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Archive for Saturday, February 17, 2007

Keegan: Pancakes perfect first pitch

February 17, 2007

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The carrier pigeon gave way to the postman, who had his load lightened by the telephone, which widened its net with the cellular phone, which became sneakier with the advent of the text message.

Just when you get the hang of something, it's replaced by something "better."

Nothing, it seems, lasts forever.

Except, that is, the annual American Legion Dorsey-Liberty Post 14 pancake feed. Nobody has figured out a better way to pig out at breakfast in the name of charity than to sizzle up flapjacks.

The 58th Pancake Day is scheduled for March 3, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Legionacres II, 3408 West Sixth.

Post 14 sponsors five summer baseball teams, and in order for the players to be dressed properly when the umpire yells, "Batter up!" Pancake Day makes that possible.

Former Post commander Alan Fisher remembers well the first pancake feed.

"Jack Starkey had heard about a pancake feed as a way for people to raise money," Fisher said. "He was talking about it, and his dad, George Starkey, stole the idea. George Starkey, Delbert Mathia and my dad, Harold Fisher, all three of them were American Legionnaires. Those three organized it and worked it all day by themselves and made the thing go. The first one was on the second floor of the firehouse, where the senior center is now on Eighth and Vermont.

"The first one was 50 cents a head for all you can eat. They were so proud of that because they made $139. The next year it moved to the basement of the community building on 11th and Vermont. They ran it down there for years and held the pancake feed from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. In those days, they made the pancake batter from scratch. They didn't go buy a bunch of box mixes. The Friday night before the pancake feed, they would get about 15 or 18 guys down there in the basement, and they mixed up all the ingredients. George Starkey - what a great promoter he was - and the Legionnaires got all the people to donate big boxes of eggs, coffee, and all the ingredients. Simon Hurwitz from the All-Star Dairy donated the milk. They got the sausage from different meat markets. The crew would mix up the batter, and it grew to where they were mixing up 250 gallons of batter at one time. They would keep it in big milk cans they got from the old dairy companies."

Baseball has been on the brain more than usual these days because it symbolizes summer, which means warmth, which means no slipping on the ice.

Baseball, it seems, always has been on the brain for our armed services. American Legion baseball began in 1922. The baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., lists 64 inductees who served their country in times of war.

Casey Stengel could fill out this lineup card of fellow servicemen and hand it to umpire Jocko Conlan: Joe DiMaggio RF, Ernie Banks SS, Willie Mays CF, Ted Williams LF, Hank Greenberg 1B, Mickey Cochrane C, Eddie Mathews 3B, Charlie Gehringer 2B, Christy Mathewson P.

Between forkfuls at the pancake feed, you might even want to make a case for Oscar Charleston, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller or Warren Spahn making the lineup.

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