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Plow For Life

BETHLEHEM – Plow For Life.

Bethlehem’s cozy, character-filled Gallop Baseball Field with its Beatle-like haircut beamed with the sentiment on a day built for reliving, reloading, remembering and relishing a life experience.

The Bethlehem Plowboys celebrated 100 years of existence on a fitting baseball day, a remarkable milestone of longevity for any person or organization but particularly for a recreational program.

So often teams form on this level and when the group ages and moves on the team becomes a memory.  Fabled Waterbury Timers and Waterbury Laurels of Waterbury baseball fame wrote magnificent stories but eventually moved from the fields into the memory books. The Thomaston Ponies, a state power football team roared for the first 30 years of the 20th century and eventually folded.  The list is long and for almost all, they came, they saw, they conquered occasionally or for a while and eventually they were no more.

Not so the Plowboys.  They just keep rolling along like Old Man River. Players have come and gone, members have lived and died, gloves have morphed from hand coverings to the size of a covered wagon and field locations have changed. No matter. The Plowboys continue on.

Think of the scope of existence. The Jazz Age, Great Depression, WWII, Elvis, the Beatles, Woodstock, television, man on the moon, penicillin, 9/11, the computer, Hulk Hogan – the Plowboys have seen and survived it all. And maybe more. Gregg Hunt, one of the integral figures in the Plowboy story thinks the team came before 1923. Either way, it is an infinite run at this point and continues to roll on.

The Plowboys know this and they reveled in it on celebration day. More than 30 former players showed up to celebrate the centennial. They laughed (a lot), questioned one another’s physiques which is what happens at reunions and is part of the endearing camaraderie, remembered a lot, rewrote some of the history, maybe popped a top or two and played a make-shift scrimmage.

Some balls were caught, some balls were missed and some balls ended a long way from home plate. Jon Conlon, Pat McGee and Aaron Granahan went back-to-back-to-back depositing a trio of John Pettit’s soft serves deep in to the left field foliage. Conlon’s bomb was a tree topper and was headed somewhere near Popeye’s Ice Cream Shoppe on West St. in Morris.  

Vintage Plowboy shirts were on display. Bob McMahon wore his blue jersey with the big B on the left side but even more poignant MD initials on one sleeve in honor of one of the Plowboy legends Marc D’Amelio who died in his early 30s. Hunt went gray with Bethlehem running across the chest and looked like Ty Cobb out in right field.

Players ranged from 9 to 90, the younger ones were big leaguers for a moment and the veterans turned the clock back to a younger day. So much of it was about seeing old friends, being with a game they loved and basking in the glow of a lifetime experience.

But, to be honest it goes deeper than that with the Plowboys. It wasn’t just about them or the day; it was about 100 years of them. It is about the Plow as a whole. State and local authorities along with television recognize this and had representatives on hand to present proclamations recognizing an admirable achievement and story. The Bethlehem Historical Society has a marvelous display on the team’s history.

The Plowboys on hand know that their time was part of all-time and that is unique here and they understand that.

Former Plowboy (briefly) and Tri-State Baseball Commissioner Ed Gadomski touched on the idea that the Plowboy magic doesn’t end when the career ends, you carry it with you.

“There was one thing that really intrigued me this week and it was on social media with the posts that were out and all I saw and kept seeing in comment, post, comment, post was Plow for Life,” Gadomski said in addressing the players. “And I thought about what Plow for Life really means.  Friendship, respect, sportsmanship, and of course family. That’s what I really think kept the Bethlehem Plowboys going for 100 years was Plow for Life. Not many teams have a slogan and you don’t just get a slogan, you have to earn that slogan and that is exactly what you guys did. “

“There is something special when you put the uniform on,” Pettit added. “Jim Calhoun used to say that when you play you are all family. We are not teammates, we are friends. You realize when you are playing that you are in the twilight of youth. You realize things change and you have to enjoy every day.”

It was a theme heard all over the field.  The Plowboys have always been more than baseball.  Dan Goscinski was quick to mention that five of his teammates were in his wedding. Hunt talked about your best friends being your baseball friends.

“These guys have stuck together and it keeps on going,” Hunt said. “Three or four times this team has been turnover over to a new group and it continues.”

Hunt is a big part of that. He resurrected the team in 1981 and many Thomaston High players followed him to Bethlehem when he coached the Bears in the mid-1980s.

“The magic is coach Hunt and the people he decided to bring here and hen passing it over to John (Pettit),” said McMahon who learned much of his trade under Hunt and gone on to forge his own formidable coaching career at Thomaston as baseball and girls basketball coach. “The core was the Thomaston guys he brought here and then we added over-the-top pieces like D’Amelio, Eric O’Toole, Tony Geraci, Erick Williams, Jay Rocca and Erick Williams.

Much of the proud Plow for the Centennial was part of a vintage group that made 12 finals in 15 years from 1995-2010 and won six titles. Most were in the 30-55 years-old territory.  They stay in touch with the present edition of the Plowboys who continue on with the winning tradition having made the Tri-State championship finals the last two years. They keep track, they offer advice. Today is part of yesterday in Plow world. You stop playing, you don’t stop loving. You don’t stop wearing the blue with the big B on it.

Much of the day was about their time. Most of the day was about all-time. The past is always the present. They know that. After all. Plow Forever. All 100 years of it and still going.

Roll Plow.

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