MIDDLETOWN >> One of my all-time favorite books is Jerome Holtzman’s “No Cheering in the Press Box.”
The book is a collection of interviews Holtzman did with 20 sportswriters who reminisced about their experiences covering games and athletes during the “Golden Age of Sports.”
It’s a fascinating read. Holtzman simply took his tape recorder, turned the “on” button and let the true giants of sports writing – from Red Smith and Jimmy Cannon to Shirley Povich and Paul Gallico, among others – talk about their interactions with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Knute Rockne, Red Grange and Jack Dempsey.
My favorite anecdotes are when these famous sportswriters recall breaking into the journalism business and seeing Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice in action.
After retiring from many seasons as a Chicago sportswriter in 1999, Holtzman was named the official historian of Major League Baseball.
Besides being a terrific book, “No Cheering in the Press Box” also happens to be an unwritten rule for sports journalists: a tenet that has been handed down since Rice began typing, “Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again…,” in the Polo Grounds press box on October, 18, 1924.
Today, however, at beautiful Palmer Field in Middletown, I will be cheering. If Mr. Bransfield wants to remove me from the press box, I’ll understand and oblige.
I’ll be cheering for the Portland High School baseball team as they try to win their first Class S state championship since 1988.
I’ll be cheering for Highlanders pitcher Jason Staub and the rest of the Portland seniors who had some big dreams coming into the season. Those hopes were somewhat dashed when they finished 11-9 and then got bounced out of the Shoreline Conference tournament.
But they regrouped and got hot at just the right time and will now be playing in the biggest game of their lives just a stone’s throw across the river from their home town.
I’ll be cheering for Hayden Manning to make another spectacular catch in centerfield.
I’ll be cheering for Portland coach Rick Borg, who will be carrying a lucky charm in his pocket when the Highlanders take the field against Thomaston.
Before Portland’s semifinal round game against Trinity Catholic, former Highlanders star John Giudice, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, gave Borg the batting glove he wore in Portland’s 4-1 victory over Shepaug Valley in the 1988 championship game.
I’ll be cheering for Notre Dame-West Haven and Northeastern-bound John Amendola, who last summer pitched the Branford Legion team all the way to the World Series.
I’ll be cheering for Green Knights junior outfielder Ben LaCroix, who happens to be my neighbor. Wouldn’t it be something if Ben gets up in a tie game and smashes a homer into the right field bleachers?
I’ll be cheering for the Haddam-Killingworth Cougars, who will be trying to win their first state baseball championship in school history.
And most of all, I’ll be cheering for Cougars coach Mark Brookes, who founded the H-K program in 1976.
Because seeing Brookes, one of the all-time good guys, finally win a state title would be the most darndest and most enjoyable moment I can envision in my 20 years covering high school sports in Connecticut.
Even if it is a little unprofessional.