field as we tried - successfully most of the time - to sneak into the games.

Flanagan goes for 31
Not to diminish Skarp's fabulous day, but about 10 years later, I saw Sweeney Post's Mike Flanagan (yes, that Mike Flanagan) strike out 31 Post 21 hitters (or non-hitters if you will) in a 12 inning, 2-1 Sweeney Post victory at White's Park. Flanagan "hit" Jimmy Boissey's bat in the early innings for Post 21's only run.

A Classy Field
If you're thinking about great sporting events in Concord, don't forget the New England High School Track and Field Meet at Memorial Field somewhere around 1980 that produced a number of New England meet records. As I recall, a national high school record was also tied. Great event.

The More Things Remain the Same
Picking up my laundry the other day at Arnos Cleaners and bumped into Albert Edelstein (CHS '65) who is now retired from teaching and raising his llamas, growing vegetables for his son's restuarant in Cambridge, running his landscape business, doing some painting (as in walls and woodwork) in the winter, and bowling in one of the elite leagues (with Dan Murphy) at Boutwell's.

As we were chatting, Concord American Legion coach Averill Cate happened by, said hello, and quickly looked at Albie and said, "What are you doing this summer?"

Albert countered with, "Nothing. Why?'

"I need a thirdbaseman," Cate said with a huge smile.

And I'm betting Albie could still hit .300 with his sweetest of sweet left-handed swings.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
At some point the urge will leave me, but for some reason it hasn't. The ConMon reports that the Concord High boy's basketball team is looking for a junior varsity basketball coach. Yes, I would. No, I won't.

Tide's Safety Squeeze
Former Concord High baseball and basketball player Dick (Stick) Daly, Concord High '56, is the head of security in the Manchester superior court after retiring as a physical education teacher in Manchester.

Little Left, Big Right, Little Left, Big Right....
If you ever coached Little League for more than a few years, you likely developed a draft plan for choosing new players. Mike Sartorelli, now in his 36th year coaching Little League in Concord National certainly did, including my favorite: The Mother Pick.

Seems Sat figured if he was going to have junior on his team for three years, the least he could do was draft a kid with a pretty mother.

He claims he only missed once: Try as he may, he missed drafting J. B. Buxton.

But that's not what I'm heading towards today. I had the pleasure of coaching in Concord National for 12 years (after one year in Concord American) and saw some pretty fine ball players and some pretty funny draft plans.

Dick Duchesne may have had the best of the lot. With his sidekick B. G. Drewski, Duchesne would draft players so he could have a lineup that went like this: little left, big right, little left, big right, little left, big right......and so on through the lineup.

He figured that the young pitchers facing his team would have difficulty facing a different sized strike zone every player so he planned accordingly.

Dick Duchesne passed away this week at the age of 71. Rest in peace, Little Left-Big Right.

Rock and Fire
Mark your calendars: Nolan Robert Paveglio should be firing some serious high hard ones along about April 2019, which should make him a 12-year old in the local little league. Might mean that his father, Mark, would have to move back into town, but that can be arranged.

Too Young
Sympathies to Red Murray and his family as their son in-law Jim Gannett (CHS '88) passed away recently. To quote Red, "He was the best son in-law you could ever ask for."

Always Juiced
How come the battery in Jack Bauer's cell phone never runs out of juice?

Aging Well
A recent ConMon article related that the track at Memorial Field is in tough shape. Quoted in the article was M-V track and field coach Bob Mullen, son of long-time CHS track & field coach (and former baseball you didn't know that one) Don Mullen. Something was lost, however, somewhere in the translation. The article quoted B. Mullen saying he remembered when the cinder track was put down at Memorial Field.

Hmmmmmm. That would make him somewhere around 90 years old.

More was less
Thanks to the producers of Dancing with the Stars for putting some clothes on Samantha Harris. Too much skin was not becoming the young lady.

Ice Breakers
Did you all know that Dancing co-hostTom Bergeron preceeded Jim Jeannotte as the original question asker on The Granite State Challenge high school quiz shown on Channel 11?

Would anyone be surprised if the lab mixed up Jason Giambi's test results with those of Laila Ali? Bet she never sang soprano in the kids' choir at church.

(Is that the proper use of the apostrophe? See, Doc made me this way!)

Get ready to cut the grass and swat some black flies. Enjoy the spring.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bits and Pieces While Waiting for the Snow to Melt

Mush On Mackey


There’s just no other way to say it.

The charges are many.

Paying too much attention to March Madness?


Spending too much time watching 24 and American Idol?

Guilty on both counts.

Wondering who Jim Jeannotte and I should take with the second choice in our Roto fantasy baseball league?

(For the record, I think it's coming down to Bobby Abreau or Justin Morneau. Any thoughts?)

Shackle me, your honor.

Wondering if it is actually possible for the Red Sox to go 162-0?

Solitary confinement, jailer.

Not knowing who on Earth Lance Mackey is?

To the gallows.

Lance Mackey?

You bet your sweet Crimson Tide letter sweater, Lance Mackey.

Because while the rest of us were toughing out a frigid cold snap this month – at least frigid for us – Lance Mackey, son of a genuine Concord High Class of 1950 grad, sent his dogs a’mushing in Alaska’s freezer land.

That’s right. We’re nowhere near six degrees of separation on this one.

Imagine the winner of the 2007 Iditarod Sled Dog Race, The Last Great Race on Earth, had direct ties to Our Town.

And so very few of us had any idea.

Lance Mackey is the son of Richard Mackey who graduated from Concord High, and himself won the Iditarod in 1978 by the slimmest of margins – one second, or the nose of his lead dog.

