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We’re 89—Let’s Play Softball!
In 1932, while our country was amid the Great Depression, two infants entered this world with vastly different roots, one in New Jersey and the other in Florida. Both followed their attraction to the baseball diamonds. Each has become a softball legend, while together they have formed an eternal friendship.
In 1940, a Black minister held his eight-year-old son’s hand as they strolled through the turnstiles entering Ebbets Field. The child’s eyes opened wide as he absorbed the view of the bright lights, the dazzling white uniforms of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the sweet scent of newly manicured grass, and the buzz of nearly 32,000 fans.
At that moment, young Les Taylor pledged he would become a part of baseball. His family had survived the Great Depression, so he had a youthful understanding of hardship and some of the requirements of life ahead of him. But he promised himself he would find the time to play and improve his skills at the game he loved.
He returned to his home in Plainfield, New Jersey. Little League wasn’t yet available for America’s youth, so Les sought every opportunity to enjoy baseball in sandlot and pickup games. He was hooked, and baseball surrounded him. Through his father’s church, he got to know Joe Black, who earned National League Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1952, then started and won a World Series game for the Brooklyn Dodgers that same year. While Les played tournament ball with the Georgia Crackers, he competed against Jake Wood, who later developed into the starting second baseman for the Detroit Tigers. Jake was the first Black player who came up through Detroit’s farm system when he began the 1961 season with the Motor City’s team.
As life often does, it interrupted his pursuit of baseball when he entered the Army. After serving his term, he attended North Carolina Central University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in social science. By 1959, the Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles, leaving Ebbets Field vacant. Still, he felt the tugging allure of Brooklyn. It was there he married his college sweetheart, Carnell, and the couple settled near the former home of his beloved Dodgers, where they raised their four children over the next thirty-five years. For Les, even though a big league team was no longer in town, he always sensed baseball was in the air. Perhaps the spirits of early Dodger greats, such as Dazzy Vance and Branch Rickey, or the souls of some of the initial Black Major League players like Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, found their way back to their baseball home.
During that time, Les Taylor evolved from playing baseball to softball. He perfected the Brooklyn two-step, a hitter’s maneuver to take two quick strides to meet a sinking softball at a better height to send hard line drives into the outfield. He still has the occasion to use that same swing today.
He continued to play softball as often as possible, even while he held down two jobs and helped his wife, Carnell, raise their family. Les used his college degree and innate ability to guide people as he advanced in his career in social services. He became a teacher for the New York City Board of Education. As a second job, for eighteen years he was the Director of Pink Houses Senior Center. Of course, he still carved out time for softball, and was an active player and manager in the Social Services League.
He retired in 1992, purchased a home in the northern Atlanta suburbs where he and Carnell relocated in 1995. Shortly after they moved in, his wife sent him on an errand to a hardware store and Les stopped at a Publix supermarket on his way back. It was there he spotted a bulletin board with a note seeking anyone over fifty who might be interested in playing softball, stating they should inquire at nearby Hobgood Park. Once there, he discovered a few older guys playing a pickup game on a Little League diamond, and learned their names were Jerry and Bill King, not related. They invited him to play, and those days were the beginnings of the Cherokee Senior Softball Association (CSSA), and Les became instrumental in its development. Both Bill King and Jerry King will be featured in separate stories of their own in our series soon.
As Les helped that league grow, he was also active in traveling softball, where he played for many teams. It was there he met and played with Dorman Lane, a player with outstanding baseball knowledge who taught the intricacies of softball management to Les.
During his years on those traveling teams, Les felt he was privileged to play with and with several outstanding players, including Carl Brown, who remains active in the CSSA. While Les was a member of the Georgia Crackers Softball Team for over five years, he often encountered Howard Schoen, star second baseman of the Georgia Peaches. Howard is another active player of the current CSSA who will be highlighted in our upcoming articles.
2001 was a banner year for this young-at-heart senior player. His traveling team, with Carl Brown a member, competed in the AAA level of the 65+ tournaments. That year, his team won the three separate World Series of the ASA, USA and USSSA, a Triple Crown of senior softball. In the final game of what became the team’s third championship, Les drove in six runs with a double and a triple. In addition, the CSSA recognized Les’ overall contributions and performance for their organization, and honored him with the Arnold Fowler Award.
So here we are in 2021, and one can still watch this softball legend play in two leagues of the CSSA at Hobgood Park, twenty-six years after its formation. Beyond that, think back to when Les began in organized softball, and realize he has passed his 60th year in uniform.
