Good trips, great memories

Old photographs can be fun to look at, especially when there are good memories that go along with them.

A reminder of that came last week in an e-mail.

It was a copy of picture that had been taken sometime in the early 1980s and had been sent to me by Jon Michael Nese, the son of the late John Nese. In the picture were me, the elder Nese and Gene Stabile, who did local radio for several years.

The three of us are gathered around a card table at some outside venue — I’m not sure where, but we obviously were there working, likely covering an American Legion baseball district or state tournament game, me for the Herald-Star and Nese and Stabile for WSTV-AM. That table with its folding legs was the press facility for the game — it was a long way away from the climate-controlled, Wi-Fi-enabled suites that the members of the media work out of today.

It was a picture that triggered some pleasant thoughts and served as a reminder that a lot of time has passed since I first came to work at the newspaper in 1981.

I had known Nese for several years before I signed on a sports writer. We both were members of the Steubenville Umpires Association, had worked together on a couple of occasions and attended the weekly meetings as required by then-assigner Leo Domanico.

Part of working in sports means there can be a lot of travel involved, especially when the tournament season heats up. And, since we always were going to the same place, it seemed to make sense for members of the media to ride together, and, when the trip required an overnight stay, for our respective companies to split the cost of a hotel room.

The trips included travel to all points of Eastern Ohio and Northern West Virginia — from Columbus, Canton, Cambridge, Coshocton, Massillon, Marietta, Athens, Parkersburg and Fairmont — wherever the games were played, we traveled.

That meant a lot of time on the road — which meant there was a lot of time to talk.

One of the people who often was on the trip was John Sorrenti, who at the time was the play-by-play man for WEIR-AM. Sorrenti, a Weirton resident, spent his career in education, just like Nese, and, also just like Nese, was a longtime area umpire.

“We would team up and go in the same car. We spent a lot of time together and heard a lot of stories,” Sorrenti said Monday while remembering Nese, who died July 6 at the age of 78. “You know, John had as many stories as there are pages in the Bible. Everyone in the car always had a great time.”

Among the many topics covered were baseball and softball rules. Since many of trips came in the late winter during the basketball tournaments, we’d talk about changes in the rules, strange plays we had been involved in and went over situations from the rules and case books. Those talks, I’m sure, helped each of us become a better official.

“What was so great about it was there was a whole wide range of subjects we talked about — and none of them concerned politics or religion,” Sorrenti said.

Not having to make the two-, three- or sometimes four-hour trips alone always seemed to help the time go a little more quickly and helped to create friendships. While that photograph brought to mind plenty of good times spent traveling to and from games or meetings, it also struck a sad chord, serving as a reminder of a time that was now past, a thought Sorrenti helped put into perspective with a few simple words:

“Good trips, great memories,” he said.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)