Sunday, February 28, 2010

Through The Eyes Of...Dick Drago: When a Save Was A Save

The following is part of a weekly series called "Through the Eyes Of....". In each segment, I share interviews with or stories about those that I view to be the "Good Guys". "Through the Eyes of..." is a part of my personal crusade to present baseball in all it's beauty, splendor, and goodness, instead of through hashing and rehashing all that is broken with our National treasure.

On the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website, author Tom Harkins does a thoroughly wonderful job of telling former Major League pitcher Dick Drago's story. He starts the biography off with a story that he had read some years before in a Boston newspaper, though as he states he was unable to cite the publication.

The story is a wonderful account of how I remember Drago that I've taken the liberty of sharing the anecdote.

"Some time during the 1975 season, pitcher Dick Drago stopped in a convenience store and was recognized by the counter clerk as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Not being familiar with Drago out of uniform the clerk asked the pitcher his name. Dick answered, "I'm Drago." To which the clerk responded, "Oh yeah, Drago Segui."

The store clerk was, of course, humorously confusing Drago with another Sox pitcher, Cuban-born Diego Segui. The story tells volumes, however, about the relative anonymity that Drago enjoyed in Boston despite being one of the teams unsung heroes.

Drago played on a Boston team that year that included the likes of Yaz, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Carlton Fisk. With three Hall of Famers and three others who have at least visited the Hall it is no wonder that Drago flew under the radar during his time in Boston.

Yet without the pitching of Drago during the Red Sox World Series loss in '75 to the Big Red Machine, baseball would have been robbed of what is arguably the greatest World Series in baseball history, most notably Carlton Fisks heroics in the 12th inning of game six. A game that many refer to as the greatest game in World Series history.

I've become acquainted with Drago through his involvement with A Glove of Their Own, the award winning children's book that many baseball players and coaches are using to promote sharing through baseball. Drago has been diligent in his efforts to have the book adopted by many of his former baseball brothers and by non-profits around the country.

He recently appeared on Sports Talk NY Live with Coach Bob Salomon of A Glove of Their Own talking about his involvement with the book. He was nice enough to sit down with me and share his thoughts about his career in the latest segment "Through The Eyes Of..."

Civ: You pitched your first five seasons as a starter before going to Boston where you jockeyed between starter and reliever. Which role did you prefer?

DD: Well, I was a starting pitcher throughout my minor league career and my first six years in the big leagues so I liked starting and the preparation needed to get ready for my next start. I liked the intensity and challenge every game that comes with closing, however.

Civ: You threw 63 career complete games, which of course is unheard of these days. What are your thoughts regarding the way you were handled versus the way pitchers are coddled today?

DD: I could spend hours on this subject, but I won't (laughing). I enjoyed being allowed to go deep into games and finish what I started. We were taught to throw almost everyday and build up your arm strength. I believe that with the money they pay players today, they are very careful with pitchers arms. Teams are also paying the setup men very well so they need to get them work.

What could you have done if asked to pitch only six or seven innings like they require today?

I don't think I would have done any better. In fact, I probably wouldn't have won some of the games I did if I only pitched six or seven innings. I liked finishing what I started. I was a good finisher as a starter, which probably helped me convert to a closer. Only difference is I'd be rich!

In 1974, you were traded to the Sox for Marty Pattin. You started 18 games and pitched 15 in relief. Was it difficult to make the transition?

DD: That was the most difficult year for me on my arm. I would pitch a couple of games in relief. Then a starter would come up lame and I would fill in as the starter. That happened all year and at the end of the year I felt like I had pitched 300 innings.

Civ: In 1975 you saved 15 games to lead the team, what do you think of the way closers are used today?

DD: It would have been great to only have to get three outs for a save. A lot of times back then, we would go three innings to get a save. I probably would have had a lot more saves if pitching today.

Civ: You played in 1975 with Rice, Fisk, Yaz in 1975, what other Hall of Famers did you play with?

I played with Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Juan Marichal, Eddie Murray, Dennis Eckersley and Tony Perez, plus Bob Lemon, Joe Gordon and Dick Williams as Managers.

Civ: Would the Sox have won the series in 1975 if Rice didn't break his arm?

DD: Nothing is a sure thing but we would have been a lot stronger with Rice in the middle of our lineup, which could have made the difference in winning the series.

Civ: You played with several characters of the game. Lee, George Scott, Tiant. Tell me about each as a teammate.

DD: Bill Lee was extremely smart and knew how to capture the media with some of his off the wall topics, but he was an outstanding competitor on the mound. George Scott had his own terminology and was a fun guy to play with. Luis Tiant was the best teammate I ever played with. He was the same whether he won or lost and kept everybody loose on the team. Lots of fun in the clubhouse and road trips.

You also played with Lou Pinella, how does Lou differ as a player and a manager?

DD: That would take too long! He did destroy several water coolers and jerseys in the five years I played with him in KC. Lou took hitting very seriously and we used to talk for hours, helping each other become better players. We would talk late into the night in our apartments.

Civ: How far would John Mayberry be able to hit one if he juiced?

DD: Don't know, but I played against several hitters that could hit them a long way. Guys like Boog Powell, Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Dick Allen, Jeff Burroughs and Gorman Thomas.

Civ: You are in the record book for giving up Hank Aaron's 755th home run. Do you feel cheated by Bonds breaking of the record as it essentially knocked you from the record book, too?

