It came as a shock to me last week when word came on Facebook that Marty Adler had died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 76. He was not a household name in the world of baseball fandom but he sure touched the lives of people who knew him.
A retired junior high school principal from Brooklyn, Marty Adler singlehandedly created a Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Fame to preserve the legacy of the team of his youth. His passion was the primary reason why IS 320 was named in 1977 after Jackie Robinson. The building bordered where the third base stands of Ebbets Field, destroyed by a wrecker’s ball in 1960, once stood.
I met Marty when I hosted “Seventh Inning Stretch” on WBAI- Pacifica Radio during the 1980s. He knew his Brooklyn Dodger history intimately as only a real fan could. He praised Bruce Edwards as an under-appreciated catcher on the 1947 Dodgers during Robinson’s rookie season. He was tireless in promoting Gil Hodges for Cooperstown, a cause still not completed. It was Marty who years later pointed out to me that the hustling Dodger in a photo in the Brooklyn Cyclones gallery was shortstop Charley Gelbert - (I had only known of Gelbert as a St. Louis Cardinal whose career was cut short by a hunting accident.)
For almost every year from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s Marty organized ceremonies at “Welcome Back to Brooklyn” Day in Prospect Park. Adler also planned many dinners to honor returning Dodger heroes and some of their rivals.
At one of these events Bobby Thomson even apologized for causing so much pain to Brooklynites. (I’m not one of those who believes in the overhyped story that Thomson knew what pitch was coming from Ralph Branca on 10/3/1951, but that is a discussion for another time.)
Marty was responsible for two of my favorite stories. The first must have happened in 1985 when my sciatica first flared up and I limped over to Brooklyn to interview the year’s honorees. Mickey Owen, the catcher known for missing third strike in the 1941 World Series, was one of the returning heroes. He was still quite an athlete, intent on becoming the oldest ever to run marathons. There I was decades his junior hobbling around with my tape recorder while he offered exercise advice on strengthening the muscles around my back.
The second story is about Marty pointing out to one of his young sons the housing project on the hallowed ground of Ebbets Field.
“The Dodgers once played there,” he said.
“Yeah, Dad?” came the reply. “What floor?”
There was a wonderful outpouring of emotion for Marty Adler at the packed funeral in Woodbury, Long Island on Tuesday August 13th. Never have I heard such laughter amidst the tears.
I hope the memory of a kind, honest, sports-loving, and sports-participating man is bringing consolation to his wife and childhood sweetheart Linda, their two sons and the grandchildren he doted on. The family suggests that donations in his name can be given to the Sloan-Kettering hospital in Manhattan.
THIS ‘N’ THAT ON THE BASEBALL SCENE
**How hot have the LA Dodgers been? Until they lost on Sunday Aug 18 and Monday Aug 19 they had not lost back-to-back games all summer. They seem to have a secure lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
**Superscout Don Welke, a special assistant these days for the Texas Rangers, observed recently that he used to think assessing prospects was a 75:25::talent:makeup proposition.
Now he feels it is more like 55:45. Not surprising given how publicized the world of baseball is these days. The need for having a stable makeup and a solid work ethic is greater than ever.
That’s all for now. As I feared the Orioles’ playoff chances are slipping away but there is still some faint hope among the true believers that they can start the kind of winning streak they really haven’t enjoyed all year. "Love is blind," I guess.
No words of wisdom on the A-Rod/A-Roid controversy. Except let the hearings play out and remember that the evidence against him was purchased from a source who will not come to arbitration or court with clean hands.
Remember even more that nothing can kill baseball – though many owners, players and pundits continually try to do it.
And most of all, always remember: Take it easy but take it!