Under the Klieg Lights at a Spry 96
Last Thursday, more than 70 years after he served his country during World War II, the New York Mets honored Pat DeRosa of Montauk during the team’s 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Mr. DeRosa, a musician and retired teacher who maintains an active performance schedule at 96, traveled to Citi Field in Queens with his daughter, Patricia DeRosa Padden, granddaughter, Nicole DeRosa Padden, and son-in-law, Michael Padden. The ceremony honoring his service took place after the third inning.
While the “Amazin’ Mets” did not live up to the dramatic 1969 championship season that earned that nickname, their 77-85 record earning a fourth-place finish in the National League East this season, last Thursday’s experience “was really amazing,” Mr. DeRosa’s daughter said.
With cameras rolling and flashes popping, a beaming Mr. DeRosa waved at the crowd as he walked onto the field. The Mets’ Corey Oswalt, a rookie pitcher, presented a flag to the Army Air Forces veteran in a ceremony near home plate. Mr. DeRosa’s name was announced over the public address system, and he was pictured on the stadium’s video board atop the center field bleachers.
“It was a very nice affair,” his daughter said.
The ceremony was to happen on Sept. 10, but rain postponed the Mets game and Mr. DeRosa’s recognition. Last Thursday, “just as the third inning ended and our lovely veteran was honored, it began to pour rain,” Ms. DeRosa Padden wrote on Facebook. “Since the first game was already canceled due to rain, we feel so blessed to have finally completed this memorable opportunity.”
The former staff sergeant worked for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in Bethpage before being drafted. He served in the Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1946 (the Air Force did not become a separate branch of the military until 1947), and was mostly stateside, his daughter said. After basic training in Greensboro, N.C., he joined the concert band and the 20-piece dance band, Mr. DeRosa, who plays tenor saxophone, clarinet, and flute, told The Star in 2014. In 1945, with a deployment to the Pacific theater nearing, the United States dropped two atom bombs on Japan, ending the war. He concluded his service in San Antonio before returning to Long Island.
Mr. DeRosa’s musical prowess has brought him face to face with legends of entertainment including John Coltrane, Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, and Errol Flynn. He performed at the Latin Quarter, the famed Times Square nightclub opened by Barbara Walters’s father, Lou Walters. From there, he was hired by the bandleader Tommy Tucker, and performed from Chicago to Hollywood, where the Tommy Tucker Orchestra appeared in a film. He later performed for President Richard Nixon.
Last summer, Mr. DeRosa was a frequent presence on the outdoor stage at Gosman’s Dock in Montauk, performing at several of the weekly concerts there, as he has for many years. Music aficionados can look forward to more guest appearances on the stage at Gosman’s in the summer of 2019.