By Gary DeSantis
Special to The Meadville Tribune
I met Ed Mailliard nearly 50 years ago. Then he was known as just Eddy, or at least, that’s what my aunt Mary Varano called him. Eddy and my cousin Glenn were friends and they and a few other guys met at my aunt Mary and uncle Mick Varano’s house on upper Pine Street. The Varano house abutted the parking lot of Talon Plant 5 and the lot provided a perfect place to play a wonderful game called PG Ball.
The game took its name from the practice golf balls we used. They are plastic balls with holes in them the size of regular golf balls. It was similar to baseball in general rules but some changes were made to speed things up and increase competition. The batter had to use a very thin plastic wiffle ball bat. Instead of three strikes and unlimited foul balls, a batter only got one swinging strike and two fouls for an out. There were no walks or steals and the runner could be put out by making a throw for a force out or actually be hit with a thrown ball and retired that way.
Eddy and his friends were probably 15 or 16 and I was 19 or 20. We weren’t children but we sure acted like little boys. The games were always competitive and hotly contested. As I recall, the players were the regulars: Glenn and Bob Varano, the Gaglione brothers, Richard Sobilo (not Rick or Dick, always Richard), Sean Lynch, John Corrigan, David O’Boyle and David Zelasco. On occasion, a few other guys would make an appearance, I remember my buddy, Anthony Daddio, coming to play a game or two.
The parking lot was especially suited for the game because the hard gravel surface was made even harder by the Talon maintenance department that spread used motor oil on the ground to keep the dust down and, when combined with the baking summer sun, created a flat surface that made for true bounces and nearly fieldable grounders. The lot had the characteristic oil smell depending upon the summer sun and when the oil had been applied. Imagine doing that now. Anyway, it was on that field that Eddy Malliard brought his skills. His batting stance, I remember, was like a coiled spring ready to unwind. I also remember him hitting a home run off me that I thought was never going to come to earth. What really stays in my mind was that his home run trot resembled the one Kirk Gibson did on his World Series swat on two damaged knees. As far as I know, Eddy’s knees were fine but foot speed was not one of his strengths. He also used the Gibson fist pump as though he had just hit a game winner — which he hadn’t. All in all Eddy was a better than average player. He most assuredly gave a 100 percent in effort.
The Talon lot was a venue for tag football and broom hockey as well, in the appropriate seasons of course. Here again, I seem to recall that Ed was not in one of the skill positions in football though on a few occasions he caught a couple of passes like a good tight end. I remember how well he blocked and his ferocious pass rush. All of us witnessed a savage hit laid on a hapless receiver, Gary McCall, I think by my cousin Bob. I can still hear Eddy say, “jeez Bob, was that really necessary?” Of course for Bob and most of us, it was more than just a tag football game.
As we got older and guys moved away, the PG ball and other sports ended. I lost track of Eddy until he became Ed and was the photographer turned editor of the Tribune.
As an editor, Ed was far better than he was as a PG ball player. He invariably made every article I submitted not only more readable but also imposed an organization that was sorely needed. He introduced me to the indent key and a few other mechanical devices. A few times he called me and advised a change or two but never imposed overall control and never refused to print what I submitted. He was, in short, the perfect editor.
Now that he has retired, I wish him well and know he will keep himself busy and productive. I do have one question for him: “Do you think you can still hit my curveball?” I guarantee you Ed, it won’t be a hanger.
DeSantis is a local businessman. Mailliard retired from his position as assistant editor of The Meadville Tribune in January.