Keeping Score: Power and class today at Fenway

Friday, November 10, 2017

Good morning!

And Happy Veterans Day to those who served so that others may kneel.

It’ll be a rare sight seeing fans inside Fenway Park on a cold November afternoon under a waning moon, appropriate football weather for today’s 4 p.m. kickoff between UMass and Maine.

These two foes go back to 1946 when they were charter members of the Yankee Conference. The original six teams have gone their separate ways and the Beanpot Trophy is probably stashed in a dusty display case, a neglected relic from a bygone time.

UVM dropped football, UNH, URI and Maine play in the Colonial Athletic Association and UConn’s in the American Athletic Conference.

UMass is unaffiliated and wherever it goes, so goes the Minuteman Marching Band. Today the “Power and Class of New England” will strut its stuff in Boston’s grand old ballyard.

The football team has struggled but the band has never had a losing season. Its high standard of excellence was sustained for 33 years by band director George Parks, and the $5.7 million Minuteman Marching Band Building is named in his honor. 

Parks died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2010 after a performance in Ohio. He was 57. The band continued on its trip without him and played at halftime of the UMass-Michigan game in Ann Arbor.

A few days later, the Mullins Center was jammed for his memorial service and a former tuba player-turned-politician named Stanley Rosenberg read a proclamation declaring it “George N. Parks Day.”

Band director Timothy Todd Anderson hasn’t missed a beat or nary a step. The 380-member ensemble has been rehearsing all autumn to prepare for today’s performance of the 1812 Overture. Tchaikovsky’s inspiring score will have plenty of oomph inside the “lyric little bandbox” as John Updike described Fenway Park for the New Yorker in 1960.

The halftime show will begin at about 6 p.m. People outside the park will hear the canon blasts and think it’s the 4th of July on the Esplanade.

The UMass basketball team tipped off the 2017-18 season Friday night against UMass-Lowell at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen are coming off a tumultuous 15-18 season, including a 1-3 record versus Top 50 teams.

Shortly after they lost by 13 points to St. Bonaventure in the second round of the A-10 tournament, athletic director Ryan Bamford fired coach Derek Kellogg. A few days later, he announced the start of the Pat Kelsey era at UMass. “He has a detailed plan for every phase of our program and a passionate work ethic,” said Bamford of Kelsey.

The Winthrop University coach arrived in Amherst to sign a five-year contract, took a look around and went home begging Winthrop to let him keep his job.

After some scrambling, Bamford hired Matt McMall away from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “He has a detailed plan for every phase of our program….”

It might be a while before McCall’s rhetoric about hanging banners in the Mullins Center comes to fruition. The early schedule includes games against Harvard, Minnesota and BYU — all in USA Today’s preseason Top 100 — together with upcoming foes Georgia, URI and South Carolina.

The upside of watching a losing team is seeing good competition on the cheap and having plenty of elbow room to sit. Tickets to Friday night’s game were priced between $16 and $22.

USA Today rates UMass 155th of 351 teams in D-1. The bar’s been set relatively low, but for good reason.

Springfield school kids will be playing hooky to watch hockey on Wednesday morning. The puck drops at 10:30 a.m. for what’s being billed as a “unique educational experience.” It will indeed, watching the Springfield Thunderbirds play the Charlotte Checkers at the MassMutual Center.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will bring the 2013 World Series with him for tonight’s sold out game against the Laval (Quebec) Rocket. 

When Big Papi Night was announced in September, managing partner Paul Picknelly said in a prepared statement: “We are thankful to MGM Springfield for creating this opportunity.”

The franchise is indeed fortunate to have a casino about to open a few blocks from the rink.

“It’s a huge positive,” said Todd McDonald, a Greenfield native and senior director of ticket sales. “We’re happy to have them as a corporate partner.”

NMH athletic director Kevin Klein has hired Greenfield’s Sharon McGuinness to be the varsity softball coach. The Lady Hoggers had a rough go of it last season, losing every game and twice to Deerfield Academy by a combined score of 22-0.

A 2000 GHS grad, McGuinness had been an assistant coach at Westfield State University the previous two years. “(Klein) wants to grow the program,” she said, “and I’m super excited to give them some wins.”

Vin Scully’s indictment of the NFL for allowing players to take a knee during the national anthem has rocked the league office on Park Avenue. The Dodgers’ legendary broadcaster was asked his opinion during a Q&A session in Pasadena. “I have only one personal thought, really… and I am so disappointed. I used to love, during the fall and winter, to watch the NFL on Sunday. It's not that I'm some great patriot. I was in the Navy for a year. Didn’t go anywhere. Didn’t do anything. But I have overwhelming respect and admiration for anyone who puts on a uniform and goes to war. So the only thing I can do in my little way is not to preach. I will never watch another NFL game again.”

Longtime Turners Falls resident and staunch TFHS supporter Warren Thomas was at Wesleyan for Homecoming against Williams College last Saturday. The Cardinals quarterback is a neuroscience major named Mark Piccirillo, who’s broken almost every passing and scoring record in the book.

He scored four touchdowns against the Ephs — two on the ground and two through the air— during Wesleyan’s 35-0 romp.

Thomas scribbled the score inside his program to give to Powertown neighbor George F. Bush, a Williams grad, who was schoolmates with George Steinbrenner. “George can get a little cocky, so I thought about giving it to him,” said Thomas. 

Bush would probably remind him that Williams leads the series, 76-42-5.

Williams hosts its archrival Amherst today in Billsville, and though the Ephs are struggling, Dick Quinn isn’t waving the white flag. “I've seen too many of these games not to know some kid playing his last-ever game is going to have a day,” said the school’s undaunted sports information director.

Good Magic became the early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby after the 2-year-old colt won last week’s B.C. Juvenile. Futures bettors beware: only two of the 33 Juvenile winners have gone on to win at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May — Street Sense in 2007 and Nyquist in 2016.

SQUIBBERS: Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. after his 7-5 favorite Lady Eli ran out of the money: “She don’t give me that kick.” …  Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, the player Alex Rodriguez calls “the best talent in baseball,” made $517,000 this season, the league minimum. … Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins have declined the option on 44-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, whose 50 hits in 196 at-bats this season upped his MLB total to 3,080. …  Georgia Southern slumped to 0-9 after their 27-6 loss at App. State on Thursday. The Mountaineers covered as the 17½-point favorites. … Sign stealing in baseball goes way back. In his book about Casey Stengel, Marty Appel writes that New York Giants manager John McGraw suspected the Yankees of using binoculars to peer in the dugout and read lips. … Connie Carberg has written a book about being the first female NFL scout. It’s titled “X’s and O’s Don’t Mean I Love You.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.