Tag:Jack Giarmo
Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:03 pm

Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Falcons!

Loved ones are gathering, turkeys are basting and, today, we're counting our blessings. So, if I may, allow me to offer the prayer:

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Just because you walk up to the drinking fountain ... doesn't mean you'll get a drink of water. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

I was thinking of this Saturday as, through texts from friends over the miles, I was tracking my old high school football team's semi-final win, which puts them in Friday's state finals. Seriously, this prayer often was uttered at the start of Biology class by Brother Marius, a balding, compact man with a big hairlip and a booming voice that rattled the windows. Looking back, he was straight from central casting.

We were just freshmen then, and I wondered at the time what the heck kind of prayer this was. You wonder about a lot of things through life. Some of them, you figure out. Many, you don't.

Last Thanksgiving, after a beautiful day with my family at home in California, I took a redeye flight back to Michigan to watch the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central High School Falcons battle in their second state title game under Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate and buddy, on the day after Thanksgiving.

I'd give anything to be there in Detroit's Ford Field again this year. Except, two weeks ago, my wife -- same one who keeps things running so smoothly at home when I'm spending half the baseball season on the road -- underwent a hip replacement surgery. So now nursing duties are keeping me close to home, no matter how great the temptation is to board another jet.

She's awfully young for this kind of procedure. Then again, one of those things you figure out through life is to protect your investments. And it cost me $50 to marry her.

That was the bill that came due from one of those classic high school summer evenings so many years ago involving close friends who over the years have become blood brothers. We all had summer jobs back then and, with senior year closing in, we'd gather at Eebs' house after work four or five nights a week for pickup basketball games on his backyard court under the stars. We played, and talked, for hours.

Eebs, Sam, Ollie, Wildman (long story), Bob, Jerry ... when the games finished, the jawing began. "Your girlfriend has you so whipped you can't even go out with us one night this weekend, can you?" "You're going to be the first one of us married because you can't even get a date now. First girl you can get to go out with you after high school, you'll marry." High school stuff, from those simple times when anything seems possible, when the world appears no more complicated than a pop math quiz.

Out of one of those nights, over delivery pizza and still-under-construction dreams, came the bet: First six guys to marry had to present a check for $50 to the rest of us at the reception (hey, $50 was big bucks back then). Jerry's mother worked in a bank. We opened an account. Last man standing got the $300 at his wedding.

It took 15 years to settle that bet as each of us followed his own path and made his own way (I was the fifth guy married, finishing two places out of the money. Damn!).

There's a line in the Rob Reiner film Stand By Me, last line of the movie, in which the narrator says: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. ... Jesus, does anyone?"

Plug in 16 instead of 12, and, bingo.

I never felt more alive than I did on some of those high school nights when, with full heart and clear mind, surrounded by pals who were becoming friends for life, I felt what it must be like when the concrete in a housing foundation is curing.

Now, some guys play fantasy football. When I'm finished covering baseball for the season, and especially when I come home after the World Series, my fantasy football team remains the same as always: Jack's Falcons.

From then, when he was an All-State player himself, to now, he's built a strong, tough program predicated on the tradition of the past and the school values that made so many of us what we are today -- hard work, respect, sportsmanship, no short cuts. (Same stuff that helped the school's girls' volleyball team win a state title on Saturday).

Mike Pannone, Jack Cusumano, Edmund Shinevarre, Anthony Gaynier, Robby Cardella, Zack Moore ... I do not personally know the boys on today's team. But I know them, because I know the small-town, tight-knit community that produced them.

Nick Wilson, I sort of know him because his mother, Kaye-Lani, also was a classmate. And it turns out, sometimes Miss America (1988) is even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside. Who knew? I close my eyes and I can still see the cheerleaders all riding in her orange jeep the fall of our senior year, Kaye-Lani at the wheel, as we dragged ourselves through another cross country practice.

