Flashback: New Orleans area Goldens made baseball a family affair
You’ve probably heard the old adage “like father, like son” to describe sons who follow in the footsteps of their fathers, often in the same career path. In the case of the Golden family from New Orleans, it was four brothers taking up a baseball bat and glove, like their father. They have a remarkable record of playing on numerous teams that achieved success at regional and national levels.
I recently caught up with three of the Golden brothers– Pat, Wayne and Steve. They were full of stories about growing up in a baseball family, getting support from their parents, playing on championship teams, and sometimes even playing on the same teams. Kenny is the fourth sibling of the locally well-known diamond bunch.
John Golden began the family’s baseball legacy while playing for S.J. Peters High School in New Orleans in the early 1940s. He was a second team All-Prep selection from Peters in 1942 when they won the state prep title, with teammates like future professional players Bo Strickland, Ray Campo, and Pete Modica. After serving in World War II, John played second base for New Iberia in the Class D Evangeline League in 1946 and 1947. (Lenny Yochim, a future major-league player and long-time scout from New Orleans, was an 18-year-old rookie teammate of John in 1947). John’s sons said a knee injury ended his baseball career prematurely.
Baseball dominated the Golden household. John would frequently pitch batting practice to his sons and anyone else who showed up in their big back yard. He coached his sons in youth baseball. Pat related how his father said he hated it when aluminum bats began to be used, because balls hit hard up the middle during batting practice were tough on his shins. The brothers said it was remarkable how their parents attended most of their games, often going in different directions on any given day to catch all of their games. Steve noted they even traveled to out of town regional and national championship tournaments.
All four brothers wound up playing on some of the best teams from the New Orleans area.
The oldest brother, Pat, was a member of the 1963 Metairie Dixie Youth team that won the state tournament and lost out in the semi-finals of the Dixie Youth World Series. He played prep baseball for De La Salle High School and was an All-District Legion selection representing Gulf States American in 1967. In 1968, he played for the NORD-Candies All-American team that won the national championship in Johnstown, Penn.
Two years younger than Pat, Kenny was an All-District player for De La Salle, when the team was District 5-AAA champion in 1968. His Bohn Ford American Legion team won the state title and advanced to the Mid-South Regional that same year.
Wayne, five years younger than Kenny, was the starting third baseman on Rummel High School’s state championship team in 1974. The Rummel-based Schaff Brothers American Legion team was also the state champion that year, eventually making it to the American Legion World Series, where they finished third. Wayne was one of the leading hitters for Schaff in the Regional and World Series tournaments, going 7-for 18 and 6-for-13. Those two teams are regarded among the all-time best Prep and Legion teams from Metro New Orleans.
Youngest brother Steve was 3 ½ years younger than Wayne. The only left-hander of the brothers, he received early exposure on the national stage when the JPRD East Bank All-Stars won the Babe Ruth world championship in 1975. Steve said their title was a breakthrough for Jefferson Parish in Babe Ruth play, since the New Orleans Recreational Department (NORD) had previously dominated locally. He was only 16 years old as the starting right fielder on the 1976 Schaff Legion team that again won the state title and ended up advancing to the World Series. They played against opponents whose rosters contained college-eligible freshmen from major schools. Steve was an All-District performer for Rummel in 1977.
Pat, Wayne, and Steve embarked on college careers at Southeastern Louisiana, while Kenny’s baseball career was curtailed by service in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Pat was recruited by Frank Misuraca, a former Southeastern player, and played there from 1967 to 1970. It was a time when the Lions’ squad had a heavy New Orleans flavor. He led Southeastern in batting average, hits and runs scored as a sophomore in 1968, earning him a spot on the All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) team.
Wayne was a freshman starter on the 1975 Lions team. In one of their regular-season games, he tied a team record with five hits in a game. The team, again populated with numerous New Orleans area players, won their NCAA Regional tournament and went on to play in the Division II College World Series, where they won two and lost two. Southeastern finished third in the final Division II poll. As a senior in 1978, he was an All-GSC West Division selection, as Southeastern captured the conference title. He was also named to the second team of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Region team.
Steve’s career with Southeastern began in 1978, when he got to experience the College World Series with Wayne. A first baseman, he went on to letter all four years. At one point in in his senior season, he reached base in 23 straight games.
When Steve was playing his final season in 1981, a Baton Rouge newspaper profiled him in an article titled “Golden era will end for SLU baseball team.” The piece noted that in 12 out of the last 16 years a Golden brother had been on the Southeastern team. Years after their college days, Southeastern honored the brothers by having them throw out the first pitches at a Lions home game.
Steve offered his observation about the quality of baseball in New Orleans. “All four of us have played almost everywhere in the country in World Series and National tournaments in Babe Ruth, American Legion, Johnstown, College World Series, and NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan. There is no doubt that the greater New Orleans area had as good or better baseball than anywhere in the country.”
He added, “As Wayne (’74 Schaff Brothers; pictured right) and I (’76 Schaff) witnessed at the American Legion Regional and World Series level, we were one school (Rummel) competing against all-star teams from big cities, like Los Angeles, Memphis, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. We held our own and were close to winning those championships, even with those odds against us!”
None of the brothers seriously considered playing professional baseball, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to compete after college.
They played for various teams in semi-pro leagues around the city, such as the Mel Ott League on the West Bank and the Audubon League.
In 1983, Steve played for Roy’s Supply in the National Baseball Congress (NBC) semi-pro tournament in Wichita, where they finished 5th. Steve was proud of the team’s finish, saying many of the opposing teams had former major-leaguers on their rosters. Wayne and Kenny played in an Over-40 baseball league in the early 2000s when their team won a national championship one year.
The brothers’ love of competition also carried over to softball diamonds. In 1981 all four of them manned infield positions for the Noah Chips softball team. Wayne said they became known as the “Golden infield.”
When asked which teams or games were the most memorable in their careers, they each recalled their favorites. Pat’s was his four-for-four game in Southeastern’s shutout against Tulane in 1968. Wayne mentioned the 1974 Rummel Schaff team that had 10 players who went on to play at the college level and several at the professional level. Steve’s unforgettable game was Roy Supply’s win against the No. 1-seeded Fairbanks, Alaska team in the 1982 NBC tournament. His favorite teams were the 1975 Babe Ruth and 1976 Schaff Legion squads.
The brothers acknowledged several of their coaches as instrumental in leading successful programs in which they were fortunate to participate– Jim Robarts for Jefferson Parish Babe Ruth, Larry Schneider Sr. for Rummel prep and Legion teams, John Altobello at De La Salle High School, and “Rags” Scheuermann for the All-American league.
They avoided the question, “Who was the best Golden?” I came away with the sense that each of them deeply admired all of their brothers’ successes. It was obvious they were pleased with the baseball legacy the entire family left in the New Orleans area.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.