Bob Schwemmer
Little League Manager

Picture of
 Bob Schwemmer.

Mr. Nice Guy Bob Schwemmer Finishes First
by Dan McGibbeny

Yes, Leo Durocher, there is a Mr. Nice Guy. And this one doesn't finish last.

This Mr. Nice Guy keeps looking ahead. Ocassionally, despite the sage advise of the late Satchel Paige, he nervously looks back to see if anyone is gaining on him.

Mr. Nice Guy, a.k.a. Robert H. Schwemmer, or just plain Bob to his kids and other contemporaries, never underestimates the enemy, even though they are friends.

These days, Bob is looking ahead to a time when he hopes to eclipse the career winning records of the late Joe Power and the retired Bob Evans.

Power and Evans were giants among Brookline Little League managers. They were the Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy of their time.

"They don't keep records in the Brookline Little League program," Schwemmer admits, matter of factly, "but I figure Joe Power and Walt Evans had to win about 250 games each during their years in the program."

"Up to tonight's game in the Senior LL, I've managed 211 winners since I replaced Joe Baginski, my brother-in-law, as the Droz manager in 1966. I won't be 49 until October 22, so I believe I have a shot at catching Joe and Walt, maybe going as high as 300 before I call it quits."

Pausing for a moment, Bob continues:

"There's one problem. I can't help looking over my shoulder. Jack Henry keeps coming up with Little League contenders every year. So I keep looking back to see if he is gaining on me."

Henry, however, scotches any such talk. Recently, during a pause between innings as his Volpatt Tile Little Leaguers were adding another victory to his ever lengthening string, Henry chuckled as he said:

"Tell Bob he doesn't have anything to worry about. Right now I'm almost sure I'll only be around for three more years."

For Little League historians, Schwemmer is the dean of Active Brookline managers. He was in Little League, as the Droz and Brookline Pharmacy manager, from 1966 through 1977. He replaced the late Danny McGibbeny as the Stebbrook Pharmacy manager in 1978.

For Schwemmer, his Brookline involvement began when Marie (nee Gies) and Joe Schwemmer left the Soho area to settle at 530 Berkshire Avenue.

That was in 1942. Bob was only 6. The Schwemmer brood also included Joe, now living in Latrobe, and Lois, mother of Tommy Baginski, one of the all-time sluggers in the annals of the Brookline youth baseball program.

Schwemmer attended Resurrection Grade School, then headed for Connelley Trade School, where he played baseball after serving a year as team manager.

"No, I wasn't a star or a slugger," he confides. "I was a 'mop-up' pitcher and second baseman. Batting? I was a singles hitter. Now that I think of it, I did have one home run, an inside-the-parker. Occassionally, I'd hit a double. Really, I had mostly singles."

At Connelley, Bob learned the trade that earned him a career as a machinist at Dravo.

"I was with Dravo for 31 years, until they closed last year. I took an early retirement."

"Now I have all the time I need to work with the kids, play golf and practice for my Senior Citizen coaching career in future years."

"Seriously, the kids keep me young, mentally as well as physically. As long as I'm with them, I know I won't be getting ready to coach over at the Senior Citizens Center."

Schwemmer, now that he's basking in the riches of early retirement, is doing double-duty in the community's youth baseball program. He manages Stebbrook Pharmacy in the Senior Little League (13-15 year olds) and the Brookline Colts in the Chartiers Valley League (16 year olds.)

At the moment, Stebbrook occupies a familiar position for a Schwemmer team with a 10-5 record and first place in the National League of the Seniors. The Colts, champions of Allegheny County last season, are barely breaking even, an off season by Schwemmer standards.

"Funny thing about this years Stebbrook team, an old Little League antagonist, Ang Masullo, is helping me as coach," Schwemmer reveals with a wry grin. "No, I'm not easy going all the time. I get mad. Never at the kids, but some times with the other managers. Ang was one of the guys who used to rub me. But I always knew he was a good fellow and, believe me, a very capable manager."

Prodded for comparison of the kids of yesteryear and the current crop, Bob says:

"Little League is starting to come back slowly. The kids seem to be getting interested again. They had more good players year ago, but we have some today that compare with the boys in the 1960s and '70s."

He expresses appreciation in other areas by saying:

"I've been lucky to have had a good relationship with parents and the other managers over the years. And the sponsors have been nice to me and the kids. Sidney Droz, the steel company president, was my first sponsor. Then Charley Haley, the owner of Brookline Pharmacy, was my second. John Mussitsch, the third sponsor, backs not only my Seniors, but the team I'm with in the Brookline Businessmen's Bowling League."

