September 24 – Happy Birthday Tony Sculco Sr.

Tony Sculco in 1948
Tony Sculco in 1948

One of the special things about growing up in Amsterdam’s West End during the 1950’s and 60’s was that wherever you went in that section of the city, you were among friends and families who watched out for you and kept you out of trouble. One of those special sections was the three blocks on Division Street between the old City Hospital and Caroline Street. It was loaded with great families. On the south side of Division heading west you had families like the Marnell’s, the Constantine’s, the Noto’s, the Van Allens, the Harringtons, the Leonetti’s and the Condello’s. On the north side of that street were the homes of the Campochiro’s, the Verderese’s, the DiBlasi’s, the Ottatti’s and the Sculco’s.

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Tony Sculco at 80-years-old

Add up the number of kids from my generation in all those households and it was north of thirty. But what made so many of the friendships between these families so special was that they were already thirty or forty years old when my generation came along and have now today surpassed the century mark. If Tommy Marnell’s mom told the Ottatti brothers to get out of Mrs. Tambasco’s garden they didn’t give her a hard time, they skedaddled out of that garden. And it wasn’t that you were scared of your friends’ parents that made you listen to them it was instead the decades-old relationships between your families. You learned to trust, like and respect them from your own parents and in many cases over time you’d become as good a friend with their mom’s and dad’s as you did with the kids your age. That’s what happened with me and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant.

Back then, Breton Industries was headquartered in a large mill that extended a full city block between Leonard Street and Yeoman. The yard of that mill was divided by a large green metal ramp that used to permit workers on the second floor to exit to the street level. That ramp served as our “Green Monster” in epic rubber ball baseball games that would go on for hours in the summer or until someone hit the ball on top of the mill roof.  That’s how and where I first met young Frank Sculco and his little brother Anthony. But my grandfather had known their grandfather since World War I and my dad and their dad, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Anthony “Naish” Sculco had been good friends since childhood.

But though I had known Naish as a kid I had never said anything more to him than “Hello Mr. Sculco” for the first twenty five years of my life until bowling brought us together. Bowling was at one time “Amsterdam’s favorite pastime.” If you lived in the Rug City between 1940 and 1990, you were more likely to own a bowling ball than you were a baseball glove or basketball. I bowled for Minnitti’s back in the 1970’s in the Men’s Commercial League. I bowled with my big brother Jerry “Big J” Cinquanti, Bobby “Scoobie” Hoefs, Mike “Gag” Agrestal, Anthony “Tippy” Sagarese and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Tony “Naish” Sculco. I was the only guy on that team without a nickname.

So every Thursday night during bowling season for about three or four years in the late 1970’s, I would spend the amount of time it took for ten men to complete thirty frames of bowling, with Naish Sculco. And during those Thursday night sessions at Windmill Lanes we became great friends via wonderful conversations in between frames about the history of our beloved neighborhood. I would always start the conversations with a question. “Did you hang around with my Dad when you were real young? Who were the best athletes in the neighborhood? What was Califano’s before it was a grocery store?”

Like his sons, Naish was a huge sports fan and had been one of the original coaches in the Little Giants organization, mentoring the Maroon Wildcats for several successful seasons. But I never knew Naish himself had been an outstanding high school football player. He was a two-way lineman on the 1948 Amsterdam High School football team that captured a league championship. Fellow west-ender (and future judge) Gene Catena was the featured running back and star of that team but it was the defensive line, anchored by Sculco that led that team to a perfect 4-0 finish in league play. In fact, Sculco was known as a ferocious hitter and when he recovered three fumbles in a key game against previously unbeaten Mt. Pleasant, newspapers throughout the Capital District featured the accomplishment…

My complete birthday post for Naish Sculco will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

September 23 – Happy Birthday Fran Sikorski

sikorskistationHarry Truman was still President, there were only 48 states in this country and the carpets of both Mohawk and Bigelow-Sanford were still being produced in this town when Casmier and Albina Sikorski opened their Amsterdam, NY service station at 33 Prospect Street in 1949, right in the middle of one of this city’s busiest and most chaotic intersections. For the next 34 years this hardworking Rug City couple dedicated their lives to making that business successful and to raising a family. Then in 1983, Casmier died.

