The field is long gone but the game ball lives on because it’s the first home run ever hit by a varsity baseball player at C.W. Post.
That memento, which has been sitting on a shelf for decades at the home of Bill and April Rozea, will get a new place of honor in the University’s Archives and Special Collections.
This iconic baseball also pays tribute to this couple who first met on the Brookville campus in 1956 and plan to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary next year. And neither one had planned to attend college here.
The team’s first home game took place in the spring of 1957 against Adelphi. With April watching (there were no stands to sit in), Bill Rozea got a pitch that came in high over the outside corner of the plate. He drove it deep and took off. “I didn’t realize until I got almost to first base that it was headed over the fence,” Bill recalled. “Growing up, I never hit it that far.”
The ball had to be retrieved so the game could resume, Bill continued, “because we only had two balls to play with!”
Subsequently, Coach Jim Davey suggested that Bill, who played third base, have his teammates sign the ball. “So, sure enough, I went around to everybody and they all signed it,” he said. “It didn’t mean anything at the time—but it means a lot now!”
Adding their names that day were Don Ungarelli, Joe Stone, Dom Anile, Dick Stieg, Bob Barrett, Ron Herman, John Begley, George White, Steve Offerman, Bud Simmons, Lou Dellavechio, Charlie Horton, Art Tailey, Bill Rozea and Jim Davey.
“We actually lost 3-to-1,” Bill said, prompting April to add: “You can leave that part out!”
The Manhasset couple had come to the studios of WCWP to share their reminiscences for a program hosted by Art Beltrone and engineered by Jeff Kroll, as part of a long-running alumni history radio project. Bill and April were donating the ball to Jarron Jewell, who handles Archives and Special Collections at the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library.
“I am so thrilled to have this baseball,” said Jarron. “You can be sure that under my watchful eye it will be treasured and accessible for viewing by all our patrons!”
The couple recounted how their campus romance began in the autumn of 1956.
“I was sitting in the cafeteria one day,” said April. “Bill was rather on the shy side, so one of his fraternity brothers came over and said, ‘Bill wants to ask you out to the prom.’ So I said, ‘Yes.’…As they say, the rest is history.”
Bill, who was from Queens Village, had been in the Naval Reserve and never intended to go to college. But he saw a newspaper story about the opening of C.W. Post. So, he got a ride to the campus and decided to sign up for his first semester, paying $700 (“A bargain,” he said with a laugh). Ultimately, he ended up receiving a full football scholarship. April, from Floral Park, wanted to go away to school. “Post was not at the top of my list,” she said. “But I got a full academic scholarship so my parents said, ‘Well, that’s where you’re going.’”
They didn’t get married until after Bill graduated in 1959 (B.S. in Business Administration); April graduated cum laude with a B.A. in psychology in 1960. Bill was part of the first class to graduate from Post. Their memories of their early years spent together in Brookville will now be preserved for posterity.