Why Westport Little Leaguers Used To Wear Headphones During Games

Following Friday’s “06880” story about the Westport Little League’s 60th anniversary, this photo made the email rounds of a certain group of former players:

It shows history from 1960:  the Marauders beat the Hornets, the 1st-ever American League victory in Westport’s World Series.

Carl Swanson is in the middle of the raucous celebration — his single won the game.

When the daughter of one of those former Little Leaguers — she’s a very good high school softball player — saw it, she asked, “Back then, why did you guys wear headphones?”

Patiently, her father explained that — unlike today, when protective headgear resembles football helmets, complete with cage — those were, in fact, batting helmets.

Her response:  “Lame.”

Imagine what she’d think if she saw a transistor radio.

32 responses to “Why Westport Little Leaguers Used To Wear Headphones During Games

  1. Carl A. Swanson

    Very astute. They were lame and hardly protective. But not nearly as lame as football helmets back in the leatherhead’s realm. To the summer of ’60 Marauders: Brian Hitt, Mike Stephenson, Bob Montenaro, Tommy Thompson, Brian Rossi, Tommy McCathry and many more that I embarrassingly have forgotten. A great season. It was an age of innocence just before Kennedy would defeat Nixon that fall. And soon, the world changed before our very eyes. Much has never been the same. On point of record, we lost to the Hornets in Game 3.

  2. Raphe Elkind

    On one’s uniform, it read “Wade’s Dairy”. Does anyone know of that apparently-defunct business?

    • Gone with the morning milkman, Ralphe. I think it was on the Post Road. I remember seeing their trucks all over town back then. Amazingly, many of the team sponsors remained in business through the decades. My teams’ sponsors were The Wassell Organization and Cullen Cadillac, both of which were in operation until recent years.

  3. Both were great teams and, yup, for us that was the last innocent summer. Most of us began junior high the following fall and LL memories would soon be drowned in a sea of raging hormones. Leather helmets from the 1940s were still in use by JV players at Staples as late as ’63. HB Kenny Nigoshian was wearing one when my missed block made him a soccer player by order of Dr. Beinfield. Teenaged daughter #1 caught a glimpse of those “headphones” a few moments ago that her sister mistook yesterday. Her comment: “What was so difficult back then about inventing a batting helmet? Sheesh!” I talked to them about the magic of transistor radios. They ignored me. They were too busy BBMing on their smartphones.

  4. Fred Cantor

    Didn’t know that about Kenny N, who played with my brother under Albie Loeffler. Staples football’s loss was unquestionably a big gain for Staples soccer.

    • The Dude Abides

      Kenny was also a very good baseball player. However, in a Babe Ruth All-Star practice session, in the summer ’63, he took an inside pitch from Murray Rosenberg that nearly made him Lance Armstrong’s twin. I can still hear the whhhffffffff . . .ouch! No one could ever accuse of Kenny not taking his lumps for the good ole team.

    • Fred, before his all-FCIAC soccer days Kenny N was a terrific JV running back (only one soph played on the varsity back then, Steve Doig) and an even better qb. He could do anything. Playing OG at 170 pounds, I missed a block in a scrimmage against the varsity starters. To be truthful, I didn’t really miss the block on 230-pound Bob Ruggiero ’64, since he was impossible to miss. I bounced off him. When they woke Kenny up he literally did not know his name. And that was the start of his stellar soccer career. It was a tough summer and fall for Kenny. During a Babe Ruth game hitting against Murray Rosenerg Kenny squared to bunt, expecting a fastball. Instead, Murray dished up a biting curve which…hit Kenny in the cup, breaking it.

      • The Dude Abides

        Not to dispute the incredible memory of Mr. Allen but I do believe that Kenny came over to soccer in the fall of ’64. I know this for a fact as he replaced me (almost immediately) in the starting lineup at center forward. Much to my chargrin, I was transferred to right wing behind Kenny Bass. It also meant that I was under the ever watchful eye of Mr. Loeffler on the nearby sideline and also very close to the stinking hill which I ran countless times when I failed to hold my position.