And to round out this family’s love affair with the Great Race, Lance’s brother Rick has also won the race.

So it seemed only natural that one day Lance would travel the 1,150 miles over 10 to 17 days (depending on weather conditions, of course) from Anchorage in south central Alaska to Nome, on the western Bering Sea coast and join his father and brother upon the winner’s stand.

For us less hearty souls, think Kentucky Derby, World Series, or Super Bowl.

That’s how big the Iditarod is.

And instead of saying “who’s he?” we should be dancing in the streets.

Lance Mackey, now 36 years old, never lived in Concord. He was born and raised in Alaska and has won the other huge rain in that state……the Yukon Quest. Twice in fact, including this year a couple of weeks before the Iditarod, a feat thought unattainable by sled dog enthusiasts. On top of that, he’s the record holder in the Yukon Quest.

But it was the Iditarod that he really wanted to bag.

“I grew up around racing and the Iditarod. I was at the finish line in 1978 to watch my father win by one second and again in 1983 to see Rick win.”

Both Richard and Rick wore bib number 13 in their sixth attempt at winning the Iditarod.

Naturally Lance followed suit this year, donning number 13 in this his sixth attempt at the crown.

One description of the iditarod goes like this:

It’s unlike any other event in the world. A race over 1,150 miles of the most extreme and beautiful terrain known to man: across mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra, and windswept coastline.

And we thought it was rough taking the pooch for a walk earlier this month in the near zero weather.


Check out more on the Iditarod at the link below.

Shame, shame

Kevin Gray from the New Hampshire Union Leader did a wonderful front page article, complete with picture, on Lance Mackey.

Channel 9 did an equally wonderful news/sports feature including interviews with Mackey's relatives living in the Concord area.

The hometown Concord Monitor, the media outlet with the most to gain by the success of Dick Mackey's (CHS '50) son? Near as I can figure out, the ConMon coverage was limited to a couple of paragraphs sidebar clipped from the national wire when Mackey was in the lead heading into the final day.

Someone from the UNH hockey program hiccups in front ot T-Hall and the ConMon goes five columns and a picture. But we can't get anything on Lance Mackey winning the Iditarod?

How come?

Blog On, Luke

ConMon sports columnist, Ray Duckler, provided us recently with a fine article on the literary talents of UMass hoopster and Concord native Luke Bonner, son of David and Paula Bonner. Not included in the article were the links to read Luke's writing. Here are two sites for your reading pleasure......

Familiar Face

One of the Mackey story interviewees on Channel 9 was Rita Key McDonald who most of us White Park Guys (WPGs) remember as that cute little blonde who used to skate to the music at the White's Park pond all winter long with Phonsie Ceriello and was the girl friend - eventually wife - of Denny McDonald (he of the half dozen majestically mammoth home runs onto either Earnshaw's or Pingree's White Street front lawn every Sunset League season).

Rita is a cousin to the Mackeys.

Passing Lane

Thought I had died and gone to Guy Heaven this week. After a medical procedure, a care partner wheeled me into a recovery room and told me over the next hour I could pass gas as loud and as many times as I wanted. Because that's what she wanted me to do.

And while prepping for the procedure, I realized what many of you already knew: I am full of crap!

Tournament Leftovers

Over the years I have seen my fair share of Class L boys basketball championship games. Seldom have I had the need or urge to see a taped replay of the game.

Memorial-Central overtime when Mike Flanagan fouled out and Ron Beaurivage took over. Portsmouth-Nashua from 1965 at the Concord High gym. Trinity-Portsmouth when the Pioneers' Danny Duval canned two free throws for the championship when a Clipper player called a timeout when they were out of timeouts. And, naturally, all of the Concord High championships. Yes on all accounts.

But I'd also love to see the Salem-Trinity final from this past St. Patrick's Day. That was fun from the opening toss to Stephen Savage's rainbow three at the buzzer for the Salem win.

No Manchester Central in the finals this year which seems strange. Looking for a three-peat, the Little Green were knocked off in the semis by an upstart Trinity team. Goes to show you how darn difficult it is to win three Class L championships in a row.

It has only been done twice, only once in the last 50 years (Concord High during Matt Bonner's last three seasons). Merrimack had a shot a couple of years ago and Central seemed destined for a three-peat this year.

While Central may not have been in the finals, there sure was a Central flavor on the floor. Trinity head coach David Keefe played on championship teams at Central in the 80s as well as serving as an assistant coach at Central before moving up the hill to Trinity last season. And one of his assistants - Mike Fitzpatrick - played with Keefe in high school, served as an assistant at Central, and then was the Little Green head coach for a number of years.

Note to Portsmouth High: Trinity, with an enrollment of 500 students, nearly won the Class L boys basketball championship this year with a team full of Manchester kids, few of whom will ever see a scholarship offer when the graduate from high school.

Notice I said few. They do have a freshman, who remarkably played on the JV team until the last three weeks of the season, who performed like few freshmen ever have on the UNH floor. Jordan Laguerre posted double figures in each of the three games including a 24 point output.

How should we refer to Portsmouth High now that they have dropped to Class I? Here are the choices: "Portsmouth," Portsmouth* (ala Roger Maris), or The Team Formerly Known as Portsmouth?

Call me anal. Every year I look at the NHIAA basketball program and scan through the page showing the champions by year with the scores. Sort of a mini-memory lane trip.

My stroll this year was altered: instead of the years being listed vertically in chronological order, as they have been for perhaps 50 years, they were still listed in two columns, but the years were listed horizontally.

Almost made me dizzy trying to follow along.

Anyone with some input with the NHIAA? See if you can get the listing back to a chronological, vertical format.

