Oldtime Ballplayers Shares Memories and Meals
By Mike Moore
They gather for lunch every other Tuesday at Capogna's Italian restaurant on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater. The old softball ballplayers never run out of stories to tell and memories to recapture.
They can recall games and great plays from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. They bring to mind the players they played with and against. They can say which pitchers could really fire the ball and which hitters were always tough. They know who could make the quick infield play or go to the fence for the great catch.
Many of the men played fastpitch softball for the fabled ten-time national champion Clearwater Bombers. Some played for other local fastpitch teams such as Nall Lumber, Standard Oil, Clearwater Tile, and the Dunedin Merchants. Some played for several different teams over the years.
The game they played is one of speed and great eye-hand coordination. In their youth, these men were superior athletes playing a sport requiring great skill.
Their names are a roll call of local history. Ray Mink, Jack Gates, Tom Chesnut, Myron Guthrie, Clint Holden, Clyde Rigsby, Claude Rigsby, Hank Moore, Marvin Moore, and Russ Trombly are among those who show up. Several have nicknames and are really better known by these than by their official names. Clifford "Junie" Trombly, "Specks" Johnson," Harry "Jughead" Hancock, Delmar "Plug" Harris, "Bud" Renfroe, and John "Goose" Mongrides are among the players.
Some of the men now use canes or walkers and many deal with the numerous medical problems of the aging. Gradually, like the veterans of long-ago wars, their number is dwindling.
But to listen to the men talk is to again see Herb Dudley or John Hunter facing a batter in the national tournament. It is to hear the crowd roar when shortstop Nolan Whitlock makes another unbelievable play to nail the runner. It is to see Bob Forbes send another shot over the fence. It is to hold the breath as Doug Mason gobbles up the ball at third.
Old ballplayers meet for lunch and the memories are delicious.
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