Looking back over the years, he recalls one of the saddest days.

"That was the day the LL gave Joe Power and Bud Auen, who umpired games for so many years, fishing rods. Suddenly what we all knew was going to happen did. I realized Joe and Bud had reached the end. They were leaving Little League. It was a sad day, indeed."

But there have been happy times for Bob along his 20-year career in Little League.

"I first got into youth baseball by helping one of my Dravo friends, Tom Peckavich, with the Robinson Township Legion team. I was in my late 20s. That involvement later opened the door for Brookline to enter its Little League All-Stars in the annual Robinson Lions post-season tournament.

"Then one night I went down to the old Little League field, where the pool is today, to watch my nephew, Tommy Baginski, pitch for Joe Power's team. Sam Bryen called me out of the stands to umpire. That was the starter. Once Sam gets his hands on you, there's no way out. He finally coaxed me into joining my brother-in-law, Joe Baginski, as a coach of the Droz team. Joe left the next year and I've been a manager ever since."

"It's been enjoyable. In eight of my 12 years in Little League, I've either managed of coached the All-Stars. I've enjoyed that distinction in four of seven Senior LL seasons."

"While on baseball, there's one night I don't think I'll ever forget. A big kid, who up to that night had never made a hit, went to bat against one of the best pitchers ever in Little League. Rege Carver was a fireballer and the big kid, who was only 10 or 11, appeared nervous. Carver unloaded his fastball. The bases were loaded. Tommy Sanders, the big kid, swung and hit paydirt, his first hit. A game-winning grand slam."

"When I saw Tommy rounding third base, tears streaming down his cheeks, I also was moved emotionally, even though that home run with the bases loaded beat us in the playoff game. I don't like to lose, but..."

But there's one thing about which Mr. Nice Guy isn't nervous or hesitant as he sets his sights on 300 or more career victories.

"If I see them approaching me with any fishing rods or Arnie Palmer golf clubs, I start punching."

Early retirement from the Brookline youth baseball program is the farthest thing from Mr. Nice Guy's mind.

* Article reprinted from The Brookline Journal - June 27, 1985 *

A Short Followup ...

Mr. Schwemmer "retired" from the Brookline youth baseball program after the 1997 season as the coach of the Senior League's Steve Poremski Plumbing team, formerly Legion and currently Brookline Distributing. In his three-plus decades as a manager or coach, Bob left an indelible impression on those who had the pleasure of playing for him or against him.

His quest for 300 victories was achieved during the 1987 season, his final as skipper of Stebbrook Pharmacy. His managerial career continued until 1989 with the Brookline Colts. By then, Bob's combined Little, Senior, and Colt League "W" total had topped the charts at 320, a feat that may never be surpassed.

After the Colts, "Mr. Nice Guy" signed on as coach of Jim Motznik's American Legion Senior team from 1990 through 1997, after which he hung up his ballcap for good. But not before one last hurrah. The 1995 Legion team took the Senior title, no doubt due in some small measure to the talents of one of Brookline's most respected citizens, Bob Schwemmer.

Citing personal reasons for his leaving the youth baseball program, Bob added with a touch of humor, "I couldn't pitch batting practice anymore, so I thought it was a good time to step down."

Thirty years of pitching batting practice to eleven Little League, seventeen Senior League, six Colt League, and fifteen All-Star teams teams led to many memorable moments.

Among his seven title seasons, Stebbrook Pharmacy ran off a string of three consecutive championships from 1985 through 1987. Bob's 1972 Little League All-Star team was runner-up in the 32-team Robinson Township Lions tournament. His 1983 Senior League All-Stars went all the way to the State Finals at Emporium, Pa.

"What a great run we made in '83," Bob recalls. "Reached the final four. There were a lot of good ballplayers on that team; Kevin Nolla, Terry Hebda, Jerry O'Rourke, Billy Cyle, Greg Seamen, Paul DeMaio, Joe Motznik."

"We won eight games to get to Emporium. The boys were really on a roll. Then we lost two and came back with our tails down. But that was a great bunch of kids and they deserved a lot of credit."

Still making his home in Brookline, "the dean" may have retired from youth baseball, but he did it on his own terms. There were no fishing rods and no tears. There was just a kind-hearted, dedicated man who had served the community's children with class for 33 years; a real nice guy who finished first.

* Written by Clint Burton, January 1999 *

<Personalities> <Brookline History> <BLLA History>