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Ben Casparius Starts In College World Series

It’s been a full day of sports here on “06880.”

This morning I reported that Cameron Wilson — son of 1975 Staples High School grad Dave Wilson — earned a coveted spot at the US Open golf tournament, this weekend on Long Island.

Then I posted a story on Rebecca Russo, who showed off her National Women’s Hockey League Isobal Cup yesterday at Saugatuck Elementary and Bedford Middle Schools.

Ben Casparius

And right now on ESPN you can watch Ben Casparius try to help the University of North Carolina win the College World Series. The Tar Heels are playing Oregon State University in the first game of the double-elimination event in Omaha.

Casparius was a 4-year star for Staples, leading the Wreckers to the 2017 state championship. He was Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year, among other honors, and graduated as the state’s all-time hits leader.

Though just a freshman, he’s in the lineup as UNC’s designated hitter.

That’s quite a day.

Meanwhile, if you’re in Russia for the World Cup, please send us a report.

We want to cover all the bases.

(Hat tip: David Goldstein)

Local Golfer Advances At US Open

Fred Cantor loves sports — all sports. He wants to make sure that “06880” readers know there’s a Westport connection to the US Open golf tournament, taking place now on Long Island:

It’s not often that a local golfer beats out a group of luminaries in a golf major.

But that’s exactly what happened yesterday at the US Open. Cameron Wilson made the cut at Shinnecock Hills, while PGA Tour legends like Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson will not be playing this weekend.

Cameron Wilson

Cameron grew up in Rowayton. He’s the son of Dave Wilson, a 1975 Staples High School graduate who is still active in town. Cameron was the subject of an “06880” story 4 years ago when as a Stanford University senior he won the NCAA tournament.

He learned the game at Shorehaven, just over the Westport border.

Earning the right to play the final 2 rounds at any tournament is a tremendous achievement.

But making the cut at the US Open is even tougher than at most PGA events.

Normally, a golfer who is part of the low 70 scores (including ties) moves forward. The US Open cutoff is more stringent: Only the the best 60 scores qualify to play Saturday and Sunday.

Kudos to Cameron. Now you know who to root for this weekend!

Skip Lane Gets His Super Bowl Ring

Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.

To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.

One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs,” though “replacement player” is the preferred term — was Skip Lane.

He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.

Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.

In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.

But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.

Some fans wanted familiar players back.

When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.

That story was part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired in September. “Year of the Scab” explored the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network said.

Lane was featured frequently in the video. He mentioned his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.

Over the years, Lane had no contact at all with the Redskins.

But the ESPN documentary created a groundswell of support for righting a wrong: getting rings for the replacement players. Washington probably would not have reached the Super Bowl without them.

Yesterday — in a brief ceremony at the Redskins’ practice facility — Lane and his former teammates got their rings.

It took 31 years.

But it sure looks good.

Skip Lane shows his Super Bowl ring to current Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith.

Westport Historical Society Mystery Item #3

The Westport Historical Society’s most recent mystery object — part of a “Westport in 100 Objects”  exhibit that changes every 2 weeks — is a foot warmer.

Leiliani Fleming identified the circa-1850 item. She wins something from the gift shop.

The most common use of a foot warmer (aka foot stove) came during the 4- hour services held every Sunday in local churches, during the 17th and 18th centuries. At midday — when parishioners broke for lunch — they put fresh embers in their foot stoves, before heading back for more prayers and sermons.

Foot warmers were also used in unheated carriages or sleighs in the 18th and early 19th centuries. With the advent of rail travel, foot warmers migrated to trains.

When the ceramic hot water bottle came into use in the mid-19th century, and heating improved in homes and churches, the foot warmer was relegated to an antique reminder of earlier times.

(For more information on the “100 Objects” exhibit, click here.)

Staples Students Demand Action

In March, over 1,000 Staples High School students walked out of class. Massed in the fieldhouse, they honored the 17 slain students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and demanded sensible gun legislation.

It was a powerful display of activism. But many Westporters wondered whether the teenage leaders could sustain their momentum.

A month later, a smaller — but still substantial — group of students headed to the high school courtyard. In the afternoon, a few dozen assembled on Veterans Green, across from Town Hall.

Again, their message centered on stopping gun violence.

And again, the question hung: Are these kids in it for the long run?

They are.

Last month, Staples High School students stood in the courtyard to demand action on gun violence. (Photo/Ali Feder)

There’s now a Staples chapter of Students Demand Action. That’s the national organization — affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety — fighting for common sense gun reform and usage. Westport leaders include Elana Atlas, Audrey Bernstein, Ruby Coleman, Kaela Dockray, Brooke Kessler, Peri Kessler and Eliza Oren.

The end of the school year is in sight — the busiest time of year. Seniors have already headed off to internships.

But Students Demand Action are in the thick of things. They meet regularly, to strategize and plan activities.

Their first big event is a #WearOrange campaign. That’s the official color of gun violence — because it was what Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore to honor her. She was killed at age 15 — just a week after performing at President Obama’s 2nd inauguration.

