Park League Comes Out Swinging

The storms that the 51-year-old Boston Park League has weathered over the years were mere squalls compared to the ravages of Proposition 2 1/2 , but that doesn’t mean that the ship is about to go under.

Far from it. The truth is that everybody connected with the league is determined to keep it alive, and the air of optimism comes as a pleasant surprise to Park Department officials whose lot it was to divulge unpleasant tidings.

“We want the league to survive,” said Dorothy Curran, Parks Dept. recreation director. “We regret that we cannot help as we did in the past, but we do have the playing fields, plenty of them. It will be up to the teams to pay their own way. It’s as simple as that.”

There are two major differences between this year’s operation and the procedure of previous years. In order for the league to function, the teams must now assume the costs of paying the umpires and they will also be assessed a “users fee” to cover maintenance expenses.

In the past, the city has taken care of the fields and paid the officials in all sports.

“No way under present conditions,” Curran said. “Not with 250 employees in our department due to be laid off. There just isn’t any money.”

Managers attending last Thursday night’s organizing meeting took the grim news with surprising calm, according to league’s coordinator Bob Curran.

“I am very impressed and encouraged by the attitude of the managers,” Curran said. “They understand our predicament and realize that keeping the league operational has become their problem. But they do want to play ball. They made that crystal clear, and I feel very confident they will find a way.

“I am going right ahead and am scheduling a June 1 opening,” Curran said, “and I’m planning on an eight-team league as usual. If any of the eight teams we now regard as our nucleus find they can’t swing it, we’ll dip into the Twilight League. We mean to keep the Senior Park League alive.”

“Clearly, we are going to have to take the initiative,” observed John Kelliher, general manager of the Mass. Envelope entry, a man who has been associated with the Park League for more than 30 years. “Actually, our problem is a minor one when you contrast it with what is happening to the police department, the fire department and the schools because of 2 1/2 . We’ll have to make adjustments, do some curtailing, but we’ll play ball.”

While emphasizing that specific plans are tentative at the moment, coordinator Curran recommends whittling the schedule from 42 games to 28 to make the additional costs to the teams more manageable. Financial circumstances also mandate a return to twilight ball with games starting at 6:15 p.m.

“Paying for lights is out of the question as things now stand,” Curran said. “The city can’t afford it and the teams can’t afford it. I didn’t hear arguments from the managers on that point.”

“A 6:15 start does impose hardship in some cases,” Kelliher pointed out. “A fellow gets through work at 5 or 5:30 and has to beat his way through traffic and get to the park in uniform in a hurry without time to grab a bite to eat. You have to want to play ball to do that, and, thankfully, the fellows in this league are willing to.”

“Dedication,” said George (Red) Johnson, a 40-year veteran of the league as player, sponsor and manager. “I can’t refrain from contrasting the attitude of these guys with that of some of the prima donnas we know in higher places.”

John Bruno, who manages the Stockyard entry of Brighton, said he was “delighted to learn that so many of the other guys feel the same way that I do.

“I knew all along that we were going to play ball, no matter what,” Bruno said. “It was reassuring to find so many others saying of course.’ ”

Dick Conley veteran manager-sponsor of the Conley Club, conceded, “Getting together a ballclub of working guys at 6:15 isn’t going to be easy, but if the others can do it, we can. We certainly have no intentions of being dropouts.”

“Nor do we,” said Ted Joyce of the O’Brien Club of South Boston. “I’ll admit I don’t know right now where the extra money is coming from, but I do know the people of Southie like having a team in the league. We’ll be showing up.”

“It has taken us five years to make it from the Twilight League up to the top league,” said Steve Reardon, manager of the young Ronan Club of Dorcester. “We’re not about to stop driving. We’ll come up with the dough somehow.”

The charge for use of the fields, while new for Boston, is something other major cities have been doing for years, according to Parks commissioner John D. Vitagliano.

Sunday games will also be considered this season, especially as a means of making up rainouts.

“Whether it’s a 28-game schedule or a 32-game schedule, I’d like to see every team given a chance to play all of its games,” (Bob) Curran said. “With the longer schedule, the teams didn’t have the time or the fields for makeups. One team might get in 38 of its 42 games and another team only 32. I don’t believe first place or a playoff spot should be subject to the luck of the weather.”

Copyright © 1981 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Art Ballou.

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