By Rob Potter
CALLICOON CENTER Three days after the New York Yankees delivered the franchise’s 27th World Series Championship to their loyal fans under the leadership of Manager Joe Girardi, the members of the Sullivan County Seniors softball team honored their loyal coach who has guided them for the past 10 seasons.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, members of the Sullivan County Seniors team invited Coach Bill Engle and his wife Pat to the Callicoon Center Firehouse for a birthday party for team member Tom Schmidt.
While Schmidt would indeed be celebrating a birthday the following Saturday, he and his teammates were able to keep the surprise from Engle. At the right moment, the evening’s master of ceremonies, Dennis Finley, told the roomful of Sullivan County Seniors softball team members, members of the North Branch Seniors softball team, family members, friends and Callicoon Center Fire Department members the main reason for all of the balloons, music and a catered buffet dinner by Nick’s Steakhouse of Liberty.
As Finley stated that everyone was honoring Engle for his many years as coach of the Sullivan County Seniors, the look of surprise and gratitude etched upon Engle’s face was priceless.
Finley noted that Engle taught him about sportsmanship and not taking the game too seriously.
Sullivan County Seniors team member Jack Costello noted that legendary Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio played with class and had a beautiful wife named Marilyn Monroe.
“Bill has class and a beautiful wife, Pat,” Costello said. “Coach Leo Durocher said that nice guys finish last. He was wrong. Coach, you’re No. 1 in our hearts and you finished first.”
Among the gifts his players presented to Engle were an autographed softball and the cap of his favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Coach Pat Peters of the North Branch Seniors team also presented Engle with an autographed softball on behalf of her team.
At the end of the evening, Costello, Finley and Young had a spotlight shine on Engle’s “retired” No. 6 jersey. Engle chose that number because it was the same one worn by Cardinals’ left fielder and 1969 National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum inductee Stan “The Man” Musial.
However, Engle will not be retiring from softball completely. He plans to play for the Sullivan County seniors team for the 2010 season and beyond. But he symbolically transferred the team’s lineup card to the new coach, Ron Moore.
Moore noted that he will try to emulate Engle’s leadership style.
Charlie Barbuti Jr. of Liberty spoke fondly of his late father, Charlie Barbuti Sr., and how the elder Barbuti started the Sullivan County Seniors Softball team back in 1988.
Barbuti Jr. and Finley presented Engle with the first annual Sullivan County Seniors/North Branch Seniors sportsmanship award. Engle’s name is engraved on a small gold plate which is attached to the award. Each year, the name of a coach or player from either the Sullivan County Seniors or the North Branch Seniors team will be added to the plaque.
A very moved Engle was grateful to everyone involved in the planning of the dinner for him, especially his wife Pat, who worked with Costello, Finley and Schmidt to keep it a secret.
“I am at a loss for words,” Engle said. “I just want to thank you all very, very much.”