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I was inducted into the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame on Nov. 26, 2011. A number of readers have asked that I post my acceptance speech. While there were “on the fly” changes, here is the essence of my comments:
Congratulations to all of the inductees, the All-South Jersey team, scholarship recipients and others who have received recognition here today and will shortly.
A special expression of gratitude to my colleague and friend – and a true professional in every way, Dan Baker – for taking time away from his family on this holiday weekend to introduce today’s inductees.
A few weeks ago, Hall of Famer and former Cherry Hill East coach Dave Martin pulled me aside and said, “Larry, getting into the Hall is special. It probably won’t hit you until you start to speak.”
Well Dave, it did hit me as I started to prepare these remarks, and thought about my high school coach Bob Minnick and the influence he had on my life.
Then I reminisced about one game in particular. It was on a Sunday afternoon…July 8, 1962. That day is indelible in my mind. It was played at Medford’s Bunting Field. In those days, there was NO fence.
That’s the day I got a pretty lucky hit – a first inning, two out, bases loaded triple – off of Moorestown’s Ron Goodwin in the Del Val All-Star game. I didn’t take many pitches and jumped on a first pitch, fast ball, low and away…and swung late…hitting it just inside the right field line into a backyard.
For me to get a triple, the ball had to go a long way. Saying I was slow is an understatement.
My dad worked 16 hours a day…seven days a week and rarely made it to my games. And even though this was a Sunday, he was working. On this day, however, he left his store early and as I got up from my slide into third, there he was getting out of his truck…and I could hear him and my grandmother both yelling…Larry boy.
– O –
When our daughter Julie – who flew in from Atlanta last night for today – told our 8-year-old granddaughter Alana about my going into this Hall of Fame, Alana said, “Mommy, Pops has the best life. If ever I have to interview someone, I want it to be him.”
It has been the best life, because I have been pretty lucky. And that is the theme of my remarks today.
While my parents are no longer with us, my sisters and I were lucky enough to have them into their mid to late 80s – and they were rather healthy until the end.
Like others in this room, my parents taught me a number of traits that have led to this recognition by the Hot Stovers.
Certainly…both taught my sisters and me that hard work pays off. And while my father was working those 16 hour days, Mom taught us the meaning…of the word…luck and being lucky. We call them Momisms. Among them, “if you dream it, you can achieve it.” And, many times, achieving one’s dream takes luck.
As I share with my students, luck is “preparation meeting opportunity.”
So, I share this – especially with the younger players in this room. How lucky was I??? – remembering – luck is PREPARATION meeting OPPORTUNITY.
I was born to great parents who supported my every move and decision…even when we didn’t agree – such as when I decided to take up an offer to play baseball at a small college baseball powerhouse in…of all places…Iowa. I had never been away from South Jersey.
Parsons College played a 100 game schedule. Fortunately for me, I got hurt. And on May 23, 1966, when the local radio station that carried our games needed a color announcer on short notice, I was ready…and said yes when asked if had ever announced before. That was a stretch, though. The announcing I did was the football and basketball PA at Pennsauken High School, but I always wanted to be in radio…that is…if I couldn’t play professional baseball.
That tiny fib about announcing, transitioned me from my baseball to radio career. I was lucky – I was prepared when opportunity came calling.
The luck didn’t stop there. It carried over to a Drama Appreciation class at Parsons, where a blonde freshman said yes …when I invited her out for coffee after that first class of the semester. Remember Ballard Hall?
So, to that blonde – my wife Nancy (there she is) – thank you for putting up with my baseball, my radio reporting, my umpiring and my working with literally several thousand Rowan University students over the years.
So, why am I here? Why am I being recognized by this outstanding organization? They tell me it’s for my contributions as a sports announcer and writer…covering many high school and college games…my career as an umpire and…as a player – a little bit.
Since it’s umpiring that is first and foremost…and I am thrilled to see so many of my colleagues today and am always honored to take the field with them…here are two recollections …or anecdotes from those 35 years.
One was a couple of years ago. I had just finished a Carpenter Cup game and was heading to the car. I had to make a quick stop at one of those PortaPotties in the parking lot. I did knock, but quickly opened the unlocked door and there was a woman inside.
When she came out, I assured her…I hadn’t seen a thing. Without hesitation, she shot back…Oh, I know you didn’t. I just saw you umpire THAT game.
My other recollection goes back many years. My wife Nancy and I had been invited to a wedding in Glassboro and accepted the invite. In the meantime, I had gotten a call to umpire the plate in a Diamond Classic semi-final at Camden County College – Overbrook and Washington Township. How could I pass that up? And, anyway, I told my wife, it’s really not that far from the catering hall.
So, on an incredibly hot, humid day, I wore a blue blazer to the wedding with my umpire’s pants and finished dressing at the field. It was a great game. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember…the score was 1-0. The game took only one hour and five minutes. As we were walking back to the car, my partner… Richie Brasch…said, you know, Larry, you have time to go back to the wedding. They’ll think you just were in the bathroom. So, I did. As I walked back into hall, my wife looked “stunned,” and the bride’s father, my boss…looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you’re OK. You were gone for a while and you look a bit sweaty.” …Yes, preparation meeting opportunity. I have never told that story, publicly. I was lucky he never found out.
So, how did I get here???…Through the unending and infinite support of my family. You have already met my wife, Nancy, and now meet our daughter, Julie, a second grade teacher in Atlanta, wife of Billy Kramer…who are proud parents of 8-year-old Alana and 5-year-old Aidan; our son Dr. Adam Seth Litwin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and his wife Claire, and my sister Janice and her husband…who is the brother I never had, Steve Barbell, who was among those who nominated me for this incredible honor.
Also at the table…E-J Campbell. E-J represents the thousands of Rowan students who drive and challenge me each day. From the very first night I had E-J in class he has called me coach. And, like many of you in this room, I have been called a lot of things…good and bad…including Dad, Pops and BLUE. But nothing…nothing…resonates more than when a student calls me coach.
So, thank you to the Hot Stovers and all of my students, my family and to all of you coaches who inspire me to do what I do.
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