Friday, September 22, 2006


What to Independent Baseball players do in the offseason? Several of them are back on the baseball diamond for roles in the ESPN baseball movie series production which will be based on the Jonathan Mahler book "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning".

The movie is largely about the New York Yankees and their attempt to win the 1977 World Series.

So, the producers needed about 100 professional baseball players to portray Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Graig Nettles and the other Yankees plus some of their primary opponents. A number of Can-Am League players were among those who turned out for the tryouts and subsequently were chosen for roles. The New Haven County Cutters, who had been eliminated from the playoffs a day or two earlier, will have about seven people among those taking part in the filming at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT.

I don't know that it is official, but the Cutters' top hitter, outfielder Horace Lawrence, is said to be in line to be the Reggie Jackson double. And Graig Nettles' golden glove will be represented by Jeff Maier. Yes, the onetime lean-over-the-fence-and-make-the-catch 12-year-old fan who drew the ire of the Baltimore Orioles. He was a college baseball star at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, and has been working for the Cutters in a front office job.

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Monday, September 18, 2006


Quebec (Can-Am League), Evansville, IN (Frontier League) and Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN (Northern League) deserve congratulations for earning the latest Independent Baseball championships, but this corner also takes its hat off to the Long Island (NY) Ducks today.

When was the last time an Independent league team was so confident of its drawing power that it scheduled a day-night doubleheader instead of the traditional single admission twin bill. Long Island the visiting Bridgeport, CT were rained out of their Atlantic League game Friday night so the Ducks did what the major leaguers are doing these days--booked separate admission games in the afternoon and at night.

All the Ducks did was fill up Citibank Park twice, drawing crowds reported at 6,191 and 6,057. Capacity is listed at 6,002.

The Atlantic League has the entire Independent Baseball spotlight to itself now that the other league playoffs have concluded. The AL season ends Sunday, then its postseason play will begin.

Quebec rebounded from a 16-27 first half, qualified for the Can-Am playoffs at the last minute, then surprised favored North Shore (Lynn, MA) in the first round and outlasted Brockton, MA in a tense, five-game struggle for its title under Manager Michel Laplante. While Quebec was 44-44 in the regular season, Greg Jelks' Evansville Otters were 46-50 in Frontier League play before stripping division champion Rockford, IL in five games and sweeping the finals, 3-0, against Chillicothe, OH. Fargo-Moorhead got some revenge for losing in the championships to Gary, IN last season, by defeating those same SouthShore Railcats this time. The triumph gave Manager Doug Simunic his fourth Northern League title, the last three with the RedHawks.

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Friday, September 15, 2006


Memo to Independent Baseball Scouts: At all cost, try to get Marc Mirizzi.

Sure, this onetime New York Yankees draftee will play at 32 most of next season. It doesn't matter.

The switch-hitting shortstop has won not one but two Indy league championships with his bat. In 2004, it was Mirizzi who hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap an improbable seven-run inning which catapaulted the St. Paul (MN) Saints to a stunning Game 5 Northern League title victory against Schaumburg, IL.

Flash ahead two years and it was Mirizzi's two-out double in the sixth inning of Game 5 last weekend which broke a 1-1 deadlock and boosted Fort Worth, TX to the American Association crown. The victim: His old team, the Saints. Mirizzi went 9-for-23 with 3 runs batted in to capture MVP honors.

Ready for another irony? This onetime USC Trojan was on a second half South Atlantic League championship team in 1999. And the manager of that Greensboro, NC team was none other than Stan Hough, who piloted Mirizzi's 2006 championship Fort Worth Cats.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Three more Independent Baseball league championships go up for grabs starting tonight (Tuesday), and based what has already taken place the form chart can be tossed aside.

The championship round team seemingly on the biggest spot is Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN of the Northern League. The perennially contending RedHawks won both the first and second halves in the Western Division. How much does that mean? Not much, if you ask North Shore (Lynn, MA) of the Can-Am League or Lincoln, NE of the American Association. They won their division twice only to be cast aside before the championship round of the playoffs. Edinburg, TX dominated the United League, but bowed out in the playoffs. We will examine these upsets in more detail later this week in our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column.

So who made it to the championship series in the three leagues starting play tonight?
Quebec, which barely made the playoffs at all, is hosting Brockton, MA in the Can-Am League 21 hours after eliminating North Shore in a rain-delayed series. The Northern League has a repeat of last season with '05 champion Gary, IN hosting Fargo-Moorhead. In the Frontier League the regular season divisional runnersup meet with Evansville, IN hosting Chillicothe, OH. All three series will be best three of five affairs.

Fort Worth, TX (American Association); Reno, NV (Golden League); and Alexandria, LA (United League) have already won championships.

The Atlantic League continues regular season play through September 24.

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Monday, September 04, 2006


It is Labor Day, but how can it possibly be labor when I am writing about baseball, right? Anyway, a few Independent Baseball thoughts today.

How disappointing to read that Kansas City released southpaw Bobby Madritsch, one of the bright lights from the Indy game. I haven't researched it thoroughly to this point, but they must have given up because of the shoulder woes which have had him sidelined for virtually two full seasons. Even if it should be the end, it was quite a ride for the 30-year-old who still calls his birthplace of Oak Lawn, IL home.

He was Cincinnati's sixth rounder in '98, but they cut him loose after three seasons, including 1999 when he was injured. The Independent trail through the Texas-Louisiana League (Rio Grande and San Angelo), Western League (Chico) and Northern League (Winnipeg) finally led to the Seattle Mariners chain after an 11-4, 2.30 campaign with Winnipeg in '02. By midway through 2004 he was with the American League Mariners, and soon after in their starting rotation. If he doesn't make it to the mound again no one will ever be able to take away the fact he has a 6-4 major league record and gave up a stingy 78 hits in 92.1 innings.

Congratulations, Bobby.

When I wrote in last week's Independent Baseball Insider about the former Independent catchers making an impact in the major leagues, I had one of those terrible boo-boos. I focused on the Giants' Eliezer Alfonzo, Chris Coste at Philadelphia and Chris Widger at Baltimore, but left out Milwaukee's Mike Rivera, who was signed from Atlantic City in the Atlantic League last season. It was especially embarrassing in that I had written about Rivera earlier this summer. The Brewers' Brad Del Barba, who had signed Rivera, pointed out my oversight. Rivera has been a solid contributor (.269-3-12) the second half of the season for Milwaukee.

Lloyd Johnson, who along with Miles Wolff is editing the next edition of the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, contributed some details about that 20-game losing streak suffered recently by the Can-Am League's Sussex, NJ team. The Skyhawks shouldn't feel too bad in that 13 previous minor league teams had longer streaks. Muskogee in the Southwestern League is the champ, if you want to call it that. Muskogee lost 38 in a row in 1923. And how about Granite Falls of the Western Carolina league in 1951? It lost 59 of its last 60, with streaks of 33 and 26. Ugh!

Johnson tells us they hope to have the new Encyclopedia out by Christmas. The current volume you can purchase now through this blog.

And, one final note that hits home with this writer. When the American Association starts its championship series Monday, it will be between St. Paul and Fort Worth. The Saints are managed by George Tsamis and the Cats by Stan Hough. I was President of the Independent team in Waterbury, CT, which played in the Northeast League from 1997-2000. Who managed those Spirit teams: Hough 1997-98 and Tsamis 1999-2000. A little piece of trivia for this Labor Day.

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