DD: Not at all. It is a honor simply to be associated with such a great player as Aaron.

Civ: You were traded after the 75 World Series essentially for a bag of baseballs. Three nobodies named John Balaz, Dave Machemer and Dick Sharon despite being the closer of the team that went seven games with the Big Red Machine. What were the Sox thinking?

DD: Don't know, but it was very disappointing going to a last place team as a closer. I think I might have been part of a deal they made earlier in the season for Denny Doyle, as the player to be named later.

Civ: Then in '77 you resigned with the Sox. Was that like coming home for you?

DD: I was so happy to have been able to resign with the Sox as a free agent. Boston was the greatest place to play in my opinion. It's great to go back there today and have people remember me.

Civ: What role did you pitch then?

DD: I shared the closers role with Bill Campbell, Tom Burgmeier, and Bob Stanley over the next three years; three more enjoyable years with the Red Sox.

Civ: Tell me what you have done since leaving baseball. Do you miss it?

DD: I had several sales and marketing jobs and co-owned a couple of businesses in Ft. Myers, Fl. up until 2000. I retired and moved to Tampa to be closer to my two oldest children and my girlfriend. I have been very much involved with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association doing charity Golf tournaments and Legends games. I also do the Red Sox Fantasy Camp every February. These days I'm a stock trader.

I miss everything about playing baseball. It was my life from age nine until thirty-eight.

Civ: Do you have family?

DD: Yes, my children are Darren 38, Dina 34 and Justin 29, plus, I have a Grandson Taylor, 14, and Granddaughter Haley, seven.

Civ: Who was the toughest on you, and who did you own as a pitcher?

DD: The toughest was Tony Oliva & George Brett. I had good success against Gorman Thomas (0-22).

Civ: What is your most memorable baseball moment?

DD: There are two. My first major league start. It was a complete game win against the Angels, 3-2, at 24 years old. Imagine that, a complete game. Also, it was the first ever Royal's complete game. The other was pitching in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. I pitched three shutout innings. The 9th, 10th, and 11th. Then Fisk won it in the 12th.

Civ: Do you keep in touch with any players?

DD: Yes, I see many during Alumnae events and the Red Sox Fantasy Camp.

Civ: Tell me about your involvement with A Glove of Their Own and what made you become involved?

DD: At first I just joined the group on Facebook. Then, Bob Salomon contacted me to ask me if I would support the book on the website. After reading the book, it reminded me of my days as a young boy playing sandlot baseball and I wanted to get more involved in spreading the world about a wonderful story. With all my contacts I wanted to help Bob out as much as I could. I am proud to be a part of such a great cause.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for the Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He can be reached at with comments or story ideas. He is also a supporter of "A Glove of Their Own", the award winning children's book that is capturing the heart of the nation. For more information visit the site at and purchase under today's donor code PIF129 Pitch in for Baseball.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting Silly With the Keeper; Breakers' Alyssa Naeher

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer Todd Civin presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

The league is built based on the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes. "Getting Silly with the Breakers" is a fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

Though perhaps not as well known a name as some of her rookie peers entering Women's Professional Soccer this season, Boston Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, holds the distinction of being the first keeper taken in the 2010 WPS College Draft.

Truth be told, Naeher carries the honors of being the highest drafted shot stopper in WPS history to date, as the first back stop wasn't selected until the third round of the 2009 WPS draft (Karen Bardsley, Sky Blue with the 18th overall pick).

So while names like Tobin Heath, Lauren Cheney, Kelley O'Hara, and Whitney Engen may be likely to battle for Rookie of the Year honors, the pride of Seymour, Conn. can go about her business knowing that she holds a unique place in WPS history.

Assuming the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year finds a way to stop her more heralded rookie class on a regular basis, it will be she who scores the most ink.

Throughout her college, club, and International career, Naeher has proven time and again that she is up to the task and made Breakers coach Tony DiCicco's decision to select her in the first round a virtual no-brainer.

Naeher is no stranger to coach DiCicco having played under Tony while with the U-20 Women's National Team in 2007-08 and while playing for SoccerPlus Connecticut in 2008.

And of course, Naeher was equally up to the task of handling a few Getting Silly questions, which she fielded with the skill of professional.

Todd Civin: Wikipedia lists four famous residents of Seymour, CT. Three from the 1800's and a poker player, who won $100,000 on the World Poker Tour. Do you expect to unseat any of them in the top four of Famous Seymour residents?

Alyssa Naeher: I haven’t heard of any famous people from Seymour before, I haven’t lived there very long. Maybe not unseat them, but I guess it would be pretty cool to join that list.

TC: Your school mascot at Christian Heritage was the Kingsmen. Any cries of sexism amongst the girls teams?

AN: Not really actually, we were always referred to as the Lady Kingsmen; so they made sure to differentiate for us.

TC: You and your twin sister Amanda are two of three players in your high school history to score 2000 points. Who would win in a game of HORSE and what was your signature shot?

AN: It was always pretty even actually, neither one of us really dominated in that category. My signature would probably be a three-point shot, just right of center. Simple, but effective.

TC: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream at Rich Farm Ice Cream in Seymour?

AN: I usually go with the combination of mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough. I can never choose between the two so I just get one scoop of each.

TC: Who serves a better slice, Zoi's or Alberto's?

AN: Neither, Roma has the best slice around...hands down.

TC: Greatest single save you ever made?

AN: The save I made against France in our first game of the U-20 World Cup.

