Submitted by Geoff Jacobs, Arizona Scorpions, 73+ Division
As you know, there are some major differences between many of the “have’s” and have-nots” teams in the various MSBL World Series divisions. The top and bottom teams are often easy to predict.
I played in the 73+ division last week on a traditionally very weak team, the Arizona Scorpions, managed by MSBL Hall of Famer Dohrman Sinclair. The division featured 11 teams this year, with the “top 8” making the playoffs. Our two come-from-behind wins over the only two teams not to win any games enabled us to somehow qualify for the playoffs. It was my first time ever making the playoffs. Our first-round playoff opponent on Saturday, Oct. 30th, was the undefeated San Antonio Broncos, one of the 73+ division’s only two undefeated teams, and a championship game finalist in 2020.
To me, the prospect of that match-up was like the Christians being fed to the lions. I was anticipating one of those 20-2 sort of shellackings. I would have put the odds of us winning that game at 1000:1. Yes, one thousand to one.
Our starting pitcher was 86-yr old southpaw Dick Fitzgerald. Yes, 86. In his heyday, he was apparently a very good pitcher. He had played AAA level way back when and a lot of other players seemed to know him well from MSBL tourneys over the years. He was also very well-liked by all. At 86 he could still throw strikes for a few innings, while he was still feeling strong enough. Our team also had a very small roster, as three of our planned 16 players had bowed out shortly before the tourney. We were down to about 11 or 12 warm bodies by playoff time, not all of whom could still run.
Then it happened. Dick threw strikes and our defense played very well. I played third base, as our regular third baseman was en-route back to Puerto Rico. We scored three runs early, as San Antonio scored one run early, but we were mostly keeping them off the scoreboard, inning after inning. All game long we were waiting for “the other shoe to drop” and get our asses kicked.
Somehow, someway, we found ourselves still ahead, 4-3, going into the bottom of the seventh. Dick Fitzgerald was still pitching, by far his longest stint. Their first two batters singled, putting runners on first and second with no outs. The next batter, their power guy, popped out, thus invoking the infield fly rule. However, the runner at second had a brain fart and got picked off second on the catch. We were down to one more out, with a runner at first and another good hitter up. Fitzgerald got to a 2-2 count … and then struck him out swinging! Our small team and our few fans erupted in indescribable joy. We’d won!!
“The bow” on the win was winning it for Fitzgerald, who had been telling everyone during the tourney that “this is it, my last time” playing. He was so beloved and we wanted this win so much for him that several us got tears in our eyes knowing what we had just done. I’ve played a lot of baseball games over the years and I’ve played in a lot of other games in other sports, such as basketball and tennis. This was easily the best win that I had ever been part of.
As an aside, I had the game of my life defensively at third base. I was getting a lot of tough outs there and saving Dick from having to throw more pitches. At one point, around the fifth or sixth inning, after I’d just made another very good play at third, as I was handing the ball to him for the next batter, he very casually, and appreciatively, said to me, “You know, when I broke into professional baseball, my roommate was Brooks Robinson. You remind me of him.” I was speechless. That was the best compliment that I have ever received in my life in any regard. And I couldn’t have been happier that I was playing that well that day for Fitzgerald.
After the game, Fitzgerald filled me in much more on his days playing with Robinson as they worked their way through the minors together. The whole experience of that day was beyond cool. It easily beat the day before when I recorded my first “W” as a winning pitcher since I was 11 years old. It only took me 62 years to get it.
Finally, I need to add that our opponents, the San Antonio Broncos, were very gracious in defeat – they reflected the great sportsmanship that you see, especially with the “older” teams, in the tourney.