Early prognostication, for what it's worth: Trinity and Central will meet in the finals next year.

A chance meeting

A buddy of mine from the Seacoast shared this (true) story with me about a trip to spring training in Florida that he took many years ago.

A Portsmouth High grad, my buddy John accompanied a UNH three-sport star and his wife and kids to spring training shortly after graduating from college. The UNH football-hockey-baseball star was heading to Vero Beach for spring training with the Dodgers.

Naturally John didn't spend all of his time around the batting cage. Instead he managed to find time to loll around the pool.

While there one day, he noticed this very lovely blonde soaking up the rays. A short time later (and being no fool), John managed to walk by this beauty and their eyes made contact.

She looked familiar. Oddly, she thought the same.

"Is your name John?" she ventured.

He acknowledged that indeed it was. (I'm betting he would have said yes even if his name was Horace.)

"Are you from Portsmouth by any chance?" she offered.

Man, this was beginning to get tingly as he said once again that she was correct.

"Well, hi, I'm Cindy (last name). I went to school with you as a freshman and sophomore at Portsmouth High."

My buddy John looked at this lovely young lady and decided that she may have gone to Portsmouth High, but she sure as hell didn't look like that back then.

He stopped to chat. Come to find out, her father was stationed at Pease and after her sophomore year at Portsmouth High her father was transferred to Michigan where she finished high school and then went to Michigan State.

At Michigan State, she not only blossomed into the beauty before his very eyes, but she met her husband to be.

Now she was at Vero Beach for spring training with her hubby who just happened to be playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

My buddy John was salivating over Cindy GARVEY!

Of course, you baseball fans or fans of the rag mags at the checkout counter at the grocery stores all know that much has been written about the marriage of Steve and Cindy Garvey over the years. And she has become somewhat of a celebrity herself.

But that all came after John's chance meeting poolside in the Florida sun.

New Guy in Town

Check out the link below and see which Dartmouth College hockey player has signed an amateur tryout contract with the AHL team.

And according to his uncle Eddie, he may be playing in the playoffs against the Manchester Monarchs.

Kudos (ibid, opcit version)

I should just cut and paste this one, it seems to happen every year. Congrats go out to CWPG (for you beginners that's an acronym for Certified White's Park Guy), Allen Lessells who copped the New Hampshire Sportswriter of the Year once again.

And like two follows one, Jim Jeannotte has also won the New Hampshire Sportscaster of the Year Award, although in fairness he's actually sharing the award this year.


If you follow the college basketball scene closely, you might have noticed a familiar name in the Division II ranks. Will Monica, the 6-5" junior from the college of Saint Rose, filled the nets with 29 points including a buzzer beating three pointer in the semifinals of his conference championship to lift his squad into the finals against undefeated Bentley. Will, the younger son of Paul Monica and Betty Boyle Monica, two well known Concord natives, started all 32 games for Saint Rose this season.

Think spring.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Hooping It Up at 53

Steve Caccia, dean of students at NHTI by day and The General to his long-time men’s league teammates in the Over-35 Concord Men’s Basketball League (a misnomer of sorts because the team Cash plays on has only one guy in his 30s and most are well over 50), sauntered into the NHTI gymnasium last Tuesday night to watch a first round men’s basketball game between NHTI and UMaine-Augusta.

Two Tech students who play lunch bunch basketball with Cash quickly came over and joked the he (Cash) could or should be playing for the UMaine-Augusta team. As it turns out, number 53 in for the Moose from Augusta was about the same age as Cash.

No. 53 was Charlie Bickford and the number on his shirt equaled his age.

“Charlie Bickford, more gray hair than me, was going through lay up drills and patting his teammates on the back,” remarked Caccia. “He never got into the game and U Maine - Augusta lost by 12 or so, but there he was cheering and exhorting his teammates on. A 53 year-old guy with two knee braces, taking a two and a half hour bus trip to be part of the guys.”

What Cash didn’t know was that Charlie Bickford was becoming a celebrity of sorts.

When Cash arrived home and opened his email he found a article done two days before by Jimmy Farrell, a splendid writer for the Hartford Courant. Farrell published a lengthy piece in the Courant on Charlie, who grew up in East Hartford before moving to Maine 13 years ago. Farrell, an alum of the Concord Men’s Basketball League when he was earning his spurs with the Concord Monitor in the 80s, spun an interesting tale of this over-the-hill guy who just didn’t want to hang ‘em up.

For those of us who just can’t figure out how to stop playing basketball, or any other sport for that matter, Farrell’s article on Bickford gives us a new cult hero.

But it doesn’t stop there.

After finishing his article, Farrell started getting contacted by people including a novelist in Connecticut with connections with a producer in Hollywood who wanted to talk to Charlie about his “life rights” and maybe make a movie.

Go figure.

Two weeks ago, Charlie was just another aspirin popping old-timer trying to squeeze out another game of hoops.

Now……..who knows. Maybe we’ll hear of a casting call for Don't Leave the Gym on a Missed Shot.

In any event, I’ve already contacted Farrell to make sure my old men’s league geezers get first crack at being extras if Charlie’s story ever becomes a movie.

1. Video of Charlie Bickford:

2. Jim Farrell’s article on Charlie Bickford from the Hartford Courant:

Final Drive For No. 53
A Gray-Haired Athlete With A Busted Knee Kickstarts Small-Time College Hoops Team

Courant Staff Writer
February 13 2007

AUGUSTA, Maine -- He took three aspirin Thursday morning, four more after lunch and six more just before 7 p.m.

Charlie Bickford wanted desperately to dull the pain in his damaged left knee so he could hobble onto the court once more to rebound and sweat and push and hold his own against kids almost a third of his age.

