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Bonus factoids, footage and words from the Middletown Press sports desk.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

MONDAY: It's only Monday? Transfers, Spartans and some All-Tourney talent

Happy Monday to you all! Hope you're enjoying the least enjoyable day of the week ... at least there's some things poppin' in the Middletown Press office that should catch your eye.

These Middletown Post 75 kids won't let go of their spot on the sports cover easily. Colin Sledzik and Yuri Morin were named to the American Legion All-Tournament team (Norwalk went on to win the title, FYI).

Big news from the gridiron: Middletown running back Shacor Privott withdrew from MHS, and he'll play at a Massachusetts prep school this fall. Middletown coach Sal Morello didn't even see it coming.

It's Monday morning, and that means musings from Mr. Bransfield. His thoughts on Post 75, the Privott problem, and (as always) much more. Check it out.

THIS IS SPARTA! Er, Middletown. The Middletown Spartans, that is. They've dropped two in a row, and coach Jim Greco knows they can't get away with mistakes. Read up some more on the local NEFL Triple-A football team.

Erik Bedard has had a tough season, but the Red Sox are hoping the lefty (who played against the Sox a lot when he was an Oriole) can help mark up a few more W's before the playoffs. Get the deets here.

OH! And you're must-see vid of the day, courtesy of CollegeHumor. "Soccer Trick Shot Fail."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

WATCH LIVE: Middletown vs. Branford, American Legion State Tournament

Middletown American Legion taking on defending champ Branford, watch it live:

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

THURSDAY: It's all Middletown Legion, folks

So we were fighting deadline hard Wednesday night, but we got the Middletown-Stamford result in Thursday's paper and, boy, was it a doozy. If you haven't already heard, Middletown walloped Stamford to the tune of 17 hits, and Tommy Ryan threw 10 strikeouts in a complete-game effort that I suspect was inspired by teammate Colin Sledzik.

Now they've got Branford, the defending champs, at Muzzy Field. Middletown certainly has momentum, but can they get another dazzling pitching performance? We'll soon find out.
  • FYI: Here's the deal on how the tourney will play out. The winner of Middletown-Branford will go on to play Norwalk Friday at Muzzy Field. Norwalk still hasn't lost, though, so for Middletown or Branford to win the state title, they would need to defeat Norwalk twice (again Sunday). A hefty task, indeed, especially because Norwalk has been described as the far-and-away the best team in the tournament.
Anything can happen, folks.

Who but a pair of Posties for Athletes of the Week? If timing wasn't a factor, Tommy Ryan would be in there for his dominating performance Wednesday. But Yuri Morin and Colin Sledzik are just as deserving. Video interviews for each of the boys, check 'em out. 


Lost in all of this is a great story from an East Haddam golfer named Ellie Dutch, who left the sport of golf for four full years when she attended college. She's back and wowing the amateur circuit, and currently looking to qualify for the LPGA Futures Tour. Read more on the 23-year-old Ellie here.

But of course, you're sports video of the day. Middletown native Joey Logano and ESPN's Skip Bayless. Enough said.

LISTEN LIVE: Middletown vs. Stamford

Listen live to Middletown vs. Stamford below, start time 6:30 p.m. Winner moves on to a showdown with Branford for a chance to play Norwalk in the final. For additional coverage, be sure to follow @jdpelletier (or just check out the widget to the right).

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Middletown cruised by Bristol in the previous round, get the recap here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WEDNESDAY: Middletown Post 75 boys alive and kicking

It's turning into one of those stories, and has potential to become something outstanding.

Middletown Post 75 was one out from a season-ending loss against Southington, but they came back. Tuesday, the boys clobbered Bristol at Palmer Field in the American Legion State Tournament. Now, they'll take on Stamford (who they lost two in the second game of the tourney) in a do-or-die game, and look to continue their Legion story.

Really great baseball from the Middletown boys. Get the latest recap from Jim Bransfield here.

They'll play at Muzzy Field at 6:30 p.m. tonight, battling a tough Stamford team. Stamford, though, actually lost to Norwalk after giving up an 8-0 (!?!?!?) lead. Ouch. It was their first loss in this double-elimination tourney.

