BRASSball Draft, Or What I Did On My Winter Vacation

April, 1995

by Tom Taormina


Well, the draft is over, everyone has a team and the league is on its way.  The league as it's constituted now is the product of almost 2 years of planning and work.  When Vaughn first mentioned to me back in August of 93, that he was thinking of organizing a new summer league based on the winter Brass league, spring 1995 seemed so far away.  He asked me if I was interested in being in the new league.  I told him count me in.  At that time I hadn't played a single Brass game yet, as I had joined the winter league as an expansion owner and had only participated in the expansion and rookie drafts.  I was extremely happy to get in on the ground level of what I knew would be a great league.  Not too long after that came some bad news, the summer league that Vaughn played in had improved and he was dropping the plans for the new Brass league.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  Then came good news, a note written on my copy of the December 93 Brass newsletter from Vaughn told me the plans for the Brass summer league was back on.  The improvements in Vaughn's summer league were short lived.  During this time Vaughn and I were corresponding both by letter and phone regarding the design and implementation of a new free agent compensation play, finally settling on the one which now exists in both the summer and winter leagues.  Also during this time Vaughn and I had many long phone conversations about what we would like to se in this league.  One of the direct results of these conversations is the amateur rule of 5 never before carded players, a rule that we do not have in the winter league.  During the time Kevin was studying for his Bar exam and was not able to contribute as much time to the league as he would have liked to have.  I know many of you who are not in the winter league and are new to Brass were very impressed with the mailing you received, which included the constitution.  Vaughn deserves the lion's share of the credit for the work and vision he contributed in establishing this rule.

One of the things Vaughn and I talked about was having the dispersal draft in person in Chicago.  Chicago was the obvious choice because so many of the people who were expected to be in the league came from the Midwest.  At first I didn't think I would be there.  Then I said to myself, why not?  From that point on I looked forward to February 17.  There were 3 main reasons: the draft itself, flying (I'd never done it before), and meeting everyone who was going to be in Chicago.  I had touched base with Vaughn the Sunday before the draft and I let him know that I'd be at the Ramada about 2:00 PM Friday.  He said he'd be there about the same time, he actually checked in 10 minutes before me.  We had about 6 hours to kill before the arrival of anyone else.  Vaughn took me on a guided tour of Chicago's sports spots.  The first place we visited was Wrigley Field.  Of course we couldn't go in, but it was nice to see the outside.  Its in a nice residential neighborhood.  I'm having serious thoughts of coming back when we have real baseball to see a game or two at Wrigley since the airfare to Chicago from New York is so cheap.  We also drove past the new Comiskey Park ,Soldier Field and the old Chicago Stadium, which is in the process of being torn down.  We returned to the Ramada at about 5:30, checked with the front desk and still no one else had gotten in.  There was only one thing to do: have dinner.  We were still waiting for someone else to show up.  I knew from phone conversations that Lenny would be there about 9:00, and that Tom Manna would get iun from New Jersey about 10:00.  Vaughn knew that Kevin and Colby who lived near by would be there about 8:00.  We knew what these guys looked like because Vaughn as met all of them except Tom.  We could recognize Tom from his winter league directory photo, but we had a problem, we ha dno idea what anyone else looked like.  I mean Bob Gale or Doug Campbell could have been sitting next to us during dinner and we would have no idea who they were.  All right maybe they would have over heard us talking about our opinion of Rich Aude or Jim Pittsley and put two and two together.  We finished dinner, with nothing else to do but wait we went to the hotel's sports bar.  When we got there, there about 5 other people in the place.  Vaughn and I played what might be the longest game of 8-ball pool in recorded history.  We were both bad, I was a little worse.  Then the Shark entered the bar, she proposed that we play her and her friend for drinks, but this stree wise New York City Cop was not going to have any of that.  Vaughn played the Shark one on one in a friendly game, and defended the honor of the Brass league by beating her.  I guess she was more of a trout then a Shark if she couldn't beat Vaughn.  As the game was wrapping up I spotted Lenny, we left the Shark to gum some other unsuspecting victim and took a table to sit down and talk some baseball.  Lenny was still trying to get me to admit who I was going to take with the second pick in the draft; Bonds or Thomas.  I finally told him it was going to be Thomas.  Lenny would take Bonds.  So we knew picks 1-2-3.  Vaughn was still sweating out who Fred would take, although he hadn't told me I was pretty confident he wanted Piazza.  It wasn't too much longer before Kevin and Colby arrived.  So here were 5 winter Brass guys and still no one who wasn ew to Brass.  We were talking about how we would be able to recognize the other guys or how we'd know they were there when Bob Gale and Fred Lambrecht were walking past our table and Fred heard us mention his name.  After the introductions Fed said Lofton would be his pick and Vaughn was able to breathe easier.  So now we knew the first 5 picks of the draft.  Soon after Doug Campbell, Allen Telgenhof, and Doug Kehlmeier showed up.  The only one who was missing was Tom Manna.  I went on a search & rescue mission and found Tommy wandering aimlessly around the hotel lobby. Holding Strat cards and mumbling something about homerun chances.  Actually, I met Tommy coming out of the elevator.  Now all eleven of us were together with everyone talking baseball and the draft.  Since everyone had to be up early the next morning we broke up around 11:30.

Everyone was in the draft room early on Saturday morning, the excitement level was high.  I know I wasn't the only one who entered this draft with some trepidation.  I didn't know exactly what to expect.  I mean, in your average league 1/3 of the league makes good picks, 1/3 make average picks, and 1/3 make poor choices.  That didn't happen in this draft.  I felt on average everyone made good picks, that doesn't mean there wasn't any klunkers, heck I probably made a couple.  One thing the guys who weren't there don't know is how often we mumbled, muttered and cursed when you made your picks.  There just weren't many mistakes made.  Just about everyone took a player that I watned, Colby Wright AKA "Draft Boy", did a lot of damage to my draft.  So did anyone else who took good pitching and young prospects.

We had many laughs.  The funniest par of the draft for me was when I took over the phone.  It was late, about 9:00 PM.  Wed been at it for 12 hours.  Scott Campbell picked Rikkert Faneyte, I normally have no problem pronouncing people's names.  Unfortunately, I butchered Faneyte when I announced it to the room, everyone laughed.  For some reason, one that I can't remember, I couldn't stop laughing.  Vaughn, who was sitting next to me at the time only fueled my laughter by laughing even harder than me.  Then someone said his name was pronounced Rickert Frickert, we laughed even harder if that's possible.  The only reason I was able to dsto paws because I couldn't breathe anymore.  The next person I called, I had to give an update to.  When I came to Faneyte's name, I lost it again.  It got so bad I had to hadn the phone to Kevin.  Whoever was on the phone at that time will remember it and will now know what was going on.  I managed to get through the rest of the round and thankfully vacated the draft conductor seat.  When we finished Saturday night I was drained, I returned to my room to do 2 more hours of draft work. 

There was a lot less pressure on Sunday than Saturday.  The players available were just roster fillers and longshots.  Now all that remains to be seen is how this years races shape up.  I know some guys drafted more for the future than for this year.  I tried to do both for the first 12 rounds, switching to best available cards for this year after the 12th round.  The best part of this hobby is meeting people, or talking to them on the phone about trades or baseball in general.  Everyone who was in Chicago was a great guy.  Kudos to Kevin for organizing and doing all the leg work necessary for a successful draft.  I'd definitely be in favor of a reunion draft/meeting sometime in the future.  If we have one, and you can come, do it.  You won't be sorry.