#2 Griggs interview:
This is file 62. This is Jean McMillen. I am talking to Steve Griggs, and he is going to give me a character sketch of Frank McArthur Sr. and baseball. We are doing that at the Scoville Memorial Library. Today’s date is October 4, 2013. (See file 25/26 for prior interview of Mr. Griggs and his family background. Ed.)
JM:Would you give me a physical description of Mr. McArthur?
SG:Frank was not real tall, about 5’8’, just a fantastic and very energetic guy. He was one of the few African American guys in this town at that time, and probably to this day. He was just a ball of energy.
JM:When did you first meet him?
SG:I was probably 17, I know I played that summer; I had always played baseball in high school, but I grew up in California. We would always come across to Salisbury for the summer, so I didn’t really have much to do with the local baseball scene. But I went down and I had heard about the Firemen team and decided that I would try out. He took me in with open arms, and I had several great years with him.
JM:What was the name of that baseball league?
SG:I think it was the Tri-State League; we played teams from Massachusetts and over on the New York side, Dover Plains and stuff. Then of course we played Connecticut.
JM:What day of the week did you play your games?
SG:Boy, you are taking me back. We must have only played on the weekends; I think we played on Sundays, Sunday afternoons.
JM:Was that the only league in Salisbury or was there a firemen’s League?
SG:As far as I know that was the only league; it was the only place where men could play competitive hard ball.
JM:What was the age range?
SG:It was open age; my first time with the Firemen was when I was 17 before I went to college and then I played again with them a few summers after college.
JM:What were some of his teaching techniques?
SG:He was so instinctive; he has great ability to sense what was the best way to get the best out of each individual. I have been around coaching and sports all my life. As a piece of context I am not just somebody who played some sports; I played a lot of sports and then I coached. I played 5 sports over high school and college, and I have coached 5 sports.
JM:Those sports are?
SG:At Yale I was the Head Coach at men’s soccer, and men’s tennis. I also played in high school soccer, basketball, baseball, and in college I played soccer, squash and tennis. There are a lot of athletes and a lot of coaches, and he was the only one I played for who wasn’t either a high school or college coach. He was in many ways as good as any of them. He knew how to bring out the best in everybody. One of his techniques that I have never forgotten, and I have used myself, is that he would give everyone a nickname and they were always positive nicknames. They were always something that would make you feel good about yourself. Sort of the opposite of what Bobby Knight did in Indiana, just the direct opposite.
JM:What was your nickname?
SG:He called me Radar because He said, “Man, I can hit anything over there and it just ends up in your glove.”
JM:What position did you play?
SG:I was short stop. The first time I was short stop at that period of time his sons were too young for the team, but the twins David and Doug were 10 and Frank was 2 years older. So they were always out there watching and coming to practices. It was just great having the young ones around. N I came back and played later, oh gosh maybe as many as 7 years later, I came back and played but by then Dougie had become a great short stop, David was in center field, and I was over on second base. Frank was at first. So we had all three of them playing in that second tour of duty. I moved over to second because Doug had a great arm. He had a bigger arm than me for playing short stop.
JM:Having listened to his son David talk about his dad, they loved the sport and they loved their father. He was extremely positive with everyone. (See tape # 143A, David McArthur Ed.)
SG:He was enthusiastic. I have been in education all my life, coaching as well as teaching, and I maintain that that it doesn’t matter how much somebody knows about something, if they are trying to impart it to others, enthusiasm is number 1. You could go into class with a Ph.D. professor who knows everything about the subject, but if he is boring and lacks enthusiasm, you are just not going to get the most out of it. Frank was super enthusiastic, very positive. He would always have us over to his house afterwards which was right near the field. It was right across the street from what was then called community Service. We would go over there after games, and he would have a bunch of clams that he had in that little stream next to the house, and we’d have a beer and clams. He just brought the team together in every imaginable way.
JM:Do you know where he got his training?