Be sure to follow @jdpelletier for the latest updates on the boys in blue.

OH, and while you're here, a stupendous rugby catch:


Monday, July 25, 2011

TUESDAY: Comeback kids, NFL ends lockout

Holy mackerel. No words to describe Middletown's comeback against Southington (OK, I suppose these 600 words do it). On the brink of elimination, Post 75 gets two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Crazy.

After 18 weeks, NFL lockout is over. As John Madden would say, "Boom."

Middletown's playing tonight at 6:30 against Bristol. Six teams remain in the tournament. Get all that info here, from the Connecticut American Legion Baseball crew.

And while you're here, get a look at Middletown's walk-off win from Monday, and the ensuing celebration:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

MONDAY: Legion tourney (Stamford?!?!), Burt Blyleven, and the sinking Mariners

THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT OFF THE BAT:
  • Middletown Post 75 lost to a streaking Stamford team on Sunday
  • Burt Blyleven is the first pure starting pitcher to be inducted into the HoF since Nolan Ryan
  • The biggest news in the MLB is that the Mariners suck
But really. They do. They lost their 15th straight game Sunday, this one to the BoSox. Ouch.

More locally, you may remember Stamford Legion. They trounced RCP in the play-in round. Then they trounced No. 1 seed and DEFENDING CHAMPION Branford. And most recently, they trounced Middletown. Whole lot of trouncing going on.

Middletown plays today against Southington at 3:30 p.m., and it's all on the line. Win or go home.

Roberto Alomar and Burt Blyleven are Hall of Famers. Boom.

The Sandman had a scare, but he'll be OK. Thuhhhhh Yankees win. (Doesn't have the same zing when you're reading it, I know).

I'll be at the Middletown game tomorrow. Definitely live-tweeting, maybe even live-streaming. Tweet me questions @jdpelletier, I just might answer them.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(Thank God it's) FRIDAY: A history lesson

A little history, coming at ya!

As the American Legion state tourney kicks off, we brought back some nostalgia for the print edition. Give it a look-see. Anyway, Middletown has a Saturday night showdown with Avon, get the preview here.

The NFL lockout is almost over ... perhaps. Kind of. But there WAS a step in the right direction Thursday, as owners voted for an agreement. Now, the players need to approve it, and then, kickoff. And wings. And beer. Lots of beer. Get the full story here.

Sox were off, Yanks didn't make deadline (but here's the story -- they got beat by one James Shields).

So RCP wrapped up their season, and we thought to bring you some pics from their season, which really was a good one. Good pitching, a lot of fun play (remember when Dan Bouchard hit the first homer in two seasons??)

For the season in review bit, click here. For some video, look below.

THURSDAY: Ousted and Athletes

RCP one and done, Athletes of the Week, and some good golf highlights Thursday's sports cover.

One local Legion team's season is done. RCP got cremated by Stamford at home (at least they can spread the ashes on their home turf). These guys have had horrid playoff luck -- last year they were the No. 1 seed in the state, and lost two straight in the main draw for an extremely early exit.

Scorching hot day, and the Red Sox scorched the O's Wednesday. Yanks couldn't make the print deadline, but Curtis Granderson helped them to a win as well.

And, of course, your Thursday special ... the Middletown Press Athletes of the Week. Dave Grande was the lone bright spot in RCP's loss, getting on base four times. Look for him in a Quinnipiac baseball uniform this upcoming year. The female athlete is an outstanding golfer from East Haddam, Ellie Dutch. You may remember her as the lone female of the Hale-Ray boys golf team back in 2006. She finished ninth in the New England Amateur in Kensington on Wednesday.

But more on the New England Amateur here.

And for a little extra, this RCP-Stamford picture from photo editor Catherine Avalone. Check out the dirt trail leading to the ball!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WEDNESDAY: Today's cover & top stories

It's do-or-die for RCP today. They'll take on Stamford in the American Legion single-elimination play-in tournament. If they win, they'll move onto the double-elimination final draw. Starting pitcher will be Paul Francis, according to Hickey. Get the full preview here, courtesy of Jim Bransfield.

Junior Legion doesn't get a lot of attention, but Middletown Post 75 Juniors won their zone, making Middletown the only program to win junior and senior zone titles. Check it out.

