Today, I'll let some old friends do my writing. Thanks to everyone for checking in.
To this day my Mom will still mention that Jerry Bradley once casually mentioned that I had "good hand-eye coordination."
He said it in 1976, but it is cast in stone to this day-
I think the games of "500" were the best "training" I ever had- and the most fun.
"The Field" was a living entity- 90% free play (does it exist anymore?). I would hop on my bike and shout over my shoulder as I left the driveway- "I'm going to the field" enough said- no worries from my mother- "be home by dark" was all she would say.
I envied the Bradley's and Doug Gaffney and Tom Brooks and the Wenrich's for their close proximity. Jeff Bradley-Doug Gaffney leading EF Police to the league championship in 1978 (I hung out in RF and got walked a lot) with Mr. Bradley coaching was my baseball highlight-
Thank you Jerry Bradley- we were lucky kids. -- Carter Lee Beard (Jeff's note: "Lee" was a standout hockey player and golfer at West Essex. His sister Kendra went on to play golf on scholarship at Wake Forest).
Great Tribute -- well deserved.
It brought back a flood of memories. I remember the old Tee Shirts. I can still remember the burned rubber smell that stayed with them for the entire season. The hats too -- they were plain but they were ours. I loved those uniforms. I also remember trying out for the intermediate league. The wait for the names to be posted was one of the longest times in my life -- worse than the nervous anxiety of waiting for your wife to give birth. I did make it -- I was on the EF Police -- I think the uniforms were grey and green. My first game I tried to steal home -- your dad is probably still scratching his head wondering how a lumbering load like me thought he could steal home. The reality is -- I had no idea what the hell I was doing. But boy I was glad I was doing it. I do take exception with the fact that you omitted the EF Bengal football team. We were always champs. The members of that team went on to be an integral part of the '81 West Essex State Champion (No. 1 ranked) team and I was on the '82 Caldwell State Champion (No. 6 in NJ) team. We were the bee's knees.
As I am writing, I am recalling that Regina Degnan gave me a black and white adirondack bat -- the "reggie jackson" model -- for my fifth grade birthday. My parents gave me a mitt -- I think it was a spalding "Doug Hayden" model. I didn't sleep that night because I knew the next day I would be at the field waiting for a pick up game. On that note, the pick up games at lunch time during school were the best. I would run home through the glen, up the forest way hill, grab a pb sandwich -- no time to add the j -- and my mitt and bat and run down to the field to wait for the rest of the boys to return. We would play and sweat and smell for the rest of the day. It was the best.
Through it all, I rember your dad standing on the hill behind the field closest to the school. He would wear a blue windbreaker, fold his arms across his chest and cup his chin in his right hand, as he watched us play. If we were lucky, Scott would come by and offer tips. Then he would go to the monkey bars, grip them and levitate himself horizontally. The fathers would gasp in awe and we, the kids, didn't know how the hell he did it.
Great memories. -- Thomas G. Russamano (Jeff's note: Tommy "Wright," wondered if I'd remember him. How could I forget such a nice guy, not to mention his cute twin sister Tracy?)
Sitting on The Hill and at the water fountain!! And, of course, watching my brother and all his friends play baseball. I think that is when my dad taught me how to keep score and track each player's "at bat". Went to a Mets game last year with Dad...and we both kept score!! -- Molly Cutting Werner (Jeff's Note: Molly's dad was a GREAT Farm League coach in EF for many years. In fact, I was slated to play for his Mets before I was optioned to the "expansion" Pirates when I was in second grade).
I remember every inch of that field and all the times we played there.
I remember getting stuck in the smaller diamond's mud after a rainstorm and I had to crawl out...i think my sneaker is still buried in there, Mr Weissenborn called me "muddy randy" ever since. If I recall correctly, Scott was the only one that could hit your Dad's pitches over the hills.
When they made the rule we couldnt play hardball at lunch without equipment I used to put on all the catchers gear and helmets and ride my bike to school so we could play. -- Randy McAdam (Jeff's Note: Randy was also a standout hockey player for West Essex).
EF baseball, great memories.
I think Scott is still the only person to hit the ball over the school roof. -- Jim Sullivan (Jeff's Note: Jimmy is the greatest running back in West Essex High School history. He led WE to the NJ Group IV championship in 1980 and the Star-Ledger trophy as the No. 1 team in the state. Jimmy went to Maryland on a football scholarship, where he was teammates with Boomer Esiason. His father, "Bo" Sullivan is a legend in Essex Fells, who singlehandedly ran the town's football program).
Wow...brings back great memories...
