Jack Henry - Gentleman, Scholar
He's a gentleman's gentleman.
Quiet, soft-spoken. Studious, observant and possesses the rare talent of
encouraging the very young to perform at the top level of their
He deals with the very young as a
city school teacher and as a manager in Little League. His credentials in
each area of endeavour are impeccable.
Jack Paul Henry is one of the
deans of Brookline Little League managers. A molder of champions since
1973, following a four-year apprenticeship as a coach on Frank Sausto's
Quaill's Cleaners staff.
His teaching career at Overbrook
Elementary traces to 1974, following one year as a sub throughout the
city system, Mt. Lebanon and Keystone Oaks.
If you pause long enough to ask
Jack Henry how he manages to maintain that air of dignity and calm
disposition through a steady diet of youth and the resultant problems
they pose, he'd probably answer along these lines:
"I love teaching little kids.
Having taught the others, there's no comparison. They get to be problem
children in the seventh grade and don't settle down until 11th or 12th.
By then, the bad ones have either been weeded out or dropped
Today he's content teaching math,
reading and some science courses to the first through fifth graders. He
shakes his head when he thinks back to some of the 16-year old eighth
graders and the problems some were in days gone by.
His expertise and methods of
demanding discipline in a manner which is reserved for the Jack Henry's
of the teaching profession symbolize his success as a Little League
manager. It is proof positive as to why he has survived the problems that
tarnish Little League for 17 seasons.
Now managing Volpatt Tile, since
the owner of Quaill's retired and the sponsorship was ended, Henry's
young charges (ages 9 through 12) are in a familiar position - first
place, currently 4-1. Should the 1985 Volpatt squad win the championship,
it will be the fourth for Henry as a manager. Six other years, his teams
lost in the playoffs.
Quaill's won in 1975 (16-4), 1978
(19-1) and Volpatt won in 1979 (15-5). In '75 and '78 his teams won both
Hundreds of Little Leaguers are
walking around today, better men for having experienced a few years of
their youth under Jack Henry's managerial wing. Of the hundreds, Jack
fondly recalls many humorous and emotionally touching incidents. Two came
quickly to mind and he revived the moments by saying:
"We had a lovable youngster,
actually overgrown for his age, who was still fighting for his first hit.
He came to bat one night with the bases loaded and faced the fastest
pitcher in Little League."
"There weren't too many dry eyes
around the Little League field when Tommy Sanders swung his bat and,
surprise of surprises, connected solidly. He paused at the plate, almost
in disbelief, as the ball went over the fence for a grand-slam which
brought us a come from behind victory. Then he ran with a nonchalance as
though it was a regular thing."
"Then I remember Davey Meyer, our
catcher, charging out from behind the plate for a ball that bounced off
the building beyond the left-field fence. I was a coach then and Manager
Frank Sausto asked Meyer what he was doing, charging out towards the
infield. Davey answered, 'I really thought I had it judged and would
catch it for an out, Mr. Sausto.'"
Jack paid his dues, enjoying it
all the way, during a happy youth. He graduated from South Hills High
School in 1963, went to Pitt and later earned his master's degree at
Duquesne University. His first job was in power engineering for Duquesne
Jack's has two wonderful children,
Linda (14), who is an eigth grader at Resurrection and Keith (9), who
plays outfield for Boulevard Men's Shop in the Minor League
Fatherly pride provoked a few
memories for Jack as he recalled an 0-for-10 batting record when he
occasionally got a chance to bat for Manager Johnny Leaf's Community
Center team in 1956.
"We had a 3-15 record that year,
but in those days you had to try out every year. The next season I played
for Pete Green and Joe Power (now deceased) and we won the championship
with Kiwanis. I hit well that year and played center field. I was a
singles hitter. My last year, I was on Lefty Voelkers (now deceased) team
and we finished third."
"In 1959, I wasn't able to play
PONY league because of a fractured hand, but a year later I was on Rudy
Jack notices a difference in kids
today, a sharp contrast to his youth.
