Comments – The Salary Cap went into effect this season.
Frank Howard - Recently the Silver Spring Senators' ownership (Frank Howard, Manager, and Denise Howard, wife) traveled North to beautiful Endwell, NY, childhood home of Marty Fiehl and Frank Tedeschi, to play the Scranton Spanish Flies in Round 1 of the TCBA playoffs. Face to face, the way it should be, especially in the playoffs.
BACKGROUND FOR YOU TCBA NEWBIES: Silver Spring joined the league in 1990, and suffered through 8 straight losing seasons before reaching the playoffs with Capitol Division Pennants in '98 and '99. At Lancaster '99, Frank Tedeschi's juggernaut Bethesda Bambinos crushed the Senators 4-0, in less time than it takes Monica Lewinsky to get her blue dress stained<vbg!> At Lancaster '00, Jim McEneaney's Long Islanders dispatched the Senators 4-0 in short order, leaving a few coins and a jar of Vaseline on the dresser. :-)
BOTTOM LINE: The Silver Spring Senators have had as much success at Lancaster as the Buffalo Bills have had in the Super Bowl. Translation: Not much!...So might as well enjoy the Endwell scenery and the Fiehl hospitality while you can, and dream of next season (Hey Tedeschi, Fiehl provided a tour of your old neighborhood, including the old Tedeschi household and the ball field where you and he enjoyed our national past time and dreamed of The Bigs...)
OK, quick, let's have a show of hands. How many of you think a sweep in Endwell was at least POSSIBLE. Marty, you and I can't vote. OK, let me count the hands...yes, as expected, there are 22 TCBA managers with their arms in the air registering a YES vote (hey, I demand a Florida-style recount!). Those who don't think a sweep was possible, raise your hands. Yes, as I thought, ZERO. OK, it's 22-0 that there was at least the possibility of a sweep in Endwell.
OK, now, how many of you think it's possible that Silver Spring swept the powerful 'Flies on their home turf? Keep your hands in the air, I need to count..............hmmmmm, zero. Again, as I expected. And certainly the betting man's odds, can't blame you. After all, Silver Spring is the worst of the playoff teams, and Scranton is arguably second best in the league behind the Newark Eagles' machine (and a damned close second at that).
Well, believe it or not, you're all wrong. It happened. Silver Spring won the series, 4-0. No, I'm not kidding. Interested in the details? Then read on...
It all started, interestingly enough, when Denise and I pulled up to the rather sizeable Fiehl homestead mansion on Turner Street. We parked on the street next to the garage, and as we disembarked from our car a cat casually saunters off of the back deck and into the side yard, perhaps to greet us.
"Hello, cat!" I said as the feline stood there like the house by the side of the road. :-)
"Man, do I feel sorry for you, you poor bastard," I further exclaimed, recalling the rape of the Scranton mascot that was purported to have taken place when the Newark Eagles came to Scranton during the regular season. I recall the poor animal was unable to sit down for a week.
"I beg your pardon?" retorted Denise, to which I replied "Never mind, I couldn't possibly explain in a manner that you'd understand."
So, into the house we went. It was great seeing Marty again, and the first time I'd ever seen him outside of Lancaster. We met Alex, his energetic 12-year-old son, and eventually his wife Lady Diana, who came home a bit later.
NOTE: Just before we shook hands (sorry, Mr. T) and started the series, I noticed that the Scranton mascot feline was nowhere to be found. "I guess he's a no-show," I thought. Little did I know that the Spanish Flies were about to be counted among the Scranton no-shows, too.
Randy Johnson versus John Smoltz, stud versus stud, manno a manno. As it should be. The visitors draw first blood, scoring in the bottom of the first, SI 1-0, on a Juan Gonzalez RBI groundout, scoring Tony Fernandez. And that was the score until mid-way through the 4th inning, when DOWN CAME THE RAIN. Incredible. Surely they'll roll back the tarp and resume play, albeit with reduced pitchers' effectiveness. But no, that's the way it ended, and an official rainout went into the books, with no decision, of course.
