Remembering Famous Small Town Athletes by Dr. Joseph Maroon

February 7, 2021  Dr. Joseph Maroon was recently featured by his hometown newspaper, The Times Leader, where he contributed an article entitled, Memories of Summer Baseball with Local Legends. In the article Dr. Maroon relates the stories of how he and sport legends, John Havlicek and Phil Niekro, played baseball together and won the American Legion state championship in 1957.

John Havlicek, who served as the short stop and second baseman, would later be elected to the All-Ohio teams in baseball, basketball, and football. He was named a basketball All-American at Ohio State, became an elite player for the Boston Celtics, and was then elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. Another player, Phil Niekro, would become known as one of the greatest knuckle ball pitchers of all times. He was All-State in baseball, won over 300 major league baseball games, was selected for five All-Star teams, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

In the article Dr. Maroon notes the recent deaths of these sport heroes and how the values they were taught in the Ohio Valley came to serve them their entire lives.

Sadly, on April 25, 2019, at the age of 79, John Havlicek passed away. He’d been one of the most agile, indefatigable, and athletic people on the planet, a man who legendary Bill Russell called “the best all-around player I ever saw.” But Havlicek was afflicted with a neurodegenerative disease that slowly robbed him of that remarkable coordination and agility. Then, on December 26, 2020, at the age of 81, Phil Niekro succumbed to cancer.

The article ends on the concept of overcoming and being stronger after enduring adversity.

….. no one would have ever predicted the success and leadership roles these “three kids from Bridgeport” (including Dr. Maroon) and their colleagues would attain. Just as acorns must weather storms, these young men confronted mediocre expectations and even parental resistance to overcome adversity and become strong resilient champions. ……….The lessons I learned growing up in the rough and tumble Ohio Valley also remind me of the “common law of life” so eloquently captured by Douglas Malloch in his poem, “Good Timber”.