A small framed photo stashed in a corner of my office is almost 60 years old. I had not given it any thought in ages. Why hadn’t I just pasted it in a scrapbook or added it to the forgotten piles of memorabilia gathering dust in the basement?
It’s a picture of my All-Star Little League team from New Rochelle, New York, back in 1959 — all of us posed in our uniforms and bound for the state championships in Poughkeepsie. Two more victories there and we’d be headed to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Championships.
We were a motley group: Jews, Hispanics, Italians, Blacks, and Ryan, our Irish second baseman. We didn’t care about race or religion — just runs. Maybe that’s because we were kids. Or maybe because it was baseball.
We were all animals: Cubs, Panthers, Colts and Tigers, our team names from regular season play. Money was tight, so the city couldn’t dress us in spiffy new uniforms for the All-Star games.
Our lack of funds also meant we couldn’t afford hotels in Poughkeepsie, so the league arranged for us to stay in the homes of local residents. In the first game, I was thrown out at third base. I looked up to question the umpire’s call and it was the guy whose house I was staying in.
Our team was small in stature but big in talent. Our shortstop, Larry Seidman, absorbed every grounder and flicked it sidearm to first base, the ball spending but a nanosecond in his glove. Pete Wagner threw a curve ball that mystified every batter. Dickie Lipson majored in home runs.
And then there was Dave Enoch, our other pitcher. He either struck out the hitter or actually struck him…on the arm…on the back…on the head. He was so wild that when the other team had runners on base, we sometimes put one of our outfielders behind the catcher.
That first game in Poughkeepsie, Pete struck out six. In the final inning, the score was tied. The coach told us all to bunt, so four times in a row we laid down the perfect dribbler. It worked. We won by one run.
The other teams called us wimps. The Daily News called us winners…and favorites to win the next day and then head to Williamsport.
We lost badly. I made a diving catch in the outfield, so we only lost 9 to nothing instead of 10 to nothing.
One sports reporter said I was the best centerfielder in the New York area. Three years later in high school, I didn’t even make the team. Baseball can be very humbling.
The other night on the news, I watched the Endwell, New York Little Leaguers defeat the South Korean team in a 2-0 nail-biter. My wife saw how touched I was by the memory of my youth. “Is that a tear in your eye?” she asked.
“Of course not,” I protested. “Everyone knows there’s no crying in baseball.”
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.