How the “Saigon Teenager Softball Team” came about!
I know this sounds surprising, but Bob, Larry Smith and myself would sometimes ditch school. We would go into the “boy’s room” have a cigarette and wait for a class to start. We would look down the open-air hallway and when it was all clear … over the short wall we would go. (I think role call was only done once and at the beginning of the school day … for we never got caught). We were close to Tan Son Nhut, so that was the obvious place to go. It was also one of the few places that had a Jukebox. We would “time” our leaving the Airport in order to follow the school bus. At the appropriate stops, each of us got out of the taxi and went into our house.
Well it was on one of these mornings (probably in July 1960), we were out at the Airport having a BaMuoiBa and listening to Dalida sing, that we started talking about how we had heard that the military might be starting up a fast-pitch softball league. We all agreed that we should get a teenage team going. That after noon we went out to MAAG-V in Cholan. We went around to the back where Special Services was located and talked to the NCO in charge. He was very helpful, but he told us that we had to have adult supervision. We left there and went to Brodard’s to have another beer, listen to the Jukebox (I still listen to a lot of Dalida’s music today) and discuss the situation. How would we find an adult who could give of their time for coaching? All of our fathers seemed swamped with work. Ah, it finally came to me that maybe I could talk Father Crawford into it. I’d be seeing him the next day at catechism.
Father Crawford readily agreed … I think I had to promise that I would always come to catechism, never be late for church, always stay sober, and don’t kiss girls … (This is where the saying “give one for the team” was started. Oh, you don’t believe me!! OH!)
We got Father’s signature, went back to MAAG-V, got signed up and received a duffel bag full of balls, bats, catcher’s mask and some funky gloves … and we were off and running.
Practice was pretty much left up to us. I think we were out on the ball field everyday after school. Father Crawford would periodically show up for practice. He let us ride his BMW Bike (had an electric starter) and often gave us a cigarette. He came to almost every game. But basically everything was left to us. We tried to get support for ball team uniforms, but no luck. We finally agreed that we would all have to buy our own. I think they came out to be about $8.00 each. The tailor on Tu Do Street made us some light blue cotton flannel pants with a black ribbon down the legs. The shirt was matching in color but was made with no collar. We would have no baseball hats.
Most players ordered their own glove through Sears and Roebuck . I would become Captain. Larry Smith, and when Mike Dunn arrived, would both be Co-captains. I do not really remember how positions would be chosen. I think it just worked itself out.
I would become catcher. I tried the Special Service catcher’s mitt but did not like it. So I caught the year with a fielder’s mitt. When Mike Dunn came to town, he instantly became our pitcher, and believe me, I never had a game that my hand was not red and swollen afterwards.
We went only by the name Teenagers. The team really had no association with ACS other then the fact we went to school there. This team was totally run by the ball players.
I forgot how many teams were playing in the league. I think there was between 12 and 15, but who knows? We lost our first 8 games. Navy was the leader until their pitcher Blackie (Blackburn) was transferred. As you know, fast-pitch is so pitcher reliant. Navy beat us 16 to 1 in our first outing! We did get better and as mentioned Mike showed up on the field. Gosh could he “burn” them in. His fastball and curve ball just kept getting better as we progressed. What an athlete! The first team we beat was Air Force. The team we always beat was the Vietnamese American Association. The hardest team for us to play was the Canadian team. Three of the games we had with them I still remember the scores … 1st Canada 4, Teenagers 3 … 2nd Teenagers 3, Canada 2 … 3rd Teenagers 2, Canada 1.
The teenager team players decided early on that our goals would be to always try hard and always have a good attitude. I think we stayed true to that, and we got damn good!!!
On Washington’s Birthday (American didn’t formally celebrate the 4th of July in Saigon back then … rainy season, but had the Barbecue instead in February out at Pershing Field) the Teenager’s were chosen to play an exhibition game. We then picked an Army team that had some great ball players to play against (I think their unit had an 8 and an R in their name.) Ambassador Durbrow umpired three innings of the game. We won!
I could write much more about the team. All the players were terrific … every base and outfield position was covered. I remember it like it was yesterday … But each player needs to “tell it like it was” for them. We would lose players throughout the season to either their Dad’s transfer or they went to other places for schooling but as a whole, the team just kept getting better. We came in second that year … we so wanted first place … I think J.D.P. won!
Near the end of the season, someone’s father showed up to help in coaching. His son had not yet arrived. I thought it might have been Ken’s, but maybe it was Fred’s. He, who I thing was a CSM in the Air Force, was very helpful. He coached us in specific techniques, something we’d been without. However, it was Father Crawford’s selfless service (and maybe his prayers), which allowed it all to happen. It was so great to hear that Mike Dunn had Fr. Crawford marry him and his wife … was that News Year Day in Saigon in 1970? During 74-75 time frame, he worked around the clock in order to rescue orphans from Vietnam. Maybe in the future I could address what he did. It is very interesting. It was very hard on Fr. Crawford to leave Saigon. He had devoted much of his life to the Vietnamese people. He died shortly before our Phoenix Reunion.
Why didn’t we have a team mascot…like GO GECKOS! … Or maybe the BaMuoiBa’ers … for that is where the idea came from in the first place.
O.K. … Your Right … maybe just stick with the TEENAGERS!!!!