Fieldhouse Baseball Report, 04.10.2020

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Guilford College’s McBane Field (photo T. Flynn)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 10, 2020) — Baseball – Greensboro’s Guilford College (pictured) and all the state’s college baseball diamonds closed for the spring sometime around mid-March due to the current COVID-19 crisis. While college baseball is officially done for the 2020 season, the status of the state’s minor and college summer leagues remains up in the air. 

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Mgr. Robinson Cancel (r) and the Tourists’ 2020 season is on hold (photo — T. Flynn)

On March 12, MiLB made a formal announcement about the indefinite delay of the 2020 season, which the Asheville Tourists posted to their website. MiLB’s site continues to post updates on their own site, understandably with nothing yet that indicates when the season might start. It did announce that fans looking to see baseball can watch archived MiLB.tv (typically a paid service) for free until play resumes.

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Mickey Mantle, second from right, 1956 (photo copyright — Marvin E. Newman)

Books With life as we’ve come to know it on hold due to the pandemic, a trip to a local Asheville bookstore to see what this spring’s new baseball books hold isn’t the easy thing it once was. To fill the gap, there are more baseball books than can ever be read already in print, many of them unfortunately worth missing. Such is not the case for The Classic Mantle by Buzz Bissinger which includes a plentiful serving of photos from Marvin E. Newman. With due deference to Bissinger’s well-paced storytelling, Newman’s photos make it worth the purchase. Here’s a review of the book from the summer of 2015, when I first came across the keeper.

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Click here to help in Asheville during the COVID 19 Crisis

Fieldhouse Report, 04.04.2020

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ACSC has cancelled its 2020 campaigns (photo — T. Flynn(l)/I. Bullman(r))

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 4, 2020) — With all sporting and other events involving a gathering of people cancelled at present, it comes as no surprise that Asheville City made the decision to cancel its 2020 men’s and women’s slate of games. The teams intend to return in 2021. During the offseason, the men’s side moved into the USL2 while the women will continue to compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), next season, where they finished 4-4 in 2019 in league play.

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Midfielder Sallie Riggan will return for the Tornados this fall (photo — Brevard Athletics)

College Soccer  In better news of soccer on the horizon, the Brevard College Tornados women’s soccer team announced its 2020 fall schedule. In addition to their annual slate of USA South foes, the Tornados will play area rival Warren Wilson to conclude their regular season on October 24. Brevard went 5-10-3 last fall.

On the men’s side, a familiar name to Asheville soccer fans, Mathes Mennell, took over as the new head coach at Warren Wilson early in March. Mennell is the former UNCA head coach (2015-2019) and is currently on staff with Asheville’s ABYSA/Highland Football Club.

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(Image — Penguin Books)

Books — As we make our way through an extended period of hardship and close quarters, a good book is one of the best alternatives to the sports we’d typically be enjoying here in Western North Carolina.

It’s hard to picture a more compelling story of overcoming both hardship and close quarters than Kelly Tyler-Lewis’s The Lost Men. Ms. Lewis is a researcher and author whom I spoke with some time ago about how she came to write such an inspiring story for hard and good times both.

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One of our great local charities, MANNA FoodBank, remains active and in need during the COVID 19 crisis

Fieldhouse Report, 07.02.2019

Asheville City Soccer Blues 2019
Molly Dwyer (center) celebrates after scoring the game-winner (photo – Isaac Bullman)

ASHEVILLE (July 2, 2019) – The Asheville City women’s team qualified for the WPSL postseason on Saturday in dramatic style with a 1-0 Pride Night win before a large crowd of 1,500+ at Memorial Stadium. Molly Dwyer put home a penalty kick in the game’s 86th minute to break up a 0-0 tie and propel the Blues to victory over Beaufort County FC (2-4-2) and into the playoffs. The team plays again on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. in Raleigh against Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semi-finals. 

Asheville City’s men’s soccer team is back at Memorial Stadium this Friday for the final regular season game for either club at home this year. The Blues face Atlanta SC, a team they defeated on May 18 in Atlanta by a 3-1 margin.

Asheville (4-3-2) was on the road last Saturday and dropped a 3-1 NPSL Southeast Conference decision to Chattanooga FC. On Friday night the team played to a 1-1 tie in a friendly against Georgia Revolution FC, in a game that saw the Blues feature a number of call-ups from their AC Academy team. Asheville earlier qualified for the NPSL postseason. Check back here for updates on their first playoff game.  

