Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

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Arlington Little League’s all-star squad last month for the first time claimed a regional district championship. (Whooped Alexandria!)

After mentally congratulating them, I unearthed, via the son of a longtime Arlington coach, a yellowing set of lovingly typed statistics of my own generation’s Junior Major Baseball League, from 1957 to 1971. They came courtesy of the old Arlington County Department of Recreation and Parks.

The buff-colored legal-size sheets, probably typed on some long-tossed Smith-Corona, were reproduced, in the later years, in purple mimeograph. My study of them resurrected fond memories of countless trips in parents’ cars to Barcroft Park. I reconnected with some now-defunct Arlington businesses and documented early athletic feats of some later-famous personages.

First thing I noticed was the roster of long-vanished team sponsors: Vet Vans, Martz Insurance, Newlons Transfer (where I worked summers), Tops Drive-In, Old Dominion Bank, Arlington Trust (one year they had 11 players named Mike), M.T. Broyhill homebuilders, Stewart Buick, Barcroft Cleaners, Cherner Ford, McQuinn’s Sporting Goods, the Red Shield Club (a Salvation Army offshoot), Kenyon-Peck Chevrolet, Better Homes Realty and Barr Realty.

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Some organizations still exist but sponsor less frequently: Men’s lodges such as Host Lions, Civitan, Jaycees, Moose Lodge, Knights of Columbus, along with the YMCA and since-relocated Arlington Motors. Later sponsors included St. Thomas Moore cathedral, Wayne Construction, State Loan, Clarendon Trust and First & Citizens Bank.

The generosity of those entities gave us the colorful uniforms worn by kids whose faces I can picture 50 years later.

The stat sheets begin with standings of the “National” and “American” Arlington divisions. Unlike today’s league’s team rankings, they provide the “batting order” of top-hitting league players, followed by each team’s lineup. You get each player’s at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, walks, strikeouts and batting averages. A history section memorializes batting and home-run leaders back to 1954.

The lists use last names only, but many were unmistakable as larger than life to my pre-teen self. I recognized classmates, teammates from other sports, siblings and sons of coaches (which might explain the coaches’ original interest). I spotted league-leading stats for my old gym teachers Tom Hawkins and Tim Hill.

A kid named Kirby is surely Clay Kirby, who went pro and pitched for the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. In 1960 he hit .313 for Arlington’s own Stewart Buick. Kirby’s boyhood next-door neighbor was John “Jay” Franklin (my teammate on a 12-year-olds all-star team) who was drafted out of high school in 1971 to pitch in three games for the San Diego Padres. In 1965, he batted .444 for Arlington Kiwanis.

Tyler Mathisen, now on the tube as managing editor of CNBC Business News, in 1968 batted .172 for Knights of Columbus.Bobby Tramonte, owner of the Italian Store, in 1965 batted .212 for State Loan. (Hey, guys, you were warned about your “permanent record.”) Myself? In 1965, I hit .290 for Evening Optimist.

Early promise was shown by names who later starred in high school (Yelverton, Chaconas, Kirchner, Lichty, Slade, Benevento). My friend Bill Carter, the Yorktown High School three-sport star in 1969, as a 12-year-old in 1963 batted .400 for Optimist Club.

Many of these statistics were compiled by a team mom, Mrs. DeNelson Ward. The later ones were signed as written and typed by “LGH/ad.” Whoever bore those initials, thanks for the memories!

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Did Arlington homeboy Gen. Robert E. Lee perform an unreported good deed? According to Jack Gosnell, a retired Foreign Service officer who lives a hop across I-66 from Arlington on the centuries-old Little Falls Street, Lee is said to have paid taxes on his house at 324 Little Falls St. in Falls Church – back in 1866.

The tale – handed down from owners of the delightfully quaint blue home – is that a Lee cousin owned the house just after the Civil War. Falls Church preservation authorities have never substantiated it, Gosnell told me. So I asked folks from land records at the Fairfax County Courthouse, who found deeds with the names Rotchford and Dwyer.

The research chief at Lee’s Northern Neck birthplace at Stratford Hall, however, could find no such cousins. Perhaps a descendant of Lee’s beneficiary will one day come forward

 

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