Dirty Dozen and a Half
Article by Dan McDonald followed by comments from some of Dirty Dozen (Carolyn & Ronald Bienvenu, Joseph Handy, and Bob Fournet)and a Half. The obituary of Jim Maraist,Sr. is included, along with the Feb. 14, 2006 article "Jim Maraist's empty seat will be tough to fill" and the Feb. 18, 2006 letter to the editor from Roger Maraist, Jim's oldest son.
Back for Opening Day
It is the most hallowed holy day for the followers of the church of baseball.
It is a symbol of rebirth, a return to youth, a simultaneous celebration of times past and anticipation of times still to come.
Other sports start their seasons. Baseball has Opening Day.
"It's special," said Jim Maraist. "It's the start of a lot of pleasure, something I've been looking forward to for the past couple of months."
The University of Louisiana opens its 2005 baseball season tonight, facing long-time rival Louisiana Tech at 6:30 p.m. at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field in the first of a three-game series.
For Maraist and several of his friends, the start of baseball continues a tradition ... a gathering that began many years ago on the top row of Moore Field, back when Ragin' Cajun baseball crowds numbered only in the dozens.
"We were hardened baseball fans," said Joseph Handy. "A lot of us went to and supported other sports programs, but for me baseball was special because I'd played it all my life."
So did Bob Fournet, who still remembers fondly the days of the old Evangeline League when virtually every town in Acadiana had a minor-league baseball team. It was those memories - and a key family connection - that attracted him and others to the university's baseball team.
"I was watching them when they played on campus, where the architecture building is now," said Fournet. "You can pretty much say my blood runs red and white."
It was that kind of passion that kept them coming, game after game, Opening Day after Opening Day, year after year. They would sit on the top row of Moore Field, 18 seats across, and watch.
They named themselves "The Dirty Dozen and a Half" in honor of the 18 spots on the original metal bleachers. Many would bring sawed-off lawn chairs to make the benches more comfortable.
It was Fournet who came up with the idea of putting chairs on that top row.
"We all bought into those seats," he said. "All 18 of us were interested, and Tony (head coach Tony Robichaux) helped us get those nice seats."
"I asked Bob how much I owed him," Handy said, "and he said don't worry about it the first year."
Now, all of Moore Field's main grandstand area is seats with backs, but that top row of 18 seats remains different. They're reserved, already spoken for - have been for more than two decades now.
"The crowd's dwindled down a little now," said Maraist, a retired Air Force pilot who doesn't hesitate at calling out fans who don't doff their caps during the National Anthem. "But a lot of us are still there every game. Cliff (Broussard) sometimes brings some friends, T.C. (Wiggins) is there, Joe, Bob ..."
Many attend other Cajun events, but the pace of baseball allows them the chance to talk to their friends, catch up on each other's lives and revel when the UL team records the third out in the seventh inning. That's when the public address blares out John Fogerty's "Centerfield," and the "Dirty Dozen and a Half" on hand leap to their feet to clap and sing along.
"You just know everybody," said Wiggins, who literally grew up next to the campus. "When I was young, my mother had a boarding house and a restaurant next to the campus before there was a student union, so we knew everybody on campus. It's kind of like that at the baseball games.
"A lot of that is because of coach Robichaux and the way he handles his players. You can tell they want to win, but they do it the right way. They treat everybody right, and they go to school. It makes everyone want to support them more."
The land where Moore Field - and the entire UL athletic complex - sits was originally the back 40 acres of the Fournet family's dairy farm. The park opened in 1978 and honors M. L. "Tigue" Moore, who was Acadiana's "Mr. Baseball" for decades. Moore died three days before Opening Day 1994.
The park has had several improvements since that time, but it's those 18 chairs on that top row that remain the most memorable for that group, along with the work done when UL hosted the NCAA Regionals in 2000.
"We got a lot done in two weeks," Fournet said.
Several of their group also made the pilgrimage to Omaha, Neb., and college baseball's most holy shrine, the College World Series, when the Cajuns earned its first-ever berth in the national tournament in 2000.
