Editor’s Note: Reader Mario Fontana recently alerted me to a unique project he’s involved in. When I invited him to tell me more, he whipped up a full-fledged blog post, complete with photo links. I’m happy to present it here as a guest-written entry on the site. — PL
By Mario Fontana
In August I played in the sixth annual Travis Roy Foundation Wiffle Ball Tournament in Essex, Vermont. The tournament was created to help benefit the foundation which helps support victims of spinal cord injuries. You may remember Roy as the Boston University hockey player who was paralyzed in 1995 during his first shift on the ice.
The tournament is unique for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s played at Fenway Park! Little Fenway is extremely intricate in design, featuring a manually operated scoreboard, the Pesky Pole, bullpens, the centerfield flagpole, retired numbers, netting (this is classic Fenway, so no Monster Seats), and even a Citgo Sign. The sign used to reside in a dead tree beyond left field, but when field owner Pat O’Connor was going to put it up this season, the tree fell over, almost killing Pat in the process. The sign is now held up by a steel pole, though we’re all pushing Pat to get Barnes and Noble to build a shop beyond the wall so we can mount the sign on the top of it (kidding!).
In 2002, when the event was first held, it was a rainy one-day affair featuring seven teams. Since then the tournament has exploded in popularity and anticipation, with seven teams turning into 10, then 12 and finally 16.
With more teams chomping at the bit to get in and a field that couldn’t possibly stand any more games in a three-day stretch (the tournament is held from Friday to Sunday on the second weekend of August), Pat O’Connor decided a second field needed to be built in order to keep the tournament growing. The result: Little Wrigley.
Wrigley has proved itself a worthy brother to Fenway. Pat stenciled on a painted brick wall, and ivy will soon grow over it. Baskets were put up in order to catch home runs (they played a pivotal role in a semifinal game this year), and look at that scoreboard! Additional images here, here, and here.
As if the two amazing fields weren’t enough, the TRF Wiffle Tourney has become a uni extravaganza. The first year, all teams came in extremely unprepared (especially my team, HOTDAM). After being slightly better equipped for year two (also shown here), we decided to completely overhaul our unis for year four by paying homage to the greatest unis ever, the 1960s San Diego Chargers (and not that bogus new powder blue they’re trying to play off as a replacement this year).
HOTDAM was created during a night of inebriated Scrabble (do we Vermonters know how to party or what?), so we based our front graphic on a Scrabble design (also note also the quality effort by a new team this year, the New York Knights — they wanted to go with full-scale Roy Hobbs pinstripes but couldn’t get it together quickly enough). Every year we add something new. First it was shorts, then caps. We hear you can get socks with horizontal stripes at the top custom-made on some web sites, so that’s likely the 2008 add. (Stirrups don’t look good with shorts.) [I beg to differ. — PL]
Unfortunately we’re running out of new things to add, so this year, to commemorate our first game on little Wrigley, we went with our old jerseys, now known as our throwbacks. Unfortunately, we didn’t know our opponent was also going to be wearing gray for this game, so the pictures look a tad confusing. After game one we ditched our throwbacks and went with the powder blues for the rest of the weekend.
As for other teams’ uniforms, the Juggernauts were a new team this year and quickly established themselves as formidable foes in the “best uni” department. More shots here, here, and here (and yes, I definitely scooped up one of those hats).
Not to be outdone, Jim Bergstrom came to the tournament all the way from Indiana and took taboo to a whole new level with his Banana Hammocks squad. In addition to matching HOTDAM in overall uni brightness, they also had their own fan club. As you can see, their logo is indeed a banana in a hammock.
Joe Momma, a returning team, decided to go Hawaiian. The Staten Island Yankees, who typically look like this, added red caps. The Blue Bulls, Hockey Monkeys, and Turf Monsters tend to come out with the same look every year (simple and effective). Other teams like the Buckners see what they’re up against in one year and improve thereafter. And some sponsored teams come up with thematic formats. For example, Temperature Controls of Vermont decided that every name on the back of the jersey should have something to do with temperature.
Every team member of the Comets Express team wears number four and the name “Garrett.” Team owner Benton Burgess’s son Garrett is a paraplegic and the team plays “for Garret” — hence the number. It’s a fantastic tribute.
What’s most important about the tournament, however, is the cause. The Travis Roy Foundation has raised millions of dollars over the years to help those in need. Insurance does not cover expensive items such as electric wheelchairs and handicap-accessible vans. People who have spinal cord injuries can write to the Foundation asking for grants to help live their lives as normally as possible. You have no idea how important the right equipment is until you see somebody in a wheelchair struggle with the little things in life.
This year’s tournament raised nearly $150,000, but we’d like to do better. So if you’d be willing to donate to the Foundation on my team’s behalf, please click here. If you want further information, feel free to e-mail me. And if you need to be convinced of how special this project is, check out this trailer from a documentary on the tournament:
Uni Watch News Ticker: Yesterday I linked to this photo and asked about the hardware on the pants, which led to this response from Brian Jackson: “Under the original rules of football, there was no ‘down by contact’ and play continued until all forward movement by the offensive player was stopped. In those days handles would be attached to a player’s pants and jersey and he would be dragged along by his teammates after getting knocked down. I would guess these grommets [in the photo] are a holdover from the reinforcing material needed to attach the handles. I have read stories (no link, sorry) of smaller players being tossed over the line on short-yardage plays. Serious injuries could occur, as the only way to stop a player from being dragged was by piling on. Here’s an old article detailing the consequences of such a play.” ”¦ “I was at a preseason game and Kevin Garnett had some sort of large finger accessory,” writes Gus Holcomb. He’s apparently worn it for awhile (additional photo here) — what is it? ”¦ “Sean Taylor was wearing an Adidas World Cup cleat two games ago,” says Derek Stucker. “He took off the front cleat to make it look like a football cleat.” ”¦ Joe Skiba checked in yesterday afternoon with a buncha Giants-related clarifications. First, regarding Brandon Jacobs’s disappearing jersey patch: “Jacobs switched his jersey at halftime. The first jersey was an utter mess. We didn’t patch the back-up set of jerseys, since the back-up set will now be the first set when we play Detroit.” Next, regarding Michael Strahan’s red shoelaces: “Shoelace color and shoe tongue color have to be the same.” Wow — first time I’ve heard that rule spelled out like that. And finally, regarding Lawrence Tynes’s Umbro cleats: “Pay more attention next time, he kicks in Umbros every week.” ”¦ The pink jersey phenomenon has extended all the way to rodeo, as seen here and here (sorry about the small pics, which come courtesy of Shane M. Jorgenson). ”¦ Disturbing note from Greg Riffenburgh, who writes: “I was in New Orleans for the weekend and came across this stencil on the corner of a sidewalk in the Garden District. Creepy.” Indeed. ”¦ Remember this? Jon Kitna does.