It was an all-boys' school of only 400 students when I was there, and the all-girls' school with which it's since merged was a block away (but Lord, surrounded by 25 other boys in Brother Marius' class, sometimes those girls seemed like they were 1,000 miles away).

I count those priceless days, and that school, among my many, many blessings today. Because we all need to get our footing early in life to stand a chance later.

Those friends I made back then remain a source of strength today. Eebs, now an orthopedic surgeon, has been a gift, an incredibly valuable sounding board over the past year throughout my wife's hip ordeal. Wildman, who has battled epilepsy throughout his life, underwent brain surgery in September and, before he went under, told me he really thought that my mother's famous chocolate chip cookies -- the ones we devoured by the dozens when we were kids -- would aid in his healing process. She delivered, and Wilds is doing great.

This weekend, she's promised to deliver me some pumpkin pie. With my wife and me still housebound, my parents are coming in for Thanksgiving, as are my brother, his wife and their baby. It's going to be a great weekend, filled with love, laughs and, thankfully, improving health. Blessings are abundant, up to and including the fact that we're so fortunate to be living in a time when modern medicine has conquered hip problems.

But there will come a time on Friday afternoon when a part of me will be back in Michigan, missing a whole bunch of friends -- extended family, really -- who will be in a Ford Field "whiteout" (the team will wear white jerseys and white pants, and the school is selling white T-shirts for $5,), willing the Falcons to a state title.

The game will be telecast on FoxSports Detroit, and I may be able to do even better than watching it online. Among my hundreds of cable channels, it looks like one of the channels in the sports package is picking up the telecast.

We're all products of where we come from, and this week, as it did last year, SMCC has asked alumni to send messages to the team. To that extent, I've got three things:

1. Reach for the stars as you move through life and never, ever settle for anything less.

2. If you do lose $50 in some crazy high school bet involving girls, trust me, it could turn into the best $50 you've ever spent. Good hip, or bad.

3. Just because you walk up to the drinking fountain, it doesn't mean you're going to get a drink of water. But as you move through life, quite often, you do. And those happy times can quench some of the greatest thirst you'll ever have, and you'll figure out what this means as you go.

To all, a blessed and rich Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter and good health.

And, to the Falcons: Go get 'em!


Posted on: October 3, 2010 10:26 pm

Gutsy Padres put on heck of a show

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the end, a $40 million payroll was good for 29th in the majors, 90 victories and one big heartbreak on the final Sunday of the season.

The Padres pushed the Giants to the brink of a one-game playoff back in San Diego on Monday, but couldn't push them over the edge. San Francisco's 3-0 win here Sunday earned the Giants the NL West title, and Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave the Braves the NL wild-card berth.

The Padres head home for the winter after a summer of vastly exceeding expectations.

Even in losing, this was one special team.

"It shows that if you have a bunch of guys committed to the team concept, you can compete in this league," second baseman David Eckstein said, "We had a good mix of guys. That's the tough thing about it.

"Because no one is going to care because we didn't make it."

Sad truth is, Eckstein probably is right -- but he should be wrong.

What the Padres did should have been headline news. They were the game's best story throughout the season.

They were the perfect team for these roiling economic times. They stretched their budget. They made more with less. They were responsible and paid attention to small details.

"A lot of clubs out there, small-market clubs, I'd love for them to take a page out of what we did," Eckstein said. "It proves anything is possible."

The Padres held first place from June 18 through September 16.

They and the Yankees were the only clubs to not lose more than three consecutive games until the Padres were ambushed by a 10-game losing streak beginning on Aug. 26 that ultimately became a mortal wound.

"It's a team game made up of individual battles," manager Bud Black said. "This truly was a team in the sense that guys cared about each other. The unselfishness. Guys understood what I was doing and what the coaches were doing.

"It was fabulous how strong, as a group, the team concept was. It was awesome."

The whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. And as these Padres quietly prepared for their final charter flight home of 2010, though it was a somber clubhouse, there was pride in what they had accomplished.

