Bob Downie, history, baseball
While loading one of the boats today, I was giving directions to people getting their cars ready to board the ferry, when I found myself giving directions to a Block Island guy who I met waaaaay back in the 60's. It was local historian Bob Downie. Bob is a guy I always read in the B I Times; he writes great snatches of Block Island History. He is also a guy whom I always like to see.
My memories of Bob back in the late 60's were of him tending to the Harbor Master's shack on the bulkhead near Ballards: selling fuel, keeping things organized and tying up boats. Bob is an affable guy; always was. Other memories include him sailing a Sunfish in New Harbor in '69 when I was learning to sail one myself, and Bob playing baseball- really good baseball.
One game that stands out up at the highschool field, was a game between the Old Harbor Rats and another motley gang of renegade miscreants, hippies and standard issue misfits. What a cast of characters: Blake Phelan, Danny Hart (Hully Gully) the Red Baron, and Wild Bill Willard were some of the guys sprinkled on the diamond. Jim Kelly, the piano bar player from Smugglers was the pitcher, and batters were hitting him all over the field. Jim was trying to key into the zone.
So I think it was Ed McGovern that stepped up and cranked one of Jim's pitches to deep center field. There was a man on third. Downie, with his blond curley, hip and longish hippy hair, surf trunks and no shoes called it, and left and right fielders gave him way. Downie leapt at least 2, maybe 3 feet in the air, made an amazing catch, and threw the guy out at home. People were shaking their heads at that one, "Whew!" "What the hell was that!" "Man, that guy huh!"
Nota Bene: It would be many years later that I realized that Bob was a voracious collector of Block Island History. Bob Downie's books are terrific references for people who love island lore and photographic documentation of days now gone.