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

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