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St. Joe Blacksnakes @ KC T-Bones


Ez Street

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Ok, the KC T-Bones of the Northern League hosted the St. Joseph Blacksnakes of the American Association Friday night. It was an exhibition game and DAMN, was it a nice night for baseball.

Here are some select pics, followed by a link to my gallery. ENJOY!

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EZ Street's T-Bones Picutres

Does the fact that a NoL team and an AA team played an exhibition mean the leagues are more or less back on speaking terms?

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Maybe. I think it's more of a convienece factor.

I don't seem them merging anytime soon. Although it would be benefical. I really feel the NoL has suffered big since the split.

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Actually the T-Bones usually sell out. This was an exhibition. They said it was the largest crowd for an exhibition game there ever.

I'm not sure, but usually these games are not great games. The T-Bones were supposed to play a local Community College there tonight. SNORE.

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Maybe. I think it's more of a convienece factor.

I don't seem them merging anytime soon. Although it would be benefical. I really feel the NoL has suffered big since the split.

It certainly has. A lot of the great rivalries are gone, and the talent pool is stretched just that little bit further. This article, from this Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press, talks about just that.

Saints' fiery manager Tsamis misses the good old days, too

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- I don't miss the pig. Same goes for the nun. Mike Veeck? Not so much. But the baseball... damn, I miss the baseball.

It's going on two years since the Northern League owners decided they could no longer rake in the cash with smiling faces and enjoy life as the greatest little baseball league on the planet.

The geniuses in the boardroom decided it would be better to exist as two mediocre leagues plagued by endless headaches than as one strong loop, albeit with one very disharmonious owners' group.

So Splitsville. The St. Paul Saints, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux Falls Canaries and Sioux City Explorers huffed off into the sunset to form the American Association.

Left was an eight-team Northern League, gasping but with a puffed-up chest and unfulfilled talk about a brighter future.

It all came rushing back on Saturday afternoon as Saints manager George Tsamis greeted the Winnipeggers -- media, players and front-office types alike -- with the smile of an old friend.

"Oh yeah, I miss the competition. I miss playing Winnipeg," said Tsamis, once the most hated man in Camp Goldeye.

"The games were always close and sometimes heated. You know I loved playing Winnipeg and I loved playing Fargo. I wish we could find a way to still play, whether it's interleague play, a post-season series or an all-star game. I miss it a lot."

So George is the first among the folks who make up independent baseball to say it out loud. We'll go a little further: The new arrangement sucks.

The Northern League spread out from Chicago to Edmonton and only a handful of meaningful franchises in the American Association make for two leagues begging to be one again.

Admittedly, we were only too glad to say ta-ta to the four teams leaving the Northern League. Travelling to Sioux Falls and Sioux City had become old. The teams sucked and so did the nightlife. Need we say more?

The Saltdogs in Lincoln and the Saints in St. Paul were a different story.

The folks in Lincoln ran a good operation, manager Tim Johnson always put a good team on the field, and his old-school stories were usually accompanied by free beer in his office. A reporter's dream.

But the Saints and their act had worn thin. Sure, some of it was personal. Minority owner Veeck snubbed me a couple of times and last time I checked, that role was reserved for beautiful women. Majority shareholder Marv Goldklang and I had clashed and continue to go back and forth on any number of issues. But it was also the show in St. Paul. Great to visit for a night or two, but after awhile the nun/masseuse, baseball-delivering pig and karaoke public-address dude gave me a headache.

It was foolish to let those issues overshadow the baseball. The baseball was dramatic, sometimes brilliant and always entertaining.

So many Goldeyes-Saints games ended late in the night with Hal Lanier pulling off his jersey in disgust or, with happier results, declaring drinks were on him.

Across the field, Tsamis was the ultimate competitor. Fiery, fearless and a maverick, he loved to beat Winnipeg. Sometimes it was childish and over the top, but it was all about winning and it made the blood run hot.

Last night, before a meaningless pre-season game, Tsamis was asked if he would make a move late in the game to try and win.

"Absolutely. I want to win this game and I'll want to win the game on Sunday," admitted Tsamis. "It's Winnipeg and St. Paul. It means something to me and it does to them too."

So true, George. Now if we could only convince the money boys.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

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On a semi-related note, is anyone showing up to the games in Edmonton and Calgary? I recall hearing those teams were virtually league-subsidized.

Calgary 2006 Avg. Attendance: 1,088

Edmonton 2006 Avg. Attendance: 1,465

The two are supposed to be playing an exhibition game in Saskatoon Thursday at Cairns Field.

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And there were reports that Saskatoon might get a Northern League franchise. I don't think that's the answer to the Northern League problems.

Other potential new franchises could be in North Dakota -- Bismarck, Grand Forks or Minot, and none of them would work. Bismarck has the fan base but a horrible stadium. Minot has a great stadium but no fan base. And Grand Forks is so-so on both.

So the Northern League needs its former members, and apparently, vice versa. Hopefully cool heads will eventually prevail.

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On a semi-related note, is anyone showing up to the games in Edmonton and Calgary? I recall hearing those teams were virtually league-subsidized.

Calgary 2006 Avg. Attendance: 1,088

Edmonton 2006 Avg. Attendance: 1,465

The two are supposed to be playing an exhibition game in Saskatoon Thursday at Cairns Field.

Thos attendance figures are, also, inflated. I remember listening to a Goldeyes game before we moved, and there were, according to the announcers, about 200 people in the stands. I have no idea why these two teams still exist.

Saskatoon is a possibility, but I don't know the condition of Cairns Field, or the will of the locals to go to another baseball game after whoknowshowmany leagues have already folded in that town (CBL, Heartland League, Prairie League). I'd like to see Duluth return, personally, but I have no idea if that's even possible; all I know is, the best time I've ever had at a game was at Wade Stadium.

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Frontier, Northern League merger talks underway?

According to Rockford RiverHawks owner Dave Ciarrachi, the independent Northern and Frontier leagues have had preliminary discussions about merging and he hopes some action could be taken in the next 12 to 24 months. Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith and Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee didn't comment for the Rockford Register Star story, which extensively looked at what each league would need to do in order to merge (the Frontier League would probably raise the maximum age of a player; the Northern League may have to make some concessions with travel money). A merger also doesn't address one of the big issues with the Northern League: the Fargo-Moorhead, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary franchises would still be located quite a ways from the nearest team in the league -- Kansas City is some 600 miles from Fargo.

So much for the AA and NoL merging....

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