A four-piece brass band played, and the West Palm Beach Tropics' mascot entertained. It was Opening Day in the Senior Professional Baseball Association, and the atmosphere stirred memories for manager Dick Williams.

"You still have the tingles, absolutely. If you don't there's something wrong," the former Oakland Athletics skipper said.

"Our owner, Don Sider, is from Chicago, and I think there might be a little Bill Veeck in him," added Williams, who led the A's to two World Series titles in the early 1970s. "Even though there might be a circus atmosphere, we hope it isn't on the field."

The Tropics were hardly clowns during an 8-1 victory over the St. Lucie Legends. And while both teams showed there's a lot of room for improvement, the overall quality of play left SPBA president Rick Horrow encouraged about the future of the league for players 35 years and older.

"When these guys told me at the beginning of camp, they'd all go in with their spikes up, slide head first ... the managers said they'd win all 72 games, I was skeptical," said Horrow, a Harvard lawyer. "After watching today's game I have no doubts that we've created the boys of fall."

A crowd of 3,000 filled about half the seats in Municipal Stadium. And, on a scorecard, the game looked like just any other.

The first inning alone included a sacrifice, a bunt, a disputed umpire's call, a wild pickoff throw, a stolen base, an error, a walk, a strikeout, a double and a fine defensive play by Legends third baseman Graig Nettles.

"This is like being back at Shea Stadium," said John Papetti, a New York native who now lives in Boca Raton. "It's great to see these guys are coming back. It brings back a lot of memories. It shows the spirit is still there in them and in us."

Horrow, who crisscrossed the state for Opening Day festivities, also liked what he saw at Fort Myers, where Dennis Leonard, Steve Luebber and Don Hood combined on a six-hit, 13-0 shutout of the Gold Coast Suns before 2,302 fans.

"In the first inning alone, there was a hidden-ball trick, a diving play at shortstop, a headfirst slide at second and a player sliding at home to beat the throw after a single from second base," Horrow said.