Grandson has 65 more years to catch up with granddad
It’s been long years ago now, but there were many summers when every baseball fan in Jefferson County knew the name “Wimpy” Zombro. He was a reed-thin pitcher/outfielder who could actually play any position except catcher when he was a mainstay on Charles Town High School teams.
When he was senior in 1948, the Panthers went through the state of West Virginia like a house on fire until reaching the state championship game in the far-away southern part of the Mountain State.
There was only one classification used for baseball in 1948. The huge-enrollment schools like Parkersburg and Charleston were lumped together with the tiny schools like Paw Paw, Harman and Jane Lew.
Charles Town moved steadily along the tournament trail until it had won so many times it was in the championship game against another small school, Williamson. Williamson defeated the Panthers. But it was far from the close of the baseball career of Melvin L. “Wimpy” Zombro — as far as from one end of the universe to the other.
The 6-foot-2, 155-pounder joined the Chales Town American Legion adult team where he would play alongside Harvey McCutcheon, Flicker Bond, Teddy Keller, Chalky Hopkins, Charles Miller, Gilbert Miller, George Hott, Elwood Heironimus, Dyke Ashton, Woody Walters and Bucky Bolyard.
The Legion team faced a number of major league players who were then serving in the military service. Pitchers Johnny Antonelli, Earl Francis and Art Houtteman came to Charles Town with teams from Camp Lejuene, Andrews Air Base, Bolling Air Base and Quantico. Those teams also had big leaguers like outfielder Wes Covington, catcher Harry Chiti, Sam Calderone and infielder Danny O’Connell.
Zombro was in the hit-happy outfield along with Hopkins and Gilbert Miller. He kept on playing with the team until he was 31 in 1961 when the team breathed its last gasp on the manicured Legion Field grounds with the state-of-the-art, marl infield and covered grandstand.
The team may have run short on operating funds, but Zombro hadn’t seen his last thousand or so baseball games.
He continued on with teams near his home in Woodbridge, Virginia; always having the blessing of the lady he married under the crossed bats held aloft one Sunday at home plate at Legion Field.
Once he reached his mid 40s, Wimpy began appearing all over the greater Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area on age-bracket teams. As the seasons rapidly moved on by, there he was on teams with players 45 and over, 50 and over, 60 and over, 70 and over and now 80 and over.
His reputation as a player with a strong arm and legs that could still carry him around the bases with the ability of much younger men made him a valued member of many an all-star team. He would join teams entered in World Series in Arizona and other western states.
Once he broke his leg sliding in a league that had safety rules against sliding. When he was in his mid 70s, he had a knee replacement in the off season so he could recuperate in time to play the next summer. He has since had his other knee replaced — again in the off-season so as not to miss the next year.
At about age 45, he began to dabble with slo-pitch softball where his nimble skills were used as a pitcher, third baseman, shortstop and second baseman. Then in 1988, Wimpy became a trusted player in the Northern Virginia Senior Softball League. Six years later, he joined travel teams and began playing on teams that won national championships at World Series where age-bracket teams came from all over the country. It is as a slo-pitch player that he has accomplished most of the 16 national championship rings that he keeps in a leather attache case for safe keeping.
He has been selected to national tournament all-star teams as well as All-America and All-World teams.
Now at age 84, he takes an occasional night away from his games to see his grandson, Tyler Zombro, play baseball.
After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, Virginia in 2013 where he batted .505, but was seen as a better pitcher, Tyler attended George Mason University as a freshman here in 2014. The Patriots won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and qualified for the NCAA Tournament this spring. They played in the four-team Regional held in Houston.
Tyler appeared in more games this spring than any other George Mason pitcher and his record was 5-2 with three saves.
This summer, Tyler is pitching for the Staunton Braves of the Valley Baseball League. After joining the Braves when George Mason’s season ended in Houston, he has pitched in three games as the team’s closer and already has recorded two saves. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he is bigger and broader than his grandfather.
Staunton was rained out of a scheduled road appearance on June 19 against the Charles Town Cannons. The Braves also have a game in Shenandoah Junction against the Cannons scheduled for July 19.
Tyler is 19. He has 65 more years of diamond action ahead of him if he wants to get to the mountain top his grandfather still sits atop.
Wimpy can show him hardware from the Prince William County Softball Hall of Fame, the Washington, D.C. Metro Softball Hall of Fame, the Central Virginia ASA Hall of Fame and the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame where he has already been inducted.
Two knee replacements and 84 years haven’t meant retirement for the still-lean athlete some senior citizens still remember from the years he spent with Jackson-Perks American Legion Post 71 at Legion Field just east of Charles Town on old Rte. 9, now Rte. 115.
And now his grandson has become an accomplished college pitcher himself.