It’s been a while between Cheap Seats, something pointed out to me by good friends that either enjoy my writing or politely lie about it. Took a stab at earning some money on another site but, alas, the industry is fraught with cheap_seats_3-150x150dishonorable people making a living from the talent of others. It’s ironic that I’d make the decision to turn my back on them so close to this terrible anniversary, one that, through all its sadness, reminds me of the friends with whom I’ve been blessed throughout my life. Today, in particular, Bernie Schumer, Tim Fitzpatrick, Anthony Raisley, Paul McDonald, Brendan Grady and Ryan Gillock are in my heart and mind as I recall the support they provided to me and each other during that horrific Tuesday morning. We’ve all fallen on difficult times since that day, some more than others. The saddest fact, however, is that we no longer spend our days together on the NYSE floor, a place where your word was everything, and loyalty was a way of life. I miss them all every day, but, especially, on this day. For some reason, this year’s remembrance is a little more painful for me. I have no idea why. I’m hoping that a few retro posts, about good that overcame evil, might make me feel a little better. Worth a shot, anyway.

 

The View from the Cheap Seats
September 11, 2008

Jericho Scott is a 9-year-old little leaguer in New Haven, Ct. who’s been in the news recently because he’s been banned from pitching in his coed instructional league.  Apparently, Jericho’s 40 MPH fastball is too intimidating for the other kids and league officials ruled that it was best if he didn’t toe the rubber.  His coach, however, balked at the ruling and pitched him anyway, prompting the opposing team to refuse to take the field.  While I’m sure compelling cases are being made on both sides of the issue, the story reminded me of a good friend who went through a similar situation as a kid.

Chris Grady, circa 1988.

Chris Grady, circa 1988.

Chris Grady was asked not to pitch by officials in a very informal summer league when he was 10 or 11. Probably with good reason, as Chris always had one of the biggest arms in the neighborhood. He complied, in part because his team usually didn’t need him to pitch after he got finished swinging the bat. He was that freakishly talented ballplayer that each of us remember from our childhood. The first time I ever played with him was at baseball camp in Williamsport, Pa. He was the youngest on the squad but made the camp all star team anyway. He actually made it as a left-handed second baseman.The next time we were teammates, he was one of two fireballers on our Bay Ridge Little League team from St. Patrick’s that were virtually unhittable. The other, Steve Oliver, led our two-year-old league into All Star tournament play by shutting down an overmatched North Highway squad. For some reason, perhaps because he was only 11, Chris was not selected for the team. I remember thinking how much we missed him when Kings Bay LL sent us packing in our second game. They wouldn’t have touched Chris.

His big left arm eventually landed him the third spot in a LeMoyne College rotation that featured future big leaguers Jim DeShaies and Tom Browning. That’s when he learned of the arthritic condition in his left elbow and had to give up pitching. Playing, however, was a different story. He became a local softball legend, especially in Breezy Point, where his speed and cannon arm made him the best outfielder in the league. His bat wasn’t too shabby either as he garnered a few league MVP awards.

Chris did manage to make it to the big leagues, sort of. One of our softball teammates was an assistant GM for the Yankees, who found themselves in temporary need of a left handed batting practice pitcher. He asked Chris, who took the hill at Yankee Stadium and threw BP to the World Champions. I remember him telling me that the most enjoyable part of the day was shagging flies with Paul O’Neill.

We lost Chris on September 11th. He is one of many being remembered today by friends and family who can’t believe seven years have passed. The MVP award that he won in Breezy Point is now named for him. We miss our friend but I’d think he’d be pleased that we always smile when we talk about him. I know he’d be  proud that we all think of him when we see a kid with a rocket arm. God bless, Shademan.

 

The View from the Cheap Seats
September 11, 2009

Eight years ago, just prior to the kickoff of a freshman football game between Xaverian High School and Xavier High School, the captains from each team proceeded to midfield. The pregame ritual seemed as mundane as every other coin toss; eight kids who’d never met greeting officials and opponents they probably wouldn’t recognize an hour later.  Until one of the Xaverian captains, the smallest actually, reached across to the Xavier side.

Xaverian opens its season tomorrow against Xavier on a night where both schools will remember fallen alumni.

Xaverian opens its season tomorrow against Xavier on a night where both schools will remember fallen alumni.

“We’re really sorry about your coach.”

“Thanks, man”, came the reply.  ”Thanks a lot.”

Almost two months earlier, on September 10th, a whole new world opened up for those kids as they started their high school careers. The next day brought a whole new world for all of us. While football became a refuge for the Xaverian freshmen; their safe haven from the sadness and fear, it was a daily reminder of both for the Xavier kids who’d lost their coach in the World Trade Center attacks. And now, just before a game that was as much a neighborhood rivalry as any they would ever play, these young boys took a second away from the sport to address their grief.

I thought about that game when I saw that the two schools would open their Varsity seasons against each other tomorrow night, September 11th, at Aviator Field in Brooklyn. I remembered how I felt back then; that there would never be a time that I’d enjoy anything on that day. I thought about those high school freshmen; college grads now, and how they managed to find their way through those terrible times. Finally, I thought of how often since that horrible Tuesday morning I’d been told that the loved ones we lost would want us to enjoy our lives. That, to do so, would honor the rescuers whose sacrifice was made to preserve that freedom. Maybe, after eight years, it’s time to let that advice sink in.

