Jun 19, 2009 Herm Card Uncategorized
“He took care of the little thing…”
At the end of Bernie Blake Drive in Syracuse is the baseball field of the Corcoran High School Cougars and the Valley Babe Ruth League. Last winter, Bernie Blake, the man for whom the street is named, passed away at the age of 77. The US Army veteran, known to nearly everyone associated with Babe Ruth Baseball in the Syracuse area had served for many years as a local and district Babe Ruth Baseball Commissioner, running countless local and regional tournaments. But his real love was the Corcoran baseball program and the field behind Van Duyn School that he had tended for several generations of ballplayers.
Ernie Capriotti, now holds Blake’s former position with Babe Ruth League, joined Bob Southworth, Jim Mahaney and Brian Nolan in the ceremony paying tribute to “Bernie.”
Capriotti, himself a member of a family with its own significant impact on Valley baseball, spoke of Blake with the affection shared by all who knew him.
“Bernie comes from what Tom Brokaw called ‘The Greatest Generation.’ He served in the US Army and fought for our country in Korea.
He had a sense of duty because it was the right thing to do, not because he might gain recognition for his service. He was kind, dignified, caring, wise, generous and uncomplicated. Bernie loved Baseball, a cold beer, a cheap cigar and our kids.”
It was said, “As much as Bernie meant to Valley baseball that’s how much Valley baseball meant to him.”
Bernie loved to watch baseball, usually from a folding chair within chatting distance of the first base umpire, and given the chance, he would make sure the field would be ready for a game regardless of the weather.
Frequently, while other fields in the area were wet and unplayable, the Cougars were able to take the field because of Bernie’s dedication, expertise and ability to motivate his grounds crew — usually Corcoran players — to get the field in shape to play.
Blake’s impact might best be summed up in the words of Corcoran’s legendary coach Bob Southworth.
“We knew that when Bernie died last November we would miss him, and we do. It never hit home how much he did until this spring when we got to the field and it wasn’t raked, had no bases and wasn’t lined. Then it hit me how much we depended on him. Bernie did everything.”
Southworth looked at the sign to be erected on the backstop of the ball field and read the words under Blake’s likeness: “Took care of the little things .”
“I’m glad it says that,” said Southworth.
And as “The Star Spangled Banner” played to herald the beginning of a new baseball season in the Valley, the flag that had covered Bernie’s coffin on a cold November morning now waved above the centerfield fence in the glorious warm spring sun.