Meteorologically, Spring officially started on Tuesday. The signs of spring have been evident for weeks, thanks to our unseasonably warm weather. If there were any doubts, the free water ice at Rita’s confirmed it’s in the air. For anyone who is a sports fan, though, the season officially begins the first week of February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. It’s a ritual as predictable as the return of the swallows to Capistrano and if you’ve ever been to Florida or Arizona and taken in a game or seen a practice, you know that there is nothing like it.
So, what does spring training have to do with the Trenton Jewish Project? Well, there’s a Trentonian in Scottsdale who’s basking not only in the sun, but in the glory of the San Francisco Giants. Tony Siegle is the special advisor for baseball operations for the Giants and in the many e-mails we’ve exchanged, he has professed his love for spring training, in general, and for Scottsdale, specifically. He also has warm feelings for Trenton, which he says he defends whenever the topic of his hometown comes up. Tony found the TJP blog last July and shot me an e-mail. We had a trip to San Francisco already scheduled for August. The Giants were out of town, but my son and I were lucky enough to stop by AT&T Park and talk with Tony about his days in Trenton.
By the time Tony was growing up, his family had already moved from downtown Trenton to Sanhican Drive. He remembers that Trenton was a great baseball town in those days, with 5 major league teams (the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Phillies and A’s) within a hundred miles. But there was one team that Tony wanted to play for....The Trenton Schroth’s...winners of the 1948 American Legion National Championship.
When Siegle realized he didn’t have the talent to make it on the Schroth’s, much less the major leagues, he had to find a different path. He joined the Navy and after a tour in the Pacific, he found his way to Houston where he became a recruiter. His first job in baseball came in 1965, running the scoreboard at the Astrodome, which had opened that year.
After working for the Astros, Siegle moved on to the Philadelphia Phillies front office and has worked for many major league teams through the years. He recounts the teams for whom he worked and remembers Trenton Times baseball columnist Bus Saidt.
While doing research at the Trenton Public Library for material for this blog, Wendy Nardi, the curator of the Trentoniana collection mentioned that she and a library board member were trying to figure out where WIllie Mays lived when he played for the Trenton Giants in 1950. I e-mailed Tony from the library and he promised to ask Willie the name of the family with whom he lived. I got an e-mail on Friday night, letting me know that Willie lived with the Wilson family on Spring Street. I’m sure that Wendy will figure out exactly what the address was. By the way, in 81 games with Trenton in 1950, Mays had 108 hits, and 4 home runs in 306 at-bats for a .51 slugging percentage. He started the next year in Minneapolis and was called up to the majors in May of 1951, and wound up winning the leagues rookie of the year award.
On a personal note, thanks for all of the warm wishes for my son and his Bar Mitzvah. It was a wonderful weekend from a spiritual standpoint, but also as a way to reconnect with family and friends. In this age where social interaction is often done through a keyboard, a simcha like a Bar Mitzvah reminds you that facebooking and blogging is a poor replacement for sitting down, face-to-face, with people.