Ken often receives baseball-related books through the mail from publishers and individuals who hope he might plug the titles on-air.
“But I’m not a book critic,” he says, “I’m there to do the games.” And so he’s made it a policy not to mention any of the books (nor would he have time anyhow to scan them and the accompanying promo materials).
Because we cannot keep everything that makes its way into our house, when the baseball books pile up, I’ll make a basket of them and donate it to whoever was the last to ask us for a silent auction item.
I’m the paper pusher around the house – Ken, the kids and I create piles of it from the mail and two schools, and I’m the one who sorts and processes everything. (I’m liking the e-bill scene lately; sure cuts down on paperwork.) So while cleaning off the dresser, I picked up a slim book titled “That Perfect Spring” by Bruce Fabricant.
I’m not a book critic either, nor can I give Mr. Fabricant an on-air plug for his book since I’m not a TV announcer, but I can do so here.
The author is a Mount Vernon, N.Y. native – where Ken and his younger brother Fred grew up – which is almost certainly what prompted Mr. Fabricant to mail a copy of the book to Ken. Maybe he wasn’t soliciting a free TV promo; maybe he just wanted to share a nice baseball story, or in this case, stories of 15 men, then-boys, eager to reminisce “warm, vivid memories of playing Little League and high school baseball and of chasing a dream. Fifty years later, that championship season isn’t about each individual; it’s about the team, the friendships, and the glory of realizing that dream.”
Isn’t that nice? I like the concept.
Mr. Fabricant wrote that he had found himself “wondering where my teammates were and how life has treated them” since the boys had won the 1959 Westchester Interscholastic Athletic Association baseball championship for A.B. Davis High School. Then he went and found those connected to the team who were still living, listened to their stories, and learned much more about them than he knew before … “their hopes, triumphs and failures in a game learned at the hands of their fathers, brothers and even mothers.”
One of the players, Neil Arena, even told how his cobbler father repaired Lou Gehrig’s and Frank Crosetti’s shoes, Yankees players from the 1920s-1940s. In the Mount Vernon Pony League, John Fortier once threw the ball around with Ralph Branca when Branca played for the Dodgers.
“There aren’t many youngsters who get a chance to pitch to a Major League player,” wrote Mr. Fortier. “I did. It was a nice experience. I’ll never forget it.”
Branca had also attended A.B. Davis and lived in Mount Vernon in the same house as the Singletons before they bought it.
“Mount Vernon was a good place to grow up,” wrote Nick Giordano about the community where playing baseball was not just a sport but also a way of life. “I couldn’t ask for a better place what with all those ball fields around me.”
The book also looks at forgotten places such as the annual high school band parade down Fourth Avenue … Ferrara’s Bakery on Sidney Avenue that made the best Italian bread this side of Italy … the bargains at the Five & Dime stores … a kid’s first baseball glove from Tom Godfrey’s … and Saturday afternoons at the Biltmore Theatre.
Mr. Fabricant’s glove was bought in a corner toy store near the Mount Vernon train station. It didn’t even have a pocket, it was just a flat piece of leather.
“The tattered and re-stitched glove remains one of my most prized possessions,” he said.
And now his book “That Perfect Spring,” which forever will hold Mr. Fabricant’s boyhood baseball memories inside the pages, is surely among those possessions as well.