By Emily Gold Boutilier
[Lost & Found] Last Halloween, two days after Hurricane Sandy crippled the Jersey Shore, a police corporal named George Duffy went to East Avenue in Bay Head, N.J., to survey the damage. Unable to drive along the oceanfront street because it was filled with sand, he and Patrolman Stephen Stockoff set out on foot.
Many beachfront homes in Bay Head, N.J., suffered major damage during Sandy.
“The houses were opened up like tin cans,” Duffy says. “The water went right through them. We lost one whole house. It’s gone—it doesn’t exist anymore.” Entire contents of houses—furniture, appliances, pushed-out windows and doors—filled the avenue.
Among that debris, Stockoff noticed a basketball, deflated but in otherwise good condition. “It stood out,” Duffy says. “We picked it up.” The ball was a commemorative token from what appeared to be a 1957 “miniature NCAA tournament.” The names of the competing schools: Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan.
“Obviously, this means something to somebody,” thought Duffy, who collects baseball memorabilia.
He was right. The ball had spent decades about 300 yards away, in the East Avenue beach house that Richard Anderson ’57 had inherited from his parents. Anderson was co-captain of the Amherst basketball team during his senior year, when the Jeffs coasted to their second consecutive Little Three title. Before Sandy, the ball was on a shelf in Anderson’s basement, but the storm flooded the basement and filled it with sand.
After the storm, Anderson had bigger problems than his missing basketball. Faced with a severely damaged basement and first floor, he and his wife sold the East Avenue house. The decision to sell was wrenching, given the memories they and their children had made there. “I’ve been going to Bay Head almost my whole life,” Anderson says.
Meanwhile, the Bay Head police officers set out to find the ball’s rightful owner. Eventually, they went to the local Ocean Star newspaper, which published a story and photo in April. A friend saw the article and recognized the ball as Anderson’s.
Richard Anderson ’57 kept this basketball in the basement of his beach house in Bay Head, N.J. He was co-captain of the Amherst basketball team during his senior year.
Now the memento is safe and dry in Anderson’s living room in Verona, N.J. Anderson is “tickled pink” to have been reunited with it: “We had a good team my senior year—a wonderful group of players.” This summer the ball will return to Bay Head as part of an exhibition at the local Historical Society.
As for Duffy, he hopes the basketball provides some closure for a family that suffered from Sandy’s damage. “I just hope it’s a little ray of light for them,” he says.
Top photo: Tony Kurdzuk/Star-Ledger; bottom photo: Ocean Star