The Name - The Legend - The Man
by Suzanne Law Hawes
Helen continues her diary:
After some months John was appointed to a coaching post at Sing Sing prison. His activities there received a good deal of publicity and the games, especially the one with the Port Jervis Cops vs. the inmates were widely reported.
John described his position at Sing Sing as follows:
In addition to coaching the baseball and football teams at Sing Sing, performed duties as directed by Warden Lawes, ie., investigations of various sorts; escorted witnesses and the press to 13 executions; along with uniformed personnel, transported prisoners to other State Prisons and Dannemora State Hospitals for the criminally insane. Was a member of the assignment board.
His official title was an administrative aide to Warden Lewis E. Lawes. Lawes was a great innovator in prison systems and the first to introduce athletics into the routine of prison life. Not having a civil service job title, a position was created for him and included other duties than coaching as seen above.
[The following "news" story was written by a Sing Sing prisoner:] LOWERRE CLUB TEAM IS DEFEATED BY SING SING NINE BY ONE RUN. PRISONERS PRAISE THE LOCAL AGGREGATION AND ARE ANXIOUS FOR RETURN CONTEST LATER.
Any one missing the ball game at Sing Sing Prison on Saturday, between that clever aggregation of players, the Lowerre Baseball Club of Yonkers and the Mutual Welfare League of Sing Sing Prison, missed the finest, cleanest-played game of ball played this year at the family prison on the Hudson.
A newspaper article described one game:
The Lowerre team bit off a big chunk when it essayed to stamp out the winning streak of the League team. It deserves praise for its sterling efforts - that would have resulted in complete success but for one mistake - the dishing up of a slow ball to the most consistently dangerous hitter of the inside team.
Branch, the first basemen of the intra-mural team leads his team this year and led last year in batting with the greatest number of home runs (over the prison walls) of any of the insiders. Plunkett made the fatal mistake, in the eighth inning, when the score stood 2 to 1 in favor of the Yonkers team, in sending up a slow, easy pitch- the kind that Branch always slams over the walls- and the game was easy for the insiders after that.
Palla, pitching for the insiders allowed only one hit in each of the first two innings and no more until the seventh, when, on a hefty double by Pfau, a life to Hilson on Monyhan's fumble of his grounder, Law, the catcher of the Lowerre boys came through with a corking single and Pfaul and Hilson scored easily chalking up the first two and what subsequently proved to be the only runs for the Lowerre players.
For the Lowerres it must be said that Tommy Plunkett pitched a remarkable heady game of ball. He was cool throughout the game and never once was he rattled when the insiders threatened. In the pinches - and he allowed himself to get into very few - he used big league judgment and his strategy was brilliant. It was the consensus at Sing Sing that he pitched the finest game of ball seen there this year and by far as good as any game played on Major Lawes' Field last year.
Helen tells the story of John taking her to the prison one day for a tour. On the route, they stopped at the electric chair and, as a joke, strapped her in and left her there to go to the control room. She did not appreciate this bit of his humor at all.
Searching Sing for My Father by Dr. Robert L. Gold.
John B. Law was a member of the State Commission of Correction at the time of his death in 1962. To learn more about the SCOC, click its logo left to access its web site.
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