Annapolis City Recreation and Parks Director Dick Callahan remembersthe day when the Annapolis Summer Men's Basketball League called a tiny playground in the city's Eastport section home.
"Back in 1968,I had just started working with the Recreation and Parks Department,and I had been out of college for about four years," he recalls. "Weused to get a bunch of guys together and play at Third and Chester in Eastport. It started out as a lark, but all of a sudden, it startedbecoming more popular."
Little did Callahan know that 23 years later, his informal "pickup" games would evolve into one of the more popular summer roundball circuits in the region.
This evening, the 10-team league begins its13th year at the Truxtun Park facility.
After it enjoyed huge popularity from the late 1970s through the mid-'80s, drugs began to threaten the league's existance.
"Around that time, (former) Mayor (Dennis) Callahan had begun to take a hard stand against drugs, and he cited the league as being a part of it. He and (league Commissioner) Leslie Stanton were the catalysts in helping to clean up the image of the league," Dick Callahan said.
Stanton, who also directs the Annapolis Youth Athletic Association Summer Basketball League, is pleased with the league's resurgence in popularity.
"I think the league has made a return back to stability. We have a lot more fans coming out to the game, and they're much more diversified. Parents are now allowing their kids to come up to Truxtun and watch the games. Things are definitely looking up," Stanton said.
Annapolis resident and longtime summer league spectator Kenneth Booze echoes the feelings of many area fans who now find a similarity between the league's present atmosphere and that of the late 1970s.
"There used to be a lot of togetherness at the games back then. And it stayed that way until themid-80s. Things just started going haywire. But it seems like everything's under control now," said Booze, a member of the 1984 AnnapolisHigh School state runner-up gridiron squad.
"It seems to be a tremendous resurgence. There are some good competitive rivalries betweensome of the teams, and families are starting to come out more the way they used to."
A recent infusion of such youthful talent as Annapolis High graduates Ted Cottrell, Jeff Brown, Eugene Slocum and Dennis Edwards has aided the league's comeback.
"Getting young playersof that stature helps to continue the tradition. As the older guys start reaching their twilight years, it's nice to have some fresh talent to keep things going," Stanton said.
This season, the NCAA-sanctioned league will contain two divisions within the 10-team team league. The Magic Johnson Division contains defending league champion F-Force as well as Hunt's Movers, Selly's Car Care, PJ's Pub and the Seahawks, while the Michael Jordan Division offers league runner-up Pro-Jersey along with Harris and Sons, Annapolis Gardens, Henry's Liquorsand Gunther's.
"Right now, I see the Force as a favorite to repeat," Stanton said. "I think they've boosted themselves up a notch withthe addition of Edwards (who played for Gunther's last season), plusrumor has it that they may have added a couple of big guys from (Washington,) D.C. I'd have to say Harris and Sons and Pro-Jersey will beclose behind.
"Harris and Sons has some nice players in Brown andSlocum, and Pro-Jersey still has the Carter brothers (ex-Loyola of Baltimore player Kevin and brother Brett) and Matt Campbell (Towson State). Hunt's and PJ's and Henry's have some scrappy players, as well.I think it'll be pretty interesting."
Notable newcomers include Pro-Jersey's Rick Moreland -- former University of Maryland at Baltimore County standout and present public relations director of the Washington Bullets -- and Anne Arundel Community College scoring machine Ron Wade.
Annapolis resident and National Basketball Association referee Lou Grillo may be on hand to sharpen his skills during the off-season, Stanton said, along with a contingent of Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference officials from Board 134 (Prince George's County and the District of Columbia).