Ray Wilde honored for a half century of service
MILROY — For 50 years, one man has been a walking, talking public relations machine for the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League.
It’s hard not to notice Ray Wilde at a game. From his faded blue and white MC cap, to rocking a sweater in 90-degree weather without breaking a sweat, Ray is a one-man dynamo for Babe Ruth baseball.
With his scorebook and traveling history of the league, affectionately known as the Ark, under his arm at all times, Wilde wears many hats – statistician, reporter and promoter of all things Babe Ruth in Mifflin County.
The Mifflin County Babe Ruth organization recognized his massive contributions to the sport, honoring him with a plaque for five decades of service after the 13-year-old championship game Thursday afternoon at Armagh Field.
“I was surprised. I thought they wanted to take pictures of the kids. I had no idea of the plaque. I have a place at home with all my Babe Ruth stuff and this will go with it,” Wilde said. “Eventually, I am going to donate all my stuff to the Allensville Museum. I’m very honored to receive the plaque.”
For Wilde, it has and always will be a labor of love.
“I enjoy this. I enjoy writing for the paper, doing baseball stats and I enjoy the us against the world mentality. When I started, no one knew who we were. Now, we are one of the most successful organizations in Babe Ruth,” Wilde said. “We have won 24 state titles, been in 48 state finals and 27 times we’ve made it to the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, all are state records. I researched on that for years. It was fun but it was a lot of work. This isn’t a hobby to me. This is my life’s work.”
Wilde got into the league back in 1970 because of his younger friends moving up from Little League.
“I was 19 years old and all my friends were 13, 14 and 15 that I ran around with in Belleville. I kept score for the Belleville Yankees in Little League and I made the decision when they all moved up to Babe Ruth, I would join them,” Wilde said. “During that year, 1970, Lloyd ‘Satch’ Mowery came to me and said they were hosting the state championships and if I would like to be the PR guy? I was a journalism student and my goal was to work for the Sentinel, so I said yes and that’s how I got started in Babe Ruth.”
Wilde’s goals for the league when he started was to make it competitive, create lasting memories and build something the kids and their parents could enjoy.
“What I do is for the kids, for the parents and for the league. I wanted to make it a teenage league that people could remember all their lives,” Wilde said. “I wanted to make a difference. Most leagues aren’t as organized as ours. You can’t win as much as we have without great parents and community support. I think Babe Ruth has been good for the community because we are competitive. You have to have hope and I wanted to give that to the people.”
Another goal Wilde had for the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League is to provide a feeder system for the various past and present high school programs.
“Who would have thought we would win a world series title, hold all these state records and achieve what we have as a league? Certainly we didn’t think that in 1970. We have been a good feeder system for the high school programs,” Wilde said. “High school baseball in Mifflin County has been successful. We had Indian Valley make the state title game and Lewistown won it all in Class AA. Baseball is a sport we can compete in and Babe Ruth we can be competitive and that’s what we’ve done.”
His contributions to the league are numerous. He created the final four that all of Babe Ruth follows now. He was the first to publish media guides and he started the county postseason awards, like the batting title.
“It wanted to give the kids something to shoot for and have fun. The key to success for the whole league is to have fun and make the state tournament,” Wilde said. “If you’re a kid, you want to win a trophy. I tried to make it a baseball league, not just a teenage league, but a baseball league and we do that better than any league in the state. We keep standings, pennant races and regular season awards.”
The only thing more important than Babe Ruth baseball is his mother, now 98 years young, who gave him some advice a long time ago that’s guided Wilde throughout his life.
“My mother said to me, do the best you can do and don’t quit. Just keep at it,” he said. “She’s been the driving force behind me. Her philosophy she gave to me guided me my whole life.”
How would Wilde like to be remembered when he’s done with Babe Ruth?
“I hope people say about me that he gave 100 percent to the league and made it fun to come to Babe Ruth games,” Wilde said. “I hope I made a difference with the writing I’ve done and the statistics. I don’t think anybody in the state does this for us. My life is has been full of fun. I hope it’s been fun for the community and I hope people think of me as someone who loved what he did and wanted to do the best that he could do for Babe Ruth and the community.”
The 2000 PA Babe Ruth Hall of Famer has no plans on slowing down.
“I want to make sure someone will take care of my stuff when I’m gone and that’s why approached the people of Allensville to take it,” Wilde said. “But I’m not ready yet. I’m in good health. I’m happy. I’m not going to give it up yet. I enjoy it. It’s a challenge but I’m having fun. The whole combination of our success is great coaches, great players and great community support.
“The stuff I dreamed about all came true,” an emotional Wilde continued with tears in his eyes. “Not many people can say that. When you set out at 19 to help make the league better and your dreams come true it’s an incredible feeling. It’s been a great life. I have no regrets.”
And neither does the Mifflin County Babe Ruth family for having someone like Ray Wilde in their corner.