Tuesday, October 25, 2011
When Robert Pierson was 12, he went to Cooperstown to play his beloved baseball a stone's throw from the Hall of Fame.
That wasn't so unusual, except that he pitched 10 innings by himself, and then tried - unsuccessfully - to convince Fairmount Sports Association coach Joe Dunn to let him play in a second game 90 minutes later.
"Kids don't do that," said Dunn softly, last Saturday.
Robert Pierson died on Easter Sunday, after being shot on March 23 by a group of North Philadelphia teens, ages 13 to 16, who told police they had come to Fairmount to rob people. The half-dozen kids threw a bottle at a row home and ran until they were confronted at 23d and Parrish by Robert and his friends.
For close friend Susan Noble, who helped apprehend one of the youths - "I tackled him," she said, "like I was playing football" - the loss is wrenching.
She can't talk about Robert at the diamond where she recently watched son Shane, 10, run the bases, because "it's still so hard for the kids." Shane, she said, "never wanted to play ball, but this year he wanted to play because Robert was teaching him."
"He was one of the best players I ever coached," said Dunn, who was with Robert for five of the years the teen played for Fairmount. On the benches of opposing teams, said Dunn, "you would hear, 'Is Rob pitching? I hope Rob's not pitching!' " Even as the teen became a star, said Dunn, "he never showed anybody up."
"As a player," said his coach, "he wasn't the type to look for trouble." But he could hang tough. "If somebody made an error," said Dunn, "Robert would throw harder and harder until he struck everybody out. And he was successful - most of the time."