TC: Scariest thing about a penalty shot?

AN: Them only being 12 yards away, shooting a completely still ball.

TC: You won the Adidas Goldener Handscuch, do you know what that translates to?

AN: I’m going to guess the Addida Golden Glove?

TC: The trophy for that award was simply a hand, do you have any other trophies with body parts on them?

AN: Nope, just that one.

TC: Which was a greater life moment: The U-20 World Cup victory in Chile or getting drafted in the first round?

AN: I honestly can’t choose between the two. Both moments were a culmination of a lot of commitment and work and both were very unique and special moments for me. Those two moments were two of the best memories I have.

TC: Coolest place you've ever been as a result of your soccer career?

AN: Brazil; I’ve been there a few different times and have been able to see a lot of different places down there. And being able to go to the Redeemer Statue was something that was really cool.

TC: If WPS rookies had to shave their heads, would you participate?

AN: If it was for a good cause I would think about it.

TC: You attended Penn State, who is more recognized on campus, you or Joe Paterno?

AN: Definitely Joe Pa. He is a Penn State icon and I have yet to meet a person on campus who hasn’t recognized him.

TC: You were in net in 1904 of 1934 minutes this season for Penn State. What happened in those 30 minutes, too tired?

AN: Those 30 minutes were to reward our backup goalkeeper, Kristin Hartmann. She worked hard all year and she deserved to get some minutes to show for that hard work, so we were able to take advantage of some leads and get her some game experience that will help her for the future.

TC: Any wagers between you and former teammate, Katie Shoepfer, headed into the season?

AN: No, not yet. We just both want to see each other do well.

TC: You and Tiffany Weimer are both Penn State grads, Soccer Plus players and now Breaker teammates, can't get enough of each other?

AN: I never got a chance to play with Tiff at Penn State, she graduated the year before I got there. But it was a lot of fun to play with her for SoccerPlus and I’m definitely really excited to be teammates again in Boston, now at the professional level.

TC: Weirdest pre-game ritual?

AN: I don’t really have any pregame rituals that I have to do before every game, I’m not really a superstitious person.

TC: Does it get lonely as a keeper and do you ever wish your uniform matched the others?

AN: Not really, I always try to keep myself as engaged in the game as possible. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t match the other uniforms, I actually kinda like that mine is different. TC

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their Web site at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ellsbury Drops A Deuce on Red Sox Faithful

Chants of "We're No. 2" are sure to be heard echoing through the air around Landsdowne Street when the Red Sox take the field for the upcoming 2010 baseball season.

The anticipated chatter will not be a predication of the Red Sox impending finish in the American League East, however, as much as acknowledgement of left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury's entry into an "exclusive club" of players who wore the number two on the back of their Red Sox uniform.

"I wore it in high school. It's may favorite number. I always wanted it," explained the fleet-footed left fielder, who has worn the number 46 since playing for the big-league club. "The Red Sox always knew I wanted it. Brad (Mills) wasn’t going to give it to me. When I heard Brad was promoted, within two minutes, I called Pookie (Jackson, a clubhouse man)."

The most well-known Red Sox player to sport the deuce is former second baseman and current TV color man Jerry Remy. Remy wore it from 1978-1984, which is tied for the longest in Sox history wearing the number. Second baseman Doug Griffin wore number two for seven seasons as well, from 1971-1977. Second baseman, Mike Andrews wore the number from 1967-1970, marking the beginning of an 18-year span that the number belonged to these three second basemen.

Next in line for longevity wearing numero dos was shortstop Luis Rivera (1989-1993) and shortstop Milt Bolling (1953-1957) at five seasons each.

Other well-known Sox wearing number two in recent years include Carl Everett, Damon Buford, Damian Jackson, Otis Nixon, and Terry Shumpfert.

Former Red Sox manager John McNamara wore number two in 1988. Only after his original uniform number one was retired by the Sox. Number one had belonged to Bobby Doerr, who retired in 1951 but had his number retired in 1988.

Coach Mills, who has moved on to Houston, wore the number one two occasions from 2004 to 2005 and 2007 to 2009.

The first Sox player to were the number was Bobby Reeves, who wore the number in 1931, the first year numbers appeared on the Red Sox uniforms. Overall, Ellsbury is the thirty-eighth different player to appear in a game with number two on his Red Sox uniform.

Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is the only other Sox player who will be sporting a number change this season, going from number 68 to number 11.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt.

He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their Web site at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nobis Enters Post Op with Knee Bone connected to Her Humorous

A funny (not funny, ha, ha but funny unusual) thing happened to Boston Breakers forward Jennifer Nobis on the way to her second season in Women's Professional Soccer. The former Missouri standout tore her ACL two weeks ago while jogging.

That's right, jogging. A professional athlete, who can simultaneously juggle a round sphere while texting on her Droid Touch and flossing her teeth, tore her ACL while jogging.

Not to poke fun at the affable forward from Quincy, Ill., but I think this is the comedic equivalent of Dick Van Dyke flipping over his ottoman as he enters his living room at the start of each show.

Visions of Lucille Ball stuffing her bosom with chocolates or slurring her words while drunk on Vitameatavegamin. Now that's funny. A pro-athlete tearing their ACL while jogging? Not so much.

I caught up with "J-NO" following her surgery and for some reason expected the usually upbeat and always entertaining Nobis to have strayed from her "glass is half full" ways.

