By Russ Charpentier
CHATHAM — The overriding message at yesterday's Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame induction was simple: If you were once part of us, we will never forget you.
Members of the latest class to be enshrined into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame gather for some final instructions prior to Saturday’s emotional ceremony at the Chatham Bars Inn. Nine new members were enshrined
It was in the messages of love and support given to Patty Wylde, and also in the words spoken by Wareham director of media relations Dotty Tamagini.
Tamagini, speaking near the end of the long ceremony, said of the inductees who expressed surprise they were remembered after 30-plus years: "What the kids don't realize is, they are here for eight short weeks, but they are never forgotten."
That was said in response to a comment made by 1977 batting champion Del Bender: "After 30 years, (you'd think) people would forget about you. It's really neat to come up here and share this honor and award."
Class of 2007
The Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame:
Walt Terrell, Chatham, pitcher
Bob Schaefer, Hyannis, manager
Del Bender, Cotuit, 1B-OF
Scott Hemond, Harwich, OF-C
Dick Licini, Bourne, 1B
John Morris, Wareham, OF
Steve Saradnik, Chatham, infielder
Jack Walsh, Falmouth, player-manager
John Wylde, Wareham President, GM
Nine new inductees were installed in the Hall yesterday at Chatham Bars Inn. The remnants of Hurricane Noel may have spent its fury outside, but inside there were nothing but warm feelings.
Patty Wylde was there to receive the Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of her husband John, Wareham's longtime president, general manager and franchise backbone, as well as the league's chief statistician and scorer.
Wylde, who was diagnosed this fall with inoperable liver cancer, is at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The Hall of Fame committee decided last week to include him with this year's inductees.
Also inducted yesterday were Bender, 111-game major league winner Walt Terrell, former major league coach Bob Schaefer, Scott Hemond, John Morris, Dick Licini, Steve Saradnik and Jack Walsh.
Falmouth's longtime volunteer and league historian Al Irish, who saw his first game in 1925, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Wylde was also pegged as the Executive of the Year.
The emotions surrounding Wylde, the last to be inducted, dominated the day — even as the other inductees kept the mood of the crowd upbeat with stories of their summers on Cape Cod.
Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh, who was an assistant coach at Wareham for seven seasons, accepted the Hall of Fame plaque for Wylde.
"Two weeks ago, we had (major league) scouts' day at Harvard," Walsh said. "There were over 25 scouts there, and all were asking how John was doing, saying he was the glue of the Cape, the heartbeat of the Cape."
Patty Wylde, who has been married to John for 45 years, told the crowd, "John wants to thank you for giving him such a wonderful life. This has been a great journey for him."
Tamagini told the players they were never forgotten, but it seemed obvious the players never forget the Cape either. All had vivid, fond memories — of their host family, of baseball and other Cape enticements.
Morris, the league MVP in 1981, thanked his Wareham manager, Joe Arnold, for pushing him to succeed.
"My first two weeks playing here I was very nervous, intimidated, overwhelmed. I was hitting about .150. Arnold walked up to me one day at batting practice and said he wanted to tell me two things. 'I'd like you to lower your hands,' he said and walked away. I asked him what the second thing was. 'You're the best player in the league. I suggest you start acting like it.'
"That night I got three hits, six weeks later I made a run at the batting title, six months later I was drafted in the first round and 26 years later I'm here. Joe, thank you for holding the mirror up."
Licini, the former Notre Dame star, was a power-hitting Cape League MVP for Bourne in 1968, and parlayed that into being an 11th-round pick of the White Sox.
He was introduced by his wife, Debbie, who quickly got the crowd on her side by joking, "My husband now tells me I'm the wife of a Hall of Famer."
Licini joked about his summer job at then-Otis Air Force Base.
"It was the best deal ever. We had four guys there and, the statute of limitations is up, I will tell you the truth, we didn't do anything but play cards."
Hemond was Harwich's catcher in '86 and also league MVP. He talked about what most former players remember, how accepted they were here, from living with a host family to having a job in town.
"The whole Cape is one big community," he said. "It's a warm feeling, everyone trying to help you out. It seems the spirit hasn't changed in years and years. It is something glorious for baseball."
Bender played for Cotuit in 1976-77, hitting a league-high .395 in '77. His wife Alice, who introduced him, said, "He loves baseball and he loves the Cape Cod League. He's told me so many stories, and when he got the call, the floodgates opened."
"It's an honor and a blessing I can come back after 30 years," Del Bender said. "It's really touched us."
He wasn't all serious, joking about late nights, then going for early-morning breakfasts at a Hyannis grill and having, "Buck Showalter cook breakfast for us."
But he also got serious when speaking of his house father, Luke Poyant, calling him and his roommate in for a talk. "He was shaving and we sat on the edge of the tub. He said one thing, 'You can't burn the candle at both ends.' He gave us ground to stand on. I know it's an old saying, but it hit home so much."
Saradnik's wife was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital overnight Friday for undisclosed reasons and was still there yesterday, but he made it to the ceremony.
"I've been walking on air since being informed of this honor," he said. The former Providence College star played four years in Chatham, and hit .349 in 1965. He is the fourth member of Chatham's 1967 championship team to be inducted.
"I've gone back in time today and it's been a thrill," he said.
Hall of Fame manager Eddie Lyons presented Terrell, who he managed in Chatham in 1979, when Terrell threw 13 complete games and pitched 122ª innings.
"He was my kind of pitcher," said Lyons. "There were very few closers in those days. If I ever looked like I was going to take him out, he had a few words for me I couldn't repeat."
Terrell made it obvious he had a good time on the Cape, both on and off the field. "The 55 days I was here were tremendous. What wonderful people I met."
Schaefer managed in both Bourne and Hyannis, leading the Mets to a league record 33 wins in 1978. This past summer he was bench coach for the Oakland A's. What he had to say was enlightening — the Cape League isn't just for players looking to move up.
"If it weren't for the Cape League and the experience it gave me, I'd still be coaching high school somewhere."
The late John "Jack" Walsh played and managed Falmouth in the 1930s, and his teams won three titles. His nephew, J. Kevin Smyth, accepted the posthumous award. Walsh's induction is just another example of the connection between the generations of Cape Leaguers.
"I was surprised people even remembered my uncle," Smyth said. "But he was nominated by Al Irish. He remembered him."
Staff writer Russ Charpentier can be reached at 508-862-1263 or [email protected].