Books – Keep checking here for updates on the release of Underdog – Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian.” The book project is finishing up and will be released asap this summer. Please email admin@fieldhouseasheville.com with any questions and thanks for the patience. 

Asheville Tourists – On Monday night, the Tourists’ Greg Jones hit a walk-off grand slam in Hobbsian-style to propel Asheville to a 9-8 win over Lexington. Jones entered the game late as a defensive replacement in rightfield (Jones is a catcher) for a short-handed Tourists’ team. With the win, the Tourists won their second straight after Shelby Lackey picked up his third win of the season in a 6-1 defeat of Charleston on Sunday night.

Asheville (5-7 second half, 34-48 overall) faces Lexington (3-9, 40-41) again tonight with a first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field

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The World’s Games. The World’s Stadiums.

Asheville City square

“Underdog” Arriving Soon

Kim Conley Underdog (1)
(Photo – Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (March 26, 2019) – The release date for “Underdog: Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian” has been bumped back indefinitely. The move facilitates a longer-than-expected production time as the book goes through its production stages. Keep checking back at Fieldhouse for updates and I appreciate your patience.

For any media questions, or for information on stocking the book, please contact: admin@fieldhouseasheville.com.

Books: From Boxing Ring to Battlefield

(Image – Rowman & Littlefield)

Native Texan Lew Jenkins was many things during a life that spanned from 1916 to 1981 and in the aggregate, they don’t readily yield a label, description, or #hashtag. Most often they stand in sharp contrast.

He was one of boxing history’s hardest punchers and for a short period during the 1940s was the lightweight champion of the world. He also didn’t train properly, was a drunkard, a reckless daredevil, and a poor husband during his first marriage.

Overlay those descriptions with those of a soldier who served with distinction in World War II and was a decorated war hero during the Korean War. Then top it with images of a caring father and husband later in life who ultimately drew his greatest strength from the overwhelming desire to serve alongside common men in their direst moments.

Then you have some small glimpse into Jenkins. 

It is likely no coincidence then that a biography of the fighter was left unwritten for decades, and it is a credit to author and boxing historian Gene Pantalone that he takes on the daunting task in his entertaining and even-handed “From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero Lew Jenkins.”   

Pantalone is a first-rate researcher, enabling him to depict scenes that could not vary more wildly in content from Jenkins’ early fights in backwater Texas venues to lethal battles in Korea’s Haean-Myon Valley near today’s Demilitarized Zone. He describes the emotion and technique of a 1940s New York City title match with the same skill as the even more challenging nuances of 1950s land-based warfare.

The book is concisely written, as Jenkins’ life undoubtedly provided more than ample material to lead an unskilled author into the narrative equivalent of a roadside ditch. In truth, it provided far more ditches than it did level road. 

Pantalone unflinchingly stays the course and illuminates a life that is only to be believed in the reading. – TF

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New Book Announcement: “Underdog”

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 31, 2018) – I’m excited to announce that my next book “Underdog – Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian” is nearing final production. (Click here for updated release information)

From a stunning finish at the 2012 US Olympic Trials that propelled her into the London Games, to an odds-defying return trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kim’s story is an authentic, inspiring compass for runners and non-runners alike. It’s one in which odds are defied, deeds exceed words, and a relentless work ethic is ultimately rewarded. 

Nationally, Kim’s accomplishments span the continent from a record-setting win at New York City’s storied Millrose Games in 2014, to USATF Championships in Sacramento (10,000m) and Houston (half-marathon). Hers is an American success story forged in California and taken across the country and beyond.

I’m honored to be able to bring it to print and look for exciting details about where and when you can purchase the book! – Tom Flynn

Books: Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Ernest Shackleton looks out from the deck of the doomed Endurance (Photo / LOC)

I’ve read much of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 failed attempt to traverse Antarctica, but never “Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. After recently listening to a nuanced telling by narrator Simon Prebble, I’m thankful that I finally ventured into what is widely regarded as the definitive account of the expedition.

For those who check in on Fieldhouse on occasion, you’ll remember that we interviewed the author of “The Lost Men” in 2014. The topic of that book was the often overlooked Ross Sea Party, the group tasked with placing stores of food on the far side of Antarctica for Shackleton’s party to consume as part of the latter group’s effort to become the first in history to cross the continent.

