Iconic America at the Brighton Little League Parade

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American icons: American Justice (Brighton Town Court Judge Karen Morris), the American People (l-r, Betsy Knapp, Ellie Heider, Saffron Howe, Sadie Scott, Anna Campbell), the American Flag, the American Military. American iconography is complicated. 4/31/16

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Stephen MacAdam, Chief Brighton Fire Department

We marched from Elmwood to Winton to the Twelve Corners Middle School for the first time under the Brighton Fire Department’s new flag.

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Front row: Mark Bennet, dog Pixel, Carol, Luci, Vanessa, Aleyna, Molly Back row: Barb Lowe, Steve Glanville, Rich Rozzi

It was the same route we had joyously taken when Brighton volleyball brought home the state title.

Yesterday under a spring sky anointed by the baseball gods, Moms, Dads, kids and dogs carried forward the unbroken tradition of that American icon, Little League.

It felt like last of Fourth of July when we celebrated Brighton’s diversity at Meridian Centre Park.  And last May when we had cheered as former Baron Ernie Clement’s University of Virginia Cavaliers won the College World Series.

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The Harris Beach team infield: (l-r) Logan Hiller, 3b; Sophia Falvo, p; Maddie Granger, 1b; Bridget Mousaw,2b

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Plaque from cannon outside the Brighton Town Hall

Generations of elected pols and judges have found the Parade irresistible. State Senator Joe Robach had his picture taken with every paperazzi in town (as in one). For all takers, Councilman Jim Vogel handed out parade gifts that looked like plastic dog biscuits. With a natural eye for the photo-op, Judge Karen Morris readily joined five girl Barons and a flag next to the town cannon. Judge Morris herself did not play Little League, but I bet she’d make a fine umpire.

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Spikes signing autograph

And the most natural politician of them all, the Red Wings’ mascot/icon Spikes was working the crowd. Doling out autographs to the young and a little older, riding in the parade car and schmoozing with The Crazy Pitches at the pep rally in the Middle School. Watch out assembly people, if Spikes runs for office, he’ll win a landslide.auto spikes

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with State Senator Joe Robach (left)

Everyone has a Little League recollection etched in memory.  For Joe Robach, it was 1970 when he played for Abbot’s Custard in the Charlotte Little League. Because Joe was tall, he was positioned at first base. But he really dreamed of playing shortstop, back in the day when Luis Aparichio and Ernie Banks — who always wanted to play two — were his heroes. Before Cal Ripken, tall kids didn’t play shortstop.

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Brighton Town Supervisor William Moehle and Spikes

But Joe’s coaches had instilled upon him that baseball is a team game so he kept his wish to himself. Then late in the season, nervous and hesitant, Joe asked his coach if he could play shortstop.

And he did, for a couple of innings. Not a ball was hit Joe’s way, but you can look it up: Joe Robach, ss, Abbott’s Custard v. Charlotte Appliance, Rochester, NY, 1970. In Little League, Joe learned that life is a team game, but if you ask diplomatically you can get to play shortstop for a couple of innings.

No doubt he played first base, Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle’s memory is philosophically tinged.  The fields in the Plymouth, Michigan Little League were located next to a cemetery. Before the season started, the boys were told that about 5 or 6 times a season a funeral procession would pass by when games were played. The games were to be stopped as the crowd and players paid their respects. At that age, many of the boys had not been deeply touched by death. But they sensed the contrast between the life-affirming game they were playing and the mournful procession. For Bill, this was one of his earliest lessons on mortality. So as we march forward, relish every game and every inning.

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Councilman Jim Vogel dispensing parade gifts. A big hit with all ages.

For Jim Vogel, it was 1984 when he coached Town & Country Dry Cleaners. On his team was Jimmy Williams who was playing baseball for the first time. His mom, who was raising Jimmy by herself, had encouraged him. They were in the process of moving and this would be Jimmy’s last chance to play in the Brighton Little League.

Shy and quiet, Jimmy was nervous about joining Town & Country. Patiently, the coaches and players brought Jimmy into their baseball family. They worked on Jimmy’s batting every time he wanted help.

In the final game, T & C was trailing by a run with two outs and two men on in the last inning. It was Jimmy’s turn at bat. While Jimmy had improved, he had still been a weak hitter throughout the season.  Inwardly, Jim worried as Jimmy came to the plate.

But in that moment the hand-eye coordination Jimmy practiced — but eluded him — was in synch. He smashed a long drive over the left fielder’s head. As he slid into third with a triple, Jimmy had won the game.  Outright elation was what Jim remembers 32 years later.

The team hung out for a bit after that last game.  Soon after, Jimmy and his mom moved from Brighton. Jim never heard from or saw Jimmy again.  Jim hopes — and thinks — Jimmy learned something from his experience. If only to believe in yourself. And to believe others believe in you too.  Jim also hopes Jimmy knows had he struck out it wouldn’t have mattered.

