First Volume, Baseball : The Early Years
Starting at a young age, Seymour played sandlot everytime he had the chance to and was also learning a lot about baseball. He was looking to become a great player and also to be able to teach the game to other kids.
In his spare time, Seymour began playing in high school and continued for part of his college career. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he created and managed boys' teams that played on the parade grounds in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. These teams - the Falcon A.C., the Creston B. B. Club and the Fairmont Club - became famous for their skill. The Crestons sometimes posed as an older, stronger club and played on weekends as the Camden Minor Leaguers. The letter 'C' on their caps was thus used twice.
These kids' teams financed themselves. They earned money by selling chances on a particular product. They also organised entertainment including musicals and dramatic sketches, accompanied by a printed programme, for which they solicited paid advertisements. One advertisement was purchased by Harold Seymour's parents.
The club's archives in the Seymour collection show that Seymour kept a record, in pencil, of each opponent, match scores and player records. An old scorebook shows that the clubs played teams from as far away as New Jersey, Astoria, New Rochelle and Canarsie. Seymour also gave his players typed and handwritten instructions and club rules, and he prepared game guides. One of them, entitled "Pitching Hints," said, "Start with your feet and work your way up."
Francis "Skipper" Raguson, a member of the original Falcons team that started in 1929, wrote to me recently, "I will never forget Cy Seymour. I admired what he did for the young people of his day: he gave time and advice. He was a great role model for young people.
Edward V. Mele, now president of the Mele Manufacturing Company in New York, wrote to me recently: "I first met Cy when he asked me to join the Crescents. I was 16 or 17 at the time, so it was 1935 or 1936. Cy had scouted players around the Parade Grounds and then asked those he thought could contribute to the team to join him. Cy had a natural gift for leading the team. He was firm, demanded the best from you and didn't hesitate to hurt you if you made a mistake. In retrospect, he had little or no sense of humour, and that is perhaps my only criticism of him. I learned a lot about baseball from Cy. He taught me enough about pitching to prepare me for my senior year at James Madison High School, when our team reached the New York City finals. He also convinced the Brooklyn Dodgers to let our team into the park for free, and the instructions he gave us on those visits are still fresh in my mind. Most people were following the ball, but Cy wanted us to keep our eyes on the player playing at our position instead. This was a great idea, as baseball is a complicated game that requires certain movements to counter the action that is taking place, and by watching the player playing our position, we were learning the responses to that player's action. Those visits to Ebbets Field were the best in our training."
Until Seymour's death, his best friend from those years remained Herbert Wittkin, who worked in New York City department stores' management but whose heart remained in baseball. Herb wrote many letters praising Seymour's contribution to the lives of the young men on these youth teams, and when the SABR considered creating an award in his name, Wittkin wrote in support of the idea.
Those teams produced outstanding players, including Bill "Wacky" Lohrman, who played with the Philadelphia Nationals; Bill Gannett, who pitched for Columbia; Jess Furlan, who played at NYU; Frank Raguson, a three-letter man at Bucknell; Ed Boell, a star pitcher at Tilden High; and Ben Harrison, a batter at St. Seymour's. Seymour later wrote that several of his players went on to play organized baseball, one of whom played nine years in the majors.
Joe Madden's daughter remembers him talking about playing for Harold Seymour, and she said, "All my life I've listened to baseball stories. When Joe passed away in 1997, "we ended his memorial service with his granddaughter singing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'.
Doing good in Organized Baseball
Bill "Wacky" Lohrman, who made the big leagues, wrote Seymour his gratitude in 1936: "I know I have a lot to thank you for. ... . When I joined the Crestons I did not expect to learn so much about baseball. In one short year with you, Cy, I've learned more about baseball than in the previous five years combined... I want you to know that I appreciate it more than I can say. Your baseball teams have always been tough fighters, but clean fighters, and I will always be proud to be a member of the Crestons. You demand a lot from all your players, but you give twice as much as you ask. ... I have never met anyone so selfless with their time and knowledge... I've found nothing better than to be considered one of your baseball players. ... ."
After Bill Lohrman entered organized baseball, he wrote letters to Seymour that bear an uncanny resemblance to those written by Ring Lardner. [Echoes of Ring Lardner]
Some of the members of Seymour's teams succeeded in baseball in different ways. Joe Trimble, a good friend, became a famous reporter for the New York Daily News.
George "Bucky" Schneidmuller, a pitcher, is one of Seymour's successful boys in organized baseball. He kept in touch by writing to Seymour when he was traveling with his team. After George's death in 1990, his wife Louise wrote me that Bucky thought so much of his experiences as a member of one of Seymour's youth teams that he specified that his ashes be spread on the pitcher's mound at the Parade Grounds, which was done.
