By Andy Simek
ROCK HILL July 11, 2006 The air was ripe with nostalgia at Bernies Holiday Restaurant in Rock Hill this past Saturday.
The 1954 Fallsburgh Little League had its reunion there, and the memories of days gone by filled the room with an overwhelming sense of both sadness and glee; sadness for those times that can never be had again and glee for the reminiscence of those happier times.
The 30 bigger Little Leaguers shared memories of fonder times; times when life was simpler.
Times when there were no worries about house payments or medical bills; times when there were no issues about how to make ends meet.
These players spent the evening remembering a time when the biggest worry they had was how far they could swat the ball out of the park or if their parents gave them enough money for ice-cream after the game.
This reunion was held so that these childhood friends could get together and, if only for a little bit, escape from the harsh realities of the present.
So, 52 years after-the-fact, these old friends came together in the county where they spent their youth.
What was going to be just a small get-together turned into something much more than that.
What was probably going to be a reunion for those who stayed near the area spread its reach across the country.
The players came from California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey and even as close as Glen Wild and Monticello all to meet friends they thought they would never have a chance to see again.
The 1954 manager of the Little League Yankees, Bob Findling, didnt have to travel far, but would have been willing to walk a thousand miles to be at the event.
Findling, now 93-and-a-half-years-young, was born in Lyndhurst, NJ, was raised in the Bronx, and has lived in Fallsburg for the last 70 years.
An avid New York Yankees fan, Findling says that his team of Yankees always won, just like the Major League team. I got my baseball education from Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
His players, now, are a little older, a little wiser and a little bit harder to recognize.
Its hard to forget those memories, but I havent seen some of these kids since they were 8, 9, maybe 10 years old. I guess Ive grown up too, though.
Findling was overjoyed to be in a room of living, breathing memories of yesterday.
I think this is one of the better days of my life, he remarked.
He said later on that his wife Sally, who is now deceased, deserves just as much credit for the success of the team as he does.
It was she, Findling said, that went out collecting money for uniforms and food and all the other necessities for a Little League team, and she that gave her support from the sidelines if he couldnt make it to a game.
Findling was surprised at the turnout of the event, and was pleased at what his players had turned into.
I see kids, he said, that are men now, some of them are grandfathers.
Some of them are also teachers.
And Little League coaches.
Ward Young, the first president of the Fallsburgh Little League, who also became the principal of the Fallsburg High School, now lives in New Mexico, just north of Albuquerque in a town called Corrales.
Young makes his living as a doctor and said that he has swapped his baseball bat for a golf club, but still has a special place in his heart for baseball.
And to travel a few thousand miles, he must have a special place for his old teammates as well, especially when he revealed what it took to get him to make the trip.
I got a call from [the coordinator Shelly] Fox. Thats all it took, Young explained.
He said that after spending so many years in Fallsburg and making so many friends, he couldnt pass up the opportunity.
Its not every day you get to see all of your old friends and renew those friendships or to see what has become of them.
You see these kids when theyre 10 years old. Now theyre heart surgeons and who knows what else.
The best part of aging and seeing these friends, Young said, is that, The older we get, the better we were.
Yes, these ex-baseball stars will probably never again get to put on those uniforms, or get to taste one of those 10-cent hot dogs.
They can, however, relive their youths through memories, anecdotes and pictures.
Bob Kunis, one of the speakers at the ceremony, noted Someone once said that its impossible to get your youth back, but this evening is as close as we can come to it.