"I'm never one to be disappointed at the end of the year," said slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who now, along with closer Heath Bell, probably will re-enter the trade rumors market this winter. "You give it your all. When you play your heart out every day, you have nothing to hang your head about.

"Whether we came up one game short or 10 games short, I gave it all I had.

Likes: The Giants are deserving champions. Totally revamped lineup, and together with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Co. will be tough in the playoffs. ... Every time I come to San Francisco, the beauty of AT & T Park hits me all over again. ... On to the playoffs. ... Michaelangelo's Café in North Beach. ... Congratulations to Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate, for notching his 100th win as Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central rolled over Grosse Ile 49-13 on the high school football fields Friday night. Coach Jack has the Falcons rolling again, I love it.

Dislikes: It's always a severe and harsh split when a baseball season ends. People you see practically every day of the summer, suddenly, you're done seeing some of them until next February, March or April. Reaching the end of a season is kind of like reaching the end of the school year. It's been a long grind and you're happy to be done, but you'll miss seeing a lot of friends. Looking forward to seeing some of those friends over these next several weeks in the playoffs.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Educated in a small town
"Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
"Used to daydream in that small town
"Another born romantic that's me
"But I've seen it all in a small town
"Had myself a ball in a small town
"Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town
"Now she's small town just like me"

-- John Mellencamp, Small Town

Posted on: November 25, 2009 1:56 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2009 2:29 pm


This long weekend, we give thanks. For all sorts of things. ...

 For turkey and dressing. Because after a 162-game season, man needs something other than hot dogs and beer.

 For loving (and understanding) family and friends. Because, really, you can only cuddle up to the Rally Monkey or your authentic Derek Jeter jersey for so long.

 For the Yankees' 27th World Series title. Because their long-suffering fans have been so patient and understanding during such a drastic drought.

 For wall-to-wall football on the big-screen TV during Thanksgiving weekend. Because as much fun as it is to watch football, it also reminds us of how much we're missing when the baseball season goes dark.

 For childhood memories at the holidays that continue to keep you warm all those decades later. Playing football with your brother in a soft snowfall in the vacant yard next door that seemed so big then and looks so small now. Watching the Lions lose again (yes, even back then) while mom -- every bit the artist in the Thanksgiving kitchen that Picasso was with a brush -- put the finishing touches on dinner. Nighttime dominoes and pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. No school, wide-open days and Christmas around the corner.

 For CC Sabathia. Because even the Yankees are likeable behind his smile.

 For Cy Young races as close as the NL this year with the Tim Lincecum-Chris Carpenter-Adam Wainwright finish. Because it is things like this that give us something to argue about all winter, which sure beats discussing your wife's plans for the kitchen remodel or your daughter's unlimited texting plan!

 For the game No. 163 that the Twins and Tigers gave us in October. We knew then that there was no way any other postseason game was going to match that one in terms of drama and emotion, and we were right. For anybody with a pulse, it was one of the great moments of the season. Or, as Orlando Cabrera called it, the "most unbelievable game I've ever played or seen."

 For the Angels' Torii Hunter, the Twins' Joe Mauer, free agent Jason Bay, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, the Tigers' Curtis Granderson, the Brewers' Trevor Hoffman and the many other good people in the game who have given back to their community over and over again, reminding us why a big league club can be so valuable to a community.

 For the Web site The Sports Pickle, which keeps us howling at times throughout the year with "stories" like this one: MLB to Complete Long-Awaited 1994 Season.

 For crazy folks like the guy who voted Detroit's Miguel Cabrera first on his AL MVP ballot, the only one of 28 voters who didn't have Mauer first. Because it is mistakes like this that make us realize that when we do bone-headed things on our own, we're not alone. The only explanation I can think of is that Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News in Japan -- he's based in Seattle and covers the Mariners -- turned in his ballot before the final weekend of the season, when Cabrera pulled an all-nighter and police were summoned to his home to quell a domestic disturbance with the Tigers battling to hang onto their AL Central lead. Because given that stunt, Cabrera not only didn't deserve a first-place vote, he didn't deserve to be on the 10-deep ballot.