"This means the world to me," said Bickford, who at 53 is thought to be the oldest college basketball player in the country.

Bickford, who grew up in East Hartford and moved to Maine 13 years ago, knows he is living a baby boomer fantasy.

He knows that most people his age are too busy or too lazy or too tired to do what he is doing. Suspending time. Refusing to slow down and grow up.

"I can't change the number of years I've lived, but I can control how old I am," said Bickford, an affable man with three kids and, crucially, an indulgent wife, who enrolled at the University of Maine at Augusta 13 months ago and joined the school's hoops squad because the Moose were short on players.

"My goal was just to be a practice player, to help out, see if I could keep up with them," said Bickford, who is 6-foot-4 and burly at 240 pounds. "It's a guy thing."

Bickford, who lived in a house across from Rentschler Field when airplanes and not footballs filled the air, has always been an active, ambitious athlete. A three-sport standout at East Hartford High School, he went to an Arizona junior college on a football scholarship. He has run the Manchester Road Race more than 15 times. He has hiked much of the New England portion of the Appalachian Trail. He has worked as a Maine guide, taking rafters through treacherous whitewater rapids. He skis, snowshoes and kayaks.

"Everything is fun for Charlie," said Mike Lappen, a friend of Bickford's from Bolton. "He's very personable and easygoing, but he also knows what he wants and goes for it."

Bickford has always had a passion for basketball, which made it especially painful when - despite being the tallest student in his high school as a sophomore - he was cut from the team, prompting him to switch to wrestling.

Then there was more disappointment, when a knee injury in college ended his football dreams.

But Bickford recuperated, enrolled at Manchester Community College and joined its basketball team for the 1978-79 season. He was only a benchwarmer, though, and in the entire season scored just 2 points - one basket in a depressing 40-point loss to some team down in Bridgeport.

"I always figured that was it, that that was how my career had ended," Bickford said.

He and his wife, Laura, who is a hospital administrator, decided to move to Maine in 1994 after the birth of daughter Mary Kate.

For Bickford, who has worked as a nurse and as an independent photographer, it was something of a homecoming. He was born in Lewiston and has lots of relatives in the area, and he had loved vacationing in Maine.

"It was nothing against Connecticut - I have so many great memories from there," said Bickford, who nevertheless raves about his post-and-beam house in Belfast, on 6 acres just a mile from Penobscot Bay.

When Bickford joined the UMA team last season, he not only shored up the roster but brought unprecedented attention to a team that was struggling against other low-profile colleges, schools like Husson and Hesser and the awkwardly abbreviated UMFK - the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

"He saved us last year," said coach Jim Ford, who is about three weeks younger than Bickford.

Ford said Bickford is popular because he is selfless.

"Everybody is always concerned about how he is doing because he's always concerned about everybody else," Ford said.

In the early part of last season, the Moose had just five players. Bickford made six, and his strength and defense helped UMA spring a couple of late-season upsets after losing its first 18 games.

The team's record wasn't important, though, to the newspapers and television stations throughout the state that told the story of the unlikely middle-aged maverick. They all played up the irresistible detail that Bickford had been given a uniform number - 52 - that matched his age.

"It was crazy," said Eric Gagne, who went to high school last year in a town just south of Augusta and read all the stories. "No one could believe it, hearing about this weird old guy."

Gagne, 18, is now a teammate.

Bickford said the media coverage was flattering, but what he relished most was being part of the team. He loved the camaraderie. The competition. The challenge.

This season, Bickford said, has been just as rewarding but in different ways. He has not played as much because the team has more and better players - a development the coach attributes to the attention Bickford brought the school last year - and also because of his creaky left knee, which needed surgery in December.

But teammates say Bickford is an inspiring presence. "He acts younger than some of us," Gagne said.

The Moose take their hoops seriously, but beyond that they have little in common with big-time teams featured on ESPN.

In the fall, the team practices on outdoor courts because indoor gyms are hard to come by. Road games, such as those at Presque Isle, require a 480-mile round trip in two vans that usually return to Augusta at 3 a.m. There are no cheerleaders, although the men's and women's teams often play back-to-back and urge each other on.

But it's not all hard luck.

For example, the team ended up with its star player, a Chicagoan named Deon Cheers, only because he had already purchased a Greyhound ticket to Augusta when his would-be travel companion backed out. And there's Ford, a high school teacher by day who is a sharp coach and was once an assistant on the Bates College staff.

Best of all, home games are played at the Augusta Civic Center, a top-flight arena adjacent to the tiny campus that can seat about 8,000.

Alas, there were only about 75 fans watching Thursday, which was "Senior Night," the last home game of the season. Ford said Bickford would be in the starting lineup if his knee was OK, which is why Bickford had a cortisone shot, wrapped his knee in ice and gulped down all those aspirins.

"No way I won't be ready," Bickford, who wears No. 53 this year, said before the game.

He scored a total of 8 points last year and 6 this season, and he said making a basket on Senior Night in front of a crowd that included about a dozen of his relatives and friends would be a dream come true. It did.

Less than 20 seconds into the game against Eastern Maine Community College, despite being surrounded by taller players and higher leapers, Bickford grabbed an offensive rebound and quickly hit a short bank shot.

His teammates jumped up, elated, as Bickford limped back on defense, barely disguising his smile.

He came out after three minutes to high fives and hugs from his sons, 6-year-old Will and 9-year-old Jordan.

Bickford played less than a minute the rest of the night but was animated throughout, shouting encouragement and handing out cups of water to sweaty teammates.

UMA won, 90-85, and Bickford played the final 15 seconds - going in only after a group from the women's team chanted, "Charlie! Charlie!"

