Niagara Gazette

September 2, 2013

Base Paths: Heading into the ninth...

By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Even Yogi would concede that it’s over. Diamondholics cling to the fallball offerings at the likes of Niagara County Community College and the Cayuga complex, and then there are the high-priced spreads, but in the main, the sport for which they can not afford a round ball is in play. Base Paths yields his regular slot in the lineup.

Here’s a 1-2-3 of the weirdest plays Base Paths saw all year:

• Aug. 28, Coca Cola Field – With one out in the first inning, Rochester’s Eduardo Escobar lifts a deep drive to center field. Bison Blake Gailen, new in town after toiling in several independent leagues that were one step ahead of the sheriff, gallops to the warning track, gloves it and starts heading back to his position. So do the left and right fielders, also newly arrived in town.

But the ball has popped from Gailen’s glove and he doesn’t know it. More than 9,000 spectators, even some in Pettibone’s Restaurant, surreally see a baseball lying on the warning track while three outfielders flee as if it’s a live grenade.

Escobar circles the bases. Ahead 1-0, Rochester goes on to win 5-2. Gailen will make a great catch in the fourth but this has clearly flustered the young man with a rare shot at high-level independent ball. He goes 0-4, weakly. Base Paths has never, ever, heard so many experienced baseball men say, “Never saw that one before.” For the record, Gailen delivers a key hit in the Bisons’ scintillating victory the following night.

• July 23, Sal Maglie Stadium – His team trailing Hornell 16-2 in the eighth inning, the Power’s plucky catcher Ben Pickard takes off from first to steal second. Hornell’s middle infielders show so little interest that he’s certain the pitch has been fouled off and trots back toward first. Now the catcher fires to short and a relay to first retires him 1-6-3, a caught-stealing for the ages.

• July 5, Moosic, PA – Having already blown a 2-0 lead in the seventh, the Bisons lose when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre fashions a ninth-inning run off a walk, a balk, an intentional walk, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly, winning without even the inconvenience of an official at bat.

Unfinished business

BECAUSE YOU INSISTED: With permission of the author, the following is reprinted from April 1: American League, Baltimore, Detroit, Angels; Toronto and Yankees the wild cards; National League, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco; Cincinnati and Philadelphia the wild cards, Atlanta over Angels in the Series, Bisons miss playoffs by two games, largely due to late call-ups.

ERROR COLUMN: Corey Paige, his accomplishments noted in last week’s column, attended Niagara-Wheatfield High. Base Paths bobbled his academic lineage.

Base Paths projects at least two more swings, but for the rest of 2013, only as a pinch-hitter. Are you ready for some football? Me neither.

Base Paths has been writing about the game for daily newspapers for 65 years. E-mail Doug Smith at pollyndoug@hotmail.com.