Sports columnist Marc Maturo’s official column
Softball memories born on old diamonds
Softball is a summer game, and many, many summers ago the county could boast any number of outstanding teams, from The Scoop in Orangeburg to Camp Hill Day Camp in Spring Valley.
It was soon after the opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge in December 1955, that many working adults in The Bronx flooded Rockland County, a newborn and growing suburb, bringing with them a bevy of softball standouts.
“We were a group of guys that would get together and play on a field next to the firehouse,” recalls septuagenarian Shelly Gorfin, a retired electrical contractor who immigrated to Orangetown in 1961 and is now living the good life in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with his wife, Sandy.
“We would play every week and finally we said, let’s form a league. We had eight teams at the start,” continued Grandpa Gorfin, admitting that he would soon lose his job as a pitcher to superior athletes, thus becoming a manager.
Gorfin, naming Ekizian Carpet in Nanuet as another solid team, recalls that the league, loosely formed, quickly became very competitive and established.
“We had to start recruiting players, and I was not good enough to pitch, so I managed,” he said. “Jim Spearman was a big hitter. Howie Dobbs was a second baseman, and John Leconte a shortstop. He played 10 years for us; he was one sweet player.”
Dobbs and Leconte would strengthen the team by bringing in some friends, including Warren Flagg.
“He was tremendous,” said Gorfin the scout. “He played at Arizona University.”
The Scoop, although never to compete in the famed Deer Head Tournament held at the Deer Head Inn in West Nyack, which ran 31 years from 1966 to 1996, fielded even more noteworthy players. Among the group were Bob Esposito, who played in the Cleveland Indians organization; Iona College’s Vic Ascatigno; the tall and rangy Mike Rotundo; Tony and Carl Farina; the outstanding pitcher-catcher battery of Ace and Art Firestone; and Johnny Scalla, a New York City police officer who would be killed in the line of duty.
Other notable players included George Coates, Rockland County Sports Hall of Famer Chuck Scarpulla, and Frank McGarvey, a member of the Pearl River High School Hall of Fame who played on a team that would become the formidable Modern Auto Body in Pearl River.
Modern Auto Body would become a stalwart in the Deer Head tournament, as well as Paul’s Mobil, perhaps the best team ever in the county. (Ed. Note: Interested, critical readers are asked to forward your nomination as the best team ever to this columnist.)
Mentioning Paul’s Mobil elicited this anecdote from a somewhat biased manager, Gorfin, whose friend and teammate, Hank Rosen of Orangeburg, had a talented son Doug who was a star player in the tournament.
“One day after they had won, and were having a few beers, someone said they were the best team ever,” recounted Gorfin, flipping back the calendar. “But (star player) Carl Farina, Tony’s son, said ‘Wait a minute. I used to go the games with my father. I watched The Scoop play – they were better than us!’ ”
Gorfin also puts Camp Hill on a pedestal, as another team The Scoop attempted to put on the schedule without success.
“Camp Hill was loaded with great players,” remembers Gorfin, recalling, among others, Richie Raff, Skip Feinberg, Bobby Epps – “A tremendous player,” – Larry Silverberg, and home-run hitting first baseman Paul Tottleman.
“We tried to arrange a game many times. I think it would have been a great game,” Gorfin concluded, closing the book on a forgotten era.
KIVLEHAN NOT STANDING PAT
PAT KIVLEHAN of West Nyack continues to make strides in the California League, showing more power and developing his baseball skills further with the High Desert Mavericks, a Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Kivlehan, a 23-year-old Rutgers University alum in just his second season of pro ball, completed last week’s action by going 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI as the Mavericks salvaged a doubleheader split against the Visalia Rawhide with a 7-5 victory.
The Big East’s player of the year in his only collegiate season on the diamond, following a stellar football career, Kivlehan played in 31 games for the Mavericks going into this week’s action. Kivlehan, a third baseman, opened the season with the Clinton, Iowa, LumberKings.
Kivlehan is batting .288 with the Mavericks, with five homers and 19 RBI. He also has five stolen bases in as many attempts.
“It’s fun to watch him; he can learn,” said High Desert manager Jim Horner, who is into his 15th season in the Seattle organization, and fourth as skipper.
“He’s very raw, but he’s very athletic and a very tough kid, obviously,” Horner added. “He’s doing a real good job for us. He hasn’t played much baseball, but he’s competing at a step below Double-A. Not this year, probably, but he definitely has a chance to play higher baseball. Of course, it’s hard to make the call on a converted kid (football to baseball).
