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Diamonds are forever at 75

What's the matter with 75?

We're the boys that're still alive.

Hi Ho, Let's go!

Rah, Rah, Rah 75.

_ Kids & Kubs club cheer

Paul Boyden couldn't wait to turn 75.

He played on softball teams throughout St. Petersburg since coming here from Boston in 1984. Now he is eligible to play for the Kids & Kubs.

"It makes me feel good to be called a rookie," Boyden said. "It's a great club to belong to."

For the 68th year, the Kids & Kubs (also known as the Three-Quarter Century Softball Club) will play games in downtown St. Petersburg. The season started Tuesday and runs until April 4. Games are played at North Shore Park at 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Admission is free.

There are about 60 Kids & Kubs. The players are divided into three teams, but only two teams play on any day. In the off-season, the club has road trips scheduled for Pennsylvania and Texas.

The oldest active player is 87-year-old Paul Good, a slick-fielding third baseman. Walter Brooks, the 90-year-old team chaplain, bats first in every game, then coaches first base the rest of the game.

"It gives me something to do," said Brooks, who played in the Philadelphia Athletics minor-league system and was signed by the legendary baseball manager Connie Mack. "I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for the Kids & Kubs."

The oldest member who does not play is 105-year-old George Bakewell, who is director emeritus.

Good, who has been watching Kids & Kubs games since 1974 and playing with the team for 13 years, started playing softball on a whim. He had played a little high school and American Legion baseball as a teenager, but that was it.

Like most of his friends, Good played golf when he retired. But after seeing the Kids & Kubs at North Shore Park, he decided to try out when he was eligible. He has played since.

"Ol' George Bakewell had a saying," Good said. "He said, "Softball adds years to your life and life to your years.' I think that sums it up pretty good."

Women also play a part with the team, but none as players. Women are not prohibited, but none has tried out.

Ruby Perrine has been a bat girl for 22 years. Kimi Shironaka has been one since 1982. Jane Case is announcer and scorekeeper.

"I love it," said Perrine, who retired from the Kodak Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., in 1976. "It's the whole reason I come back to Florida. That and the dancing."

Turning 75 is not the only requisite for joining the club. Potential players must pass a tryout and are on probation for the first year. Unsportsmanlike conduct is not tolerated. Once a player passes the probation, he is a member for life.

During a recent workout, infielders had no trouble fielding and throwing. Several batters stretched hits in the outfield into doubles. Just don't expect diving plays or home runs over the fence 240 feet away.

In addition to playing three games a week, the club sponsors charity games for groups such as the Salvation Army and the Arthritis Foundation.