Afterward, he was relieved and reflective.

Bickford knows there are those who pay big bucks to attend basketball fantasy camps - if you're over 35, you can spend $10,000 to spend a week at a camp run by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski - but said it's impossible to measure what his experience has been worth.

"Age is no barrier," he said. "For things to end like this, walking away with cheering teammates and friends and family and a hug from the coach - I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Contact Jim Farrell at

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Picking Up My Dribble

A buddy of mine decided he wanted to do something different to commerate the New Year. Go party hearty? Sit and watch football all day? Order up a pizza or two with the works? Talk the wife into making some dynamite lasagne?

No to all. Instead he wanted to start off the new year doing something that made him feel comfortable. Something reasonable. Something that would make him, and perhaps someone else, feel good.

He decided to call someone he greatly respected. Someone who has been a part of his life on and off since his freshman year of high school.

What better way, he thought, to start the new year than to just call up this person and chat a while about everything and nothing.

So he made the call.

To Bill Luti.

What a great idea.


If you read the sports pages or listen to the daily sport dribble on television, no doubt you have heard of a "high ankle sprain."

What in hell is a "high ankle sprain?" Is there a "low ankle sprain?" How about a "mid-ankle sprain?"

I've had my share of ankle sprains, right and left. One even ended up being a double fracture.

But I've never figured out what a "high ankle sprain" is.

So I asked a friend who is a college head trainer and this is what he says:

"A high ankle sprain is when you sprain the ligaments between your fibula and tibia. It is different from a regular ankle sprain because it is higher up the ankle. More like the lower leg."


So how about a "sports hernia?"

You know what comes to mind?

Those damn sports physicals we used to have in high school and junior high school, the ones where the doc grabs hold, tells you to turn to the right and cough.

Can't you just picture your right nut sagging down to mid-thigh and the doctor telling you that you have a "sports hernia?"

If someone has a answer, let me know.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Clean-up Crew

Fixing some, adding others, and just messing around with a few others:

Green Machine
A month or so before the start of the high school basketball season, a friend of mine who is quite knowledgeable of the Class L scene suggested that Manchester Central, despite graduating a ton of talent, would "still be pretty good."

Now we find out how accurate that comment is as the Little Green are undefeated through the end of January. Add in a three-game sweep in the Queen City Christmas Tournament, and you understand why the Little Green has sights on a Class L three-peat.

The Good Old Orange, Blue and Black
Local sports fan Brian Bendiks was a 16-year old on Long Island when the Dodgers and Giants fled NYC, and he is sure that the color combination of the New York Mets came together in hopes of rekindling some fan interest for the Mets, the new team in town. In fact, he remembers reading about it. He reminded me that the Polo Grounds (home field of the Giants) was in deplorable condition and that the average attendance figures for the Giants (6,000 per game) and the Dodgers (20,000 per game) was a far cry from today’s attendance.

While much younger, local sports media personality Mike Murphy, a staunch New York sports lover, chimed in saying my older son was correct, that the blue and orange indeed represents the melding of the Dodgers and Giants colors.

How did I ever miss that all these years? Maybe I was paying too much attention to Ed Kranepool, Choo-Choo Coleman, Elio Chacon, Ron Swoboda, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, a young, pickle-brine soaking Nolan Ryan (and the very attractive Ruth Ryan), and Wayne Garrett. (And for the record, that’s without looking at any reference material, which accounts for any misspellings!)

Not doubting Mr. Murphy, but those colors look an awful lot like Syracuse University colors to me.

To Err Is
Writing this blog is like the Flying Wallendas without a net.......there's no editor to correct my gaffes. To wit:

The name of the park off the old Dump Road is Terrill Park, not Terrell Park. Hope I didn't offend any Terrells. Thanks for the editing goes to eagle- eye Paul Dallaire.

Kind of neat thing happening at Rundlett Middle School (real hard not to type Junior High, but I managed). The basketball coach of the boys B team is Mark Paveglio. The coach of the girls B team is Bob Paveglio, father of Mark.

So Bob and Mark get to ride the bus together to away games, chat about game strategy before and after the games, kibitz at practices, and just hang around like buds.

Kind makes your heart skip a beat, doesn't it?

Way Back and (thankfully) Out of Here
There are a number of us who yelled “hurrah” when the Red Sox deep-sixed Jerry Trubiano from its radio broadcast team. Apparently, Boston Globe sports writer Nick Cafardo didn’t see things the same way. In one of his Sunday sports sections this month, Cafardo added the following in his Appropos of Nothing segment:

“5. I still can’t understand why the Red Sox let Jerry Trubiano go.”

My guess, Mr. Cafardo, is that being a sportswriter – even the Red Sox beat writer for a while – you don’t have the opportunity to listen to many Red Sox games on the radio. If you did, you would understand what the rest of us understand: Trubiano was horrible and will not be missed. Sorry. He’s probably a great guy. But thankfully I have listened to my last “Way back!” only to find out that the shortstop is camped under a pop fly. And I won’t miss the inane bantering between Trubiano and Joe Castiglione that either went nowhere or agitated Castiglione, who, by the way, is not one of my favorites either.

That’s what happens when you grow up listening to Curt Gowdy, Ned Martin, Ken Coleman, Bob Prince (Pittsburg), Jim Woods (Pittsburg), and Bob Murphy. Trubiano and Castiglione just don’t stack up.

New Trade Manny Idea
If you don’t read Bill Simmons ( at under the Page 2 section , you are missing out. One of his recurring features is his Mailbag edition. Some of his readers are just plain creative and his answers are equally entertaining. Such as this creative way of dealing with Manny Ramirez:

Mailbag: The Sox should just tell Manny he got traded to Boston. He won't know the difference.--Mike H, Noxen, N.H.

