Brooklyn Boro

The 80-year-old baseball rookie

February 26, 2024 Andy Furman
Ryan Lavarnway, Israeli American former Major League Baseball catcher, with Mike Hipscher (right).
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Mike Hipscher coached baseball at Brooklyn College.

Now, at age 80, he’s playing.

The Brooklyn College grad who retired in 2011 still teaches one class per semester at the school.

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“I’m teaching basketball now,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

But he’s playing baseball.

Hipscher returned from Ft. Myers. Florida, where he participated in the Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp.

“It was tough,” he said, “Not the camp,” he laughed. “It was tough because I’ve always been a Dodger fan.”

In fact, Hipscher made it clear that when he wasn’t on the field playing, he did wear his Dodger blue — a Brooklyn baseball cap with the white button on the top.

“This was all my wife’s idea,” he said. “She thought it would be a great present for my 78th birthday.

“But the waiting list for the Mets’ camp was a year away, and I really hated the Yankees.”

And so do Red Sox fans, but things looked good for Hipscher with the BoSox camp in Florida last month.

That, too, was a close call, as the Midwood High grad (’60) had a pacemaker installed on December 1, when he turned 79.

No. Mike Hipscher isn’t a stranger to the bat, ball and glove.

“I played baseball four years at Brooklyn College under four different coaches,” he said.

He was a shortstop at BC, and he also played catcher in 10 games as a senior. He played three years of baseball at Midwood — and in his spare time at Brooklyn College, he played freshman basketball.

“I took an extra year to graduate Brooklyn,” he said, “And the soccer coach recruited me as a goalie.”

All he did was to make second team all-Conference as a 21-year-old goalkeeper — he graduated high school at 16.

But Fantasy Camp, well, was a different story.

“We were each given two uniforms with our names on them,” he said. “We arrived on a Saturday, and on Sunday night the coaches staged a draft to select their teams.”

There were 12 members on each team, 10 teams and two five-team divisions Hipscher recounted.

Oil Can Boyd, Jeff Reardan, Bob Montgomery and Frank Viola served as the coaches, he said.

“In fact, Frank traded for me,” Hipscher said. “I told him (Frank) I coached against him when he pitched for St. John’s University.

“We had a stacked team,” Hipscher said. “I don’t know how Frank did it, but he recruited Frank Costa and his brother from Venezuela. They played short(stop), center field and pitched.”

They finished 6-1, won the championship and Hipscher proudly notes he and his teammates will receive their championship rings at a Red Sox game this spring at Fenway Park.

So where did that leave our rookie?

“Well, with two knee replacements and a hip replacement, I certainly couldn’t catch; I can no longer make the throw from short to first and my mobility is not what it used to be.”

So it was second base for Hipscher.

“No errors, and I started a double play,” he reminded.

Hitting –well that’s completely another story.

“I didn’t get the ball out of the infield,” said the man who batted .429 – ninth in the nation – his junior year in 1960.

Jeff Torborg, from Rutgers, led the nation in hitting that year at .512.

But he admits, “It was a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.”

And two of his Brooklyn College athletes whom he coached even came to watch him play — Dennis (Sterno) Stern. “Because he throws the heat,” said his former coach. “And John Franklano. He took some video of us.”

And there was a woman in the crowd as well.

Jeff Brooks and his wife Christine attended the camp — and Christine was the catcher in Game Two, Hipscher remembered.

“My first game at second base, I fielded a routine grounder and threw the runner out,” Hipscher said matter-of-factly. “You’d think it was the last out of the World Series the way my teammates and crowd cheered.”

He didn’t want to embarrass himself – that was Mike Hipscher’s main objective.
Well, that ended the very first night.

“We had a karaoke night, and I was tabbed to sing. I never thought they’d have my song on file. My luck, they did.

The song was “They Called the Wind Miriah.”

And if that wasn’t enough, the coaches actually hooked him off the stage.
Perhaps because Mike Hipscher wore his Dodgers’ cap with all those Red Sox fans watching the show.

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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