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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Birch Bias

Good morning!

Throwing it up there to see what sticks with your bacon and eggs this Saturday breakfast ...

Bill Lee claims bats made of yellow birch are stronger than the conventional sort made of maple or northern white ash. “It’s a cross between maple and ash and very hard to break unless you get fooled by a change-up and get the front out,” Lee told radio hosts Ed Randall and Rico Petrocelli.

The talkative Spaceman is the ideal radio guest, just ask and he’ll do the rest: “Our teams could’ve beat today’s teams like a red-headed stepchild ... Jerry Remy and I didn’t talk much. He was a Zimmerite and I was a Buffalo Head ... You should always enter a ballpark the way you enter a church.”

And so on. Keene Swamp Bats president Kevin Watterson said he bumped into Lee at the Atlanta airport two years ago and was overwhelmed by Lee’s motormouth. “I love the guy, but it was exhausting. His stories are unreal, but it was nonstop. I had to excuse myself after 30 minutes. Can you imagine walking away from an ex-MLB guy?”

Watterson said that for this season his team will stick with the traditional wooden bats. “We go through close to 100 bats which cost about $4,000, and 150 dozen baseballs at around $5,000. Our biggest expense is travel, approaching $30,000.”

Years ago before an NBC Game of the Week, a producer asked the late Curt Gowdy about the story line. “Story line?” huffed Gowdy. “How about we just follow the ball?”

Too bad the Hall of Fame broadcaster can’t tell that to NESN. Instead of following the ball, the camera’s panning on clothier Joseph Abboud in the stands or Wally the Green Monster on top of the dugout. Meanwhile Don Orsillo’s telling viewers to tune into “Dining Playbook with Billy and Jenny” to find out Shawn Thornton’s five favorite hangouts. Who cares?

Then we have Mike McCune, the sports director of WCAX in Burlington, Vt., who during a boring and awkward interview with Orsillo and Jerry Remy on Thursday said that Carlton Fisk is among Vermont’s all-time best athletes. “Gotta be Fisk,” he said. “Gotta be.”

Wrong. Fisk was born in Bellows Falls but grew up across the river in Charlestown and considers himself a New Hampshire native. He played high school ball in the Granite State, caught for the Claremont American Legion team and was a two-sport athlete at UNH.

After his induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, he insisted that their mention of him as a native Vermonter be removed from the plaque.

The sports community turned out strong for Ted Telega’s wake at the Kostanski Funeral Home on April 11, folks like Bill Phelps, Doug Pregony, Ken Caouette, John Richardson, Tim Schmitt and Jerry Burgess.

Telega was an ubiquitous figure on the local sporting scene, umpiring and refereeing thousands of athletic contests. When he wasn’t officiating he was farming, fishing, hunting or skating. His passions indeed ran the gamut, but his daughter JoAnn Kaczenski said, “Baseball was his favorite. That was the top.”

On the day of his wake, a photo of his great granddaughter Cheryl Kaczenski appeared in the Recorder sports section. She was throwing a javelin at a Pioneer track meet, and the only thing missing was Ted in the background, rooting for her to succeed.

Retired state trooper John Carney of South Deerfield helped runners regroup inside the medical tent at the 22-mile mark of Monday’s Boston Marathon, near Columbus Circle.

“Some of our volunteers were assigned to stand in the street with popsicle sticks with a glob of vaseline on the end for runners with chafing issues,” said Carney. “We shouted ‘Vaseline!’ loud and clear, but some thought it was Italian Ice and took the stuff orally, then spit it out.”

The runners’ most frequent requests, said Carney, were for salt tablets, ibuprofen and BenGay. “Relatively few required the ambulance and we made every effort to get them back on the road.”

Prior to the race Carney spent two days inside a booth at the Hynes Expo Center promoting his son Brian’s upcoming Bonefrog Challenge at Berkshire East on May 17.

Scott King of Northampton owns a piece of a 3-year-old gelding named Ring Weekend that won the Tampa Bay Derby at 14-to-1 odds. The Graham Motion trainee would be a lock for the Kentucky Derby but for its dull effort in the Calder Derby on April 5.

Off as the prohibitive 3-to-10 favorite, jockey Alan Garcia needed to pull and steady his steed at the 3/16ths pole. “Maybe he bounced off the race at Tampa,” said Motion. “We will do the right thing by the horse.”

Motion won the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom and will likely enter his newest threat and hope for a good post position draw on Wednesday.

Conway’s Brad Scudder and his business partner were on last night’s episode of “Shark Tank.” The reality show puts entrepreneurs in with billionaires who listen to business pitches and decide if they want to invest. The episode aired after deadline, but a source said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a significant investment in Scudder’s plan to create the mother of all obstacle courses.

Trivia: Who said, “The bassoon is one of my favorite instruments. It has a medieval aroma, like the days when everything used to sound like that. Some people crave baseball ... I find this unfathomable, but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing the bassoon.”

MLB’s first night game was May 24, 1935, at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, but baseball remained an afternoon affair at Fenway Park until 1947.

This year, however, the Red Sox have more night games than all but the Orioles and Dodgers. It’s probably to fill the 428 seats in straightaway center field that are covered with an olive tarp during day games to help the hitters’ line of vision. Empty seats mean lost revenue, and the Red Sox’ first priority is to get the most fans they can into America’s most beloved sardine can.

Yankees’ hurler Ivan Nova is the 15th MLB pitcher this year to have Tommy John surgery. Pitchers are opting to go under the knife for tendon replacement surgery because it makes them better pitchers than before they were injured.

Tommy John was the prototype. He’d won 124 games before he blew out his elbow in 1974, then won 164 games after the surgery.

Trivia Answer: Frank Zappa.

Squibbers: Shelburne’s Skip Smith asks: “Is it true Michael Pineda’s been named to the All Tar team?” ... Sportscaster Adam Schein on John Farrell’s reluctance to call out Pineda: “Farrell had no interest in doing this because he knew Clay Buchholz bathes in Vaseline.” ... Buchholz, by the way, might want to substitute bullpen sessions for couch sessions. ... How blasé they can be doling out errors from up in the press box. I’d like to have seen the official scorer field the scorcher that Carlos Beltran one-hopped off Xander Bogaerts’ thumb on Thursday night. ... Brock Holt’s triple last Saturday was Boston’s first in 608 at-bats since the season started. Three days later Jacoby Ellsbury belted one in his first swing back at Fenway. Think they might miss him just a little? ... Tuesday a $165 field box seat sold for $72.40 on StubHub. The website shuts down two hours before the first pitch and prices tumble during the final few minutes. ... Derek Jeter looked old in this series, and Yankees manager Joe Giardi is going to have his hands full simultaneously keeping his team in first place and his aging icon’s integrity intact. ... The NCAA champion Union College hockey team had one NHL draft choice on its roster. The two teams it beat in the Frozen Four, Minnesota and Boston College, had 14 and 10, respectively. ... Taking a cue from the Red Sox, the Washington Nationals will host the Cubs in an 11 a.m. game on the Fourth of July. ... Cleveland activated 43-year-old Jason Giambi on Monday. “G” as Terry Francona calls him is currently the oldest active player in the majors. ... It’s interesting how baseball has toughened its steroid stance yet the MLB Radio Network gladly pumps ads for BoostMyHGH.com.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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