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Category: Sports

Game 1 is in the books

My co-workers and I just went to the Pig & Whistle in downtown Rochester to eat meat and watch Germany play Costa Rica. If you like really, really loud country music playing throughout the game, the Pig is your place. If you’d rather be in the company of people who know that a game is being played, you’re probably better off at Monty’s Korner, on the corner of East Ave and Alexander St. They’re showing all 64 games on a wide-screen TV with the sound on. What a novel idea!

Despite the less than ideal P&W environment, it was great to see the opening match. I’ll leave off the score, for the one person reading this who taped the game, but suffice it to say it was a good time for all.

Now it’s just four hours until the first set of music at the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival. I’ll be at Charlie Hunter in Kilbourn Hall at 6 p.m., followed by a bit of Woody Allen, then Djabe in the Big Tent at 8:30 p.m., followed by Mahavishnu Project at 10 p.m. and the jam session at the Crowne to finish things off.

Day 1 is well under way! Huzzah!

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Win a retro soccer jersey

The Guardian newspaper is giving away two retro soccer jerseys every day through June 9. All you have to do is answer a quiz question (based on a linked article that they provide) and tell them which shirt you’d like. Good luck!

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What a week: World Cup and Jazz Fest both start June 9!

It’s not often that too of my favorite activities collide in such a wonderful way, but 2006 is special. June 9 marks the opening day of the World Cup, and the opening night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Scroll down to see my picks for the jazz fest, and keep reading for some nice soccer-related sites to visit.

Let’s start with Studio 90. U.S. Soccer is broadcasting daily from the U.S. Men’s National Team camp in Germany. The show features interviews, training highlights, tours of the stadiums and training facilities, and a whole lot more. Check it out at the USMNT section of ussoccer.com.

Also nice is the blog being written by reporters from The New York Times and International Herald Tribune. The New York Times also has a nice World Cup News section.

For a global perspective, check out FIFA’s English-language site. For you podcasters out there, give a listen to the Guardian’s fun and funny podcast. You can subscribe for free via iTunes, or use the podcast feed URL.

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Zidane vs Ronaldinho

Here’s a great video highlighting the trapping, passing and shooting skills of two of the world’s greatest soccer players — Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho.

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MetroStars no more?

As you may know, I’m a huge fan of the MetroStars, the Major League Soccer team based in the New York City area. Jen and I used to have season tickets when we lived in Brooklyn, and I’ve followed them ever since. Now, in my sixth season as a Metros fan, it looks like my team is about to disappear.

New York Post columnist Ives Galarcep wrote a story yesterday detailing the offer by Austria’s Red Bull company to buy the MetroStars. Here’s an excerpt from the full story:

Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire owner of Red Bull, the energy drink, is known for investing in sports in an effort to advertise his product. He owns a racing team, he has sponsored extreme sports events, and last year, Mateschitz bought a soccer team in his native Austria. All these endeavors have one thing in common. Mateschitz splashed the Red Bull logo all over all of them.

This is apparently the plan for the MetroStars, only with a cruel twist. According to sources within MLS, if Red Bull buys the MetroStars they intend to change the team’s name and colors, and erase the franchise’s history.

So rather than rooting for the Major League Soccer’s lovable losers, MetroStars fans who have endured a decade of disappointment would be forced to root for a glorified billboard for Red Bull or find a new team altogether.

This was the option presented to fans of SV Austria Salzberg, a team with 77 years of tradition at the time Red Bull bought them. That tradition didn’t jive with the new owners’ plan to use the club as new way to advertise their soft drink so Red Bull changed the club’s name to Red Bull Salzberg, erased the history books and told the club’s fans that if they didn’t like the changes they could hit the road.

Very, very scary. According to ESPN, the deal was sealed today. We’ll know more soon, but it looks like this could spell the end of my beloved Metros.

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Countdown to the 2006 World Cup!

If you’re a soccer fan, you know that today was the draw for the 2006 World Cup. Four groups of eight teams were divided into eight groups of four teams. The United States ended up in Group E with Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic. It’s already being called “The Group of Death” by some (though others might give that moniker to Group C). Very tough competitors who will present a real challenge to the U.S. team. A co-worker and I listened to the draw live on the BBC, and it was thrilling just to think about next summer’s action.

