As the ending of baseball games go, this was unique.
Trailing 9-5 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, local favorite Illinois Wesleyan University mounted an improbable rally against North Central College that led to one of the more bizarre endings to a baseball game I’ve ever witnessed.
Enter Matt “the Cat” Adams. The long-time “assistant director of baseball operations” at Illinois Wesleyan, as he is referred to by public address announcer Ed Moore, Matt has been known to put an occasional hex on an opposing pitcher.
I sat on this one for a week or two, but it’s an interesting story to accompany the photos.
On his annual visit to Illinois Wesleyan, Augustana basketball coach Grey Giovanine was his usual volatile self, whining for every call. But he sunk to a new low this year. A little verbal jockeying towards IWU’s Victor Davis early in the game was met with a response by the player. In short, Grey muttered something like “let him shoot, we want him to take that shot.” After Davis drained the 3-pointer, he returned the salvo with something like “that’s for you Coach G.”
He goes by the name Jelly Legs. Although a friend, I’ve never called him that. But like the other ballists (players) on his team, when he steps on the field he adopts a new persona.
They go by names like Lunchbox, High Pockets, Long Legs and Skillet Hands. Even the umpire had the moniker of “Moonshine;” I never heard him reveal his true identity.
The game was played at BeautifulTrobaughField near the grounds of the Homestead Prairie Farm south of Decatur, a facility listed on the National Register of Historic Places and part of the Macon County Conservation District. The sport is Base Ball, but of the vintage variety. On this day, they were playing the rules from 1858, a “gentlemen’s game” that resembles the game of today with some significant differences. Continue Reading
I just finished reading the book October Men by Roger Kahn (who also authored The Boys of Summer). The story is about the 1977 and 1978 New York Yankees, who won back to back World Series. The 1977 season is the basis for the ESPN series “The Bronx is Burning,” and is filled with dysfunctional relationships (Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner) which carried over to 1978 also. It was Bucky Dent’s home run in the one game playoff with the Boston Red Sox that immortalized him. I digress…although an interesting book, I was happy to move on to a more heartwarming story (I have about ten waiting to be read) by Kansas City Star columnist Joe Poznanski’s entitled The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America.
Perhaps today, many baseball fans don’t remember Art Pennington. He never played in the Major Leagues, spending much of his baseball career in places like Havana, Cuba and Caracas, Venezuela, and toiling in the Negro League in the United States.
Art lives in my home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his home was ravaged by the flooding there last summer. His home was filled with memorabilia from his playing days and beyond, and most of it was lost or destroyed when the flood waters occupied the entire basement and the first six feet of his first floor. I was traveling back to Cedar Rapids last weekend to see my family, and was able to arrange a visit with Art, who had just returned to his home a couple days before after living in a FEMA-supplied trailer the majority of the ten months he was displaced. By “arrange,” I mean I placed a phone call to him, and then my wife, father and I stopped by his house.