Sports Guy (Simmons): I love this idea. They could go all out with this: Call him up, tell him he's been traded to Boston, have him pack up all of his stuff, fly him in circles in the team jet for five hours, then drop him off in Cambridge and tell him he's on the West Coast. He might fall for it. By the time the season starts, it will be too late for him to complain. I really think this could work.


Jim Veacock
His long right arm would shoot out from behind the old fashioned bubble chest protector. It would take a mini-pump before heading straight up as the man bellowed, "Steee-riiiiiiike." You could hear him all over the White's Park field, along White and Beacon Streets, and partway up Charles Street.

Jim Veacock umpired more of our games than anyone else. You may have argued with him on occasion or not liked his strike zone from time to time, but you always knew he was doing his best.......and you could guarantee that he knew the rules so if something funky happened, he'd make it right.

For me he was more than just an umpire. In my sophomore year of college I decided to take up umpiring as a means of making some money. Veacock was right there ready to help me learn the intricacies of positioning, strike zones, command of the game, and most of all, the rules. We'd work games together and talk baseball rules between innings and on the ride to and from the games.

He shared his knowledge and experiences with us because he wanted us to succeed, to carry the Concord umpiring torch on when he decided to get done.

Armed with my own supply of Knotty Problems baseball rules puzzlers first supplied to me by Walter Smith, I'd pick Veacock's brain for answers to the trickier questions. And he'd give me some from his own personal experiences. For a kid who loved the inside part of baseball, these meetings with Veacock were a pure joy.

Like other talented people in Our Town - the Old Scout, Ruel Colby comes quickly to mind - Jim Veacock likely could have taken his chest protector, his old mask soldered together in a dozen or more spots, and his balls/strikes indicator and umpired at much higher levels. Instead he chose to stay in Concord and our town's history is that much richer for it.

He moved away from Concord a number of years ago, after retiring from the Post Office. He spent his later years in Florida, reportedly umpiring games well into his 70s.

Now the local newspaper brings us the news that Jim Veacock, Umpire, has passed away at the age of 90.

Rest in peace, Jim.

Paul Dupont
His name didn't appear in bright lights, his ego such that it didn't need stroking for his great and wonderful deeds performed in the world of Concord education. Nor did he ever need to chase his just rewards for teaming with his buddy Tom Thurston to keep Camp Fatima and Camp Bernadette afloat when both camps teetered on the brink of closing.

As directors of the two camps, they could have chucked it and let the camps close. But instead Dupont and Thurston put together video tapes (or was it slide shows?) and ventured off to Long Island and New Jersey in search of kids who would benefit from a summer or two or three in New Hampshire's wonderland.

The success of the two camps can't be measured in any quantitative means. But the love kids who attended the camps developed for each other has lasted much longer than a summer stay. Indeed, the bonds these kids developed have stayed with them forever.

And Paul Dupont was the common denominator for all of these kids.

When the tragedy of September 11, 2001, struck, I happened to be passing Paul's School Street house around noontime. Earlier in the day, a friend of mine had told me that many of the kids who attended Fatima over the years had jobs in and around the Twin Towers and that Paul Dupont had kept in touch with them over the years.

As I turned onto North Spring Street, Paul was coming down his back stairs. I pulled over and we talked. He was stunned - naturally - by the tragedy of the morning, and tears were welling in his eyes as he was thinking aloud of all the great campers - well educated, full of promise -who had moved on in life and taken jobs in New York City.

He had kept in touch with so many of the kids that his mind was racing, wondering which ones were in NYC that day, which ones had escaped the destruction, and sadly which ones were not as fortunate.

Kids - now adults - many of whom escaped the tragedy that day were at Paul's funeral last fall, bonding with friends from years gone by, honoring a person who made a difference in their lives.

Paul Dupont had that effect on the lives of many people in Our Town and beyond.

Betty Hoadley has written a eulogy for Paul that will appear in an upcoming newsletter for the Concord teaching community. She has graciously allowed me to print her thoughts.

"If a filled church for a memorial mass is a testament to a life well lived, then Paul Dupont must have had a life especially well lived.

On Saturday, October 21, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Dupont, an educator with 37 years of service to the Concord School District. He had been a teacher at Walker School, Broken Ground School and Rundlett Middle School. He had the unique distinction of having served as assistant principal at the middle school as well as serving as principal at the Garrison , Walker and Conant schools earlier in his career.

Dupont has been characterized as a “straight shooter,” one who “called a spade, a spade,” and one who clearly let you know how he felt about a matter. Though not trained as a school guidance counselor, he gladly took on that role with Concord school students and with his campers (and staff) at his long time summer work at Camp Fatima. Young people listened to Paul and trusted him. Many of his students were appreciative of the way he explained mathematics, emphasizing the logic and relevance of the skills he was teaching.

Paul Dupont was a people person with adults as well. Staff members liked to work with him and for him. His stability, his interest in every staff person and his ever-present smile resulted in good school morale. As one secretary at Rundlett put it, “He was a joy to work for.”

Dupont’s interest and involvement with Concord athletics was both varied and continuous. He served as the first CHS varsity men’s hockey team coach at a time when the games were played at White Park. His wife, Bev, remembers him returning home at midnight on winter evenings after spending some cold hours spraying the rink to make a new and perfect surface. He was active in the Concord Youth Hockey program for many years. And in more recent years, he served as ticket seller and ticket taker at CHS games and matches. Why he even joined the “mall walkers” group after he retired from the school district! Looking around at his funeral, one could see representatives of all these groups, and others as well.