Following the lead of their preacher grandfather, two of Les’ four children have joined the ranks of the ministry. While three of his children live in the New York area and one in Detroit, it is a testimony to his devotion to his family that at least one of his offspring will often visit Les and Carnell here in Georgia. That sixty-three-year marriage has remained strong, with the four children adding ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren to the Taylor clan.
Throughout it all, with the occasional hiccup for human ailments, Les Taylor remains dedicated to the sport, which became part of his essence when the lights of Ebbets Fields illuminated his smiling face in 1940. Even now, at age 89, Les Taylor sits in the dugout after yet another contest and gazes out at the diamond with a wide grin. With a slight twinkle in his eye, he’ll look up at you and say, “Let’s play another one.”
Imagine signing a contract to play professional baseball, then being drafted into the Army a mere two months later. Howard Schoen took it in stride as just another life challenge.
He began his baseball dream at Miami Senior High School. As a teenager, Howard was a diminutive figure, undersized compared to most of his classmates. Still, his friend Stan encouraged him to try out for the high school baseball team.
At that time, the high school baseball team was coached by Charlie Tate, who advanced to become head football coach for the University of Miami Hurricanes, and later was an assistant coach in the National Football League. In those positions, Coach Tate had many public speaking opportunities and often shared his viewpoint how this teenager of slight build changed the way he judged players.
The coach didn’t give the kid serious consideration to make the team, so decided he would personally hit fungoes to make quick order of this distraction. Howard caught every ball hit in his direction, moving with quickness to his left and right, demonstrating incredible range. Tate reluctantly added Schoen to the roster, but didn’t expect the kid would get much playing time. He just knew this short, slender player would fail in game conditions.
That didn’t happen. The coach gradually awarded Howard more playing time, proving himself in every instance. After the sixth game, with limited game experience but exceptional performance, Howard won the starting second baseman slot. Over the next three seasons, Howard played flawless ball, and he never made an error. As a reward, wiry Howard Schoen received a baseball scholarship to the University of Miami.
Once there, he continued to perform admirably. In 1953, the team named him the captain of that Miami Hurricanes squad. He proved to Charlie Tate and other skeptics he could play second base with the best of them. He continues to amaze as the starting second baseman for his senior softball team. Howard’s now 89.
Growing up in south Florida, Howard Schoen was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. This was partly because St. Louis got the attention of much of the fan base in the south in the 1950s, plus future Hall of Famer Red Schoendist was the second baseman for the Cardinals. Many pointed out their name similarities. Even so, Howard’s favorite player was Enos Slaughter, a Cardinal Hall of Famer known for his aggressive style of play. When Howard moved to Georgia, he changed his allegiance to the hometown Braves.
He joined his father’s furniture manufacturing company, but after graduating college, chose a career as a business representative for benefit sales to employers, selling plans for health, disability, and dental. While his military service sidetracked his baseball career, he made the best of his circumstances by playing softball and baseball for the First Army team.
Once discharged from the Army, Howard stepped into a pattern of traveling for his employer in the Southeast while managing his schedule to play baseball and softball with a bit of time set aside to help raise his family. He played on senior traveling teams for a remarkable 38 years. Besides playing, Howard was also active as a Little League Baseball manager, then became the President of the Little League branch in Maitland, Florida.
In tournament play, he competed several times against Les Taylor, particularly when Howard was a member of the Georgia Peaches, one of the perennial favorites in tournament competition. The manager of the Peaches was Charlie Blackburn, who later joined the Cherokee Senior Softball Association (CSSA) here in Woodstock.
Each year, the major softball organizations, the Softball Players of America (SPA), American Softball Association (ASA), and the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) host their World Series, with age categories. On five occasions, Howard received the Defensive Most Valuable Player (MVP) in those series. For most players, they would consider one such award a lifetime achievement.
From his new home in Georgia, he drove to Chattanooga, TN, to play second base for the JayCee Choos. It was there he met Farrell Sparks, who told Howard about the CSSA, much closer to Howard’s home. That was 19 years ago, and Howard is still going strong. For most of those years, he was fortunate that teammate Bob Witzel (who wrote the by-laws of the CSSA) became his great friend. Together, they have carpooled that forty-mile one-way trip, and the CSSA has always made accommodations to keep them on the same team. It seems fate continues to allow Howard a path to play softball.
In the CSSA, Howard played under the direction of Bill Kemp for many years, who he considers one of the best managers he ever had. During these years, Howard received the MVP award in his league on two occasions.
