Since its inception in 1960, the Greenwich Old Timers have established a tradition of giving back to Greenwich and celebrating athletics.
Rod Saggese III, the current president of the Old Timers board, went to Greenwich High School and played baseball and football there.
He recalled how it was through his father, Gerard, also “Rod,” who was honored by the Old Timers, that he learned about the organization.
“My dad, who was an English teacher at Greenwich High School and became the headmaster of Bella House, was a football coach from 1979 through 1992,” the younger Saggese said. “Then he went on to coach other things. He taught until up about 10 years ago and coached me the final year in 1992.”
“I had him for English in 1986,” said Marc Ducret, who is also on the board.
“I joined Greenwich Old Timers about 10 years ago,” Saggese recalled, adding that he remembered how as a kid he watched games in Cardinal Stadium from the sidelines with his father.
“Youth sports have always been a big part of my life,” he added. “My father has been a football coach and when he came to Greenwich in 1979, we’d drive up on Saturdays and I remember watching games in the stadium,” he added. “Here we are in the grown up years and it opened my eyes up to what Greenwich Old Timers is, and now I’m doing my part to give back.”
Saggese said the Old Timers board is comprised of 24 civic minded community leaders with a passion for fostering youth sports.
“We raise funds for youth sports in town and provide funds to different teams and leagues – and scholarships to scholar athletes in need,” he said.
In addition to their annual awards dinner and annual appeal, Old Timers holds a charity golf outing, which is set for May 24 at Fairview Country Club. Ducret and Mr. Saggese are busy planning the golf outing, which was added as a fundraiser in 1997. The tournament will honor Joe and Jim Branca, who founded Old Timers in 1960.
“We try to draw 100 golfers each year and raise funds through entry fees, sponsorships, and a raffle,” Saggese said. “Since 1997, people have looked forward to it as a way to get together with friends and teammates at a beautiful golf course in town.”
Saggese and Ducret are excited about next week’s golf outing because both the 2020 golf event and annual awards dinner were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Those on the receiving end of Old Timers fundraising are worthy. Some of the numerous recipients of funds raised have been the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA, as well as various leagues in town including Jr Babe Ruth, Lady Redbirds, GYFL, Jim Fixx Memorial Day Run, Greenwich Flag Football and Greenwich Youth Lacrosse.
“Anything to do with GHS, we’ve donated to – baseball, ice hockey, fencing,” Ducret said. “You name it.”
Beyond thousands of dollars given to various teams and leagues in town, the Old Timers fund 4-year, need based scholarships to deserving student athletes through the Greenwich Scholarship Association.
Other scholarships include the Michael Sandlock Baseball Scholarship and the Joseph Piro Jr. Memorial Award.
In 2015, the Old Timers initiated a four-year scholarship in memory of David Theis, who was a Selectmen of Greenwich and fellow Old Timers board member for many years.
The annual dinner is a signature event. Held at the Hyatt Greenwich, it is attended by 500 people annually. The dinner program books are a trove of memories.
Saggese said the event used to be held at the Terrace Club, a bar and restaurant near where Shoprite and the Hyatt are located today.
“But the true old timers called it ‘Laddin’s Terrace,’ and the dinners were held in smokey rooms.”
Every year the Old Timers dinner features national honorees.
“There’s some very famous names who have come to the dinners,” Saggese said. “Pick a professional athlete and they’ve probably spoken at Old Timers in the last 60 years.”
Saggese said typically there are two national honorees from various sports, and between two and four local honorees and coaches.
In 2019, the two national honorees were Kenny Bell who played at GHS then at Boston College before playing with the Denver Broncos, and Art Shamsky who played for the Mets and Cincinnati Reds.
Local honorees were Kim O’Gorman Menges, a standout player Hobart William Smith, and Dom “DeDe” Passerelle.
Saggese said 8 years ago Old Timers created the Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given out separately.
“The Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Rob Spaeth in 2019. He is very influential in baseball,” Saggese said. “That is the type of roster we get each year!”
The previous year the award went to Joe Kelly, and the year prior it went to Terry Lowe.
To be added to the Old Timers newsletter email list, go to Greenwich Old Timers where there is a subscribe tab.
The decades of annual dinner programs are a slice of Greenwich’s history. Check out the programs here.
You can also register for the May 24 Golf Outing at Fairview Country Club by clicking here. The event includes lunch, golf, fore caddie, raffle, and cocktail reception following golf on the terrace.