Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cyclones Playoffs 2010

I've softened my stance on the 2001 New York Penn League championship. For nine years I have said there is no such thing as "co-champions." You either won enough games to make the post-season and then beat your opponents, or you did not. The terrorist attacks of September 11 ended the 2001 championship series after the first game and the Brooklyn Cyclones and Williamsport Crosscutters were declared "co-champions." I thought it more honest to say there was no champion; the explanation remains the same. It now seems to me that either the Cyclones or the Crosscutters could have won it all and its not fair to any of the players to penalize them for the cancellation of the post-season. At worst, "co-champions" is only half wrong.

So with that public withdrawal, I'll write something I've never said before: in ten seasons of play, the Brooklyn Cyclones have won their division five times (01, 03, 04, 07, 10), been the wild card twice (06, 09), went to the championship four times and were the league champions in 2001. Like the Atlanta Braves, that record is an accomplishment but one that inevitably seems a bit hollow. In the team's defence, three-game series are a killer. Lose the first game and you can't lose again. The Cyclones have been swept twice in the championship series and three times in the play-offs.

Last year I saw the wild card winners lose the only game at home. In 2007 I was in Coney Island as the Auburn Doubledays swept the championship. The Cyclones lost the first game of this year's play-offs to the Jamestown Jammers and I thought I might again be there for the end of the season. But a work colleague and I saw a scrappy game won 9-8 on a 12th inning wild pitch. Wally Backman managed aggressively; for example, giving runners the green light at third when it obviously was going to be a close play at home. Miguel Ozuna, who I saw three weeks earlier not win the home run derby, hit the only dinger, for Jamestown. But nine of the 28 total hits were doubles. Both teams had four-run innings. There were five stolen bases, all but one by Brooklyn. Six Cyclones struck out 14. And yes, five errors were committed. You get a lot of entertainment for your money at this level of ball. Box Score

Brooklyn finished off Jamestown the next night, setting up a chance for me to see another game, perhaps even be there when the team really did make it to the post-season and then beat both their opponents. The Cyclones lost the first game away, to the Tri-City Valley Cats. Sunday's home game was rained-out and when I got out to MCU Park the next day, dark clouds were massing to the north. The guy at the ticket window told me the groundskeepers had just put the tarp on the field, an hour of rain was expected, and I should go have dinner and come back. I walked once around the stadium while I decided whether or not to just go home. The Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, memorializing uniformed personnel that died on 9/11, is on the east side of the stadium. I've never understood why it's there but two days after the anniversary, a chilly breeze, storm clouds, sparse crowds, alone--it moved me for the first time. I worked on getting a city street co-named for Firefighter Shawn Powell and without looking for him, or anyone else for that matter, his plaque jumped out at me. His mother died of cancer before we could get the naming through the City Council and his engine company never had the street signs installed, which had been for her benefit.  FF Powell was one of three firefighters and a lieutenant from E207 to die at the World Trade Center.

I decided to go to Nathan's Famous after all. Dinner was what has become my usual, the lobster roll, which I washed down with a quart of Coors. The food stand was the only place around that was out of the rain and it filled up with people waiting out the storm that finally arrived. Half were baseball fans and the rest were an interesting assortment. A trio of casually dolled-up Brooklyn girls walked around and around and finally asked where they could buy beer, which they did despite the unlikelihood of being 21. A guy with bruised doughnuts around his eyes alternated between twitching in front of the overhead menu and running out to his double-parked car. He finally pulled it together enough to place and pick up an order that he took out to his lady friend in the very large, very dark sunglasses. A street person sang along with the background music--Carl Perkin's "Blue Suede Shoes" was probably his best--until management turned off the sound system. So he sang unaccompanied. When he lit a cigarette inside, he was ordered to leave, and the soundtrack resumed. By then, I was ready for a cigarette myself and I waited out the rest of the storm under the sidewalk bridging around the Shore Hotel née Coney Island Theater Building. It rained almost exactly the hour that was predicted. They called the game about 15 minutes after I got back to the ballpark. The Cyclones lost the twice-postponed game tonight. There will be no more baseball in Coney Island this year.

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