ALAMEDA -- Throughout his more than 65 years as an Alameda resident, Lil Arnerich has served his adopted hometown in numerous ways.
Hired as a part-time aide by the Alameda Recreation and Park Department in 1950, Arnerich became the ARPD's director of athletics in 1953, where he helped create many recreational opportunities for multiple generations of Alameda youth, particularly through the T-shirt league summer baseball. Long a vocal advocate for recreational opportunities and the preservation of parks, golf courses and other open spaces, Arnerich later served on the City Council from 1988-1996, including a stint as vice mayor from 1989-1991.
For all his years of dedicated service, the City of Alameda feted Arnerich with a proclamation at its council meeting Tuesday, declaring June 29-July 5 as "Anthony 'Lil' Arnerich Week."
"It's a great honor to read this proclamation," Mayor Marie Gilmore said to the gathering, which included more than 50 members of Arnerich's family.
Norma Arnerich, who is active in the community (most notably in terms of golf), stood at her husband's side as the proclamation was read.
"It's a myth that's misused -- that behind every man there's a good woman, but that's not true in my case," Lil Arnerich said in his remarks. "My wife always walks at my side."
The proclamation came as a surprise to Arnerich, who was not informed of the honor until minutes before arriving at City Hall.
I didn't know about this," he said. "(I feel) pretty humble. (Serving the community) is something that I do and that I want to do for the city."
Arnerich, 86, has received previous honors. A decade ago, the ARPD dedicated the upper field at Washington Park. At Arnerich's insistence, the field simply became "Arnerich Field," as other members of his family also had played and served there. In 2010, Arnerich became the first inductee of the ARPD Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Oakland, Arnerich grew up as the youngest of six brothers, thus earning him the lifelong nickname, "Lil."
Always athletic, he shone brightest on the baseball diamond. Along with his brother, Johnny, Arnerich played for the Washington Park-based Ben's Golden Glow team that won the 1947 state semipro championship. Professionally, he enjoyed short stays in 1949-50 with the hometown Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, a circuit considered by many at the time as a "third major league."
His biggest impact on the lives of many, however, came after his retirement from professional baseball in 1952. Among his other activities beyond youth baseball, Arnerich also officiated high school basketball games.
"If you can't do something for somebody during your lifetime, then you have truly wasted your walk through life," Arnerich told Tuesday's gathering.
Both Lil and Norma Arnerich passed their love for sports and community service onto their four children (one deceased).
"It's well deserved," Alameda High School baseball coach Ken Arnerich said of the proclamation given to his father. "It's amazing when you think back on all the things he's done. The family is grateful to the police chief (Paul Rolleri) and the fire chief (Mike D'Orazi) for recommending him to the council."