ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Four years ago, doctors told Harry Tarlian, then 73, to limit his physical activities.
Cut back and take it easy, they told the Providence, R.I., retiree after he underwent triple-bypass surgery and had a pacemaker inserted.
Now, 38 games into the softball season, Tarlian leads St. Petersburg's senior stars with 16 home runs. Not bad for a guy whose pulse was so weak doctors thought he would die in his sleep.
But Tarlian's teammates are not overly impressed. They attribute his home run output and speed on the basepaths to his youth--a mere 77. After all, one of Harry's teammates is 23 years his senior.
At exactly 1:45 p.m. three days a week--Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday--Tarlian and 37 other men aged 75 to 100 gather on a St. Petersburg softball field for opening ceremonies. Half play for the "Kids" team, the other half for the "Kubs."
A whistle blows and they march to each side of second base and, facing a flag held at the pitcher's mound, sing the national anthem. Then they march two-by-two toward the flag, salute and line up along the base paths leading to home plate.
At this point George Bakeswell, a 92-year-old great-great-grandfather from Livonia, Mich., vigorously leads them in their cheer:
What's the matter with 75?
We're the boys that's all alive.
High ho, let's go,
Rah, rah, 75.
The leadoff batter for the Kubs is Fred Broadwell of Apex, N.C. This will be Freddy's only at-bat of the day, and he grounds up the middle into center field. At an even 100 years of age, Freddy is played sparingly as he recovers from recent throat surgery.
Andy McKnight, 78, from Newton, Mass., this year's president of the Kids & Kubs, says the league is limited to those with ability and a birthdate at least 75 years past. In addition, McKnight says, each player "must display good character and be a good sport. But, above all, each must be a gentleman."
No player is accepted until he completes one year of probation. Some have been rejected.
Tradition, 55 years of it, dictates that players dress in white pants and white shirts with black bow ties.
Players say they want don't want to be admired just for playing at their age, but for playing well. And play well they do, with a keen sense of competition. Indeed, this season they had to stop logging batting averages because of the squabbles it caused.
Eighty-year-old Bob Gosford, from Newport, R.I., takes infield practice with a cigar in his mouth. Gosford says many of his cigars have marked additions to his family--he has 16 children, 58 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren. One man suggested that if every player could assemble his entire family to watch one game, they might even fill Yankee Stadium.
After 38 games, the teams were knotted at 19 victories apiece. Rules specify that if either team falls four games behind, the captains must make a trade to strengthen the losing side.
As an 18-year veteran, Bakeswell has been involved in trades, and at age 75 even served as batboy until there was an opening. His goal, he says without a hint of humor, is to play until the year 2000--when he would be 108.
"Heck," he says, "I got no aches and pains at 92, so why not?"