Twinsburg -- Above the fold, a headline in a mid-1950s sports section of The Plain Dealer reads "Aaron hits two as Braves win." Just below, in a slightly smaller font, "Potts homers as Radiarts win."
Aurora resident Dick Potts, who celebrated his 88th birthday with his Davco Fastener Co. colleagues March 7, has embraced the game of baseball his entire life -- from his childhood growing up at 66th and Lexington in Cleveland, to his time in the minor leagues in the late 1940s-early '50s, to his brief stint "in the show" with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948.
In turn, the staff at the family-owned business on Edison Boulevard has embraced the slick-fielding third baseman, giving their part-time colleague a memory to cherish with all of those he made on the diamond in years past.
Spearheaded by employees Bob Iorillo, Casey Urosek and Sharon Carcioppolo, as well as Dick's younger brother, Dave Potts (Davco president and CEO), the staff tirelessly researched old clippings and headlines from Columbus and Northeast Ohio papers and compiled a PowerPoint presentation about Potts' impressive baseball career.
"Dick, this is a condensed version of 'This is Your Life,'" said warehouse manager Iorillo, after Potts, completely surprised, entered a room filled with employees, cake, balloons and a projection screen. "Like the cherished members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, you're our cherished member. You could really flash the leather."
As the March 7 presentation began and Potts took his seat of honor, minor league teams with names like "The Schraders," "The Radiarts" (Potts team) and "The Air Taxis" scrolled by on the screen. Employees also presented a glove and an engraved bat (to replace a championship bat that was lost) to an emotional Potts.
"THIS IS more important than anything I've had happen to me," Potts said. "Baseball has always meant everything to me ... this means more than I can say."
Dave Potts Sr., who began Davco 30 years ago, said his older brother was always lamenting never having saved his baseball heirlooms. In other cases, memorabilia was misplaced or lost as the items were handed down through the generations.
"He was always saying, 'I wish I would have kept this or that,'" Dave said. "The man eats, sleeps and breathes baseball."
"When you talk to Dick about his baseball past, the passion in his eyes and the stories are so touching," Urosek said. "We wanted to recreate some of those memories for him."
Potts was a 3-sport star at John Hay High School in Cleveland, graduating in 1944 before serving his country in World War II in the Philippines. He began his baseball career shortly after that.
"The easiest way to describe it is that we were kids and we were able to play with men," Potts said, adding that he was lukewarm about his time in the majors. "I didn't like it. I wanted to be back home."
"Baseball players did not make a lot of money back then," Dave Potts said. "There were no signing bonuses. Dick had to work outside of baseball to support his family."
Now, at 88 and going on about 60, Dick Potts says he is happy to work in the family-owned business several days a week, helping out his brother and nephew (also Dave Potts).
"I just want to thank everyone," Potts said. "If [Dave Sr.] wouldn't have given me a job to work here, then this never would have happened ... it makes me want to play baseball."
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