GOOD-LOOKING The Dodgers at Pierce Memorial Field.
By the eighth inning it's clear the Dodgers, a middling team in the 22-plus age division of Rhode Island's largest amateur baseball league, aren't going to win.
The guys — a mechanic, a fraud investigator, part owner of a small manufacturing concern — are disappointed, for certain. They've got a special distaste for tonight's opponent, the first-place Black Sox.
But they hardly seem crushed. Certainly not team jester Brian Farley, 27, who, after sitting on the bench all night, has just talked himself into a cameo at first base.
"The infield," he says, turning to the boys as he jogs across the foul line, "just got better looking."
It's another Friday night in the Rhode Island Senior Men's Baseball League, a 22-year-old confection of sweat, bonhomie, aching backs, extra-inning classics, and endless wisecracks.
And if the competition for best one-liner is fierce, the competition on the field is pretty good, too.
Pitching for the Black Sox tonight is Todd Incantalupo, a lanky lefthander who kicked around the minor leagues for three years — one season with the Helena Brewers, two with the Beloit Snappers — and pitched for the Italian national team in the World Baseball Classic.
Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, a former Red Sox pitcher who insists he still has major league stuff, plays for a Seekonk team in the 42-plus division. And Ken Ryan, another former Sox hurler, takes the mound from time to time, too.
The ex-pros enjoy an exalted status, to be sure; getting a hit off Oil Can is a particularly prized accomplishment. But all the guys in this sprawling, 26-team league — firefighters and fireballers alike — share a similar motivation.
These are men unmoved by beer league softball; unwilling to give up a game that is supposed to end with the final pop out in high school; hooked on the rhythms of a sport like none other.
Men like league president David Saad, who hangs on the edges of Pierce Memorial Field in East Providence tonight, video camera in hand, determined to capture — and promote — the Rhode Island Senior Men's Baseball League like never before.
Saad played third base for East Providence High School. And he was good. A spray hitter. Batted about .340, he says, all with a thick-handled Jackie Robinson model bat.
After graduating in 1968, he made his way to Texas to play Independent League ball — a sort of minor league for the minor leagues — with the El Paso Diablos.
The city, he says, "was a real pit." Greasy diners. Seedy pool halls. Go into a bar to watch a ball game, and you'd find yourself skipping from table to table to steer clear of the fights.
The locals didn't much like players from up north, he says. And the northerners didn't much like the heat. When he returned home to the aunts who had raised him, they were shocked by his weight loss.
Saad played for three-and-a-half years. He could have gone a bit further in baseball, he says, but not much.
He'd attended the New England School of Art and Design in the offseason. And after a stint at an advertising firm and some time as a teacher, he landed a job as ad manager and spokesperson for the old New England Electric System.