The city of Scranton has gotten a lot of attention thanks to the popularity of the hit TV show, “The Office”. This place has been on the International League map for quite a while, though. Before the Yankees invaded, the area was home to the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. When that was the case, back in 1999, the Red Barons had an exciting player on their club named Torey Lovullo. In his last season of professional American baseball (he played one more year in Japan) Lovullo hit .279 with 21 home runs and a team record 106 rbi. The single season team mark for runs batted in still stands.
Torey was immensely popular in Buffalo. He was a standout player and manager in the city. I understand that. I was a little surprised, though as staff at PNC Field stopped by to pay homage to Torey. They all had fond memories of a guy who played with enthusiasm and set the rbi record in his only year in town. He clearly made an impact. He’s that kind of guy. Eugene “Jeep” Fanucci has run the stadium press box for over 20 years and he stopped down to shake Torey’s hand. “Torey’s one of those guys who always has a smile or a nice word for you. They’re not all like that.”
Not that I’m dropping sainthood on the skipper, by any means. When he was a visiting player coming to the area, he stayed at the Lackawanna Station Hotel, as we do now. I’ve told you the stories of how the place is supposed to be haunted. It’s an old train station and during World War II part of it was used as a morgue, so families could come and identify the bodies of their loved ones killed in action.
The stories have blossomed over the years and Torey shared one with me that he and a partner in crime perpetrated on another unsuspecting teammate. Lovullo and J.T. Snow decided to get back to the hotel early after a game and infiltrate the room of a guy they knew would be staying at the park for a little while longer. (I have been sworn to secrecy, so I can’t tell you the players’ name. After all these years, he still doesn’t know the whole thing was a hoax and I think Torey might be scared of the guy!) .
Once they secured a room key, they snuck into his room, armed with fishing line. They attached it to a coat hanger that had clips on the bottom of it (for hanging trousers) and ran it under the door. In the dark of night, they banked on the fact their “friend” wouldn’t see it when he returned. They waited a couple of hours and around 1:30 a.m. they returned to his room. They listened through the door and could hear him on the phone with his wife. “Pre-Cell Phone” days, so they knew he was at the desk or on his bed recounting the details of the nights’ game. They also knew that their dupe was a superstitious type so they felt pretty confident. As the conversation continued, Torey and Snow grabbed the end of the fishing line in the hallway and started to gently pull it back and forth, creating a rustling sound from the open closet. They heard the victim say to his wife, “Hey hold on, I think I heard something”. He went and checked but didn’t see the well-hidden line. A moment later, they did it again. “Whoa” the man yelled. “This hotel is supposed to be haunted” he told his wife. “I know I just heard something in my closet.” Lovullo and Snow, meanwhile are in the hallway, holding each other up they’re laughing so hard. The guy investigated and again found nothing amiss in his room. He finally settled back into the talk with his wife, apparently trying to convince himself that he had imagined the noises. Now, our two jokers were ready for the grand finale. After a minute or two, they really started jiggling the line. The hung clothing was rustling and creating a mini tornado in the closet. Their victim started screaming and they could hear him get off the bed and run across the room. With a good tug on the line, the hanger popped off the bar, and they dragged his clothes across the floor. The screams from the room started to get louder. They pulled until the pressure of the hotel room door forced the line to come free from the hanger, leaving a pile of clothes in front of the door. The culprits then ran like crazy for a place to hide, laughing hysterically. Finally, the screaming died down and our victim settled down to try to sleep, no doubt, with one eye open.
Torey said, with a great deal of pride, I might add, that a couple of years later, as stories of the haunted hotel were being told, someone recounted the tale of the clothing that jumped out of the closet and ran for the door. He just sat there, silently, with a big smile on his face.