Over-Eager adults ruin legacies of Chicago champs


It was very disheartening to read the Associated Press’ story last week about the team that reached the finals of the Little League World Series last August being stripped of its title last week for using “ringers” to win the national title.

Things like this happen too often when over-eager parents who either weren’t good enough athletes or wished they could have played the game of baseball better, lives their “wannabee dream” through their children.

In the case of Jackie Robinson West, the team that breezed through the district, sectional and regional phases of the Little League tournaments last summer were victims of a scandal that had to be mapped out long before the team even was selected.

If there was a dazzling shortstop who lived a tad outside the prescribed boundary, a little whiteout and a graphic pencil put him within that boundary. The same could be said about a great pitcher or catcher. 

Those adults knew exactly what was needed to field a potential championship team and drew up the “legal” boundaries accordingly.

But not everyone bought into this deceptive practice and word got out that Little League officials should look into the new boundaries that the South Side had concocted.

This may not be exactly the way it happened, but the “real” story should be very similar to what you’re reading.

It breaks my heart to see these innocent youngsters get penalized for something done with malice in mind, because 61 years ago I was one of those proud kids who had busted our butts to win the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

And for every one of those 61 years, I was proud of what we accomplished and the legacy that came with that world championship. 

The 14 of us plus our manager Mike Maietta, assistant coach Lou Masucci and trainer Dominic “Lindy” Buonome were life-long celebrities in our hometown of Schenectady, New York. 

When our chartered bus approached the city limits of Schenectady after the long trip from Williamsport in 1954, we were met by a motorcade of fire engines and police cars who escorted us to the steps of city hall where the mayor and city bigwigs said so many nice things when they got their turn at the podium. 

New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey presented each of us with a personal letter telling us how proud the state of New York was of our team. Even as the senior citizens we are today, those memories are still fresh as if they happened yesterday.

And anytime when some civic organization decided to honor us on an anniversary of our accomplishment, the city went all out to make us feel like the champions we were.

Area newspapers, radio and television stations set up interviews weeks before the event took place.

During the fall of 1954, our team was honored by 25-30 different civic organizations which hosted banquets for us. Businesses gave us gift certificates for the kind of merchandise they handled while others presented us with U.S Savings Bonds.

The New York Giants, who had won the 1954 National League pennant, invited our world championship Little League team to be their honored guests during the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

We got to personally watch Willie Mays make that sensational basket catch of Vic Wertz’s drive, whirl around and make a throw almost in one motion.

We also were the guests on NBC’s Today Show that was hosted by Dave Garroway, who, coincidentally was a native of Schenectady, got to watch the famous Radio City Rockettes perform and were treated to Brigadoon, which was playing on Broadway at the time.

Each one of our 1954 Little League World Championship team has fond memories of our accomplishment 61 years ago. 

Members of last year’s Jackie Robinson West championship also should be remembered for their great accomplishment, despite the greed and stupidity of a handful of adults who ruined it for them.

KWICKIES…Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith, head coach Bill O’Brien and director of player personnel Brian Gaine are headed for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week. They look for this combine to be a very important first step in preparing for the NFL draft April 30-May 2 if the Texans hope to improve on last year’s 9-7 record. Much of what the Texans do in the upcoming draft depends on what they do in free agency. They must make a concerted effort to re-sign unrestricted free agents cornerback Kareem Jackson, offensive tackle Derek Newton, outside linebacker Brooks Reed and quarterback Ryan Mallett.

The Lamar Cardinals baseball team was defeated twice last weekend by undefeated Illinois 8-1 Saturday and 9-3 Sunday. In between Head coach Jim Gilligan won his 1,300 career game in Saturday’s nightcap as the Big Red ran over New Mexico State 9-2 at the Cardinal Classic held last weekend at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont. The Illini won all four of their games in the double-round-robin format, Lamar finished 2-2 with a pair of wins over New Mexico State, which lost all four games. The Cards swing back into action this weekend with a four-game series against Manhattan with the opener set for 6 p.m. at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont. The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday and conclude the series Sunday at 11 a.m.

Former Bridge City star pitcher Jake Lemoine received another honor last week when he was named to USA Baseball’s preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List, bringing the University of Houston junior pitcher’s total to six for the 2015 season, according to the U of H Sports Information Director’s office. Lemoine earlier was named a Preseason Second Team honoree by Baseball America and D1Baseball.com, a Second Teamer by Perfect Game and Preseason Third Team All-American by Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper plus being named to the 15-man roster for the Preseason American Athletic Conference Team.

Brandt Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the second time in three years, breaking his own scoring record by firing a five-under par 67 on Sunday’s final day. Snedeker totaled 265 to win the event by three strokes over runner-up Nick Watney. Third-round leader Jim Furyk faltered on the final day with a 74 after blazing through Saturday’s round with a 63.

Former Houston Astro and Deer Park native Andy Pettitte will have his New York Yankees No. 46 uniform retired at a ceremony set for Aug. 23. He also will be honored with a plaque at famed Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. The talented southpaw played 15 of his 18-season career with the Bronx Bombers and holds the franchise record for strikeouts (2,020) and starts (438) and will become the 19th player to have his number retired by the Yankees.

JUST BETWEEN US…Pitchers and catchers for the Houston Astros are due to arrive for spring training at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. on Friday with position players required to arrive Feb. 24. The Astros first full workout takes place Feb. 25. This year’s team hopes to improve on last year’s 70-92 record, which was an improvement by 19 victories over the 51 games won in 2013. Hopefully there will be an improvement over last season because the 2015 payroll is up nearly $20 million.