Walt Evans
Little League Manager

Picture of Walt
 Evans and John Johnson.
Walt Evans (left) and Jack Johnson.

Walt Evans And His Seven-Day Weekends...
by Dan McGibbeny

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 king.

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 was there.

"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 5-1."

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, Md.

"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 golf."

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 1941.

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 later.

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 Sausto yarn.

"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, 9-8."

"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, Walt'"

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 Sam."

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. Hmmm!"

"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. Ha!"

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 seasons (1960-1962-1963-1964-1965-1966).

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 19-1.

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 scored."

"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 pick."

"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 short shift."

But now, for the rest of his life?

"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 life!"

Come home soon, Walt. Always nice to greet a free spirit.

Article reprinted from The Brookline Journal - July 25, 1985.

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