Most betting folks back then would have probably given you odds that there would be no way that family-run business would still be around for another 34 years. And when you look at how that industry and Amsterdam itself changed over just the past couple of decades, the odds that Sikorski’s would still be going strong today would have even been steeper. Coleco and its thousands of employees are gone, taking their thousands of cars with them. Chain convenience retailers like Stewarts took over the gasoline business and automotive technology continues its transition from mechanical to digital. But Casmier and Albina had been developing a secret weapon, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, their son Fran Sikorski.

Amsterdam’s history is filled with examples of all kinds of family-run businesses failing or being sold off after the second generation takes over running them from the first. Just take a ride up to Prospect Street in the next day or two and take a look at the number of cars being worked on at Sikorski’s and the number of highly trained mechanics doing the work. Fran, with the invaluable assistance of his his wife Jackie, has done a masterful job…

My complete birthday post for Fran Sikorski will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

Amsterdam, New York’s Professional Baseball Players

This is a list of individuals who were born or once lived in Amsterdam, NY who went on to play professional baseball at the major league and/or minor league level. If there is an Amsterdam Birthday Blog post for an individual on this list, you can click on his name to get to it. Links are also provided to each individual’s major league and minor league career statistics as provided at the site Baseball-Reference.com. At that site, you’ll be able to click on the teams each of these individuals played for during their professional career to see who their teammates were. If you are aware of any individuals missing from this list please use the comments feature to let me know so they can be added.

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Roger Bowman
major league stats
minor league stats

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Jack “Wobby” Hammond
major league stats
minor league stats

 

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Steve Kuczek
major league stats
minor league stats

 

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Jacob “Bugs” Reisigl
major league stats
minor league stats

 

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Nicholas “Nick” Young
major league stats

 

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Bill Fennhahn
minor league stats

 

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Henry “Buddy” Flesh
minor league stats

 

 

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Joe Hage
minor league stats

 

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Francis “Dutch” Howlan
minor league stats

 

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Johnny Krochina
minor league stats

 

 

 

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John Kuk
minor league stats

 

 

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Aristotle “Dolly” Lazarou
minor league stats

 

 

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Tom McMullen
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Brian Mee
minor league stats

 

 

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Johnny “Peno” Pileckas
minor league stats

 

 

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Bill Stanley
minor league stats

 

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Judge Robert Sise
minor league stats

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Gary Tuck
minor league stats

September 21 – Happy Birthday Joe Constantine Jr.

jconstantineThey would descend upon that gas station like an Apache raiding party. The three of them would usually announce their presence by jumping on the black air hose about fifty times each and the sudden loud and repeated clanging of that bell would startle the hell out of me. Then they’d come crashing through the front door and start rampaging all through the station. One would head for the tool bench, another would go down in the pit and the third would start pressing keys on the cash register while all three would beg me to let them wait on the next car that pulled in.

They were the Constantine brothers, Matt, Anthony and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant Joe. They had an older sister and I think a younger brother but it was always these three who showed up together. Joe was the oldest of the trio. They were the children of Joe Constantine and his wife Gilda and Gilda was the sister of Joe Montuoro, who was my boss and the owner of Montuoro’s Sunoco Station. Joe and Gilda’s mother lived in the house next to the gas station so every time the Constantine’s came to visit her, they’d make my dinner-time and weekend work shifts at the station a bit more interesting and challenging.

As crazy as they were, I could tell even way back then that these guys had a curiosity about everything that would serve them well in whatever field of endeavor they chose. They asked a ton of questions, the majority of which I could not answer but they kept asking anyway. The boy’s dad was a local heating and cooling contractor (Joe’s Refrigeration) and was also a pretty skilled carpenter who had built the family home up on Tremont Avenue. He made sure each of his boys came to work with him and he taught them all how to do whatever they did the right way.

While still in his teens, Joe Jr. was constantly on job sites with Joe Sr. which gave him the opportunity to work with all sorts of different tradesman. He took a real interest in carpentry and by “real” interest I mean that what really excited him most were jobs that required a huge amount of thought, creativity and detail. The more difficult the spec the more young Joe enjoyed the challenge and he told his parents, he wanted to start his own business. They encouraged him to go to school before he did so and get some business training and he followed their advice and got an associates degree in construction technology from Fulton Montgomery Community College. But it wasn’t the degree he got there that became the key to his subsequent success as an independent builder and carpenter. It was instead a girl he met there named Jules Tomkins. She was a computer whiz with a natural talent for marketing and business and when she became Mrs. Joseph Constantine and business manager, Constantine Builders took off.