To be wallowing in self pity. Crying in her beer.

I envisioned her hair matted to her post operative head, some dried-up drool on her chin and her hospital gown pinned closed with a safety pin while she played the world's smallest violin and shared sob stories about the detour her career has taken as a result of her unfortunate twist of fate .

I quickly realized, however, that simply isn't be Nobis' style. The notorious life of the party and half of the famed Breakers comedy team of Latham (teammate Christine) and Nobis was quick to share her "laughter is the best medicine" philosophy during an email Q and A with yours truly.

In the spirit of the "Getting Silly" series that the Breakers players have graciously cooperated in putting together with me, I am pleased to present a special edition of Getting Silly Post-Op with "JNO".

Todd Civin: Was your surgery a success?

Jennifer Nobis: I still have a leg, so, yes for now.

TC: What was the most difficult part about the surgery?

JNO: My surgery was at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and they told me to stop eating and drinking at midnight on Tuesday. Don't doctors understand athletes LOVE TO EAT EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY? I was so hungry that I have never seen myself so moody before hahah !

TC: What are your goals for recovery?

JNO: To be in for treatment every day until I get better! I will even be doing my own rehab at the house. You never can do too many straight leg raises. Also, in two weeks my stitches come out so I will be in the pool twice a day, five days a week
to keep my endurance and cardio up. Crazy, I know!

TC: Did you get ice cream after your surgery?

JNO: Immediately after surgery I went to McDonald's and had a chocolate milk shake with my meal!

TC: Where should fans send their Get Well cards and letters?

JNO: If they have money in the cards, send them directly to my house. If they d on't you can send them to the Breakers headquarters.

TC: When do you hope to get back on the field?

JNO: Dating field or Game field? As soon as I can!

TC: Will you be able to participate with the team at all during your recovery?

JNO: Yeah, laughing at them while they are all dying through preseason. In all honesty, I will try and participate as much as possible. I'll be at every practice being the annoying positive go-getter on the sideline and being their biggest fan! Go Breakers!

TC: How was your experience with the hospital gown?

JNO: All I have to say is I hope people enjoy my backside!

TC: And the bathrooms? Were they to your liking?

JNO: Very clean and sterile, until I peed on the seat because my brace wouldn't
allow my leg to bend.

TC: Were there any cute doctors?

JNO: I saw many cute doctors, but I was on drugs, so you never know if I had my
"pill goggles" on.

TC: Did the other patients get annoyed with the line of fans and visitors outside of your hospital door?

JNO: I don't know, Todd. You are my No. 1 stalker. Were the guests mad when
you and the other fans were outside my door?

And then she flipped over the ottoman. TC

About Nobis :

Jennifer Nobis will begin blogging during he rehab and posting about life on and off the field at Connect World Football . CWF is a football agency that specializes in representing the active female football players.

"We work with uncompromising integrity through our global network to provide talented, ambitious, high-quality female football players the ability to further pursue their professional career, and to maximize their professional experience."

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt.

He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their Web site at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brandi Chastain Shares A Different Emotion Following Her Release

The unbridled show of human emotion following victory has rewarded the world with some of the most indelible images in sports history. As Wide World of Sports so aptly put it decades ago, "the thrill of victory" has provided sports fans with imagery that will remain forever fresh in the scrapbooks of our minds.

Be it Kirk Gibson limping around the bases following his late game heroics in 1988 or Bobby Orr diving across the goal mouth, a la super hero following "The Goal" in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, the unrehearsed and unedited show of absolute jubilation following success provides every fan with the forever and ever images that define sports.

There is perhaps no "victory point skyward" more familiar in the world of Women's professional soccer than the raw show of emotion when soccer legend Brandi Chastain thrust her undergarments to the world following her game-winning penalty kick against China in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Chastain later described her celebratory spasm as "momentary insanity, nothing more, nothing less. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I thought, ‘This is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field."

Despite a gold-medal career that spanned better than two decades and included 192 caps for the Women's National Team, it is Chastains' bra-baring adrenaline rush which remains amongst the most memorable seconds in sports-lore.

Chastain's recent and seemingly unexpected release by the FC Gold Pride represents the opposite end of the spectrum then as Chastain was given a "don't let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you" by her WPS employer.

In a brief email exchange via Facebook, Chastain shared her "agony of defeat" in the following statement, "I didn't see it coming, totally blindsided really. Had taken sponsor photos not long before."

The 41-year-old, who was the oldest player in the league last season, added, "It is a bummer and I am not very happy about it to say the least."

Chastain, who appeared in only 10 games last season, while averaging 45 minutes per contest, went into more detail in a subsequent email interview with Charles Cuttone, executive editor of Big Apple Soccer.

"I am disappointed, emotional and upset about being released by the Gold Pride. I have loved and played the game with a passion, honesty, fierceness and enthusiasm that has spanned more than 35 years.”

She continued, "The only thing I ever wanted was to put myself up against those who are being considered and judged accordingly as to who should and shouldn't be on the team."

“This is deja vu from the National Team back in 2004, and once again it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.”

Following the pre-Valentines Day release of one of the sweethearts of Women's Soccer, FC Gold Pride General Manager Ilisa Kessler gave Chastain this golden parachute sendoff, "We are grateful to Brandi for the contributions she has made to our team, organization and to the growth of the game."

"She has been an outstanding representation of the Pride and Women's Professional Soccer. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Brandi and her foundation, Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (BAWSI)."

