Some baseball news on this snowy day, courtesy of the PawSox and the International League:
The International League announced Tuesday, Jan. 25, that Steve Balboni, Wade Boggs, and Cal Ripken, Jr., will be inducted into the circuit's Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2011. All three players starred in the International League during the early 1980's, and they now comprise the first Class elected to the IL Hall by a vote of current Hall of Fame members, along with longtime executives, broadcasters, and members of the media.
Let's see. The Eagles beat the Giants 38-31 today after trailing 31-10 in the third quarter. DeSean Jackson did his Muhammad Ali impersonation, begging the Giants' punter to keep the ball in-bounds with 14 seconds left, and then he ran 65 yards for the winning touchdown. He is the greatest (kick returner).
Jackson is a very modern player with enormous talent. Nobody makes more big plays in the open field than this guy. He was a bit of a troubled student-athlete in college at California and fell to the second round, where the Eagles took a chance on him.
Tolman High and the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club conducted their annual Tip-Off hoop tournaments last week. Tolman hosted the James Donaldson Memorial Tournament while the Boys & Girls Club offered up the Dennis M. Lynch, Jr. Memorial event.
I got to spend a little time with the sons of both Pawtucket hoop legends. Fellow sports writer Jim Donaldson watched his alma mater edge Shea in the championship game on Friday night. We talked about regular sports stuff like Cam Newton and the Heisman Trophy, and then about Jim's long association with the Tolman High gymnasium.
In this era of baseball free agency, championships are sometimes won in the offseason.
The Red Sox certainly made themselves the team to beat in the American League when they got Carl Crawford to agree on a 7-year contract worth a reported $142 million late Wednesday night. Crawford will take his physical in Boston on Friday and sign the contract soon after.
GM Theo Epstein can now focus on signing one more strong arm for his bullpen and then take it easy.
CRANSTON -- Some thoughts on Woonsocket's 28-14 victory over Tolman in Sunday's Division II Super Bowl:
Woonsocket just had too many weapons, too many ways to win the game, than Tolman did. The Villa Novans had a big size advantage in the middle of both lines, they had way more seniors than Tolman in their starting lineup, and they had a better game plan.
While the imminent arrival of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston is the big news of the today, itâ€™s not the only tidbit of info regarding the ball club.
Reliever Rich Hill, who along with fellow pitcher Chad Paronto were at McCoy Stadium Saturday for the PawSoxâ€™ Kids Christmas party, told Blackstone Valley Sports that he will be returning to the Red Sox organization for 2011.
â€śWe agreed to a deal about five weeks ago and Iâ€™m looking forward to (returning),â€ť said Hill, a native of Milton, Mass.
Scratch another catcher off the Red Soxâ€™ list, as Pittsburgh inked Dusty Brown to a minor-league deal Wednesday. Brown was perceived a long shot to return to Boston in 2011 â€“ he was out of options and removed from the 40-man roster â€“ but his chances were thought to have improved after Victor Martinez signed with Detroit last week.
Instead, Brown gets a fresh start with a new team. Drafted by the Sox in 2000, Brown made his major-league debut in 2009. He appeared in 13 games with Boston over the past two seasons, batting .267 with a .313 on-base percentage and one home run.
"This is the biggest football game these two schools have ever played against each other," Tolman athletic director John Scanlon said before his Tigers kicked off to St. Raphael Academy on Tuesday night.
Scanlon was emphasizing the fact that these two former Thanksgiving rivals had never met in a playoff game before. They did on Tuesday night and Tolman pulled away to a 25-12 victory before an estimated 1,200 fans at Max Read Field.
Tolman coach Dave Caito sounded pleased when he talked about the game on Wednesday afternoon.
Usually I stay away from making predications, particularly on the high school front. Still, with so many area teams competing in Tuesday nightâ€™s semifinal round, I thought it would be a good as time as any to gaze into the crystal ball.
