This past Monday night I attended a meeting of softball luminaries to discuss a potential Hall of Fame. Before we even got started, Pat Hegewald informed me that Fred “Doc” Tenuta had just passed away, losing a battle with cancer. I was shocked. Only 57 years old, he went to Tremper High School before graduating from Marquette University Dental School in 1980. Fred was an active member of the Kiwanis Club and served as the advisor to the Key Club at Tremper. He was also very involved with his alma mater’s sports programs, particularly football and basketball.
His love of sports flowed onto the softball diamond and was involved with many teams. It would be tough to recall all of the different teams that he kept scorebook for. Because I don’t want to overlook anyone, I won’t even attempt to try.
It was through softball that I first met Fred. If he wasn’t bringing a lineup up to the booth at historic Finney’s West, he was keeping book against my 400 Club team in a city league game. No matter where it was, Fred usually had his signature grin working. He always seemed to be smiling.
Well, there was one time that he wasn’t smiling.
On that particular night, the 400 Club was playing Pasquali’s Snowblind Oasis in a 6:00 tilt at expansive Roosevelt Park. Fred was keeping their book and every 5 minutes, starting at 5:45, I hollered across the diamond to see if he had their lineup for me.
Each time I got the same response, “Not yet Puddles, we’re waiting for guys.” I knew what he was going through, I hated that feeling. Finally, two minutes before game time, Fred came over to give me Snowblind’s lineup.
As he started reading off the names, he grumbled, “Looks like we’re only playing with nine guys tonight.” After each name he would glance down 68th street, hoping to see another player. Then, after reading the eighth name, he finished with an uneasy, “And I guess I’m batting ninth and catching.”
Wow, I thought to myself, Snowblind really was short if Fred had to play.
Playing the Snowblind with only nine guys was an edge for my team. Playing them with Fred as the ninth guy was a HUGE edge for my team.
Fred was a first-rate dentist; an all-around nice guy and he possessed many fine qualities. Playing softball wasn’t one of them. That’s why he kept score. He didn’t want to play and I realized that.
A small part of me felt sorry for Fred that warm summer night. In all my years of managing the 400 Club, I never had to play one inning. I always made sure we had enough guys. I never wanted to have to go through what Fred was about to.
The game started out innocently enough as we grabbed a quick lead. By the time Fred came to bat in the third inning, that lead had become comfortable.
As he tentatively stepped into the batter’s box, I shouted at my outfielders to come in a few steps. I knew Fred had absolutely no power and I didn’t want a blooper falling in.
Hey, I said small part of me felt sorry for him. They rest of me wanted to win.
Not satisfied with how much my outfield came in, I stood up and hollered even louder, “Will you guys move in? He’s never gonna hit it that far.” Satisfied, I turned to sit back down.
Before my ample backside hit that bench, Fred stepped out of the batter’s box stared straight at me and hollered, “Will you shut up, Puddles! I feel bad enough as it is!”
Somewhat embarrassed, I mumbled an apology and then watched Fred hit a feeble popup to second base.
For the rest of the game, I kept my mouth shut each time Fred came to the plate. It didn’t really matter, though. He didn’t get any hits and we went on to win the game handily.
After the game Fred’s signature grin returned and from that point on I tried to never make Fred feel bad again. It was much nicer seeing him smile.
Rest in peace Fred.
Dear God, please remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; may you bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence.
Until next time…from the booth.