Pride Head Coach Albertin Montoya, who will be blessed with a line-up that includes offseason additions Marta and Camille Abily, added, "Brandi has the heart and spirit of a champion."

"This was a tough decision, but one that was necessary for us to construct the roster for the coming season. She is a great leader and we all wish her the best as she moves forward with her career."

Now it should not escape us that sports is business and sometimes cutting a 41-year-old icon is not an easy pill to swallow. Salary cap's and team profitability may deem an aging veteran to be superfluous.

But in a league, which needs all the positive publicity that it can muster as it heads into it's second season of existence, is the equivalent of sending one of their elders out onto the frozen ice floes, the lasting image that they want to project? Though the end-result may be the same, would a more fitting release have settled better in Chastains' still ripped mid-section?

After hearing the tone in Chastain's message, one can envision that if Chastain wanted to flash her undergarments one final time as she exited the FC Gold locker room last week, she may be bent forward with her Fruit of the Looms exposed and two big lip prints perched in the middle of her left hind cheek.

Now there's a lasting sports image that would leave fans talking for another score.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their Web site at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting Silly With the New Kid: Breakers' Rookie Forward Lauren Cheney

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer Todd Civin presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

The league's PR campaign is built based on the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes. "Getting Silly with the Breakers" is a fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

Together with fellow WPS rookie, Tobin Heath, and rookie emeritus, Amy Rodriguez, they've been affectionately referred to as the New Kids of the Women's National Team.

After you watch the following Youtube video featuring the affable trio, you may be tempted to rename them Curly, Larry and Moe. The Three Stooges of the WPS represent the new face of Women's Professional Soccer and each promise to not only make an immediate impact to their respective teams this season, but also share the light hearted and approachable personality that Women's Professional Soccer is trying to project.

Cheney, the number two selection in the recent WPS college draft out of UCLA, was not only the first player in UCLA history to earn NSCAA All-America honors all four years of her college career, but is also the first rookie to be subjected to one of my Getting Silly interviews.

If the 2008 Olympic Gold medalist from Indianapolis can handle feeds from Lilly, Smith and Osborne, with the same skill that she handled my series of random questions, it looks like she will represent the face of Breakers soccer long after the wet behind her ears dries.

Todd Civin: What is the first place you want to see in Boston?

Lauren Cheney: I have a little bit of a shopping problem, so I have heard I want to check out Newbury Street.

TC: As a native of Indiana, can we expect you to change allegiances and become a Patriots Fan?

LC: Although I am not a huge football fan, NEVER will I go to the dark side. Go Colts!

TC: Who is a better QB, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

LC: Peyton is unreal. He is not only the best quarterback but he plays for a pretty great city.

TC: (The previous question was asked and responded to before Peyton spit the bit in the Super Bowl.)

TC: Will there be any off field wagering between you Heath and A-Rod?

LC: Maybe for a trip to Coffee Bean.

TC: Rumor has it the three of you are envious of each other. Is there any
truth to that?

LC: Envious? Well I really do like the shirt Tobin just got and Arod has a pretty nice bag that I want. Good thing they are two of my best friends.

TC: Share your nicknames with us .

LC: Chain, Chain-dog, Che are the ones I hear from my teammates, but at home I am known as Lo.

TC: Favorite sports movie of all time?

LC: I love "Remember the Titans" but "Love and Basketball" would be a close second.

TC: Which leading male actor do you find to be more your type, Dwight Schrute or Michael Scott?

LC: Dwight Schrute for sure. I am actually hoping he sees this.

TC: As a child did you eat the crust or cut it off?

LC: I think I ate the crust. My love for food has never changed.

TC: Favorite fattening desert?

LC: Ice Cream!

TC: Oldest childhood friend and something that bothers you about her?

LC: My oldest childhood friend is Jessica Stevens. We grew up together since we were six years old. The one thing that drives me crazy about her is that she is still in Indianapolis and not with me.

TC: You went to Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Who is Ben Davis?

LC: Funny you ask. I actually have no clue. Someone asked me that the other day and I thought that maybe I should look into that. Still haven't gotten around to it.

TC: On a serious note, you had open heart surgery when you were three. How scary was that? Did you get ice cream?

LC: I did have surgery when I was three but I don't really remember it being scary for me. Thankfully, I have very strong and supportive parents because I am sure it was terrifying for them. I'm sure I got ice cream. I was pretty spoiled.

TC: You helped lead your high school basketball team to an undefeated season
as a sophomore guard and were selected all conference twice, are you sure you selected the right sport?

LC: I LOVE basketball, but my first passion has always been soccer. I still play basketball any chance I get. Anyone want to play pick up in Boston?

TC: You were the consensus number one recruit coming out of high school, but selected only number two in the WPS draft, what caused your game to slip?

LC: Seriously? I was trying to figure that out also. Maybe the California sun and the beautiful beach took up too much of my time.

TC: Who really should have won the M.A.C. Herman Trophy?

LC: Kelley O'Hara for sure. I think she had more points then Tobin and I combined. She is a stud.

TC: How much fun was it to appear in the PUMA/WPS fashion show?

LC: The fashion show was great. I could have done without the makeup, but dancing and running around with some pretty awesome girls was a blast.

TC: Do you believe in rookie hazing and would you consider shaving your head to become a Breaker?

