Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Picture Of The Day--The Arlington Chargers
Between the end of my Senior Year at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia and beginning of my Freshman Year at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I played baseball in The D.C. Industrial League. Still around today, The Industrial League was quality baseball back then. The Team Rosters were filled with many talented players, some just coming out of High School and heading to University (like me); those home for the summer from Collegiate Ball--wanting to keep their skills sharp; or gamers wishing to still play--after being released from their professional teams.
The Industrial League was made up of players who simply Loved The Game. It was extremely competitive.
And The Summer of 1977 Arlington Chargers were no less ambitious.
The Chargers were My Team. We weren't that good, but we weren't terrible either. And when The African Queen came across this photo from over 31 years past, it was just too memorable not to write about, because there is even a link to Our Washington Nationals today--in one of those Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon sort of ways. You see, The Arlington Chargers of 1977 had some celebrity--and it nothing to do with SBF.
My Brother Michael was just home from his Freshman Year at The University of Tennessee. As the starting 3rd Baseman in Knoxville, he had led The Southeastern Conference in Hitting that spring. He was a hot commodity. Scouts always showed up to see him play. When he graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1976, he was the only person in Virginia State History (at that time) to be First Team in Two Positions in the same year--Pitcher and Third Base.
But Michael was far from being our only star.
The Scouts ALWAYS showed up to see our Leftanded Starter too. Atlee Hammaker was home from his Freshman Year at East Tennessee State University in 1977. A two sport star at Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria, Virginia--Atlee was as good of a basketball player as baseball pitcher. He had led Mt. Vernon to The Virginia State Basketball Championships as a schoolboy. And although he continued to play basketball at East Tennessee, his calling was on the mound. Little did anyone realize that as Hammaker dominated that summer for Our Chargers, less than six years later, Atlee would be a National League All-Star for The San Francisco Giants.
Yeah, he was good.
And then there was Rick Vaughn. No--not THAT RICK VAUGHN from the "Major League" movies--but Rick Vaughn from T.C. Williams High School and then George Mason College. Rick was two years older than me but he and Michael and I had all played together at T.C. Williams (in fact there were five total T.C. teammates on The Chargers). In the spring of 1976, Vaughn helped to lead The Patriots (then a small commuter school in Fairfax) all the way to The NAIA World Series. It was GMC's (now GMU) first Athletic endeavor with a National Championship and The Big Time. One of George Mason's Star Pitchers, The Patriots would advance to the NAIA Playoffs all three years with Rick on the mound.
Yes, The Arlington Chargers of 1977 were a pretty interesting bunch and it's why I treasure this photo so much--even after all of these years. Thanks to Sohna for pulling it out and reminding me of the good old days.
Unfortunately, Michael never made it to the professional ranks--personal problems got in the way. And although Michael never realized his dream of playing professionally--thankfully today--he is happily married with two kids--one a rising baseball star. For a time, he had lost that aggressiveness, the feeling of belonging--something Atlee Hammaker NEVER lost. In all my years of playing competitive sports, never did I play alongside such a cool customer. Hammaker was never fazed and the only thing that held him back in The Majors--were injuries. Arm ailments sidetracked what was a very promising Major League Career. Hammaker would win 59 Games in The Big Leagues, but Atlee wished he could have done more.
Like extending his career, something which Rick Vaughn has done on the professional sports level nearly his entire adult lifetime--off the field of play. After his baseball playing career ended, Rick moved to sports management and relations. The Resume is Stellar. 10 Years with The Baltimore Orioles, five as Director of Public Relations--staying until 1993. Two Seasons as The Director of Public Relations for The Washington Redskins. And even a stint as TOP PR Man for The Washington Federals of the ill-fated United States Football League. Up until 1995, Rick had worked his entire sports life in The Baltimore-Washington Market. Then in 1996, he picked up his family and moved them to Tampa Bay, returning to baseball in PR for the upstart Devil Rays. 12 years later, Rick Vaughn is still there as Vice-President of Communications for the Defending American League Champion--Tampa Bay Rays. He is one of the most respected PR Directors in the business.
And better yet--and this is where Our Washington Nationals fit into the equation--Rick Vaughn and his family are very good friends with Our Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes and his family. For seven years, Rick and Charlie worked together for Tampa Bay Devil Rays Games. They are still very close today. Over the past few years, Rick, Charlie and I have all chuckled over the irony.
Just another example of how small the world really is.
The 1977 Arlington Chargers--The Picture Of The Day.
In the above closer cropped photo--Rick Vaughn is second on the left in the second row. All four players directly to his left are T.C.Williams Graduates--Terry Long, Carl Hooper, Michael and me. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I not only had hair, but some long and flowing Reddish-Brown stuff. Amazing even for me to look at today!!
And in this closer cropped shot--Atlee Hammaker is standing behind Michael and I--just over my right shoulder.
Now The Bonus Picture:
Atlee Hammaker holding the runner from Struby's Mobil on 1st base--SBF manning the bag. Our home field was Wakefield High School in Arlington County, near Bailey's Crossroads and the Arlington County, Fairfax County and City of Alexandria triangular borderline. The field is still in use today as a baseball diamond.