By the time I came around all I really knew of Ed was he was the guy that sang some song over and over again while he cut the grass at the American Legion Field in Saegertown. I didn't even know that field he was cutting was named after him until years later.
He was just a pretty quiet guy that was always there at the field. And the field was always perfect.
I knew his wife much better because she would engage me in conversation every time I'd head back to my car from a game. Yes she was always there too.
I got to know Ed a little bit years later when his grandson was a star at Saegertown. Brandon Crum was one of the best players on a decent team. He got a little cocky one game and got himself caught in a pickle between second and third. The team wasn't doing very well already in the game but his being on base could've been a boost they needed. When he was tagged out in the rundown his grandfather was already halfway to his car.
The old coach couldn't watch another minute and he made sure people around the perimeter of the field knew it.
I remember that like it was yesterday, in part because, though I didn't really understand what I saw at the time, the following day after Brandon's photo caught in the pickle appeared in the paper, I heard the whole story from Ed's daughter and Brandon's mom Mary.
I'm not sure the photo helped anything, but I sure it led to more teaching from Ed and more learning from Brandon. Since Brandon coaches college ball I'm guessing those lessons are now being taught to dozens of kids still.
A few years later I was given a very difficult assignment. Get a photo of Ed for a story about his being honored by the American Legion for all his service to youth baseball. He wanted no part of this. Even the assignment editor knew this ahead of time. But one ability I've had over the years is gaining enough trust in my subjects to at least get my foot in the door.
I began working the family.
I found out there was a number 1 jersey with his name on it and I began thinking of the great Babe Ruth photo at Yankee Stadium. I decided I needed to make a portrait of him that maybe... just maybe he'd agree to allow if I began talking about it like this: "You know that picture of Babe Ruth....?".
It still wasn't an easy sell, but we convinced him to show up at the field and he and I had a conversation. His daughter had already done most of the work but I had to bring it home. We sat and talked baseball stories. I told him of my tenacity as a little leaguer. but that I had terrible field awareness. Not just once, but three times I was knocked on my ass by a chain-link fence as I chased after a pop up in foul territory. He chucked at that and shook his head.
He told me coaching young kids was a privilege and nothing deserving of any the attention being drawn to him by the honor from the American Legion. He didn't do it for any other reason than he loved baseball and knew how to use the sport to teach life lessons.
To him seeing kids mature into better adults because of what they learned together on the diamond was what his contribution to God and community was all about.
That was enough for him. He was humble and he was honest.
Alzheimer's Desease began taking Ed away years ago but glimpses were had in many stories I'd hear over those years from his daughter and grand-son. The last time I saw him he was riding in the passanger seat of a car. I said something about it being a good day for a baseball game and he smiled saying everyday is a good day for baseball.
We lost Ed today. It's a loss for a community of people carrying on what he taught.
I was just reading some remembrances on Facebook and the unbelievable good this man did for so many individuals is simply nothing that can be measured.
When you see an adult working closely with a kid, giving tough but solid advice and guidance, you can see Ed Acker in that moment.
RIP Ed. My thoughts are with your family as they mourn your loss and celebrate your life. Within each of them is something very special you gave. Even this old photographer you wold rather hide from than pose for, is better for knowing you and having that very special conversation on a bench in the dugout of the field that will forever bear your name.