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Some (Not All) Of The Best Of My Times

Being the baseball fanatic I am, I have many great memories of annual Sunday Yankees/Indians doubleheaders Dad took brother Lou and me to as kids.

There we got to see some of our favorite childhood Cleveland players we cheered for in the 1960s. A ride that takes just a little over two hours to make today seemed like it took six hours to make then, but it was always worth the time it felt like to get there.

Lucky for us though, we had professional baseball 10 blocks from our Bowen Street home where I grew up. I’ve been lucky to have watched future Hall of Famers, World Series MVPs, All-Stars and players who climbed the ladder to eventually wear the colors of the Cleveland Indians play just down the road. Those memories took place on Falconer Street, here in Jamestown, within the confines of Municipal Stadium/College Stadium/Russell E. Diethrick Park, home of many MLB team affiliates throughout the years.

I was also fortunate to have coached JHS baseball in the 1980s and 1990s, when the home field of the Raiders was that same ballpark where I was able to stockpile many memories of watching baseball in Jamestown. But the memories didn’t stop there or then.

In the 1980s/early 1990s, Sally and I, our daughters Chasity and Christina, and later, son Jon, decided to be a host family for the Jamestown Babe Ruth World Series, where we watched kids from all over the country some of whom went on to play in “The Show.” We had the opportunity to “adopt” players from Kansas City, Mo., Jefferson City, Mo. (twice), Oakland, Calif., (as a fill-in after our team was eliminated and a host family had to drop out after the series began), Cincinnati, Ohio, and Pueblo, Colo. Our kids got to experience having “big brothers” for short times, and Sally and I got to experience parenting (and feeding) teenage boys for a couple weeks at a time while the series was in town.

Throughout the years, we’ve kept in touch with most of the kids we hosted and their families who came to town to watch their sons compete for a World Series championship. We’ve visited some of them after their experience in the Pearl City, as one year we vacationed in Kansas City and Jefferson City spending time with many from “The Train” and JC teams we hosted in our experiences as a host family.

Chasy and I headed out that way again, this time to Jefferson City, as one year JHS trekked to Jefferson City to play against some high school teams from the Missouri capital area, and where parents of kids from the Jefferson City team we hosted returned the favor, opening their homes, and hearts, to our Jamestown baseballers and coaches, by hosting us.

One year, one of the players we hosted in 1987, was signed by the Yankees as a free agent and was assigned to the NY-Penn League’s Oneonta Yankee team. When they played in Jamestown, his family returned to Jamestown and we saw him play in the same lineup with Jorge Posada. (Side note, the games he played in his return marked the only time in my life I’ve ever sported a Yankee cap. Lost much more hair after that. Coincidence/Curse?)

Fast forward 33 years, when I recently received a call from the other young man from that 1987 team, who was going to be making his, and his wife’s, way through our area and was wondering if they could meet up with us, have some dinner, and make a visit to what was then College Stadium, where he spent a couple weeks in 1987 as our adopted son.

As soon as I hung up the phone with him, I immediately went to my collection of special baseballs from the past and took out the very one he, Larry Krummen and Steve Aldridge (who returned as a Yankee) signed for me as they were leaving Jamestown after that series.

We had a fantastically wonderful re-visit and couldn’t believe they were 15 year-olds then, and here we were meeting up again after all these years.

Barbra Streisand began the lyrics of “The Way We Were,” with the line “Memories light the corners of my mind.” I have so many special memories, many involving baseball, that’ll keep my mind shining bright, all the remaining days of my life. Thanks Gina and Larry, for flipping that light back on for us.

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