Sports Mailbag… Sports eulogy
Phil Stewart passed away recently. I remember him because, in the early 1960s, we worked together at Sylvania, fished for trout together, and played basketball and fast-pitch softball together along with others. I have fond memories of all that.
Even before then, in 1954, I remember Phil when we ran track together for Warren High School. But I only remember the backside of him and the flying cleats of his shoes because I could never beat him or Dick Shuler in the 440. The three of us teamed up with Bud Confer to make up Coach Loyal Briggs’ mile relay team.
Because of Phil’s high-pitched voice and speed afoot, he developed the nickname “Chickadee,” but it was commonly shortened to “Chick.” He was very competitive and a good team player. Except for bunting, which was crucial in fast-pitcher softball. When there was a man on, Chick had a tough time getting it down for a sacrifice bunt.
However, when no one expected it, he would hold the bat parallel to the ground, high – at shoulder height, pick out a high pitch and deftly lay one down. Hardly any third baseman, pitcher or catcher could throw him out at first base because of his quickness. He could cover the 60 feet in a flash.
I remember once while playing softball in the Bradford-Olean-Warren league, Chick was in center field, his usual position because of his speed, and he took off to catch a high, deep drive hit over his head. His back was to home plate and his head looking up for the ball. He didn’t see the center field (snow) fence until he hit it with his chest, running full tilt. He flipped over the fence and landed on his back outside the field. Did he catch the ball? I don’t remember. But that’s how determined he was to win.
More recently while at Winterfest I remember him trembling, a result of his long battle with Parkinson’s disease, while ice-fishing for trout at Chapman State Park, clad in his warm blaze-orange suit and hat. He was a determined fisherman, too.
I’ll miss Chick. Warren County has lost a good sport and sportsman.
Bill Massa, Warren