A history of Illegal players and team forfeitures

2019 South Oakland Ducks

Things were more relaxed in the early to mid 2000s. We all filled out paper forms, ideally, and we played. There wasn’t much to do about ringers. The only rule was that a guy was on the roster before the playoff deadline, but no one checked and no one cared.

Our first championship, in 2003, was against a stacked lineup of Fed League players and guys from the Warriors franchise who filled in on the team that was supposed to be the Maulers. It was either play against the players who showed up or don’t play.

We were rained out in our first attempt to play the game, and we didn’t find out about it until game time when no one showed up. I think John Herb had a grass infield then, or maybe it just does in my memories of it. We got there early, took infield/outfield, and then we waited until half an hour after game time and no one showed up. I didn’t have a cell phone then so I borrowed a teammates, called the commissioner, and got the message of the somewhat suspect cancellation. We rescheduled, beat that team full of ringers, and got kicked out of Hemingways.

There weren’t a ton of controversies early on because no one cared much. Most of us were just happy to play. However, there were a couple instances where teams were kicked out of the league. Two that come to mind are Insulright in 2005, and the Yankees in 2004.

The Yankees were a team full of CCAC players and other local DIII guys who went undefeated but never paid. I think the core of the early Black Sox teams were Yankees. Only Craig Boley knows who I’m talking about. They no-hit us that season before they disappeared.

Insulright was sponsored by the insulation company of the same name, and they played in shorts out in Monroeville at Gateway. The back of that infield fell off like a cliff into a deep outfield surrounded by a rusted chain link fence. Moore Park without the charm. Gateway was somehow hard to find for those of us coming from the city, our early GPS systems sent us in an awkward U-turn around 376, near rt. 48, and it was easy to wind up in Trafford accidentally. Insulright was always ready to fight, and their shorts made them that much worse. They had this guy Hoover who could throw hard, and a few decent players, but their Umbros made the young Pittsburgh NABA look even more bush league than it was. Thankfully they were kicked out of the league, and lead to the rule that states we must wear pants as part of our uniforms, otherwise known as the Insulright Rule.

After Commissioner Graff took over for Boley, things shifted gears.  During the years that encompassed the Ducks short stop-less Red Scare Era, the league grew and thrived. The Black Sox brought in a former Blue Jays prospect, the Owlzzzz brought in a guy from the Wildthings, and the league added a ton of local small-college players. I consider 2006 to 2010 the golden age of the league. After the switch to wood bats, and before Elliot joined the league and beat everyone before moving on to the DNL.

During these years, the player rules became more strict, and there were more clashing personalities. Two of the most outrageous incidents occurred during these years. The first, and the most insane, was the Matador incident.

 

 

They tried to bribe teams to throw games so that the Bulldogs wouldn’t make the playoffs. Former Ducks manager, TC Jones told me he spent an hour on the phone with Ken Cool’s brother discussing the Owlz managers disgust that (Matador’s manager) Ron Tiedeman (sic) bribe him to lose on purpose. That’s an hour TC will never have back, one of the risks when you manage a men’s league team, I suppose.

There are always a few guys who are certain Joe favors his own team. (We haven’t won anything in the last five years, so he’s not very good at it, if that’s his plan.) So this guy tried to rig the playoffs to fuck over Joe. Perfectly rational. It didn’t work. The Matadors lost to the Bulldogs in the playoffs, and eventually became the Sharks then the Wolfpack. Teideman left years ago.

Back to player eligibility.

The worst incident probably in league history, was the result of poor administrative practices. In 2010, following their first league championship, members of the Hurricanes threatened the commissioner over a handful of Hurricane’s players being ruled ineligible. The issue being that they weren’t in the system by the deadline. The overreaction by the ‘canes to a decision that wasn’t open to interpretation is what makes this incident stand out in the league mythos.

I’ve personally filled out the online info for guys that had played but couldn’t register for some reason. It’s not fun, but it doesn’t take too long.

There was a vote on whether or not to allow them to forfeit their season like Insulright and the Yankees.

It was decided that games the had played in already wouldn’t be ruled forfeits, but they couldn’t play in the playoffs. That season, the Militia upset the short -handed Hurricanes in the second round before losing in the semifinals to the Ducks.

Since the split to three divisions, and the ruling on active college players playing in AAA pending approval from AA managers, there has been renewed debate about player eligibility. One such instance, and subsequent apology, was noted on this blog a couple seasons back. The incident involved the Oilers bringing in a former pro who hadn’t played in years and was thus, eligible to play in AA. The funny thing about the incident is the uproar was due to a different guy pitching for them who was accused of being said former pro, but was a JV player on Point Park, I think. Anyway, that season the Oilers lost in the first round to the Devils, but the next season their former pro delivered the championship-clinching hit against the Grizzlies.