With that in mind, hereâ€™s one reporterâ€™s feeling on what may transpire this evening (home team in caps):
TOLMAN 21, St. Raphael 7
This wonâ€™t be the blowout we saw in September, yet it wonâ€™t be close to the point that the game comes down to the final five minutes.
Woonsocket 35, CHARIHO 14
On a day in which the Big East Conference got even bigger with the addition of Texas Christian University, Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll believes the move can only serve as a boon for the basketball schools.
â€śI think (the addition of TCU) helps us because it solves some of the football issues,â€ť said Drsicoll. â€śWithout it, it probably causes more stress. If Villanova goes in the director of major college football, then I think weâ€™ll be in very good shape.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was not uncommon for thousands of people to jam McCoy Stadium for the Tolman-SRA Thanksgiving Game. In the 1970s, the R.I. Interscholastic League engineered a playoff system that evolved from two teams participating from each division to four in the current era (with eight in the 16-team Division II).
One of the effects of these playoffs has been the diminished appeal of Thanksgiving games to local football fans. When the Tolman-SRA rivalry died 10 years ago, crowds had fallen to less than 1,000 per game. The Shea-Tolman rivalry draws about half that many.
Here's a scouting report from River Avenue Blues on Mason Williams, who lived in Pawtucket until he was 13 before moving to Florida, where he became a star baseball player drafted in the fourth round last June by the New York Yankees:
Rhode Islandâ€™s mixed martial arts community lost one of its premier figures and founding fathers early Monday morning when Pawtucket native Manny Neves passed away. He was 45.
Neves wore many hats in the fight business. He was an MMA fighter, Muay Thai fighter, and kickboxer. He was a trainer, a gym owner, and during the 2000s (when MMA shows werenâ€™t allowed in Rhode Island), a promoter of several Massachusetts events.
Lincoln High football coach Dave Waycott confirmed on Friday morning that his team's Division III semifinal-round playoff game against the Moses Brown School will take place at Brown University's Berylson Field (the practice field for the Bears' football team) at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
The field, which is part of the Erickson Athletic Complex, is located near the university's baseball and soccer fields.
Just got off the phone with East Providence native Davey Lopes, a solid baseball man as any youâ€™ll come across. After a 10-minute discussion about the merits of free agent outfielders Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, I asked Lopes if he sees himself coaching next year. Earlier this month the Phillies announced that Lopes would not be returning as the clubâ€™s first base coach in 2011.
â€śI think if you wait a day or two youâ€™ll get that answer,â€ť said Lopes, a hearty laugh following the response that seems to suggest the La Salle Academy graduate is close to landing a job.
Tolman AD John Scanlon confirms the Tolman-St. Raphael D-II playoff game on Tuesday, Nov. 30, will be played at Shea High's Max Read field at 7 p.m.
See details in Thursday's Times.
I did a story yesterday talking about how playoff-bound football teams like Woonsocket and Tolman have two games to prepare for right now -- the holiday tilt and then the Nov. 30 D-II semifinals five days later.
Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson explained to me how his coaching staff will approach the problem. They will prepare the players for the holiday game against Cumberland. The coaching staff will work overtime, looking at films of playoff foe Chariho while also getting ready for Cumberland.
After watching Michael Vick throw for 330 yards and 4 TDs last night, most of them in the first half, and run for 80 more, while leading Philadelphia to a 59-28 victory over Washington, the radio talking heads today are beating to death Vick's "comeback" from prison, still wondering if he deserves a second chance.
Mondayâ€™s announcement that Ryne Sandberg was hired as the new manager of Lehigh Valley, the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies, signifies more than just a homecoming for the Hall of Fame second baseman. It means the Red Sox have one less candidate to consider for the managerial opening in Pawtucket.
As my colleague Eric Benevides reports on the previous blog entry, St. Raphael Academy advanced to the Division II semifinals with a crazy 56-50 victory over Johnston on Saturday night.
This means the Saints get a rematch with unbeaten Tolman on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Division II semifinals. Woonsocket visits Chariho in the other matchup.