“But he’s getting freer with every game he plays. He needs games, needs reps, definitely,” Horner continues. “He’s way interesting because he’s so strong and athletic and he can run a little bit.”
Going into the week, the Mavericks were second in the Southern Division of the California League, chasing the high-riding Lancaster JetHawks, a Houston affiliate.
GABE OSTROW OF NANUET if one of five returning defensive starters on the SUNYCortland football team, which went unbeaten in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) last season.
The Red Dragons, who went 9-2 overall and 7-0 in the conference, defeated Framingham State College, 20-19, in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament before being overwhelmed by powerhouse Wesley College, 56-6.
Ostrow, a mobile 6-foot-1, 240-pouind senior defensive end, tied for fourth on the team in tackles with outside linebacker Jesse Scanna of Holbrook.
The Red Dragons, soon to begin prepping for its season and home opener on Sept. 7 against Buffalo State, also feature sophomore defensive back and Clarkstown South HS alum Frank Tucek of New City and Pearl River alum Kenta Umezaki, a junior defensive back.
R.J. BURNS of Pearl River – who had a goal and six assists in 20 games as a rookie — is prepping for his sophomore season as a forward on the Army men’s hockey team, which will play 14 home games at Tate Rink in West Point in the 2013-14 season. Last season, the Black Knights sold out four of six games at Tate Rink, considered as one of the finest venues in the Atlantic Hockey Association. Access www.goARMYsports.com/tickets for information on group opportunities and rates. Mini-plan ticket packages will be offered beginning Aug. 20 while single-game tickets will go on sale Sept. 17. Tickets can also be purchased at the Army ticket office or by calling 1-877-TIX-ARMY. For a complete schedule visit: http://www.goarmysports.com/sports/m-hockey/sched/army-m-hockey-sched.html
BRIANA KEAVENEY, a junior at Clarkstown South HS, pitched the Rockland County Seniors Division all-star team to the Little League state title, and into the regional tournament in Worcester, MA.
Rockland, representing District 18, fought its way to the championship coming out of the losers bracket, and avenging an earlier loss to Geddes, with a 15-6 title-clinching win. Keaveney struck out six in six innings, and also had an RBI.
IN A SOUND SHORE field hockey game at Torne Valley Sports Complex in Hillburn, Pearl River blanked Nanuet, 2-0, on goals by Kristin Salmon and six saves in goal by Kerry Gettler. Nanuet goalies Julia Bartell (10) and Laryssa Filatove combined on 15 saves.
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GO
Area scholastic and collegiate runners will soon be competing on a nearly $1.2 million running surface at the New Balance Track and Field Center in upper Manhattan.
A state-of-the-art upgrade will put the Fort Washington Avenue track on par with those being used at the World Championships in Moscow next month and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Work is scheduled to be completed in time for 2013-2014 indoor track season, which opens with the PSAL Pilgrim Games on Dec. 1.
For more information access: http://www.armorytrack.com/News/Post/nyc-council-funds-new-armory-surface
THIS & THAT
REGISTRATION CLOSES on August 11 for the 24th annual West Point Triathlon, which will be held on August 18 at Camp Buckner, West Point Military Reservation. The race consists of an 800- swim at Lake Popolopen, a 25km bike along route 293, and a challenging 5km run through Camp Buckner and Camp Natural Bridge. Access: http://beta.active.com/west-point-ny/triathlon/24th-annual-west-point-triathlon-2013-1147
SUFFERN HS ALUM WES POPPE had two hits in four at-bats, including a double and an RBI, as the New City Outlaws defeated the New Rochelle Dirtbags, 5-2, in a Westchester/Rockland Wood Bat League game at Manhattanville College in Purchase. James Caroleo, out of Hofstra University, added a double and two RBI for the Outlaws (14-8), who moved into third place in the league. The Outlaws host the New York Thunderdogs in a 1 p.m. doubleheader on July 27 at Rockland Community College, and then travel to Dobbs Ferry on July 28 for a twinbill against the Hastings Clippers at 1 p.m.
THE COACH DAG MEMORIAL SCHOLASTIC Golf Outing is scheduled August 1 at Blue Hill in Pearl River. For information contact Doug D’Agostino at 845-735-2732 or Gibby Sweet at 845-588-7571.