Over the last few years, a few AAA teams have had questionable players in games and usually they don’t get called on it until after they’ve played. This is mostly with Steel City and Jefferson Hills. Both have been accused of playing guys in the playoffs with fewer than five games played.

I have nightmares about Beedle Park and driving all the way down 51 to roast in those dugouts.

There’s a pretty standard practice by teams to try to bring in ringers. First try to change the rules in the league meeting, second, try to break them, third, go out of your way to find other teams who are breaking the rules, and act indignant that anyone would harm the sanctity of our league and this great game of baseball that in no way has a history of cheating at the highest level.

In some cases, it’s a matter of just cooking the scorebook and online stats to make sure all pitchers and important players have enough games played. A smart manager will do this early when no one knows who anyone is, as to avoid going back and making changes in June when they might be noticeable. It’s also assumed that no one will ever really call a team out on it, because the sentiment is that you look scared if you do.

I’ve been hesitant to do it in the past because I think challenging a player who turns out to be eligible is a good way to fire up the opposing team. I’ve never been 100% and I don’t want to have to issue another public apology for accusing a team of cheating that isn’t. Maybe that makes me part of the problem. A problem that’s really not that big in the scheme of our league, and even smaller outside our adult baseball bubble.

This season with the website crashing, it might be more difficult to track stats and eligibility. In AA the biggest issue is active college players without waivers. In AAA, it’s getting five games in for playoffs or not. So cheat early and cheat often, but please don’t threaten the commissioner. 

South Oakland plays the Oilers tomorrow night, 9pm at Springview Field, weather permitting.

Off-Season Updates

2019 South Oakland Ducks

We’re coming up on our sixteenth season. Last year we finished in third place after a deep playoff run that came up short. South Oakland fared well in the Capital City Classic last October, finishing with a record of 2-2, after advancing to the semis where we lost 17-14 to Steve’s Sports, basically the Cleveland equivalent of St. John’s. In his last game as a Duck, DJ Dover went 4-5, 3R HR, 2B, 5RBI. In what was a microcosm of Dover’s time in South Oakland, we hit well enough to win, and ran out of pitching. Tony Casale and Tom Pulice also hit doubles in the game and played well over the weekend. Cody Quinn pitched five scoreless innings on the first day of the tournament to help us advance. It was fun.

Our offseason started with losing the 2017 MVP

Dover showed up every game ready to play. He drove from Erie the last 2 seasons. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve come to value dependability as much as talent. There’s nothing worse than scrambling for guys the day before a game. Having a core group who can make almost all of the games, and at least give me a heads up in advance if they’re going to miss a game makes a huge difference. When the most dependable guys are also some of your best players, it’s even better. Thank you, DJ.

The offseason continued with Ducks catcher, Tom Pulice, winning the 2018 MVP Award. Congrats, Tom. Well deserved.

We also added the 2008 MVP, James Fago. His addition lead me to update a photoshop (below) for the first time in years.

After a couple seasons with the Black Sox and another year soul searching in New York, Fago will return to the Ducks for the 2019 season. So will his brother, Colton. After a summer off, they should be well rested and ready help bolster the pitching staff and lineup.

We’ve also been in talks with Tom’s friend Steve. He’s supposed to come pitch for us after a strong showing in Columbus which included vomiting outside an abandoned gas station on the ride home.

The rest of our starters are returning. We will once again roster a veteran team. If our pitching works out, we should be competitive.

That’s about it so far. Winter meetings usually start the week before the Super Bowl.

I’ve also changed the pond of retired numbers to a ring of honor, since we don’t really retire numbers.

Quack.

 

 

Gameday 2: Ducks vs Express

2018 South Oakland Ducks, Gameday, NABA, pittsburgh NABA, South Oakland Ducks Baseball

South Oakland Ducks of the North Side (0-1)

vs

Carrick Express (1-1)

9pm

West Field

South Oakland looks to get back on track after a tough loss to West View last week. Carrick is good. We are short a few guys tonight, so some players who might not start normally will get some at bats against one of the better pitchers we will face this season.

Below is an old score book page from 2010.

This was a Ducks vs Maulers game. The Maulers played in single A that season, and would eventually become the Express. South Oakland won 6-2. We lost to them earlier in the season.

Vernacchio’s last at bat was a 2-RBI double.

Kress, Kopy, Cannon, are all former Black Sox and Express players. Gruendle is still on the Express.

