The sounds. The stories. The history.
If ever there was a question about which sport best incorporates these three things and converts them to deep-rooted emotions, the answer would be simple: baseball.
The sound of a ball and bat colliding is so distinct, that the slightest change in tone and tenor of a batter’s contact is immediately understood as a “good hit” – or not. The sound of metal cleats crunching the soil mix on an infield surface or on a concrete walkway is like a tap-dance performance with every step. The Nickelodeon melodies played on organs at ballparks all across the country during games go great with a hot dog and a cold beverage.
Talk to any baseball fan about their favorite team, or former player about past glory, and you can bet they have a prepared baseball story. If it’s statistics, plays, or lore that prompts a yak session, there’s no shortage of material in this sport. And there is no shortage of history, as every single pitch becomes an added notch in the great book of baseball numbers. Additionally, the sport provides a gold standard for both offense and defense. For example, every hitter starts out batting 1.000 (one thousand) at the start of every season, and every pitcher gets a clean slate before every outing. In what other sport can the word “perfect” be used without objection?
Now, a Taoseño has taken his place in history, inducted into the Men’s Senior Baseball League National Hall of Fame. Norm Cutliff, the president of the Taos Men’s Baseball League and manager of the Taos Solar Sox was recognized in a public ceremony during the 2017 MSBL World Series in Phoenix Oct. 24. MSBL national president and founder, Steve Sigler presented Cutliff with a sizeable trophy with an inscription that read: “Presented to Norm Cutliff, For Your Open Support and Commitment in the Establishment and Development of the Men’s Senior Baseball League and for Your Continued Participation in Our Programs Today.”
Cutliff, who attended high school in Memphis, Tenn. but did not play sports, always held athletes in high regard and finally decided to give baseball a try when he was in his early 50’s.
The former Hollywood stunt man, who worked on a few notable movies, moved to Taos with his family in 1992 – fulfilling a calling that started in his youth. “I was an Eagle Scout and our scoutmaster had ties to Taos Pueblo,” said Cutliff who was enthralled by stories of the Taos Valley told by his Native American guide. “His words and descriptions of the Taos Pueblo and the surrounding mountains and streams really inspired me. It was like I was destined to come here.”
Cutliff’s move to Taos fortuitously coincided with the arrival of another key player in the formulation of the Taos Men’s Baseball League – Marty Remaly. “Marty came to Taos from the east, and I moved here from the west in ‘92 and we found each other after he placed an ad in the newspaper about playing baseball,” said Cutliff, who is a left-handed pitcher and credits Remaly for teaching him how to hurl a baseball. “It turns out we shared a fascination with the history of baseball in Taos that stretched back as far as the early 1900s.”
Cutliff researched the history and admirably cited several historical references and interesting facts he discovered about baseball in the region that amounted to a boon in a bygone era.
“Marty and I reached deep into that history and decided to try and start up a league,” said Cutliff, who noted the existence of two prominent Taos Pueblo teams that became defunct around 1917. “We pursued that history and restarted the league in 1993 and began sending teams to the World Series in 1995. But the history was the impetus for our action.”
That action has turned into something concrete. The trophy Cutliff received is a life-sized golden glove with the appropriate luster for this longstanding service. An August 2017 MSBL newsletter revealed that Cutliff was joined by five other inductees for 2017.
“This really has been a community wide effort since the very beginning,” said Cutliff, who ran off a list of partners from memory, including the local Taos governments and the Taos Municipal Schools who has supported the league with the use of its field. “I’m just the symbolic tip of the spear.”
When asked how he felt about the nod from the national office and receiving this great honor, Cutliff replied, “I basically was recognized for simply seeing something all the way through.”