"Damn!" blurted out the Scranton manager, explaining that the rainout would screw up his rotation and plans for the series. I was thrilled, having dodged a bullet by getting a no-decision against the grade 17 Johnson. A sign of things to come??
Game 2 (series still tied, 0-0)
Scranton sends The Rocket to the mound against Ron Villone. But man, it was NOT Roger Clemens' day! He didn't even make it out of the second inning, surrendering 4 walks (!!) and 4 hits and a 5-0 SI lead. A Dave Justice 3-run homer was the killer. Fiehl was visibly pissed but unshaken in confidence, with so much baseball to play and Villone on the mound. True to form, Villone walked a couple himself while getting pounded for 6 hits and 4 runs, the game now a close 5-4. Manager Howard pulled Villone, and believe it or not, the bullpen kept it that way, SI winning 5-4 (Wendell W, Aguilera S, Clemens L). Scranton had 8 hits to Silver Spring's 6, and zero errors to SI's 2, but luck was with the boys from DC and they escaped with a win.
Still no sign of the feline mascot!
Game 3 (SI leads series 1-0)
Wow, back comes Randy Johnson already! You know manager Fiehl wants very badly to even the series. Undaunted, or perhaps naively, manager Howard lets Jose Rosado take the mound against The Big Unit. It was a classic pitchers' duel, with SI clinging to a slim 2-1 lead thanks to an RBI double by Gonzo and an RBI groundout by Tino Martinez. Hey, where the hell are the Spanish Flies and their vaunted offense? Rosdao was no slouch during the regular season, but some of the lesser teams victimized the hell out of him from time to time...but not the 'Flies. When Rosado is pulled for a reliever, it's 1-1. Greg Swindell is on the mound when the Senators take the lead, and incredibly that's the way it ended, a 2-1 SI win. Despite running all over Javy Lopez and his Th-3 arm, and nearly matching the Senators in hits, the 'Flies are unable to string any of them together when needed. Close game, fun game, and incredibly it's 2-0 SI. Swindell W, Aguilera S, Johnson L.
Game 4 (SI leads series 2-0)
Diana Fiehl arrives home, and Marty tells her he's getting his ass kicked. She looks as unconcerned and fearless as Bill Clinton at an impeachment hearing!<vbg!> "She knows the powerful Spanish Flies will come screaming back to crush the upstarts from DC, I thought." Only later did I find out that she follows Scranton baseball about as closely as I follow the NHL (translation : she doesn't!)
OK, Marty's really concentrating - and pissed - now. He doesn't want to go down 3-0...or does he?? :-)
Wow, Game 4 has more twists and turns than a Swiss mountain road! It's Hermanson for SS, and Moyer for SI. Neither lasts long, as both offenses have had enough of the pitchers' duels and both come to PLAY. But where the hell is that cat?? Anyway, as always in this series, the Senators score early and take a 2-0 lead in the first. Fiehl almost pulls Hermanson in disgust, due to bullpen fatigue. Good move, as Hermy hangs in through 4, and it's 4-2 Scranton as the slugfest picks up steam. Fiehl goes to the bullpen, and Howard yanks Moyer, and through 6 it's 4-3 Scranton. Then something truly extraordinary happens...
In comes the 'Flies reliever Mike Munoz. In a little more than one inning, he serves up 4 - yes, FOUR - taters, and it's an incredible 10-7 Silver Spring lead as Fernandez, Cordero, Gonzo, and Russ Johnson go yard. The 'Flies fight back with 3 runs of their own against the aged John Franco to claw back to 10-7, but time is running out...
