MARLBORO, NY – As a younger sibling, one learns a lot by watching a brother and/or sister during athletic endeavors. I was lucky. I had both. I was willingly in tow whenever Joe (nine years my senior) and Lynn (five years older) had a baseball, basketball, volleyball or softball game. I also watched many a Dallas Cowboys game because of them and became a fan… although nowhere near the rabid degree of my sister.
Being a quick study, there were lessons learned each and every time in attendance. Some of these tutorials were a model of not just participating but on how to be competitive. In turn, winning was very important and it was never too late to rally. The three of us had the unspoken motto, Why play if you didn’t win? This was evident in everything from board games to card games to one-on-one basketball games on the concrete court. Needling each other during competition – and yes I always took the bait – made for some very sour moods and often ended with my otherwise silent father raising his voice with threatening wisdom.
Giving 100% of your talent and body became a tenet not just on the playing fields… but in life. Despite “white man’s disease” at an early age and elbow tendinitis, Lynn played through pain, as that competitive spirit always won out. There was very little down-time for her body to recover as every new season met a different sport. Not only did she play, but Lynn excelled at sports and anything else that she did in life… she even skipped a grade in Junior High.
Even with a loquacious mother and a beaming father full of pride with how well their children performed in competition, being humble and letting others brag about your play was another lesson. No matter how extraordinarily well Lynn played, there was the utter disappointment over playing on some bad teams who didn’t win. Yet Lynn never carried on about her prowess and focused more on the losing and let spectators be the measuring stick on who could play.
How good was Lynn? Let me brag about her. Your better athletes in any sport play the important positions and she was proof. She pitched windmill-style softball while at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx and was clocked at 79 miles per hour. On non-pitching days, shortstop is where Lynn would captain the infield with a display of great range and a whip of a throw, making the first baseman fearful in catching the ball. At the plate she could put a dimple in a clincher softball whether in high school or bar league play.
The bar leagues…
The Yankee Clipper in the Bronx and Garryowen’s in Manhattan were Lynn’s teams – often playing on both during the same season. In her late-20’s, Lynn opted to play for G.O.’s if the schedules conflicted because they were a winning team with some players having skill sets somewhat similar to my sister. Through the beauty of a doctored birth certificate, a 17-yearold Lynn was recruited by The Yankee Clipper to play in the 21 and over league.
As a family, we watched all the big fights during the golden age of the heavyweight division in the 1970’s. Lynn wasn’t a boxer, but man she could throw a punch, along with any type of ball rivaling those of a boy her age. Take a punch? She out-kicked her breast cancer diagnosis by two years with the same competitive spirit as if her lifespan were a game. She gave 100% in battling the Big C and her final days were no different. She opted to take her last breaths on the final NFL Sunday of the season in the New Year ’17… her uniform number, and an inconsequential game to her Dallas Cowboys. They would lose but there would be no telling her that it didn’t matter.
After six years with the disease, heaven has a new champion. Lynn Perlongo, 1962~2017.
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