Steve Buckley's Baseball Blast From The Past

August 13, 2009 - 10:10 am

The scene at Cambridge's St. Peter's Field this past Monday could have very easily been confused for that of Ray Kinsella's Iowa farm turned baseball Valhalla. As WEEI's Big Show listeners have heard on many a "Last Call," Boston Herald columnist and frequent guest Steve Buckley has been promoting for months, the 16th annual Oldtime Baseball Game will take place on Thursday night in Cambridge. The game has been a summer baseball tradition in Cambridge since its inception in 1994. That summer 15 years ago, Major League Baseball was mired in a work stoppage that even cancelled World Series. As enthusiasm for the professional variety of the game was waning, Buckley unintentionally got the ball rolling on what has become a local late-summer tradition. As a host of a show on WEEI, Buckley very hastily suggested that he and his listeners have their own game to outweigh the negative effects of the strike. Little did he know that such a comment would strike a chord with so many in New England. People called the show and pledge donations to take to the field. Paul Ryder of the Cambridge Park and Recreation even donated the use of St. Peter's Field, which set the stage for baseball to played during the 1994 strike. However, there needed to be a charitable cause to help fuel the game. The first charitable cause was to help pay for college scholarships for the children of Cambridge postal worker Eddie Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The game's proeceeds helped start a scholarship fund for the late postal worker's two children. This year's charitable cause for the game is Hospitality Homes. The organization provides temporary housing for patients and families undergoing medical care in the Boston area. The game's charitable partner changes each summer. The Oldtime Game's players, including former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni, believe the charity tie-in gives the game some extra incentive for good play. "Seeing as though it's for a good cause, it's not life or death and it's not the big leagues," Merloni said. "But the pressure is still there because you don't want to be the guy kicking balls and striking out." In addition to the charitable donations of the monetary variety, many local citizens and companies, like Royal White Laundry, donate their time and services. It clearly takes a village to raise the annual game. "Everyone sees it as something that's parochial, provencial, and local," said Buckley. "This is all people who love baseball." Merloni isn't the only local luminary to lace up the spikes for this year's contest, as Massachusetts State Senator Anthony Galluccio is also playing in the game. Like Merloni, this is Galluccio's second consecutive appearance. Aside from the charitable aspects of the contest, Senator Galluccio is playing in this year's game to settle a small score with Cambridge native Bobby Fournier that dates back to last year. "I had come back from vacation and I found out that he was going around the city saying that he was going to strike me out," the Senator said. "I didn't realize he had made this prediction, so it upped the ante a lot." Last year's one at-bat showdown saw Senator Galluccio make contact on the first pitch he saw from the Salem State hurler. However, Senator Galluccio grounded out in his only at-bat last year. Monday's media day gave the local press a chance to see the players of tomorrow in the uniforms of yesterday. Merloni will be wearing the game's oldest throwback uniform, representing the 1890 Boston Beaneaters . Those uniforms made their debut during the 1998 game. According to Buckley, the uniforms were donated by Technical Personnel Services. According to Buckley, the Beaneaters were an entrant of the Players League, and were the pennant-winning squad in the league's only year of existence. What began as a truly organic idea to deviate from the frustrations felt by baseball fans in the greater Boston area during one of professional baseball's darkest and lowest points in its history, has turned out to become a summer tradition in the city of Cambridge. If Steve Buckley and friends build it, history (much like that of the national pastime being celebrated at the game) has shown that many people will come. For more information please visit the Oldtime Baseball Game official website.