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Spikes with the “Crazy Pitches,” a Brighton High School singing group. Member Elijah Goldberg said you can catch the pitches performing throughout the community, sometimes at the Gazebo in Buckland Park

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Larry Davis Sr. at the grill. He and his son Larry Davis Jr. have been active in Brighton baseball for about half a century. This year this Davis was the recipient of The Phil Feldman Award for distinguished service. Larry says to make his job easier he only offers one flavor of hot dog: red.

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from “The Good Old Days of Wiffle Ball” (BELOW)

As for my own, it was 1976, my first season. Then, the rules were that in your first season, you could play in the slightly younger bracket, which I did for V.P. Supply.

Everyone has that one championship season. In my first swing in practice on the football field, I hit one almost to the goal post. It was like I was the Natural. All season, pitching and at shortstop, I played naturally and unselfconsciously. A little like my hero George Brett: good instincts and line drive hitter with some home run power.

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What’s a Brighton outing without our own Bernie Sander’s video celebrity and Ted Cruz propaganda sign maker: Athesia. With Ella (left) and Sammy (right). Benny not pictured

In the All Star game, I was the only one chosen to play the whole game, pitching and at shortstop. And batting cleanup. My sister filmed part of the game and caught my easy pitching motion that later in life became stilted as I thought too much. My fast ball was a little wild, but because I had all star fielders, I took a little off the pitches and got outs. At shortstop, I caught a throw nailing a stealing base runner. I remember that all star catcher’s bullet popping right into my glove.

But at the plate, I froze. I came up four times, but did not swing once. I could not will the bat off my shoulder. Luckily, the other team walked me the first three times, twice with the bases loaded.  My teammates shouted, they’re afraid of him.  People thought I had a good eye, but no one knew what was going on inside my head.

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As Athesia is an artist and art professor at MCC, I asked her to create this portrait of myself deeply pondering the meaning of freezing at the plate on the very same spot 40 years later! Alas, Athesia’s subject did not offer her much in the way of artistic material.

But many of the pitches were hittable. But from unselfconscious I went to paralyzed. Frozen. In the last at bat, I took a called third strike.

But it didn’t effect the outcome. We won the game handily. I had pitched decently, fielded my position, and scored a couple of runs with two rbi. That would also be my last moment in the sun. The next year, when I moved up in the age bracket, I was thoroughly mediocre.

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from “The Good Old Days of Wiffle Ball” (BELOW)

I don’t know if I ever told that story, my secret. What’s to tell? No drama; no one knew; we won the game handily.  Sometimes, however, I wondered if my paralysis was a metaphor for a failed life.

While I have not walked across the grandest stages, my life has not been a failure. So there goes that metaphor. Really, it’s just a secret story I keep with my twelve year old self.  When I think of him then and me now, it still feels like we are the same person. I accept him and he accepts me — even if we froze in the 1976 Brighton Little League All Star game and many times since.

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The parade passes the Fire Station. 4/31/16

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Volunteer umpire at the T-Ball game at Buckland Park after the Parade. I’ve been paid to umpire the U-10 games at Buckland. Bless the man in blue for dodging balls in the dirt and over the catcher’s head.

As for the flag, Chief Stephen MacAdam filled me in on the details. Incidentally, Stephen played his ball in Nova Scotia in what he says is the longest standing Little League in North American.  Having found his passion early in life, Stephen tried to join the team whose players got to ride in a fire truck in Nova Scotia’s own opening day baseball parade.

Stephen explained the Department had raised funds to purchase black mourning bunting to honor fallen firefighters. With leftover funds, the Department purchased the 12×20 American flag that flies at the East Avenue Station, now used for special occasions. I also learned that only the President can order flags lowered to half mast — actually the Brighton Department has a “Half Mast” alert app — and the last time was for one week to honor Justice Scalia.

OF HISTORICAL NOTE.  For a short period in the mid 7os, the rival International Wiffleball League vied with Brighton Little League for the affection of the town’s teenage ball players. Alas, like the baseball Federal League (1913 – 15) and the World Football League (1973 and 74) and the United States Football League (1983 – 85), we succumbed to the larger leviathan. And with it, Talker‘s precursor, The Weekly Wiffle News.

As reported in the Brighton-Pittsford Post, 2004:

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Brighton Pittsford Post, 2004

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The Brighton Pittsford Post, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEE ALSO

The Roberto Clemente Men’s Hispanic Softball League is back!

In grand fashion, Brighton celebrates its volleyball champions and the first Boys state team sports title in school history

Celebrating diversity on the Fourth of July at Meridian Centre Park in Brighton

Brighton fans celebrate hometown hero Ernie Clement in victory

The ground breaking of the Brickyard Trail in Brighton and “Memories of the Crab Apple battles”

On a stainless steel American Bald Eagle in Buckland Park and endorsing Sandra Frankel

At the Brighton Town Hall 1957 mural with Sandra Frankel