WAYLAND — Most of the players on the field were kids when “The Kid” was a rookie patrolling right field at Fenway Park in 1939.
Their athletic careers are in extra innings, but these old boys can still play.
“You get to be pretty cocky when you get to this age and you can still hit the ball and run a bit and just get out and play, that’s the bottom line,” says John Stewart, 82, organizer of the Eastern Massachusetts Senior Softball Association tournament, in which most of the players were 80 and older.
Frank Marcel, 78, of Worcester played fast-pitch softball in Germany with the Air Force after World War II. He plays all winter long in Florida. Last Sunday, he smacked a walkoff single in extra innings to beat Springfield.
What would he say to someone telling him he’s too old to play softball? Marcel was definitely not Marceau in his answer.
“I’d tell ’em to go to hell,” he says. “Come down and watch us play and you’ll see. Do we look 80? It surprises a lot of people the first time they see us play.”
Frank Birch, 73, a fan from Worcester, agrees.
“People expect players to be [leaning on] two tennis balls in front of a walker, and that’s not the case,” he says. “There are some people here who can outrun most 40-year-olds.”
The tournament marked the first time that the four major senior softball groups in the state — representing Eastern Mass., Worcester, Springfield, and tourney champ Cape Cod — have met with mostly 80-plus players.
Teams were allowed to have four players age 79 and three age 78. The oldest player was Worcester’s captain, Ray Louring, 89 years young.
The rules allow for double bases at first and home to avoid collisions. Camaraderie is key, but there is no beer drinking.
“We’re past that,” says Marcel. “We’d get drunk on one or two beers.”
The old-timers don’t approach this as an Old-Timers Game.
“We are very serious athletes playing a competitive game,” Stewart wrote in an e-mail. “We care about winning and losing.”
‘Do we look 80? It surprises a lot of people the first time they see us play.’
Carl Forsman, 79, of Worcester, plays the hot corner with style. He has had back surgeries, both knees totally done over, and shoulder surgery. But he adopts the philosophy of ancient sage Yogi Berra, 89.
“Why am I playing ball?” he asks. “’Cause I ain’t down under yet.”Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.