Game to honor John McCaffrey
A longtime Tonganoxie baseball coach will be honored June 8 for his dedication to youths.
John McCaffrey, who coached Tonganoxie summer T-ball and baseball for 40 years, plans to attend a commemorative game sponsored by a group of his former players.
The game will be held at 4 p.m. June 8 at the baseball field west of the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds. The players on one of McCaffrey's former teams will test their skills against the current Tongan-oxie high school-age baseball team coached by Mike Weyer.
Chuck Robinson, a former player on the team McCaffrey coached from T-ball through summer high school baseball, said he's undaunted by the challenge of playing a high school team.
"Those kids are going to have their hands full," Robinson quipped. "I'm going to say we're here today to play for John McCaffrey he expected us to win then and you know what we're coming to get you."
On a more realistic note, Robinson laughed, and said one former teammate's reaction was typical:
"I called Leonard Larrison and he said, 'I can play if I can find my glove,'" Robinson said. "I mean, that's not good news."
To Robinson, John McCaf-frey was more than a coach.
"He was a father figure to all of us on and off the field," Robinson said. "If we had personal problems, we could go to him."
McCaffrey, whose family last week told him about the game, said this was unexpected.
"It surprised me," he said, smiling.
McCaffrey recalled his coaching start: "A bunch of kids came up and asked me to get involved and that's what I did away we went."
The teams' successes varied.
"We had quite a few winning teams, and we had some losses," McCaffrey said.
Through the years, he coached teams that three of his children were on. His son, Brian, was on the same team as Robinson. Some of the others on the team, Robinson said, included Eric Gambrill, Shane Smith, David Seuser, Wade Bailey, Larry Caenen, Leonard Larrison, John Carey, Jay Monhollon, Kyle Lux and Dana Gouge.
McCaffrey, 73, is a lifelong Tonganoxie resident who lives today just a block from the house where he was born. A large green shamrock painted on the asphalt street in front his home hints at his Irish heritage. He graduated from Tonganoxie High School in 1947 and served four years in the Air Force.
After returning to Tonganoxie he operated a barber shop. Later he worked at a grocery store for Bill Seymour and Jim Gambrill. In recent years, McCaffrey has been instrumental in planning the annual Tonganoxie St. Patrick's Day parade.
He and his wife, Marion, have five children John, Jim, Bob, Linda and Brian, and six grandchildren.
McCaffrey recalled his coaching years.
"My favorite thing about coaching was the kids," he said. "I enjoyed the kids, and the parents. The parents gave me great support."
Marion McCaffrey said she's looking forward to the upcoming baseball game.
"It is so thoughtful of people. But John loved what he did then," she said. "That was his life he enjoyed kids and the kids liked him. He knew how to handle them and he knew his game."