Picture by Justin Zizes Jr.
"Alex Chefetz, the current Saltaire Softball League commissioner, has sent out to the entire league playership a packet of league artifacts which I had provided him. Herewith for the special crowd, those for whom the present day league could never ever have been possible, is a copy of the missive, with attachments, along with the dramatic accounting of the entrails of the fateful 1974 season."
"With our tiny island and more importantly, our historic Wright Field in double jeopardy over the next 48 hours [that is, Irene the Nasty - Ed.] , it is only appropraite that we reflect and gain perspective over the SSL's "Body of Work" begun in 1971. An issue that has boggled the minds of many great softball historians over the past 40+ years has been the dissapearance of a Champion in the 1974 season. Many theories have been written and conjectured but few have help up to softball science. Until now...
Dogfish HOF and career leader in special doubles from a left handed hitter, Jon Lyon, recently completed the "Mystery of 1974 - an SSL enigma" an HBO documentary that will show during the 2011 World Series expected to be between the Mets and A's. Take a gander below and check out the attachments. Any ideas or comments are welcome. The very scrary thing is that the players mentioned below were my childhood heros and players i rooted for each weekend".
Here's to another 40+ years - Commish Chefetz .
Frank Connolly: "As an addendum to Jon’s note – I distinctly recall awarding the championship trophy to the Mergers (as well as the batting championship trophy, to Billy Cunningham) immediately after making the (belated) decision to call the game, and after John Bartow had been taken off to Good Sam. My memory of this is quite vivid because , in awarding said trophy, I – feeling some bitterness about the way events had transpired – observed to the Mergers in general, “I hope you’re satisfied.” Kevin Cunningham took exception to this comment, and – as only Kevin could – he made his demurral known at great volume and with colorful verbiage, to the extent that I spent the remainder of Labor Day weekend in a state approaching mortal fear.
So I can state for certain that a championship was awarded at the conclusion of the 1974 season, in accordance with the rules of the US Softball Association – which clearly state that in the event post-season playoffs cannot be completed, the regular-season winner shall be declared the champion."
Now, more on that 1974 championship game. There was a part I left out in the below description so as not include rancor with the colorful memories. But as Frank and I discussed, there was an almost(?) brawl when Too Big Tommy Kampa, running to first on an infield pop up, barreled into pitcher John Bartow trying to field it on the first base line. Talk about being roughed up, talk about being creamed. I remember Tommy hosting a big smile as he bulldozed into poor John. Not very sportsmanlike. And with Bartow suffering that leg injury it was a bit much.
Frank, this might have contributed to your "hope you're satisfied" comment to Kevin. (As it was, there was always a mean streak buried inside Kevin's cheerful demeanor. Some called him the Bad Cunningham. He inspired that treasure hunt clue: Sly Pig.
Finally, you may have noticed the 1974 Scorebook was not attached to the original send out. Difficulties with the fade in/fade out nature of the scorebook contents prevented attaching. I will have a limited supply of printed copies out at the beach this championship weekend (and will keep some aside for the Special Folks).
JOH: I appointed Frank Connolly Commissioner. I thought he was first. Not so, sez Jon:
Always a sticking point with me. Frank C. was indeed a fine Commish but was not the first. I preceded him, I believe, including in 1973. I prepared the '73 schedule and made the field decisions, took the heat, and got it done. That 1973 schedule was typed by me up in Mary Keane's office on a late sunny day, after work (as asst. to Mary). As Maurice C. sang, I remember it well.
Frank C, Commisioner, verifies that Jon was the first and he was the second:
I certainly remember Jon as the Commish in 1973. I was playing -- how shall I put this? -- well, I was playing an ineffectual but inoffensive second base for the Teens that season, and Jon was the man in charge of scheduling, umpires, etc. It was an honor to follow in his footsteps the next year. The Teens were, of course, Mark Heller's squad; several of us wanted the team to be known as the "Heller Highwaters," but for some inexplicable reason the name never caught on. Jim is certainly right in naming Mark "most uptight" -- he was a truly talented player, but the least amount of pressure would make him go haywire. And of course, no one applied the pressure better or more uproariously than Hal Seltzer. Hal was one of the great Saltaire bench jockeys of all time, and Mark was his favorite target. Mark would be on the mound, Hal would start riding him in that stentorian voice of his -- "Hey Mark, startin' to feel the heat? Hey Mark, it's getting' pretty hot up there!" -- and guaranteed, Mark's next pitch would sail into low-earth orbit. Not a pretty sight if you were behind him on the field, but pretty amusing if you were in the stands. The irony -- or maybe it's appropriate -- is that Mark's a psychologist now... O-bi-Joe certainly represented the spirit of Saltaire softball; in a similar vein, I'd award another honorable mention to Fred Shapiro. Freddy was our next-door neighbor on Marine Walk -- a hilariously funny man and a gifted writer, a colleague of Jon's mom at the New Yorker -- and he platooned at second base for the Men. Fred never missed a game for maybe 15 years, and he unfailing wore the same paint-spattered sweatshirt. But what I always liked most about Freddy was that he was the only other second baseman in the league whom I could out-hit. There were a lot of good young players in Saltaire in the early and mid-70s, but one who tends to get overlooked in retrospect is Chris Boyman. Chris played outfield for the Teens and then moved to shortstop for the Wrecks in the early '80s. He played varsity ball at Princeton and had the whole package -- a graceful fielder, a solid hitter with some power, and a very smart (if not exactly fleet) baserunner. Good guy, too.
JOH: I always think of Chris Boyman with his good pal, the late great MIKE BERNSTEIN.
JOH: Taken: Jon was ther first commish. Frank was seond. well, anyway, me and Tom worked on the original news release of 1971. Posted below:
1971 Press release by Tom Lyon & Jim O'Hare
1973 Press Release
FOR A DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF SALTAIRE SOFTBALL HISTORY, PLEASE CLICK HERE: