Commentary: On Stamford Senior Legion, Stamford North And Frank Gifford

The Stamford Senior Legion team had a lot to celebrate this summer, falling just one win shy of a state title. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The Stamford Senior Legion team had a lot to celebrate this summer, falling just one win shy of a state title. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Taking my first time off while healthy in nearly two years reinforced the need to get away and recharge the batteries. (I liked it so much I think I will do it again next week before the start of a new FCIAC sports season.)

Though the writing tools were shelved, that doesn’t mean the eyes and ears were shut down.

To wit, some observations on recent events:

— This was the best summer for Stamford youth baseball in recent memory, though it also underscored that the glory years we remember will be relegated to the scrapbooks and probably never experienced again.

The Stamford Senior Legion team fell just one game shy of winning the state tournament. It was both a strong showing but a tremendous disappointment for a team that fell just short of the bar set for itself.

It was a reminder of the days when Babe Ruth was the dominant program in the city and consistently attracted capacity crowds at Cubeta Stadium when hosting state, regional and World Series tournaments as Stamford proved baseball was then the dominant sport. It showed the kind of talent that would be fielded if this was a one-team town during the high school season.

This year’s Legion team got contributions from four high schools and was a true All-Star squad.

Still it toiled in relative anonymity, evidence that packed crowds at Cubeta, unfortunately, will likely never happen again. Stamford is still a somewhat fractured baseball city, with so many different options in the sport, and more skilled athletes now playing lacrosse. Then again, short of a high school football team playing for the FCIAC title — if such a game exists past this fall — it is hard to see a scenario where any sporting event is a must-see occasion.

That should in no way diminish what the Senior Legion team accomplished this summer. Having so much talent wearing the same uniform was a refreshing memory of an era that will just not be recreated.

— Perhaps even more compelling was the run by the Stamford North Little League team, a unit ironically put together by the consolidation of programs because fewer players are involved in the sport. Stamford North advanced to the state tournament before being eliminated, drawing huge crowds to the Springdale field and winning games both in dominant and dramatic fashion.

The team was again led by Bobby Robustelli, who was the choice of Stamford High athletic director Jim Moriarty to take over as baseball coach before a formal protest led to the installation of assistant Rit Lacomis, who guided the Black Knights to their first FCIAC Tournament appearance in six years.

We will never know if Stamford would have had the same success with Robustelli, but we do know what he can do with Little League players who have the combination of skill and work ethic. More importantly, many of the players under Robustelli’s tutelage will end up playing for the city’s high school teams some day, which bodes well for the future.

All in all, a good summer for Stamford baseball.

— Just a few words about Frank Gifford, the New York Giants legend who passed away yesterday. You will get more informed remembrances elsewhere, but I met him enough times to feel comfortable expressing a few thoughts.

I saw Gifford at several celebrity events, called him on a few occasions when something of Giants note happened, like the passing of Andy Robustelli, the Stamford native and fellow Hall of Famer, and a couple of times got to sit with him at Giants games in one of the team’s boxes.

On all occasions, one constant: Gifford was always a gentleman, handling his celebrity without an ounce of ego. He likely was always the nicest person in the room and made those who gravitated his way feel like an old friend.

Gifford’s extensive resume gave both columnists and obituary writers extensive material over the past 24 hours. The lasting memory here is of a man with both great humility and an understanding of true humanity.