On the weekend of June 1-3, the group will paint the town orange. It’s part of a nationwide effort.

“We’re fighting to take back power from the gun lobby,” says Staples chapter co-founder Elana Atlas.

“We would love for the rest of the community to fight with us as we demand action from legislators on a local, state and federal level, as well as businesses and schools to implement common-sense gun reforms. We need to end the epidemic of gun violence in America.”

(For more information, email westportstudentsdemand@gmail.com)

Mike Greenberg: Heidi And Phoebe’s MVP

Mike Greenberg gets up early.

Just after 4 each morning, he heads to New York. There he hosts “Get Up!”, ESPN’s new TV show.

Mike Greenberg

He’s used to those hours. For years, he traveled an hour in the other direction — to Bristol — for the “Mike & Mike Show.”

But this is not a story about Greenberg’s ESPN gigs.

It’s about how his friendship with a Westport neighbor led to a novel, a children’s book, and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to fight cancer.

Greenberg and his wife Stacy moved here in 1998. On the first day of pre-school a couple of years later, she met Heidi Armitage Green. Both women had 2-year-olds. Both were pregnant again.

They became close friends. So did Mike and Heidi’s husband Adam, and eventually both families’ kids. They shared ski vacations, dinners, and daily life in Westport.

Heidi’s life ended far too early. She died in 2009 of breast cancer. She touched many lives in town, and her memorial service at the Westport Country Playhouse was packed.

Heidi Armitage Green (2nd from left) with (from left) friends Wendy Gardiner, Jane Green and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, in 2009. Heidi and Jane were not related. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Her death made Greenberg “sad and angry,” Greenberg says. And it spurred the ESPN personality to write his first novel.

“All You Could Ask For” had nothing to do with sports. It chronicled the friendship, love, heartbreak and renewal of 3 women.

Greenberg donated 100% of the proceeds to the V Foundation — the cancer research organization founded by legendary basketball coach/ESPN broadcaster Jim Valvano. Since its publication in 2013, Greenberg’s book has raised over $150,000.

Still, he wanted to do more.

As Stacy’s Instagram posts of Phoebe — the family dog — drew attention, the couple thought of collaborating on a children’s book featuring the pet.

Mike and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, with (of course) Phoebe.

Around the same time, Dick Vitale — Valvano’s longtime friend and fellow ESPN broadcaster — asked Greenberg to be an honoree at Vitale’s V Foundation gala.  He is deeply involved in pediatric cancer research.

Bingo! 

Mike and Stacy Greenberg’s new book — “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” — was released this month. This one is a children’s picture book.

Again, 100% of the proceeds go to the V Foundation. This time, they’re earmarked for pediatric cancer.

The plot is clever — and based loosely on the Greenberg family. A girl wants to play sports, but is afraid to try. Phoebe knows, though — from watching her master talk about sports on TV. So the dog teaches a group of kids how to play soccer and football.

It’s a perfect, uplifting, “go for it!” children’s tale. The artwork is sensational. And even though it’s pitched at 4-8-year-olds, Greenberg says it can be read to younger ones too.

Writing a kids’ book is a lot different than a novel, the author notes.

He and his wife had to figure out the narrator’s voice. How would a dog talk?

Then they had to choose the perfect story to tell. They went through a dozen or so ideas, before settling on the canine-teaches-kids idea.

“MVP” is a winner. As soon as it was released, it zoomed to #1 on Amazon’s New Kids book list, and #3 among Movers and Shakers.

The Greenbergs have remained close to Heidi’s husband Adam, and their kids Walker and Georgia. At dinner a couple of weeks ago they celebrated publication of the book, and Walker’s upcoming Staples High School graduation.

“The kids are doing great,” Greenberg says. “But it still bothers me that they’ve grown up the last 9 years without their mother.”

Meanwhile, he and Stacy are thinking ahead.

Phoebe the dog has plenty of adventures — in real Westport life, and on the pages of kids’ books. Is a series in the works?

“She could do a million things,” Greenberg says.

“And 100% of the proceeds would go to the V Foundation.”

(To buy “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy,” click here.)

 

 

 

 

Westport Lifestyle: Read All About It!

Yesterday, I landed in nearly 10,000 Westport mailboxes.

Well, not “I,” exactly.

Westport Lifestyle — a new magazine — did.

But there I was, on pages 28 and 29.

With not only a great writeup, but a very cool photo by John Videler.

So, since Westport Lifestyle publisher Marisa MacLean was nice enough to profile me for her debut issue, the least I can do is the same for her, here.

Marisa MacLean

Marisa has a long career in advertising, media and sales. She thinks big: One of her projects was selling billboards in Times Square.

After taking a break from the corporate world for a few years to start a family — and moving to Westport — Marisa was eager to get back into media. Westport Lifestyle — part of national, Kansas City-based Lifestyle Publications — was the perfect vehicle.

Marisa spends her free time exploring Westport, and spending time with her husband, 2 kids, and Yorkie/Maltese mix, Max.

