The College World Series got a dose of reality last night. Just as the broadcast began, bad weather hit the Omaha area. At first it was lightning strikes in Iowa, only a few miles away. Under NCAA rules no game can start within 30 minutes of a lightning strike hitting within 8 miles. Then a storm made a direct hit on Omaha. Just after 11 PM Eastern, after waiting 3 hours the NCAA called the game off.
Here’s the problem. The AAA Omaha Storm Chasers, the Royals’ farm team has a game in Omaha tonight. So, that left the NCAA and ESPN with only one unappetizing choice. Today’s game will be held at 1 PM Eastern, to give the most time for the AAA team to get ready for their regularly scheduled game tonight. This means that only a lucky few will get to see the game live in Omaha, watch on TV or listen,by radio or the Internet. Only people who have ESPNU will be able to see it on TV as the two major ESPN channels are committed elsewhere, and everybody in the world doesn’t have ESPNU. A lot of the ones who do, like yours truly wouldn’t know what channel it was among their hundreds of channels. Since I listen to the radio broadcasts by way of the Internet I know where to listen to prepare the story for tomorrow’s edition.
The delay means one positive thing for Coastal Carolina. Had the game gone forth last night, Alex Cunningham was scheduled to pitch. In this forum, I expressed my certainty that Coastal would have gone with Andrew Beckwith, their 14-game winner since he was more rested than Cunningham. But at the last moment Coach Gary Gilmore let it be known that Cunningham was to start. But the weather hit before anybody warmed up, so Beckwith has an extra day’s rest if_ his head coach wishes to go with him. If Cunningham is the starter, Beckwith is available to back him up. Even Mike Morrison, who pitched his heart out Tuesday night could be called to get a batter or two if absolutely needed. None of the 3 pitchers mentioned above are committed anywhere this summer, so they won’t throw a pitch with intent until next February. As of last night, Bobby Dalbec was scheduled for Arizona, and it probably will still fall to him to go this afternoon, as Nathan Bannister’s sore arm hadn’t responded as of yesterday and he would have been unavailable for the Wildcats.
In the days of Ruth and Gehrig, When all games were played in the late afternoon late-inning Yankee rallies were called 5:00 Lightning. For one night at least, a late-night version of 5:00 lightning struck for the Yankees. They scored 6 in the 9th to pull off a 9-7 win over the Rangers. The Yankees had lost 3 in a row including the first two of a four-game series against the Rangers. Until the 9th last night’s game looked like a replay of Tuesday night’s game. Starter Masahiro Tanaka, like his predecessor CC Sabathia on Tuesday was hammered early on. The Yankees were down 7-2 until they scored one in the 8th. In the 9th, with no save available the Rangers left pitcher Matt Bush in to try to close the deal. He allowed a single to Rob Refsnyder and walked Jacoby Ellsbury. At that point, his manager Jeff Bannister came out with the hook for Bush and summoned Sam Dyson, the closer to do what he does. This time, he didn’t but he owes part of it to his center fielder Ian Desmond. Formerly an erratic shortstop, Desmond made an error fielding Brett Gardner’s single, allowing Refsnyder to score. With Ellsbury and Gardner aboard, a shaken Dyson gave up a game-tying 3-run home run to Brian McCann. It was the catcher’s second blast of the game. He then walked Starlin Castro, bringing up Didi Gregorius who launched a walk-off home run for the win. No Yankee had hit a 3-run home run to tie the game in the 9th since 2007. In that same season the Yankees put up 6 runs in the 9th to beat the Indians, the last time they had mounted such a large rally in their last atbat. You can’t take much from any single game in baseball, where the season is 162 games long. The Yankees’ rotation is still brutal in spite lf how good the back end of their bull pen is. Their best hitter is an aged, often-injured Carlos Beltran who is injured again as I write this and has no timetable for his return. But for one night at least, the Yankees looked like the Bronx Bombers of old for the faithful few who didn’t leave early to beat the traffic on the George Washington Bridge. The two teams meet in today’s earliest game. Michael Pineda, who did well against the Twins his last time out, faces A. J. Griffin who stopped the Yankees cold in April, giving up a run in 8 innings.
Other than the matinees in Omaha and New York, the Dodgers and Brewers meet in an early game in Milwaukee. Kenta Maeda pitches, and until Clayton Kershaw comes back the import is about the best the Dodgers can offer. The Twins and White Sox meet on the south side of Chicago. If the Indians win their night game in Toronto, it will be their 13th win in a row after sweeping 3 in Atlanta. The Tribe has won 13 in a row twice-in 1942 and 1951, both when Bob Feller was baffling all comers. In Oakland, A’s starter Dillon Overton will have something to tell his grandchildren. He can say he faced Madison Bumgarner, AKA MadBum, aka the Angry Hobo in just his second start in the bigs. Bumgarner will hit against Overton, instead of having the Giants use the DH. Overton gave up 3 home runs against the Angels but still got the win. Tonight he just has to hope the opposing pitcher doesn’t take him deep.
Mark Grudzielanek is 46 today. The infielder, whose name is pronounced Grud Zill Anek was an 11th-round draftee of the Expos in 1991. As such we broadcast his games in AA Harrisburg in 1993 and 1994. He played in the majors from 1995-2010, bedeviling broadcasters and public address announcers alike who tried to figure out how to pronounce his name. His MLB debut came against the Cubs, for whom Harry Caray was still broadcasting. What I’d give to hear Harry try and get that
tongue-twister out. The infielder hit .289 with over 2,000 hits in his time. He was an All-Star in 1996 and won a gold glove a decade later. He’s now an executive with the Diamondbacks.
Al Newman, our manager in New Britain in 1996 is 56 today. He was the Expos’ first pick in the draft of 1981, 12th overall out of San Diego State, where he also played football. He made the show in 1985 and lasted until 1992. He played the bulk of his career with the Twins, (1987-91) and hit .226 lifetime. That being said, he was with the Twins when they won both their World Series, 1987 and 1991. He had 2 hits and a walk including a tripple in 8 atbats in the World Series. He was at second when the Twins turned two tripple plays in one game in 1990 against the Red Sox. In 1995 New Britain, where my partner and I were broadcasters became a Twins’ farm team and as such Newman managed our team a year later. In 1997 we moved on but Newman stayed, and the team was 10 games better than it had been in 1996. He coached and managed in the Twins’ farm system until becoming the Twins’ third base coach in 2002. He kept that post until 2005. In late 2003 he made a miraculous recovery from a stroke. He was unconscious for more than two weeks after the event but was back on the coaching lines in spring training.
Ron Swoboda is 72 today. At 25, he was a hero of the 1969 World Series for the Mets. From there he played with the Expos and Yankees, and at 29 his career was over. The Mets signed him after a year at University of Maryland. In his rookie year of 1965 he hit 15 home runs by the All-Star break, a record no Met has bettered since. His season rookie record of 19 wasn’t broken until 1983 when Daryl Strawberry hit 26. On Sept. 15, 1969 in a game where Steve Carlton struck out 19 Mets, Swoboda hit a pair of two-run taters to beat the great lefty. His heroic moment came in game 4 of the World Series. In the 9 th inning he made an amazing catch of a shot hit by Brooks Robinson. It went down as a scoring fly ball to tie the game, but he took an extra-base hit away. The Mets won in 10 innings and took the World Series the next day. He became a TV commentator working in New York, Milwaukee and New Orleans, where he now does color commentary for the AAA Marlins team there.