By Rahsaan Thomas
Former major league pitcher Bill Lee helped the visiting San Rafael Pacifics to a 19-4 victory over the San Quentin All-Stars.
“The game was closer than it looks. Throw out the ninth inning,” said Lee. He was pointing out that the Pacifics led only 6-4 at the bottom of the eighth inning.
It was a mound battle between Lee and a cast of other Pacifics pitchers against All-Stars pitcher Jeff “Dewey” Dumont. Despite six errors, the All-Star squad – composed of Giants and A’s team members – put up a good fight until things fell apart in the ninth inning, when the Pacifics blew open a bottom-of-the-eighth two-point lead.
Lee played for the Boston Red Sox for 10 years and four for the Expos. He had 112 career wins, the third all time for a Red Sox lefty. He started games two and seven in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s always good when you can put your talent up against professionals and see how you measure up. After four innings, we’re measuring up well,” said Lt. Sam Robinson mid-game.
“For eight innings it was a close game; I’m proud of my team,” said All-Star Anthony “T-Tone” Denard.
The All-Stars planned to have Dumont pitch for all or most of the innings to improve on last year’s Pacifics match. The 2013 game was close until the fourth inning, when they switched Dumont out and things went badly for every pitcher after him. The Pacifics won that game, 17-3.
“The same team this year, but a better philosophy: That’s ride Dewey until the wheels fall off,” said teammate Chris Deragon.
“We’ll take the pitcher, if he pitches like he did last year,” said Pacifics Manager Danny DiPace about Dumont. The L.A. Dodgers signed DiPace, a New York native, out of high school. The Dodgers put him in the minors and then the Minnesota Twins picked him up. Now he just coaches the Pacifics, an independent professional baseball team.
The event had all the fanfare of any normal major league extravaganza. The S.Q. Honor Guard presented the colors, while Larry “Popeye” Faizon blew the national anthem on his horn. Lt. Robinson bounced the opening pitch into the dirt in front of the plate.
The Pacifics had their podcasters doing the play-by-play for pacificbaseball.com, while San Quentin’s Aaron “The Jeddii” Taylor did the play-by-play for the crowd. Steve Allen, who calls himself the silent owner, watched his team proudly from the sidelines, as did self-proclaimed “San Quentinite” Lt. Robinson.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing when both teams are just as passionate about it. It means the world,” said Pacifics pitcher Dan Rogers.
The 67-year-old Lee shut the All-Stars out for the first two innings with fastballs, screwballs and circle changes that he throws out of the same motion as his fastball.
As for staying active, Lee said, “Never take any year off. A body at rest stays at rest; a body in motion stays in motion — second law of thermal dynamics.” Lee’s uniform and hat are in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
“Lee is a gamer. He’s eternal youth. Mentally, he’s like us; he loves this game as much as us,” said Rogers.
In the first inning, the Pacifics had two men on base with two outs. Eric Bainer cracked a shot deep into the outfield that was caught by Denard, stopping any runs.
Top of two, Lee hit a RBI single with a shot down the first base line.
“We have a 14-year big leaguer and he’s batting with a hat in the back of his pants; you see something new every day,” clowned Rogers.
Evan Boyd followed with a single that made the score 2-0 Pacifics.
At the bottom of the second, Dumont banged Lee for a ground-rule double that bounced over the Indian Grounds fence. However, Dumont was stranded on base.
In the third, the Pacifics loaded the bases with two outs starting when Bainer knocked a double along the right field line. Then Matt Kavanaugh walked and Charlie Stewart smashed a single down the left field line. Chris Rice worked Dumont to a full count and was awarded a walk that brought in a run, making the score 3-0 Pacifics. The inning ended with three runners stranded when Lee hit the ball back to Dumont for the throw out at first.
“We’re good. It’s early,” said All-Star Christopher “Cuddy Bo” Smith, maintaining confidence in his team.
In the bottom of the third, the Pacific replaced Lee at the mound with Rogers, who the All-Stars were able to get on top of. Chris Marshall led off a double in the gap. John Windham followed with another double to left field that brought in Marshall. Then Windham stole third.
“The pitching change is good for us. He’s pitching at our level,” commented All-Star Michael Panella.
