The final words from Walter Youse as Baltimore's sandlot baseball season ended last summer were unsettling.
He was retiring. Probably.
He was retiring, at the age of 78, after nearly four decades as general manager and manager of the city's best 20-and-under team unless a new sponsor came forward. Johnny's New and Used Cars, the team's sponsor for almost 25 years, no longer could afford to provide such generous support.
Just such an angel has stepped forth, and out of Youse's past no less.
His name is Bill "Lefty" Corrigan, who pitched for Youse in 1955-56 when the team was known as Leone's and who today owns Corrigan Insurance Agency.
"I wasn't interested in sponsoring just any team," said Corrigan, who went to Loyola High and pitched in the Kansas City A's farm system. "This is based on my feelings about Walter and what he has done over the years. It's based on Walter and tradition. Baltimore would lose something if it didn't have Walter running this team."
The team known as Leone's, Leone's-Johnny's, Johnny's and now Corrigan's has won 37 straight Baltimore City championships and sent 300 of its graduates into pro baseball. Forty-five of those have reached the big leagues, one (Al Kaline) is in the Hall of Fame and another (Reggie Jackson) appears headed there.
The club has captured 18 All-American Amateur Baseball Association tournament titles, 10 in the last 13 years. The tournament brings together the 16 best 20-and-under teams east of the Mississippi River for a week of double-elimination play.
Little about the team has changed except its name. Playing home games at Spring Grove, Corrigan's won 11 of its first 12 as it plunged into a 75-game schedule that includes competition in two leagues and exhibition games twice a week.
As always, the season will culminate with the AAABA tournament in Johnstown, Pa., Aug. 10-16. Corrigan's has games at Spring Grove this week against Arundel AC Thursday (6 p.m.), the Yankee Rebels Friday (6) and the Bayside Yankees Saturday in a doubleheader starting at 1.
One evening last week, Youse sat in a folding chair in the shade of a small dugout at Spring Grove, barking orders to the players and longtime coaches Norm Gilden and Mel Montgomery.
The players were wearing one of the three sets of new uniforms purchased by Corrigan. He is putting about $25,000 into the team for uniforms and such expenses as equipment, transportation, health insurance and umpires at $35 a game. Youse hopes to pay his coaches a few bucks, too.
"We can operate first class," Youse said.
All but four of the players are from this area, but they represent a dozen schools, including UMBC (Todd Smith, Donnie Russell), Towson State (Eric Wagner), Mount St. Mary's (Ed McCarron) and Dundalk (Jeremy Benson) and Essex (Chris Lafferman, Robert Webster) community colleges.
The other colleges are Jacksonville, Old Dominion, Richmond, Auburn, South Carolina-Aiken, William & Mary and Ohio State. Youse eagerly awaits the arrival of the Ohio State player, Roy Marsh, an outfielder from Perry Hall.
"He runs 60 yards in 6.2 seconds," Youse said.