Walt Evans And His Seven-Day
They rolled out the red carpet.
You'd have thought they were entertaining royalty. But the little guy
with the twinkling blue eyes was a little too humble for a
Yet the annual pilgrimage of
Walter James Evans was reminiscent of "The Return of the Native." It was
as if he has never gone away.
Everywhere he went, out came the
red carpet over which the "King of Little Leagues Past" traversed ever so
shyly and gently.
One of his first stops was his
favorite "watering hole" - a.k.a. the Boulevard Lounge. He was soon
surrounded by old confederates. John Johnson, his old sidekick through a
succession of Little League championships; Frank Sausto, his racetrack
mentor from yesteryear; Jack Henry, a youthful antagonist in the happy
days; a newspaper guy who in the distant past had never been able to dent
Walt's quiet demeanor.
Soon the growing ranks parted and
Walt, seemingly bolstered by a "shot of adrenaline," rose quickly and
pumped the hands of an old and respected chum, Sam "The Big E" Bryen. The
Prez and the guy he always regarded as "just about the best handler of
boys we ever had in Little League."
Hail, hail, most of the old gang
"Here's a man who gave his money,
time and love to the kids for so many years," Walt said, an
all-encompassing appraisal of Sam, for 25 years or so the president of
Brookline's youth baseball program."
"And there's Frank Sausto, who
taught me all I know about investing my money at the racetrack," Walt
chuckled. "He always told me to be sure to back my perfecta bets. In
other words, if I bet 1-5 he cautioned me to also play
One night, the horses raced to the
finish line and Sausto leaped up three or four feet. I said: 'Got it,
Frank?' And he, in a very disgusted tone, replied: 'No, I didn't back
it.' There's a lesson to be learned there."
Walt is living in a double-wide,
two-bedroom mobile home at a Vero Beach retirement village these days. He
retired in 1982 after 41 years with P&LE Railroad.
Now he returns from Florida every
year to "babysit" for daughter Janice Knight, who lives in Westminster,
"I come up in June and stay
through August," he says. "I usually get back home here and stay with
John and Marion Johnson for a week around the Fourth of July. It's nice
to stop off at the old places, visit with friends and play a little
Walt has another daughter, Kathy
Finnicum, who lives in Bethel Park. His wife, Doris (nee Marloff), died
in May of 1966. They had been grade school sweethearts at Overbrook and
graduated together from South Hills High School in June of
The Army collared Walt in January
of 1943 and assigned him to port battalion duty until his discharge in
January of 1946. He married Doris. Janice joined the family in 1948 and
the clan was complete with Kathy's arrival two years
Walt's visit home didn't escape
the Kids of the '60s and '70s" very long. Paul Malloy approached the
"round table" session at the Lounge with a friendly "Hello, Mr. Evans,
it's good to see you." Walt recognized the mustachioed Paul by
acknowledging his identity and asking:
"Who taught you how to hit, Paul,
Mr. Sausto or Jack Henry?"
Without blinking, Malloy retorted:
"No sir, Mr. Evans, my father did."
Which reminded Walt of another
"His Quaill team was beating us,
8-3. Frank decided to put in his best pitcher, Ron Miller, who had great
control for a 10-year old. The score by then was 8-7 with two out and
three on. Miller hit my next two batters with pitches and we won,
"Naturally I consoled Sausto: 'You
made the right move, Frank, but your timing was wrong.' Then I ducked.
But he was never one to dwell on adversity. He shrugged and said: 'We
can just make the daily double at The Meadows if we hurry,
Did you know one of the reasons
Sausto quit managing in Little League was because the night games
interfered with his trips to the harness races?"
Speaking of Sam and his "love of
baseballs," Timmy Evans, one of Walt's pitchers, complained about the
ball in play. "Sam bristled," Walt recalls, "and yelled 'quit complaining
or I'll have to take some action.'"
"Timmy then showed Sam how the
ball was egg-shaped from getting hit too many times. Sam finally relented
with a slow grin and gave Timmy a new ball to pitch. Sam and his Haiti
balls. But no one was ever better for Little League than
Thoughts of Little League always
provoke Walt to jog his mind for Sausto stories. As Sam Bryen always
mentions in speaking of Walt's Little League success, which during one
stretch netted six championships in seven seasons, from 1960 through
1966, it was because of attention to details. Such as preparing for the
annual draft of players.
