Honoree's team wins benefit softball tourney
Fred Jeter | 8/8/2014, 6 p.m. | Updated on 8/8/2014, 6 p.m.
It is fitting that Cooke’s Lawn Service team emerged as the champion of the Rick Warfield Softball Benefit Tournament.
Rick Warfield, right, and Charlie Cooke, the team’s longtime team sponsor, have been friends since Warfield and his wife, Olyn, moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Richmond in 1989.
Considered one of the greats of slo-pitch softball, Warfield also is a former star for Cooke’s.
“Rick is a wonderful person and one of the best (softball players) I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Cooke, a former George Wythe High football standout.
The tournament’s honoree watched from his wheelchair as Cooke’s routed TCB 28-16 in the final of the eight-team, two-day event that ended at Lucks Field at Rogers and T streets in Church Hill. The winners blasted at least 10 homers.
In a Lou Gehrig moment that capped the day, Warfield, who is in hospice care, mustered the strength to address players and supporters who had turned out to show support for him.
“I love softball … and I love you guys,” he said to cheers.
Four other predominantly black teams, Trouble, Mo Better, Stretch and Fo Sho, plus two mostly white teams from Chesterfield also participated.
“It was wonderful,” said Mrs. Warfield said. “I can’t express my gratitude. It brought tears to my eyes.”
Lucks Field was the perfect setting for the championship game.
It was at Lucks Field where Mr. Warfield made his softball debut in Richmond after years as a top player in New York. The fairly short right field fence (actually tennis courts) was an easy poke for the New Yorker.
He initially played for Bojangles, managed by another friend, Ralph “Dog” Dickerson.
Cooke quickly signed Warfield to play for his team. Warfield also did the “Brooklyn Shuffle” for various national champion senior (over 50) squads from Richmond.
Until his early 60s, he was an impressive combination of passion and left-handed power and speed who was known for a unique hitting style he called “the Brooklyn Shuffle,” which he adopted as a teenager playing on New York asphalt.
Adding extra oomph, he actually ran up on the ball from the back of the batter’s box.
Mr. Warfield is a Brooklyn legend for his power. He is said to be the only man ever to swat a ball over the distant right field fence at St. John’s Rec Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Carroll “Goo” Morton, the tournament director, recalls the first time he pitched to Warfield.
“I thought, ‘Oh my, he’s running at me.’ I didn’t know what he was doing,” said Morton, a retired Philip Morris employee. “Then he hit the dickers out of it, and I knew what he was doing.”