GENESEO — Chuck Emerick is fondly remembered as a dad, a grandfather, a friend and how he served the Lord.
Emerick, who lived in Geneseo his entire life, was a member of the Rammers Baseball Team when he served with the 36th Field Artillery Group in Germany, something most people did not know about the humble man.
Emerick’s grandson, Josh Birmingham, an engineer with Tri-City Engineering & Integration, has a framed photograph of his grandfather with the Rammers and a copy of the letter Emerick received in the 1950s from the Chicago Cubs inviting him to come to Wrigley Field for tryouts.
“My grandfather passed away from cancer in 2014,” he said. “A few years later, my grandmother (Bev Emerick) passed away as well, and as my family was cleaning out their house, they asked us grandkids if there was anything we wanted to remember them by. I told my family all I wanted was the Cubs letter. That request was quickly shut down. The Cubs letter was something everyone in my family knew about but also knew very little about. For Christmas one year, my family framed a copy of the Cubs letter with a photo of the Rammers baseball team, and that frame is now in my office.”
“One day I was looking at the photo and decided to do a quick Google search on the Rammers baseball team,” Birmingham said. “A blog article popped up with some information about the team and where they played.”
The article also included a photo of a baseball signed by the Rammers team, and Birmingham said, “I noticed my grandfather’s signature on the ball. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t think it could possibly be his signature.”
The article, written by Shawn Hennessy, of Tacoma, Wash., author of Chevrons and Diamonds (chevronsanddiamonds.wordpress.com), said the author was trying to locate some of the players who signed the ball. The article, “My First Military Baseball: the “Rammers” of the 36th Field Artillery Group,” centered on Hennessy having located a military baseball for his collection “after seeking a verifiable piece,” the article said.
“I quickly emailed the author to tell him that my grandfather was one of the signatures,” he said. “He responded to my email and asked if we could talk about my grandfather’s time in the service and if he ever went on to go pro.”
Birmingham gathered as much information as he could about his grandfather’s time in the service and his baseball career but said: “I kept coming up short. My grandfather was a very humble man. He never talked about himself. Even if you asked him questions, he would downplay it like it was nothing. He never saw himself better than anyone else. He had a special way of lifting you up for your accomplishments, no matter what it was.”
Hennessey wrote a follow-up article about the Rammers in which he included much of the information Birmingham had shared.
Emerick’s son, Doug Emerick, Geneseo, told Birmingham that his dad never talked about playing (baseball) or his time in the service because he was embarrassed.
”He was embarrassed because what he did was play sports while serving in the Army,," Doug Emerick said. "He played both baseball and football while in Germany.”
Doug Emerick recalled watching his dad play church league baseball.
“I always heard what a good baseball player my dad was, and when I was in high school, I was able to play on our church league softball with my dad," Emerick said. "When he warmed up before a game, no one wanted to play catch with him because of how hard and fast he threw the ball. He had such a natural curveball it was hard to judge how to catch the ball.”
“I still hear from people what a good pitcher my dad was, and Bob Schaefer (Geneseo) told me people used to travel all over just to see my dad pitch.”
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“To this day, I continue to hear about how well my dad played baseball.”
Birmingham recalled his uncle (Doug Emerick) telling him that he did ask his dad why he played baseball in Germany, and he told him it was because it got him out of doing guard duty or working a night shift.
Chuck Emerick was a standout athlete in track, basketball and football during his high school years in Geneseo. He played baseball in a summer league.
The Emerick family's legacy of athletics at Geneseo High School continues through to today. Doug Emerick was a standout athlete at Geneseo High School, where he played football, basketball and was out for track. His son, Michael, who will be a GHS sophomore in the fall, plays football, basketball and baseball, and Josh Birmingham was a football player at GHS.
Birmingham said he knew very little about his grandfather’s athletic career or about his time in the military.
“My uncle (Doug Emerick) told me he never talked about playing or his time in the service,” Birmingham said.
“We know that when he was discharged from the Army, my grandfather returned to Geneseo, and married my grandmother, Beverly,” he said. “I know he knew Morse code. He would tap on my grandmother’s leg ‘I love you’ in Morse code while at church or out in public.”
Chuck Emerick worked in law enforcement with the Geneseo Police Department and later worked with the Geneseo Telephone Company before his position with the Geneseo Municipal Light Plant.
He may not have played in the major leagues, but he was one of the four original coaches of Geneseo Youth Football, and he also coached Little League baseball.
Birmingham said it was “kind of sad that he would feel embarrassed about his time in the service and not thinking he was good enough for the major league. However, he excelled in being a father and grandfather. He could have held his baseball career over our heads or boasted about his talent. But he never did that. He had a way of making you feel special no matter what you did. It’s cool to tell people he went to Wrigley Field to try out for the Cubs and show them the letter.
"He was only 17 or 18 when he tried out and he traveled to Chicago by himself, Birmingham said. “Unfortunately, my grandfather suffered a shoulder injury in football so the Cubs team management was hesitant on signing him. They asked him to play for one of their farm league teams to see how his shoulder would hold up, but he didn’t want to do that.”
Hennessy’s second article about the Rammers baseball team included much about Chuck Emerick and a paragraph in the article reads:
"It was rewarding as a collector and a caretaker of history to be able to learn about ‘Chuckles' Emerick and to have his grandson share a sampling of the character this man was with me. I can imagine that seeing this baseball and catching a glimpse of his grandfather’s autograph along with the rest of the 1956 Rammer team’s signatures was exciting as it spurred him into action in an attempt to pull together as much of his grandfather’s baseball story as possible. He was able to get his family to recall details and stories and begin to reflect upon the man who never drew comparisons to himself or his experiences”
“Mr. Birmingham’s activities in getting his family together yielded another discovery,” Hennessy wrote. "His uncle, (Doug Emerick) revealed that he too had an autographed baseball from the Rammers team. Aside from the presence of different signatures that are present on my ball, one signature is missing; that of a truly great man, Charles ‘Chuckles’ Emerick. ... If I am asked again why I take the time with this ongoing project and the effort it takes to bring these stories to light, I will direct them here, to learn about people like Charles Emerick and a grandson’s love for his grandfather.”
Hennessy’s article included, “Aside from his remarkable accomplishments on the baseball diamond that were worthy enough to garner major league interest, Mr. Birmingham knew what was most important about his grandfather, and he wrote, ‘I am more impressed about how he served the Lord. And that’s what makes me most proud of him’.”