Sports Outside the Beltway

In memory of Ken Marino, NYC Firefighter, Father, Husband, and Baseball/Strat-O-Matic fan

I’m going to do a different post. James, I hope you don’t mind.

This post is in memory of Kenneth Marino. He was a NYC firefighter who died in the line of duty five years ago today, September 11th 2001.

Kenny Marino was a Mets fan and a Seattle Mariners fan, but his all- time favorite ballplayer was Ken Griffey Jr.

So Katrina Marino, his wife, e-mailed the Cincinnati Reds wondering if Griffey could hit a home run for her husband because he would be “looking down with a big grin.”

On Sept. 25, Griffey, in his second at-bat against Philadelphia, obliged Mrs. Marino. He said it would always stand out as one of the most memorable he had hit.

The bat was later given to Mrs. Marino and her two children, Kristin, 3, and Tyler, 1.

Firefighter Marino, 40, was with Rescue 1 in Manhattan. His family happened to visit him at the firehouse the morning of Sept. 11, shortly before the summons to the trade center. Firefighter Marino whispered into Kristin’s ear, “If you are a good girl, when I get home I will get you a prize ‹ a Wizard of Oz prize.”

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Marino found the prizes, a Dorothy doll for Kristin and a Scarecrow for Tyler.

And there was a Fireman Santa Claus ornament for Mrs. Marino.

She mentioned those treasured final prizes at the memorial service for him on Long Island. As Rescue 1 led the mourners out, the organist played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The members of Rescue 1 had to smile. They knew that was so Kenny.

God bless Ken’s wife and children today.

Why I’m writing about Ken is we shared two interests. One was baseball, another was the board game based on the sport, Strat-O-Matic. SOM is arguably the most popular sports based board game. If you want to understand how its played a little, check out the wikipedia link.

I began playing SOM in the 80′s. Mostly solitaire, but I played in a couple of TBA(Table Baseball Association) too. In 1996 I began a six year run of playing in the newly formed Star Tour, when anywhere from 8 to 70 players would gather on a weekend to play SOM in a tournament format. I used to play in each year’s Florida tournaments, plus in events in Los Angeles where I sometimes had to travel to for cancer treatments, and to other places. One of which was Newark.

A little about the tournaments- Play would begin at 8 a.m. on Saturdays with players drafting 25 players plus a ballpark. After the draft was over, play would begin and wouldn’t end till the first round was finished. Usually sometime around midnight, sometimes as late as 3-4 a.m. in the morning. The next day play would continue(Usually after some players were eliminated by process of who had the best records. Tournament formats sometimes varied, so play would vary from week to week.) usually beginning at 8 or 9 and continuing till a winner was declared. Again play could go into the wee hours of the morning.

People(Almost always men, sometimes a few teenagers) paid anywhere to $25 to $100 to enter an event. Did we play for lots of money? With the exception of the worlds or regional championships, prize money was rarely above $500. So those gathered played because they loved SOM and Baseball.

As I said, Ken played in these tournaments too. Just the ones based out of New York and New Jersey. He won the 1998 Eastern regional, no small accomplishment since all the best SOM players east of the Mississippi were there. I was there playing too.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember Ken very well and I regret that today. According to other players he was a great guy who loved the board game hobby we both shared. The Star tour now gives a yearly Ken Marino Sportsmanship award.

Ken you are missed and won’t be forgotten. RIP.

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