Paul and Bev Dupont raised five children, all of whom went to Concord schools. The next generation includes 14 grandchildren. It is a close and supportive family with their adult children having many memories of a typical Concord childhood made better still by summers spent at the church camp in Gilmanton. Though Paul was a professional educator and a faithful community volunteer, he balanced that with being a devoted and attentive father.
Concord is fortunate to have so many men and women citizens like Paul Dupont who care so much about this community, care about its young people and actually make differences in their lives. He exemplified a unique blend of educator and volunteer. We thank him for all of that. And, along with his family, we mourn his having left us." - Betty Hoadley

Rest in peace, Paul. Your deeds are done and your memory will carry on.

Jeff Smith

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Band of Brothers (The Lovejoy Boys) by Bobby York

Bobby York, from the South End Yorks and Rollins Park, writes for the Greenfield, Mass. Recorder, and found a topic that should be near and dear to the hearts of many of us Concord natives.

Carl Lovejoy, from the South End Lovejoys and Rollins Park, has spent most of his life since early teens in and around the private school scene. A graduate of St. Paul's School and Colby College, Carl has three boys, all of whom have starred in athletics at Deerfield Academy.

Yorkie does a great job bringing us up to date with the travels of the Brothers Lovejoy. Enjoy......Jeff

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Little Holiday Cheer

Catcher of the Decade

For you younger folks, this might be hard to understand or even believe, but it is true. Back in the day – that being the 50s and 60s for me – the powerhouse college baseball team of the Northeast region wasn’t UMaine. Wasn’t Boston College. Wasn’t UConn. Wasn’t Providence. No, those schools all became regional and national powers a bit later on.

(While I have a hard time understanding why UNH dropped its baseball team, I’m dumbfounded as to why Providence College dropped its program.)

The Beast of the East was none other than Springfield College. Yup, the school that is now a Division III program was a Division I power. Complete with legendary coach and players being drafted in the professional ranks annually.

No, I haven’t been sniffing the Tide box from Mr. Foy’s store. Haven’t even been chewing on some stale baseball card gum left over from Sammy Dahood’s market. And I haven’t munched on some old mint julep candies at Dan’s Market.

(Concord Quiz 1: Please! If anyone can tell me where Dan’s Market was in Concord, I’d be thrilled. Concord National LL used to have a team called Dan’s Market in the 50s and no one around these parts can tell me where it was…..but I digress.)

Springfield College, coached by the legendary Archie Allen, was a power. So strong, in fact, that it went to the College World Series in Omaha a couple of times. Yes, the very same College World Series that is now on ESPN in the spring every year. And one trip to the College World Series included the late Walter Smith, a catcher for Springfield, who went on to a lengthy career as the executive secretary of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

(Concord Quiz 2: Name Walter and Robin Smith’s five kids. Extra points if you put them in the proper order by age.)

So why does Springfield College come up in this holiday season?

Because they just selected their all-time team of the decades and James Sutton Watson (CHS ’64, Springfield ’68, ’70) –Promaker to his buds at White’s Park – was selected as the catcher on the Team of the 60s.

Congrats, Jimmy Cat Pro. Humble as you are, that’s a great honor.

Might even put you in the running for White’s Park Man of the Year.

(Congrats can be sent to:

What Goes Around, Comes Around

You all know that Jason Smith, he of the fabled Merrimack Valley basketball teams of the late 80s and early 90s, is the highly successful men’s basketball coach at Brewster Academy.

What you may not know is that his assistant coach is long-time New Hampshire high school hoops mentor Al Simoes, who just happened to coach at Merrimack Valley in the late 80s when Scott Drapeau and Company were just beginning their surge to stardom.

Now he sits beside Jason on the Brewster bench watching a collection of Division I talent romp up and down the floor.

(And if you’re into star-gazing of the college basketball coaching variety, then you need to stop by the Smith Center -no relation, Jason claims - on the school’s Wolfeboro campus. Not at every New Hampshire high school gym could you sidle up to, oh say, Steve Alford, bedecked in his black and gold Iowa University early-winter jacket and just quietly watch 40 minutes of basketball.)

A Shiny Head, a Nickname Forever

Once upon a time, many years ago, the young men (boys) of Our Town wore their hair considerably shorter and far less styled then today. In fact, folks like George the Barber (Washington Street) made a career of providing the North End kids with haircuts called fuzz ball, crew, and whiffle.

So when classmate Jimmy Golden had his hair cut real short when he was a student at Rundlett Junior High, one didn’t expect much to happen.

But it did. One of the guidance counselors at Rundlett was flat out bald. So bald that kids called him Chrome-Dome…..out of earshot, of course, unless you wanted a forced vacation at home or with the truant officer.

Somehow the low shearing of Jimmy Golden’s hair spawned a new nickname for him, one that has stuck to this very day: Tucker, aptly named after Mr. Tucker from RJHS .

I’m betting my next bottle of Jic Jac that there are a significant number of our classmates who have no idea that Tucker Golden’s real first name is James.

So how come this comes up now? Because Edward L. Tucker, the RJHS guidance counselor with the bald head, passed away recently.

And Jimmy Golden is still Tucker to all of us.

Mr. Tucker's obit:

Last One Standing

You’ve heard me expound on how blessed Our Town was with the number of large familys who had all boys….in fact all athletic boys. The Callahans, the Knees, the Ceriellos, and the Kallecheys all wore out the ballfields and the ice rinks in Concord playing nearly ever sport available to them in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

So it is that my condolenses go out to old pal George Kallechey and his relatives on the passing of his uncle Harry Kallechey, the last Kallechey brother standing of that generation.