Joey Logano wasn't in town, but his merch trailer was. Check out some pics and vid from Portland yesterday, where NASCAR fans and Logano fans were out in full force.

The tech school saga continues, and all the schools can do is wait with bated breath. Latest here.

Today's vid comes from Portland, and some NASCAR "experts."

Monday, July 18, 2011

TUESDAY: Today's cover and top stories (plus your American Legion tourney preview video)

Lots of local happenings on today's cover, including a closer look at the future of the Vinal Tech-East Hampton co-op football team. Interesting part about this story is that no one is really sure what the future holds, or how the rules will be bent or stretched. Get the story here.

Another local bit is the plan for locker room facilities for Middletown High's football and track programs. The $750,000 bonding plan would include two locker rooms, MHS AD Mike Pitruzello said. Get some deets here.

RCP will host the winner of Enfield and Stamford Wednesday. Read the staff report, but far more importantly, watch the preview video featuring Jim Bransfield and yours truly, Joe Pelletier. It's must-see stuff. (Embedded below, and in the original post).

Last local bit is Jim Bransfield's look at the Ahern-Whaler baseball feature, a local league that's been around for 62 years. Their playoffs start up next week, get the full story here.

Got a better headline for the Maya Moore story about having the most popular WNBA jersey? Let's hear it in the comment section below.




Sunday, July 17, 2011

MONDAY: Today's cover & top stories

Big things popping on Sunday, namely the World Cup final and the British Open final round. Big winners on the day were Japan (NOT the US, sadly), and Northern Irishman Darren Clarke.

At 42 years old, Clarke was in his 20th British Open appearance, but proved that even a "normal bloke," as he said, could win it. Read the full story here.

U.S. women's team was stunned. So was I. It seemed they were destined to win, and even heading into penalty kicks, they'd win it. But somehow, someway, Japan turned the tide. Goalie Ayumi Kaihori was outstanding, and Japan won. Mind blown. Read the great story from Nancy Armour of the Associated Press, who produced really great, compelling stories throughout the World Cup.


Monday Morning Musings from Jim Bransfield rounds out the cover, and he's got some analysis of the upcoming American Legion baseball tournament (for both Middletown and RCP), as well as some thoughts on Vinal Tech losing athletics. Give it a read here.

Oh quote of the day comes from the Darren Clarke and his claret jug. A pint for the Irishman, eh?

"There might be lots of nice, Irish black stuff in this trophy this evening."

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP: Preview of today's final

Haven't gotten to see Japan in action, but remember they knocked off host team (and favorite) Germany earlier. But they're fast and offensive. Look for the Japanese team to get one by Hope, but I think the U.S. can win it.

Joe's Prediction: U.S. 3, Japan 1. What's yours? Comment below.

Here's ESPN's preview:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

REILLY: Why Dustin Johnson needs to win a major

ESPN's Rick Reilly makes a darn good case why golf needs Dustin Johnson to win a major as much as Dustin Johnson needs Dustin Johnson to win a major. Oh, if you haven't seen Miguel Angel Jimenez's stretching routine, be sure to watch 1:12.



Darren Clarke is atop the leaderboard after a rainy Saturday. Full breakdown here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

FRIDAY: Today's cover & top stories

RCP and Middletown in action Thursday, and both of 'em picked up wins. I went to Beehive Stadium in New Britain for RCP's game, and caught one of the most ridiculous innings I've ever seen...13 batters up, seven runs scored, but only two hits. Full story here. Colin Sledzik was the man for Middletown against East Haddam, and 15 strikeouts (that's 15 in seven innings, mind you) was the reason why. Get more here.


British Open underway, and amateur Tom Lewis was tied for the lead after the first round. Out of nowhere, the 20-year-old shoots a 5-under 65. Read up on his story (and his unique relationship with Tom Watson, namesake and playing partner) here.


Major gaffe by some random prosecutor in the Clemens trial. Oh wait, that wasn't just some prosecutor, it was THE U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE. The government prosecutors submitted inadmissible evidence in the Clemens trial, prompting the judge to say, I paraphrase, "WTF?" (More accurately, right from the story, it was a mistake the "judge blamed on prosecutors and said a "first-year law student" would have known to avoid."


