Little League coach, 43, succumbs to lymphoma

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Stephen Goldfinger, a Little League coach from Little Neck who friends said touched thousands of lives during his more than 20 years in baseball, died Sunday morning of complications from lymphoma. He was 43.

Friends and colleagues struggled through their grief Monday to describe Goldfinger - who had run the Long Island Royal Cardinals since the early 1990s - and said the longtime coach had followed the activities of his players until about a week before his death.

Services for Goldfinger were held at the Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows Tuesday, where people packed two rooms to pay tribute to the coach. Many young men wiped tears from their eyes as they waited for services to begin.

Steven Veissy of Bayside, who had helped Goldfinger with coaching duties in the summer traveling youth baseball organization for the past five years, said that when the players were told of Goldfinger's death Sunday, "there were a lot of tears."

As Veissy surveyed the roomful of mourners, he said, "there are a lot of years in this room."

Joe Kessler, coach of the Bayside Yankees and former president of the Bayside Little League, said Goldfinger had "gone through a thousand kids that he coached and touched upon."

Veissy said Goldfinger's sister, Ellen Reich, had donated a kidney to her brother last fall when both of his failed. Goldfinger, who also worked as a salesman, developed large-cell lymphoma as a side effect of the anti-rejection medication, Veissy said. Goldfinger's family, which includes his father, Charles Goldfinger of Douglaston, could not be reached for comment.

"It didn't become evident until the end of May," Veissy said of Goldfinger's illness.

Craig Everett of Whitestone was co-manager of the Cardinals with Goldfinger for the past year.

"He cared about the kids a lot," said Everett, 26, who also had played under Goldfinger as a teen. "He was totally devoted to helping the kids."

Veissy and Everett said their friend ran the Cardinals as a place for teens to play baseball after Little League ended.

"He wanted to provide a showcase where [college] coaches could see these kids," said Veissy, adding that Goldfinger was often able to help players get scholarships. "He was serious about what he did."

Kessler, who coached with and against Goldfinger, said "he always found time - he always thought about the kids. They always came first, even when he was sick."

Before joining the Cardinals, Goldfinger was also involved in the Little Neck/Douglaston Little League and was chairman of the District 26 Little League, which oversees Little Leagues from western and northeastern Queens, for three years.

Veissy said Goldfinger followed the Cardinals' activities during his illness and after he started chemotherapy treatments several weeks ago.

"He was a man who was totally devoted and believed in kids," said Veissy, who added that Goldfinger never allowed parents to criticize the players. "His life was for the kids."

Because of that devotion, Veissy said, Goldfinger's friends and family have established the Stephen Goldfinger Memorial Fund to help kids from low-income families play baseball.

Baseball was the coach's "life blood," Veissy said. "But more importantly - it was kids playing ball."

To find out more about the fund call 428-5524. To donate, write to the Stephen Goldfinger Memorial Fund, 67-25 212th St., Bayside, NY 11364.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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