"I remember when I got there and walked up into the stadium - I looked at the field and just froze," Handy said. "It was like I caught the chills. I stood there for I don't know how long. I wanted to go out there and run the bases, like I was a kid again."
Maybe that's the whole idea, and why they'll be back today for Opening Day ... the opportunity to recapture youth, at least vicariously, through the young men that will start a new season of pitching, hitting and fielding tonight.
"It's fun to watch them," Maraist said. "They give their utmost just for the fun of the game."
The original "Dirty Dozen and a Half"
A. H. "Happy" Bryan (deceased)
Bob Fournet (2 seats)
Francis Babin (2 seats)
Barbara Guynn (deceased)
Jim Maraist (deceased - obituary posted below)
T. C. Wiggins
Originally published February 11, 2005.
Comments by Carolyn Bienvenu, July 27, 2005. (Written for Ronnie and Carolyn).
Ed, I would be happy to write something for the Dirty Dozen article. I do not, however, have all the facts. Bob Fournet was the instigator of the group and would know much more than I.
As for Ronnie and my part- One cold baseball day, Ronnie and I were sitting in our uncomfortable stadium seats when Bob approached us with the opportunity to join the austere group on the top row below the press box. We were honored that he would include us in his plan. That plan included the purchase of a chairback seat (I forget the cost) to be installed with our names on it. We had been fans along with the others for many seasons.
Once the chairs were paid for and installed, we moved to our now accustomed chairs number 5 and 6. The following year, a friend who had the two seats next to us offered us the chance to purchase her seats (she moved to the top row in the next section). Since our daughter who lives in Metairie often came to the games on weekends, we purchased one seat from Willianna James. We have continued to purchase these three seats (4,5,6) since that time. The third seat is most often used now by our granddaughter Julia Guilbeau who has been quite a baseball fan since the age of 3.
Ronald and I have been UL sports fans since 1960 when we were students at UL. Once we finished graduate school and could no longer use a student pass, we have purchased season tickets in football, basketball, and baseball.
Other members of the original Dirty Dozen & 1/2 that we know are Bob Fournet, Arthur Broussard, Barbara and Bob Gwinn, Cliff Broussard, Jim Maraist, T.C. Wiggins, Willanna James, "Happy" Bryan, Joe Handy, Lyle Mellington, Roy Babb, and Frank Babin. Each original member purchased their seat which were installed by the university. We are still begging Bob for ceiling fans.
Comments by Joe Handy, July 28, 2005.
Yes I think this group deserves to be included in the Special Fans link.
It has been through the really rough times when a winning season was rare, it was bench seats, chicken wire, patched-up back stop net to hopefully stop foul balls, concession area...well you get my drift and 200 was a big crowd.
I became part of this group mainly through conversations about the game itself (what happend on that play, the umpire making bad calls, he should have done this or that etc.)and for some strange reason we (all) started to sit on the top row on a regular basis, especially at the 7th inning stretch when we all clapped and sang "put me in coach I'm ready to play (this group started that by the way).
One day Bob Fournet ask me if i wanted to go along with them and buy a seat? I told him I would like to but I couldn't afford it at the time. He said don't worry about it, I'll buy it for you...and he did. Since then I pay for my seat (18), after asking Bob if it was okay and the rest is history.
So you see, if any group deserve "special fans" recognition, this one does. I could go on, but you get what I mean.
Oh! About the AD's job, I turned it down and recommended YOU! Thanks for the okra and God Bless.
Bob Fournet, submitted Sept. 14, 2005
Dan McDonald's article in the Advertiser really covers the "DIRTY DOZEN and a HALF " story very well. He interviewed most of our gang to validate the whole story.
It seems that for years, most of us rabid Cajun baseball fans would arrive at the 'TIGUE' with many versions of cut down lawn chairs to make those old uncomfortable steel benches acceptably sitable. The thought occured to me, when Tony Robichaux managed, with lots of help from the AD and the administration, to install chair back seats in all the box seats, that it would solve our confort problem if we could install the same kind of seating on the top row of 18 seats just below the PRESS BOX for the 18 of us. After consulting with Tony and with the approval of the administration, I asked Tony if I could order the 18 seats and make a donation to the University to cover the cost. When that was approved and the seats were ordered, it was not long after that we were able to offer our gang of 18 to contribute to the effort and have the seats assigned to our ''DIRTY DOZEN and a HALF".
