Lawrence “Larry” Yaffa, like many Brooklyn boys of the twenties and thirties, wanted to become a ball player. Here is his story.
I played ball at the Parade Grounds for a variety of nondescript clubs, most important of which was the Catons during the first two years of their existence. I was long on desire but short on skill as a “fair field, banjo-hitting” left-handed first baseman. At first the team had no uniforms. Once we played Cy Seymour’s Crestons, and I wrenched my shoulder badly. After the game, when I tried to break up a fight between one of our players and a Creston player named Ben Harrison, I got hurt more seriously than either combatant, and I wasn’t very active for the remainder of the season. My less-than-mediocre “career” was thus aborted.
At Erasmus Hall, where I went to high school, I managed to get into two games in my senior year with the varsity when the regular first baseman was hurt, but generally I played with the junior varsity. Three of my teammates that year were Herb Wittkin, Jess Furlane, and Morris Black, all of whom played with the Brooklyn Falcons under Cy Seymour. I remember some of Cy’s other good players, especially Bill Gannett of the Gannett publishing family, who played with the Falcons and then for Columbia University, and also Bill Lohrman—I saw him play at Ebbets Field.
During my high-school career I experienced one highlight: in a game against Madison High I knocked out of the box a player of Cy’s named Harry Eisenstat by whacking a drive off his cup, but we lost the game anyway.
I grew up around the corner from where two better-known fellows lived: George Fallon, who played on the Parade grounds for the Daytons and later became a Cardinals player, and Marty Glickman, who became a sports announcer. George and I were good friends, and as a teenager he was playing against teams of players three and four years older. His long stretch in the minors took a lot out of him, and I believe that by the time he reached the Cardinals he had burned himself out. But he was a fine ball player and person.
When George managed at Elmira I practically lived with that club in its travels through the Eastern League circuit. Once during World War II, when I was in the Air Force, I tuned in to a short-wave broadcast of the 1942 World Series and heard George pinch-hit for the Cards against the Yankees at the Stadium, and I remember thinking how hard George had worked all his life to reach that moment.
In Brooklyn my Dad opened the first drugstore in what was then the new St. George Hotel, where the Brooklyn players hung out, and there I particularly made friends with Babe Herman. During my work life I entered the business of importing fine wines, and while traveling for my company I used to stay at the hotels housing the ball clubs.
I think I fit into the category of the ball player that Harold Seymour described so aptly in Baseball: The Golden Age—the fellow with minimal ability who liked to identify with those who could do the job better!