Crab Gab: A moment of silence at the ballpark

TRIBUTE Wayne Dennison’s family, from left, Janice Rohwer, Paul Dennison, Jenny Dennison, Wally Dennison, Dian Tucker, and James Tucker. Matt Filar | Union

The announcer asked for a moment of silence and I held my breath. Fans were still streaming in, looking for seats, calling out to friends, folks were drinking beer and chatting, and everyone was anticipating the start of the game.

But it happened. There was absolute silence in the Arcata Ball Park.

Being remembered on July 7 were former Crabs players, staff, board members, and fans who had died from 2019 through 2021:

• Ken Dunaway (1929-2020), a member of the Crabs Hall of Fame;

• Alex Leisten (1988-2020), an Arcata High School graduate who played for the Crabs in 2008;

• Jack Altman  Jr. (1935-2020), a member of the Crabs Hall of Fame;

• Bill Ruff (1954-2019), former president of the Crabs Board of Directors;

• Eric Imrie (1977-2020), Crabs Assistant Trainer;

• Wayne Dennison (1956-2021), lifelong Crabs fan.

Wayne Dennison and his friend, David Mayer, always sat in the same seats, as many Crabs regulars do. Wayne was known for his “happy soul.” He greeted everyone who walked by the bleachers.

“Wayne would always say hi to me at every Crabs game when I walked by. I can still hear the excitement in his voice when he talked about baseball,” Tracy Mac, Crabs board member said.

His co-workers at the Blue Lake Casino where he worked for 17 years handed out blue baseball caps embroidered with his name to fans at the entrance to the ballpark. Crabs players wore a tribute jersey that night.

Members of Dennison’s family came from near and far to celebrate his life in a unique way. His brother, Paul Dennison, threw out the first pitch. Also attending were Paul’s wife, Janice, Wayne’s sister Dian Tucker and her husband James, Wayne’s son, Wally, and Wayne’s ex-wife Jenny. Other friends gathered in the section of the bleachers where Wayne usually sat.

Jason Ramos of the Blue Lake Casino gave a heartfelt tribute to Wayne before the game.

“His family and friends had a great time ... just the way he would have wanted it,” Mayer said.

The other honorees were a stellar group as well.

Ken Dunaway, a resident of Fortuna for more than 80 years, graduated from Humboldt State in 1950 and was known as one of the most versatile athletes in the university’s history, earning 14 varsity letters.

Alex Leisten, born and raised in Arcata, was tragically killed in a car accident in San Jose. He was a standout pitcher who had a passion for people and sports.

Jack Altman Jr. served students at Humboldt State as the Director of Housing, Director of Upward Bound, and Director of Financial Aid before retiring. He loved taking batting practice at every Crabs Alumni weekend.

Bill Ruff served not only as president of the Crabs board of directors, but also as the president of the Humboldt County Board of Education. 

Eric Imrie was the Head Athletic Trainer at Lassen College where he was recognized for building an outstanding system of medical care from the ground up. Crabs Head Trainer Nate Kees said, “He was that dude. And I think he was like that for a lot of us.”

After the announcer thanked the crowd for the moment of silence, a single voice rang out, “Go Crabs Go.” 

It could have been the voice of any one of these well-remembered gentlemen.

(Thanks to Tracy Mac for so much of the information about the honorees. Read more about each of them in the Crabs souvenir program coming out soon.)


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