Thursday, January 05, 2012

Glory Days

I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school...
(words and music by Bruce Springsteen)

I've mentioned a few times that I went to Mahopac High School, a nice school in a nice town. I graduated in 1987 with a class that included one of the best baseball teams in the history of the school. Many of my friends were on that team anchored with amazing pitching, led by Drew Ryan, Joe Porcelli, and Dave Fleming.

I played against or was teammates with all of them in town. Ryan threw as fast as anyone I had ever seen. Porcelli was a lefty who enjoyed hitting left-handed batters who hung out over the plate. The only time I ever had to leave a game was after Joe hit me in the elbow. Oh yeah and he beaned me once also.

Go ahead, say it. That explains a few things.

Then there was Fleming. I can clearly recall driving a base hit up the middle against him. That probably increased my hitting against him to about one-for-thirty (maybe, maybe not...I honestly don't recall). But I can also tell you about the time he dropped a curve ball on me that made me hit the dirt because I thought it was going to hit me. Happened at Lakeview School. Embarrassing.

Dave was a nice guy, a fellow Yankees/Bobby Murcer fan who I knew, but not well. He dominated as New York's Mr. Basketball and was the first player to find his jersey hanging at MHS. He went on to Georgia, where I stumbled across him pitching on TV for the Bulldogs to win the College World Series. I was stunned and happy - for him, for Mahopac, and yeah, for me.

Before you knew it - bam (not Bam Bam Meulens). He was a Seattle Mariner. He pitched in Yankee Stadium on July 10, 1992 at a time when getting tickets at the last-moment wasn't a hard thing to do. I sat down near the left-field foul pole, a few rows behind my friend Denise, who didn't go to Mahopac but went because she wanted to see Fleming (and was a huge Yankees fan). It seemed like most of Mahopac was there that night and many of them rooted for Dave.

I, of course, was torn. Ultimately, I wanted Dave to pitch well but wanted the Yankees to win. Dave kept up his end of the bargain - but the Yankees bats couldn't wake up. Danny Tartabull hit a long home run off Dave in the sixth ( to make it 3-2, but that was it. The Mariners won 5-2. Dave left in the bottom of the ninth to an ovation from his hometown friends and fans. Yes, even me.

Dave was nice enough to send me an autograph after I mailed a baseball card to him, and I still have it. Other than that, I haven't talked to him in over 20 years. I often thought of him and wondered if he would ever want to be a guest on any of my talk shows or even jump in and do color for a game that I was calling.

Nice thoughts, of course. I don't have the pull that a Mr. Jeff Pearlman has though, and that's what this is all leading up to. Pearlman writes his Quaz, a weekly question-and-answer session. Today's guest? You got it - Dave Fleming, now a teacher in Connecticut.



Dan A. said...

Dave made the all star team one year, didn't he? There was a season where he was like 8-2 at the break.

OK I had to go look it up... 92 was his best season, 117 K's and 17-10 record. I followed him from afar, always pulling for him. I didn't know him that well either.

I can tell you this: I was afraid to hit against Ryan. I stood there at the plate more concerned with leaving alive than getting a hit.

Rob Adams said...

Dan, Dave got snubbed from the '92 All-Star Game. I remember reading the Daily News article that said so.

Oh wow, I hated hitting against all of them. For some reason, I had some success against Joe (though I often wondered if he hit me intentionally). Drew was rough on me, and Dave was, well, Dave.