November 13, 2002   Vol. 41 No. 33

PRIEST TAUGHT MAJOR LEAGUER
THE ‘ARTS OF PITCHING’ IN CYO

Father Thomas Kelly
Father Thomas Kelly remembers his
coaching days at Holy Name of Mary.
(TLIC photos by Chris Caputo)

By Chris Caputo

Valley Stream — Among the former members of Holy Name of Mary Church, Valley Stream, gathered at the parish’s 100th anniversary dinner Nov. 8 was Father Thomas Kelly, 86, who served at the parish from 1941-54. Father Kelly had a chance to reminisce with his old friends, especially about his coaching days with the parish’s CYO baseball team – the one that produced two major league pitchers.
    Tom Gorman was a reliever for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics and Herb Score was the 1955 Rookie of the Year with the Cleveland Indians.
    Father Kelly, now retired and residing at Our Lady of the Angels Church in Bay Ridge (Brooklyn), served as an associate pastor of Holy Name of Mary from 1941 to 1954 when it was part of the Diocese of Brooklyn. (The Diocese of Rockville Centre was created in 1957.)
    Father Kelly played baseball in high school at Cathedral Prep in Brooklyn and at Fordham University. “I was a second baseman and Vince Lombardi was a classmate of mine; he was catcher,” Father Kelly said.
    “Father Kelly taught me the arts of pitching,” Mr. Score, now 69, said from his Cleveland home. Mr. Score, who grew up in Rosedale (just over the Valley Stream border) but attended Holy Name of Mary School, wanted to be an outfielder. “I noticed he had a very good arm when throwing from the outfield,” Father Kelly said, so he tried the sixth grader as pitcher. “He had a tremendous fastball, so he was amenable to pitching.”
    “I showed him the fundamentals, but he developed everything else after that,” Father Kelly said, unwilling to take too much credit.
    Father Kelly, a righty, showed the southpaw how to throw a fastball, a curveball, and how to pick a guy off first base.
    The Scores moved to Florida at the end of Mr. Score’s high school career so that his ailing younger sister could be in a warmer climate, but Father Kelly kept his eye on the baseball player. 
    During one year in the minor leagues, Mr. Score struck out 330 batters in 251 innings, breaking the previous record of strikeouts in a season by 66.
    Mr. Score made his major league debut on April 15, 1955 in Detroit. Father Kelly offered Mass for Mr. Score’s intentions at 5:30 a.m. and then caught a plane to see his protégé win his first major league game. 

Herb Score's wedding
Father Thomas Kelly, far right, officiated at the
1957 wedding of Herb and Nancy Score in Florida.

    Whenever Mr. Score came to New York, the two would meet up for dinner and talk about old times. Father Kelly traveled to see Mr. Score win his 20th game of the season against Kansas City in 1956. In the sixth inning, Father Kelly’s other former player Tom Gorman came in to pitch for the opposing team. “It was a tough thing to decide whom to root for,” Father Kelly said. Mr. Score won the game but Mr. Gorman also pitched well. “After the game, the three of us went out and talked about times in Valley Stream,” Father Kelly added. 
    On May 7, 1957 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Gil McDougald hit a line drive that struck Mr. Score in the eye and ended his season. He made a partial comeback in 1958, and pitched a full season in 1959, but he could never return to the overpowering presence he had been in the past. Mr. Score retired from the field in 1962 and became an announcer for baseball games on radio and TV for almost 35 years. When he was honored before his last broadcast in Cleveland, he asked Father Kelly to be there so that he could say a few good words about his coach and friend.
    In front of 46,000 fans, Mr. Score said, “I want to introduce you to the person who taught me how to pitch.”
    “I had to stand up there and take a good hand from the crowd,” Father Kelly said. “I almost cried when he did it. In fact, every time I think of it, it fills me up.”

Herb Score pitching
      Herb Score pitching in 1955.

    Mr. Score was always a very religious man, Father Kelly said. When the Indians were in spring training in Arizona, Mr. Score would attend Mass every morning. When they were on the road, he would find the nearest church and attend Sunday Mass. Herbert Score got the middle name Jude because his mother prayed to St. Jude for a boy before Mr. Score was born. “It has special meaning to me and has become my favorite saint,” Mr. Score said. 
     Father Kelly officiated at the wedding of Mr. Score and his wife Nancy 45 years ago, and he baptized the couple’s four children. “He’s a wonderful person and a great friend,” Mr. Score said of the priest-coach. 
    Father Kelly, who enjoys swimming and skiing, loved to coach doubleheaders on Sunday afternoons after Mass. His best memories are giving signals to the kids, whether it be to bunt, steal, or pitch out. “We loved to play one-run ball,” Father Kelly said. “If we got a man on third, we’d love to put the squeeze on,” and bunt him home. 
    Besides baseball, Father Kelly helped run the youth group at Holy Name of Mary. “We had the largest confraternity in the area,” Father Kelly said of the group. “I still hear from many of them now.”


Reprinted with permission of the L.I. Catholic




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