Her new magazine focuses on new restaurants, local businesses, charities and happenings in the 06880. Her goal is for readers to discover new things, while recognizing familiar people and places.

She’s on the lookout for interesting stories, and partners to feature. Email her: marisa.maclean@lifestylepubs.com.

Tell her the guy on pages 28 and 29 sent you.

(Click here for Westport Lifestyle’s online version.)

Moving Closer To The Kids

It was a tough move.

In 2016 Linda Gramatky Smith and her husband Ken sold their Roseville Road house. They’d lived there since 1993. And — from 1946 until she headed off to college — Linda grew up there.

It’s not just any house. Warm and comfortable, it’s got artistic bones. Her father, Hardie Gramatky, wrote and illustrated Little Toot, the beloved children’s classic, there. Andrew Wyeth called him one of America’s 20 greatest watercolorists.

The Smiths headed — a bit reluctantly — to New Jersey. They wanted to be closer to their widowed daughter, and her kids.

Two years later, all is well.

A story set for publication in Sunday’s New York Times real estate section — “The New Retirement: Near the Kids” — features Linda, Ken, and their new lives at the Cedar Crest Retirement Community in Pompton Plains.

Linda and Ken Smith, in their New Jersey home. (Photo/Stefano Ukmar for the New York Times)

 The article says:

In an uncannily prescient move, Mr. Smith, now 85, had put down a refundable deposit at Cedar Crest more than a decade ago, just in case they ever wanted to move there.

Living in one of these communities, of course, is not cheap. The Smiths paid an entrance fee of about $500,000, and their monthly rent is $4,500, which is not unusual, according to the AARP. The organization estimates that entrance fees typically range from $100,000 to $1 million, and monthly rents can be anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

For the Smiths, however, it was worth it. Ms. Smith, 75, was resistant at first about giving up their home, but did a “total 180,” she said, soon after moving in, not just because they were closer to their daughter and grandchildren, but because it had improved their quality of life.

She has returned to painting watercolors and is on the resident advisory council, and her husband sings in the chorale.

Linda and Ken’s many Westport friends will be heartened by the Times piece.

And, of course, New Jersey is not New Zealand. The Smiths return here often, for events and to see those friends.

One of their biggest concerns when they moved was that their house would be sold to someone who did not appreciate its history and livability.

It looks as good as ever.

60 Roseville Road — Ken and Linda Gramatky Smith’s beloved home.

SLOBS’ Service Sunday

It’s great to be a SLOB.

SLOBS — it stands for Service League of Boys — is one of Staples High School’s most popular clubs. Over 250 boys volunteer at more than 75 community events in Westport, Norwalk and Bridgeport, providing thousands of hours of service.

They collect and deliver food, toys, books, clothes, sports equipment, school supplies, coats, hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries. They donate to Puerto Rican relief, and Staples Tuition Grants.

But their big event occurs every spring: Service Sunday. Today — for the 9th year in a row — SLOBS and their parents worked on a variety of projects. They were everywhere in town. They also donated over $5,000 in supplies to the Read and Cesar Batalla Schools in Bridgeport, and a sexual assault crisis center in Stamford.

Among the SLOBS and their sites:

Weeding, mulching and planting at A Better Chance of Westport’s Glendarcy House.

Repairing deer enclosures, cleaning the butterfly garden and bird areas, and improving trails, plus moving lots of dirt and wood to get Earthplace ready for spring and summer.

Cleaning, weeding and planting at the Green Village Initiative community garden in Bridgeport.

Cleaning a playground and pumping up bicycle tires; managing a Wii tournament for kids, and organizing the resource center and clothing area at Open Door Shelter in Norwalk.

They also weeded, mulched, planted and cleaned outdoor toys at 3 Homes With Hope properties on Wassell Lane; planted shrubs and small trees at the Smith Richard Preserve; hauled and spread compost in planting beds, turned soil, and laid irrigation lines at Wakeman Town Farm, and helped ready shopping bags for a food drive organized by postal workers in Norwalk.

So how did you spend your Sunday?

Westport Neighbors Unite

A group of Westporters is serious about blocking an 81-unit housing development, proposed for Post Road West between Cross Street and Riverside Avenue.

They’ve organized. They’ve held meetings, and spoken at public sessions. They’ve ordered yard signs.

Now they’ve got a website.

Westport Neighbors United’s message is direct. On the home page, they warn: “81-Unit Industrial Scale Apartment Complex with 146 Car Parking Deck Planned for this Turn-of-the-Century Neighborhood.”

They cite potential problems: traffic congestion, problematic police and fire access, “unavoidable” water runoff and environment issues, destruction of a historic “gateway” to town, and pedestrian safety for nearby schools, churches and childcare centers.

There’s a link to project details, a request for donations, and information on upcoming meetings (up next: Historic District Commission, May 8, 7 p.m., Town Hall Room 201).

But most effective may be a rendering. Juxtaposing photos of 2 old homes on Riverside with an artist’s interpretation of the housing behind, it dominates the website:

(Click here for the Westport Neighbors United website. Click here for their Facebook page.)