This must have been early in the season before all the Waynesburg guys joined the team that season and I nearly destroyed the franchise, which I’ve written enough about at this point.

Casale had a day. Duffy left to be a scientist halfway through this season. Guthrie would get the win on the mound in the deciding game of our second championship.

Bad News for the Express

Playoff Gameday 1: Ducks vs Express

2017 South Oakland Ducks, Gameday, pittsburgh NABA

(3) South Oakland Ducks of the North Side

vs

(6) Carrick Express

3pm

Moon Park

South Oakland looks to advance to the semifinals with a win over Carrick today in Moon. The winner will play the winner of the Cranberry / Bandidos game at 5pm in game one of the semifinals.

Their game was supposed to be played on Saturday, but was probably rained out. Not sure how that rescheduling effort is gonna work out.

So far the #11 seed Devils have upset the #4 Oilers, the Express eliminated West View with a commanding 11-1 win, and Cranberry knocked out Wexford in a 3-1 thriller. On the other side of the bracket, Bauerstown and D2 were rained out.

This season has been long and full of rain, and weird games. I think we mostly played to our potential this year. A few frustrating losses.

Every off season, I talk with the coaching staff about what we need to do to get better, and how we can take the next step to win a championship while still keeping the core group together and not just cutting off the bottom third of our roster.

For a lot of years, it’s felt like I would make moves and add guys based on what it would’ve taken to win in the previous season, only to see the other teams make bigger moves, and we’ve mostly been one or two guys short.

Our lineup is fine, we have ten guys who hit over .300 this year, 13 with an OBP over .400. Dover is probably the league MVP this year, and any other year it would likely be Lombardi with the numbers he’s put up.

Pitching will be what decides this post season. Will he have the guys there to eat up the innings and throw strikes? Will we make the routine plays on defense, and not run into outs on the base paths?

Carrick is going to have momentum coming into this game and will be playing with a lot of confidence. It would be great to get out to an early lead.

All I can ask for as a player and a manager going into a season is a chance to be in every game, and to have a shot at winning a title. We are right there, we’ve been waiting for the playoffs all season, and we have a great opportunity to advance to the semis. This season has been a lot of fun, we have a great group of guys, and I am not ready for it to end.

Bad News for the Express

 

A Look at the Playoff Bracket and a Holiday Weekend Long-read

2017 South Oakland Ducks

Not a huge difference between finishing 2nd and 3rd. However, the team that wins the regular season has a buy into the semis.

Based on the standings above and a quick look at the schedules, I think only 4 teams control their own destiny at this point. Bandidos, Eagles, Ducks, Oilers. Everyone else needs help, except Cranberry, South Hills and D2 who can’t win the division.

We have five games left in eleven days, plus a floater vs. the Wolfpack that their coach won’t get back to me about rescheduling. Not sure how that one’s gonna work out.

This Wednesday’s game is one of the biggest regular season games in recent memory. Probably not since the Black Sox rivalry days has this much hung in the balance.

If we win it, we can basically punch our ticket to at least the 3rd seed. The Oilers would have to finish 6-2, including a win over us to catch us, plus with a win, we can still catch Bakery Square without help.

If we lose, we need the Eagles and Bandidos to both have what would amount to minor collapses given they current records, and we would face an Oilers team on Friday that would have a chance to pull within a half game and probably that lefty again, and then the Devils on Saturday with a potentially dicey pitching situation on our hands for the third game in four days.

We haven’t won a division ever.

Here is a look at some non-first place finishes:

In 2003, we finished fifth out of six teams and won the title.

in 2004, we finished somewhere around .500 and lost to the Black Sox in the semis

Those years are foggy so I can’t really give a complete account. Though, I think I tallied it at one point.

We were then mediocre in 2005 and Swetz got hit in the sack in the playoffs and ended his pitching career. Earlier that season, Ducks legend Ian Dickman blew out his arm. We didn’t have a shortstop for the next 3 years, really.

We were bad in 2006 and 2007.

Resurgent in 2008 with an 11-9 finish including a playoff clinching win over the Ben Sorosky led Rakers. I went 0-for-3 vs. 55 in that game.

We went 16-8 in 2009, finishing 3rd, 1 game behind Brookline and six games behind Ken Cool’s team that went 20-1 and ended up losing to the TJ Morgan-led Hurricanes.

In 2010, we finished 18-6 and won the championship, but the black sox finished 16-5 and beat us twice and won the regular season.

That year the Ben Sorosky led Militia beat the Fighting’ TJ Morgans in the quarterfinals, before losing to us in the semis. The recap of that Hurricane’s Militia game is the most read blog post in the history of this blog.

