second-, and third-generation Irish and Italian Americans bonded with Jews, connecting on ball fields and sandlots here and in neighboring Port Chester. Young Italians from “the Port,” as we called it in button-down Rye, often cruised Milton Road on Friday nights, beating the shit out of us Irish guys in madras shorts, pink shirts, and deck shoes. I don’t blame them now. I grew up with an ethnic mix in Rye and Port Chester, regular guys like Tommy Casey, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, Vinny Dempsey, Jimmy Dianni, Billy St. John, Tony Keating, Ritchie O’Connell, Al Wilson, Brian Keefe, Chuck Drago, Dino Garr, Carlo Castallano, Rocco LaFaro, Tancredi Abnavoli, Dante Salvate, Ronald Carducci, Ritchie Breese, Micky Di- Carlo, and yes, Ricky Blank, one of the most gifted Jewish shortstops I’ve ever known. Many of us played organized baseball on the In Alzheimer’s, brain cells in charge of short-termmemory are losing the war. But long-term memory is still safely tucked away in a relatively peaceful neighborhood. same teams together after we realized that an in- field rundown was more fun than a slap down— later communally on a hold-your-breath, mix- and-match Rye/Port Chester All-Star Team that twice won the New York State Senior Babe Ruth League Championship with two trips to the Se- nior Babe Ruth League World Series regional tournament—a non sequitur of young jocks if there ever was one. In time, we all became best of friends. Six of our starters signed major league contracts. I was among those who didn’t, but as a catcher, faithfully wore the tools of igno- rance, first presented in the third grade at a Pony League practice. Rye was a melting pot, boiled to perfec- tion by the nuns. The town was predomi- nately WASP—a hornet’s nest, in fact, with three Presbyterian churches and one Catholic church, as well as a synagogue. But you could have fooled us fraternal Catholics, who repro-
duced like rabbits. We were tokens, often looked down upon in social circles, at the country clubs, and in line for groceries at the A&P, but we thought we owned the damn place. And in spirit, we did. Excerpted with permission from ON PLUTO: Inside the Mind of Alzheim- er’s (Codfish Press; September 2014; $15.99). *
Greg O’Brien has more than 35 years of news- paper and magazine experience as a writer, editor, investigative reporter, and publisher. In 2009, he was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. In his memoir, ON PLUTO: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, he speaks freely about what it is like to lose your mind and to see slices of your very identity slipping away piece by piece.
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