Little boys forever

Whether I have the Citizens Voice before me, which I prefer, or I am reading the paper online because the “real” one has yet to land on my porch, I always bless myself before turning to the obituaries.
I’ve been doing this for years. It’s a way of sending positive energy and comfort to the survivors of the names I am about to read and faces I am about to see. I don’t know if it works. But it’s the best I can do early in the morning.
Wednesday there were two names with accompanying faces that left me with an exceptionally heavy heart. And an exceptional desire that my little prayer would find its mark.
Wes Mugford, 75, and Michael Lino Stallone, 30, did not know each other, I’m sure. They most likely never heard of each other. But each was part of my life in a very similar way. To me, both Wes and Michael Lino were little boys and always would be.
That’s rather unusual in the case of Wes because he was older than I. But I knew him primarily through the eyes of my Uncle Eddie Strubeck, who passed away two years ago. Uncle Eddie was Wes’s Little League coach in the mid-1950s, and he talked of him frequently. So much so that I cannot remember not knowing the name Wes Mugford.
Wes was one of a special group of kids who, during the early years of Little League baseball, led the Pittston Little League All Stars to the state finals in Williamsport in 1955. My uncle always talked about playing against West Pittston in one of the first All Star games that summer. Wes was warming up, Uncle Eddie said, and some West Pittston players were watching. “We’ll never hit him,” one said to the other and he was right. Wes tossed a no-hitter.
I’ve been in Wes’s company many times. In fact, I knew the adult better that the kid. But Wes could never be anything but a kid to me. A Little Leaguer pitching no-hitters.
Michelle and Michael Stallone, who would later divorce, moved into the home next-door to us in Forty Fort in the late-’80s and I clearly remember Michael Lino. He was named after his dad and his grandfather, Lino Marchetti, whom I had known for years. I picture Michael Lino with his mop of dark hair whacking whiffle balls off a batting tee when he was only two years old.
We moved from Forty Fort not long after. I may have run into Michael Lino with his mom once or twice since, but in my mind, he was always that little tyke in his back yard on Filbert Street.

Ed Ackerman