"Sausto was using a pen as he
jotted notes on the various kids trying out," Walt explained. "I always
used a pencil. Suddenly, it started to rain and Sausto's sheets started
to streak. He begged me to top him on the best kids. You know I did.
"Then there was a year when Tony
Colangelo was interested only in his first pick. He made his choice, but
later learned the kid was 13, too old for Little League. He hadn't paid
much attention to the others. So he came to Uncle Walter for help.
Walt recalls Mickey White, a big
catcher who was hyper, at times verging on freneticism.
"His mother's name was Imelda. She
told me: 'If he doesn't behave, Mr. Evans, belt him. Now I wasn't about
to, for he could really slug a ball and was about the only catcher who
could handle my fastball ace, Bruce Nagel."
Back to Sausto. Walt has a million
of 'em on his pal.
"I had Frank's boy, Craig, one of
my best over the years," Walt reminisces. "Frank's telling Craig what to
do in certain situations. Craig listened politely, for a spell, then told
his dad: 'Dad, I hate to tell you this, but Mr. Evans is the only one who
can tell me what to do.'"
Walt started as a coach in Little
League under Rudy Reinheimer with Quaill's in 1958. He was Jim
Patterson's coach with Community Center in 1959. Then he replaced Johnny
Leaf as the Legion manager in 1960,
the year he started the remarkable run of six championships in seven
He gave up managing Legion when
Doris died in 1966, but Sam Bryen convinced him it "will be good medicine
for you to come back." He did, as an umpire. But soon he was helping Bob
Brennfleck with Sam's Hardware. When Brennfleck died, Walt once again was
a manager (Sam's won the championship that season for Walt's fifth title
in a row.)
Evans was to manage two more LL
championships, in 1970 and 1972 with St. Marks (successor
to Sam's Hardware) before he tossed in his cap in 1974 because of
recurring problems with high blood pressure.
There was a two season stretch in
the mid-60s when Evans managed Legion teams which won 39 of 40 games, an
all-time high. His 1964 team went 20-0 and the following year Legion was
In his playing days, with the
Brookline Colts, Walt was a catcher. Here was a catcher who wore the
"Tools of Intelligence."
"I played with a lot of
topnotchers," Walt recalls, "such as Tommy Ryan, Bucky Helferty, Jim
Simpson (who was killed in World War II), Bob Simendinger, Eddie Beers
and the Dudick twins, George and Ed, among others."
Walt came up with another humorous
Little League story about one of the mothers.
"Rege Carver was pitching for Bob
Schwemmer's Brookline Pharmacy team in the 1972 championship game," he
remembers. "We had a kid on third and when Rege pitched, I yelled:
'Balk?' Bud Auen ruled it was just that. The winning run
"Rege tore off the field and up
the steep hill back of the stands. His mother, Phyllis, sped after him,
matching him stride for stride and pleading: 'What's a balk, Rege, what's
a balk?' Rege told her: 'I don't know and I don't care. They stole the
championship from us.'"
Talking of Bud Auen revived
another story in Walt's comedy routine.
"After a game one night, someone
suggested going to the West Coast to eat. Buddy was agreeable. He came
home three years later and his mother calmly asked: 'What happened, Buddy
boy, did it go extra innings?'"
There's laughter and great mirth
for Walt even in his Florida retirement. He says:
"I was listening to WTTB, 1490 on
the radio dial, one night and they asked: 'Who was the last pitcher to
win 20 for the Giants while they were still in New York?' I phoned them
and answered, 'John Antonelli.' That qualified me to go to bat at Dodger
Stadium. They had cars and trucks all over the field for the winners to
"Denny Llewelyn, the Vero Beach
Dodger pitching coach, threw me three 'basketballs' and I missed them be
at least a foot. Then I identified Glenn Miller's theme song as 'Moonlite
Serenade' another night and won four tickets to a Dodger exhibition. I
couldn't find anyone to go with me."
Just before I came up here, I got
a phone call. I was getting ready to go to the L.A.-Detroit exhibition.
The woman, who said she was Jean McCann, tried to sell me on a plan in
which they'd make all my funeral arrangements. Everything. I gave her
But now, for the rest of his
"The hardest thing about
retirement is getting used to these seven-day weekends. Nothing to do but
watch baseball, play golf and frolic in the ocean. Tough
Come home soon, Walt. Always nice
to greet a free spirit.
Article reprinted from The Brookline Journal - July