Philadelphia 70+ baseball players fall short in seniors World Series

Players (from left) H. James Burgwyn, John DeBenedictis, Bill Curzie, Abner "Reds" Sokol, Lou Dunkle. All but Curzie were on the team that lost at the Men's Senior Baseball League World Series.
Players (from left) H. James Burgwyn, John DeBenedictis, Bill Curzie, Abner "Reds" Sokol, Lou Dunkle. All but Curzie were on the team that lost at the Men's Senior Baseball League World Series. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 28, 2012

They faced stronger teams, injury, and "performance-reducing drugs" in the World Series, but the grandfathers of summer fought their way into the playoffs.

Then, in the quarterfinals of the 70+ tournament, the five players from the Philadelphia region joined their Tri-Valley Giants teammates to face the team that had beaten them, 24-3, three days earlier.

With his team trailing the Sacramento Solons, 8-4, last Saturday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ben Lerner began a rally with a single.

Three hits and a walk later, the Giants had closed the deficit to 8-7 before their bats went cold. Abner "Reds" Sokol, a 77-year-old retired salesman, registered the Giants' only other hit after that, and the Solons won, 11-7.

"We got to the playoffs," Lerner, 71, said. "We had a better season than the Phillies - a shorter season, but a better season."

Lerner and Sokol were in Arizona last week for the Men's Senior Baseball League World Series, joining players from across the country to form the Tri-Valley Giants.

Three other Giants players came from the area: history professor emeritus H. James "Burgie" Burgwyn, 76; practicing minister Lou Dunkle, 71; and John DeBenedictis, 74, a retired biomedical engineer who served as field manager.

The five players are good friends from playing in the Tri-State 48+/55+ Senior Baseball League, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. The rest of the Giants came from an existing California-based team, as well as individual players from across the nation. Many teammates were complete strangers when they arrived.

"We were all there because of the love of the game. It wasn't like just walking into a house with strange guests," Burgwyn said.

Having participated in about 20 World Series tournaments, DeBenedictis said the experience was not about the score.

"As far as results are concerned, I've had better years," said DeBenedictis, who joked about possible negative impact on his game from all the pills he takes daily.

"But they've all been good," he added, "as far as the camaraderie and enjoying the game and meeting new people and renewing old acquaintances."

Lerner agreed, citing new friendships and the fun he had throughout the week.

"Baseball and the love of baseball, it's great glue for bringing people together and helping them to stick together," Lerner said. "I consider them friends . . . I hope to play ball with them again. We'd like to see what we can do next time."


Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-2771, jlai@philly.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|