Friday, June 29, 2007


One of the great joys of baseball is the way people you have known through the years, even casually, keep reappearing.

It was enjoyable seeing Ed Ott recently, especially since he was in a more relaxed environment as a coach for the Can-Am League’s New Jersey Jackals as they visited the New Haven County (CT) Cutters. Ott, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ No. 1 catcher during some of their good years from 1977-1980, had managed Allentown, PA for several seasons. He was a bit feisty, as Northeast League umpires would attest, although once again he had success, including divisional titles in both 1998 and 1999.

Now 55 and years removed from hitting .333 during the Pirates’ 1979 World Series championship as well as from the rigors of managing, Ed was playful on his way to the third base coaching box at Yale Field. I watched with amusement as he toyed with the sumo wrestlers and when he tipped one of the contestants how to win prizes in an on-field card game.

We even had a chance to reminisce about the time we had four lefthanders, including Ed and myself, in a five-man scramble at the Little League World Series Golf Tournament in Williamsport, PA. “We finished two over—and it was in a scramble,” Ott lamented. Needless to say, we didn’t win any prizes that day.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Your humble typist was blessed to have David Carpenter as a partner for several years, primarily in the 1990s in Independent Baseball franchises in Thunder Bay, Ontario and in a greater way in Waterbury, Connecticut. The Waterbury team was known as the Spirit, then of the Northeast League and later the Eastern Division of the Northern League. It might as well have been named the Spirit for David, because he certainly had it.

Mr. Carpenter, who was an all-too-young 69, was laid to rest on a tranquil hillside near his Woodhull, NY farm Monday.

Every community with an Independent Baseball team--or desiring one--should have a David Carpenter. Unfortunately, not nearly enough exist.

He was a man of immense, self-made wealth, which is very important to pay the bills, especially if things do not go well in a baseball startup. The wealth came from his brilliance in the field of zinc oxide applications, where he helped build a Fortune 500 manufacturing company and where he was known as Dr. Carpenter.

But what made David Carpenter special was his nature. He was an uncommon man with a commoner's touch. The glass was always brim full, at worst. It was never half empty. He saw the positives in everything and in every person, as was pointed out so poignantly by those who spoke during the touching funeral service. He treated everyone exactly the same, with an attentive ear to hear his or her story. He did not step forward to tell his story. It was yours that was important.

David Carpenter was so modest he was not a high profile person during his years in Independent Baseball, where he could have offered so much more if only he had been asked. He would have impacted still more lives.

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Monday, June 18, 2007


The Frontier League has three .400 hitters at the one-quarter pole in its 96-game season, but it seems a pretty good bet one of the most scrutinized players in the 27-and-under league is rookie Chris Gibson, who is battling to get back to the coveted .300 plateau.

Chris Gibson is the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, who also was capable of swinging the bat during his days with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Young Gibson, a lefthanded-hitting designated hitter and occasional outfielder, is at a respectable .289 while helping the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL) and not far from St. Louis's Gateway Arch, take command of the Western Division race. Phil Warren's Grizzlies have built a six-game advantage in winning 18 of their first 25 games.

Gibson, a 6-foot-2, 210 pounder, has not shown much power to date with four doubles and seven runs batted in in 22 games, but he has had two torrid stretches. He went 7-for-14 over one four-game stretch, then blazed away at a .550 pace (11-20) in another seven-game period which zoomed his average to .407. He had four multi-hit games in that span, including a 4-for-4, four-RBI effort at River City (O'Fallon, MO) June 5.

"He is an exceptional athlete," Warren praised, when Gibson first signed. The Cardinals drafted the Bellevue, NE product out of high school, but he opted to attend college, first at Pratt (KS) Community College and later at Southeast Missouri State.

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Monday, June 11, 2007


If nothing else, doing this blog and my weekly IndependentBaseballInsider column keep me busy working on my geographical knowledge of the United States and Canada.

My current reason for reaching for the atlas is that the United League will be announcing on Tuesday that it is awarding a franchise to Brownsville, TX. Brownsville is as far south as one can go in the Lone Star State, and it is only some 25 miles from the existing Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings of Harlingen, TX. The addition of Brownsville to the six-team, second-year league isn't an overwhelming surprise, but I believe it will be that community's first professional baseball team since the Gulf Coast League left after 1953.

Brownsville is the third new addition to the Independent map for 2008, joining Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League and Grand Prairie, TX, the Dallas-area community which is entering the American Association.

The buzz continues around any number of other new entries into what is a 74-team Independent landscape this season. Very recent talk has been about Loveland and Castle Rock, CO, both for the American Association; and Killeen, TX for the Continental League.

But it is a long time before the 2008 baseball season. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The traditionalist in this blogger believes Bud Smith should command considerable attention when the Golden League starts its third season Thursday, but the realist knows the spotlight will fall on 5-foot-10 Tamara Ivie, a longtime star in women's baseball circles.

Smith, now 27 and still trying to fully regain the stature earned as a dazzlingly promising southpaw for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, probably would have opened the season for Arizona's Triple-A Tucson farm club had it not been for a leg injury during spring training. The Diamondbacks set him free, and the Long Beach (CA) Armada signed him for a second time.

What made Smith such a prized hurler for the Cardinals was his major league debut in 2001 which included a 4-0, no-hit gem at San Diego September 3. Smith allowed only four runners (walks) in throwing 134 pitches. As a fourth round draftee in '98, the Torrance, CA native drew attention throughout his early career, but the 6-3 rookie record plus five innings of one-run baseball in a National League Division Series victory over Arizona lifted the hype even more.

He has won only one additional major league game (2002) and eight in the minors while battling shoulder woes, including surgery for a torn labrum. He won only twice at Long Beach last summer although posting a 2.70 ERA in nine starts and one relief appearance.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ivie has emerged as a probable Long Beach teammate, which would make her the first woman to play professional baseball since pitcher Ila Borders brought attention--and some success--to the Northern League and the Golden's predecessor, the Western League.

"Tamara has the ability to play at this level or I wouldn't have her out here," Armada manager and former major leaguer Darrell Evans said when camp opened last week.

Indeed, she has been a standout among women. She hit .477 for the United States women's team that won the World Championships last summer. She played for four seasons with the traveling women's team known as the Silver Bullets, and that followed an all-America college softball career at Cal State Northridge. She also has played softball professionally, and is the current head coach at Santa Monica College.

The six-team GBL has openers Thursday at Yuma, AZ; Reno, NV, where the Silver Sox begin defense of their league title; and in the league's newest city, St. George, UT.

We wish success to Smith, Ivie and everyone else.

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