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July 17, 2008

 

It’s Parge’s night at Dexter Park

Softball field named in his honor

Parge Night

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Mike Dexter, wearing a Parge T-shirt, bats in the Old Timers Game on the newly named Partigianoni Field at Dexter Park Wednesday evening. The field was dedicated to the late Jim Partigianoni prior to the annual Old-Timers Game.gallery

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

This memorable evening was over and Old-Timers softball manager Dick “Fingers” Finn sat alone on one of the player’s benches at the newly named Partigianoni Field at Dexter Park in Cortland.
Most of the people on hand for the field dedication ceremony and Old-Timers fast pitch contest had departed. Finn was taking time to catch his breath and remove his spikes before moving along.
Not that the late James ‘Parge’ Partigianoni was not still on his mind.
“I miss Jimmy always. We worked college games together,” said Finn, who was part of the chain gang sideline crew at Cortland High and SUNY Cortland football games that included Partigianoni. Though known more for his passionate involvement in softball and politics in the latter years of his life, that was another of the many Parge endeavors.
 “What a guy,” added Finn while sitting back on the bench. “I will never get over him. Jimmy never said a bad thing about anyone.”
Finn’s endearing eulogy was a common theme throughout Wednesday’s festivities that honored Partigianoni, who passed away from a heart attack this past March at the age of 78.
After giving so much of himself to the community — and everyone was convinced Parge played a role in creating the rainbow that appeared in the eastern sky just as the program was about to begin at 7 o’clock — this was the time to give something back.
That is why the softball field at Dexter Park will be forever named Partigianoni Field, where a large sign will now greet players en route to the diamond.
That is why Cortland Youth Bureau Director John McNerney announced the formation of the Jim Partigianoni Scholarship Fund that already has $3,000 in the coffers to help financially needy children pay the cost to participate in CYB youth programs.
That is why Old-Timers Game organizer Mike Dexter presented the Partigianoni Family with the Dick Aylesworth Good Guy Award that goes annually to a contributor to the fast pitch softball scene in Cortland.
That is why three generations of Partigianoni family members donned royal blue T-shirts to commemorate this occasion. On the back the name Parge stands prominent in large white block letters. Underneath are the words that are also inscribed on the Partigianoni Field sign at Dexter Park:
 ‘A man’s whose voice, laughter and presence was felt from the baseball diamond to City Hall and points far beyond.’
Three of those T-shirts were presented to people who played a large role in the program — Dexter and CYB staff members McNerney and Cess Scott.
Partigianoni’s daughter, Jamie Brown, pointed out so many people were asking where they could get the T-shirts they may be eventually made available to the public. The proceeds from those sales would go to another of her dad’s passions — The East End Community Center which opened in 2005.
FROM A LITTLE early evening rain storm, to the music provided by The Old Timers Band as a crowd gathered, to the program emceed by former Cortland Standard sports editor and historian Jere Dexter — brothers Jere and Mike Dexter being the grandsons of Ira Dexter, for whom this park was named — and concluding with the Old-Timers Game itself where grandson Teddy McGraw threw out the first pitch, Partigianoni would have enjoyed this occasion.
“He may have been speechless if he were here tonight,” kidded one of his five daughters, Kelly McGraw, from the podium.
She would quickly recant that thought, however. Partigianoni was never speechless, was never without an opinion, which was a good thing.
“I might have been mistaken a few times, but I was never wrong,” is how Tom Gallagher, the Mayor of Cortland, remembered the Partigianoni thought process.
“Everyone knew when Jim showed up he was there,” noted McNerney, as Partigianoni’s booming voice usually preceded his actual appearance.
That was part of her persona as an umpire, too.
Longtime cohort Harley Bieber, who worked with Partigianoni calling balls and strikes for 35 years, remembered prior to the ceremony: “I used to love it when he ejected someone from the game because he put so much vigor into it.”
Among the many Parge stories recalled was the time he tossed the opening batter out of a softball game for arguing a strike call on the very first pitch thrown.
Another story passed on by niece Rosemary Adessa later that evening, recalling when John Partigianoni, Jr., was umpiring a game and found himself face-to-face with an angry player he had booted earlier in the evening. Junior had just turned the field lights off when he was confronted.
Brother Parge arrived in the scene at that juncture to lend support, when the ejected player turned and demanded to know: “Who are you?”
That led to Parge bellowing: “Who am I? I’m the commissioner, that’s who I am, and you are outta here.”
PARGE WAS THE American Softball Association (ASA) commissioner and was in charge of assigning umpires locally. He was also instrumental in bringing state tournaments to town during the summer.
The program for the Dedication of Partigianoni Field highlighted his life. Parge was one of 10 children raised in Cortland, served in the army from 1948-52, later put in 30 years at Smith Corona before retiring in 1994 and raised five daughters with his wife Carol.
For the last six years of his life Partigianoni was an alderman for the 7th Ward in Cortland. He is a member of the New York State Softball Hall of Fame and the Seven-Valley Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
And now he will be linked with softball forever at Dexter Park, where the late Gary Wood — a former Cortland High athletic standout who went on to be a quarterback at Cornell and with the New York Giants in the NFL — has the Small Fry football field named in his honor.
“The ball field was my father’s Hallowed Ground,” said daughter Kelly McGraw.
“This is a bit of a homecoming,” said daughter Jamie Brown to the crowd, “because I think it’s so appropriate it’s this field, on the East End, that was so near and dear to his heart.”