According to Howard, he would have quit softball years ago, but credits fellow CSSA player and umpire, Ray McClure, with inspiring him to continue.
Howard was a switch-hitter at the plate for most of his career, and is an avid golfer. Several years ago, it miffed him when his golf game deteriorated. His golf pro suggested he stop hitting right-handed. Surprisingly, his golf swing corrected and now he throws right, and bats left. Even more remarkable is the improvement in his golf swing, and Howard is now a single digit handicap player. Yes, Howard is indeed 89 years old.
As folks learn Howard is in the Senior Softball Hall of Fame in the Half-Century Association in Florida, they all conclude this is his most cherished accomplishment. But Howard disagrees. Instead, he is most honored by the fact his employer and family have accepted his on-field endeavors. He recognizes life has blessed him with the good fortune of sharing the field with so many talented players on some fantastic teams. Howard believes his accomplishments have not come from his efforts alone, and credits the guidance of his faith and beliefs.
He and wife Karen have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Great grandchildren? Coming soon.
As I sat and watched this legend on the field, a high-pitched whistle occasionally haunted me. At first, I thought the sound was coming from another field, or a spectator. After an inning was over, I focused on the sound’s origin and tracked it to the third base coach. Howard. Seems he’s been whistling his entire life, whether he’s in a game or sitting at home. It’s part of his essence. Someday, in the far distant future, Howard will retire. I plan to return to Hobgood Park and just listen. I believe I’ll hear his whistle echoing over the diamonds, and Howard will be near second base, eager to play.
Written by Marty Aftewicz
CSSA BOARD MEETING
September 20, 2021
The monthly meeting of the CSSA was held September 20, 2021, at GameDay
Grill, and called to order by Norm Thiem at 6:30 PM.
Members present: Ray DeLuca, Dick O’Conner, Robbie Crider, John Humeston,
Bob Werner, Norm Thiem, Mike Parson, Andy Tubbs, Dewey Hom & Randy
Absent: Brad Tafoya & Leland Brown
A. Minutes from August 9, 2021 meeting were discussed & approved.
B. BOD’s discussed the budget for trophies, championship shirts and other end of
the year awards.
C. Budget was presented, and the current balance is $30,887. This includes
approx. $5000 earmarked for charitable purposes and not part of the general
operating budget. Our goal is to have a cash balance of $10,000 to pay for the first
of the year expenses including insurance, softballs, uniforms & field rentals. With
projected expenses through the remainder of the 2021 season, the balance
should be approximately $15,659. This balance will be used to get the 2022 CSSA
season off and running.
D. The contact information on ALL players must be updated ASAP. Due to player
injuries, illness, etc, the rosters have been extremely hard to keep accurate. ALL
league directors need to contact their managers and have them get all of their
players information up to date and corrected as needed. Any questions or
changes to the rosters can be addressed to Norm at the following e‐mail address:
E. Current changes to the CRPA (Cherokee Recreation & Parks Association):
1. Camille is no longer the Park Director;
2. Shawn Schumaher has been appointed as the new Park Director;
3. CRPA is interested in moving Skip Wells league to Hobgood Park;
4. CRPA is interested in making a new league for ages 40‐49 as a feeder
system for the CSSA
5. CPRA interested in allowing CSSA use of the extra field, at Hobgood Park,
on Thursday nights to be used for make‐up games.
F. Banquet is scheduled for Tuesday, November 16, 2021 from 6:30 – 9:30 PM.
1. Banquet location ‐ Fendley Farmstead;
2. Ticket sales will begin the week of October 4th;
3. All ticket sales MUST be completed by October 31st in order to have an
accurate head count… NO SALES AT DOOR;
4. Ticket prices are: $25 for player and $15 for each guest;
5. Players OVER 80 will be admitted FREE;
6. We will try to use a credit card system for payments if a program can be
instituted over the next two weeks. If not, checks and/or cash will be accepted;
7. The banquet will also have some surprises and a new award;
8. We ask that everyone attending the banquet to bring at least 1
unwrapped toy to be used for: All Children Deserve a Christmas.
G. The BOD is looking for volunteers to run for a board position for 2022. It also
asks that all current board members should try to get at least 1 person to run for
an officer position. Players may also nominate themselves for a position.
Nominations should be turned into anyone of the BOD’s by October 15, 2021.
Election voting will be held at all league games the last 2 weeks of the season.
