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FORMER CUBS KEEP SPIRIT ALIVE ON THE BALL DIAMOND

SHARE FORMER CUBS KEEP SPIRIT ALIVE ON THE BALL DIAMOND

Though their alma mater has since been replaced by a junior college, Al Hansen and a group of South High alums vow to keep the Cubs playing "til we die."

No longer part of the Utah High School Activities Association, these Cubs have left State Street for the bright lights of the Valley Softball Complex. Right there, on diamond No. 2, the legacy continues."No question about it," says Class of '53 graduate Doyle Hedgepeth. "South High is very much alive."

And kicking, says 1952 grad Ken Sterzer: "It's our way of keeping South High and the memories."

Sporting blue hats embossed with an "S" and jerseys scripted with "Cubs" across the chest, South High now competes on the senior softball circuit. Salt Lake Parks & Recreation is their game, the World Senior Games their aim.

"When you're an athlete you never give it up. You always want to compete," said 1954 grad Jim "Babe" Mancuso. "The only thing that bothers us is when someone calls `grandpa' 11 heads turn."

Heads also turn on the softball diamond where the Cubs regularly turn double plays and win games. Comprised entirely of players age 60 and older, South won a Parks & Rec division title in 1993 and once placed third at the World Senior Games in St. George.

"The most satisfying thing, of course, is the continued relationship with the people," said Hansen, who formed the team after a suggestion by a classmate at a reunion planning meeting in 1991. "It's just like going back to the good, old days."

Twenty-four players are on the squad, 20 of which have connections to South High. Hansen said the others have been adopted.

"There's a lot of tradition here. Once we decide to get together it just kind of blossomed" said Gary Mellus, also from the Class of '52. "People are amazed that we are all still together."

A majority of the Cubs graduated from the Salt Lake City school in 1952 and were members of prep and American Legion state championship baseball teams.

"We really have a good camaraderie among the players," said Mancuso.

The program, financed by fellow alum Neil Papiano (1951), a prominent California attorney, provides common ground for the men.

"It's mainly to do that," said 1954 graduate Brent Larsen. " . . . to keep the guys together."

Adds fellow Cub Roger Pusey: "It's just to perpetuate something we really love."

Like South High.