If you need to get up to speed on our opponents, here are some useful links:

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Among the soccer people

As a soccer fan in the U.S., you spend a lot of your time (a) trying to convince your friends that the game is worth watching; (b) watching SportsCenter highlights to see if 15 seconds of soccer coverage made it in; (c) sitting in bars and restaurants with strangers watching TV broadcasts of the US National Team in some faraway land; or (d) all of the above.

Once in a while, though, you find yourself surrounded by soccer people, and you realize that you’re not alone.

Today was a day like that.

For the second consecutive year, I went to the National Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Oneonta, NY. (Yes, the Hall of Fame is in Oneonta. Don’t ask.) This year was the first all-MLS class to be inducted, and it featured one of the all-time great players in American soccer, Tab Ramos of my beloved MetroStars. Also inducted were Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes, Fernando Clavijo, and Hank Steinbrecher.

Just like last year, the Hall was filled to overflowing with soccer fans who had traveled from around the U.S. (and from Europe) to witness the induction of five men who helped shape the modern game here in the U.S. Everywhere you looked, you saw soccer royalty, from the heads of U.S. Soccer and MLS to folks like MetroStars GM Alexi Lalas and veteran broadcaster JP Dellacamara.

The Hall itself is wonderful, filled to the brim with soccer history and memorabilia from the game’s earliest days to its modern era. But perhaps the coolest thing is to see all the young kids roaming wide-eyed through the exhibits. They already know many of the names, and they remember the best goals and games.

If you’re a soccer fan, you really can’t do any better than Induction Weekend. From now on, many of the great MLS players and Men’s and Women’s National Team players will make up the inductee ranks, and each year promises to bring in a larger crowd. A crowd of soccer people. As Hall of Famer Hank Steinbrecher said today: “Our time has come.”

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Dig this, ladies!

I thought the Savannah Sand Gnats had a lock on the most embarrassing contest at a minor-league baseball game: a fan racing around the bases trying to beat a guy dressed like a big toilet bowl. But that was before I went to see the Rochester Red Wings the other night.

After the game, about 75 women were given tiny shovels — roughly the size of grapefruit spoons — with which they were to dig in the infield dirt, looking for a poker chip that they could then redeem for a diamond.

Maybe you should go back and read the previous paragraph one more time.

So there you have it. The prize for the most demeaning contest ever goes to the Rochester Red Wings and Frontier Field, where it’s always 1951! Dig that, ladies!

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Vintage Base Ball Report: Excelsiors vs. Knickerbockers

A note about my reports: I don’t really know how to keep a real box score, which is why my match recaps contain fewer fielding notes than you might expect. If you want good stats, talk to Dick Terboss. If you want fairly shallow and uninformed opinions of the match, keep reading. Huzzah!

The players in today’s match had no problem getting on base. In fact, they excelled at it. Getting back home again … let’s just say that came a little harder.

First Inning: The Knickerbockers get off to a nice start, as Harvey “Kid Brooklyn” Shapiro tallies an ace on his first trip to the line. But in a harbinger of coming events (and really, what other kind of harbinger is there?), the Knicks leave three men on base to end the inning. The Excelsiors answer the challenge, with team captain Ryan “Doc” Brecker tallying his own first-strike ace. The inning ends with two men on. Score tied at 1 apiece.

Second Inning: No aces for either side, one man left on for both teams. Score still tied.

Third Inning: Nick “Leprechaun” Dobbertin (who had a fine game) makes it to second base. But that’s it for the side, as Rich “Professor” Dolan retires the next three strikers. (And yes, I know it’s not really a pitcher’s game. I just enjoy being needlessly anachronistic. Zing!) The Excelsiors’ bats warm up, though, with aces tallied by Dr. Brecker (his second) and by Mr. Dolan (his first). And Kevin “Longarm” Owens, playing third base for the Knicks, makes a couple amazing catches in a row, before leaving the game with an injured ankle. (I encouraged him to stay in, given his ability to catch the ball without moving. He rightly pointed out that not moving makes it slightly more difficult to run the bases when your team is up to bat.) Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 1.

