The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

April 7, 2013

It’s howdy duty time

The season has begun. Columnists are duty-bound to write about baseball.

Here are all my baseball stories.

I was in Oneonta NY in 1982 when John Elway collected a $140,000 signing bonus from George Steinbrenner and took up position in right field for the short season Single A minor league team at Damaschke Field.

Our sports writer that year was Jim Hone, a short, lean, scraggly-haired, 20-something night-rider who could fly across a keyboard and produce sports pages in mere minutes. Hone took an immediate dislike to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Adonis from the left coast who, Hone believed – correctly, it turned out – belonged in football.

Elway was a fine young man, a good high school baseball player, but rusty at bat, starting the season with a successful bunt, but then going 2-22 with each at-bat disaster gleefully recounted in rich detail by Hone, whose lifetime paycheck was seriously south of $140,000. Elway closed his professional baseball season with four home runs while hitting better than .300 average, but had enough of baseball, and possibly Jim Hone.

Damaschke was a 1939 baseball field, with covered stands behind the plate, dugouts too small for an entire team, wooden benches along the baselines, active freight train tracks just beyond the fence and a dog pound behind the first base bleachers that lit up in yips and howls every time a foul ball plunked off the roof.

My wife and I and our yet unborn, but growing child watched from that side of the field, getting to know a gaggle of salty-haired old dudes who started a pool on the baby’s delivery date, unanimous in the belief that we would never make it to the playoffs.

Sam Nader, the former, much-respected mayor of Oneonta, ran the ballpark with his family operating the concession stand.  There was no zippy-tron scoreboard or comedic mascot in those days.  Alcohol was prohibited.  Cussing was voluntarily held to a minimum.

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Gary Grossman
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