One of Joe Constantine's Jaw Droppers!
One of Joe Constantine’s Jaw Droppers!

Now during all this time I had completely lost track of the Constantine brothers because I was busy raising my own family and building a career. And then one day someone asked me if I had seen the house Joe isabel was having built up where the old Henrietta Heights playground used to be. I had not, so I took a ride up there. The place was massive and though perhaps a bit too ostentatious for that neighborhood, a very impressive structure none-the-less and a true challenge for any builder. When I found out that the home was being built by Joe Constantine Jr. I was shocked because I had no idea the kid who used to jump up and down on that gas station bell was building anything at all, much less jaw-dropping homes…

My complete birthday post for Joe Constantine Jr. will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

September 20 – Happy Birthday Carl Salmon Jr.

Carl S. Salmon Jr.
Carl S. Salmon Jr.

There’s a few things that haven’t changed in Amsterdam in over the past hundred years. The Chuctanunda still flows into the Mohawk. The Amsterdam Free Library is still going strong. And if you need a lawyer, you can still find an attorney named Salmon in the Amsterdam phone book. Of course you may not be able to still find an Amsterdam phone book because nobody uses them any more in this age of cloud connected cell phones and contact lists.

Carl Salmon Sr. began his family’s streak of dispensing legal expertise and services in this Rug City of our’s way back in 1911. He was born in Potsdam, NY and went to school to become a teacher originally, then switched to accounting and finally the law. He had a brother Del who was already a lawyer in Schenectady who helped him begin his studies, which he completed at Albany Law and after passing the New York State Bar in 1911 he opened his first office at 31 East Main Street here in Amsterdam on December 1 of that same year.

Carl S. Salmon Sr.
Carl S. Salmon Sr.

As it turned out, these were wise professional choices. His career zoomed and he became one of our town’s most prominent and successful citizens of all time, serving three terms as Mayor in the 1920’s and also becoming Montgomery County Surrogate Court Judge. He also became a father. He and his wife Hortense gave birth to a son, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Carl S. Salmon Jr. on September 20, 1920.

Young Carl attended public schools here until high school and then graduated from the Manlius Military Academy. He then went to Cornell Agricultural School in 1941 for his undergraduate degree before following in his dad’s footsteps and attending Albany Law. World War II and service in the Army Air Force interrupted his studies but he returned to complete them and pass the bar and then convert his Dad’s practice into a father & son law firm in 1947…

My complete birthday post for Mr. Salmon will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

September 19 – Happy Birthday Clara S. Bacon

clarabacon222(Here are some excerpts from my Birthday Post for former Amsterdam school administrator, Clara Bacon.The entire post will appear in the second edition of my book entitled; A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam NY Birthdays, which will be available for sale in November of 2016)

…in 1972, while a senior at Amsterdam High School, there was a knock on the door of my classroom and a student handed my teacher a note instructing me to come to the main office. As I walked to that destination I was trying to remember what transgression I had committed to warrant the invitation but when I got there, I was given a nice surprise. I had been named the very first winner of the Clara S. Bacon Memorial Scholarship for excellence in history. I remember spending the next few days wondering with great anticipation what the honor was worth. I have to admit I was more than a bit disappointed to receive a check for just $35. I ended up buying a keg of beer with my “scholarship” and having a hell-of-a-party with my buddies. The first thing we did after tapping that keg was drink a toast to a lady none of us knew anything about at the time…

…In 1922 she came to Amsterdam to serve as Assistant Superintendent and she remained in that position for the next quarter century, retiring in 1947…

…During the years she served in that position here in Amsterdam, Bacon also taught summer school at several of this state’s teacher colleges. She authored and co-authored three different textbooks for English in secondary schools and an entire series of spelling books for the elementary level. Her articles on educational curriculum frequently appeared in the nationally known Journal of Educational Methods. She was much in demand on the educational circuit as a guest lecturer. She was invited to speak about education at NYU, Columbia, Syracuse and Cornell numerous times. In addition, she served as President of the New York State Teachers Association, chaired a state ed committee determining how to measure the success and effectiveness of elementary schools and served on another one that studied how to measure and improve teaching effectiveness. She also chaired the committee on education for the New York State League of Women Voters…

The one-time Guy Park Avenue home of Clara Bacon.
The one-time Guy Park Avenue home of Clara Bacon.