Owned. Full story here.



VIDEO: RCP's big inning

Thirteen batters up in the top of the fifth, and only two of them got hits. Unbelievable. Sloppy play, many walks from New Britain, and RCP took advantage. Get the full story here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Extras to this week's Athletes of the Week

OK, did something a little different with this week's AOW's, you'll notice. For Dan Bouchard (read more on him here), we did the usual interview, but added some lower thirds with additional info (high school, college, fun facts, etc.)

For Emily, who actually earned the All-American honorable mention last week but most definitely still deserves this honor, we had a ton of photos on file from her father, Eric. So we put together a slideshow, along with some lower thirds, for a quick and cool vid.

Like one? Like the other? Prefer one or the other? Let me know!

Dan Bouchard


Double props to you if you knew what actuarial science was. Met Dan for the interview before his game yesterday against Newington (it was actually rained out, but more on that here).


Emily Anderson


Here's the slideshow of Emily, one of H-K's most dominating lacrosse players ever (if you didn't read the feature on her last week, check it out).

THURSDAY: Today's cover & top stories

Again, the U.S. women's soccer team has captured the world's attention. Abby Wambach did it again, breaking a 1-1 tie and leading the women to a 3-1 victory over France. Now it's on to the finals, where they'll face Japan. (OH, check out three unique storylines coming from the U.S. women's team). We've got a quick look at some Legion standings ... RCP was rained out of a game Wednesday evening, but we break down what they'll need for the upcoming state tourney. American golf has been struggling, and not just because Tiger is down and out (OK, maybe because Tiger is down and out.) Will an American win the British Open? (First round action starts today).

Be sure the check out this week's Athletes of the Week, a pair of outstanding local grads heading to UConn next year. Dan Bouchard hit the first home run in two seasons for RCP Legion, and Emily Anderson was named an honorable mention All-American (a little tardy, we know, but she deserves it nonetheless).

A nice submitted photo of the First Tee Program rounds out the cover. Click here to learn more about it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP: Three unique storylines to go along with the U.S women's team

The United States women's soccer team may be able to party like it's 1999, the last time they made it to a World Cup final. A 3-1 win over France today reserved a spot in the final for the Americans. It's been a dramatic ride for the team, and here are three headlines off the field that drew some global attention:


NOT-SO-SECRET ADMIRER

(Yahoo) Hope Solo has a not-so-secret admirer. His name is Stefan Pfister, and he's kind of creepy. 
The 43-year-old from Dusseldorf plans to ask Solo to marry him with an elaborate banner that he will bring to the Borussia Park in Western Germany for the big game.
Here's the full story from Yahoo.


A NATION CELEBRATES (SHIRTLESS, APPARENTLY?)


(Yahoo) After Abby Wambach's dramatic goal in the quarterfinals against Brazil, journalist Robby Donoho compiled celebration videos from across the nation. People like to watch soccer without basic clothing articles like shirts, apparently. Here's the vid:



COVER-LESS


(Business Insider) Timing did in the women's team in terms of Sports Illustrated coverage. Because of the World Cup schedule, Sports Illustrated put Derek Jeter on the cover, not Wambach and the women's team. Here's what Terry McDonnell, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group, said:
"We were very tempted to go with the women's soccer team, but they could have been eliminated by the time the issue reached subscribers," he told The Wire by phone on Tuesday afternoon. "Imagine the story you'd write if that happened."
 Read the full story here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WEDNESDAY: Today's cover & top stories

Kemba was the big story in Middlesex County Tuesday, and he brought a cast with him to Cromwell. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and assistant coach Kevin Ollie (also a former award recipient) were there. Get the full recap here, courtesy of Press Correspondent Todd Kalif.

Special shoutout to photographer Steve McLaughlin, who took some outstanding photos at the event, including the two on the cover.

I headed out to Wallingford yesterday for some American Legion action, where Middletown Post 75 committed a few costly errors, opening the door for Wallingford to win it.

Big game for United States women's team today, taking on France at noon in semifinal action. According to wily veteran Abby Wambach, "losing is not an option." Watch it live on ESPN or on your computer at work (God forbid!) on ESPN3.