We went 19-5 in 2011, with 3 losses to eventual champion Elliot who won our division.

We went 17-6 in 2014 and finished second the the North American Lions > Dirty Birds > Bandidos > Reprise

2015 and 2016 we didn’t finish over .500, but we made a great playoff run last year.

This turned into a history post at some point.

I’m realizing now, I’m already old enough to get nostalgic about my early adult league days (maybe more so than my high school and legion days). I should really be writing something more important than this, but it’s too late. Looking back through fifteen years, brings me back to a lot of the shit I had going on at various points in my life, and how great it has been to have baseball to balance that. Also that it will be great to have a little less bullshit going on at some point, so that baseball can feel less like the cause of some of the bullshit and less like another responsibility. And at times it does feel like that instead of just fun.

I’ve tried many times to find a way to work the Ducks and our league into an essay or a story of some kind for an actual publication, but it’s tough. It always feels like I’m relying too much on the corny Field of Dreams nostalgia, that doesn’t quite get at the pure joy there is to be had, even at 36, from being able to continue to play this game, and how that joy juxtaposed with the struggles in real life can lead to something work reading.

I obviously push and have often exceeded the limits of an acceptable amount of time for a single parent trying to establish a literary career while doing glorified temp work, to put into playing and managing and blogging about adult league baseball. But the more bullshit I have going on with me, the more I need to be able to set aside a few hours to just worry about a game and my teammates and my team, an at-bat.  ]And I think there are guys on our team, and in our league and other’s like it who feel the same way.

I can see it in some of my teammates faces how badly they need to leave shit behind them before they walk down those busted steps into the Duck pond. I just don’t know how to connect that idea to a bigger audience or use it to speak to a bigger truth in a manner that hasn’t already been done.

It is great to write about baseball in this setting, and try to shake off the rust when I haven’t written in a while, and at least form sentences in a low-pressure setting while providing a service for the few of you who read this, whether you hate it or love it. To give back in some way to the league that’s allowed me to play for fifteen years using this medium is great. Even though no one really blogs anymore, I don’t think.

I’m not sure how long I can keep running this team, but if I ever step down it will be with a heavy heart, and a replacement lined up who knows a bunch of pitchers, but will give the current Ducks right of first refusal for roster spots. I also am not going to step down until the Back Sox fold. Which judging by their record, could be at any moment. That’s also a story for another blog post.

Going back I also realized the Eagles have been around since 2004, which is pretty long. I give them a lot of credit for sticking around.

Anyway, right now we sit at 11-5-2, and we are as solid a team as any in Double A. We don’t quit. I don’t think anyone wants to face us with their second or third starter in the playoffs when we have our starting lineup. Except Cranberry.

We haven’t seen the best of the Eagles, but they haven’t seen our best either. On Wednesday, if we give them our best we can win. We can beat anybody. Then it’s back to our day jobs and the shit we left at the top of the busted steps.

quack.

 

Quack Quack. Two Ducks Teams in 2014?

2014 South Oakland Ducks, NABA, pittsburgh NABA, South Oakland Ducks Baseball, who names their team the Rebels?

Fuck this winter.

It looks like TJ Morgan is running the AA Ducks, and I’m running the single A Ducks. I’m still trying to find a loophole to allow me to play on both teams, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

The split should’ve happened in 2010, but no one on that team was going to step down and play in a lower division. Instead, a bunch of guys quit rather than take reduced roles. And, really, who wants a reduced role in a fucking summer league? No one. I strained some friendships over that mess, and I probably deserve it. Maybe I shouldn’t give as much of a shit four years later, but I’m obsessed with narrative–the story in this mess, and without conflict there’s no story. So I think about it.

This weather is making me sound depressed. Here’s a photoshop to lighten things up. Some of my best work!

2007WorldChamps-Rebels_photo_poop_2 copy

The A Ducks are shaping up pretty well. We have a bunch of guys from the Militia, and a few ghosts of South Oakland past returning. I think it’ll be fun. We will be competitive. If the pitching holds up, we should contend with the other sandbagging teams for a title. I think those are realistic expectations.

Morgan’s Ducks, will be nasty this year, too, if the pitching holds up. The Fightin’ Ducks, is what it looks like since everyone still has Ducks jerseys. Morgan does things the right way, and helped the franchise through a rough patch last season that saw a near folding of the team, and a collapse down the stretch and a ton of games in the middle of nowhere. It sucks to run a team without a pitching staff, and guys who won’t commit.

Teams that left in the offseason: The Militia. Elliot. Maybe one other one. This will be the Ducks 12th season.

