Opinion: A league of our own


A small, framed photo in my office corner is more than 60 years old. It’s a picture of my All-Star Little League team from New Rochelle, N.Y., back in 1959 — all of us posed in our individual team uniforms and bound for the state championships in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Two more victories there, and we’d be headed to Williamsport, Penn., for the Little League World Championships.

I wrote about this years ago, but doing a replay seems appropriate. Despite my love for baseball, I had not attended a major league game in many years. The other day, with my friend Joe, I went to Cincinnati to see the Reds play the Cardinals at the Great American Ball Park. Sitting there, sipping a beer, smelling the field, hearing the crack of the bat and watching players round the bases brought back memories of 1959.

We were a motley crew: Jews, Hispanics, Italians, Blacks and Ryan, our Irish second baseman. 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. We couldn’t afford hotels, 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. Pete Wagner threw a curveball that mystified every batter. Dickie Lipson majored in home runs. And then there was Dave Enoch, our other pitcher. He struck out the hitter or 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.

In the first game, the score was tied in the ninth. The coach told us all to bunt, so we laid down the perfect dribbler four times in a row. It worked. We won by one run. The other team called us wimps, but the Daily News called us winners. In the final game, we lost badly. I made an incredible catch in center field, so we only lost by 10 runs.

Look at the picture on my Facebook page. See the faces of 14 boys who never considered race, religion or family heritage as an issue. We were a team. And a good one. As a result of those experiences, my guess is that most of these young men grew up free of prejudice — the kind that may someday destroy our country. That photo makes me feel better about who we can be. And it makes me love baseball that much more.