I'm an Elm City girl.
The return of Caroline Wozniacki is big Connecticut news. The world No. 1 will try for her fourth consecutive title in New Haven, and try to shake off her Slam jinx later this summer in New York City. I got you covered with my take on whether Wozniacki will ever break through in a major, and a special treat, some vids I shot last year when she was in New Haven.

Keep your eyes peeled for some footage from the Middletown-Wallingford Legion game, and be sure to hold your breath for Athletes of the Week ... that comes out tomorrow.

Happy Wednesday!

Caroline Wozniacki hopes for New Haven four-peat

Caroline's coming back to New Haven, giving me yet another chance to muster up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage.
Credit: Brad Horrigan

Just kidding. Kind of.

Here's the deal. She's won the last three Pilot Pen tournaments, and she's overcome some really tough opponents and matches in the process. But her rap, as you hopefully read in the story (if not, read it!) is that she's never won a Grand Slam. And she's No. 1 in the world. It's that giant, racket-wielding monkey on her back.

So she wins in New Haven, but not in the Slams. Concerned?

I'm not. Caroline just turned 21, and while that age isn't young and spry in professional tennis, it still gives her a lot of breathing room. Roger Federer won his first major when he was 22 at Wimbledon (TRIVIA: Beat Mark Philippoussis).

She's going to get her fair share of majors, although not the amount of Wimbledons that the Fed Express won, and not the amount of French Opens that Rafa won. She's a hardcourt player - she relies on court comfort and being able to unexpectedly bash up-the-line daggers on both wings. So keep an eye on her in the U.S. Open and the Aussie Open.

And in New Haven. Duh.

Extra, extra: two videos I shot of Caroline last year at Pilot Pen. Uno, battling Elena Dementieva in the semis. Dos, a press conference earlier in the tourney.



Blake Griffin, Kevin Love come to staggering realization they'll never make it as professional Jenga players

And if they didn't, God have mercy on their souls. ESPN, take it away:

Kemba brings down the house at Greater Hartford Pro-Am

This morning was a more formal affair for Connecticut's famed point guard Kemba Walker, with suits and ties and whatnot. But yesterday was pure Kemba, replete with basketball pinnies and 32 second-half points in a late arrival at the Greater Hartford Pro-Am. The Courant's Mike Anthony was there for the magic:

Late in the second quarter, with Hurley trailing by 20-something points, coach Kevin Kirksey received a text message from Kemba Walker reading, "On my way." Walker, who was conducting a camp in Glastonbury, arrived at halftime. So did Tyler Olander, Roscoe Smith and former UConn forward Ben Eaves.
Hurley trailed by 18 at the half and then by 28 in the first few minutes of the second half, when these celebrated players were still trying to get on the same page with Doug Wiggins and Mike Evanovich, who had carried the Hurley team before their arrival at Sport & Medical Sciences Academy. 
It became interesting, fun. Walker at one point made four consecutive three-pointers and finished with 32 points. Wiggins hit a few clutch shots and finished with 35. Smith had 17, including a spin for a forceful dunk. The deficit was twice cut to nine. The bleachers, once half empty, were now full because so many texted and tweeted about who had arrived.
Get the full story here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

TUESDAY: Today's cover and top stories

Couldn't get Robbie Cano's Derby win into today's paper by virtue of our 10:10 p.m. deadline, but we've got some Middletown Legion content and an All-Star preview. Middletown Post 75 dropped the ball Monday against Berlin with late errors. Jim Bransfield wrote a piece on Middletown Post 75's Junior Legion team, and they're actually doing quite well. Check it out here. And we've got the All-Star preview, complete with rosters and a pair of stories: (1) A look at pitchers Halladay and Weaver, and (2) an interesting piece on Rev. Jessie Jackson's call for All-Stars to speak out about Arizona immigration laws.

And if you're as enthralled with the US women's soccer team as I am, a look at their day following the most dramatic soccer win I've ever seen.

