Everybody cries when the tough guy dies

February 22, 2019

Fred twins doubled up - We all cry when the tough guy dies. John Forestieri passed away peacefully in the early hours Monday morning, as a light rain was falling. He was 84 years old, and if you knew his craggy, cantankerous self, you understood his bark was worse than his bite, but he would bite back quickly if provoked, like a snapdragon in a flower bed. A Little League umpire all in blue, my memory of John umpiring was a game my twin sons Tom and Jack were playing in when they were 11 years old back in 1987. The Lewes Little League park is one of the best small-town venues in all of America. A ball was hit to the outfield and the Fred twins were off, heading for home in a trailing cloud of dirt. The ball and runners arrived at the same time. John stood sideways, his mask ripped from his head. Dust rose to the lights; the gnats scattered. Both twins scored, there was a pause and then John went off. He pointed at Jack, the first Fred to score. “He jumped over the catcher and he is out. You have to slide!” Then he pointed at Tom and barked, “And he’s out; he just ran over the catcher. They are both ejected from the game!” I was standing behind the backstop, the young dad/teacher/coach/sportswriter guy in small-town America. John gave me a look like, “You got something to say?” I just shrugged my shoulders and gave two thumbs up. I wasn’t messing with that dude. John came over to the fence and said, “I love your boys. They remind me of myself, but they were out!” The soft side of the roughneck, a tree-climbing turned flower-planting feisty maniac who loved his family. Smart people never walked on the fightin’ side of former Marine John. He was a true community character and my friend since the dustup at home plate 30 years ago. He may be the first spirit to climb a tree up to heaven, greeting St. Peter with, “I thought this place would be up a little higher.”  

Maryland Big House reunion - Dino Mattessich and Bob Cilento were classmates at the University of Maryland class of 1974. Dino was at the Big House Feb. 19 to watch his great-nephews Hank and “Cool Hand” Luke D’Ambrogi play basketball. The game was was Senior Night for Luke, who got the start and scored a career-high 18 points including four three-pointers. Dino was a legendary lacrosse player on the Terps’ 1973 National Championship team. Bob played baseball on the 1971 ACC Championship team. Dino’s athletic resume runs deep. He was deputy AD at Hofstra and UConn, and the head lacrosse coach at Maryland 1981-83. He also served as deputy AD at Towson University and University of Maine. Luke’s Senior Night future plans read aloud: “Go to college and become an athletic director.”

Top five name drop - I talked to Dino, my new friend, in between games at Cape. He was mentioning classmates at Maryland and dropped Len Elmore and Tom McMillen. McMillen had a condo on Maryland Avenue in Rehoboth. He was a Rhodes Scholar and U.S. congressman who also played in the NBA for 11 seasons. But what grabbed me was Dino saying, “I played golf with Skeets just last week.” Skeets is Renaldo Nehemiah, former world record holder in the 110 hurdles, the first man to break 13 seconds. Skeets was ranked No. 1 in the world four straight years. He was on the 1980 Olympic team that boycotted the games in Moscow because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The top name drop of all time was from Buck Thompson who once said to me, “I played golf with Buddy Ebsen last weekend.” We’re talking Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies!

Run that back! This is the 50-year anniversary of the Henlopen Conference, and Friday night in girls’ basketball, Cape will play Woodbridge at Dover. Woodbridge lost to Cape 64-31 the first time the teams played for the championship at Seaford back in 1970. Lilly Mapp and Carole Schroeder were all-conference players for Cape on that team, while Kate Collins and Barbara Kusik led the way for Woodbridge.

Snippets - David Erickson (Cape) pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Liberty University in a 9-3 win over Wake Forest. Bill Cilento, son of Cape AD Bob Cilento, is the assistant head coach for the Demon Deacons. North Carolina blew out Duke like a Nike sneaker Feb. 20 by playing like there was no shot clock and no Zion Williamson, winning 88-72. Williamson’s injury was diagnosed as a mild knee sprain, which means someone else’s knee, not your own. Go on now, git!

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