The 1963 season was a magical time for Lou Romanoli and a talented team of Wilmington ballplayers.
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Fans also were drawn by the palpable bad blood between Romanoli and Hickman. Romanoli says the cantankerous Parkway manager, who was inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1986 and died in 1993 at age 77, “pretty much ran the league,” taking advantage of every rule and manipulating league officials. But Romanoli was no slouch when it came to gamesmanship. As one player put it, “Lou would get into an argument during the [pre-game] rules explanation.”
Occasionally, the rivalry turned humorous. Romanoli likes to tell about the time he visited the mound during a game against Parkway. As he spoke to his pitcher, Hickman yelled, “Tell him all you know, Lou; it’ll only take a minute.” Romanoli turned to the opposing bench and answered, “I’ll tell him all we both know, John. It won’t take any longer.” It smacks of the apocryphal and has an old punch line, but it makes a good story.
What many baseball fans of that era may not know is that Romanoli maintained his remarkable athletic roll through the fall and winter months of 1963 and early ’64. Retaining many of the same gifted athletes who had played for his baseball team, he coached and played on Brooks teams that won championships in the Wilmington Touch Football League and the Industrial Basketball League. Carpenter, who had played end at Yale, and Scott were on the football team, and Scott and Anderson starred on the court. “Harry Anderson,” remembers Romanoli, “never saw a shot he didn’t like.”
In May, the Brooks team got together at the Columbus Inn for a 50-year reunion sponsored by Bill Brooks. Eight players attended, along with members of later Brooks teams and a few media people.
“They all looked good,” says Romanoli, “and some are very active. John Pfander is 75 and still plays competitive softball on a team that tours the country. Ruly Carpenter was a state handball champion and now he’s an avid hunter and fisherman. Vinnie Scott belongs to three health clubs and is in great physical shape. And I bicycle about 600 miles a month during good weather and do a spinning class at the Y in cold weather.”
Six players from the ’63 team have passed away: Anderson, Narleski, Davis, Terry Arnold, Johnny Kempski and Harvey Roop.
Those at the reunion took a moment to remember their deceased teammates, but mostly they talked about the summer of ’63, and about what most experts would agree was the best baseball team ever assembled in the state of Delaware.
“It was a magical summer,” says Romanoli.