LC: Coming out of college hazing is absolutely not acceptable. Don't get me wrong I am excited for Boston, but I don't know how excited they would be for me with a shaved head.

TC: Did you learn any Chinese while playing in the Olympics?

LC: Ni Hao (translates to hello) :)

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of "Yes, I Can" by visiting their Web site at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Getting Silly With the Doctor in the House: Boston Breakers’ Maggie Tomecka

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer,Todd Civin, presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

The league is built based on the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes. "Getting Silly with the Breakers" is an fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

As a person who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, I marvel at a person who is born with an over abundance of talent. It seems like the cards fall the right way for some and the genetic pool blesses them with athletic ability, intelligence, and head-turning good looks, while guys like me struggle through life merely with the head-turning good looks (Yes, even I'm laughing).

The Boston Breakers resident Resident, Maggie Tomecka boasts a resume that looks more like a combination of resumes. Doctor of medicine, Professional Soccer player, two-time college National Champion, high school basketball star, Polish immigrant. And did I mention, tall, blond and blue eyes?

That's right, Dr. Tomecka was blessed with more quality DNA in her right pinky than many of us have in the town we were born in. And if that's not enough, she's personable and really funny.

Tomecka was kind enough to share her quick witted sense of humor in this week's edition of Getting Silly with the Breakers.

Todd: What made your family decide on of all places, Shrewsbury MA after leaving Poland?

Maggie: Shrewsbury is just a fabulous place to live. Home of the one and only Dragon 88. All those who live there know what I am talking about.

TC: Do you speak any Polish and if so, tell us something in your native tongue.

MT: Yes. The spelling would throw you off though. We can talk later.

TC: You led Shrewsbury High to the State semi's in basketball, can you dunk?

MT: Of course, that's child's play. I can touch the top of the backboard. Don't believe me? How much you willing to bet?

TC: Nickname in High School?

MT: Magda. People had trouble saying my full name, Magdalena. Later it turned into Mags.

TC: Is there any place in the world better to shop than Spag's (famous store in Shrewsbury)?

MT: Doubt it. Spag's was the bomb.

TC: Your WPS bio says you would have a dinner party with both Elvis and Obama. What would you serve?

MT: Cocktails.

TC: Favorite flavor of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory?

MT: There are so many amazing cheesecakes there, I can't pick just one. Banana Cream, White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, Tiramisu. The list goes on.

TC: Tell us about the goal you scored vs. Connecticut in the NCAA quarterfinals as a freshman.

MT: Wow, I can't believe you have a record of that. It was a shot from 30 yards out into the right upper (corner). Couldn't do it again if I tried. I was shocked when it went in.

TC: Who was bigger on the UNC campus, you or Dean Smith?

MT: I would have to say Dean Smith. He has just a few more championships.

TC: What was it like working in Dominica for two years?

MT: It was a great experience working at clinics in the poor communities there. I can't say I didn't miss the U.S. though. Life in Dominica was a little different, the power would go out weekly, tap water would be brown when it rained, food consisted of tropical fruits and chicken.

Calling America was expensive, and I missed my friends and family. It was definitely a character building experience, which I wouldn't trade for the world.

TC: At six-feet tall, are you the tallest player in the WPS?

MT: Probably.

TC: What did your boss say when you told him you had to leave your residency to play pro soccer?

MT: My plan to go back and forth, doing my residency for six months at a time in the off-season, was all arranged prior to starting, so I never actually had to tell anyone I was "leaving." The Anesthesia Department at UNC has been beyond supportive of me achieving my personal goals and dreams.

Although, I can't say I don't sometimes question my sanity. Trying to balance everything can get a little overwhelming at times. It is well worth it though. I love playing soccer and playing in WPS has been one of the most special times in my life.

TC: Your Tarheel teams won two National Championship teams and you went 27-0 in 2003. What was the one highlight of your college career?

MT: Winning the championship my senior year, finishing off a perfect season. Well, either that or running 120's every Tuesday. It's a close call.

TC: To expand on that, your high school soccer team won the district finals and went to the state semi-finals,your club team won two state titles, your college teams won two National championships, you are a doctor of medicine and a pro soccer player and your family escaped from Poland to emigrate to the US. What's next?

MT: Retirement.

TC: Which of these moments are you most proud of?

MT: I just thank God for everything He has blessed me with, including an amazing family, friends and career.

TC: Which would you rather win...A Gold medal in soccer or a Noble Prize in medicine?

MT: Wow, hmm, I would take either. Preferably both.

TC: What is it like to play your home games at Harvard Stadium?

MT: It's awesome. It's so easily accessible for fans, so a lot of my friends have been able to come to games. It's a beautiful stadium in the most prestigious university in the world. I mean, I can't complain.

TC: Coolest person you've met as a result of being a Breaker?

MT: Christine "Lay-down" Latham

TC: Favorite all time episode on Friends?

The Poker Episode, just because I had to act it out in my drama class in high school. (I was Monica...shocker, totally OCD)

TC: Did you ride the mechanical bull pictured on your facebook page?

MT: Absolutely not. How did you get on my page? I am going to have to adjust those privacy settings.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball. He also shares his top stories on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Getting Silly With The Breakers’ Hula Girl: Goalkeeper Alli Lipsher

The following is part of a weekly series in which writer Todd Civin presents the lighter side of the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS).

The league is built based on the down-to-earth nature and approachability of its athletes. “Getting Silly with the Breakers” is a fun-filled way to create a comfortable bond between the fans and the professional athletes who are the Boston Breakers.

