Thursday, June 22, 2017

District 12

TigerBlog ran into a question yesterday he's asked a lot this time of year, one he's mentioned plenty of times before. 

Do you have to work in the summer? The answer, again, is yes.

It actually got TigerBlog thinking back, what is it now, nearly 35 years, back to his first summer in the newspaper business. He covered high school sports back then, so what would he do in the summer?

The answer, he found out, was simple. District 12 Little League.

At first, TigerBlog couldn't believe that the two major - at the time, they were definitely major - newspapers in Trenton would devote that much effort and space to covering Little League baseball and softball. Over the years, TB came to embrace it as a staple of Mercer County summers.

It was weird for him that first year, when he first got tossed into covering the District 12 tournament. Chambersburg, a section of Trenton, was the winner, knocking off Hopewell in a dramatic final. Hopewell's best player, by the way, was Mark Gola, who is today the Director of Athletic Communications at the College of New Jersey.

Night after night for a few weeks that summer, TigerBlog would go to a different Little League field in Mercer County, where enormous crowds would gather to see the games. Back then, TigerBlog was making $15 per story, and he was getting a lot of drama on those summer nights for his $15.

It was a rare year when Nottingham didn't win. When Chambersburg finally did win the championship, there was a huge headline on the front page of the sports section. The late, great and immortal (he's in the baseball Hall of Fame writers' wing) Bus Saidt walked into the newsroom, saw the size of the type and said this: "What happened? The war end?"

TigerBlog remembers it like it was yesterday.

One of TB's favorite Princeton Office of Athletic Communications stories ever was more than 10 years after TB's first District 12 tournament. This time it was David Rosenfeld, TB's former OAC colleague, who was astonished by the coverage. In this case, David asked the immortal question: What's huh-TER-buh?

Huh, TigerBlog wondered? Then he saw the paper. It had "HTRBA" in a headline. As it turns out, huh-TER-buh was "H-T-R-B-A," or the Hamilton Township Recreational Baseball Association, of something like that. It had a team in the tournament.

Yeah, David didn't quite get the whole District 12 coverage either.

It's been years since TigerBlog has seen coverage of the District 12 tournament. He only covered it once, the year Chambersburg beat Hopewell. All these years later, it stands out as much as almost anything he covered at the newspaper.

Speaking of Bus (his real name was Harold; TB isn't sure why he was called Bus), he was as old-time a newspaper sportswriter as you could ever hope to find. Bus would cover a Major League Baseball game every night during every season, driving either to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium or Veterans Stadium, depending on which team was home.

He'd actually reinvented himself as a sportswriter, after a previous career as an accountant for the state of New Jersey, coupled with his time as a broadcaster. TigerBlog believes that he was the runner-up to Harry Kalas as the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies a long time ago, largely based on his work as the radio play-by-play voice of none other than your own Princeton Tigers.

When TB met Bus, he was already a Trenton legend. Bus, that is, not TB. He was very encouraging to young TB when he was first starting out in the business.

What would Bus think of the world of sports media these days? He'd hate it, TB supposes. Getting his point across in 140 characters? That would not have been for Bus.

Yeah, it's a new world.

Speaking of 140 characters, the best tweet of the week was by far by TB's colleague Craig Sachson, who retweeted a tweet that mentioned that Spencer Weisz had been added to the 76ers predraft workouts. Craig's tweet was "Trust. The. Process."

Now that's tremendous.

TigerBlog isn't expecting Weisz - the 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year and Roper Trophy winner - to be chosen in the draft tonight. Or Steven Cook, who worked out with the Knicks. But who knows that happens and why. It would be great if one or both of them heard his name called.

When Craig showed TB a video of Weisz at Sixers practice, he was wearing the Sixers gear they'd given him. It reminded TB of when TB wrote a story about Ross Tucker, who was then a Princeton offensive lineman.

Ross figured he'd have a shot at getting into an NFL camp after graduation and then move onto whatever career he was going to have. His question was this: When they cut him, would he get to keep the helmet?

Instead, he ended up playing for seven season in the NFL, with six teams. He probably ended up with a few helmets.

And, as one of the most active members of the football media, he ended up with a lot of Twitter followers. Like, 170,000 of them.

That's 170,000 more than Bus ever had. He would have hated Twitter.

He was one of the greats, Bus was.

TigerBlog can't really explain to you why he started thinking back to the District 12 tournament, but that's what got him to thinking about Bus, which is good.

Bus Saidt passed away in 1989. Odds are good that you never heard of him.

To TigerBlog, he represents a world long gone for him - one of the very best parts of that world, for that matter. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Yardley and living in the area for years, it was really something to be able to follow sports through the lenses of talent like Bus and Yav...and the genius down the road that was Frank "The Ripper" Dolson at the Philadelphia Inquirer (inducted into the Phila Sports Hall of Fame 3 years ago alongside Geoff Petrie '70 and joining original inductee Hobey Baker).