Fourth Inning: The first striker, Jim “T-Bone” Cook, tallies an ace. The Knicks leave one man on to end the inning. The Excelsiors go down in order. They don’t know it, but they won’t send a man around the bases for the next six innings. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 2.

Fifth Inning: The Knicks leave one man on. The Excelsiors leave three, after loading the bases with two outs. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 2.

Sixth Inning: The Knicks go down in order. The Excelsiors leave two men on. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 2.

Seventh Inning: Tim “Kid” Zimmer, in for his brother, Matt, tallies an ace on his first trip to the line. This is the first ace tallied by either team since the fourth inning. The Knicks leave two more men on to end the inning. The Excelsiors go down in order. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 3.

Eighth Inning: No aces, no men left on for the Knicks. No aces, one man left on for the Excelsiors. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 3.

Ninth Inning: The Knicks go down in order. The Excelsiors leave two on. And that means we go to extra innings for the first time this season! Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 3.

Tenth Inning: The Knicks go down in order. OK, this isn’t a pitcher’s game, but that happened a lot today. The Excelsiors leave one man on. Score: Excelsiors 3, Knickerbockers 3. So we go to the…

Eleventh Inning: The Knickerbockers leave one man on. But the ice finally cracks, as Doc Brecker tallies his third ace (from five hits — nice work!) to win the game for the Excelsiors. Final score: Excelsiors 4, Knickerbockers 3.

Some items of interest:

  • Matt “Pins” Zimmer tallied his ninth ace of the season, after playing only three games. He also celebrated his birthday!
  • Dr. Brecker and Mr. Dolan both “made their first” five times. As noted above, Dr. Brecker tallied three aces, Mr. Dolan one.
  • The teams left a combined total of 24 men on, by my count — 10 for the Knickerbockers, 14 for the Excelsiors.
  • Glenn “Geezer” Drinkwater did an exceptional job of umpiring the match.
  • Everyone thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Bronte sisters. What’s that you say? Enough about the Bronte sisters? Fie, sir, fie!
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Vintage Base Ball Report: Excelsiors vs. Rochesters

Kevin “Hardtack” Pietrzak put the “base” in base ball today, making it to first base an astonishing eight out of eight times, and tallying three aces to lead the Rochesters to a 14-7 victory over the Excelsiors.

Pietrzak may have been the standout player in today’s match, but he wasn’t alone, as both teams thrilled the crowd with excellent play and gentlemanly behavior on what was surely one of the most beautiful afternoons we’ll see this summer.

First Inning: The Rochesters open the match with two aces from seven batters, those aces being tallied by first-year player Mike “Hawkeye” Iacobucci and veteran Todd “Tea-totaller” Pschirer. The Excelsiors aren’t so lucky, seeing their first three batters retired. Score: 2-0, Rochesters

Second Inning: Both the Rochesters and Excelsiors struggle in the second, putting five men on base between them, but coming up with two duck eggs to show for it. All was not lost, though, as umpire “Dirty” Jim Feuerstein hits upon the brilliant plan of frying the two eggs at home plate. Complemented by a sausage from the refreshment stand, they make for a lovely end-of-inning snack.

Third Inning: Tom “Pick-One” Hildebrandt retires three in a row to send the Rochesters back to the bench. Jose Pagan rallies for the Excelsiors, tallying the team’s first ace of the match. Jose had a great day, going on to score another ace, and making it to first base five times. Score: 2-1, Rochesters

Fourth Inning: In the fourth, Joe “Hot Bitter” Territo tallies an ace for the Rochesters, but John “Old Hoss” Spaulding, Sr., replies for the Excelsiors, holding the Rochester’s to a one-ace lead. Score: 3-2, Rochesters

Fifth Inning: Mr. Pietrzak makes it to first base for the fourth time, and also tallies his first ace. The Rochesters take a two-ace lead as the Excelsiors leave two runners on. Score: 4-2, Rochesters

Sixth Inning: Bats burn as the Rochester’s second, third, fourth and fifth hitters all tally aces, including second aces for Pietrzak and Territo, and first aces for Dave “Wild Oats” Nesbitt and team captain Steve “The Colonel” Michener. A scoreless inning from the Excelsiors puts the Rochesters up by six aces. Score: 8-2, Rochesters.

