couple for those of us who can remember
the days before Sam Bryen Memorial Fields
This picture above was taken in the summer of 1978 from the hillside overlooking the old Pony League field, which at this time was the Girls softball field. The Little League field, on the other side of the bleachers with the tell-tale bare spots in the outfield grass, had been in use since 1951.
Note the old refreshment stand, and the dugouts with the corrogated steel roof. This area is now home to a swimming pool, batting cage and a small T-Ball field. Those of us who grew up playing on these fields will never forget the thrill of hitting a homer off the Recreation Building (or watching Eddie Beveridge pound them over the building), and let's not forget the rude awakening when a foul ball banged off the dugout roof and sent shockwaves through the feint at heart.
After graduating to Pony League, we hit doubles over the short but high chicken wire fence in left field. How about the old spring that always made the Pony League backstop area into a muddy mess, and Sam Bryen sitting at his post between the Little League backstop and the refreshment stand, religiously announcing our achievements in a way that only he could?
"Heads up Seniors!", he would warn when a foul ball was hit to the right. Neighbors would sit on their porches and listen to the progress of the games, courtesy of Sam.
I will always remember the way friends would stand behind the Pony League field in left center and wait for a pop-up to clear the fence, then run down into the woods to retrieve the ball.
We were never in need of fresh balls for a pick up game! It got so bad that the league started buying cheap plastic-coated balls because so many were lost. Old Sam used to give sno-cones (ice balls) to anyone who would be kind enough to bring the balls back.
There are so many wonderful memories of the years spent on these fields with friends and foes alike. As Archie and Edith Bunker crooned, "Those were the days!"
This picture was from one of the last games played on the old field, featuring B.Y.M.C. (at bat) versus Legion in 1981. Gregg Gielas, who has the honor of hitting both the last homerun on the old Little League field and the first homerun in the new Sam Bryen Complex, is in the on-deck circle, with commissioner Angelo Masullo behind the backstop sitting in Sam Bryen's familiar spot as the scorekeeper and announcer.
The old hillside behind the field, the concession stand, the rusting fence, the weeds along the third base line, the old rusting dugout, the fans behind the backstop fence, the official scorer and announcer, the little corner on-deck area and the row of bicycles all seem so familiar, like it was only yesterday that these were everyday sights. The passage of time has replaced the old venue with a new modern baseball complex, but it can't replace the memories of the generations that grew up on these well-trodden grounds.
One last photo to compare with the one above. This was taken in 1968 and shows the field with the old dugout and bleachers. Taken from near the same spot as the picture above, this shows how the old fields changed in the thirteen years before their eventual replacement.
* Photos provided by Doug Brendel and Gary Gielas *
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