David Zirkle is a physical education teacher at Conewago Elementary School.
He's also coached boys' soccer at the middle school and junior varsity levels in the Northeastern School District for more than a dozen years.
And he has a passion for baseball, particularly local baseball. Having grown up in the Manchester area, he's attended a lot of Central League baseball games over the years, mostly at Mount Wolf and Manchester.
He also played high school baseball at Northeastern -- he graduated in 1992 -- when Nevin Weirich was the varsity coach.
So when he attended an estate auction near the end of September -- he actually was working the auction as a runner -- and set his eyes on an old baseball uniform with
"I didn't know anything about it, but it was in very good condition, and it just called out to me. I would have paid $100 for it, maybe more," Zirkle said.
But luck was with Zirkle that day. He was the only bidder for the uniform, and he got it for $20.
"Pants and shirt, and the shirt still has all the original buttons. It was a steal," he said.
Except for one thing -- Zirkle knew nothing about it. He didn't even know if Strinestown ever had an adult men's baseball team.
So he sent me an email -- "... I was wondering if you know any information about when (was) the last time Strinestown fielded a baseball team. I was also wondering if you knew the time period from which this piece (the uniform) of local history may be from. Based on the appearance, I believe it may be from the 1930s or 1940s."
So we set up a meeting so I could get a look at the uniform. I was curious, too. Having worn baseball uniforms going well back into the mid-1960s, I knew this uniform was older than any I'd ever worn. The tags were all gone, but I believe the uniform was made of a heavy cotton material -- brushed cotton, perhaps, almost a fleece.
I didn't have a clue, other than that Zirkle believed the estate sale was for a man named "Neiman." That was about it. I said I'd check it out.
As it turns out, I once played against a fellow named Denny Neiman -- he pitched in the Central League with North York/Emigsville and Dover for about 15 years.
A couple phone calls later, I was talking to Denny for the first time in more than 30 years. I discovered the uniform in question had indeed been worn by his father, Harry "Bud" Neiman, who was born in 1919 and died in 2002, at the age of 83.
"Dad was also a pitcher, starting with Brookside, then Dover and near the end of his playing career, for one season with Strinestown. That would have been about 1948 or 1949, before I was even born," Denny recalled.
As it turned out, Denny had never seen his father pitch.
"I was told he had a great curve and a decent fastball," he said. "And he was always a pitcher -- he never played another position."
So there you have it. The uniform mystery has been solved. It was worn for one season by Harry "Bud" Neiman, when he pitched one final season for the Strinestown A.A. in about 1948.
That would make the uniform about 64 years old. Vintage, for certain.
But now I have more questions. Was Strinestown A.A. part of the Central League in 1948? Or could it have been part of another league -- there were a bunch back in those days -- in which York County men competed? And since we know Strinestown definitely had a team back in the day, where did it play its home games?
I'm told there was a baseball field -- I think it might have been called Hykes Field -- sitting off the Susquehanna Trail, just before the trail crosses over the Conewago Creek. I've never seen it. I've never played on it. But I'm told it was there at one time, and maybe is still there today.
One way to find out. This calls for a field trip. Sure enough, there is a "Hykes Memorial Field" still there on Hykes Mill Road in Conewago Township. And it appears to have been memorialized in 1949, according to a rusty old plaque attached to the backstop. So I guess Strinestown might have played there more than 60 years ago.
A trip down memory lane, via The York Dispatch microfilm archives, shows that Strinestown not only played in the Greater York County Baseball League in the late-1940s, but it won league championships in those years, too.
In 1949, for example, it won the Greater York title with a 21-6 record, besting Thomasville and Stoverstown with Wellsville, Nashville, Winterstown, Dover and York Post bringing up the rear in an eight-team league.
So David Zirkle's vintage baseball uniform is no longer as much of a mystery as it was a month ago. It's 65 years old and was worn by pitcher Harry "Bud" Neiman when Strinestown A.A. won the Greater York League in 1948.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick email@example.com.