Seventh Inning: The Rochesters score two aces, one from Mark “Scotch” Hopkins and one from Mr. Territo, his third of the match. But the Excelsiors reply with three of their own from Mr. Pagan (his second), team captain Ryan “Doc” Brecker and Curt “The Barber” Kirchmaier. Score: 10-5, Rochesters.

Eighth Inning: Mr. Pietrzak is cheered by the fans and both benches as he reaches first for the seventh consecutive time, and Frank “Shorty” Devito tallies the team’s loan ace of the inning. Dr. Brecker comes up with his second ace for the Excelsiors. John “Sparky” Spaulding, Jr., also scores. Score: 11-7, Rochesters.

Ninth Inning: Mr. Pietrzak leads off the inning by arriving on first base for the eighth time, tallying his third ace in the bargain. Mr. Territo tallies his impressive fourth ace of the day, and Mr. Nesbitt scores his second. The Excelsiors leave to men on two end the inning and the match. Final Score: Rochesters 14 – Excelsiors 7

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Vintage Base Ball Report: Silver Base Ball Park Best Nine vs. Sackets Harbor Ontarios

The rain held off, the fans held out, and the players held up for a great game of vintage base ball at Sackets Harbor. Every year during the Can-Am Festival, a team made up of players from the four teams in the Silver Base Ball Park League travels to Sackets Harbor to play a local team. The rain that was forecast never materialized, and we were all treated to a beautiful display of sportsmanship and good humor.

First Inning: The Silver Base Ball Park Best Nine got off to a running start. The very first striker, Scott “Handyman” Hand, tallied an ace. He was followed by team captain Tony “Tiger” Brancato, who also tallied an ace. The best nine went back to the bench with a two-ace lead over the Ontarios. The Ontarios weren’t so lucky, ending the first inning with a duck egg.

Second Inning: Once again the Best Nine showed their mettle, putting three aces on the board via first-year player Ken “Rolling” Stone and veterans “Jockey” Jim Sears and Kevin “Longarm” Owens. So it was back to the bench again, now with 5-0 lead. The Ontarios answered, with Brian “Doomis” Loomis finding his way back to home plate to put the Ontarios on the board. (Speaking of which, there was a board this year, just one of the many great steps forward by this Sackets Harbor team.)

Third Inning: For the third straight inning, the Best Nine tallied an ace, as Scott Hand rounded the bases again and put the Best Nine up 6-1. With the Ontarios suffering their second scoreless inning, the first-time fan might have been forgiven for expecting an easy outing for the Best Nine. As is so often the case at Sackets Harbor, though, the home team took a few innings to get the feel for the rules and the style, and then they came out swinging.

Fourth Inning: No one knew it at the time, but the third inning was the last in which the Best Nine would tally an ace. As it turned out, though, their defensive play was a good as their early striking had been, particularly the acrobatic team captain, Mr. Brancato. But the Ontarios were ready to start hitting, with Ryan “Dutch” West and the Derwin brothers — Ryan “Red” and Randy “Ranger” — all tallying aces, reducing the Best Nine’s lead to two runs. Score: 6-4.

Fifth Inning: The Best Nine put two men on base in the fifth, but neither reached home. The Ontarios saw their first three batters retired, and the inning was over.

Sixth Inning: It was three up, three down for the Best Nine, and eight up, three aces for the Ontarios. John “Mad Dog” Robinson tallied his first ace of the day, Randy Derwin his second, and Scott “Rabbit” Robinson his first to put the Ontarios ahead 7-6.

Final Score: Ontarios, 7 – Best Nine, 6. And that was how it ended up. Despite putting nine men on base between them, neither team tallied another ace, and the Ontarios won a spirited game. Kudos to “team owner” Marty Maxson and coach Errol Flynn, who were sporting natty new Ontarios uniforms at the game. Also a big round of applause to tallykeeper and Silver Base Ball Park League goodwill ambassador Dick Terboss (and his wife, Dorothy) who helped set up the game from the Mumford end. At the Sackets end, a hearty “huzzah!” to Don Payne, who’s really helping to take the Sackets organization into the future. The word on the street is that the Ontarios hope to fully outfit a team for the 2006 National Silver Ball Tournament at Genesee Country Village. I hope we’ll see them there, and I can’t wait to travel back to Sackets Harbor next year!