        • Mr. Allen’s brain was also scrambled on that play, Dude, but I was able to remember my name if not the day of the week or month of the year. Kenny was ordered never to play football again and, due to the severity of his head injury, probably sat out the rest of the fall sports season. Unfortunately — for us but not for him — he never returned to football practice. I hated that hill. Do Staples athletes still run it? Do football players still have to carry a teammate on those runs?

          • The Dude Abides

            I believe Coach P has discontinued that practice but you would have to ask the good Professor Woog about his coaching habits these days???? Interesting thinking back now with the severity and attention to concussions presently. Kudos to Doc Beinfield.

            • I don’t believe the football team runs hills — certainly not carrying teammates. They spend a lot of time in the very modern weight room (aka “fitness center”), with very specific programs designed for their positions, body types, heights and weights, etc.

              • The Dude Abides

                I believe the good Mr. Allen was also referring to the soccer team under your disciplinary supervision??? While we didn’t carry teammates, we used to run
                the hill. Constantly.

                • We did not run the hill when I played soccer — though we did do leg lifts. Running hills today would even be tougher than back in your day, Dude — the hill has been re-graded, and it is now far steeper than before!

            • Docs Beinfield and Hughes deserve those kudos, Dude. There wasn’t much of a body of knowledge re concussions in the 60s so they exercised their good judgment on the spot as best they could. They treated thee concussions for me in 10th grade, the first absorbed from the forearm of a 250-pound Stamford Catholic middle guard, the second from our own Bob Ruggiero and the third, the worst, from a clothesline administered by Staples ’63 qb Matt MacVane at a May ’64 Compo Beach pick-up game. Two friends apparently carried me into Doc Beinfield’s office. He called my dad immediately and then proceeded to restrain me from dismantling his office. I regained my senses later that evening but to this day have no memory whatever of any of the above. Doc B confined me to a dark room for several days, checking on me daily. I thought he did a great job. No wonder he and Doc Hughes were the doctors for the ’64 US Olympic team. They certainly earned that designation.

              • The Dude Abides

                Good guys too. Studies at Boston University have tied concussions with
                ALS Lou Gerhig’s disease. Some protein in the brain and spinal column
                from hits to the head. Gerhip was knocked out 6 times playing for the Yankees
                as well as being belted around playing football at Columbia. Dr. Hughes was
                my neighbor on Cross@Reichert Circle. His son Billy died as a teenager jumping
                off a tree into a lake. Hit a stump and that was the end. Destroyed the family. His brother Jimmy was never the same. The experts say an athlete needs to sit out
                at least two weeks after suffering a concussion. Worse thing would be to put them
                back in the game.

                • The experts are right. Beinfield and Hughes never let a concussed player return to a game. I read the piece about concussions and Alzheimer’s and it has the ring of truth. I heard many years ago about Billy’s passing. A shame for the family. Dr. Hughes was a good guy. He did two of my knee ops.

  5. Fred Cantor

    Also, what a great photo. The vantage point brings back vivid memories of playing on that field, both Little League and pickup games.

    • The Dude Abides

      Pickup games. A thing of the past, I am afraid. The Professor promotes
      such for his soccer guys. We used to bike down to Coleytown and play
      most of the day. Hungry? Climbed the back of the snack bar and reached
      your hand in for a candy bar. Far too structured these days. But I guess
      our Boomer generation ain’t exactly a perfect example. We do hold the distinction
      that we are the only generation cooler than our kids.

      • I cherish the memory of those pick-up games. LL, in fact, was seen only as an official game in which players wore uniforms, but those pick-up games were just as important to all of us. During the school year at Saugatuck there were three a day: softball before school on the asphalt playground and then again at lunchtime recess. And, yes, we slid on that asphalt. After school was hardball on Saugatuck’s dirt lower field. Throughout the day there was no adult in sight for any of those games, except for the elderly Sicilian gentlemen whose garden abutted the lower field’s third base line. If too many foul balls landed in his garden he emerged with a shot gun loaded with rock salt. He meant business. In the summer the games were at Saugatuck’s Luciano Field or Saugatuck El. They lasted from 8 AMish to dark with an ever-changing cast of players during each day. Home run derby was at Gault Field, if the Westport PD didn’t run us off. Grown-ups — and batting helmets, even those “headphones”, were nowhere to be found.

