Not only did we lose one of our own here at the Times-News on Saturday when John “Joker” Boyle passed away, but the entire city of Cumberland, particularly our young people, lost a real sweetheart — a true and trusted friend.

Joker Boyle worked here at the Times-News for 40 years as a pressman, but he worked even longer than that with the Dapper Dan Club of Allegany County helping kids. Of course, to Joker, coaching kids and teaching them how to play and love baseball was no work at all. It’s just what he did.

Joker, as every one of us who knew and loved him will attest, was a true character. He could light up and fill any room he walked into because he had the most natural ability of nearly anybody I’ve ever known to enjoy the company of others. He was a treat. Larger than life was Joker Boyle. He never met a stranger.

I can remember just sitting back during my early days here at the newspaper and listening to him and former sports editor Jim Day go back and forth with each other about baseball. And what you have to understand about Jim is when you get into a friendly disagreement with him, he’s the way the late Richard Pryor said his ex-wife was: The louder you get during the debate, the quieter and calmer Jim gets. Jim knew how to push Joker’s buttons, and it would absolutely drive Joker up the wall.

If Joker said the Pittsburgh Pirates wore black and gold, Jim would say, “Joker, you must be colorblind. The Pirates wear midnight blue and gold. Have forever.” And off they would go. Or, at least, off Joker would go and the calmer Jim would get.

Yes, Joker was a character — never had anything but a friendly word for everybody he met. But Joker was a character with character as his service to his country and the Dapper Dan will attest.

He graduated from LaSalle in 1946, but only after he left school in the 11th grade to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Not long after that, Joker and his great love for baseball went to work in serving the youth of our community for 15 years as an umpire for softball, Hot Stove and Pen-Mar games. Later he would manage the Dapper Dan Twins for 11 years, leading them to the 1977 championship and being named the organization’s manager of the year. He would later manage the Phillies for six years.

A member of the Dapper Dan executive board, Joker was honored with the Peter J. Carpenti Memorial Award in 1997 as the Dapper Dan Man of the Year.

Joker loved the kids, and he loved helping them enjoy baseball, saying upon being honored as the Dapper Dan Man of the Year, “I just take a great deal of pride in working with all the boys and girls in the Dapper Dan program.”

He was a fixture at Long Field at the Constitution Park since its renovation in 1993, helping to maintain the facility, serving as an official scorer, scoreboard operator and public address announcer.

“The Dapper Dan Club has lost yet another cornerstone of our prestigious little league,” the Dapper Dan’s Adam Sterne said on Monday. “We will miss Joker, and we will miss his words: ‘Return that foul ball for a free drink at the concession stand.’ Not to mention my favorite, ‘Get the hell off the caboose! Didn’t your parents raise you any better?’ ”

Since Joker took ill, Long Field has not had a daily public address announcer for the little league games, and in a gesture of the Dapper Dan’s appreciation for his service, Sterne delivered to the Boyle family the old microphone Joker used to announce the games, and it will go to Joker’s final resting place along with him.

Next season, the Dapper Dan executive board plans to name the press box at Long Field after Joker Boyle.

“We will have the press box dedication prior to the first game of next season,” Sterne said. “I also think we should consider putting “JOKER” on our sleeves like we did “BROMO” two years ago,” when longtime Cardinals manager Jim “Bromo” Ellsworth passed away.

Joker is survived by his wife Hazel as well as their four children, James, Michael, Joseph and Jennifer; nine grandchildren; one brother and one sister.

John “Joker” Boyle is survived by an entire community as well, all of whom love him and will miss him — all of whom will carry a deep sense of gratitude, a smile and a warm spot in our heart whenever we remember him.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com.

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