Charles by now was eight years old. One evening he told me he had joined a Little League team called the Cubs.
"What is this Little League", I asked?
I hadn't ever heard of it before. I learned it was baseball designed for kids between eight and twelve years of age. The national center was in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. League injury insurance was available at a low reasonable rate. Rules and regulations were very specific to qualify for championship competition. I learned it was a world wide organization and held world championship games. My interest grew and I took part in the season activities.
The Rondout Valley Lions Club was responsible for establishing the Rondout Valley Little League. I wonder if members who have joined the Lions since, realize the importance and value they have added to the welfare of our children.
The end of the season was celebrated with a father and son dinner and at that dinner candidates were chosen from the floor for the next year's president. My name was entered and before I could refuse, a vote was taken and Clarence Coogan became the next president.
Now forty years later, men greet me on the street with "Hello Mr. Coogan. Do you remember me from Little League. I'm proud of the lump it creates in my throat. To my knowledge, not one of those boys took the wrong path in life.
The first chore that befell me as president was to establish a new field. The original field was lost to a housing project in High Falls.
The most selective place was a large field in Rosendale owned by the cement tycoon, Andrew J. Snyder. During discussion with knowledgeable people, I was advised not to approach Mr. Snyder on a Monday. Monday they said brought out the blackest of his disposition. I took the advice and drove to the back of his house Tuesday. As I approached the back porch I realized he was having dinner. I quickly turned and walked away apologizing.
"Come here, come here", came this booming demanding voice. I began to wish I had never thought of the idea.
"Come in. Sit down. What is on you're mind?"
I felt like cowering. I was sure he could be heard down street. I quietly explained the plight of the kids, thinking to myself this guy could care less.
"Hmmm", he murmured, How much of the field do they need?
They, he had said. He wasn't thinking of me. He was thinking of the kids.
"They just need enough to build a ball field, Mr. Snyder."
"Who is going to build this field?"
"Mr. Mollinhour will loan us his farming equipment and Hugh Simpson will operate it.
Ten adults have promised to help."
"Well, I'll tell you what. I'll give you permission, But if I see as much as one piece of paper left on that land, out you go!"
"Thank you Mr. Snyder. I give you my solemn promise to keep things as you wish."
No president of any organization ever had more cooperation than I. We worked weekends and evenings building the diamond, dugouts, fences and a scorekeepers box over the concession stand behind home plate.
Registration day arrived. Team managers were allotted an equal number of points to be used selecting boys. A minor league was started so that no boy was denied baseball.
Four major teams consisted of:
· Red Sox
A fifth team was entered the third year
Umpiring one night, a team manager suggested it was getting too dark. Shouldn't we call the game?
"I don't think so Dave", I said
"Well take the glove and try it yourself."
I took the glove. The kid pitching was too big for any uniform we had. His undershirt was exposed between the buttons.He wound up and let it go. Wham!
The ball went over the top of the glove and put my teeth through the lip - blood all over the place. The kid was so devastated he was ready to cry.
"It wasn't your fault, Billy."
Dave drove me to Doctor Galvin's in Rosendale with me holding a handkerchief over my mouth to protect Dave's upholstery. I went to the side office door and Dave knocked on the front door to let him know we were there.
Dave came to the side door telling me how mad the doctor was for knocking on his front door.
Doc Galvin open the office door and stated in a voice as demanding as Andrew J. Snyder.
"A doctors front door is for his friends and his guests."
"The hinges must be goddamn rusty", I mumbled, "Lets go up to Doc Tocco, Dave."
"Wait", called Galvin, let me see it."
He patched me up and I asked what we owed him.
He answered, "Let me make it my contribution to little league. After all, you don't charge for your time."
My own team were the Indians - a great group of boys. They never won a first place, but, always took second at the season's end. Through the first half of the season I played all boys equally. This method put them in last place at the halfway mark. In the second half, at their request, I played the most capable boys. I was more proud of their second place than I would be of first.
I had almost perfect control from the pitching mound. For batting practice I removed the catcher from behind the plate and threw with much speed. The purpose was to create self confidence in the batters. They grew to trust me and would swing at anything, but they'd still back away from a little league pitcher.
At batting practice one afternoon, I felt a terrible pain in my side. All weekend I walked with a stoop and could not take a deep breath. Monday morning I went to a Dr. McKinnon who told me I had pulled two ribs from their sockets. After some manipulation, he had me stand and breath deeply. I was amazed to find the pain was gone. He said, "Now don't pitch for a week. Give the adjustment time to set." The man had miracle hands.
Of the group who worked so hard with me, five became president of the league. To show my appreciation, I setup the field each night and operated the concession stand for all five years. At the end of that time I felt burned out. Charles was now in Babe Ruth league. I had to find some activity to bind Linda and me.
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