The resulting years of comfort have made the investment very easy to justify, especially since the installation of those 18 chairbacks probably encouraged the eventual contributions by many of our generous fans and the administration to eventually install chairbacks throughout the entire stadium. I am happy to say that, with the exception of our loss of two deceased members, we look forward, each year to "OPENING DAY" at " THE TIGUE."
The original 18 were: Lyle Mellington, Pete Wilson, A.H. "Happy" Bryan, Willanna James, Carolyn Bienvenue, Ronald Bienvenue, Roy Babb,Arthur Broussard, Bob Fournet, Joanie Fournet, Francis Babin, Barbara Babin,Cliff Broussard, Bob Guynn, Barbara Guynn,Jim Maraist, T.C Wiiggins and Joe Handy.
Sincerely, Bob Fournet
James Edward Maraist Sr. - Member, Dirty Dozen and a Half
January 30, 2006 - Obituary published in Daily Advertiser
SCOTT - Funeral services will be held Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006, at an 11 a.m. Mass of Christian burial in Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Scott for, James Edward Maraist, 85, who died Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006, at his residence in Scott.
Entombment will be in Sts. Peter & Paul Mausoleum.
The Rev. John DeLeeuw will be the celebrant of the funeral Mass and will conduct the funeral services.
Survivors include his beloved wife, Iola Maraist, the former Iola Liermann; two daughters, Christine Neuner and her husband, David and Carrie Ingram and her husband, David; two sons, Roger Maraist and his wife, Barbara, and James Maraist Jr. and his wife, Susan; grandchildren, Russell Maraist, Stephen Maraist, Lindsay Maraist, Heather Richard, Kaitlyn Clements, Kimberly Mathieu, Kelley Bowman, Nikole Mock, and Nathalie Leroux; and four great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward Ignace Maraist and Varelli Broussard Maraist; two brothers, William Maraist and Clarence Maraist; one sister, Mona Robinson.
A native of Breaux Bridge, La. and a long time resident of Scott, Mr. Maraist was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to all who knew him. He served his country proud as a member of the U.S. Air Force, where he served in World War II, The Korean Conflict and The Vietnam Era. He was chosen as one of the first officers to head the Jupiter Missiles Program in Italy, and was also an Air Force Advisor to the Korean Air Force. Mr. Maraist served as Base Commander of Chievres Air Force Base in Belgium in support of NATO. He received the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services, and retired as Lieutenant Colonel. After retirement, Mr. Maraist was employed by the International Salt Company of Avery Island. He was an avid UL sports fan, a member of the Dirty Dozen, the American Legion, and a member of the Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church Community. He loved spending time with his beloved wife, Iola, and adored his children and grandchildren. He will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.
A rosary will be prayed at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, in Martin & Castille Funeral Home in Scott.
The family requests visitation be observed from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monday and will continue from 8 a.m. Tuesday until time of services.
View the obituary and guestbook online at www.mourning.com
Martin & Castille Funeral Home, Inc. of Scott has been chosen to help with the arrangements. 337-234-2320.
Originally published January 29, 2006
Cajuns missing big fan
February 14, 2006 - Jim Maraist's empty seat will be tough to fill.
When the University of Louisiana baseball celebrates Opening Day tonight, there'll be an empty seat on M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field's top row.
Jim Maraist won't be there, and all of us are worse for that.
Maraist passed away just over two weeks ago at his home in Scott, his season ending on Jan. 26 after 85 personal Opening Days, and it will be different walking up the steps at Moore Field and not hearing Jim's greetings.
His compatriots on that top row, guys like Francis Babin, Bob Fournet, Cliff Broussard, T. C. Wiggins and Joseph Handy, will still be there. The members of the "Dirty Dozen and a Half" - a group whose numbers are dwindling with the passage of time - wouldn't miss it. And for Opening Day, they'll be there even earlier to get ready for the 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
But without Jim there, it won't be the same.