As you work through Lansing’s book, especially if you are encountering the details of the story for the first time, the expedition’s turns away from disaster read more like fiction than history. The crew of 28 and their ship, the Endurance, are stopped hundreds of miles short of their intended destination on Antarctica. From there, their subsequent travails prove far more challenging than even their ambitious original plans might have.

En route to the continent, the Endurance is beset by pack ice and ultimately crushed under its pressure. To tell much beyond that is to reveal too much of a story that needs to be read to be believed. If you have the ability to listen to Prebble’s version, all the better, as his considerable narrative skill makes the gripping story even more engrossing.

Lansing’s work was first published in 1959 and has stood the test of time, despite more details of the trip becoming available and benefitting subsequent authors. His descriptions of the coalescing of the expedition’s diverse personalities to achieve a single goal – survival – reads especially well. He skillfully describes the readily apparent physical dangers the group faced – drowning, starvation, lethal cold – and does a very studied job of outlining the equally deadly psychological perils of Antarctic travel.

His thorough research of prior expeditions to frozen climes and the disastrous results of their failing strength and psyches provides a perfect backdrop against which to appreciate the heroic efforts of Shackleton and his men. – TF

Books: Signing (2/18) at Barnes & Noble Before JHU vs. Loyola Lacrosse Game

The Loyola Greyhounds battle Johns Hopkins this Saturday (Photo / Tom Flynn)
Baltimore – For those in to see the Hopkins vs. Loyola game this Saturday (2/18), I’ll be at Barnes & Noble signing copies of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland from 10-2 pm. Please stop by and say hello. 
The annual game between the two Baltimore rivals was played for years on the first weekend of May. When Hopkins joined the BIG-10 in 2015, the game took a one-year hiatus. In 2016, the game returned but in a new February time slot. The Greyhounds won, 9-8, and have captured the last three contests between the two.

The Blue Jays are out of the gate at 2-0 in 2017 with wins over Navy and UMBC, while Loyola lost their opener to Virginia and are 0-1. 

Books: Free Copy of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland

(Photo Courtesy / The History Press/Tom Flynn)


Baltimore 
– To celebrate the 2017 season getting underway, I wanted to run a small contest to add subscribers and give away a copy of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland. The book came out at this time last year, and sales to date have been strong.

If you enjoy men’s lacrosse and you’d like a shot at a free copy of the book, enter your email in the sidebar at right for a free e-subscription to Fieldhouse Journal. Every 20th entrant will win. Good luck & thank you! – TF

Books: Luckiest Man – The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

Baseball great Lou Gehrig ( public domain)

I recently finished listening to Jonathan Eig’s Luckiest Man – The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig on Audible* while, fittingly, driving back and forth from New York. The front end of the title refers to the tragic irony of the famous quote from Gehrig as being “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” as he was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 36. ALS, now commonly referred to as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease,’ is a debilitating ailment that fuels the death of neurons controlling its victim’s voluntary muscles.

Gehrig was stricken with the disease while in the golden years of his career as a standout in the Yankees’ lineup. During his playing days, he methodically compiled a 2,130 consecutive game streak that ended in 1939, two years prior to his death, and would stand as a record for 56 years. His longevity was surpassed by his spectacular talent  the numbers that Gehrig put up in the prime of his career remain among the best in baseball history. In 1931, to use one example of many, he drove in 181 runs. It came in the midst of a run of 13 straight years of more than 100 RBIs. During his shortened career he also belted 493 home runs in an era when the ball was still widely considered ‘dead,’ outfield fences outdistanced their modern counterparts, and steroids had not yet been invented.

Both his endurance and talent were eclipsed by his character – one that often stands in such contrast to modern mores as to seem fictional. Despite traveling on the road on extended barnstorming tours with the famously flamboyant Babe Ruth, Gehrig to all appearances flew as straight an arrow through his career as any player of consequence in the 20th century. He used the money from his first significant contract to purchase his own home, and then promptly moved his parents in. He was so humble when interviewed that until very late in his career interviewing Gehrig was often deemed not worth the effort – especially with the ever-quotable Ruth just feet away. Sadly, it was the jarring onset of ALS that compelled many to first see the Yankee slugger as the treasure that he was.

Eig takes a studied look at Gehrig away from the field and does an outstanding job sifting through the developmental moments of his early life that later shaped his career and his final, valiant struggle with ALS. – TF

*note: the audio version includes the narrative talent of the late Ed Herrmann augmenting the text.