Staples High School 1967 graduate Ron Berler calls his baseball history “checkered.”
Playing in Westport’s Little League, he threw an on-field tantrum when Max Shulman — the author of “Rally Round the Flag, Boys!” but, more importantly for this story, the umpire — “blew a call” (Ron’s words) on a tag play he made at third.
In later years he was cut during tryouts at both Long Lots Junior High and Staples. He joined the only team that would have him: Staples Players theater.
After Northwestern University, he became a writer. The Chicago Tribune Magazine sent him to Arizona to do a “Paper Lion”-type spring training story. He suited up for the Chicago Cubs. Leo Durocher was the manager. Ernie Banks drove Ron from the team hotel to the ballpark each morning.
One day Ron lined a shot to right field, causing a rookie pitcher to be returned to the minors. But after one at-bat in the team’s first intra-squad game, Ron was handed an unconditional release from baseball.
He was, however, offered a position with the Wrigley Field grounds crew. He declined.
That was not the end of his baseball career, fortunately. For 18 years, Ron managed suburban Chicago Little League teams.
His day job included writing a weekly, youth-issues column for the Chicago Tribune. He recently reprised one of those pieces — about the unwanted pressures facing star youth athletes — for Medium. Click here to read “The Cost of Being a Little League Hero.”
As Westport youngsters return to the diamond — and all kinds of other athletic fields — it’s a tale worth heeding.