GOLF: ‘Spaceman’ and the Sox are back in town

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SOUTHINGTON —There were plenty of laughs, old baseball stories and golf on Wednesday morning at Hawk's Landing Country Club for the 28th Annual Chamber Cup Classic Golf Tournament.

The stars of the show — former Boston Red Sox pitchers Tom Burgmeier, Steve Crawford, Bill Lee and catcher Marc Sullivan — played in the Chamber’s largest fundraiser of the year. The action started just after 10 a.m. with a shotgun start as the players teed off through the rain drops.

But a little rain wasn’t going to put a damper on the fun. The players arrived in Southington on Tuesday night and played a practice round at Hawk’s Landing before having dinner at Kathy and Dana Rickard’s Southington home.

The couple initially brought the players to Southington more than a decade ago and the former Sox have been back ever since.

“This is a nice course,” Crawford said Hawk’s Landing. “It’s a tough course, short course. This course owns me and the rough is very thick this year. We played nine holes yesterday and it hurt me.”

Crawford pitched for the Red Sox for seven seasons — he was 2-0 in the 1986 World Series — and later pitched for the Kansas City Royals.

One of his former teammates is Sullivan. The former backstop said he was happy to see everyone back together again on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was his third time at the Southington Chamber tournament.

“Red Sox nation starts with Red Sox family and it starts with these smaller groups,” Sullivan said. “Not everything is Fenway Park, so to come back and give back to the community in New England is great.

“We love getting back together and talking old times and love analyzing the team now and sharing the game with whoever asks questions. I wish fans would ask more questions because we have a lot of information.”

Sullivan said he’s been impressed with the 2021 Red Sox.

“You always say, ‘They are doing better than expected,’ but you go into a season and you have no idea,” Sullivan said. “You had no idea how bad COVID would hit. Nobody knew if there were going to be fans or no fans. The last two years have been really strange.

“What I like is the camaraderie and that everyone is getting a chance to play — sometimes due to COVID and sometimes due to injury,” Sullivan added. “Everyone is getting a chance to play and because of that they are going to have a chance to stay strong for the next couple of years.”

Sullivan said he would like to see the 2021 Red Sox get into the playoffs, but it will be OK in his eyes if they don’t make it.

“You don’t always have to win a World Series,” Sullivan said. “You have to be competitive. If you win a World Series and a playoff game, that’s great, but you want to enjoy six months of baseball and not just one or two weeks of playoffs. As long as your competitive, its fine.”

Sullivan caught five seasons with the Red Sox from 1982 to 1987. He was best known as a defensive specialist.

Burgmeier, a left-hander, enjoyed a 16-year career pitching for the California Angels, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's from 1968 to 1984.

Burgmeier was an All-Star with the Red Sox in 1980. He’s been a regular in Southington over the years.

“Every time I’ve come here it’s been fabulous,” Burgmeier said. “You get to see some guys I played with and charity tournaments are for a good reason. It’s for charity. We enjoy meeting different people.”

Burgmeier retired from coaching baseball in 2010 and his hobbies are hunting, fishing and golfing. His son is a golf pro in Kansas City.

Burgmeier said the Red Sox have a good team this year.

“You have good streaks and bad streaks; it's when you have them,” Burgmeier noted. “The Red Sox started out like a house on fire and then weren’t playing too good. Then the Yankees were not playing good and then they took off. Baseball is 162 games. Red Sox have 10 games left and have to win a few more. The next few games will be interesting.”

As interesting, perhaps, as Bill Lee. The “Spaceman” is always the life of the Chamber party. He left every conversation and interaction Wednesday leaving a smile on everyone’s face. 

Lee then proceeded to tie this reporter’s untied left sneaker.

“I’m that kind of guy,” Lee said. “I see things like if flys are down or shoes are untied. I’m observant.

“That’s why I can pitch,” Lee continued. “I can observe and change pitches in mid-motion. That’s called pitching. When you throw, you listen to the catcher. I never listened to the catcher. I didn’t care if he caught it or not because I wanted the guy to hit the ball, put it in play and lets get the game going. I have a bar to be at in an hour and 28 minutes.

Lee was just getting warmed up.

“Me and Jim Kaat when we hooked up — you can look up our record — I bet you we hooked up eight times and I beat him twice and he beat me twice and our games were all under two hours. Isn’t that great? That’s how the game should be played.”

Lee is a Red Sox Hall of Famer. He holds the Red Sox record for most for most games pitched by a southpaw (321) and has the third highest win total (94) by a Red Sox lefty.

Southington Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Coleman-Hekeler said Wednesday was a fun day for the Chamber. There were 128 players in action for the tournament 

“We are not in an economy anymore where membership dues cover everything and this tournament is one of the big events that pulls together all of the professionals and buisnesses in the community,” Coleman-Hekeler said. “This is really our big annual event that draws leaders from all over and have a great day of golf and socialize and get away from the office.”

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