It’s only fitting that I will be giving out gifts today. It’s time to announce the winners of the 8th annual Dari Joy Baseball Contest. And this year’s contest was a humdinger.
When I advertise our contest each year, I emphasize that there are tiebreakers involved in the contest, and they are very important in the chase for the top six positions, which are all awarded prizes. This time, wow-eee, five of the six winning spots were decided by tiebreakers. There was a tie for first, and there was a tie for fourth. Only the third place finisher stood alone. We’ve had exciting things happen in this contest in years gone by, but this was something else.
Once upon a time, I was an educator. Every year when I sit down to figure out who won the contest, it reminds me of correcting papers. I get out my red pen and go to work. Although each entry only takes a minute or two to score, it ends up feeling like you are correcting a term paper. Adding up the numbers can be exciting, but the accumulation of figures can also prove to be mind-boggling.
I start work on the pile on the right side of my desk and once I have graded (scored) the entry, I put it in a pile to my left. I actually file that pile in regards to the number of points scored. I always keep the entry with the most number of points on top and the one with the lowest amount on the bottom and then keep all the others with points from highest to lowest in between. It’s like watching a game play out. Or probably more appropriately, something like a track meet. You may not lead the entire race, or you may not be last the whole race, but then again you might be.
North Walpole’s Charlie O’Brien is known to many of our readers as a darn good little league coach in Bellows Falls for years and years. He still goes to area sporting events and loves competition. He has entered the contest for years with a rhythm of consistency developed over the past three seasons. He has never been good enough to win, but he finished in the money three years in a row. The past three years, he has placed sixth, sixth, and sixth. That certainly is consistent.
This time he had to go to extra innings with a tiebreaker deciding top dog, but O’Brien took top honors narrowly turning back Ian Clark of Weathersfield. The two tied for first place with 21 points – one point less than the 22 Clark collected one year ago when he won the 2017 title.
The common thread that drove both participants to the extra inning competition was they were two of only three who picked the Red Sox to be World Champions. Once they landed in a tie, the contestant who is able to select the most last place teams in their division correct is the winner. This is the criterion used as the first tiebreaker, and they both had three correct. Then moving up the ladder to fourth place choices, O’Brien cleaned up, having three correct on his entry to Clark’s one. The success of Philadelphia and the lack of success by the Los Angeles Angels did Clark in for that tiebreaker round.
There is no reason to feel sorry for Clark. If he had won, he would have become the second two-time winner – Newport’s Danny Budd, 2011 and 2015 – in the contest’s history, and the first back-to-back winner.
Clark has finished in the money an amazing five times in the contest’s eight-year history. The only other competitors to reach the top six more than two times are Putney’s Lewis Clark and Langdon’s Greg Chaffee, who both have finished in the hierarchy three times. Clark previously had a second and a fourth place finish while Chaffee had a third, a fourth, and a fifth. Thus, Clark has had more success than anyone else overall since the Dari Joy Baseball Contest was introduced back in 2011.
I mentioned previously that the third place winner finished alone in their position, and it was Clark. His 19 points left him two short of the winners above him but also three points ahead of the three who tied for fourth.
Seventh place doesn’t matter, but eight competitors totaled 15 points and another six finished with 14 points. Thus, 14 more entrants were within two points of the top six.
The reason for Clark’s high finish was based, like the top two, on the 2018 success of the Boston Red Sox. Clark didn’t pick them to win – if he had, he would have vaulted past the top two finishers – but his selection of the Sox for losing in the World Series gave him four points and pushed him out of a nine way tie for sixth. Clark tabbed the Washington Nationals to win the World Series. The number one choice in this year’s poll to be World Series champion was Houston by a landslide with Washington next by another landslide.
Now on to the three-way tie for fourth. One of those in that mix understandably is the other contestant who tabbed the Boston Red Sox as World Champion. When one obtains seven points for such a selection with the next highest point total awarded being the four for selecting the World Series loser – you also receive four points if you choose a team to win the World Series and they lose – and you only garner three points for the choice of a division winner, those seven and four point awards, usually go a long ways towards determining champions.
Willie Moore, former Bellows Falls long distance running standout, was the one who placed fourth, but not before a round of the tiebreaking process was gone through. Moore correctly tabbed four of baseball’s last place teams, while both the other contestants he was tied with selected three. This is Moore’s first time in the top six.
By the way, for the second straight fall, Moore ran cross country for the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, who was ranked 16th in the nation in Division II. Moore, a sophomore scored points for his team’s fifth place finish in the Division II Southwest Regionals finishing 47th of about 200 runners. He was fifth on his own team as well.
Another youngster, Kyle O’Brien of Sunapee, N.H., finished fifth. This is Kyle’s first trip into the top six, but his dad Mike O’Brien of North Walpole won the contest back in 2013 with the highest point total ever collected at 26 points. Mike O’Brien also finished third the first year of the competition.
Kyle played high school baseball at Kearsarge. Kyle’s fifth place tie originally was with Ron Logerfo of Charlestown who was a second place finisher in 2012. Both O’Brien and Logerfo totaled the 16 points and chose three last place teams in the first tiebreaker. The second extra frame found O’Brien selecting three of the games fourth place finishers correctly and Logerfo one.
Both in-house competitors Dari Joy owner Rich Demuzio and sports editor Bill Murphy were defeated by Charlie O’Brien so the contest money prizes were doubled. There is a Dari Joy certificate of each of $100, $50, and $30 awarded as well as three Red Sox autographed baseballs. Usually the food prizes are claimed first, but last year a couple of baseballs were selected before the monetary prizes were gone, so we will have to see.
Don’t forget, you can be a part of the fun next spring. The 9th annual contest will open in mid-March. Have your selections ready.