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In The Pipeline: We made a great save

Well, if you read last week's column, then you know that what started out as an AOL Weird News article a couple of months ago soon became something much more.

Such was the case when my opening day piece lamenting the sorry state of songwriter Jack Norworth's grave in Anaheim touched the hearts of several fans, enough to make them want to take action.

Norworth is the man who, in 1908, penned the lyrics for what has become the third most popular tune in the United States, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," behind the national anthem and "Happy Birthday."

J.P. Myers, an Orange County blood courier, was the first to take up the cause, starting a Facebook page to generate interest in creating a new historic marker for Norworth at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Next came Maria and Charlie Sotelo, who operate a local monument building company. Then it was local businessman Jamie Chisick stepping up to donate money, followed by KinderVision, an organization dedicated to child safety. AOL News also covered a portion of the proceeds.

And then Sunday, what seemed unthinkable several weeks ago became real on an overcast morning — a stunning marker dedicated to Norworth was unveiled at Melrose Abbey Memorial Park, where Norworth is buried.

In a ceremony attended by more than 100 people, I had the privilege of acting as emcee for the unveiling ceremony. There were Little Leaguers (including kids from Huntington Beach), fans, friends — and a Hall of Fame pitching legend, Rollie Fingers, on hand to take part.

Myers spoke, as did the Sotelos, Chisick and Doug Sebastian, founder of KinderVision. It was Sebastian who made the arrangements to have Fingers appear, as the ace relief pitcher is a KinderVision spokesman.

In addition to talking about how special "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" is to him and other big leaguers, Finger said, "As the spokesperson for KinderVision, the national child safety education program, I usually say, 'The greatest save is the one we never have to make.' However, in this case, this is a save we definitely needed to make. I am honored to be a part of saving Jack Norworth's legacy to baseball.

"I invite everyone who has participated in this effort, everyone who loves baseball and kids, everyone who loves doing good for kids, to keep this effort moving forward by joining the Greatest Save Team at KinderVision.org. Together, we can continue to impact baseball's youngest fans for generations to come."

Jennifer Sweet, head of the nearby Laguna Beach Little League, brought the 1958 trophy given to Norworth at a Dodgers game to mark the song's 50th anniversary. It since has become the award given to the best Laguna Beach team each year, as Norworth spent the last 20 years of his life there (and even helped found the local Little League).

A photo of Norworth first receiving the trophy, provided by Los Angeles Dodgers historian Mark Langill, added an unexpected moment of coincidence to the proceedings. Marked on the back of the photo was the date that it was shot: July 11, 1958, the same day as the unveiling ceremony.

Somewhere, the baseball gods must have been smiling. And somewhere, at this very moment, it's no doubt someone is singing the song that brought us all together.

Only now, there's a place that truly honors the man who wrote it. It's about 15 minutes from Huntington Beach, and I hope, at some point, you have a chance to visit the marker. It's really something else.

Special thanks to you In the Pipeline readers who joined us at the ceremony. It was great seeing you there.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 17 books, including the new "Huntington Beach Then & Now." You can write him at chris@chrisepting.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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