DAY #18:
100,000 to 200,000 could die by the time this pandemic subsides??? you gotta be kidding me…. If people in the U.S. don’t take this seriously now, it could be more like 500,000 to a MILLION ! …..with that said, I need a break from “reality” for an hour or two….. so please join me if you need a break too !

I need a “feel good” memory story to share with you and this is one of my best ever !
In a previous story, I mentioned that I quit my job on Wall St., got on a Greyhound Bus in Feb. 1963 to attend the Dick Howser Florida Baseball School (still have the Diploma in my scrapbook). Thanks to Dick Howser my life changed for the good forever !

Who is Dick Howser you say??? If you google him you can get his whole Major League Baseball History…. when I met him he was a 2nd baseman for the Kansas City A’s (currently the Oakland A’s)… he was born in Miami in 1936, grew up in West Palm Beach and graduated Palm Beach H.S. then got a baseball scholarship to Florida State University in Tallahassee and set a record .422 batting average in 1956.

He signed with the K.C. A’s and was MLB Rookie of the Year in 1961….. In the following winter he started his Baseball Camp in West Palm Beach to keep busy during the off season. He loved helping young hopeful kids who dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball Player…..and for those less fortunate like me, at least get a College scholarship…. he played 8 seasons in the Majors. K.C.A’s: 1961-63, Cleveland Indians: 1963-66, N.Y. Yankees: 1967-68.

So I arrived at his school and met him in Feb. 1963….thanks to him I did not sign a contract with the Milwaukee Braves for what was a very cheap offer which he told me I would just fill a roster spot until a better player came along which would then make me a professional and thus could not get a scholarship to a University…. so his advice was stay one more month at his camp (March) and work off the payment to his school by typing envelope’s to prospective players to his school, and in my free time send introduction letters to college coaches all over the country, using his name as a reference, asking for a scholarship. you read previously how that worked out for me as I got the scholarship to Jacksonville University.

All this leads up to: Now it’s the summer of 1968, I was in charge of the summer youth program sponsored by Transfiguration Church, and since we could no longer use the James Center, we were able to get the school yard of P.S.130 the wiffle ball season was coming to an end and I got the bright idea to go to Yankee Stadium with the former batboy of the Yankees, Anthony “shoes” Florio… he gladly agreed to go with me. we went early and during batting practice we worked our way down to the Yankee dugout…. I got Howser’s attention, he came over to us, remembered me right away and I quickly told him about my graduating J.U. and that I was now getting my Masters Degree at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. His face lit up with happiness. I then asked him if he could, on an off day come to P.S. 130 to give out the trophies to the kids…. He gladly agreed and we exchanged phone numbers. he also said whenever I wanted to come to a game to call him up and he would leave tickets for me…. wow ! I couldn’t believe my good fortune !…. Florio then called over Joe Pepitone, who he knew well, Joe came over, I explained that most of the kids receiving trophies were of Italian decent and would he come with Howser and give out the trophies, he said ” Give me $500 and I will come”, I won’t tell you what me and Tony “shoes” said to him in response…..

To thank Howser, I invited him and his wife for my mom’s Italian cooking…. He took me up on the offer and during the Feast of San Gennaro, he and his wife walked up the 5 flights of stairs at 100 Park St. (now Mosco St. since 1982,yes, a future story) and had a great Italian feast thanks to mamma Rosie (she fed many of my J.U. teammates during my 4 summers home from school too). during the dinner, Howser was glued to my dad’s story telling, we then went down to the Feast and had a great time.

Unfortunate for him but fortunate for me, he broke his wrist in a game and had to go on the disabled list… he was free to come on a Sunday to give out the trophies….. the kids were so excited that a Major League Yankee Baseball Player was coming to our Neighborhood ! some of the kids bought black spray paint and on the White Wall of the playground they spray painted in large print “WELCOME DICK HOWSER”….. one of the kids, Benny Anselmo, had his dad come and take great pictures of the event…. so I have some great pictures of that fantastic day. when I get back to NY, I will post them… the story doesn’t end there….. I will give you the rest of the story (it gets better-then sad too) tomorrow….

so Please Stay Safe…Stay Inside to Stay Alive !

Read the next post Taking Stock Day 19.