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.