It was by chance that Archbishop Spalding landed a gentleman with a wealth of baseball knowledge this week in Tommy Lind to coach the Cavaliers' baseball team.
Lind is an ex-pro shortstop and member of the sports Hall of Fame at both Mount St. Joseph High and Loyola College in Baltimore.
He once played in the same minor league with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and on the same team with one-time Orioles' center fielder and all-time flake Jackie Brandt.
Lind, who resides in Crofton and is an Annapolis mortgage banker, replaces rookie coach Steve Miller of Hyattsville. It was one former middle infielder pinch-hitting for another middle infielder.
Athletic Director Domenic Pachence made agood decision in naming Lind head baseball coach.
Miller, an ex-minor league infielder who played at DeMatha High and the University of Maryland, was named the Cavaliers' head coach back in the fall, succeeding Pachence. Pachence wanted to concentrate on his duties as athletic director.
Unfortunately for Miller, he had to give up his first high school head coaching job before coaching a game. Miller's full-time work schedule prevented him from continuing as coach.
So, Lind became a rookie head high school coach at a "young" 63, and I say young because he has kept his hand in the game as coach of the Cheverly American Legion team in Bowie, Prince George's County, for the last 20 years, and has lost none of his enthusiasm and ability to communicate.
There is no question that men who stay involved in the great game of baseball never seem to age. Once a "boy of summer," always "a boy of summer."
"On Sunday night, Steve (Miller) asked (Spalding assistant) Mike Locastro to call me and see if I would be interested in the job, since job pressures were forcing him to resign," saidLind.
"He knew that Locastro knew me well. Mike had played for meat Cheverly American Legion about 10 years ago. I told him I would take it if they worked everything out with Domenic and the administration."
Lind, who was one of several outstanding baseball people interviewed for the job back in the fall, was at practice Monday. He wasintroduced to the players by Miller.
Tuesday, Lind coached his first game and the Cavs dropped a 5-4 heart-breaker to Gilman, the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference defending champion.
The Cavs, who were 9-12 a year ago under Pachence, presented Lind on Thursday with his first victory, 10-2, over Atholton of Howard County.
"It was good to get that one, because when we get into our league schedule in the MSA, it's not going to be easy, and I don't know if we have enough pitching to survive," laughed Lind. "But Atholton only lost by 4-3 to Mount St. Joe before they played us."
The Gaels are annually an MSA A Conference contender and one of the top teams in the Baltimore metro area along with defending champion Calvert Hall. Those teams are familiar to Lind, who over the years frequently has gone to watch his alma mater play.
A product of East Baltimore's hotbedof soccer, Lind grew up a stone's throw from Patterson Park, playing soccer and baseball. He entered Mount St. Joe his junior year, but didn't play baseball until his senior year.
Lind became an impact player in soccer his first year with the Gaels and was named All-Maryland both seasons. Brother George, who was the baseball coach at St. Joe when Lind entered, didn't know much about him and kept him on theJV the first year.
His senior year, Lind became the starting second baseman and was named All-Maryland at the position. About three years ago, Mount St. Joseph named Lind to its Hall of Fame.
Two years before that, he had been named to the Loyola College Hall of Fame. His Loyola career in soccer (All-League for three years) and baseballwas unique, to say the least.
Lind played professional baseball before he played at Loyola. He had signed with the Boston Braves out of high school at age 17 and because the National League club didn't have any roster openings in its minor-league chain, he worked out withthe varsity that summer.
Living at the Boston residence of Jeff Jones, the scout who signed him, Lind worked out daily with the Braves' major-league club until Uncle Sam came calling during World War II.
After that unique one year of pro baseball, Lind joined the Navy and served 20 months near San Diego. His baseball ability kept him onthe West Coast playing for the U.S. Navy team.
"He had good range, an excellent arm and hit the ball hard," said veteran Evening Sun columnist John Steadman, who has Lind to thank for his opportunity as a catcher in pro baseball.
"I signed with the Pirates off the Legion Gaels team because the scout, John 'Poke' Whalen, came to see Tommy. Lind had already signed with Boston, so he signed me instead."
Upon his military release, Lind tried to get into Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass., but the baseball team was full. So, he took a boring job filing cards for the IRS and played in a college league in Vermont.
"That IRS job drove me nuts, and I entered Loyola in January of thatyear," said Lind. "I played baseball for four years under Lefty Reitz and was able to do it because the Mason Dixon League back then passed a rule that people who had been in the service after being in pro ball could play college baseball."
Lind went on to become an All-Mason Dixon League shortstop for the Greyhounds and hit a few homers that old-timers still talk about.
When I coached baseball at Loyolaback in the late '70s, a few of the old guard in the Block-L Club pointed out where a couple of Lind's prodigious clouts had landed.
On the old field, the old gymnasium was in deep left field, about 360 feet from home plate. Lind frequently hit the building, and once, sothe legend goes, whacked one through the open gym doors, and the ball rolled down the hall, startling and scattering a couple of studentswalking through.
"Lefty was great, and I loved playing there, butI wasted my time in terms of playing pro ball," says Lind. "Those were my formative years, and I should have been playing in the minors instead."
He did hit the bushes again after graduating from Loyola and made stops in Hagerstown and Jackson, Miss., in the Braves' chainbefore being drafted by Oklahoma City, a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. Lind played two years in Sooner country before being sold to the Cardinals' Columbus, Ga., club.
The team played in the old Sally League and had a good hitter owned by the Cincinnati Reds on the Columbia, S.C., club. The man, who was in his second year of minor-league baseball, tore up the Sally circuit, batting .336 with 25 dingers and110 RBI.
That man went on to play 21 years in the big show, most notably with the Reds and the Baltimore Orioles, the club he now manages. Yes, it was No. 20, Frank Robinson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
"You could see then that Frank was headed for great things," said Lind.
Also, while there, Lind played under theman he said was the most brilliant baseball mind he has ever come across -- George Kissell.
"George Kissell was a genius, and I learned more about baseball in one year under him than I learned all my life," said Lind. "Back then (1954) George was running a lot of the defensive plays and cutoff plays you see teams running today. He was a college professor with an incredible mind."
The Cardinals recognizedthat and elevated Kissell to coach with the big club from 1969-1975.Lind was released after that season and put what he learned to good use at his alma mater, Loyola.
He returned to Evergreen as an assistant to Reitz and became head men's soccer coach of the Hounds for afew years.
In 1973, he got involved as a coach with Bowie High's Bill Vaughn running the Cheverly Legion team. It was in 1974 and 1975that Lind and Vaughn took Cheverly to the American Legion World Series, which Mayo Post No. 226 won this past summer.
During the '70sand early '80s, Cheverly dominated legion baseball in Maryland with Lind developing an impeccable reputation as a great teacher. Under Arundel High coach Bernie Walter, Mayo has replaced Cheverly as the state's dominant legion team.
In recent years, geographic changes in Prince George's have resulted in a drastic population drop-off at Cheverly's main player draw, Bowie High.
The population in the Bowie community has fallen from 55,000 to 31,000, and Cheverly is not the dominant club it once was.
"But Bumps and I still turn out good teams and still enjoy running the club," said Lind.
"So far, the transition (at Spalding) has been smooth and the kids have been great. My only problem is we don't have enough pitching, and that's what you need in the MSA. With only 14 players and just two seniors, we will just have to make the best of it."
And if anybody can do that, Lindwill, because as they like to say in baseball about veteran coaches who know the game, "he's probably forgotten more baseball than a lot of guys know."