In 1985, the “Yankee Clipper,” also know as Joe DiMaggio, sailed into Ocean City to be grand marshal of our Baby Parade.
I couldn’t believe our good luck. Roger Jacabowski, who had a business on the boardwalk, knew Tony Tarcasio, a casino executive, who was a personal friend of DiMaggio. Tarcasio extended the invitation and DiMaggio accepted.
In those days his appearance fee was $5000. But he generously came to Ocean City for free. Again, I couldn’t believe our good luck.
The event had special significance for me. Growing up, baseball was my favorite sport. I loved the feel of the bat hitting the ball- “on the good part of the wood,”- the smack of the ball into the thin fielder’s gloves we used in those days and I liked being outdoors during the benevolent spring weather. I was a centerfielder. My hero was the great centerfielder, Joe DiMaggio.
I met with him in Atlantic City and briefed him on the Parade. He was very accommodating. I walked away with a signed baseball, an autographed photo and a signed Hall of Fame card. These are prized possessions that I will pass along to my children.
DiMaggio proved to be a gracious grand marshal. At the time he was afflicted with arthritic conditions and in pain. But he smiled, waved to the crowd, had lunch with us at the Music Pier and accepted a Piece of the Boardwalk.
Spring training is now underway. But the stars of my childhood, Di Maggio, Musial and Williams are long gone. My buddies used to spend hours at Porcelli’s Sandwich Shop arguing about who was greater. I, of course, was for DiMaggio but also had a soft spot in my heart for Musial. My best friend Adge Talbot liked Williams.
This is the way I saw it. DiMaggio was the best all-around player, he could hit, field and run the bases. While other records have fallen, his phenomenal hitting streak of 56 consecutive games will probably endure forever. It has for over 60 years.
Musial was a very consistent hitter with a .333 lifetime batting average. I used to enjoy watching him at home plate. “Stan the Man” would crouch back with the bat cocked at an unusual angle. Somehow, the ball seemed to flow right into his bat. He seldom struck out.
Williams was one of the best hitters of all time. Lots of home runs. But he wasn’t an outstanding fielder or base runner. And he used to get into yelling matches with the fans.
As kids we played baseball on a cindered lot called the Car Barn by the creek in Chester, Pa. We taped and reused our baseballs. We ran over piles of cinders to catch line drives. We walked three miles to Crozier Park to play on a real baseball diamond. There was no Little League. We “chose sides” for our own neighborhood games. Then finally we played organized ball in 8th grade, Junior High and High School. Some of us went on from there.
In those days many of the best athletes in the world were banned from major league baseball. They played in the “Negro Leagues.” There were legendary teams like The Homestead Grays and The Kansas City Monarchs who came to Lloyd Field in Chester for exhibition games.
I watched Josh Gibson, in my opinion the greatest catcher ever, play at Lloyd Field. I saw him pick off a runner at first base without getting out of his crouch. He was an awesome power hitter.
The legendary Satchel Paige never visited Lloyd Field. Hall of Famer, Bob Feller, who barnstormed with Satchel, called him the greatest pitcher he ever competed against.
Paige finally got to the Big Leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. By that time he was in his fifties (at least) but he still had winning seasons before he retired.
Too bad Paige, Gibson and others couldn’t have played with DiMaggio, Musial and Williams. It would have made major league baseball much more interesting. And my buddies and I would have had a lot more to argue about.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OCEAN CITY
(Through March) ART ON ASBURY: The Ocean City Fine Arts League, 608 Asbury Ave., has scheduled “All Creatures Great and Small” for its March exhibit, featuring paintings by area artists. Call (609) 814-0308 for information.
The League also presents free films featuring art and art trends at the Ocean City Free Public Library, 17th and Simpson Ave. starting 6:30 p.m. The next film is March 5, “Julie and Julia”: a frustrated woman takes on a year long culinary quest to cook all 525 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
The Ocean City Free Public LIBRARY and the Ocean City Repertory Theater present Open Mic Night every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Meeting Room N116. It is a night for local talent featuring Josh Wise and Robyn Rosenthal who open the program. Come to perform or just listen, relax and enjoy a great cup of coffee or tea. A sign up sheet is at the door and performers are scheduled on a first come, first play basis (3-4 songs or ten minutes). List rotates once everyone has performed. Phone (609) 399-2434 Ext. 5238 or contact Karen@oceancitylibrary.org.
(TODAY!) The Library will also present the movie Frankenweenie, today, Feb. 27 as part of its After School program. Movies start at 3 p.m. in Room N110 or N116.
(TODAY!) As part of its Black History Month Program, the Library and University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will present “The Continent of the Drum” featuring Omomola Iyabunmi today, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Lecture Room N110. The presentation will focus on the “Sekere” a hand held drum form the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
(TODAY) The Library invites Jr. High and High School students to join its Teen Advisory Group. Meetings will be held the last Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. A meeting will be held today, Feb. 27. Teens will advise the Library about the Programs and books that interest them. This is a Peer Leadership opportunity. Must be in grades 6-12 to apply. Applications available on line and in person. Call (609) 399-2434 Ext. 523 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Through March) The Ocean City ARTS CENTER, 17th and Simpson Ave., will feature the watercolors of Susan Hannah Rau in its main gallery. A Meet the Artist Reception will be held on Fri., March 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
An award winning artist, Ms. Rau says of her love for painting, “To paint is to drift into a world of colors and shapes. I always hope to bring out of this world a little bit of beauty I can share with everyone.” For further information, call (609) 399-7628.
The Arts Center will also host its annual juried photography show through April. Interested photographers should call the Center (609) 399-7628 or access www.oceancityartscenter.org.
SPRING SOCCER ACADEMY: The Ocean City Nor’ Easters announces its Spring Soccer Academy for age groups Kindergarten through 5th Grade. Registrations are being taken through March 8. Register online:https//ssl.demosphere.com/SJB/ or in person at the Sports and Civic Center, 6th St. off Boardwalk. Cost is $35 per player.
The Soccer Academy begins March 18 and will run for 7 weeks. No play during Easter vacation April 1-6. All games will be indoors at the Sports and Civic Center. Games will be played Tues., Wed., Thurs. evenings and Sat. mornings. For more information, visit www.oceancityfc.com , email email@example.com or call (609) 525-9999.
The Ocean City TABERNACLE has scheduled a bus trip for March 21 to see “Noah” at Sight and Sound; a March 28-29 Portrayal of The Last Supper, 7 p.m. at the Tabernacle and a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the Holocaust Museum and National Cathedral Tour and Evensong on April 18. For more information on Tabernacle events, visit www.OCTabernacle.org or call (609) 399-1915.
To register for the 28th Annual Doo Dah Parade, call (609) 525-9300., email firstname.lastname@example.org or access www.ocnj.us and click on events and go to the Doo Dah Block. After hours call (609) 364-4010. The Parade is set for Sat., April 13th starting at 6th and Asbury Ave., goes through the Downtown to 12th St. and ends on the Boardwalk at the Music Pier.
Over 500 basset hounds will be in this year’s Parade. It is a celebration of fun and inviduals or groups are invited to participate in the event. Entry is free. All marchers receive a T Shirt and hotdog lunch from Dietz and Watson after the Parade.
A PieAsco is held in front of the Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace, at the conclusion of the parade. Folks sit in grandstands and smoosh each other with shaving cream pies in honor of the late Soupy Sales, a Doo Dah celebrity for many years. All Participants receive an official certificate verifying that they were pied.