Chapter 15 (Epilogue)
The Serguci League celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1998. Part of the season-long celebration included recognizing individuals and groups that were instrumental in the success of the league - those involved in the initial establishment as well as MVP Players, Managers and Coaches, longevity in volunteer service and other contributions to Beano Field or the league in general. A ceremony was planned before every game and the league's Golden Anniversary Committee decided to recognize Daniel Webster Schmidt on the evening of August 22nd.
Dan had been gone for twenty-five years but his sixty four year old daughter Jenny Morton-Ruggles was happy that her Dad was being remembered for his service as an original founding committee member and for his nine years as pitching coach for the Hillsboro Beansters (1948-1956).
Jenny represented her Dad at the ceremony held at home plate of Beano Field before the game between the Beansters and the Sun Rise Lake Lions, the last team to join the league (1967). Uncle Cliff, the last surviving member of the previous generation, passed away in 1978 but several of Jenny's cousins were happy to join her for the ceremony, as was her husband Tim and their twin children, 23 year old Alan and Brenna.
Not a day went by when Jenny didn't think of her parents. The Hillsboro Community Theater was still going strong and Sarah Elias' name continued to hang over the theater lobby. Hillsboro High School named its new baseball field "Dan Schmidt Field" when the new school opened in the 1980s, recognizing the long career of the faculty alumni and legendary baseball coach.
Jenny still followed baseball even though it wasn't the same without her Dad. But he was always in her thoughts - especially when Reggie Jackson's Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978 (and the pennant in '76). The Yanks also won the World Series in 1996 with Joe Torre and as Jenny took to Beano Field to honor her Dad it looked like New York had a good chance to win again in '98.
Of course, there was the Red Sox epic World Series in '75 (losing despite Carlton Fisk's magical home run in Game 6), the Bucky Dent homer in the '78 playoff game, and the '86 World Series melt down when the Mets came back from the dead to win the championship. Jenny was certain that her Dad would be amused by those events, even if her mother had forgiven the franchise for the way they treated Dan back in 1913.
Some called the Sox misfortune 'The Curse of The Bambino' but Jenny liked to think that maybe it was the curse of Danny Schmidt!
Jenny tried to recall if her mother knew Ronald Reagan back in the Hollywood days and what she would have thought of him as a two term President of the United States. Jenny had pretty much given up on Politics, having never truly recovered from the JFK (and later Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King) assassination(s) and becoming cynical after so many years in the newspaper business.
Jenny and her family became the third generation to live in the Schmidt home, moving in following her Dad's death. The couple invested in modernizing and updating the hundred year old house. A year later, Jenny learned she was pregnant with the twins, at just about the same age as her mother had become pregnant with her.
At the age of 51 in 1985, Jenny was named the first woman editor in the history of the Greenville News and Dispatch and she knew her parents would be proud of her accomplishments. She was a year away from possible retirement when she walked onto Beano Field to represent her Dad but he had taught and coached until he was nearly seventy and her mom was performing in community theater well into her seventies so Jenny wasn't sure if she was ready to call it a career just yet.
The Danny Schmidt ceremony captured a lifetime of baseball and served as a wonderful salute to The Pride of Hillsboro, from his earliest sandlot days, to his success as a Hillsboro High School player and the Town Team as well. Onlookers clapped when it was mentioned that Hillsboro's own Danny Schmidt pitched a game for the Boston Red Sox in 1912 at the brand new Fenway Park and went on to enjoy another dozen years as a minor league and semi-pro player before returning to Hillsboro to coach at the high school and for the Town Team, help found the Serguci League, and serve for nine seasons as the Hillsboro Beansters' pitching coach.
Daniel Webster Schmidt retired in 1962 and died in 1973 and there were several generations who had never known the man or heard of his accomplishments but everybody in attendance at Beano Field on Dan Schmidt Night on August 22, 1998 stood and cheered when his daughter Jenny was presented with a "Serguci Award" for all that her Dad had achieved and she was grateful that he was remembered.
Jenny gave a brief speech, mentioning a few of her favorite memories, including her father's sense of justice and equality from the start, letting her mom play alongside the boys in the early 1900s and later when he treated every and all players with dignity and respect because, she said, "it's not the color of your skin that matters, but the depth of your character."
Jenny left the field with her family to a standing ovation.
The Year 2012 marked the 100 year anniversary of Dan Schmidt's debut with the Boston Red Sox. Jenny had been forced out as News and Dispatch Editor in 1999 and she had been enjoying a quiet retirement with her husband in the subsequent years.
