Seventy-two years ago, young men spent their summer days and nights at Brown Park in south Omaha. To date, Sam Stella has watched more than 50 years of amateur and legion baseball.
“Our ground crew did a pretty good job here,” Stella said.
He's even played a few in his day.
“We didn't have a coin when I was playing ball,” Stella said.
Sunday the Class A championship amateur baseball game was drawing an extra crowd.
“Looks like some of the people from the ceremony are sticking around,” Stella said.
That’s after a special homecoming and re-dedication of this World War II plaque. 40 names listed on it. 40 former players who left this sandlot for another.
“We played a lot in this ballpark,” Peg Dineen said.
Dineen's brother Tom McCaslin was one of them.
“Tom was the closed to me. So he was wonderful I could fix him up to take a girlfriend to the prom or whatever. And he was a great brother he really was,” Dineen said.
The entire McCaslin family played at Brown Park, Tom until 1942 when he went to war.
“My memories are pretty slim because he left right away in 42 and I was just six. He was killed as a part of D-Day in 44. Actually he's still missing in action, although we think we have found his plane but we didn't find tom,” Fr. Pat McCaslin said.
Sunday the McCaslin siblings found Tom's name engraved, re-dedicated after 72 years.
“He wasn't a great ballplayer, whatever they tell you,” Fr. Jack McCaslin said. “He may have been better than me.”
But the sacrifice he and so many others gave is far greater than their baseball skill.
“Veterans gave their life so we could play baseball,” Stella said.
Seventy-two years later, there are 40 extra players watching over a new generation, as they continue to play the game they once loved.
“Which means we have to honor the veterans. And that's what the plaques all about,” Stella said.
Among some of the names on the plaque, Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, who played at the park when visiting his parents in Omaha. Also at the reflection spot, a poem written by a mother who lost her son in the war.