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Vin Sylvia: Hot stove plus hockey equals cool doubleheader

November 15. 2013 10:08PM

As big a night in the city as tonight shapes up to be with Mullets in Movember returning to Verizon Wireless Arena, next Saturday may be even bigger.

Around the time the puck drops for the the latest showdown between the Monarchs and the Baby Bruins at the Big V one week from tonight, the Granite State Baseball Dinner will be entering the late innings across the street at the Radisson-Manchester Expo Center.

And the lineup for the dinner is stacked.

As usual, former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter will be back in his home state to greet fans and help out Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, a principal beneficiary of the dinner and a longtime recipient of the big right-hander's support.

Carpenter, who was in the dugout throughout the World Series as his Cardinals fell to the Red Sox in the World Series, is expected to retire after sitting out the entire 2013 season with nerve damage in his shoulder, but he's yet to make anything official. Maybe he'll break some news at the dinner.

It may take something like that to avoid being upstaged by a Baseball Dinner newcomer, Red Sox outfielder/quote machine Jonny Gomes, whom Carpenter last saw celebrating on the lawn at Fenway Park.

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, now in their seventh year as hosts of the dinner, got Gomes to sign on in mid-September, and, well, that worked out rather well, didn't it?

Gomes went on to hit the pivotal home run in the World Series — a three-run shot in the sixth inning of Game 4 that propelled the Sox to a 4-2, series-evening victory after the Cardinals had won two straight — then served as the central figure in the most memorable moment of the Boston victory parade, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street.

And now he's coming to Manchester.

So is another Red Sox postseason opponent, Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Cobb, a Massachusetts native who started the only game the Rays won in their AL Division Series. This will be a return visit for Cobb, a guest at the 2011 Baseball Dinner.

Other returnees:

• Former major-league pitcher and general manager Jim Beattie, a Dartmouth graduate and longtime Hanover resident who now works as a scout for the Blue Jays, the Fisher Cats' parent team.

Ron Blomberg, who 40 years ago last April became Major League Baseball's first designated hitter and who four years before that was a member of the Manchester Yankees, Eastern League ancestors of the Fisher Cats, during the first of their three seasons at Gill Stadium.

Bernie Carbo, slugger of one of the two greatest game-tying home runs in Red Sox postseason history (David Ortiz's grand slam against the Tigers in the ALCS being the other).

Greg LaRocca, a Manchester High West graduate out of Bedford who kicked around with the Padres and Indians for a few injury-plagued seasons before becoming a star in Japan.

Among the former stars making their Baseball Dinner debut will be Ron LeFlore, whose journey from prison inmate to MLB All-Star became the subject of a made-for-TV movie; Fred McGriff, who clubbed 493 career home runs in a 19-year big-league career; Denny McLain, who took the opposite route of LeFlore, winning two Cy Youngs and an MVP award before doing time as a convicted felon; and Roy White, who spent his entire 15-year career as a member of the Yankees.

Aspiring future stars will be on hand as well, including five minor-leaguers from New Hampshire: Yankees farmhand Jordan Cote of Sanbornton; the Pirates' Michael Fransoso of Portsmouth; another Yankees prospect, Joey Maher of Bedford; the Blue Jays' Kevin Nolan of Nashua, who this year became the first Granite Stater to play for the Fisher Cats; and the Cubs' Brad Zapenas, another Nashua product.

The dinner starts at 5 p.m. Face-off for the Monarchs and Providence Bruins is at 7. Catching both in their entirety may not be possible, but some hot-stove baseball followed by a period or two of pro hockey would make for a memorable Manchester sports evening.

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DERRYFIELD School's stunning 4-0 loss to Berlin in the NHIAA Division III field hockey final — the Cougars had gone the entire season not only unbeaten but unscored upon — wasn't the conclusion Manchester's Vaillancourt sisters, Berklee and Colbi, had envisioned to their remarkable high school careers.

Berklee's 21 goals this fall gave her 66 over four varsity seasons, the previous three of which ended with state championship victories. Colbi's 23 goals gave her a career total of 72, second in school history.

It may be of some consolation that they are the first sister tandem ever selected to play for New Hampshire in the annual Twin State All-Star Game against Vermont, which will take place on a yet-to-be-announced date in 2014.

Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at

Red Sox/MLB Monarchs Vin Sylvia