Jack Henry
Little League Manager

Jack Henry and his 1987 Parajax team.
Long-time Little League manager Jack Henry (back right) and his 1987 Parajax team, his sixth and last title winner. Jack's son Keith is third from the right in the bottom row.

Jack Henry - Gentleman, Scholar
by Dan McGibbeny

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 abilities.

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 out."

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 halves.

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 Light.

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 program.

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 Reinheimer's team."

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 basketball coach."

"That's mentioning only a few."

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 another.

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 on weekends."

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 scholar.

Article reprinted from The Brookline Journal - May 23, 1985.

A Short Followup...

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 Fields.

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.

Picture of
 Jack Henry and family, 1999.
Jamie, Carol, Jack and John.

Asked to share one last Little League remembrance from his two decades as a mentor, he replies:

"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 lost."

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 Jack.

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 clipboard.

* Written by Clint Burton, January 1999 *

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