Cleveland And Cribbage

The Tribe won Game 1 of their five-game series with the Boston Red Sox tonight.  It was a fabulous, tight game, brilliantly managed by Indians skipper Terry Francona.

SONY DSCThe key point in the game was Francona’s decision to go to his bullpen in the fifth inning.  It was a ballsy move that could have blown up in Francona’s face — but it didn’t.  Yes, lefty Andrew Miller had to pitch more than normal, but the bullpen held the lead, Cody Allen closed the door for the save, and the Tribe has a leg up.

I had more even confidence about Francona’s managerial skills when I read this article about Francona’s relationship with his players.  Sure, he’s a deft manager — but it also turns out that he plays cribbage.

Cribbage?  Hell, no wonder he’s a good manager.  Anybody who plays the greatest card game of all, with its intricate strategies and maneuvering, is bound to have a good eye for figuring out how to win a ball game.

So the Tribe has a 1-0 lead in the series.  I’ll take it.  With the Cribbage King to set the strategy, I think more good things are to come.

Big Board

IMG_2538Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go to Hen Island this year, for a number of reasons.  That’s sad, but it also means that I haven’t had a serious cribbage fix for a very long while.  It eased the pain to see that the former ship captain’s house where we stayed in Tamworth, New Hampshire featured a cribbage board — and not just any cribbage board.  This Brobdingnagian construct, with titanic pegs to match, was the biggest cribbage board I’ve ever seen.

The 28

IMG_2872I’ve been playing cribbage for more than 40 years, with my grandfather, my father, my uncles, my brother, my brothers-in-law, my sons, my college roommate, and my friends.  Tonight I had my biggest hand ever.

It was a 28.  It came when Richard and I were playing two-handed, smoking cigars and drinking beer.  Four fives in my hand and the king of diamonds cut.  Fifteen-two, -four, -six, -eight, -ten, -twelve, -fourteen, -sixteen, and 12 points in pairs for 28.  It was a thing of beauty, an historic achievement, and entirely fit to be memorialized for all time with a photo and a blog post.

In cribbage, there’s only one possible hand that is better than a 28 — a 29, which occurs when you’ve got three fives and a jack in your hand and the five of the same suit of your jack is cut.  I’ve never had a 29, and if I play cribbage for another 40-odd years I probably never will.  But, after tonight, now I can say that I have had a 28.

Cribbage Converts

When I went to Canada for a fishing trip recently, I took along a cribbage board.  As I’ve noted before, I think cribbage is the best card game ever invented, and I thought it would be a perfect way to spend some time with my friends.

I’m happy to report that the cribbage effort was a great success.  We played for hours, my friends learned the rules, and for the most part we joshed good-naturedly about the cards and the state of play.

Even better, I’m happy to report that one of my fellow fishermen, The Sage, became an enthusiastic convert to the world of cribbage.  Since his return from Canada he’s purchased a board, read up on the history of the game, and taught his wife and daughter how to play.  I’m pleased that he has acknowledged the obvious merit of cribbage and become a member of the ever-increasing Cribbage Kingdom.

Of course, for every convert to cribbage, there is a sore loser who cannot gracefully accept a serious thumping — as the unfortunate photo accompanying this posting confirms.