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Vintage base ball begins at Silver Baseball Park

The 2005 season of the Silver Base Ball Park League opened with a record-setting 26-run performance by “Dirty” Jim Feuerstein’s Knickerbockers, who emerged victorious in a spirited match against Steve “The Colonel” Michener’s Rochesters.

According to Knick catcher (and unofficial historian) Blaise “Freight Train” Lamphier, that 26-run mark eclipses the previous record of 25 runs scored by the Live Oak. In a lovely moment of base ball symmetry, the Live Oak scored those 25 runs against the Knickerbockers back on September 1, 2001 in the league’s inaugural season.

Several players started the season yesterday by tallying aces (runs). The following Knickerbockers players rang the bell:

  • Scott “Handyman” Hand: 2
  • Harvey “Kid Brooklyn” Shapiro: 3
  • Nathan “Stitches” Shapiro: 3
  • Casey “At Bat” Beeley: 3
  • Blaise “Freight Train” Lamphier: 1
  • Jim “T-Bone” Cook: 4
  • Billy “Bear” Donofrio: 2 (in his first-ever game, after playing just 5 innings)
  • Tim “Kid” Zimmer: 4 (in 5 innings)
  • Bryan “Tiny” Little: 1
  • Matt “Pins” Zimmer: 2 (in 5 innings)

For the Rochesters:

  • Jeremy “Junior” Sadjak: 3
  • Steve “Stubby” Devito: 1
  • Dave “Wild Oats” Nesbitt: 1

Sunday featured a double-header, with a women’s match preceding the men’s match. The day kicked off with a parade into the ball park, with members of five of the six teams joined by the “mayor” of the village, soldiers in Union Army garb, and local luminary Curt Smith, who delivered the opening remarks.

The day also saw a reenactment of the classic base ball poem Casey At The Bat by Ernest L. Thayer. This was the first such reenactment at Silver Base Ball Park (though Mark Ballard has given stirring solo recitations in past years) and I imagine it won’t be the last.

Speaking of Casey, the last time Mark recited it was during the championship game of the National Silver Ball Tournament last year. This year’s tournament runs from August 12-14 at Silver Base Ball Park, and it will feature teams from across the country, including the Rochester Grangers from Michigan (runners-up in the 2003 tournament) and the Melrose Pondfeilders from Massachusetts (runners-up in 2004). (And no, “pondfeilders” is not a type-o.) If you’ve ever wanted to experience vintage base ball, you’ll find no better chance than the National Silver Ball Tournament.

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Soccer, baseball and base ball

This was a great week for sports.

Proving that activists can just hang out, a group of us headed to Frontier Field to watch the Redwings (AAA farm club of the Minnesota Twins) beat the Richmond Braves for the third straight night. It was a blast, and it reminded me again why there’s something special about minor league baseball.

Last night it was the Rhinos’ turn. I’ve had season tickets to the Rhinos, our USL First Division soccer team, for the past four years. Last year, my dad and sister joined in. Soccer is my sport, and it’s nice to see the Rhinos remembering that you’re more likely to win if you score goals.

As teams go, the Rhinos are my #3. Coming in at #2 are the MetroStars, the New York-New Jersey team in Major League Soccer. The only reason they’re #2 is because my team of teams, my crew of crews, is the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Tonight they trounced Costa Rica 3-0 on the road to the 2006 World Cup. Jen and my dad and sister and I have spent many early, early mornings at bars and restaurants watching World Cup games beamed back from Asia. I’ve also been to at least one game in each of the past four rounds of qualifying, and my sister and I are going to Connecticut later this summer to watch the U.S. play Trinidad & Tobago. I love the outlet these games give for heartfelt expressions of patriotism unencumbered by jingoism. At least, they’re unencumbered where I’m concerned. That’s not a universal truism.

It’s almost vintage base ball season, too. Bernie and I went to Genesee Country Village today, and we happened to come across the Live Oak practicing. Sure does get the blood racing. I hope to see you there on June 26 for opening day!

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