 For two years' worth of touring from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, whose odyssey just closed on Sunday night in Buffalo, N.Y., leaving many of us to ponder when we'll ever attend another concert that matches that level.

 For Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Because we all need living museums.

 For the two wacky managers in Chicago, Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. Because they're so passionate, and so entertaining.

 For Christmas being just around the corner. Because you know several cool surprises are just around the corner. And look, here's one now. You've got to check out this crazy Bob Dylan video from his new Christmas album. It'll put a smile on your face for the rest of the day, I promise.

 For good health, good cheer and good friends.

 To all who come around here regularly, whether to cheer or to boo, thanks. And a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Likes: A hearty shout-out to the Falcons of Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, who clipped Constantine 23-17 in a Michigan state football semifinal on Saturday and will play for the state title on Friday against No. 1-ranked Montague at Detroit's Ford Field. Congratulations to the Falcons and old classmate and friend Coach Jack Giarmo, whose work with a proud program continues to be top-shelf. Go get 'em on Friday, fellas. Go green! Scouting report is here (from the good guys' perspective, of course).

Dislikes: Still looking for a reasonable last-minute airfare to get to Friday's title game. Still looking. ... Still looking. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Catholic Central hats off to thee
"To your colors true we will ever be
"Firm and strong, united are we
"Rah, rah, rah, rah
"Rah, rah, rah, rah
"Rah for the Falcon team"

-- Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School fight song

Hey, the state title game is this week. We gotta go with this one.


Posted on: November 17, 2008 4:48 pm

Pujols hoping to avoid major elbow surgery

The most-watched elbow in St. Louis is doing fine right now, thank you very much, Albert Pujols says.

But as he rehabs after undergoing a mid-October procedure to relieve nerve irritation in his troubled right elbow, Pujols said Monday that there remains a "25 percent chance" that he'll still need Tommy John ligament transfer surgery.

It's what the newly minted NL Most Valuable Player has been hoping to avoid for the past couple of seasons and, despite the outpatient procedure he had last month, there's a part of him that sounds like he's still holding his breath.

"Hopefully I don't have to have the Tommy John surgery," Pujols said. "There's a 25 percent chance I'll still have to have it."

But there is no way to know "until I get on the field and perform and see how it is."

Doctors estimate that Pujols would miss half-a-season if he undergoes the ligament transfer procedure.

So for now, he's rehabilitating the elbow from the procedure he underwent in October. His second MVP award might even be more remarkable than his first, which he won in 2006, because he played all season with a bad elbow.

"The worst part was the last two months," Pujols said. "It was really tingling. I was more uncomfortable with that than with the pain. I was used to the pain.

"But after the game, sometimes I wouldn't be able to feel my pinky (finger)."

Pujols said he hopes his doctor clears him to begin lifting weights soon after Thanksgiving.

Likes: It's on to the Michigan state high school football semifinals for the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, who staged another miraculous last few minutes in Friday's 18-14 win over Manchester. Kudos not only to the kids, who have the heart of a lion, but to Coach Jack Giarmo, who started this season with a very young team (eight sophomore starters) and continues what might be the best coaching job of his career.

Dislikes: Every fall, scorching hot, dry conditions cause these devastating Southern California wildfires, and lives change in the snap of a finger. When you have a second, say a prayer for everyone in Orange County and Los Angeles whose lives have been thrown into chaos these last few days. Heartbreaking picture on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today of a young boy hugging his dog on in the burned-out wreckage of what once was his neighborhood.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day

"Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down the tracks
You don't know where you're goin'
But you know you won't be back
Darlin' if you're weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We'll take what we can carry
And we'll leave the rest
Big Wheels rolling through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Land of Hope and Dreams

Category: MLB
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