`Postie's death leaves void in area baseball scene
THOMASTON – The word spread fast even on Christmas day when the outside world gives way a bit to the seasonal warm allure of the living room, family and friends and the scent of pine needles. And you paused and took an extra deep breath. Isn’t that the way it always works for the ones that made you sit up and took notice.
The word was short with a powerful punch – “Just letting you know, `Postie’ died today.’ Not a surprise, because Postie hadn’t always treated his body like a temple and had been ill. Still at 59, not even old enough to collect social security the news carried with it a pretty big wallop.
If you are an area sports fan, `Postie’ needs no formal introduction. He had achieved one-word recognition. But for those unfamiliar, ‘Postie’ was Dave Post, a stocky, mercurial persona with gargantuan and at times uncontrollable passions, and the biggest love of baseball I’ve ever been witness to.
For more than 40 years Postie traveled the baseball highways and byways, sometimes on his 1973 Harley Davidson, with the only other love of his life that could compete with baseball, his late wife Lucy. It was a journey of equal parts the game and Lucy.
It was a journey of laughter, friendship, rage and the ridiculous. Complete with an awfully big heart with a startling sentimental touch. He made friends with the baseball world and argued with most of it at one time or the other. It was a pure Postie special.
“You loved him and hated him at the same time,” said Tri-State Commissioner and former teammate Ed Gadomski. “But those of us who knew him knew his big heart.”
Postie gave you a hint of who he was back in his Little League days. I know, I was on his team. We were good and he was our best pitcher. But the fire burned within. One game he quit three times in one inning. I kid you not.
The game caught him early and never let go. During his high school days he began playing American Legion ball and from there moved on to the Twi-Met League in Waterbury and the Tri-State League.
He was a man of many images and one is of the baseball player. A ferocious left-handed hitter with a bat about the size of the telephone pole in front of your house. He swung with Ruthian size proportions and could hit and flat out play.
And always the rage bubbled just below the surface. Part of the baseball image is of this powerful squat man beating himself in the helmet after making an out. These were Tyson, Foreman-like blows that always had you on the verge of calling 9-1-1.
There were arguments with teammates, league leaders, umpires and yes even us newspaper men. Can you say cantankerous?
In 1985 Post formed the Thomaston Spoilers as an entry into the Tri-State League and for 25 years the team was a fixture winning two titles. The formation of the team came at a time when interest in Thomaston baseball was lower than a worm’s belly although Gregg Hunt’s Thomaston High Golden Bears had won the Berkshire League final and advanced to the Class S finals that year.
On a hometown level it is probably part of the legacy doesn’t get as much credit as it should. Basketball was king in the Clocktown those days and Postie offered a chance to play baseball. Like legendary coach Harry Lynch was to baseball in Thomaston in the 1930s and 1940s Postie was to the game in the 1980s and 1990s. And he did it and persevered even though the Thomaston pipeline led to Bethlehem with so many players doing their thing with the Plowboys. He muttered about it but kept going.
“He gave opportunities to ballplayers,” said Gadomski.
Postie, while maybe not the smoothest of administrators, was also instrumental in saving the Tri-State League.
“If not for Dave, I’m not sure the Tri-State League would still be around,” said Gadomski. “When the league was down to about a half dozen teams in the late 1980s and early `90s and no one was around it was Dave who took it over and kind of kept it alive. It was down to bare bones.”
Postie was still playing, albeit sparingly, as recently as five years ago, two at-bats with two RBI. Even then he dreamed of coming back at the age of 54, but his health wouldn’t allow it.
Yet the passion never wavered. In 2007 Postie struck out in a game at Fuessenich Park in Torrington. A fan heckled him, telling him the softball field was down the street. The stocky body still had some spry in it and Postie hurdled the stands and went after the fan. He ended up being life-starred out of the park and suspended for half a season. He also had the first of several heart attacks that night.
“The shenanigans he pulled on the field are legendary and will be talked about for a long time,” said Gadomski who had to suspend his former teammate.
Through it all there was Lucy Zbuska and his story was always equal parts Lucy. He met her in the summer of 1971. It was a love story for the ages. She traveled to each and every game with him, kept the scorebook, phoned the games in.
He never had to tell her about the game, she was there. He never had to make up an excuse why he got home late. She was with him. He never had to tell her about the big hit, the error, the win or loss. She was there. She shared the passion, was his passion and helped control his passions.
Lucy fought cancer and after 10 years finally passed away several years ago. Dave called me on the phone and let me know Lucy had passed. For 41 years they had run the basepaths together. Their life was a cloudless day on a sea of green with bases. His voice was raspy, the teams flowed. An unmendable broken hear.
The images are there – the baseball player, the companion, but maybe the one that gets short shrift is the sentimental one. He cried after watching Field of Dreams. When he went to his last Tri-State meeting to officially announce the ending of the Spoilers, he had a Spoilers shirt on underneath and said with a tear in his eye, “This is the last time you will ever see me take off my Spoilers shirt.” He then proceeded to take the shirt off bringing a tear to more than a few eyes in attendance.
A book written about the Tri-State League spent some time talking about Postie and Lucy. Gadomski gave it to him and watched the tears flow as he read the portion. Through all the heat and fire, there was softness to be found.
The last time I saw Dave was about six weeks ago at a restaurant. He was with his constant companion of recent times, an ever-present oxygen tank. For so long in typical defiant Postie fashion it had been oxygen tank in one hand, cigarette in the other, but this time around he was without the smokes.
I thought he looked good. His weight was down he sounded good. We talked a while, two old friends catching up. Obviously time was being borrowed.
He was a friend, a teammate at times, a guy you accepted the fire from because you knew he cared. About baseball, about Lucy, about you, about what happened.
Here’s my image now. He is healthy once again on a baseball field somewhere his Spoilers shirt dusted off, toting his redwood tree of a bat and Lucy is right there with him and the scorebook. The Harley is out in the parking lot and he is probably trading barbs with the umpire and a fan or two. That is his heaven.
Postie was a passionate, spicy presence, a character with a sharp tongue and big heart. He was unique. The baseball scene just got a lot emptier. He made you take notice when he was here. The loss of the passion and his presence has equal impact.
He circled the bases his way. Hey Dave, say hit to Lucy, hit a home run, and lay off the ump will ya. And thanks for the memories.