Ruben Harper walked. Then Giants All-Star Jose Sandoval smashed a fastball over the Education Building for a three-run homer, putting the All-Stars ahead, 4-3.
“My luck, I hit a homerun. I did what I can to help my team. Dewey is pitching a hell of a game. We just got to help him out,” Sandoval said modestly.
Denard hit a double, but was stranded as the inning ended on a popup.
“I left a couple of balls up that they put a bat on and won the battle. Part of pitching is bouncing back. I have one more inning — I’ll try to miss some bats,” said Rogers. He didn’t give up any more runs.
The Pacifics retook the lead in the fifth when Kavanaugh got a two-run homer, making the score 5-4.
“When it’s 3-0, you just swing as hard as you can. I got lucky,” commented Kavanaugh. “This is definitely a good ball club. They have athletes all around the field. You have to swing the bat to beat these guys.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the Pacifics put Harry Shapiro on the mound.
In the sixth, Dumont struck out Michael Orefice and Lee. “It was a little cold. It takes time to warm up and get into a groove,” said Dumont after the game.
Bainer hit another double in the seventh, which allowed teammate Kavanaugh to bring him in with a single, making the score 6-4. A foul ball hit Lee in the on-deck circle. “As old as I am, you don’t feel it. I played without a cup for 14 years and now you almost kill me,” joked Lee.
With men on first and third, Lee’s shallow hit got him thrown out at first, ending the top of the seventh.
The Pacifics switched pitchers again in the seventh, putting Michael Kershner on the mound to close out the game. He pitched with heat and didn’t give up any runs.
“That guy’s got too much heat for these guys. Maybe if they had a few innings to look at him, a few might hit,” said S.Q. resident Danny Plunkett.
“They keep switching up (pitchers) so we can’t get accustomed to them,” noticed Harper about the Pacifics. “We need to get our pitching staff up.”
The Pacifics got two more runs off Dumont in the eighth. With the score 8-4, the All-Stars took Dumont off the mound in exchange for Mario Ellis. Dumont threw 154 pitches, struck out three batters, gave up 14 hits, 8 runs, and 3 walks.
Dumont never played pro. He started playing baseball as a “wee tyke” and in the American Legion from ages 16-19.
“The guy who started was a good pitcher — he battled,” said Ryan Dejesus of the Pacifics.
“A flock of geese just came in; even they know the game is over,” comically commented Taylor after the pitcher switch.
Ellis didn’t fare better than even a tired Dumont. Ellis gave up nine runs, including a homer to Boyd. The errors the All-Stars made in the final inning didn’t help matters.
“They are studs at bat. They had me dialed in plus I have kids older than they are,” said Ellis.
Ellis, 43, played for professionally for the independent Pulaski Braves in Pulaski, Va., after playing for USCB Bakersfield and the Ashland traveling team out of San Andro.
For the All-Stars’ last chances at bat, the Pacifics put Rice on the mound. The All-Stars went three up and three down, with two batters striking out.
“There is no big secret to baseball — throw some strikes, catch the ball and don’t give anybody an extra out. It’s the extra outs that kill ya,” said DiPace.
“I think we needed to make sure the game isn’t too fast for us and calm our nerves. We played a good game for nine innings. Still fun regardless of the outcome,” said inmate coach Frank Smith
“You guys are like a lot of guys. You just made the wrong choices. Baseball is a game of failure, but you always have another shot if you never give up. So baseball teaches you to keep going through tough times, don’t give up and you can succeed,” said DiPace. “I think we should do more of this stuff. It’s something to look forward to and keep them going.”
DiPace’s father played basketball for Syracuse University against Sing Sing prisoners back in the days.
“Great experience — getting all the stories and chatting. We hope to do this every year. We also have a new team we may bring in called the Sonoma Stompers,” said part-owner Allen.
“Bring them and we’ll whip them,” Dumont said, challenging the Stompers.
“Words can’t describe this. I grew up playing this sport and watching it on TV. I’m gonna tell my kids about this. It makes us feel like human beings. Makes you want to do the right thing — get a job, coach some kids,” commented Smith.
“The sportsmanship out here is better. Everybody bonding over a love of baseball. Good old-fashioned backyard game,” said Bainer.