Baseball Boys Recreates 1950’s Little Baseball in Mt. Vernon
Somers Author Relives his Baseball Youth
Little League Baseball was born in 1939. By 1950, it made its way from Pennsylvania to Bruce Fabricant’s hometown of Mt. Vernon . In 1953, he got the call, and on a cold April morning, the Heritage Hills resident tried out. The times didn’t allot for a participation trophy, however. But finally getting the chance to play on a real field with adults - who could teach the game - easily made up for lack of metallic luster and the frostbite. In actuality, what he did get was much more important and is never far from what he is trying to document in Baseball Boys – a self-published novel on 1950’s Little League baseball in Mt. Vernon.
“I got a postcard in the mail, that said, ‘you didn’t cut it son,’” Fabricant remembers.
He persevered to make a roster the next time - the life lessons obvious. “You learned how to lose, dealing with adversity and rising to a challenge. That’s what I’m trying to impart in this book,” said the author.
Of course, he’s not advocating an all out, complete old school return or having to try out just to play. But when he goes to his granddaughter’s soccer games, and parents aren’t allowed to cheer, because someone might feel bad, child development is the loser.
On the other end, Fabricant sees too many parents transformed into agents. Jockeying managers for marquis exposure, they envision a scholarship before shaving is even a consideration. “Parents get involved with organized sports to a degree that they are overstepping their bounds rather than leaving it up to the kids on the field,” he said in paraphrasing the piece Rick Wolff of Sports Illustrated contributed.
But his dialogue on these societal deficiencies don’t dominate Baseball Boys. The 2012 publication is filled with old newspaper clippings, game summaries, boxscores and anecdotes from the players like Mt. Vernon ’s Ralph Branca and Ken Singleton. In turn, the detail recreates the era and serves as an example not a lecture.
He also just loves his hometown, the lost youth and the part baseball played. As such, Fabricant felt an exploration of these early years of organized play was warranted.
Beforehand, it was all on the kids. “We played baseball in the streets, and so forth, but something was missing,” Bruce remembered.
World War II over and fathers coming home, an interest emerged in organizing, and a former major leaguer named Carl Stotz seized upon the moment. Stotz enlisted a local newspaper editor to publicize the initiative and Ralph Branca endorsed it. “I remember it vividly, so many kids like myself at the first tryout,” said Fabricant.
Unfortantely, the first few years could only support a scant 75 slots. But Stotz made it his mission to provide a contrast to a cultural makeup that mostly had the various ethnicities sticking to their corners of the municipality. “The greatest thing he did was to integrate the league so you played with all the different types of players,” said Fabricant.
Stoltz also got out front when an entry fee was initially proposed. “Carl said no. We won’t do that, and local sponsors put up the tab,” asserted Fabricant.
The rest was left to the managers. “I heard from many friends about the men in the dugout, and the instrumental part they played in their lives,” revealed Fabricant.
As for his discussion with Ralph Branca, the exchange stuck to the small stuff. “I didn’t talk at all about his major league career,” said Fabricant, and the two had more in common than baseball.
Prompting Branca if he remembered the Fabricant dry cleaning business, the Dodger great was quick with the Brooklyn wit. “Of course I do. I worked at it. I probably made 50 cents an hour because your father was so cheap,” Fabricant relayed the story with a smile.
Ken Singleton, on the other hand, lamented the disarray of the fields he played on as a kid. “A sign of the times,” conveyed Fabricant, “the kids aren’t playing as much.”
But back then, the league expanded along with the demand. In that, he hopes the natural order of things can be restored and rollback the excess. “Just let the kids play,” he concluded.
The book can be found on Amazon.com at "Baseball Boys Rediscovering 1950s Little League Baseball in Mount Vernon , NY "