Now a few weeks after the renuion, it has taken on a life of it's own

Old films have surfaced, soon to be edited and distributed and several new guys have been found.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Al Uhl, Tom Fitzgerald and Joe Gemmo share their fond memories

Al Uhl Fond Memories

  • I also vividly recall the dreaded “tryouts” and the nervous stomach that accompanied them. And how well structured and organized they were. Having run a girls softball league for many years here in Ohio, including being responsible for the annual “draft”, I obtained a new respect for the planning and execution that must have been put into the tryout process.

  • I remember with fondness Herman Dunsay. Remember shopping in “The Dugout” and how friendly and helpful he was. I also recall going to him after I was drafted into the Majors as a 10 year old. I told him I thought I would develop my skills more staying in the International League vs. playing part time in the Majors. He orchestrated a trade or something that allowed me to go to the Leafs from the Hawks and I had a tremendous season as a 10 year old pitching and playing short and (I think) leading the team in hitting and having the most pitching wins. I am sure that this had a lot to do with my being a full time starter in the Majors as an 11 and 12 year old and my making both the ’56 and ’57 All_Star teams. Having talked to Bill Cassidy prior to the reunion, I discovered Herman had done the same for him resulting in him playing for the Wings where he had a great year too. In fact, we both recall that the Leafs and Wings played for the league championship but neither of us are sure who won! J

  • I not-so-fondly recall the Blackjack gum Herman Dunsay always provided. Hated it but gagged it down. My way of “taking one for the team”!!! J

  • During this time frame my Dad was an FDNY firefighter and also had a part-time home improvement business (which most firefighters had). When he wasn’t working at one of his two jobs, he would be working on one project or another on the house. This meant that he was rarely able to watch me play which would have been nice for both of us. That was sad BUT I also recall him getting home after a long day at one job or both, grabbing a quick bite to eat and then going over to an area we called “the Parkway” (alongside the Cross Island Pkwy) where he would squat in front of the chain-link fence and let his son bounce fastballs, curves (sort of) and knuckleballs off his shins as I learned to pitch. What a guy!!

  • I recall all my 3-mile round trips down Union Tpke to the Oval on my bike to most of my games. Funny but I never seemed too tired to ride home despite playing ball for hours! Ahhh youth!!

  • I also recall hanging around after our regularly scheduled games to play pick-up games (still in uniform) with whoever was around for whatever daylight we had left. Remember choosing sides using the hand-over-hand thing with a bat??? It was always great not to be picked last. J

· With respect to the Venezuela game itself, my strongest memory is my Dad being unable at the last minute to take me to the game and see me play due to being called in for a four-alarm fire. So my Mom had to get me there (too late to make the bike ride) and I got there late. So late that the coach said "I'll give you five pitches and we've got to get off the field". I hit a hard line drive in the left center gap, three that hit or short-hopped the fence and one that one out to left. When the line-up was posted he had me batting third, right in front of Pete I think (vs. 5th or 6th where I had been hitting on the All-Star team). I was shocked and of course nervous because it meant hitting in the first inning rather than later when the nerves might settle down a little. I remember being surprised by the Venezuelan pitcher’s curveball which may have been the first honest-to-goodness curve I had seen. It not only broke a bunch but also dropped a bunch. I walked and was very relieved! I also recall being shocked at how fast the game went by; seemed like a blur. Probably due to the overdose of adrenalin! J Probably explains my general lack of detailed memories of the game itself inning by inning. Do recall that we had a very rocky start and fell behind early and had to come back. During this reunion process I was shocked to find out we were NOT the home team for the game because we lost in the BOTTOM of the 6th. Guess we must have had a coin flip but I certainly didn’t remember one. Wonder who called the flip! J

· And of course, the overriding memories are of all the great guys and friendships made through those years and the amount of time, effort and dedication shown by all the adults that managed, coached, umpired, administered the league, did the grounds-keeping and maintenance and on and on. As I said above, I ran a league for many years and it gave me a new appreciation of what it takes to run a successful league of any kind. We are all eternally in debt to these fine people!

Tom Fitzgerald Fond Memories:

  • Yes, the day you try out for the Little League has to be burned indelibly into every kid's memory bank. We had just moved to New Hyde Park from a six story apartment near LaGuardia, from which my dad dropped fly balls to me from the roof. I'd catch them, run into the building, put the balls on the elevator, send them up to the sixth floor, and we'd do it again and again. Now, that's the City! Baseball out on the Island was going to be different---real ball fields, open land, a place called The Oval...if we could only find it. We drove in circles and circles, but not the right circles, then we finally found it, The Oval, filled with hundreds and hundreds of kids and parents. Wow! Three ground balls, three throws to first or home, three swings of the bat, and your fate was sealed. That was pressure, that was one stressful day, but a good day, a very good day. It set everything in motion for so many things.

  • I too remember Herman Dunsay fondly. He was such a nice person, like a beloved uncle to us all. He GAVE me, didn't sell us, my first, first baseman's glove, which I still have today, oiled and ready.

