Spring training is underway.
The start of another season in the Major Leagues is right around the corner. (Yankees fans are freaking out over Derek Jeter’s injury.)
Mets fans will be talking about their team in Farrell’s wondering whether they can do better than last season. Where’s Carmine when you need him? (Do you remember when he thought he was Tom Seaver?)
Young kids in the neighborhood are dusting off their gloves and pulling out their aluminum bats from the closet to get ready for their try-outs. (Do kids still use wooden bats? I had a black wooden bat that I bought from Sepe’s)
The Lot on 16th street will be open for business as many kids from the neighborhood will be playing hardball; some for the very first time. As kids, we spent so much time in that lot. We loved baseball. Today, I’m not so sure kids love it as much as we did.
At the age of 12, playing for Holy Name Bantam ‘B’ team I pitched for the late Joe Farrell. Facing Gordy of St. Saviors was a nightmare. But facing him taught me courage, hard work and a never-give-up attitude.
Gordy threw smoke in the 6th grade! I mean he was the teenage Nolan Ryan.
Standing in the batters box over in the diamonds in Prospect Park, shaking like a leaf I struck out often against the flame-thrower. But you know what, I kept working on my swing until the day I was able to make contact. It’s called “perseverance.” Nothing was given to you. You worked hard for a hit.
We spent hours on our stance and swing.
Two weeks ago I saw some highlights of a baseball game between Canada and Mexico.
It wasn’t the runs scored or the pitchers strikeouts that caught my attention. It was a fight. An all-out brawl between both squads after a player was hit by a pitch.
Whenever I see a brawl in baseball I think back to June of 1977.
On a warm sunny day down at the Parade Grounds, a huge fight broke out after a CYO baseball game between Holy Name and St. Finbar’s.
Holy Name was handling St. Finbar’s pretty easy on this day. The coach for the good guys was Joe Mussa; their team had only lost one game the entire season. By the way, Mussa was my favorite teacher at H.N.S.
The team consisted of neighborhood kids. Kevin Maloney, Timmy Hardy, Gonzo Gonzalez, Donald Barbieri, Jose Bolono, Tommy Parker, Chris Bullock, Jody Stanizewski and Robert Price. (I’m sure I’m leaving a few out)
From behind the chain-linked fence a fan began ribbing the Finbar players for their effort. At the conclusion of the game, some of the Finbar players had heard enough. They grabbed the antagonistic fan and began beating him up.
Seeing the fan from Holy Name getting attacked, a Holy Name player ran over to help to his friend. It’s what you did when you saw a friend getting beat up by a group.
A Finbar player wound up with a broken nose.
It was a mess.
Fast forward a week later.
Dyker Field in Bensonhurst.
Not too far from St. Finbar’s.
Only the opponent this day wasn’t Finbar’s, it was St. Bernadette.
During the course of the game over 100 kids were making their way from the Golf Course towards the baseball field. They soon walked through the left field fence.
Standing in the outfield, they resembled the “Baseball Fury” from the film, “The Warriors.”
These guys weren’t there to watch the game. They were at the field for the big payback.
The rowdy group of teens began shouting at the lonely left fielder for Holy Name.
Next thing you know they are going after him.
The entire Holy Name team seeing this all took off to the outfield to try and help their teammate.
It was no use, Holy Name was outnumbered.
At one point, the rowdy group trapped Holy Name in the dugout. After the yelling and screaming, they began throwing things at the team.
“One guy took my cap so I went after him,” said Michael Slavin. The red-headed ninth avenue resident was a member of the team and within minutes was hit over the head with a baseball bat after retrieving his cap.
Slavin wasn’t about to let someone snatch his cap.
“I felt my left arm going crazy, then I blacked out.” He said.
Slavin was having a seizure.
An ambulance arrived and took him to Kings County hospital.
“I wasn’t hurt or anything. No pain, no headache.” Slavin admits.
Holy Name kids are built tough!
Also in the melee, Gonzo was whacked over the head with a bat. Luckily he had a helmet on. As a memento of that day ‘G’ still has the cracked helmet.
After the x-rays Slavin was diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture. He spent three days in the hospital.
Upon his discharge from the hospital Slavin went up to Ford to clean out his locker at the end of the semester. Brother Sullivan walked by and expected Slavin to take his History final.
“Brother, I have a 100 percent in History and I just spent three days in the hospital. Do I really have to take it?” Slavin pleaded.
To this the teacher explained.
“Unless you want to attend summer school, yes, you have to take it.”
Slavin did as he was told and took the final. And being the outstanding student, Slavin aced it.