David Flanders was honored on July 5 in the dedication of the newly named Flanders Field on the Peaked Hill access road in Chilmark. David, who died on Thanksgiving Day in 2008, is generally recognized as the most monumental figure in the over-100-year history of the Sunday morning Chilmark softball game, and was well known for his monster home runs in games from the late 1940s into the early 1970s.
The commemoration began with a piper in full bagpipe regalia, followed by informal comments from several longtime players, including Chilmark softball commissioner Bill Edison, Hans Solmssen, Peter Simon, Jimmy Wallen, and Peter Neumann. All brought greetings from one of David Flanders’s memorable contemporary sluggers, Ozzie Fisher, who was unable to attend. Various anecdotes were related. David was instrumental in bringing the game back to Chilmark after it had temporarily moved to the West Tisbury firehouse field after many years at the old Chilmark dump and then Mrs. Toomey’s field.
Also, it was recalled that David was asked to do a Babe Ruth imitation by pointedly calling his home-run shot — he reluctantly did, and accomplished it successfully. Someone mentioned that the historical Sunday games had caused a switch from church to synagogue. Discussion ensued relating to a wonderful article by Bob Crichton on the history of the games, which appeared in Peter Simon’s 1980 book, On The Vineyard, volume 1, and was later reprinted in the Sunday magazine section of The New York Times.
Numerous other players from that era were present — including Lenny Jason, Denys Wortman, and Steve McGhee, to name just a few among an appropriately large group of participants. Fran Flanders and daughters Julie and Chris were presented with a bottle of California champagne, and the new Flanders Field sign carved by John Scott and painted by his wife Hannah was christened with other champagne by Caleb Caldwell, who for many years has come to the game all the way from Oak Bluffs.
A Chilmark fire engine was also visible in deep right field. Finally, Fran Flanders tossed out the ceremonial first pitch, and the games continued for another year.
Incidentally, David once had a tryout with the Boston Red Sox. The fact that they chose Carl Yastremski instead of David was clearly a Red Sox loss and Chilmark’s gain.
Peter G. Neumann lives in Chilmark
and Palo Alto, Calif.