'The Curse of Dan Schmidt' remained in affect through the 2003 Sox season when Aaron Boone hit the homer off reliever Tim Wakefield to break the hearts of New England once again as it was the Yankees not the Red Sox who advanced in the playoffs. Her Dad's favorite team the Yankees had won the World Series in '98, '99, '00 and '09 while the Sox had not won a championship since 1918.
But all that changed in 2004 when the Red Sox finally got the Bambino (or was it Danny Schmidt?) off their back - down three games to none in the championship series to the Yankees, this time it was the Red Sox who came back from the dead - winning four straight (the first in one of the most dramatic games in the history of the club) and Boston went on to win its first World Series since '18. The Team would win again in '07.
Jenny cried the night Barak Obama was elected President in November, 2008. It was the first time since the JFK election in 1960 that she felt hopeful and excited about a national election and she recalled her father remarking how JFK would bring in a new era of change and advancement. She knew that her father would be so very proud that the country finally elected its first black President with the hopes that society would be able to move past the bigotry and unfairness her own father had experienced but, sadly, as it turned out, things appeared to get worse.
"Where's Pee Wee Reese to wrap his arm around Jackie's shoulder out there on the diamond to silence the jeering crowd?" Dan Schmidt might have asked if he were still alive and witnessing the racial rift of the Obama presidency.
The seventy-eight year old Jenny was invited to a Beano Field event recognizing the hundred year anniversary of Dan Schmidt pitching a game for the 1912 Sox and her old friend Mickey Demrest at the News and Dispatch interviewed her about the game. Jenny avoided the controversy of 1913 when her father was unceremoniously cut from the Sox minor league team, instead talking warmly about how proud the entire town was of The Pride of Hillsboro pitching at Fenway.
Demrest also researched the story through old newspaper articles and put together a nice feature story about young Dan Schmidt. Jenny was happy to represent her father on Beano Field that night - she never grew tired of the legacy and lore of her father and baseball.
On a sleepy snowy New England Saturday afternoon in February of 2016, eighty-two year old widow Jenny Morton-Ruggles sat behind a table in Johnson's Book Store in downtown Hillsboro signing copies of her locally published Book, The Pride of Hillsboro. On the cover were photos of both of her parents in their prime, two Hillsboro natives who found fame on the national stage - her father as a ballplayer, her mother as an actress. Jenny's book covered the story of both parents - from their time together as children in the early 1900s until their deaths, her mom in 1967, her dad in 1973.
Jenny got the idea for the book in 2012 when The News and Dispatch and The Serguci League noted the 100 year milestone of her father pitching at Fenway Park. The retired newspaper editor started going through her parents' papers and collectables that had been stored in a closet in the house for years. She also had the cassette tapes of the interviews she conducted with her Dad in 1973.
Jenny found every letter Danny Schmidt ever wrote to Sarah Elias (and many of hers to him), scrapbooks full of photos, postcards, notes and letters, scorecards from games, and newspaper articles and magazine features on the actress Sarah Elias. Jenny even came across a copy of the letter written by Kenneth T. Murphy to the Red Sox regarding her father's heritage and although she had no proof that the Red Sox released her father because of his alleged black (or perhaps Indian) blood she still wrote about it in the book from the perspective of the Schmidt family and locals who believed the Sox treated Danny Schmidt unfairly and how that singular incident in Danny Schmidt's life shaped his character and attitude for the rest of his years.
But the book was mostly a love story between her parents who didn't marry until 1957 when they were both in their mid-sixties.
"Theirs was a love that spanned decades and miles, ball fields and movie sets, hardship and misunderstanding, stubbornness and independence," she wrote.
Jenny had been researching the book for well over a year but it wasn't until the Red Sox won its third World Series in ten seasons in 2013 that she actually sat down in front of the computer and began putting the pieces together, feeling the need to get it all down in an account before it was all lost to history. It was important to keep The Pride of Hillsboro alive even after all these years.
Jenny was feeling disinterested in the 2016 Presidential election (not even Feeling the Bern), fearing the country was more split apart and decisive as ever and she wondered how her father might feel about the situation.
"Baseball," she could hear him reply. "Baseball is the great unifier. Baseball is the great equalizer. Baseball is the great American game."
How wonderful it would be if Dan could still feel that way after the way baseball treated him in 1913.