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Cascade of Tears and Then the Sun Shines: Thank you OC
By John Cirillo
Split Rock, Bronx, NY, August 8-Waterfalls began cascading down from the skies in towns like Katonah and Chappaqua and Ossining in Westchester County late yesterday morning, in the Hamptons and The Rockaways, too. Swirling winds swayed the green trees from right to left, left to right.
An ominous sign? Or maybe a deluge of tears from the heavens where OC and Ambos and Olli, and Coaches Lyons and Gil, and the rest of the friends we used to know, watched from the balcony.
I paused, about to exit the door, just a putt away from the car, as not to get drenched. It was time to take the leap of faith.
Now, this one had to be in OC’s hands to save this year’s Froggy Open reunion which he inaugurated decades before; our boys of summer had congregated from Florida and Georgia and California and Buffalo and Pennsylvania to celebrate the 1978 Fordham baseball champions, and an elite women's team from the era, to hug and tell war stories and reminisce; to smile ear-to-ear smiles and shed a tear or two, too. They were not to be denied.
I raced to the car, trying to dodge in the rain drops; not one for umbrellas or raincoats, an oversized Mets cap and a change of clothes would ward off being soaked.
A steady downpour continued driving down on the Saw Mill and onto the Sprain Parkway.
Then suddenly, wheeling onto the Bronx River, the rain ceased and the wipers were shut down. And onto the Hutch, the roads were dry. And pulling into Split Rock, near Orchard Beach, could it be, yes, the sun began to peak through the clouds. The skies were blue.
Pointing up to the sky, I gave OC a nod.
Birdman was on his cellphone after the drive down from with my bud "Chappaqua" Tim, J. Flaherty and Polo; The Kilcullens were heading to the putting green; my roomie Bobby was getting a bite and a drink after a long drive; Julio and Mary H. were just arriving; Sczes was touching up the foursomes and cars were pulling in.
I went to the grill, grabbed a burger, no cheese, no plate. Nervous energy absorbed.
It was a great day - and now a beautiful day - to be a Ram.
As the play-by-play man on WFUV Radio for this memorable squad 45 years ago, I had become an honorary teammate and I am forever grateful. “Live, from Jack Coffey Field on the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University…”
In the blink of an eye, we were back in time (full heads of hair, no grey, in playing shape): BC aces out of the pen; Big Bopper Freddie jacking circuit blasts onto the Rose Hill roof; Reis deftly catching the hurlers; Birdman breaking doubles records; Pleto patrolling the outfield, stealing bases, roping key hits; Sczesnak pitching a gem; and Schumsky confusing hitters in relief. Froggy, The Lumberman, Ambos, Tracey and Collins on the mound; A no-hit thrill from B. Hill; Annie, the all-time best, carrying a team on her shoulders; Mary throwing bounce passes and breaking down D’s; And of course, OC has all the scorebooks.
We miss them bygone years, we miss them glory days, we miss them Rose Hill cheers; yet they live forever. And the pictures, oh those pictures from yesterday and today: The pictures are life’s tattoos.
Jim "OC" O'Connell, the late, Hall of Fame Associated Press college basketball writer, was Fordham's sports information director in 1978, when he met his treasured wife Anne Gregory, the greatest women's basketball player in Fordham history. He also publisized the '78 Fordham Met championship baseballl team, and has kept the memories alive through the annual "Froggy" Open golf tournament. The author John Cirillo called those games on Fordham's WFUV Radio as the voice of the Rams.