A special thanks to Erica Hunt, the communications director for the team, as well as the players themselves for making this approach possible.

For those who have followed the ongoing series entitled, Getting Silly…I assume you have noticed my frequent attempts at humor as a vehicle to break down the professional athletes from the Boston Breakers.

In each episode I’ve tried to use my relatively dry sense of humor to get playful with the ladies from the WPS who make Harvard Stadium their home. My goal has been to pick on a character trait of each player and poke a little fun, strike a nerve, pick a scab. So, when I wrote about Alex Scott who hails from Britain, I, of course, used the Monty Python motif, and when sharing an interview with Kasey Moore who went to school in Texas, I predictably went with the cowgirl spoof.

In each case, the athlete being featured played back with me but ultimately became victim to be sense of sarcasm and buckled under the pressure of my Gitmo-like interview techniques.

And then I met Alli Lipsher, goal keeper for the Breakers. Born and raised in Honolulu, Lipsher needed to wade through an array of hula girl, Don Ho, Hawaii-5-0 and more. Since this is a family show I did stop short of any jokes containing the word lei.

Well if I can dish it out, I gotta be able to take it and to my surprise Lipsher matched me barb for barb and jab for jab like one of Vince McMahon’s Diva’s from the WWE. Every time I threw an uppercut, Lipsher ducked. Each time I threw a roundhouse, Lipsher got me in a sleeper hold.

I’m not sure if it is due to all the time she spends by her lonesome as keeper for the Breakers or her passion for mowing grass skirts, but Lipsher had me at Aloha, while spewing pineapple juice out my nose with each of her pithy answers.

So sit back, put down your ukelele and enjoy Alli Lipsher, the subject of this week’s Getting Silly with The Breakers’ interview.

Todd Civin: You were born and raised in Hawaii, can you hula?

Ali Lipsher: Not even a little bit, but I did ride dolphins to school and we just got flushing toilets in our huts.

TC: Have you ever been to the Hukilau Cafe from the movie 50 First Dates?

AL: Nope, but keep the stereotypes coming!

TC: Which has better surfing Haleiwa or the Charles?

AL: Depends if you’re on a surfboard or a sailboat. Oh, wait. No it doesn’t. Haleiwa.

TC: Do you ever feel left out since your uniform doesn’t match the rest of the team? Any thoughts why the goalie uniform is different?

AL: Yes I’ve actually written a couple of letters to the commissioner expressing my feelings of loneliness due to the fact that our uniforms are different. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I guess she’s busy. I think the uniforms are different because the sport recognizes the fact that keepers are pretty special people and anyone who watches the sport should be made aware of that fact. The WPS was nice enough to
highlight this by putting us in bright pinks and yellows.

TC: Your WPS bio states that if you weren’t playing soccer you’d like to be a stunt woman. Is that what you studied at Duke?

AL: There may or may not have been a few attempts at stunt woman-like activities. I can’t really go into specifics. One of my earliest memories is me deciding I could fly and jumping face-first off a wall when my aunt was watching me. I was about three-years- old and she thought she had killed me. I still think the flying part was fine it was just the landing that went awry.

TC: Did the Cameron crazies ever attend the Lady Blue Devils soccer games?

AL: I wish. They are pretty crazy. I think I attended more basketball games than they did soccer games. We still had some pretty rowdy fans, though.

TC: Your favorite Cameron Crazies chant?

AL: Hmmmm. Pretty much anything against UNC. Like when they would chant “Tar
Heels”, we’d correct the end of the cheer by reminding them it was “Tar Holes.”

TC: Can you spell the name of Duke’s basketball coach without looking it up?

AL: Kreanmfskdufnsdlfsky. I’m pretty sure that’s spot on.

TC: Best dancer ever on “So You Think you Can Dance”?

AL: Sabra and Neal’s table dance to “Sweet Dreams”. No question about it. Maybe I’ll do a reenactment of it at a halftime show this year. See if they can work that into my contract.

TC: Your oddest pre-game ritual?

AL: Is oddest a word?

TC: Coolest place you’ve been as a result of being a professional soccer player?

AL: I’m from Hawaii. Nuff said.

TC: Most fluke goal you’ve ever allowed?

AL: Every goal is a fluke. Ha ha. The one against Sky Blue this year was not good. I was WAY out of position. I think they replayed me hitting the post out of frustration about a million times. Thanks a lot Fox Soccer.

TC: What was the name of the mascot at Punahou High?

AL: Ha, ha, We don’t have a mascot we have colors and a tree. The colors are
buff (read: gold/yellow) and blue and the tree is the hala tree.

TC: Your favorite condiment is ketchup. What is the most unusual food you use it on?

AL: Cold macaroni and cheese and ketchup is pretty amazing. Don’t knock it til you try it.

TC: Heinz or Hunts?

AL: Uh, Heinz. Duh?

TC: You hold the Duke record for not allowing a goal in 603.33 minutes. Will the record ever be broken and what word did you say when you finally allowed one behind you?

AL: I’m sure it’ll be broken and I probably said something like shucks…or something along those lines.

TC: You were the 2004 Gatorade Player of the Year. What is your favorite Gatorade flavor?

AL: Orange G2.

TC: Who is your soccer idol?

AL: You

TC: If there was an Allison Lipsher Fan Club, what would it be called?