…Bacon came to Amsterdam the very same year that one-time Amsterdam High School principal, Wilbur Lynch returned to the district as Superintendent. The Harvard educated Lynch had spent seven years as director of the system of American schools that existed in Mexico City and also served as the head of Oneonta Teachers College. Under the leadership of Lynch and Bacon, Amsterdam’s public schools gained a reputation for excellence that extended statewide. One might wonder why, when Lynch retired as the head of this city’s schools in 1938, Bacon did not get his job. I’m not certain the actual reason but I’m going to guess a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was not a “he.”…

October 19 – Happy Birthday Kevin McKearn

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Kevin and Tina

Facebook has changed the way current and former Amsterdam residents stay in touch with each other and keep track of what has happened and is happening in their hometown.  One of the things I like most about using the immensely popular social networking site is that it provides the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances who you haven’t remained in touch with, permitting you to catch up on each other’s lives.

Kevin McKearn was born on September 19, 1954. After growing up on Amsterdam’s Market Hill and graduating from Scully in 1972 he went to Buffalo State and then began a long career in sales at Amsterdam’s Mohawk Finishing. He eventually settled in Niskayuna, where he raised his two kids.

Since we went to different high schools here in Amsterdam, I never hung around with Kevin back in the day but whenever we happened to be in the same place at the same time over the years, I was always struck by his ability to “take over the room!” Since becoming “Facebook friends” a few years ago I’ve learned he brings that same charisma factor online as well. Here’s ten things you should know about former Amsterdam resident Kevin McKearn: (I’ve completed and listed the first five of the ten items about Kevin below. I’ll have the final five completed in time for this month’s Amsterdam NY Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you don’t already subscribe to this free newsletter you can do so here.)

1 – He has to be one of the top ten best-looking guys ever to hail from Amsterdam, NY, probably even top five! How handsome is he? We’re talking right up there with Paul Newman and George Clooney-type good looks.

2 – He knows more people than I thought it was physically possible for one person to know. When he started his Facebook page, he got so many friend requests during its first hour of being live that it shut down Facebook’s server-farm. And I’m not just talking about common-folk acquaintances like me. His Smart Phone contact list is loaded with star power too, including Tony Soprano’s former body guard Furio, the Beekman Boys, Snoop Dog and David Hyde Pierce from Frasier.

3 – Politically, he’s a proud progressive who was a devout supporter of Bernie Sanders  in his quest for the Democratic Presidential nomination during the 2016 primary season. Of course he knows Bernie Sanders because he met him back in 1980 when Sanders was elected Mayor of Burlington, VT. McKearn crashed the guy’s victory party and even had the balls to complain when the bartender told him they weren’t serving old fashions. According to rumors, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been pressing him hard for his Facebook page endorsement but even though he thinks Trump would be an unmitigated disaster in the White House, he has not declared officially yet. The beauty of McKearn is that he is able to argue a political point vociferously on-line with someone who disagrees with him and then meet that individual at a bar in Schenectady and have a beer with him or her.

4 – He is the most effective muckraker on Facebook. Why? First of all he’s engineered his FB Friends’ list so that it is in direct proportion to the voting demographic of the US electorate. He then carefully crafts loaded questions about whatever political campaign happens to be center stage nationally at that moment and posts them. He then sits back and enjoys the fireworks. The responders range from David Duke fan club members and the last remaining disciples of Tammy Faye Baker to still-active Nader’s Raiders and 70 year-old hippies who went on hunger strikes with Cesar Chavez back in the sixties. Some of his most controversial social network threads have gone on for weeks at a time!

5 – The real loves of Kevin’s life are his son Sean and grandson Berke who live in Florida, his beautiful daughter Lindsay who is out in California, and his long-time lovely lady friend Tina.

September 16 – Happy Birthday Joe Riley III

pictureofjoe2I put Joe Riley in the same “likable”category as apple pie, Friday night high school football and hitting an exacta at the flat track. Simply put, today’s Amsterdam NY Birthday celebrant is one of this town’s all-time nice guys. Born on September 16, 1952, he’s the oldest of the four Riley boys born to Joe Jr. and his wife Mary Ann, who was the sister of long-time St. Mary’s and Bishop Scully three-sport coach, the late Dutch Howlan. The boys also have a younger sister named Marybeth.

