Archive for August 26, 2016

Old Lakehead Ball-Game Revisited

1178 for publication August 25, 2016

Ross Brewitt

I have a special place for baseball memories.

Not the travails of the Blue Jays in their present crisis, the kind of concerns I refer to as “the rest is up to you.” Such as running six starting pitchers, a novel idea whose time hasn’t come.

For me, I often go back to shelved scrapbooks, remnants of baseball games played and covered by writers and columnists of the day. It was my teenager wife-to-be who kept these scrapbooks, and it was teenage me who ebbed and flowed as a pitcher for the ANAF in the Lakehead Senior Baseball League.

I had briefly moved up from junior to senior ball for two games in ‘54, and in 1955, my eighteenth summer. Junior teammate pitcher Murray McKenzie and I made the “big” team that finished the season in first place, We were barely ahead of the Red Sox, and both teams survived to meet in the final.

The owner of the ANAF franchise was 23-year-old Alex Delvecchio, who coincidentally had just won his third Stanley Cup in four seasons. Another teammate and Red Wing of the day was first-baseman Dave Gatherum whose name also appears on the ’54 Stanley Cup. We often joked, out of earshot, that “Fats being the team owner, he plays where-ever he wants to,” mostly as the shortstop or second baseman.

Come to think of it Larry Cahan also played with us on the ANAF Juniors, and seniors, and would go on the play 13 years in the NHL.

We had two outstanding catchers, Maurice Gelmych and Pete Turchak. As a pitcher, standing on the mound, it’s just you and your catcher and I quickly learned to trust both. Gelmych was a force on either side of the plate, plus greyhound fast and won the league batting title hitting .418.

In fact the first four spots in the final League batting stats were all ANAF. Gelmych, then Gatherum .410, outfielder Bill Kurceba .361, and Delvecchio at .346.

On August 25, 1955, leading the final series two games to one, we would meet the Red Sox at the Port Arthur Stadium in game four. It didn’t go well, a 10-6 loss for us “Vets.”

The unknown game reporter, wrote “… it marked Brewitt’s second relief appearance of the series and this time the rookie lefthander remained around long enough to incur the loss.” An abrupt commentary written on the 4-and-a-third-inning salvage job I turned in that night.

This recall isn’t a testament to my pin-point memory, it’s attributable to the scrapbook story with the game batting order and summary.

Check these game names from the official lineup and game report: for the Red Sox, leading off was John Harpell 3b; Bill Bodak 1b; Walt Bradley 2b; Max Mekilok rf; Junior Giardetti lf; Bart Bradley ss; Alex Birukow cf; Cliff Poulin c; Jackie Andrews p; Bob Darcis 3b; Lorne Chenier rf.

For the ANAF: Norm Berglund lf, cf; Dave Gatherum 1b; Ab Onuliak cf, p; Alex Delvecchio, ss; Bill Kurceba rf, lf; Maurice Gelmych c; Larry Cahan 3b; Paddy Murro 2b; Murray McKenzie p; Ross Brewitt p; George Poulter 3b; Buck Kennelly lf, rf.

As for stats, I came into the game with two out in the third inning, and completed 4.1 innings at the end of the 7th; gave up 4 hits, posted 4 strikeouts, no walks, and was tagged with the loss, just so I’d remember it.

In another column from my past I’d also written about the close-out of that seven game series. We won the opener 6-2, lost the next 7-3, won 9-4, lost 10-6, and again 6-4. Down 3-2 at this point we rallied to win the sixth game 15-2.

But with our season-long ace, Ron Belluz, unable to shoulder the load he faced all year, we had little to offer in game seven, a crushing 13-0 blowout for the Red Sox.

One last note. Earlier that day of the final seventh game, I asked the girl who was keeping the scrapbook if she’d marry me. In June ’16 we celebrated our 60th anniversary.

It’s just another reason why I love baseball.

