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OTHER ITA SITES:
Barone, Drexel and Harris
My life was always about playing ball, mostly baseball as I grew up. Therefore, I was always at the playground on Chancellor Avenue. This was a hotbed for sports activity in the Weequahic section of Newark, New Jersey in the 1960's. From Monday through Saturday there were countless games taking place. Baseball at Untermann Field and softball on the blacktop. Basketball games, and volley ball games were always being played.
Mr Barone, Mr Drexel and Mr Harris oversaw the games that were played. Sometimes they even played in those games. They ran the show. Organizing teams for a given game or creating teams for a new league they took charge and got things done. I did not realize some of the things they did that impacted my life until I left the playground scene many years later.
I looked up to all three of them, for being fair, for listening when I had a problem and for being funny. Each one of them was unique. Each one of them has taught me in their own style.
Mr Barone or Mr B as most of us called him was about three feet tall ( really about five foot two ). The only thing that was small about him was his height. Playing ball with the teenagers was one of his favorite activities. He often was the director that played in the games when we needed another guy. I would also see Mr B talking to some kids in the batting cage teaching them some fundamentals about hitting. He always made himself available either on the playing field or by helping some kids with their homework. I appreciated that he gave of himself. So did many of the other kids. A great guy.
Mr Drexel or Billy Boy as we sometimes affectionately called him was the jokester. No matter how serious I thought the situation was Mr Drexel had his way of making the incident a little less severe. His lightening up of the moment always made us laugh. I loved that about him. He was noted for his chicanery on the field or basketball court. He would find an edge and use it. All within the rules. A Drexel play was referred to bending the rule as far as you could. Hidden ball tricks in baseball and sneaky out of bounds plays in basketball were two of his specialties. What was great was how often they worked. He knew just when to use them. A great guy.
Mr Harris seemed like the leader of the group. The other directors called him Bucky. I always called him Mr Harris. He spoke sternly and was always fair. He was the law. I had the utmost respect for him. I thought it was an honor to go to the store and buy him his Garcia Vega cigars. When he asked me to go I felt like I won something. A great guy.
For me these three guys were my mentors as I was growing up. Providing me with guidance on and off the field. There was always one of them at the playground to talk to or get things going so we could play an organized game. I learned about fairness, being stern and about taking the edge off in a seriousness situation from them.
And while I have not spoken to any of them in quite some time, Felice Barone, William Drexel and Bucky Harris will always be in my hall of fame. They meant a lot to me.
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