So, I’ll be there tomorrow night because, after all this time, it’s where I think I should be. It’ll be my tribute to those we lost, those we didn’t and those overseas fighting to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again. And I’ll carry those eight young football players in my heart; grateful for the example they set on that autumn afternoon. Thoreau once wrote “All men are children”. But on that day, children were men.

 

The View from the Cheap Seats
September 11, 2011

The debate had raged throughout the summer. We’d grown used to the happy dilemma of choosing a name for a new baby, as it was, perhaps, the most exciting thing about expecting a child. None of us could wait for the November due date. However, this time it was a little different. This time, it wasn’t just my wife, Virginia, and me. We now had four other opinions being tossed around the dinner table as our children, ages nine to fourteen, were each certain of their own ability to select the perfect name.

By late August, we were no closer to a decision. It was then that Virginia, taking full advantage of her birthday privileges, put her foot down and announced to all of us that she had decided on a girl’s name – Caroline. She then decreed that I would be responsible for selecting a boy’s name, and that she would abide by my decision without question. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a particular name in mind.

September 11, 2001 was a day that boasted, in the words of Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, “a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it.” It was the last one I ever saw without being reminded of tragedy. None of us will ever forget the terrible events of that Tuesday morning, so I will not recount them here. Our lives were changed that day, in ways that we could have never imagined. But, through all the misery, a wonderfully inspiring story about an angel here on Earth provided a name for a beautiful little boy.

Tim and Tara Stackpole

Tim and Tara Stackpole

I didn’t know FDNY Captain Timothy Stackpole. Never even met him, even though we shared a number of mutual friends. Four months earlier, I had read about his miraculous return to active duty after suffering terrible injuries in a fire that claimed the lives of two of his colleagues. I had also read about him on September 10th, as he had just been recognized as Irishman of the Year at The Great Irish Fair in Brooklyn that weekend. However, it was everything I read and heard after he was lost that filled my heart.

At the time, I worked on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. We had been locked in when the first tower came down and had spent a few hours dealing with the worst fear I had ever known. Thankfully, we were many, and the camaraderie and support got us through. We could only imagine what was going on just six blocks away and, sadly, even our darkest thoughts fell short of the reality.

In those next few days, as we learned the names of all of those we lost, Timothy Stackpole’s story became prominent. My dear friend and colleague, Joe Berg, informed me that he had gone to high school at St. Francis Prep in Queens a year behind Timmy and was devastated by the news. “This was the best guy that ever graduated from the Prep”, he told me. “He was everything that was good about the Prep.” Even though it had been more than two decades since they’d last seen each other, Joe made the ninety minute drive to attend the wake; standing on line for another two hours. “I didn’t know anyone there”, he said, “but I had to go.”

As Captain Stackpole was a legend in the Department, there was no shortage of stories about him in the days that followed. The one that touched me, though, was an interview with his wife, Tara, just two days after the attacks. The way she spoke of her husband and treasured the time they had together, actually made me smile through the tragedy.

“What a great marriage we had,” said Tara. “People had no idea what they were missing. What I had. When he got hurt in ’98, he should have died. It was a miracle that he didn’t. I believe it was part of God’s plan that he’d have three more years to touch people’s lives.  He changed people’s lives by how he lived.”  Even now, ten years after the fact, I am in awe of the love they shared.

Timothy Mayrose, 11.  Student, athlete, writer and all-around good guy.

Timothy Mayrose, 11. Student, athlete, writer, actor and all-around good guy.

Two weeks later, Tim was eulogized by his only daughter, Kaitlyn, at his funeral. “I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I’ll always know where to find you: in our hearts. My whole life, I’ve always known what a good person you are. I believe God gave us three more years. There is a little bit of you in all of us, especially in Mommy, the boys and me,” she said. “I love you. Thank you, Daddy.”

I saved both of the newspapers in which those stories appeared and brought them home to my family. I told them that, were we to be blessed with a little boy, his name would be Timothy. Not as much to memorialize Timmy Stackpole as to inspire my son to be a good friend, husband and father. To become a man of faith and service; one who guides others down the same path. To be a man that shares so much love with the people in his life that they are keenly aware of the good fortune that was theirs to know him, even in their deepest grief.

Timothy McGee Mayrose was born on November 6th, 2001. He’s a very smart, kind and polite young man. He loves sports, his dog, Smalls, and Harry Potter. Mostly, though, he treasures the time he spends with his very large family. We talk about how he was named all the time. I think Timmy Stackpole would like him a lot.

Shortly after he was born, I wrote a letter to the Stackpole family to tell them about my Tim. Even though I didn’t want to be intrusive, I did want them to know that their wonderful father and husband would be a role model for my son. The contents of that letter are of too personal a nature for me to share. What I will share, though, is my last thought to them; one that resonates within me today as powerfully as it did during those terrible weeks and months. “God Bless our Timothys.”

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