Jacinth "Jess" Furlan, a catcher, told me recently that he "knew Harold very well as a player and friend". Jess met Seymour while playing ball at Erasmus Hall High School, but Jess also played weekends at the Parade Grounds with Seymour's team, the Falcons. "We were really good friends," he says, "we enjoyed baseball together. We respected each other and had fun." Winning a scholarship to New York University, Jess played at NYU in the 30s and became captain his senior year. Even while in college, Jess continued to play for the Falcons. "Harold taught us a lot about baseball and respecting each other." After college, Jess coached and ran athletics in Avon, New York at Central School for 32 years.
Another successful child player in baseball is Harry Eisenstat, who now lives in the Cleveland area. Harry was signed directly from the Parade Grounds to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. When he became a free agent, Harry signed with the Detroit Tigers, where his roommate was Hank Greenberg. From Detroit, Harry was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he stayed until he joined the Air Force and served for four years. He wrote me recently, "I had some wonderful experiences and fond memories of playing at the Parade Grounds with Harold Seymour."
Memories of the Parade Grounds, Brooklyn
As a Flatbush resident born in 1910 and raised by the Dodgers, Harold Seymour developed his love of baseball in many ways. Not only did he play baseball, but he organized and managed teams for his young peers. These teams played in the local park called the Parade Grounds, a section of Prospect Park. There they played against other well-organised clubs at a time when amateur and semi-professional baseball was very much in the consciousness of many Americans.
On the Parade Grounds, Harold is known as "Cy" Seymour, after the famous professional player (when asked if there is a family connection, Harold says the player is his uncle). He was also known as 'McGraw' because he ran his team with strict controls and dictated the actions of its members on and off the field. Soon the fans who attended these games recognised him and came to cheer on his current team.
One Brooklyn resident who remembers those days, Herbert Johnson, recalls how exciting it was to watch the great competition. Herbert also played in clubs there and remembers Harold Seymour being a part of it all.
While Seymour was at Drew, he entered his last children's team in the Brooklyn Amateur League - the only time he did so. Although the team was the youngest in the league, with an average age of 17 years and 3 months, it won the championship.
One boy who played on the Parade Grounds made his mark in a different way: Kevin "Chuck" Connors, who died only a few months after Seymour. Chuck's career in Hollywood led him to star in a popular film called "The Rifleman". Connors played on teams that competed against Seymour's clubs on the Parade Grounds.
In the 1920s and at least into the 1940s, young baseball teams played in front of huge crowds on the Parade Grounds in Prospect Park. One man who remembers those days in detail is Herbert Johnson, whose career later took him abroad to Paris in a different kind of life, but who has never forgotten those thrilling moments of his youth.
Another is Lawrence "Larry" Yaffa, whose father owned the pharmacy at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn, where many Brooklyn players stayed. Larry wrote to Harold Seymour in 1971 about playing against a Seymour team and his other baseball experiences. More recently, Larry has written about Parade Grounds baseball and Harold Seymour in Memories of Brooklyn Baseball.
In addition to training them in baseball, Seymour developed their character, as they began to recognize. In 1936, he wrote letters to his club members, commenting on their progress and praising their contributions to the team. Some of them wrote back, telling him how much they appreciated what he was doing for them.
Bill Payne, for example, wrote to Seymour in 1936: "I don't think you can find a more wonderful friendship between comrades than that which exists among the Crestons.... ... the comrades have given their best, each one fighting in his own way. Only I fully realise and know the amount of time and service you give to our club, to its organisation and construction. The least we can do to compensate you is to win for you.
Player Ed Lavery complimented Seymour for "the role you have played in transforming our club into a dynamic and classy team", calling him "a wise baseball man, a tireless worker in the interests of the club". Player Edward V. Mele ended his note with "I want to thank you again for what you have done for me". Another player, who simply signed himself "Red," said, "I value this letter from you Cy more than any medal or trophy I have ever received."
Boell wrote much later, reporting where some of Seymour's "young players" were and announced that he had become a member of SABR. Bill Wolfe of Napa, California, wrote of his appreciation for Seymour's work with his "kids' teams", saying that his two years with the Crestons were "the happiest of my teenage years. The competitive spirit you instilled in us has continued, and I've been very successful.
Since then, several young people have told me how valuable Seymour's coaching was in making them responsible young men. Edmund Fountaine phoned me from Darien, Connecticut, insisting that Seymour's work with young men was far more important than the books he wrote. Fred Strober, a Philadelphia lawyer, called to tell me how much his father, Sid, had enjoyed playing for the Crestons in the 1930s, adding that his father was the only Jew on that team, which was largely of Irish descent.