Sure, these lawyers always want to win, but the goal is to play softball badly to send kids to camp.
Give up a grand slam, that’s $500, please. Since the teams have that kind of bank, $125 isn’t a problem for watching home runs sail over the fence or hitting into double plays or striking out.
Connell Foley, however, won’t have to kick in as much this year. The law firm from Roseland won Tuesday’s Battle of the Barristers, a charity softball tournament among 10 law firms that figures to raise $100,000 for the Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund to ensure city kids enjoy a summer in the great outdoors.
The teams’ final standings determine how much they pay. The winner’s contribution is $5,750; second-through-fourth-place teams in a division kick in $6,000 to $7,250 and the fifth-place team has the biggest share, $7,500.
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“We’ve had those years where we raised plenty of money,” said Patrick Brannigan, a partner with the firm.
He means they didn’t play well.
“Not this year,” Brannigan said.
The team powered through the preliminary rounds in Brookdale Park, going undefeated for a 5-0 record. It again dominated during the championship game at Yogi Berra Stadium on the Montclair State University campus.
It defeated Lowenstein Sandler, 14-7, breaking the game open in the second inning with eight runs to lead comfortably the rest of the way and end a 16-year championship drought. The last time Connell Foley won the big game was 2001.
Their defense, it seems, never rested.
“Today, we played our best defense,” Brannigan said. “We had a great day.”
It was for a good cause, too.
“We appreciate this so much,” said Donna Johnson Thompson, executive director of the Newark Day Center, the oldest social agency in the state that operates the Fresh Air Fund. “This is how we send our kids to camp.”
The Fresh Air Fund has been getting children out of the city and into the woods since 1882. Last year, 300 kids attended eight of the camps with help from the lawyers and public donations.
If you would like to donate, checks can be sent to the Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund, 43 Hill St., Newark N.J. 07102, or a donation can be made by credit card at Newarkdaycenter.org.
The relationship between the Fresh Air Fund and the law firms began 31 years ago, after two Newark firms –Gibbons and the then Robinson, Wayne & Greenberg –started playing each other in a softball game for bragging rights.
“The loser would buy drinks for the winners,” said Michael Griffinger, an attorney with Gibbons. “But it got too expensive, so we said let’s do it for charity instead of doing it for conspicuous consumption.”
The tournament started with four teams and has grown to 10 law firms. The amount of money teams pay also has increased.
“The incentive is to play well,” Griffinger said.
“That’s not good,” he said.
Gibbons gave up a home run to Connell Foley in a preliminary game.
“I think that’s it for us,” he said.
It was a walk-off home run to give Connell Foley a 5-4 win.
Bad is really a good thing after all. It’s fun, too.
Griffinger, 81, didn’t get hurt during the three games he pitched.
Joe Buckley, chairman of the litigation department at Sills Cummis & Gross in Newark, was having a good time on the mound. He had his backspin working until Gibbons rallied in the last inning of an earlier game to win 6-5.
The company had not played in the tournament in five years, but Buckley said it’s back and plans to stay.
“This is a nice moral victory because you do it for charity,” he said.
McCarter & English, the defending champion, was one run away from returning to the final game. It lost, 6-5, in the semifinals to Lowenstein Sandler, who lost to McCarter & English last year in the championship game.
“We did what we could,” said Brett Kahn, an attorney with the Newark firm. “We’re out there just playing and having fun. No matter what happens on the field, the kids win.”
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The Cole Schotz law firm of Hackensack took it on the chin for a good time and a day away from the office. In its first game, McCarter & English shut them out, 8-0.
“We like playing in this tournament,” said Steve Klein, an attorney with the firm.
Lowenstein Sandler does, too. It has been in the championship game three of the last four years. Tuesday’s back-to-back appearance started favorably when the team took a 2-0 lead that lasted only an inning. They were quickly down, 8-2, from a barrage of singles by Connell Foley.
When the score reached 14-4 in the last inning, Matt Tallmadge, a conflicts coordinator for the firm, offered a comical, hopeful prediction.
“The stage is set for a 12-run home run,” he joked during his last at bat.
But if consistency counts for anything, Lowenstein Sandler will be in the hunt again next year.
“Getting there is what it’s all about,” said Ashley Steinhart, an attorney for the firm.
Writing checks for the kids is, too.
Barry Carter: (973) 836-4925 or firstname.lastname@example.org or
nj.com/carter or follow him on Twitter @BarryCarterSL