Back in the late 1950s, he was a spindly kid playing first base for Boston English High and for various Park League clubs at night. Today, after many years in both sandlot and organized ball, Walt Mortimer is the new executive director of the Park League.
“Some of the happiest days of my life were spent playing in this league,” Mortimer said. “Along with a lot of other interested alumni,’ I’m trying to help in any way I can to keep it going.”
Mortimer acknowledged that the league has had some rough sledding in recent years, particularly since the onset of Prop. 2 1/2 . “But with a lot of dedicated people pitching in, we have kept going, and I feel that this year I can say the outlook is better than it has been for some time.”
Mortimer said that the league will have nine solid entries, the same number as last year, with the season’s opener pitting defending champion Mass. Envelope against the Dick Conley Club on Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m., at Caseytown Field in Dorchester.
“Casey – Dick Casey, the gentleman for whom the field has been renamed – will be among those on hand,” Mortimer said. Casey, who is reaching 90 years of age this spring and is being honored by the BoSox Club, which he co- founded, would no more miss a Park League opener than he would skip a Red Sox spring training.
Another special guest expected for the opener will be ubiquitous Mayor Ray Flynn, who was a Park Leaguer in several sports before going on to Providence College.
In taking over the league director’s post, Mortimer will be turning over his chief umpire duties to Bill Stewart Jr., who has umpired in the league for many years.
“We realize that even with a sports-minded administration, the city, hampered as it is by 2 1/2 , will not be able to do all that it did for us in the old days,” said Mortimer. “But we have been assured by Ray Flynn, Bob McCoy (parks commissioner) and Dorothy Curran (recreation director) that the fields will be available and in better shape, and they will do all they can.”
Mortimer pointed out that even with all the dedication and efforts of interested individuals, the league would have had difficulty surviving “without the generosity of the Budweiser people and the Yawkey foundation.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that they saved the league from going under,” Mortimer said. Along with other contributions, the league’s benefactors pick up the cost of the lights, he explained.
Mortimer will be coordinating his services with those of league Comr. Hal Kallenberg, who assists with umpiring assignments, rules on player eligibity and protests, “and is at at least one ballpark every night, helping in any way he can.”
Between his early days in the league and his new assignment, Mortimer had organized ball experience in the systems of three major league organizations – the Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. (“I was a lefthanded hitting first baseman, but so was Willie McCovey.”)
“At least I had three cups of coffee,” Mortimer kidded. Actually, it was a lot more than that, taking into account several seasons in fast minor league ball.
Afterward, he returned to excel in the Park League, playing for and managing St. Paul’s, for whom he played under John Kelliher, current Mass. Envelope general manager. Mortimer later managed the Supreme Saints to a couple of titles.
“Probably the best first baseman and one of the most dangerous hitters in the history of the league,” said Kelliher in praise of Mortimer.
“That’s ancient history,” said Mortimer. “What counts is now, and I think this season is going to be a good one.”
Joining Mass. Envelope and Conley in the league this season are Great Scott, Crown Life, the Dorchester Millstreams, Triple D’s, Larkin Printing, Hyde Park Sports and last year’s Twi League (Junior Park League) champion, the Towne Club.
The Towne Club, formerly the Al Thomas Club, also won the Twi championship in 1982, but manager Skip Landry turned down a chance to play in the senior league because he didn’t feel his team was ready.
“We have strengthened considerably, and now I think we can give a good account of ourselves,” he said.
Copyright © 1984 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Art Ballou.