"Except when there's a game, the
fields down at Brookline Memorial Park are empty. Boy, we'd play
'fencies' if we didn't have enough kids for two teams. That was every day
and everyone wanted to hit it over (the fence). I never hit a homer, but
came close once in my last year of Little League."
"We really had some good players
then. Jackie Flavin was the best pitcher I've ever seen in youth
baseball. He had a good fast ball and he'd throw a curve you'd think was
going to hit you but would break right over the plate. Then he'd throw at
the plate and it would break outside."
"Then Freddie Luvara was such a
great hitter for a kid. I think he hit at least a homer a game. At 13, he
was hitting shots over at Moore Park. Jimmy Savena was a quick-handed
shortstop-second baseman. Then there were others, like Jackie Wertz, Jack
Karabinos, Dennis Favero and Tommy DeBasi, now the Seton-LaSalle
"That's mentioning only a
This year, Jack has a few more
he'll be adding to the long list of stars - Jim Trainor, son of Jack's
coach and Shawn's kid brother, and Chris McLane, one of those outstanding
Our Lady of Loretto products. And Keith Matts, who pitched a no-hitter
Sunday to lift Volpatt to the top in the LL standing, may be
Jack has one sister, Marla
Stapkovic of Dormont.
A staunch believer in the "early
to bed, early to rise" theory, Gentleman Jack confesses that he stays up
"to catch Johnny Carson's monologue" on occasion and "the 11 o'clock news
Little League fans who watch the
quiet, soft-spoken Jack in the coaching box at first base, armed with his
clipboard and scorebook, are almost unanimous in the opinion that here is
a man who looks the part of teacher-manager.
"I really enjoy the company of
parents, the fans, the managers and coaches of other teams. But most of
all I love the kids, not only my boys but all of them."
Spoken like a true gentleman and
reprinted from The Brookline Journal - May 23, 1985.
Jack Henry's Little League
managerial career came to an end after the 1989 season, which marked his
21st year as a manager or coach. Brookline's gentleman-scholar still
lives only a stone's throw from the ballfield, and the first base
coaches box, that was his place for so many years.
Today, in January 1999, Mr. Henry
is a student counsellor at Roger's Middle School in East Liberty, a
school for the creative and performing arts. He has held this position
for the past two years. In addition, Jack moonlights as a student in
quest of a "Masters Degree plus 50," with the goal of gaining
certification as an elementary school counselor.
Linda, Jack's daughter from his
first marriage, is following in dad's footsteps. At 28 years of age she
is a substitute teacher in the city school system. Keith (22) holds a
position in retail sales. Fittingly, father and son teamed up for
back to back Little League championships with Parajax Productions in 1986
and 1987, with one team going 18-2 and winning both halves in what
appears to have become a Henry trademark.
After Keith moved on from Parajax,
Jack hung up his clipboard and said adios to his baseball career, but
fate has kept his family's thoughts close to Sam Bryen
Re-married on June 5, 1992 to
Carol Dougherty, our gentleman-scholar now listens to the exploits of
Carol's two children, John (13) and Jamie (16). John is stepping up to
the Senior League after a playoff season with Rick's Auto, and Jamie
just completed her Senior softball career with a championship as a
member of Party Cake.
Jamie, Carol, Jack and
Asked to share one last Little
League remembrance from his two decades as a mentor, he
"In 1978 my Quaill's team went
19-1. We had second pick that year and were lucky to get John Gigliotti,
a big 12-year old that I didn't expect to be available. He was a strong
batter who didn't get many homers, but his clutch hitting really made
all the difference. We could have gone undefeated. John hurt his
knee and his mother kept him home for a game. It was the only game we
As for what kept him in the
coaches box for so many years, Jack said, "it gets in your blood."
Then he got to the heart of the matter. "The kids."
After 10 years away from the
game, I could still sense the boyish exhuberance that made Mr. Henry one
of the favorite coaches in the Brookline Little League program. His five
championships put him near the top as far as coaching success goes, but
it doesn't take a scholar to know that winning wasn't everything for
Not every kid who came under his
wing took home a title, but they all left a little more mature and ready
for life's challenges, courtesy of the soft-spoken man with the
Written by Clint Burton, January 1999 *