Next to his wife Iola, their four children and all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren - and his country - Jim might have loved being at the ball park more than anything.
He could cheer on his favorite players, namely everyone who wore UL jerseys, and he could let his opinions and observations flow to all those around him.
Sometimes those opinions weren't flattering. He was the first to call people out - me included - when he felt someone wasn't doing his job or pulling his weight. But he was also the first to let you know you'd done a good job on something.
And woe be the poor soul who forgot to remove his hat for the National Anthem. Jim didn't hesitate to point out that oversight, but he'd earned that right. A highly-decorated U. S. Air Force veteran who served in World War II and Korea and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Maraist commanded a Belgian base during his career and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
In more recent years, he and an original group of 17 others would gather on that Moore Field top row for baseball games, dating back to when Ragin' Cajun crowds numbered in the dozens. The 18 slots on the old metal bleachers were their seats, as they were when the stadium's first plastic chairback seats were installed.
Now the entire grandstand has chairbacks, but the top row of Section G, right behind home plate, remains different. They're reserved, spoken for, always have been, always will be.
Hopefully Jim Jr., or one of the other children will come up and sit for a while, and be reminded how much his dad meant to those around him.
It would be fitting, especially on Opening Day. After all, that's what Opening Day is ... a rebirth, a new dawning, the recapturing of youth at least vicariously though the young men that will take the field tonight.
Jim would have loved it.
UL BASEBALL SEASON OPENER
UL Monroe (0-3) at Louisiana (0-0)
Today, 6:30 p.m., Tigue Moore Field
TICKETS: Less than 1,000 tickets remain for public sale for each UL home game after a record-breaking season ticket sale. Tickets are on sale at the Cajundome box office from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and will go on sale at the Moore Field ticket booth at 4:30 p.m. Reserved chairback bleacher seats are $8 each and UL students are admitted free with ID. UL students may purchase escort tickets for $7.
ON THE AIR: KPEL-AM (1420) with Jay Walker and Steve Peloquin. Air time is 6 p.m.
UL, Hunter Moody (So., LHP, 2-0, 4.08 last year); ULM, David Mixon (Jr.,. RHP, 0-1, 14.73 this season).
UL - John McCarthy (6-0, Sr., L-L), RF; Jameson Parker (6-0, Sr., R-R), SS; Josh Landry (6-0, Sr., L-R), CF; Jonathan Lucroy (6-1, So., R-R), C; Jefferies Tatford (6-3, Jr., L-R), 1B; Alex Preciado (6-2, Sr., R-R), LF; Scott Hawkins (6-4, Fr., R-R), DH; Grant Derouen (5-8, Fr., R-R), 3B; Matt Hicks (6-0, Fr., R-R), 2B.
ULM - Andy Jones (5-8, Jr., L-L), CF; Ben Soignier (6-0, Fr., R-R), SS; James Bennett (6-1, Sr., L-L), RF; Justin LaBorde (5-9, Sr., R-R), LF; Travis Drader (6-0, Jr., L-R), 3B; Brent Bowman (6-2, Jr., L-L), 1B; Josh Morrison (6-0, Jr., R-R), C; Ty Rollinson (6-3, Jr., L-R), 2B; Steve Lawler (6-0, Sr., R-R), DH.
Originally published February 14, 2006
Letters to the editor, The Daily Advertiser - February 18, 2006
Maraist's son grateful for tribute to father
I am Jim Maraist's oldest son, residing in California. My mom informed me of the wonderful tribute to my dad. You touched her and the rest of the family deeply.
The Ragin' Cajuns provided Dad with an unparalleled quality of life. When I came back for the funeral, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the community, those associated with the sports program and his friends.
He had every game penciled in his calendar for the whole year. The first order of business when I would call home was to hear the latest update about the UL program or event (such as the hat incident).
My brother, Jimmie, will probably be at every game when he isn't offshore.
Roger Maraist, California
Originally published February 18, 2006