My favorite memories were shagging fly balls when your dad would pitch to you guys....we were so lucky then...sun up to sun down at the ball field all by ourselves. I wish my boys could experience the same thing. -- Andy Brusman (Jeff's Note: Andy was just a "kid" when I was in high school, so he's gotta fill me in...I was off in college when he was in his "prime.")
I can remember like it was yesterday
Your dad pitching to me in "try-outs" and me pitching to him as he warmed me up the first time I ever pitched in a game! Your dad's encouraging words meant the world to a 10-year-old! Many thanks to Mr Baseball (and your mom ;) for all of those years! .When I broke my leg on "the field" playing soccer (when i was 12), your dad was the first guy there. What does that say? -- Andy Addis (Jeff's Note: Andy went on to play soccer at Lafayette College before crossing paths with me in Chapel Hill, where he got his MBA).
I didn't know Larry Fell was such a slugger!
I wish my kids could have experienced something like this. Your parents are great people and everyone from the area has such great respect for them. I wish you could send your dad down here to Texas to work with my boys! -- Chris Tripucka (Jeff's Note: A 1,000-point scorer at West Essex and the toughest, 6-2 rebounder I've ever seen, Chris went to Boston College, where he was a receiver for Doug Flutie).
Boy do I remember those days fondly...
Especially as I witness the incredibly high intensity in which my boys sports programs are run, they are both in elite soccer programs and practice every day for 2 hours...then they travel on the weekends, what a different world we (we? well,who, actually?) have carved out for our young atheletes. The days of our dads joining us at the field after work now seem so nostalgic. The girls teams as well were run by the parents, my mom led the "Essex Fells Sluggers" (complete with hand-painted tee shirts) to an undefeated season in 1972...I can still remember my dad trying to explain the infield fly rule...Those of us growing up in EF spent at least 10 years going to "the field" we were indeed lucky -- Robben McAdam (also close by at 9 Essex Road...can totally remember grabbing the bats out of your garage!) (Jeff's note: Fine looking West Essex cheerleader, Robben was...and I'm sure still is!)
Jerry was the league.
We were all Jerry's kids. He was the commissioner. the head ump, the coach, the best thing that happened to Essex Fells baseball. Every kid had an equal shot and we were all trying to be as good as his biological kids. Scotty was my measuring stick to compete against. Did I have to have the best one in the family to compete with? Yes I would haven't had it any other way. Yes, Scotty could hit it off the roof with the easiest swing you ever saw. I also witnessed Scotty's 1st Home run in Yankee Stadium. The minute it left the bat, me and the boys sitting behind the dugout were out of our seats. I was with Larry and John Fell and Tim Cutting. Never was I more proud of being a Fells boy, and here I was watching Scotty trot around the bases in the house that Ruth built. The only problem was, he was now in a Seattle Mariner uniform. The untouchable Yankee prospect had been traded to the West Coast team the previous season. The kid from the Fells a kid I played with at the field was in the Majors.
Thank you, Jerry for all the great times and letting us play in your league on your field. -- Steve Fusco (Jeff's Note: All I can do is apologize to Stevie for the winless Pirates...he was our only good player, and it wasn't fair that he got stuck with a bunch of second-graders! Stevie could play!)
What a beautiful tribute you wrote to your father on The Field.
Maybe, in that building, next to the field, you grew as "Studies Pass Into Character" into the fine writer you are today.
As one of the coaches in those days I especially enjoyed reading your reminisences. It was truly a meeting place, a home of many wins and losses, and the beginning of athletics for so many young children. Jerry and Mary both gave timelessly and frequently their time and talent to
the youth of Essex Fells.
I can remember the 1971 Essex Fells Reds fondly. In fact, still sitting on my desk here in Charleston, S.C. is an autographed baseball signed by that team which scraped through the season with a perfect 8-0 record. I can look at that ball today and remember Larry and John Fell, Carl and Billy Groves, Mike and Jimmy Sullivan, Nick and Mike Lieder, Claus and Mike Cassell, Tim Cutting, Bernie Degnan, Fred Osborne, Randy McAdam and bat boys Doug Gafney and Jeff Bradley. They were then and still are a fine group of young men.
It was so much fun to get home from work in N.Y.C., change into my red sweater and hustle to the field. What fun it was to coach and what great memories all those young men have provided over the years. Wouldn't it be great if it was still the case?
Jerry was always out there tossing B.P., encouraging the kids to try, and learning to win and lose. And, that garage door was always open for anyone who wanted to play ball. It was a time and a situation which will probably never be duplicated.
We send our regards to Mary and Jerry---they are in our thoughts. -- Bob and Ben Nita McAdam