Olympic Skeeters in Hold

1176 for publication August 19, 2016

Ross Brewitt

As the Olympics staggers into the close of the Rio Games, let’s go back to dire warnings that began before the Christmas season of 2015.

They concerned the dangers of the zika virus, and from the outset were down-played. Yes, a few of the thousands of athletes and support officials cancelled their plans and dreams, in the interest of safety.

Most notable were golfers who had it made in the shade to start with.

There were naysayers, namely the governments of Brazil, Rio itself, and of course the Olympics hierarchy. “It’s OK folks, we’re spraying as fast as we can. Besides, if you can’t believe politicians and high-ranking Olympic officials, who can you believe?”

How about this paragraph in a medical trade magazine “…80% of cases have no symptoms, and thus won’t be detected through a syndrome surveillance system.” Isn’t that reassuring?

Here’s another one of at least thirty background stories I found by groups like the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. “… the mosquito population primarily spreading the virus reaches its lowest numbers during the Brazilian cool season, which includes August and September when the Olympics will be held.”

The “cool season” they refer to is 65 Fahrenheit at night, 75 through the daylight hours. That’s not an estimate, it’s a guess. Geez, blackflies and skeeters in Ontario would consider it flat-out balmy.

So the other happy hordes descended on Rio without reservation. Much was made of areas not to be, and being wary of any and all in those areas. Take the four Americans from the swim team, out partying late at night, unable to even remember what area of the city they were in, stopping into a closed neighbourhood gas station to use the facilities, and claiming they were held-up at gunpoint, but that’s a bit foggy too. Seems they were held under investigation, and are no longer considered innocent or welcome visitors.

My-oh-my, a perfect chance to look idiotic, and you guys took it. Get your stories straight boys. But you aren’t the best of the worst.

Even direct warnings didn’t deter the Irish Olympic official arrested for allegedly scalping “diverted” prime seat tickets. Hey, Shamus, read me the lofty goals of the Olympic pledge again, would yuh?

Meanwhile the 5-Ring Circus top-guns are quietly sending home “unqualified” event judges, and we haven’t yet enumerated the dumb dopers, make that inexperienced dumb dopes, who will try to outsmart the WADA Pee-jar police. That tally will come much later, when it’s too late, much like the resulting spread of the virus, and the lingering ever-present concern for women world-wide.

No, the games were too big to derail, too important to the face of sport, too critical to the deals made, broadcast rights fee negotiations, contracts signed, and palms greased. Those warm and fuzzy stories of Usain Bolt and Andre DeGrasse will now be left in the starting blocks.

Let’s move along to the latest NHL stirrings, as Commissioner Gary Bettman finally surfaced from obscurity to see his shadow, suggesting the World Cup of Hockey will be “beyond belief” in it’s scope and appeal. It’s sort’a like the un-necessary remake of “Ben Hur,” soon coming to a theatre near you.

Considering there’s but a month to go, it seems the big news is about the events scheduled at Toronto’s Distillery District, where shooting pucks, sampling food, and musical concerts will carry the day for those who can’t afford game tickets. Sort’a like “Taste of the Danforth” without a lot of “opa’s.”

Gary was also excited about the ads on uniforms, and the animated and moving ads on the rink boards. So far, it’s about gimmicks.

Lastly, we had a honest-to-spitball foo-fer-aw in the Jays dugout on Wednesday afternoon. Jays and Yankees, a sunny mid-day game with Jay Happ booking win number 17. Then Josh Donaldson hurt his thumb batting, and sulking, perhaps concerned, he returned the dugout used his version of the world-renowned Jays “bat-flip” into the pipe that was in very close proximity to manager John Gibbons, who was simply minding his own business and quietly spitting seeds by the dugout steps.

Gibby took offense, and approached Donaldson, face-first, and spoke his mind about bat selection, and disposal of same. Interceders appeared and peace prevailed. Last I heard they were making jokes about the incident. Now it’s just “a funny episode” that bears watching.

‘Til we meet again next week, gang.