Twomey recalls Nashua Pride championship

Courtesy photo Longtime Nashua baseball coach Bill Twomey has a lot of memories of things behind the scenes with the 2000 Nashua Pride Atlantic League championship season.

NASHUA – There are all sorts of little details that get recalled here and there about a championship season that often get overlooked.

There’s no one better than one of only two people still in the area from the Nashua Pride 2000 Atlantic League of Professional Baseball championship team to recall some of those details than local first-base coach Bill Twomey.

Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series on the Nashua Pride Atlantic League of Professional Baseball championship season in 2000.

No one soaked up the atmosphere or paid more attention to the details of a baseball team, especially the 2000 Nashua Pride, than Twomey. Here are some of his memories:

“There wasn’t a lot of noise in the clubhouse,” Twomey said. “It would start in batting practice.

“That would be the end of my day. As a first-base coach, the only thing he can do really is pat guys on the hip and pick up the spare equipment they want to leave at second base if they get a double. So there’s not too much there.”

But there were still a few strategy things Twomey could be part of with that veteran team.

“There were a couple of things we worked out that other teams didn’t know we were doing,” Twomey said. “For instance, with a runner on second base that took a lead, the shortstop would come behind the runner and kind of fake the pickoff at second base.

“What I would do, in the first base coach’s box, I would go close to home plate. I would mimick exactly where the shortstop was … That way the runner at second could take a much larger lead and get a step and a half further than where he was – what they call a secondary lead.”

Those were things a veteran team would do, with several former major leaguers.

Twomey remembers infielder Casey Candaele, whose mother was a championship softball player and taught him his baseball skills.

“He lived on the west coast, and he came by motorcycle all the way to play for Butch,” Twomey said. “He was a very somber guy, very, very serious.

“And Butch put him (his locker) just outside his (office) door. That’s usually where the most veteran player would be. Butch kind of leaned on him a little bit. He was the most serious of all of them, if I could pick one out.”

Twomey remembers that Candaele wore a T-shirt that had more holes as if it came from a battlefield. “He just seemed to me to play mad all the time,” said Twomey, as Candaele was signed back to the Florida Marlins organization and played at Triple A the rest of the season.

Twomey remembered the talent of shortstop Tony Rodriguez, who actually borrowed the coach’s spare car while he was in Nashua. “I just gave it to him to do what he wanted,” Twomey said, but the car made the rounds among a couple of other players. “It ended up in San Antonio, in a crash. And my insurance paid for it.”

Twomey, one must remember, was brought back to the organization by Hobson. He was a coach under first Pride manager Mike Easler in 1998, but the team’s manager the next year, Bobby Tolan, wanted no part of him. Then in 2000 Twomey returned.

“It was a 180,” he said of life under Hobson. “He gave me a call and asked me to come back. I was more of a Nashuan representative and I didn’t feel out of place at all. I enjoyed every second of it, to tell you the honest truth.”

Twomey would hit fungos to the players, and tried, close to 70, to stay in shape. Players on the 2000 team like D.J. Boston and Sam Horn wanted him that year to hit harder ground balls, etc. during pre-game infield. So Twomey asked all the pitchers to go out to center field and hit every single ball out to the outfield to increase his strength.

“Had to be about 1,000 of them,” Twomey said. “I was getting pretty good with it, in accuracy, which is what the players wanted.”

Twomey got so accurate one day third baseman Chop Pugh held his glove up and Twomey twice hit it exactly. “Watch Twomey,” Pugh shouted.

What made the Pride so good?

“I think it was the fact they all knew each other from prior (seasons),” Twomey said. “There was a looseness on the team because they knew they were among the best. And I believe they had competiton among themselves.

“We can never forget the fact that every one of them thought they would have the chance to go back (to the majors).”

Twomey remembers the home run that Sam Horn hit onto the railroad tracks above the field at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn. That was a huge doubleheader sweep for the Pride in mid June, and after that night, Bridgeport manager Willie Upshaw gave Twomey a glove. “I saw you without a glove, here, you might as well take this,” Twomey recalls Upshaw saying to him. “We got our butts kicked.”

What difference did Hobson make?

“He brought tenacity,” he said. “He was angry when we lost. But there wasn’t too much change with him. He appreciated victories, but it was almost as if he expected them, anyway – with that particular team, for sure.

“But he never raised the roof with that team like he did with others (after 2000). You could hear him in the stands when he got mad in the locker room. But I don’t recall him ever in that season having to do it. I remember him being more docile that year. There was nothing to worry about with these guys in terms of having to read the riot act to them.”

The team did struggle in the second half of the season due to a split season. But the veterans pulled the team through – Glenn Murray, Sam Horn, Chop Pugh, John Roper, etc. Twomey remembers two big power hitters, Jose Malave and Glenn Murray, having an internal team rivalry.

And then there was big Sam. Horn, a former major leaguer who came up with the Red Sox, towered over everyone.

“With him,” Twomey said, “I remember home runs going out over the pine trees. Outside of the right fielder, the second baseman and the umpire, I was the closest to seeing where those balls actually went in the darkness of night. As soon as they left the bat, they were out of here.”

One of Twomey’s favorite Sam Horn stories – he heard the umpire, from the first base coach’s box, call time out. The umpire had Twomey move because Horn was up. “If he hits that ball to where you are,” the umpire said, “he’ll kill you.’ And the first baseman swore at us, saying ‘I’m the only guy who can’t leave the bag.’ …. He didn’t feel safe there, either.”

And when the umpire said he had a glove on to protect himself, the player said, “You see who’s up, don’t you?”

A picture of Twomey and Horn together is amusing in itself. “He had to bend down to put his arm around me,” Twomey said. “It looked like a four-year-old standing next to him. … He was pushing 300 (pounds) to say the least.”

One night, Horn asked for a ride down to Atlantic City where the Pride were set to face the Surf. Twomey wasn’t taking the bus because his wife Mary wanted to come. Horn got in the front seat of Twomey’s small Hundai to drive. “He pushed back the seat so far he almost killed Mary in the back seat,” Twomey said. “And his right shoulder was in my chest while he was driving. That wasn’t fat, just big-boned.”

And Horn drove the whole way. In fact, he drove the team to a title.

“He was a nice guy to me,” Twomey said. “He was one of the most friendly. But I didn’t have anyone on that team I didn’t talk to the whole time.”

Twomey remembers watching Hobson address the crowd after the team’s Game 2 Finals win vs. Somerset when he announced he was returning as manager. That day Twomey said, “If anyone was here today, then there should be no argument of having a professional team here.”

Hobson and Somerset Patriots manager Sparky Lyle, the former Yankees reliever and Cy Young winner, had a good relationship as rival managers.

“They truly liked each other,” Twomey said. “The thing about Sparky was, he was only with his team, during the game, he was a different person. With umpires, he would confront them and tower over them. He was strong, tall, and had that mustache that was intimidating.

“You could see how he seethed during a ball game. He was really into it – like Butch.”

But that year – the first of three championship meetings between the franchises – Hobson’s Pride prevailed. Upon the team’s return from New Jersey, there was a celebration from Holman Stadium to City Hall.

“I remember the fire station at Amherst Street, how the guys were all there saluting us,” Twomey said. “And then we went to City Hall. I still have the key to the city. Butch made a speech on the City Hall steps and he had a big cowboy hat on.”

Nothing like that championship feeling, or the memories of all the usually overlooked moments that go with it.