AND how could I forget Kemba. Be sure to check back with Middletown Press sports around 11 a.m. to read about Kemba's appearance at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

LEGION ROUNDUP: RCP gets first homer in recent memory, Middletown Post 75 drops the ball

RCP
Coach Jay Hickey hasn't been satisfied with many wins this year, citing lack of good, clutch hitting. But he was in high spirits after Monday's 5-2 win over Plainville, where Dan Bouchard boomed a two-run homer ... the first homer in two years for RCP Legion.

What's funnier, Hickey almost gave Bouchard the bunt signal during the at-bat, as Kevin Post was on first with no out. Give the full story a read here.

Middletown Post 75
Even though Post 75 won the zone title Sunday, coach Tim D'Aquila doesn't want them to slow down for a second:
We’re still trying to get wins,” D'Aquila said. “Every win you get, you’ll get a higher seed in the state tourney.”
So he wasn't happy with a couple of errors in the sixth that gave away a 2-1 lead to Berlin. Decent pitching and a late lead, but the miscues were just too much. Full story here.

ALSO, for those who remember when D'Aquila filed a formal complaint about a batter who left the basepath then returned, an update from Bransfield: Turned down.

Middletown Spartans release finalized schedule; Get a look at some gameplay

Just got the finalized schedule for the Middletown Spartans, the local New England League Football team (Triple-A Division), from coach Jim Greco. They'll be playing a few games at Palmer Field later in the season, and some more at Municipal Field by Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

The team recently moved up to the NEFL's Triple-A division, and Jim Bransfield was on the story. Read it here.


Week:
Date & Time
Opponent
Field Location:
1
07/16/11 1:00 PM
CT Gamblers
Plainfield Rams Field
47 School Street
Plainfield, CT 06374
2
07/23/11 4:00 PM
W. Mass Warriors
AIC
125 Cortland Street, Springfield, Ma
3
07/30/11  5:00 PM
Worcester Wildcats
WWMS
370 Hunting Hill Ave Middletown, Ct
4
08/06/11 5:00 PM
Whaling City Clippers
WWMS
370 Hunting Hill Ave Middletown, Ct
5
08/13/11 5:00 PM
Hartford Whalers
Dillon Stadium:
Huyshope Ave Hartford Ct
6
08/20/11
Tri-City Charge
7
08/27/11 6:00 PM
No. Shore Generals
Palmer Field:
1 Bernie O’Rourke Dr Middletown, Ct
8
09/10/11 6:30 PM
Worcester Wildcats:
Foley Stadium
305 Chandler St Worcester Ma
9
09/17/11 6:00 PM
Ct Gamblers
Palmer Field:
1 Bernie O’Rourke Dr Middletown, Ct
10
09/24/11 6:00 PM
W. Mass Warriors
Palmer Field:
1 Bernie O’Rourke Dr Middletown, Ct























And if you want a taste of the skill level, here's a recap from one of their games last season:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Today's cover and top stories

Today's Middletown Press sports cover...we've got an incredible comeback effort from the United States women's team, the short version of Jim's Legion title piece (got in an abbreviated version before deadline, here's the full piece), and of course, the immovable rock of Middletown Press sports, Jim's Monday Musings. RCP Legion and A-Rod's looming surgery finished it off.


Give it a click (then another with your magnifying glass cursor) to see it full-sized.

Bransfield: "You can have any other player you want. I'll take Derek Jeter."

Short and sweet from Jim Bransfield on Derek Jeter.
"He is Derek Jeter. You can have any other player you want. I'll take Jeter."
And believe you me, Jim knows his baseball ... especially his Yankees. And this week's portion of "Did You Know," Jim was at both Wells' and Cone's perfect games. WHAT!?!?
"I was in the ballpark for both David Wells' and David Cone's perfect games, I was there for Chris Chambliss' ninth-inning home run that beat the Royals in the 1976 ALCS final game, I was in Yankee Stadium for the World Series clincher over Atlanta in 1999 and over the Phillies in 2009, and I was there when Aaron Boone hit the home run in extra innings to beat the Red Sox in game seven of the ALCS in 2003. That remains the best, most dramatic, most exciting game in any sport I have ever seen. I still get emotional thinking about that magical night in da Bronx."
Holy Pinstripes! Read Jim's full musings here.

P.S. Sorry to Sox fans, but seeing how Jim brought it up...