Playing ball for old times sake

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO From left, Skip Tuttle, the late Ben Jones and Charlie Beckwith, "discussing" the rules at last year's old timers softball game. "The Over the Hill Gang" will be back at Fiske Field this Sunday.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO From left, Skip Tuttle, the late Ben Jones and Charlie Beckwith, “discussing” the rules at last year’s old timers softball game. “The Over the Hill Gang” will be back at Fiske Field this Sunday.

Back in the 1970s, a group of Island residents got together to start an annual old timers’ softball game. It was a friendly competition of the “over-35” crowd who played on teams sponsored by two well-known establishments — the Dory and the Harbor Inn.

Though the Harbor Inn, which was owned by the late Jack Cahill, is no more and the starting age has since increased by five years, it’s still a friendly game. So if you’re over 40, you, too, can take the field in this Sunday’s “Over-The-Hill Softball Game” at Fiske Field, which will pit Sweet Tomato’s against SALT in a fundraiser for the Shelter Island Little League.

Chuck Kraus, 62, captains Sweet Tomato’s team and he is expecting a good player turnout.

“There are a lot of people that come out for this,” Mr. Kraus said in a recent phone interview. “They’ve lived on the Island and have played year after year. Others are here just part time. It’s a good day out.”

And if all goes well, no one will get hurt.

“Hopefully these guys won’t try to be the weekend warrior,” Mr. Kraus said. “We’re going to use wooden bats so no one gets killed out there.”

“Once you get up to bat, the old competitive spirit comes out of them,” Ed Brown, captain of the SALT team, told the Reporter. “That’s what gets people hurt.”

In the weeks leading up to the game, the competition was already simmering. While Mr. Kraus has been actively recruiting players for his team, Mr. Brown has been busy doing the same thing in a process that’s not unlike a fantasy baseball league.

“He pushes off some of the players he doesn’t want on me and tries to take players from my team that he wants,” Mr. Kraus said of Mr. Brown’s efforts. “We make trades that afternoon.”

But since this is an old timers’ game, not everyone is as nimble as they once were on the field. Mr. Kraus explained that some of the older players still hit, but rely on pinch runners to tag the bags. He noted that Ben Jones, who died earlier this year at the age of 93, played well into his 80s.

Among this year’s players will be Father Peter from Our Lady of the Isle Church and Mr. Kraus said women are also invited to play — though truth be told, none have ever signed up.

“Some of the women out there I know are better than the men,” he admitted.

Spectators are also strongly encouraged. While there’s no fee to watch the game, Mr. Kraus said the hat will be passed to solicit donations for the Shelter Island Little League.

“The Lions Club has been donating hamburgers and hotdogs and the cold drinks,” said Mr. Kraus of previous years. “We don’t charge anything for that, we just ask for donations. It works out well.”

Last year’s game raised $800 and Mr. Kraus is hopeful that Sunday’s game will raise enough to sponsor a bus trip for the Little League kids to attend a Mets or Yankees game next season.

The “Over-The-Hill Softball Game” at Fiske Field begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 2. Afterwards, SALT will host a post-game party. The raindate for the game will be Sunday, October 16. New players interested in joining one of the teams should call Chuck Kraus, (631) 445-2606, or Ed Brown, (631) 786-9983, in advance rather than showing up on game day.

And all you players remember…. be careful out there! You’re not as young as you used to be!

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