Now Batting: Ron Berler

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.

Ron Berler

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.


3 responses to “Now Batting: Ron Berler

  1. Excellent article by Ron Berler. And the pressure on school-age kids to perform – and to be “the best” – goes far beyond baseball and organized team sports. It could be the first violinist in the orchestra, the soloist in the chorale, or any number of high-pressure roles into which we place youngsters.

  2. Fascinating article. I just don’t recall anyone back in the day at Coleytown El in our grade who was such a superior athlete that he might have felt that type of pressure in Little League or rec league basketball, which were the two primary organized leagues for team sports back then—and which were only set up for boys’ competition.

    That’s very cool that Ron had a George Plimpton type of experience with the Cubs.

  3. Dorothy Robertshaw

    Excellent excellent article never give up…. thank you for all your great Articles Dan