‘Buzzards Knocked-off by Free Agents in 50+ National Sunday League Season Finale’

Submitted by Dan Wukmir, Buzzards manager

What a crazy year. We did have lots of baseball played in the Sacramento MSBL, thanks to league president Alan Van Ness’ leadership and moxie.  2020 will clearly go into history as the year that the Corona virus invaded the world, screwed up the year, upset everyone’s travel plans, sent businesses scrambling, and caused government authorities to shut down the parks and school fields for baseball and other outdoor sports.  The MSBL season looked in jeopardy when all sports’ seasons stopped in mid-March. 

By mid-June Sacramento MSBL brazenly started up again, but just on our two leased fields with Sacramento on former Army Depot land.  The new fields were too tempting and demand was too high, so when other outdoor activities were still essentially banned by County health directors on the public fields, we started playing on our private property.  With some bumps like 29 Sunday and 29 weeknight teams sharing two fields, then city cops stopping youth play mid-game and clearing both of our Army Depot Park fields on Saturday morning, August 1, plus a few incidents of ‘haters’ trying to derail our fun, the league survived the dreaded virus.

The league’s persistence allowed the Gold Country Buzzards to get together this season and play 14 games spread over a five-month season.  The Buzzards had consecutive-week games just six times, so it was a little hard on team continuity.  Five of those weeks were the first five of the season.  So, that means we played the following nine games spread over the next 19 Sundays.  Despite that, the Buzzards played well when we got together and had some fun playing this stick and ball kids’ game.

With a tough unbalanced schedule, the Buzzards’ record for the season was 9-4-1 with two loses to the champion Free Agents, one to the Dragons and a throw away game at season’s end to the Valley Cats.  The Ol’ Buzzards had big wins over the Freaking Agents, Valley Cats, Giants, Fighting Chihuahuas, Indians, Seals and Miners, plus the Dragons in the playoffs for a successful season in a very competitive Sunday 50s division.

The Buzzards’ offensive machine cranked out 145 runs this season with 149 singles, 35 doubles, nine triples and 129 RBIs.  The team was walked 56 times and hit by a pitch 13, while it stole 48 bases and sacrificed nine times.  The season team batting average was a very high .415 and a mighty fine .538 slugging percentage.

The pitching corps threw 76 innings of regular season ball.  Callahan was on the bump for 42.2 innings, Jungsten for 22, and Wilgus for 11.1.  The trio held opponents to 82 runs (47 earned) on 134 hits, 21 walks and 17 hit batters with 39 strike ‘em outs.  Terry pitched the 18 playoff innings giving up nine runs on 21 hits, three walks, and four hit batters with eight strike-outs.

The new guys were especially key to the team’s success.  Adding outstanding rookies Billy Bowerman, Ken Jungsten, Chris Prudente and Mike Wilgus, plus with excellent players returning from a year off: an A’s adventure for Mark Weathers and hip surgery for Terry Callahan, did wonders for the Buzzards in 2020.

Certainly, there is a lot to be proud of, and thankful for as a team in this crazy season, especially with the average age of over 62.  So, it was a fun season even with the painful ending of a loss in the championship game against the Free Agents.

In that November 22nd game, Gary Stonebrook (getting knee surgery the next day!?) held the Buzzards to eight singles, no walks and seven strike-outs, four looking.  Ouch.  Blue needs glasses and was not seeing 20-20 that day.  Only eight hits with seven K’s, double ouch.  The Free Agents scored nine runs on 15 hits, one walk and four hit batters with five strike-outs.  There were no Buzzards’ errors in a solid defensive game, but there were enough seeing-eye bleeders and looping flares for hits, that caused many cringes, especially those with two-strike counts.

The Buzzard hit club for the final game was way too exclusive with only five members: Mike Baker, Billy Bowerman, Chris Prudente-2, Gregg Yardley and 3-for-3 Vance Pascua.  The eight hits came in two’s in the second, fourth, fifth, and eighth innings, but no runs were produced.

The Buzzards were not at full strength for the playoffs or all season really with dinged-up players at much less than 100%.  Plus, we were missing a key player in the field and line-up with Mark Weathers on the Disabled List for much of the season.  And we really missed big Steve Goggans, last year’s starter, fighting cancer for 2 ½ years before taking his game to the heavenly level recently.

With the season ending super late and with Christmas music everywhere, plus turkeys hiding because Thanksgiving was in four days, it was weird but fun to play in the late November championship game.  Thankfully the weather was sunny and in the mid-60s for the big game.  

So, the 2020 journey for the Buzzies on the field was a good one.  There was lots of baseball fun to be had by all.

2021 will be the 16th season for the Gold Country Ol’ Buzzards.  With vaccines coming, it looks promising to play some home games at James Field in Auburn again and start the season in April.  Back to normal would be nice for a change.