H. Nominations for the Arnold Fowler and Lowell Lawson Awards will be accepted
until October 15, 2021. The written nomination should contain a reason as to why
the person should be considered for the award, and also contain the nominating
person’s name & phone number. Nominations can be given to any BOD member,
or sent via e‐mail or regular mail to Ray DeLuca at:
2. 105 Rock Creek Drive, Canton, GA 30114
Voting for the Arnold Fowler Award will take place by the players the last 2 weeks
of the fall season. The Lowell Lawson Award will be voted on by the BOD’s and
team managers the last week of the season.
I. The fall golf tournament will be held on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11,
2021. Thanks to Tom Cameron for heading up this fundraiser. Remember that we
ask everyone who attends to bring at least 1 unwrapped toy to be used for
children for Christmas.
J. Next BOD meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 11, 2021, 6:30 PM at
Meeting adjourned at 8:40 PM
ARNOLD FOWLER AWARD – Nominations Guidelines
In 1997, the Board of Directors (BOD) recognized that there was more to softball than things like batting averages, home runs and RBI’s. It was decided that one player should be chosen, who demonstrates the qualities of sportsmanship, integrity, dedication, teamwork and other intangibles to the highest degree. This is the most special award issued through the CSSA, because the winning player is chosen by his peers.
The 1st winner of the award was Arnold Fowler. Because he brought all of these qualities to the field each and every day, the award was named in his honor.
In the world of sports some people stand out. They hit, run, and field with exceptional skill. In life there are people who emerge as outstanding. They are leaders. They go the extra mile. They care about others. Integrity is their trademark. They are exemplary.
If you would like to nominate someone for this award, please do so by submitting a written detailed justification as to why you think this person deserves this prestigious award. Please include your name and phone number. Nominations MUST be received NO LATER than October 14, 2021.
Address nominations to Ray DeLuca by e-mail or postal service:
2. 105 Rock Creek Dr, Canton, GA. 30114 (770) 355-3911
Past winners of this award are not eligible.
Many players and those associated with the CSSA bring new members into the organization, often friends and family, but sometimes even strangers they meet throughout their daily lives. Dewey Hom acts more like an ambassador of the CSSA. He has held practically every significant post in the group, and has done so not only because of the satisfaction he receives from playing softball, but due to the multitude of players he’s seen significantly improve their lives because of their association with their peers on and off the field.
Beep! Beep! Virtually everyone in the league knows Dewey. He’s the slender guy who always wears that white helmet with yellow bolts and his legs churn like a determined road runner. He just received his third Most Valuable Player award, this time a co-MVP for his Spring season performance with Long Tire in the Legends Gold Seniors League. In his thirteen years in CSSA, he’s won the Arnold Fowler Award (2013), the Spirit Award (2017), the Lowell Lawson Award (2020), along with multiple batting and home run titles.
It’s his speed that gets him noticed and led to his proudest moments in sports. Surprisingly, those memories are not in the CSSA, or even softball. Board members of the CSSA encouraged him to compete in the Senior Olympics track competitions, where Dewey discovered his true gift. So much so, that in 2019 in Lynchburg, VA, he earned gold medals in the 60-64 age group for finishing first in the Long Jump and 50 Meters events.
This brings us to the reason you always see that safety cap on his head. A few years ago, he was running the bases when an outfielder’s arm released a softball rocket targeted to reach second base ahead of Dewey. The ball’s impact with the side of Dewey’s skull caused a severe concussion and almost ended his life. He has made a full recovery, but he doesn’t accept the premise that lightning never strikes the same spot twice. He credits his faith with an assist that he survived that incident, and won’t ignore a simple precaution such as wearing a helmet.
This senior softballer appreciates that his wife of twenty-five years, Deborah, enabled him to pursue softball and track while she maintained a strong home front for their three children. He has always been active in his church, and understands his beliefs and related lifestyle have allowed him and his family to enjoy their lives to the utmost.
He is most appreciative of the CSSA’s existence, and pleads for more players to step up to volunteer, even in the smallest way. As in most all-volunteer organizations, a remarkable few who can always use more help do most of the work.
So, when you see this sprinting player at the rover position, perhaps spend another moment thinking if your life has any time to pitch in and support the CSSA. Then, remember what Dewey often says, “Anything can happen in ol’ men’s softball,” and have fun.
Written by Marty Aftewicz
Due to excessive rain the past so many days, the games for tonite have been cancelled. Andy will send revised schedules asap.