The Brothers Callahan, Ceriello and Kallechey are all now passed on leaving three of the four Knee brothers (Ron, Bobby and Doug) to carry the torch.

Not Fashionably Late for This One

Always got a kick out of reading a newspaper report about one of the kids I coached in Little League or in basketball as they made their way up through the high school athletic systems. Also loved the feeling of going to the Will Call window to pick up your special tickets to the games.

So I can't even imagine what it was like recently for Bill Haubrich, The Current (as opposed to The Elder or the Younger), when found out that his national athletic director conference this year was in Anaheim. Naturally he quickly checked the NBA schedule to see who the Lakers or Clippers were playing and much to his delight, the Lakers were scheduled to play the Spurs, with former CHS star Matt Bonner.

That meant Bill could see his former player play.

In person.

In Los Angeles.

At the Staples Centers as a guest of Bon-Bon.


Of course dining with Bonner the night before the game and meeting some of the celebs on game night (so wouldn't you like to meet Eva Longoria?) also made for an enjoyable time on the West Coast.

Itchy Boom

Our vet tech at Doggie Daycare (honestly, I wouldn't lie to you) explained to us that there is a procedure to take care of our dog doing the heinie scootch (her term, not mine - literal human translation: scratching your ass). It's called "squeezing your anal glands."

Stop right now: Betcha can't even put the thoughts you're having into a coherent sentence, can you?

Deal or No Deal

No reason to count the ballots. The National Human Resources Person of the Year award goes to the person in charge of hiring the 26 case carrying young laides on Deal or No Deal. Job well done, my friend. One would have to be blind to think Howie Mandel is the main attraction on that show.

And in case you're wondering: 17-10-3 in that order and I'd be a happy camper for a long time. On the other hand, Mrs. Off My Wall wants a replacement for No. 13. Says she is ugly. Funny, but I haven't made it up that far yet.

Name Change

Despite the accusations of being too 03301-centric, I must confess that I have no idea which Terrell family was honored by having a park named after him/her/them off the old dump road bordering the Merrimack River a block up from Exit 13.

But I do know that after the recent ConMon revelations of homosexual activity in the park, I'd be asking the City - no, make that DEMANDING the City - to remove my name from anything to do with that park.

Escaping the Wrath

So how come no one's bringing up J. D. Drew's lack of base running ability? Did you forget already?

Late last summer we almost doubled over in laughter watching SportsCenter as Met catcher Paul LoDuca tagged out the slow-footed Jeff Kent and Drew on the very same play at the plate with Drew arriving at home only seconds after the piano-bearing Kent was tagged out.

Of course, I went right to the Dodgers media guide to see if Wendall (Wave 'Em Home) Kim was coaching third for the Dodgers.

He wasn't.

Prove It!

I pay attention to major league baseball. Always have. So much so that when my oldest son told me that somewhere on the Internet he found that the color of the New York Mets baseball hats (black, blue and orange) honors the New York Giants (black and orange) and Brooklyn Dodgers (blue) leaving New York prior to the 1958 season, I gulped.

Never have I ever heard such a thing. Not then when the Dodgers and Giants left for the West Coast and not since.

So unless someone can prove to me otherwise, I'm siticking with my contention that some recent marketing or public relations person for the Mets thought it would be a neat thing to say.

But I don't believe it for a minute. It is just happenstance.

Fantasy Baseball

Towards the end of the regular major league baseball season, my wife and I were shopping at the Home Depot in Concord at about closing time. We were in the back of the store near the lumber racks when I picked up a long dowel and took a hitter's pose.

The kid working the area saw me and smiled, acknowledging that there's no bad time for a ball game. I agreed, naturally, and told him this was the first season in a long time that I was not following the Red Sox deep into the season and into the playoffs.

The kid, not yet 20 years old, said he too was bummed out by the Sox, but even more so because his fantsty team had just been knocked out of their playoffs.

Mrs. OMW, who has great disdain for my fantasy baseball involvements ("No different than grown women playing with Barbie dolls!"), all but vomited and immediately headed for the front of the store knowing that I'd be tied up in conversation for at least ten minutes discussing players, statistics, and future plans in Make Believe Baseball as she call it.

He’d Be Better Off Not Listening

Let me get this straight. Dice-K comes to America and can’t speak a word of English. He signs a mega contract and then listens to hordes of media types asking him questions in a language he can’t understand. Think about it: Bob Ryan talks at the speed of light. Glenn Ordway talks loudly over everyone. Tony Massoratti squeaks like he’s inhaled helium. Sean McAdams talks so low and slow that you think he might stop dead in his tracks in mid-sentence. Pete Sheppard talks like he still has last Sunday’s dinner stored in his esophagus. And Hazel Mae has been so styled up that she doesn’t look Asian anymore.

Then Dice-K goes into the Red Sox clubhouse and sees this guy with a perfectly bald head (Francona) who looks like he should be an emperor in a neighboring country. Then a huge black man (Ortiz) with wrap around sunglasses who sparkles from all the bling. And another big black man (Manny) with a funky hair-do sitting in the corner coloring in his latest color book. And a good-sized white guy (Schilling) with a mullet who seems to be unable to talk unless a camera is staring him in the face.

And think about this: All of Dice-K’s English lessons will be thrown out the window if Clemens shows up in June because nothing he says makes much sense.

Just be thankful that Pedro and Ricky Henderson aren’t with the Sox anymore.

Yup, welcome to Boston, Dice-K. You’ll just love it here if you can understand anything that anyone says.

Happy holidays to you all. May the new year be one filled with joy.

And just think: Every day that goes by means it's one day closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

Joy to all.

Jeff Smith