If it wasn’t for Elliot, we could conceivably have won two or three titles in the last four years. We’d have won in ’11 maybe ’12. What would have been awesome, is if we played the Cherokee in the finals or semis two years ago. But this is some space time continuum shit. Whatever. Elliot made the league better. Not upset I don’t have to face Barnes again. They beat us 20-3 one game, the year where only divisional games counted towards our record so we punted that one and got slaughtered.

The Militia broke up, the team that was the Orioles, Knights, Gray Bats, and Rebels who left the Black Sox who were the Stampeders.

militia

With Monroeville disbanded, who will defend the league?

Not Captain America.

Guthrie retired. The last holdover from the TC Jones era, Guth beat the Black Sox to win our most recent championship. Guth went 6 1/3 innings on the mound in a 5-3 win in the clinching game then blacked out and split his chin open that night celebrating. Blood and cheap whiskey everywhere. That’s always how it ends.

Goodnight Captain.

Quack.

Game Day 4/5: Ducks at Militia

2012 South Oakland Ducks Baseball, pittsburgh NABA, who names their team the Rebels?

South Oakland Ducks of the North Side

at

Monroeville Militia

Sunday, April 29th

10:00AM & 12:30PM

Woodland Hills High School

(Former Gray Bats mgr. Larry Z.)

The Militia are primarily a combination of two storied PGH NABA Franchises: The Gray Bats, and the Original Rebels – The Rebels formed when the Black Sox split in ’07.

A handful of Militia players also played for the old Knights/Orioles franchise, their Manager, PGH NABA Legend John Tremel played on the Warriors for a season, their best player of all time, Jeremy Barchie, was a Duck for half a season. They also have a Hurricane defector from last season, and a player from the old Phantoms.

Kenny Powers says fuck the Rebels.

  • Aside from the Kenny Power’s Black Sox, and Craig Boley’s Warriors none of those other teams exist anymore – the Gray Bats went out in a flutter after one season.
  • While the Sox and Warriors are two of the Original 3 teams still in existence, they existed in 2003 as the Stampeders and Piranhas – respectively. (The Ducks, Maulers and Arthropods also played in ’03. Yeah, we had a team called the Arthropods in our league, once.)
  • The South Oakland Ducks is the only franchise that’s been around since 2003 with the same name. We just won’t die.
  • We’ve absorbed players from the ’08, and ’09 Championship teams (OwlzZzzz, Hurricanes) and still have a core of hold overs from our Championship team of 2010 (when we beat the Militia to advance to the championship) , and our team that reached the 2011 Finals.
  • The  ’07, ’08 and ’09 Champions have all folded. That’s odd. You’d think winning a title would make a guys want to stay together and build on that success. Additionally the ’06 and ’07 runner ups (Colonials and Matadors) have folded.
  • Gone are the Oilers and Sharks.
  • Guthrie and Fago played on the old Knights at one point, so on Sunday we have multiple grudge matches of former teammates.
  • We should all be proud to wear Green this season (preferably green, but whatever color you have is fine since our uni’s aren’t in yet).
  • Pending weather, the Cherokee, and Black Sox open up today – it’ll be interesting to see how they fare.
  • If I had a choice to have Fago up with the bases loaded, down by 2 runs in the bottom of the seventh every game, I’d take it.
  • Ken Cool and several other Ducks will make their 2012 debut on Sunday
  • No idea how or why this blog post degenerated into this.

Our team is full of players who know how to win.We’re coming together, but we need to go on a run (one game at a time, obviously).

Let’s get two on Sunday and get some momentum going before we get into league play next weekend.

The Michigan Militia and other extremist groups operate under principles formed by the misinterpretation of pieces of our Constitution that have been taken out of context.  They think they know what’s best for our country.

But Captain America knows better, and he’s on our side.

Bad News for the Militia

Gameday [3] Ducks at Hurricanes

2011 Ducks Baseball

Ducks

at

Hurricanes

5:30pm

Pie Traynor Field, North Park

The 2009 and  2010 league champions square off at a neutral site this evening, in the first of three games in five days.

We’re looking to get back into the swing of things here with a victory over a tough opponent.

South Oakland lost the last two meetings to the Hurricanes by a combined 75 runs or something.

Judging by the standings, both teams are limping out of the gate a bit.

Finally some sunshine. Hopefully monsoon season is over.

I’ll miss this one due to graduation.  After tonight, I’ll be a master, so says my degree. This means I’ll be one of the most educated food service workers in the city.

Fago’s running the show tonight.

Guthrie made it out of San Francisco alive.

Bad News for the Hurricanes.

Quack.