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Boyd's 'Batter Up' offers insight into Brentwood youth baseball

| Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Brentwood resident Richard Boyd glances at his booklet, 'Batter Up,' which focues on the early years of youth baseball in Brentwood Borough.
randy jarosz | for trib total media
Brentwood resident Richard Boyd glances at his booklet, 'Batter Up,' which focues on the early years of youth baseball in Brentwood Borough.

Richard Boyd, 76, has been a lifelong baseball fan.

He attended his first game at Forbes Field with his dad as a wide-eyed 9-year-old in 1948.

Actually, it was a Sunday afternoon doubleheader against the Brooklyn Dodgers and the likes of Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Roy “Campy” Campanella.

“The Dodgers swept the doubleheader,” said the likeable Boyd, “but the Pirates, with Danny Murtaugh, Stan Rojek, Wally Westlake and, of course, Ralph Kiner, were still my team. I became interested in baseball listening to Pirates broadcasts on the radio with Rosey Rowswell.”

Back in those days, Boyd and his father shared a mutual bond and admiration for baseball that only grew into a well-rounded respect for the game.

“I had a glove in my hand 24 hours a day,” Boyd said. “My dad bought me a used glove from someone he worked with, and the mitt became my constant companion. I still have it. Dad's work schedule and limited athletic skills did not allow for much practice time with him, but he never missed a game.”

Jump forward two years. The first organized Little League baseball game ever played in Allegheny County took place at Brentwood Stadium in 1950.

Boyd wanted to participate on a Little League team that year, but a lengthy bout with tonsillitis meant he wasn't able to attend the tryouts.

“There were no antibiotics back then,” said Boyd, who has lived on Lawnview Avenue in Brentwood since 1939. “I developed tonsillitis. It did not respond to drug therapy, and I ended up in the hospital.

“Eventually, I needed my tonsils removed, but then another infection developed. I was not cleared to resume athletic activities until late June. Missing the baseball season was a sad time. Watching my three best buds play was difficult, but they at least let me on the bench.”

Boyd served as an “unofficial” bat boy for the VFW 1810 club that season before becoming a full-fledged Little Leaguer in 1951-52.

There were four squads in the “Brentwood Little Ball League” in 1950 — Brentwood Fire Dept., St. Sylvester Lyceum, Villa Mart and the VFW 1810 club.

“Brentwood Stadium had a PA system, playing field and bleachers,” said Boyd, who went on to play Teener and Prep League baseball following his Little League career. “It was not uncommon to have 1,000 people at a game.”

To help commemorate that historic event in 1950, and as part of the Brentwood centennial celebration this year, Boyd wrote an easily readable booklet entitled, “Batter Up,” which focuses on the early years of youth baseball in the borough.

As Boyd mentions in the introduction, it chronicles the steps taken by a small group of men dedicated to providing opportunities for pre-teen boys to participate in organized, competitive baseball games.

“Our wish is that those volunteers and boys currently, or about to become involved, in Brentwood youth baseball will benefit from the trip back in time,” said the soft-spoken Boyd.

Audrey Iacone, Brentwood Historical Society president and a Carnegie Library branch manager, was a driving force behind Boyd becoming a local author.

“The book is charming, interesting and well written,” Iacone said. “Rich is devoted to this subject and his enthusiasm shows in his writing. He paints a vivid picture of what life was like for young boys in the borough of Brentwood just after World War II. The community was growing as more and more families moved to Brentwood, where a new house was under construction on almost every street.

“I love the part where Rich describes the boys' anticipation when they heard about upcoming summer baseball tryouts in the fall of 1949. Then they waited for the arrival of spring and the end of school in June 1950, when that very first baseball season would begin. There was the sheer delight when their first Little League uniforms arrived. Some of the boys even wore them to bed that night.”

The concept for “Batter Up” began in the fall of 2013.

“I was invited to attend a meeting of the Brentwood Centennial Committee, which was in the late stages of writing for the Aracadian book to be titled, “Brentwood,'” Boyd said. “Asked if I had anything to contribute, I suggested a segment on Little League since it was a community service organization that has been operating continuously since 1950. I felt I could have provided appropriate material since I grew up and played in that era. I was told to run with it and submit my material the following month.”

Boyd's input was presented to the centennial committee, but only a small percentage of it was accepted for the book due to a limit on the number of pages, as mandated by the publisher, Arcadia.

“Brentwood,” which offers a history of the borough, was launched in October.

“Committee chair Audrey Iacone, the author of ‘Brentwood,' sensed my frustration and suggested that I write my own book,” Boyd said. “I made a few contacts with some friends.”

The determined baseball enthusiast developed a relationship with Lance Van Auken, director of the Little League Museum in Williamsport and author of “Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball.”

“I made the decision to take Audrey's advice and write a history of the early years of Brentwood's Little League,” Boyd said. “I've had many hours of conversation with the director in Williamsport.”

Boyd, who has been married to Joanne for 49 years and has three daughters — Jennifer, Natalie and Catherine — collected photos, news articles and artifacts from former players of the 1950s.

His research also took him to the Carnegie Library and Carrick/Overbrook Historic Society microfilm files, as well as Castle Shannon Library.

“Batter Up,” published by Brentwood Historical Society as part of the Arcadia Publishing Series, is a 60-page document that includes 12 pages of photographs of teams and players.

It is not intended to be sold for profit, but rather as a tribute to those 1950 players and volunteers who paved the way for all that has followed in the Brentwood Athletic Association.

“Rich has been keenly interested in this subject for quite awhile,” Iacone said. “He submitted some great images for the ‘Brentwood' history book. Since then, he has acquired more photos, useful articles and other Little League ephemera. He has a photo of each of the four original teams that Brentwood fielded in 1950.”

“Batter Up” costs $5 and is available for purchase at Brentwood Library, located at 3501 Brownsville Road.

Boyd, who has six grandchildren, plans to hold a “book talk” at the library in the early spring. He is a great story teller with many elequent, enduring memories.

If you have a few minutes this spring, check in with Boyd. It most likely will be an enriching experience.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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