Joe Riley III attended SMI through eighth grade and then Bishop Scully, graduating in 1970. He was into sports his entire life and he was very good at all of them, earning several of those huge green “S’s” in high school for his play on Uncle Dutch’s basketball, football and baseball teams.

After graduating from Scully, he went on to Niagara University. He then returned to his hometown and started his one-man version of a “jobs program!” I met him for the very first time when he umpired one of my Shorty’s softball games in the early seventies. He also became a familiar site wearing one of those zebra shirts at Capital District high school gymnasiums as he evolved into one of this area’s best high school basketball referees. I’ve used his moving company every time I’ve moved to a new home in this city. I must admit though, I am in no hurry to be in need of the services he provides in his other long-time occupations. He serves as Montgomery County Coroner plus he and his brothers operate Riley Mortuary on Division Street, which has been in their family since 1921, when Joe’s great grandfather Arthur Riley bought into the business.

Joe married the lovely Karen Murphy and they have raised four kids, each of whom is already doing some incredible…

My complete birthday post for Joe Riley will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

September 15 – Happy Birthday Phil Cortese Jr.

judgephotoHow fortunate it was for the Amsterdam, NY community that the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company needed a new plant physician in 1948 and hired Oswego, NY native Dr. Phil Cortese to fill that vacancy. Cortese, who had got his M.D. from Georgetown, then served as a medical officer in the Pacific during WWII. He and his wife Margaret, moved to the Rug City, purchased a home on Market Street and raised a family that would grow to seven children and include today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Phil Cortese, Jr. who came into this world on September 15, 1952.

When Bigelow-Sanford left the City in the mid fifties, Dr. Cortese and his family remained and he went into private practice. An amazingly progressive pair of parents, the Cortese’s made sure their children were exposed to and respected different cultures, thoughts and beliefs. On one family excursion in the 1960’s the entire Cortese clan went overseas and lived with families in Italy, France and Spain to find out for themselves how their lives compared to their own.

Phil Jr. became head of the student government at Bishop Scully High School in 1969, at a time US public opinion regarding our country’s military involvement in Vietnam was splitting by age. The older generations were still very much supporting US involvement in the conflict while younger Americans were turning against it in large numbers. Cortese helped organize a public forum to discuss the positions supporting both sides. He graduated from Scully in 1970 and then followed in his dad’s footsteps and went to Georgetown. But instead of medicine, he chose political science and went on to get his Masters in public administration from Syracuse and then his juris doctorate from the University of New Hampshire in 1981.

After passing the New York State Bar, he became an associate for the Amsterdam law firm, Horrigan, Horrigan, Pennock and Lombardo. In 1987, he moved to the law offices of Amsterdam attorney Paul Wollman, while also serving as a law clerk to Montgomery County Court Judge Howard Aison. Then in 1988, after Democrat Paul Parillo was elected Amsterdam Mayor, he asked Cortese to serve as his Corporation Counsel…

My complete birthday post for Phil Cortese Jr. will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. It will also be included in the next edition of my  Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

September 14 – Happy Birthday Tom “Flick” Flint

fit_softball_lgEvery Labor Day for nineteen years running, just about everyone in and around this community who loves the game of softball gathers up at the Four Diamonds at the bottom of Lindbergh Avenue for the best softball tournament this City has to offer. Its called the Recorder Robert Flint Memorial Fast Pitch Softball Tournament. It has become a sports institution in this city and the person most responsible for making it so is the eldest son of the tournament’s namesake, the late Tom “Flick” Flint.

Born on September 14, 1961, Tom had started playing recreation softball in the late 1970’s as a catcher with the DePalma’s team and earned his nickname for the way he used to flick the ball from the top of his ear when he threw it. He later switched to pitching and joined a new team, the Mohawk’s in 1990. During the next two decades he evolved into one of this town’s best fast-pitch softball hurlers. Softball was a genetic thing for the Flint’s and there’s no doubt that Tom inherited his love for the game from his dad, a former Recorder Newspaper employee who played the game passionately for years. That’s also why when the memorial tournament began, Tom became its driving force as Director. He spent large chunks of his life making sure the event was a top-shelf softball affair every year and he certainly succeeded.

Flint didn’t just organize the event, he and his Mohawks competed in it as well and in 2010 the team won its second straight Tournament title. The following April, he discovered he had cancer of the esophagus…

My complete birthday post for Tom Flint will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.