The Last Connection to a Passed Friend

One of my favorite ballparks to visit in the New York-Penn League is the one in Brooklyn, where the Cyclones play. To the right of the stadium is the Atlantic Ocean, the boardwalk is behind the outfield walls, and there’s a fantastic candy shop right down the street (plus the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs stand). The environs couldn’t remind me of summer any more than they already do, so it’s a great place to catch (or call) a ballgame.

One of the friendliest people I’ve met in the broadcasting world covered the Cyclones for the first decade-plus of their existence, but he’s no longer with us. I remember seeing Warner Fusselle up in the outdoor portion of the press box many different times, battling the wind to set up the umbrella above his radio gear. His hair usually lost that fight, but the rainbow umbrella always managed to keep from flying away. Warner was as sharp as a tack, but looked a lot older than the 66 years old he was when I met him.

Warner always made sure to say hello the moment I got to the park. No matter what time we showed up after battling traffic for the 60-mile trip from Dutchess Stadium, Warner was there with a smile. When recalling how he landed the broadcasting gig with the Cyclones, he acted as if he was surprised that he was ever offered the job. Maybe he hadn’t done all that much play-by-play in his career, but he was a significant on- (and off-) air presence for This Week in Baseball. With such a clear, recognizable voice and a long tenure dealing in the bigs, he was a shoo-in.

That modesty– along with a penchant for dry humor– got him far in the baseball world, and certainly made him a lot of friends too. Although I couldn’t even begin to write an obituary for him, I figured a tribute here would be the least I could do. In the times I dealt with him on Coney Island and at the Dutch, I never saw a grimace, heard a complaint or sensed the least bit of negativity out of a man who loved every minute of his life involved with baseball.

There was one last tie between Warner and I this season, though I never got to mention it to him. I sure he would have appreciated the update on a former Cyclones infielder. JB Brown, who played second base for the juggernaut Brooklyn offense in 2010, was a part of the Worcester Tornadoes for the first 25 games this season. After a fantastic 2010 campaign hitting near the bottom of the lineup, JB struggled in 2011 after getting injured. He unfortunately didn’t impress in his Can-Am League stint, but seemed like a nice kid.

I wish I had five more minutes to speak with Warner about how great it was to see some players I watched play in affiliated ball a couple of years later. In fact, I’d take five minutes to speak with him regarding just about anything. A goodbye would suffice if I knew beforehand it would be my last conversation with him. After the last game between the Hudson Valley Renegades and the Cyclones was canceled in 2010, I didn’t get another opportunity to talk to him.

If I were better with goodbyes, maybe the end of the post wouldn’t be so hard to write. Maybe I’d have a better story to tell about a baseball legend that deserves better. If there’s one thing I noticed Warner Fusselle always appreciated, it’s leaving it all on the field, as cliche as that may sound. I hope it appears that way for the people listening to my broadcasts, because I know that’s what Warner’s listeners got every single game.

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