SG:I don’t. I think David might have told you or maybe we could find out. It is not unusual that you have a love of baseball, but I am not sure where he got it and how he got into the coaching.
JM:Why did you admire him so much?
SG:For many of the reasons that I have just said; when I think of him, I just think of a warm, enthusiastic, positive, and fun-loving guy that made every practice fun and every game fun. You’d go there and he would say, “Let’s play ball.” He was just a classic guy that loved being there. I just thought of another one of his techniques. It is interesting that I refer to him as positive, but he would challenge certain guys if he knew that they could take it. For example, if you were a guy that would always rise to the challenge, he might say, “Hey, Radar, this guy today we are going against, he has a great curved ball. I am not sure you are going to be able to catch up to that.” If I hear that from him, it just sharpens me; it makes me want to rise to the challenge. He might not say that to a different guy because the other guy might not have that feeling of confidence. “Oh the coach doesn’t think that I can do it so it is probably be a bad day.” He would never say that to the wrong kid, the wrong guy. He just knew instinctively how … the psychology was fantastic. I learned so much in my career from him.
JM:Do you remember was there a bat boy with this league?
SG:I don’t remember. I think that the first time it would have been his boy, one of his sons.
JM:The reason I ask is that I did an interview with Richard Chilcoat, and he wanted to be a bat boy. He was permitted to be a bat boy by Mr. McArthur. He wanted a uniform. He was a little boy, about 10. Mr. McArthur went into the shed and found as small as there was a wool uniform. Richard wore that proudly every game that he was a bat boy. He thought it meant a lot to him that he hesitantly said to the coach, “I really would like a uniform.” The coach took the time and the effort to find him one.
SG:It meant a lot to him. You have to keep in mind; I think my total number of years with the team was maybe one year when I was 17 and maybe three later. If I only player with him only 4 years, I am sure I missed a lot. I know I missed a lot of people. I can name some of the people I played with like Ritchie Parsons, and Ron Dower. Chris Getman was a pitcher; he taught up at Hotchkiss at the time. There were a lot of Hotchkiss guys that played on the team. I missed guys whom I later got to know. Geoff Marchant and others, there were a lot of them, but we had a great group of guys. I have come across guys since then who played. We had a good bunch of guys, but I am sure I missed a whole lot of other good guys whom I didn’t play with.
JM:How many were on the team?
SG:Oh it wasn’t a big squad, I think we might have had 16 guys, and most of them would come to most practices and the games when they could. It might have been more but I don’t remember.
JM:When were your practices?
SG:I think we practiced at night, there were no lights down there but the days were long. We probably practiced 5:30 or in the afternoons once in a while. I know it wasn’t just games; the practices were lots of fun.
JM:Oh good, that’s unusual.
SG:Baseball can be a little bit slow sometimes for practices, but Frank made everything fun.
JM:Any outstanding memories of a game or teammates?
SG:Yeah, Ritchie Parsons was a very good pitcher, a good lefty. I think one of the funniest guys who was unusual was Ron Dower who came from Canaan, and I think he has later been a long time counselor at Housie. Ron Dower was a lefty, and he played third base. Nobody plays third base left handed, but Ron was just saying, “I can do this.” It was the strangest thing; he used one of those old pancake gloves back in the 1930’s. I think it had three fingers on it, and he would just gobble up anything that came his way. He would let it hit him if he had to or he would just knock it down and pick it up and throw it across the field to first. He pitched every once in a while, and he threw a left handed knuckle ball which used to drive people crazy. So he was a real character; everything that he did was unusual. He was a good hitter and a good ball player.
JM:What else would you like to tell me about Mr. McArthur or baseball?
SG:I was honored to know him and to play for him and that I am really glad that I run into his son David from time to time. he is the only one who lives right around here, although I have seen Doug too. I was very close to those guys and the whole family. It was a big part of my youth.
JM:Thank you so much for doing this for me.
JM:I appreciate it.