Keeping Score: Spa season has arrived

Published: 06-30-2023 4:14 PM

Good morning!
Saratoga Race Course opens a week from Thursday (July 13) and for seven weeks I’ll be fighting the urge to hop in the car and step into the eighth wonder of the world. Founded by a gambler and bare-knuckles pugilist named John “Old Smoke” Morrissey, the 163-year-old track opened one month after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Unlike trips to other major sporting venues, getting to the Spa means driving away from the big cities and west past cornfields and apple orchards to Schuylerville where John Burgoyne’s troops laid down their arms close to where the Hudson is barely the width of the Deerfield River.

Tickets this year have risen from seven to 10 dollars, and the Manhattan clam chowder and Shake Shack burgers will probably cost more, but on Union Avenue schoolkids will be hawking the Albany Times-Union for a buck and turf writer Tim Wilkin is arguably the track’s best handicapper.

If you’re young, wild and crazy go on the weekend, and if you’re old, laid back and sober go on a weekday. Sundays are good because the traffic is light, road crews aren’t working and the party animals are hung over. The gates open at 11 a.m., first post time is at 1 p.m. and the last race usually goes off at about 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays are dark.

All four giveaways are on a Friday, starting July 21 with cooler jugs, followed by dry fit T-shirts on August 11, bucket hats on Aug. 18 and tote bags on September 1.


At Pioneer, Brian Campbell has been named the school’s new athletic director. Characterized by superintendent Patricia Kinsella as an “exemplary” middle school English teacher, basketball coach Scott Thayer said the school got the right candidate for the job. “It’s a good hire. He knows the lay of the land. He knows the kids, he knows the faculty and he was a coach at Frontier.”


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Asked to evaluate Aaron Judge’s toe injury, retired Greenfield orthopedic surgeon Tom Echeverria said, “From what I can gather based on his mechanism of injury and press reports, he probably has turf toe, and if the ligament is really torn it is probably a Grade 3 injury.”

Judge jammed the big toe into a concrete barrier making a catch at Dodger Stadium. The injury is eerily similar to when Mickey Mantle broke his foot crashing into the outfield fence at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

Mantle’s injury happened on June 4; Judge’s injury happened on June 3. Mantle returned 60 days later and hit a pinch hit home run in an 11-10 win versus the O’s, and Echeverria said Judge could be out at least as long. 


Scouting the Draft: JMU’s Bryce Eldridge was 11-0 for the Dukes, posted a 1.30 ERA, whiffed 88 batters in 53.2 innings, batted .420 and was intentionally walked 16 times during one stretch of 20 plate appearances. predicts he’ll go to the Rays with the 19th overall pick on July 9, and that the Red Sox will take catcher Blake Mitchell of Swinton (Texas) High School with the 14th pick.


Stanford southpaw Quinn Mathews threw 156 pitches in a win against Texas on June 11. “That’s criminal,” said Sirius-XM’s Steve Phillips. “There’s no way a college pitcher should be left in [that long]. When guys get to pro ball and need Tommy John surgery, much of it’s from their amateur pitching days.”


Mike Cadran’s summary of Western Mass. teams in the MIAA playoffs: “We had two state champions from 40 teams in six sports. John Hickey’s GHS softballers defended their D-5 title, and Agawam High School won the boys D-2 volleyball title.

“Only electronic tickets for state finals games,” he added. “On all U.S. currency it says: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”


After Mookie Betts homered against Houston on Sunday, ESPN’s Karl Ravich said, “Mookie elevated.” 

After Marcell Ozuna homered against the Phillies, Braves broadcaster Jim Powell said, “Ozuna hit that with extreme brutality.”

You take Ravich, I’ll take Powell. 


SQUIBBERS: In-game interviews like they had in London last week are as distracting to the fans as they are to the players and managers. How fun it would be to see ESPN’s dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal try to wander up to Bill Belichick during a game. … FS1’s Richard Migliore on picking a horse from the Bruce Levine barn to win at Belmont on June 23: “Bruce’s assistant trainer and I used to get smuggled in together in the bed of Dennis Brida’s pickup truck when we were too young to work here.” … Congrats to Bill Phelps who was presented with the Stan Benjamin Excellence in Athletics Award during Tom Suchanek’s annual golf event at the Country Club. … Scottie Scheffler, who tied for fourth in last week’s Travelers, now has 17 straight finishes in the top 12.  … Former Vanderbilt phenom Kumar Rocker had Tommy John surgery in May. Rocker began having arm trouble during the 2019 College World Series. … It figured that former UMass A-10 rookie of the year Tre Mitchell would wind up with John Calipari at Kentucky. … The New York Post on Aaron Judge’s absence: “Say it Ain’t Toe!” … Classified ad in New Hampshire’s Valley News: Adorable Morkie Puppies. …. The College World Series final on Monday quickly became a snoozer after Florida southpaw Jac Caglianone gave up two singles, walked three and hit a batter in the second inning. Final score: LSU, 18-4. … Mookie Betts has 44 first inning leadoff home runs, Rickey Henderson leads with 81 and George Springer has 55. Mookie’s outfield replacement in Boston, Alex Verdugo, hit one leadoff home run in April and that’s about it. Verdugo has 49 career home runs; Mookie has 233. … The Mets are so bad that Chris Russo’s already talking about offseason moves. … Bettors who took the over totals for Cincinnati (65.5 wins), Arizona (75.5) and Baltimore (76.5) are looking good; bettors who took the Mets (91.5), Cardinals (88.5) and White Sox (82.5), not so good. … Arraez and Shine! If you see this headline anywhere else, remember you saw it here first. …  Nineteen years ago last Sunday, Robert Kraft gave his $25K Super Bowl ring to Vladimir Putin to admire and the Russian leader pocketed it. “I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him a nd walked out.”… UMass coach Greg Carvel on BC-bound Ryan Leonard going to the Capitals with the eighth overall pick of the draft: “My hope is that he goes straight to the NHL!”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at]]>