AL: Probably something like the Allison Lipsher Fan Club.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He also shares his top stories on his blog The ‘xoxo’ of Sports. He is a supporter of Team Hoyt, the father/son marathon and triathlon team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. He encourages you to support their movement of “Yes, I Can” by visiting their Web site at

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fantography: A Photographic Diary of the Fan's Love of Baseball

As I chatted with Andy Strasberg about his new baseball related venture called Fantography™, I couldn't help but hum Rod Stewart's 1971 anthem, "Every Picture Tells a Story."

In actuality, however, my musical recap of Strasberg's photographic venture may be best summarized as Paul Simon's Kodachrome mixed with a few verses of Take Me Out to The Ball Game .

Fantography™ is Strasberg's recently unveiled undertaking, whose goal it is to harvest centuries of baseball photographs and the wonderful stories that go along with them. These are the photographs, taken not by professional photographers, but by the fans, themselves.

Strasberg sees Fantography™ as the offspring of his five decade love affair with the sport of baseball, a love affair that is not unique to him, but is shared by fans throughout the globe. The project will allow fans to upload their personal baseball memories onto the Fantography™ website to be stored forever and shared with other fans of the game.

"It's more than just a box score," explains Strasberg, the former VP of Marketing for the San Diego Padres. "It's the love affair between a fan and the game of baseball as seen through the lens of a camera."

Strasberg's vision is to rescue these personal photographs along with the stories and memories that accompanied them from the shoe boxes, attics and scrap books of fans before they are lost, damaged, or destroyed.

"Some of the world's best photos are in shoe-boxes all over the world. Photos taken years ago. When that person passes, their belongings are not meaningful to others and are usually disposed of."

Strasberg added that since the advent of digital cameras most fan photographers do not print out their photographs, but either keep them on their camera or download them to their personal computers, never to be seen by the masses.

"When their computers crash, they are more concerned about saving their documents than they are about rescuing their photographs and they too become lost."

"This is why we are hoping to harvest baseball snapshots taken by fans over the last 100 years," explains Strasberg. "Photos that capture a poignant personal moment in professional baseball, be it major league, minor league, or Negro Leagues. The snapshot could be of a player, a ballpark or a mascot."

Strasberg traces the genesis of Fantography™ back to Cooperstown in 1958. "I have a picture that my Dad took of me on the steps of the Baseball Hall of Fame when I was 10 years old. It is absolutely the first photograph of my relationship with baseball."

Strasberg, a native of the Bronx, began bringing his camera to games at a very young age, while forming a well documented friendship with Yankee Slugger, Roger Maris. Through this friendship, Strasberg earned Maris' affection, who often referred to Andy as his "most faithful fan."

"I have this incredible picture of me and Roger Maris. The picture is framed perfectly with Yankee Stadium as the backdrop looking towards home plate."

When Strasberg went to college, he took a photography class taught by noted American photographer, Arthur Leipzig, perhaps best known for his photo essays on New York life in the 1940's and 50's.

"Even though my dream and my desire was to do something in the game of baseball, it was Arthur Leipzig who got me to focus at looking at the world through a lens like I had never done before. Because of that and my connection to baseball, I have a lot of pictures that explain to the viewer how much I love the game of baseball."

One of Strasberg's personal favorites is a picture of Hank Aaron taken by a ten-year-old boy as he's walking out of Milwaukee County Stadium. "It's out of focus because it's taken through the eyes of a ten year old who may be only four feet high, but you can tell how important it was to this child. That's what Fantography™ is all about."

The long range goal of Fantography™ is to collect enough snapshots and stories to create a coffee table size book encompassing 500-700 photographs to preserve for eternity the professional baseball experience of the fan from their perspective.

He sees Fantography™ as a photographic version of the Chicken Soup series.

"They are the personal photos and stories, for those people, but other people truly love to hear them. This will truly be an American story, with the focus on our National Pastime" he explains.

Strasberg reiterates that photos should be taken by fans who are not professional photographers and are not game action photos.

To participate in this baseball experience go to and upload your photos. Each person submitting a photo should include a caption that describes the date, people in the photo and the story behind the photo.

Strasberg shared the video creation below which captures a sampling of the many photos submitted to the Fantography site.

Identification in order of appearance on video:

Bob Friend, Mickey Mantle & Roger Maris, Phil Masi, Rudy Regalado, Stan Lopata, Al Lindquist, Roy McMillian, Carl Furillo, Andy Strasberg (age 14) & Ted Williams, Gus Bell,
Red Kress, Joe Medwick, Tommy Holmes, Gene Conley, Roger Maris, Frank Robinson,

Jimmie Wallace, Bill Donavan and Warren Spahn, Mrs. Max West, Max West and Tony Cuccinello, Max West, Jim Tobin, Stew Hofferth, Bobby Thomson, Billy Bruton, Sibby Sissti, Rocky Colavito, Hank Aaron, Eddie Miller & Jim Tobin, Joe Pepitone, Gary Baker (Strasberg's best friend), Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Al Downing, Casey Stengel, Brooklyn Dodger PA Announcer, Tony Conigliaro, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Players walking across Comiskey Park outfield, Andy Strasberg, Jerry Casale.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . He is also a supporter of, A Glove of Their Own , the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball. The Joe Niekro Foundation is the most recent non-profit organization to join the A Glove of Their Own team and will earn $3.00 from each sale of the book purchased using the donor code JNF636 Joe Niekro Foundation .