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Today’s Legend is a great one and he is Mike Ricci of Auburn. He recently wrote a book about baseball. which will be available for sale in the next few weeks. Here’s a little bit about Mike’s history, and then I’ll share with you an excerpt from his new book.

Mike graduated from Niagara University in 1969. After he sent out applications all over New York state, he was accepted as a seventh-grade teacher at Central High School in Auburn. He and his lovely wife, Pat, married, and they have seven children.

Mike had been umpiring baseball at Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and he continued to do that, working as an official for the Syracuse, Ithaca and Geneva umpires associations. While he was teaching in Auburn, the local Babe Ruth League hired him and his other officials to work their league games in 1974.

Before the 1975 season, one of Mike’s sons, who was 7, wanted to play in the Pony League. (The Pony League was a minor league for the Little League.) When his son was cut from the team, Mike began to form a new league, called the Kids Sandlot League so that his son and other children could play baseball that summer. Both boys and girls played, and 60 children formed four teams. Mike continued as the league president until the end of the 1977 season.

In 1979, Mike started another league called the Boys and Girls League for kids who were 12 and under.

From 1976 to 1982, Mike taught high school English at the Caledonia-Mumford and Vestal school districts. While at Vestal he crafted a district-wide spelling bee. Four winners of that bee continued on to participate in the Scripts-Howard Spelling Bee in Syracuse finishing in second, fifth and eighth place.

In 1989, Mike started a local spelling bee for children in grades one through eight. In 1992, it was found that not too many sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders wanted to compete, so Mike expanded the bees to include other children through out the state. He continued as director until 2002.

In 2010, Mike’s commitment to Auburn took a new turn as he began writing a column for The Citizen called, “Watch Your Language.” After he had contributed 75 columns, his family life took a new direction; his wife Pat began suffering from sarcoma, a form of cancer. He wanted to do something to augment his Social Security income, so he decided to write a book about baseball. He knew there were many books out there about the history of baseball, so he thought he’d write one with a new twist — from the point of view of the guys who played the game. He did that and the book is called, “The Greatest Game: Our Lifelong Romance with Baseball.” He finished writing it last month , and it will be ready for sale in a week or two and is expected to be available on Amazon.com. Mike will have a few copies available when the book is printed and he’ll sell them on a first-come basis. This book would make a great gift for any of the baseball fans in your life, and for yourself! Contact Mike at nesb2015@gmail.com.

The following is an excerpt from Mike’s new book, and well worth a read! Thanks to Mike and his lovely wife, Pat, for being a great Legends of Auburn!

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

On July 4, 1939. Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, Lou Gehrig uttered these famous words at a Home Plate Ceremony.

“Fans, for the past few weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Today, I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

The vast gathering sat in absolute silence for the longest period than perhaps any baseball crowd in history, as they heard Gehrig deliver such an amazing speech as ever came from a ball park.

“I have been in ball parks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men, which of you wouldn’t consider it a highlight of his career just to associate with them even for a day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t considerate an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire. Ed Barrow? To have spent the next six years with that wonderful fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today. Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky!

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and visa versa, sends you a gift—that’s something! When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in the white coats remember you with trophies—that’s something! When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in a squabble with her own daughter—that’s something! When you have a mother and father to work all of their lives so that you can have an education and build your body—it’s a blessing! When you have a wife who has been the tower of strength and shown more courage than you dream existed—that’s the finest I know!

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

Gehrig had been forced to retire as a player two weeks earlier due to his diagnosis with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease that bears his name. But on this hot muggy day, he was being showered with kind words and numerous gifts, one of which remained as a source of inspiration to his dying day. The event was held between a double-header with the Washington Senators which was viewed by 61,808 fans. In December 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He died on June 2, 1941.

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Ormie King's column appears Sundays in The Citizen and he can be reached by email at ormie5king@gmail.com.

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