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Postcards from Fargo: Passion for keeping score doesn't diminish over the years

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Waiting around in the lobby of the Fargo Holiday Inn on Thursday afternoon, I began speaking with Alex Grim of Cincinnati, Ohio. He told me he had been coming to the American Legion World Series as a scorekeeper for 17 years.
When he saw me starting to take notes, he said the man I really needed to speak with was John Joseph “J.J.” Guinozzo, who is in his 38th year as the head scorekeeper for the World Series games.
“He’s a walking encyclopedia of baseball knowledge,” Grim said. “And he has an eccentric personality to match.”
In a minute, Guinozzo came and sat down with us. I wasn’t disappointed.
For the American Legion World Series, he has scored a record 548 games, representing 61.5 percent of all the American Legion World Series games played since its beginning in 1926.
But that hardly tells Guinozzo’s passion for keeping score.
Heading into this World Series, he figures he has scored 5,228 games since his first assignment in 1964, a no-hit game. With baseball alone, he has scored legion, minor league, high school, college, Pan American and Olympics games.
In football, the Memphis resident has scored high school, collegiate, postseason bowls and an alphabet soup of pro football games, including the NFL, WFL, USFL, CFL and XFL.
He serves as an official scorer for University of Memphis men’s and women’s basketball games and has handled those duties for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. Guinozzo also has scored professional hockey games, pro golf events and pro boxing.
But he likes to think of himself as a researcher, too, especially for the American Legion Baseball World Series.
He’s the man responsible for the Legion World Series Record book, which didn’t exist before 1982.
Guinozzo said American Legion Baseball Director George Rulon invited him to the national headquarters in Indianapolis that year and asked him to begin work on the book.
He spent weeks researching the records available in Indianapolis, then took winter trips to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for more information. The first edition of the record book was eight pages. Today, with Guinozzo’s continued work, it is 90 pages.
But the more I talked with the likable Guinozzo, the more I realized he considers himself a walking disaster.
He spoke of his heart attacks, brain surgery, being hit by a train, falling out of a plane and tumbling out of a boat on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World.
Guinozzo said he exploded a grill once on the Fourth of July, accidentally knocked out a pom squad girl at halftime of an NBA game and backed over a 75-foot-tall flagpole during the Legion World Series in Roseburg, Ore.
The Type II diabetic said he also redefined the four major food groups.
For him, they were (and probably still are) doughnuts, cookies, cake and ice cream.
He’s one for the record books.
– – –
Eric Slipp, who I know as a big baseball fan and a man particularly fond of the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, dashed off an e-mail to me here in Fargo.
Hearing that Rowan County’s first opponent in the 2009 American Legion World Series would be the team from Festus, Mo., Slipp wrote that Festus is mentioned in the old George Jones and Tammy Wynette song, “We’re not the Jet-Sets.”
Makes sense. Festus is a beautiful rhyme with Jet-Sets.
– – –
As we may have mentioned earlier in the Post, the American Legion has contracted with an Indianapolis-based company to video stream all 15 games of the World Series.
Go to Gametracker at www.baseball.legion.org for the games live.
Assisting in the Webcast booth are former major leaguers (and All-Stars) Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez. Kent holds the record for home runs by a second baseman and could be a Hall of Famer some day.
That said, I would recommend maybe watching the Rowan games live but listening to the local broadcasts of Buddy Poole on WSAT (1280 AM) or Howard Platt on WSTP (1490 AM).
Post sportswriter Brett Strelow is doubling as Platt’s color man and also giving inning-by-inning updates from the Rowan games in Fargo on www.salisburypost.com.
– – –
A little bit more about the games’ venue, Newman Outdoor Field, on the campus of North Dakota State University.
Crowds traveling to the field are battling some major highway construction on the way.
Not that the crowds will overwhelm the road, but it’s a pain.
– – –
Newman Outdoor Field seats 4,500. It was built for $4.5 million and opened in 1996.
While Newman Park in Salisbury features Pinky’s hot dogs, the ballpark here offers homemade mini-donuts. Haven’t had one yet, but I will, and hope to give you a report.
– – –
The stadium, which is the summer home for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, a Northern League independent minor league team, also contains the Maury Wills Museum.
People my age will remember Wills as the prolific base stealer of his era with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He worked for the RedHawks as a coach and radio analyst.
– – –
“A few storms may be severe.”
That was a line in the local forecast Friday, and it had Rowan coaches, players and fans wondering if thunderstorms would circumvent Fargo and allow them to play their opening round game Friday night against Festus, Mo. It didn’t happen.
Otherwise, Friday proved to be a scorcher in Fargo with a high of 95 degrees.
“Summertime is beautiful, and this is about as warm as it gets,” said Drew Lockwood, a photographer who has lived in Fargo since 2000.
– – –
After breakfast Friday, I walked some of the streets surrounding our Econo Lodge hotel.
Because everything is so flat in this prairie country, the streets and sidewalks are long, straight bands that stretch as far as the eye can see.
It would be a great place to have a coaster bike with a big seat.
From the air, many of the neighborhoods in Fargo must look like the grids of a giant crossword puzzle.

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