by Jim Riggs
April 2, 2011
Never Too Cold For Meszaros
I was sitting at my desk at home on Tuesday morning and had just hung up the phone after calling a high school athletic director to check if that school’s baseball and softball games that day were postponed. Despite the bright sunshine outside, the temperature was 30 and the wind-chill was 22.
That’s why I was informed that both games were postponed. The athletic director mentioned the softball game probably could have been played, but it was just too cold.
The situation was the same on Monday, bright sunshine, but frigid temperatures. There was a baseball and softball game scheduled at another school that day, but I had already called the athletic director the previous night and was told those games were also postponed.
But if it was a Falconer baseball team of the past coached by Denny Meszaros, there would have been no need to make a telephone call.
On Tuesday morning, when looking out at the sunny, but cold conditions, I called Meszaros, who retired in 2004 and asked him what he would have done.
“Would I have played?” he asked. Then he answered with, “You know I would have because I almost always played the first game every year.”
He added, “I always started around the end of March or the beginning of April. Usually March 30, 31 or April 1 every year.”
And if those games were on the schedule and if there wasn’t snow on the ground or it wasn’t raining or snowing, the Golden Falcons baseball team would play.
“You want to think of safety first. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” Meszaros said. “But if the conditions weren’t right, we just couldn’t play. But we did play in cold weather, I’ve got to admit that. But if there was snow on the field (like on Thursday) or it was raining, we didn’t play.”
Not only was Meszaros anxious to get outside and play a game, but also his players.
“I tried to get the games in early because we’re stuck in the gym from March 1 until the end of March, so I tried to get them outside as soon as I could,” Meszaros said. “The kids loved it outside. I always worked them hard in the gym, so they loved getting outside.”
And the Falconer facilities (which are now named after Meszaros) let it happen.
“Our fields drain real well,” he said about the Falconer and Frewsburg baseball field. “We have stones under our fields, both Frewsburg and us, so we were usually the first ones ready.”
That’s why a Falconer home game was rarely moved to the visiting team’s site.
If that ever happened, it was very rare,” Meszaros said. “Usually it was the opposite way around. We were supposed to play somewhere else and their field wasn’t ready, so they came to my place.”
When asked the coldest conditions his team ever played in, Meszaros said, “I would say high 20s, low 30s. We played a couple of games when it was snowing. One game we couldn’t even see because it started snowing so hard we had to stop the game for a while.”
I recalled the game he was talking about because I was surprised to listen to it on the radio.
It was quite a few years ago and Southwestern was scheduled to play at Falconer. I had photographer scheduled to take photos, but when I left work that morning it was gray outside and bitterly cold. So I told the photographer to forget about taking photos, there was no way the game was going to be played.
That was a mistake because I should have remembered it was Meszaros’s home game.
Early that evening I turned on the radio to hear the news and was stunned to hear Pete Hubbell and Skip Pierce on the air broadcasting the Southwestern at Falconer game. I was in shock, but soon I was laughing.
It was already more than an hour into the game and you could hear the teeth of Hubbell and Pierce chattering on the air and their voices were wavering due to their shivering. I could also tell they were not pleased to be broadcasting a game in arctic conditions.
“I remember Skip and Pete being mad at me a few times,” Meszaros said with a laugh. “Crazy Denny playing in this weather. I kind of had that reputation, you know.”
I immediately called the sports department and told the staff to tune in the game because the broadcast was hilarious.
I recall after a commercial break, Pierce noted the outfielders were wearing jackets and hoods.
“We both (coaches) agreed to let them wear jackets because it was cold,” Meszaros said.
Then there was a fly ball hit to the outfield and Hubbell couldn’t see it, and neither could the outfielders, because it was snowing. At that point I recall Pierce saying, as his teeth chattered, “This is ridiculous!”
It was an amusing broadcast, but Falconer and Southwestern got in a game that didn’t have to be made up later. And though he had a reputation of playing games in almost any conditions, no opposing coach ever turned him down.
“If I decided to play, they’d come,” he said. “Probably sometimes they didn’t want to, but no coaches really gave me a hard time. Everybody kind of agreed with my decision.”
Meszaros also noted that for a number of years he was the section 6 baseball chairman and then held that position for the entire state.
“I had all those hats at the same time, so I think some of them were afraid to say no to me,” he said.
The umpires also never complained, but they would often call during the day of a Falconer home game to check if it was still on.
“A few of them weren’t happy, maybe, but they came.
Meszaros doesn’t remember any objections from his players.
“My kids wanted to play. They just loved to play,” Meszaros said.
So usually while other teams had perhaps three or four postponements early in the season, the Golden Falcons were off and rolling.
“I think that early start really helped us,” Meszaros said.
Perhaps that’s why when Meszaros retired he ranked second in Western New York with 509 wins and his team won the state class C title in 2000. And the Golden Falcons were also the state runner-up team twice.
So maybe other coaches should think twice when they look outside at the sunshine, but postpone their game because of the temperature.