        • The Dude Abides

          Fun. I think the big thing is that we organized the games oursevles. Also, if a fight occurred, you dealt with it. No adult interferring or lecturing you about fist fights. We played football at Doubleday and Hitchcock Park (Weston@Cross), basketball behind Bedford Elementary (Town Hall now) and baseball at Coleytown as well as behind Babkie’s house next door. Lefties used to bang it off their house all the time. It was very serious stuff and super fun. I drive around now and don’t see anyone out. I hear most of the young kids go off to camp for the summer. What could be better than Westport in the summer!!!!!

          • You’re right, Dude. I knew no one back then who went away to sumer camp, unless it was day camp at Mahackeno or a couple of weeks at Camp Mahwehu, the Boy Scout camp in Sherman, or Camp Francis, the nearby Girl Scout camp. Also, back then in our middle class town, no one had the money to send their kids away. Plus, why live in Westport if you send your kids away for the summer? There was more than enough to do here every day. During high school most of us had summer jobs, always a beneficial experience, and, for the guys, Babe Ruth or PAL baseball in the early evening followed at night by weight-lifting and running at Staples. And there was still time left to get in trouble. Which we did.

            • The Dude Abides

              I am not sure the level of affluence has increased that much or it is just “what everyone else is doing.” A neighbor just lost his job and house but his kid still drives her Lexus to Staples. Westport is full of organized activties and plenty of opportunities to find fun plus some jobs that offer a paycheck and experience. It seems everyone is worried about their future resume instead of the practicality of just growing up.

              • In defense of the younger generation, I see lots of pick-up hoops games at the beach in nicer weather, and I also see kids playing pick-up basketball in the Staples field house on weekends in the winter.

                • The Dude Abides

                  You see pickup games at Greens Farms Academy all the time. No adults in sight. I don’t think anyone here is criticizing the younger generation. In truth, they are better athletes as a whole than we were and much bigger. But they seem to be inclined and programmed toward structured activities more so than prior generations.

  6. Don Willmott

    Sure, Wade’s Dairy delivered milk to our milkbox when I was young. Seems hard to imagine now, but it was standard operating procedure for many families into the mid -70s at least

  7. The Dude Abides

    They did, in fact, have batting helmets similar to those of today back then. My worrisome father bought one for me with left earflap and all. He had witnessed Herb Score being hit by a line drive off Gil McDougald’s bat in ’57. My brother was soon switched to short stop and I acquired a helmet. He lived to 94 worrying about just about everything. Something I did not inherit. But thanks, Dad, for caring.

  8. I’m way late to this reminiscence, which I just accidentally Googled into. I didn’t grow up in Westport like most of you, so no LL for me, but the parts about concussions and Doc Beinfield hit home.

    I was in a football game at Staples and got knocked out just after the start of the second half (Tommy Allen probably recalls the game and who clobbered me). I was out briefly, I got up after a couple of moments, then spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, watching and yelling encouragement and such. Or so I was later told by my parents, who were relieved that I was okay. But the next thing I remembered was running back to the locker room, looking over my shoulder and seeing that the game was over and the score was much different. I was out on my feet.

    I remember Dr. Beinfield well. Early one Sunday morning during football season my sophomore year I woke up with a huge, fulminating boil on my shoulder that suddenly was at the ragged edge of blood poisoning — red streaks down my back and chest and all. My dad called Beinfield at home; he met us in his clinic and lanced it, almost certainly saving me from hospitalization, at least. I took so much penicillin for the infection that I broke out in hives just before the start of the next game (a JV one. Beinfield gave me an antihistamine shot, I went in, and on the first play ran about 80 yards for a touchdown. Beinfield swore he’d never again give a player a shot right before a game.

    He also did his best to treat the torn right quadriceps that ended my season senior year; but the extensive calcification of the shredded muscle (still there) apparently was so unusual that he wrote a medical journal article about it with x-rays of my leg.

    I went off to college with the idea of becoming a doctor, largely because of Doc Beinfield’s role modeling. Freshman chemistry, beer and women changed my mind, but that’s another story.

  9. That coach there was Bill Hotchkinson, one of the greatest men I have ever known.He coach myself, and my three brothers.He taught us the value of fun, sports and life.I was honored to have played for him.We won the little league world series in 1963 when I was 9 years old. A Marauder for life.