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Old-time baseball in Cambridge

Published: September 1, 2006
Section: Sports


In 1994, the baseball strike was (no pun intended) in full swing and with no end in sight. With no baseball and little sympathy for either side, one individual had enough: WEEI host and Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley. The rest is history, with the Old Time Baseball Game going 13 years strong and now considered a local institution. Buckley though refuses to take absolute credit for this pastime. As Buckley explained, I didnt start it, I helped start it. It kind of started by itself one day over the radio in 1994. Baseball was on strike, I was doing a radio show on WEEI and I said, We should just start our own game and screw the big leagues, and people started calling left and right saying they wanted to play in the game and I said there is no game, were just kind of talking here. And then Paul Ryder from the parks and recreation department of Cambridge called and said, 'No, if you have a game, well make Saint Peters Field available.' So we started taking the names of everyone who called the show and held a fund raiser the next night, it rained the whole night, we managed to get the game in and we played this great game and we decided to do a second one, and a third one and weve been doing one ever since.
If you go to any city or town in the country, you will hear old people talk about how back in the 30s and 40s there was always a town league, there was always some old league in the old days and what they would do, they didnt have the internet, didnt have cable tv, they would go watch their local town league team play and what we try to do is recreate some of that.”
All the players in the game were either recruited by Buckley himself or recommended to him by the players' coaches. Major leaguer Carlos Pea and current Red Sox prospect Joshua Papelbon were participants at one point. Buckley didnt look for all-stars, however;

he wanted guys who bled for baseball. Hence the talent provided this year ranged from young prospects like Sam Shaugnessey to ESPN writer Jim Capel, who hadnt played since high school. Also in the game was assistant Red Sox general manager Jed Hoyer. The person who everyone wanted to see, though, was the manager of home team: The Abbot Financial Angels' manager Johnny Pesky. Pesky, 86 years young, commands a lot of respect from the players, all of whom have enjoyed sitting with him and hearing his stories of the days when he walked among the greats like Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams. He has become a fixture at the Old Timers Game. Steve Buckley explained how he arrived:
“I asked him back in 98, hes come every couple of years since then. Its been a lot of fun to have him because he sits here all night and talks history with the other players and the players go home with a better understanding of baseball history.”
Every player approached never stopped smiling when asked about sitting and talking with the Red Sox legend.
In the Old Timers Game, all these players that Buckley helped recruit played a nine-inning exhibition. One percent of the proceeds at each year's game go to charity;

this years charity was the C2 Mission, a group that helps children and families dealing with cerebal palsy and cystic fibrosis. What makes it special is that players wear all the old time uniforms. There were Chicago Cubs uniforms from the early 20th century to the early 60s. One player was wearing a bright yellow Cienfuegos Elefantes jersey (Cuban baseball). Jim Caple got to wear the jersey of his favorite boyhood team, the Seattle Pilots (started in 1969, became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970 thanks to then owner and current commissioner, Bud Selig). Jeffrey Maier of the infamous 96 ALCS catch was given a 1951 Mickey Mantle replica jersey, which left him very touched.
Starting for the Angels was Brandeis alum Tim Dunphy 06. In what was one of the last, if not the last, starting gigs of his career, Dunphy acquitted himself well, throwing two shutout innings and one strikeout. The only event that could have topped that was if he had gotten the chance to pitch to Oil Can Boyd two years ago. It was a good way to end before moving on to his new career, joining Coach Pete Varneys staff this spring as an assistant coach.
The game itself was a rather uneventful affair. A two run home run by Suffolk catcher Nick Martinho put the Angels up 2-0 in the bottom of the second. That lead was squandered the next inning with two walks, a costly error by Hoyer, and a hit batsman tied the game at two. The tie was broken for good in the sixth inning when a bases loaded grounder by Winthrop pitcher Mike DiCato gave Rally for Ali the 3-2 lead. An insurance run was tacked on in the 9th thanks to an overthrow on a steal attempt and Rally for Ali walked away with the 4-2 win.
However, this game was not about winning. It was about something more. It was about sitting on the grass, breathing the brisk air, eating the two-dollar hot dogs. It was about watching players playing just to play. Babson pitcher Sam Whalen 08 summed it up best.
It means a lot, basically this is like the purest form of the game right now. Its just a bunch of kids coming out here, having fun, playing baseball because they love it. Nobodys getting paid or anything, this is just for the love of the game.
It is ballplayers like them, and a community like Cambridge that show that no matter how many lumps baseball takes, it could never die. Baseball truly is an American pastime.