  • Morty Lynch, the Edd Byrnes ("Kookie" on 77 Sunset Strip) of Glen Oaks LL, Babe Ruth and Connie Mack baseball, was a character. I wonder if a single guy with a red convertible hanging around young boys on a ball field would even be given a chance in this day and age to do what he did coach, be a big brother, counter balance all the serious coaching going on and be the fun guy? I doubt it. Most of you probably didn't know that he owned a private garbage route in Nausau, which is why he had all that free time in the afternoons. I worked for him in my sophomore and junior summers...picking up garbage from 6:00a to 11:00a or 1:00p, depending on the load, as we garbage men used to say. He'd pick me up at my house at 4:30a, and my older friends would pick me up at the garage after work on the way to the beach or the pool. It was a great job. Learned a lot about life from the full-timers.

  • I have the clearest memory of the '58 game against Brooklyn to go to the NYC Championship, mainly because of the setting and pitcher for Brooklyn. He had to be at least 6' 11." OK, probably 5' 11", maybe 6', but he was way tall, with an 8:00p shadow, and I'm sure his kids were watching from the front row. I also remember it as a night game, with a big crowd. It will always be the epitome of a big game, in a big setting, with a big cast of characters for me.

  • More than anything else about my Glen Oaks Little League days, I remember the tenor of the times. We rode our bikes to the games. Played pick up ball between games. Left the house after breakfast, "...just be home by dinner!" Car pooling was " guys pile in the back." Now, my grandkids play ORGANIZED t-ball, with uniform shirts, and a full audience of doting parents and grandparents. If there wasn't someone pointing to first base and urging them to run, they would have no clue what they should be doing. I liked the old days better...for being a kid and just playing.

  • A final story about the value of Little League, because all too often too many people who don't know straight up from down give it a bad rap... Twenty-five or so years after Glen Oaks, I coached Little League in Madison, WI, as probably all or most of you did wherever you landed. We too had tryouts and a draft. Twelve year olds had to play in our majors. I had to take the very last twelve year old on my team, who was the last to show up for our first practice. His other teammates were paired up in two lines about 30 feet apart playing catch. So, I had Steve get in position thirty feet away to play catch with me. My first toss to him hit him dead square in the forehead. He never moved his hands. I looked over my shoulder, fearing I threw the ball right out of the sun. No sun. What the h....? Long story short, he had NEVER played catch before. No dad or uncle or anyone had ever thrown a ball his way. Didn't make the tryouts, so there was no info on him. His single parent mother thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and play baseball...and it was. No, he wasn't an undiscovered super stud, but he improved. He contributed. He had the best attitude of any kid on the team, including my own. Half way through the season he showed up with brand new RED baseball shoes, and will be forever known as Steve Red Shoes by everyone who played Westside Little League in Madison, WI. His life turned around that year, and he went on to become, not a great person we have read about, but a solid, well grounded, happy person. I'm a big fan of Little League, our years, our kids' years, and all the years to come!

Joe Gemmo Fond Memories

  • When we first joined the Little League, we had to go through “tryouts” in which we all wore numbers on our backs for identification and each had a turn batting and fielding and performing in front of all the team coaches and remembered being so nervous. Days later in the mail, we waited anxiously for the postcard that revealed which team you were selected for.

  • Herman Dunsay bringing the All Star team down to his sporting goods store to pick out our favorite bat.

  • Herman Dunsay always giving out black jack liquorish gum before each All Star game to calm our nerves, but we all hated the liquorish taste and would often spit it out but still keep chewing in front of him.

  • My dad, Nick Gemmo, treating us to ice creams.

  • My dad, Nick Gemmo, and Sam Bila, Ronnie and Alan Prendamano’s dad, would always be kidding around to ease our nervousness before the All Star games. One day, the both of them drove a few of us All Stars to a game and they began “drag racing” on the parkway. Now Sam’s car was much faster and sped way ahead of us, but we noticed that down the road Sam’s car was pulled over by a cop and was getting a speeding ticket as we passed by laughing and waving to them.

  • During the 1958 Brooklyn-Queens championship game, we were down 2 to 0 going into the last inning and remember Herman Dunsay, Arnie Goldfarb and Morty Lynch taking the whole team aside and telling us that we’re a much better team than what we’ve done in the game so far and telling us to really let’s show them and the crowd how good we really are!! That last inning we exploded for 5 runs and won the game convincingly 5 to 2.

  • We all thought so highly of Herman Dunsay and we tried frantically to find out whether he was still alive (which would have put him in his 90’s by now) and if so, his whereabouts. I was able to make contact with his son George, living in Maryland, who by the way played Glen Oaks Little League ball in the early 50’s, and said that his dad had passed away a few years ago at age 92 and that he still lived all his life in Glen Oaks up until the time he was admitted into a nursing home. A very special plaque is being prepared for our beloved Mr. Dunsay and being sent to his son George together with our reunion DVD.

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