Trevor Hoffman shuts down the Senators in the 9th, and to the bottom of the frame we go, Scranton down by 3. They whack Roberto Hernandez for 2 runs, thanks to a Gary Sheffield homer, and there are NO OUTS. Geeze, it's now 10-9. In comes Greg Swindell, who gets an out but then gives up back-to-back singles. In comes Rick Aguilera, 1 out, 2 runners on. Oh man, he WALKS Billy Spiers! Bases loaded, 1 out. Aggy gets a pop out, 2 outs! Fiehl brings in Tim "Sockeye" Salmon with the game on the line, 10-9, 2 outs, bases loaded, bottom of the 9th...
Here comes the pitch from Aggy, Salmon swings, and he flies out to CF to end the game!! Holy cow, it's an UNBELIEVABLE 3-0 lead in the series for Silver Spring. Fiehl is pissed, but still composed. "Now I've got you RIGHT where I want you!" he quips as he grabs his phone and places a call to Jim McEneaney. "Ask for advice now that you're up 3-0, and just do whatever he tells you to do!" Marty and I both chat with Jim, who can't believe the news, gives me some solid advice, and it's back to action...but wait, first it's time to call Frank Tedeschi, Fiehl's boyhood friend. Tedeschi is sedate, almost disinterested even, but does give me some serious Tedeschi-like advice: "Don't let up no matter what you do, go for the jugular, killer instinct, you HAVE TO put him away or he'll come back on your ass." Good advice, it turns out. Thanks, T!
Game 5 (SIO leads series 3-0)
Can this be happening? Where the HELL is that cat? Oh, geeze, there he is...and Marty explains that he belongs to a neighbor but he hangs out at the Fiehl residence. Well, he was a no-show for most of the series, just like the Span 'Flies. Maybe his reappearance is an omen...so GET LOST, CAT, I think. But he's sleeping peacefully nearby. Onto the game we go...
Wow, 3 games won by SI by the scores of 5-4, 2-1, and 10-9. Hard to believe.
For Scranton, out comes Roger "The Rocket" Clemens to redeem himself, versus SI's stud, John Smoltz. I didn't plan it this way, but if I'm on the verge of winning a playoff series, I want my ace on themound. Strap on your chinstraps, boys, 'cause here we go!
Wammo, just like that Senators are on top of The Rocket 2-0 as clubs a 2-run double in the first. Wow. It just doesn't change, does it? Silver Spring starts out on top. But BOOM, BOOM, before you can blink an eye the 'Flies crank out two 2-run taters courtesy of Nomar and the venerable Ken Caminiti. It's 4-2 SS, and that damned cat is hanging out nearby...
Smoltz settles down, though, and gets an out of relief help from Dennis Cook through 7-1/3 innings, and the Silver Spring offense refuses to die, scoring 4 runs through 8 against Clemens and Eddie Guardado, SI leads 6-4!! Marty is visibly rattled..."What's going on here? I had Mac give some advice to Frank, I should be winning by now" he thinks. Geeze, up 3 games to none, we enter the 9th inning against Bill Simas (Hoffman is simply worn out). BLAM and it's a solo home run by Glenallen "Spiderman" Hill, SI up 7-4 now. Somebody, please, pinch me. BOOM, and Wil "Wife Beater" Cordero cracks a run-scoring single, and it's now 8-4 Silver Spring. Guess what? Yes, even that damned cat has given up, nowhere to be seen. Where are the 'Flies?
To the bottom of the 9th we go. Game and series on the line. Turk Wendell on the mound for Silver Spring, and I wish I could tell you that Scranton managed another 9th-inning comeback, but it was an anti-climactic 3 up and 3 down. Game over, series over, total and complete shock. Yes, it's a sweep for Silver Spring against a vastly-superior Scranton team that simply failed to show. Something tells me that the team feline mascot better not get within kicking range of Marty The Manager!
AFTERMATH: Yes, it feels good to win a playoff series. But by upsetting one of the very best teams in the league, one has to think that the way is now paved for the Newark Eagles juggernaut, who - assuming they win in their first-round series - next meet the Silver Spring Senators in Lancaster next month. But you never know.......