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The Boys Are Back In Town

March 1, 2015

Today is March 1st.   Spring is not quite in the air, but it is sure on my mind.   The first day of Spring astronomically is March 21st.  But the first day of Spring meteorologically is March 1st.

There is nothing like Spring.

And with Spring comes……..wait for it……….BASEBALL SEASON!

I’ve written lots of blog stories on baseball.  You can find which ones and links to those stories at https://ednovick.wordpress.com/?s=baseball.

But for many years my baseball season was, for me, softball season.   And I haven’t written any stories on my softball days, so this is it.

I thought I was done playing baseball at 18.  I was fortunate to discover I was wrong.  I played in Midlothian Boys Baseball from the ages of 9 to 18.  Many years later I played baseball with the Midlothian Lugnuts in an over-28 men’s baseball league when I was 39 and again at 41.  Later I played again with the Lobos in an over-45 men’s baseball league when I was 45 and 46.  I didn’t play last year, but hope to maybe hook up with a team for the coming baseball season.

But from about age 25 to maybe 29 or so I played several seasons with The Walshies – a men’s softball team that played in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

As a young man I had wanted to play ball.  I figured if I did play it would be softball, as my dad had played 16 inch men’s softball some seasons when I was growing up.  Dad played with a group of men in Mount Greenwood Park at between 111th and 115th and Central and Hamlin in Chicago.  I was only between 3 and 7 years old when my dad played, but I remember those times well.  Men like “Crazy” Bill (my dad’s cousin), my uncle Jerry, dad’s cousin Bruce, Pat O, Denny F, George B, and Ralph were my childhood ball heroes.  They competed on gorgeous summer nights and helped me to fall in love with baseball/softball.  After their games, they would sometimes go to the bar at 111th and Millard – I remember as I would go in the bar with them and they would set me and my brother up with a soda pop and we’d play on a shuffleboard bowling machine where we’d play for hours as the men drank…but I digress.

The Walshies were a group of pals from the southwest suburbs who played together for years.  The name Walshies, as I understand it, came from the name of a bar with the same name who sponsored our team. I wanted to play softball, but didn’t know anyone who played, so I contacted a local league and asked them to hook me up with a team that might be looking for some players.  I got a call from Tim…or “Digger” as was his nickname.  He invited me out to a practice in March.  The guys were very welcoming and friendly.

walsh

The front of my Walsh jersey – #9

 

I soon found out that most of the guys seemed to have nicknames.  There was Digger, Stilts, L.A., Goon, Duck, Cupp, Hos, and several others.

It wasn’t long before Digger dubbed a nickname for me too: Psycho.   I didn’t think much of it at first, but later I asked him why he gave me that nickname.  I assumed it was because I was skinny like Anthony Perkins who played Norman Bates in the movie Psycho.   Digger told me it was because he thought I ran like a psycho…whatever that means.  Whichever the case, it stuck, and I was one of they guys.

We played together for several spring, summer and even fall softball seasons in suburbs like Tinley Park, Orland Park, Frankfort, and Downers Grove.  We also played in some area tournaments, most memorable to me playing one down in Kankakee, IL.

I played mostly 2nd base.  I remember once going deep into the hole toward 2nd base to field a ground ball, fielding it fully extended, and flipping the ball behind my back to our shortstop to get a force at 2nd.  That was a glorious moment and stick-with-you memory…the kind of play you play for.

I hit ok, but usually near the bottom of the order.  I remember one season I was near the team lead in batting average finishing in the top 3.

I don’t think we won any championships when I played, but we were a good team, hit really well, and competed most every season.

After the games we often liked to go to a nearby drinking establishment.  Charlie Horse and Hooters were a couple of our favorites. There were many others.

The Walshies were invited to my wedding and those who attended took this photo together.  It is one of the only ones I have of me with The Walshies.  If there are others out there, I’d love to see them.  Digger is not in the photo.

walshies

4/9/1994 (grainy) photo of The Walshies who were at my wedding

 

I lost track of The Walshies for many years.  I had moved away to Aurora, and couldn’t play ball with the Walshies anymore.  I hooked up with another softball team out in Aurora.  It was good, but just wasn’t the same camaraderie as we shared with The Walshies.

I ran into one of The Walshies several years ago, and he shared with me that Digger had died.  I was told he killed himself.  I don’t know the circumstances, but was advised there was some depression that ran in his family.  That is a deeply saddening loss.  I will always remember good-natured and lovable Digger smiling, and playing the game that he loved with the friends that he loved.

I’ve recently had the fortune of reconnecting with many of The Walshies friends on Facebook.   Facebook is great for finding and reconnecting with old friends.  I still haven’t seen them in many years.  But who knows…it’s March 1st…Spring and baseball season is just around the corner…maybe some us will even play ball together again.

“It won’t be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again.”

– Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy, The Boys Are Back In Town

 

I recently heard “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy on the radio, and whenever I hear the song it takes me back to the days playing ball with The Walshies … and has me longing to play ball all over again.

 

And if I do play ball again this summer, I imagine the spirit of Digger and thoughts of The Walshies will be on my mind.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    March 1, 2015 6:16 pm

    Nice blog. I grew up in Alsip so I know exactly where the ball field that you played is. Enjoyed it ,thanks.

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