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Scholastic Roundup: High School Football: A peak at the future and a look at the past

August 27, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Indian Head was one of the many summer camps in the Catskill and Poconos that would rent their facilities to football teams in late summer. Most of Brooklyn’s top teams would go to camps, which afford an opportunity for intensive, three-a-day workouts minus city distractions. It was a coach’s dream.

“They’re living in an environment dedicated to football,” former Lincoln coach George Najjar told the Eagle awhile back. “They’re able to adapt socially to one another both as football players and people.

“And – this is important – once they’re here, they’re here.”

Thomas Jefferson has made the 240-mile trip from Brooklyn sine the mid-1960s, when then-coach Moe Finkelstein and-then New Utrecht coach Allen Leibowitz helped pioneer the idea of football camps.

The camp illustrated the extraordinary differences in means among PSAL teams – with Staten Island’s Wagner and Brooklyn’s Jefferson at either extreme.

Wagner would bring 96 players and 12 coaches to Indian Head. Each player paid $350, a fee that included jerseys, equipment and some in-season costs. Lincoln brough 55 players and seven coaches. Each player paid $250. Jefferson brought 28 players and four coaches. Each player paid $140.

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Several years back, Lincoln held its camp in Monticello, NY. A deer bounded quickly across the field.

“Wow!” one player exclaimed as the animal disappeared into the woods. “A greyhound!”

Camp is one of those too-rare occasions when the football experience becomes almost incidental to the educational experience.

“This is an opportunity,” said the former Jefferson coach, Keith Merriman. “They come to a place where they don’t have to lock doors, where everyone is very polite, where they see stars. New York City is the real world, but so is this. There are two realities, and they should be made aware of both.”

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Dallas Williams was the Baltimore Orioles’ number one pick in the 1976 amateur draft, coming out of Abraham Lincoln High School. He was an outfielder with the Rochester (NY) Red Wings of the International League.

Howard Kellman, the Sheepshead Bay High School grad who has been calling baseball games for the Indianapolis Indians for over 40 years met Williams in 1982, when Williams was a member of the Indy squad.

Kellman proceeds to explain how Williams put his name in the record books with his account in, 60 Humorous & Inspiring Lessons I Learned from Baseball, authored by the Sheepshead grad.

“On Saturday, April 18, 1981, the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox started the longest game in professional baseball history,” Kellman wrote. “The teams played 32 innings, at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, until the game finally was suspended, he following morning at 4:07! A few months later, when the teams next met in Pawtucket, the game was resumed. Pawtucket scored in the bottom half of the 33rd inning to win 3-2. Time of the game was eight hours and 25 minutes.”

Two future Hall of Famers, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr., played in the game.

Said Williams, who was in the game with the Red Wings: “We never should have played that Saturday night in April. It was very cold and there was a gale blowing straight in.”

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Dallas failed to hit safely each time he came to bat. In the 17th inning, Dallas went into the Rochester clubhouse for a moment, where he saw outfielder Mark Corey.

“Corey had left the game several innings earlier and he had more than a few beers,” Dallas remembered. “I thought to myself, this is one guy who is having a rougher night than I’m having.
“The game went on and on and everyone wanted it to end except me,” Dallas explained. “I wanted to keep playing until I finally got a base hit.”

He never did get that bae hit. Dallas Williams finished the game, o for 13.

“It could have been worse,” Dallas continued, “At least I was credited with two sacrifices. The official scorer didn’t have to do that because each time I bunted there was one out. I could have been 0 for 15!”

“Oh well, at least it got me a mention at the Hall of Fame,” Dallas chuckled.

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The Scholastic Roundup e-mailbag:

Dan Lynch, the former baseball coach at St. Francis College, after reading about Jay Rokeach — FDR’s and the University of Miami’s baseball PA man for 53 years:

“I heard of, but not sure if I ever met Jay Rokeach. I’ve known Dennis McDermott and Kenny Lam for over 50 years (coached Kenny in Caracas). Knew Roosevelt Chapman from the Empire State Games.

And here’s a tidbit concerning benny Distefano, the one-time Lafayette High pitcher-first baseman and Major League Baseball’s last left-handed catcher: “When I was coaching baseball at St. Francis College,” Lynch writes, “Benny contacted me about wanting to go there, since his best friend Rocco Parascodola was coming. I looked Benny in the eye and said, ‘Benny, you are too good for SFC, too good for any college up here. And do you really want to sit in a classroom for three years before you can play pro ball? You need to go down South to a Junior College baseball powerhouse. Show the Major League scouts that you are the real deal. I think it was good advice.”

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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