Marlboro senior softball league still travels the bases despite injury, diminishing numbers

By Brad Stratton
Staff Writer

SINCE its creation, softball has shown to be an ageless game where grown men can pretend they are boys again. The senior citizen softball league in Marlboro is proof of that.

In actuality, it’s more of a pick-up game than a league, as there are only 10 members in the group. But this group meets on Saturday mornings during the summer to hit some pitches and play the field.

It’s a light-hearted atmosphere, a chance for men in their 60s, 70s and 80s to gather together and just have a good time.

“We hit a few, and we field a few,” Bob Quarto said. “We get a little tired, and we go home.”

The league meets from June to late August at the ball fields at the Union Hill Road Park. The 10 members pay fees to use the fields, which has upset some of the players.

“We play on a dangerous field,” said Lester Golden, who referred to a dry water hole in the right-handed batter’s box as “Lake Marlboro.”

The bulk of the league’s membership resides in Greenbriar at Marlboro, a senior-citizen community located in Marlboro. Many of them also grew up in Brooklyn, although those not from Brooklyn were quick to point that out.

“I’m a Bronx boy,” Harvey Rich said.

The group first began meeting to play 16 years ago. Back then, the group had enough players to field three teams. But in those 16 years, the league’s membership has diminished. Failing health or players who move away have contributed to the lower number of participants.

“There are 776 homes in (Greenbriar), and there’s a bowling league, a bocce league and shuffleboard,” Golden said. “Over the years, we had 30 guys that played. But they passed away, moved to Florida, or got hurt, and (membership) has gone down.”

The league contains a number of different characters, quick to crack Viagra jokes and other interesting anecdotes.

When someone playing first base left his post to take some batting practice, Rich filled the position.

“Remember what happened to Wally Pipp,” making reference to the Yankees’ first baseman who sat out of a game in 1925 and gave way to Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive-games streak.

The league is also an opportunity for the players to show off their skills, some of which are still impressive. Ben Fonte made a nice underhand catch in left-field, and Wally Waldman batted and played right-field, all with a cigar in his mouth.

For many of the seniors, baseball and softball have been part of their lives since childhood.

“I played when I was a kid, but then we all went to work and stopped playing,” Golden said. “And then we retired and went back to playing.”

“(Growing up), I played a great deal of baseball and softball,” said Quarto, who grew up in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. “I grew up with a ball in my hand.

“The first time I came out here, I was amazed to see people playing. And I said, “This reminds me of Brooklyn, so I had to come out here and play.’ And I’ve enjoyed it every year since then.”

But with a membership of only 10 players, some of the seniors wish for something more.

“It would be nice to have some competition and play against some of the other senior communities,” Quarto said. “It would be a little more interesting. There are other senior developments other than Greenbriar, and it would be nice to play intercommunity games.”

The remaining players have shown an incredible commitment to the group, as they continue playing despite some health concerns. One such example is that of Al Caso, who is putting off surgery on his knees.

“If I have them done, then I have to be out for at least five or six months,” Caso said. “And I know (the group) needs me. So I’ll wait until I get a little older.”

Quarto is another senior not ready to call it quits.

“As long as I can walk and swing the bat, I think I’ll come down and play,” he said.

Asbury Park Press (Marlboro-Manalapan Reporter) – September 6, 2001