Friday, July 26, 2013

Flashback 44 Years: The Newberry World Series Run Of 1969

Bill Byham
Williamsport - At a Cutters game one night, I turn my head and see Bob Smith, Herb Cohick and Don Cohick. Smith is the long time Williamsporter who has had a great high school baseball coaching career in Naples, Florida. Herb Cohick is the father of Don Cohick and Don was the pitcher/shortstop on the Newberry Little League team that played their way from the Little League field on Arch Street all the way across to Lamade Stadium for one of the eight spots in the 1969 Little League World series.

After his world series experience, Cohick went on through Williamsport Area High School, the Air Force Academy and into the United States Air Force as a pilot.

" I am still flying. We live in San Antonio, Texas and I fly for Southwest Airlines", said Cohick. Then slapping Smith on the back, he chuckled and said, "I might move back when Newberry is ready for its next world series run. Maybe Bob and I could be coaches."

From here it is all Herb Cohick and his memory books he had not opened for some years.

He said, "You have really made my day. I have wanted to get these down for some time just to review what that 1969 team accomplished during that season."

What they accomplished was to become only the second Williamsport based All Star team to play in a Little League World series. The first was the Maynard Little League Midgets in 1947. That team played in the first ever series known then as the National Little League Tournament.

Managed by the late Fred Heaps and coached by Jim Hamilton, Newberry swept every level of the Little League playoff format in that year to become one of the eight world's finalists in the 1969 series.

Who were these "kids"? In that era of Little League All Star play the pattern was to have two strong pitching starters. Newberry had fast balling Steve Carney and the breaking ball Cohick. Both were very capable of pitching strikes to their catcher Mike Prowant. It was a 1-2 pitching punch and which ever one was not on the mound they could be found at shortstop and hitting in the second (Cohick) and third (Carney) slots in the batting order. Joe Zaboski (2B) was the lead off hitter and Randy Vaughn (CF) batted in the cleanup spot. Steve Kramer (1B) was next followed by Doug Cline (LF). Prowant was in the Number 7 hole with Allen Reed (RF) and Rusty Sechler (3B) rounding out the order.
Heaps and Hamilton could then choose from reserves Brian Nasdeo, Scott Peterson, Steve Salvatore, Tom Green and Jim Hamilton. Joe Eck was also a player but did not get any playing time due to an injury.

"It is hard to believe," said Herb Cohick, "that these guys are all about 51-52 years of age now but when I look at my books they are still those 11-12 year olds who took all of us on a wonderful run. Fred had managed the All Star teams of 1965 and 67 and had the team in the playoffs. Carl Hunter took them in 1968 but in every year they would get a good start but then get defeated once out of this area. But not in 1969. They had the good start and then were able to play past those teams out west of here."

He added, "We opened with wins over District 12 Area One teams Loyalsock (6-0), South (18-0) and Montoursville (11-1) . Then beat Flemington (4-1) and Bellefonte(7-0) in two games played at Lamade Stadium. Now the Sectionals "on the road" at DuBois where it was a pretty tense two games as Newberry defeated Huntington 2-0 and then bested Latrobe 3-2."

The Newberry All Stars had seen their seasons end in 1965 and 1967 with losses to Latrobe and came home as Sectional runners up in those years.

On to Kittaning for the Pennsylvania state championships. Herb then remembered, "two things I had not ever seen before in Little League baseball. The kids defeated St Theresa of Pittsburgh 4-1 and, I kid you not, their pitcher, remember now, was to be not older than 12, had a light mustache and beard. The next day we did a great job in beating Levittown by a 6-2 score. When the game ended their coach ran out to the mound, picked Don (Cohick) up and swung him around in congratulating him for the way he pitched against his kids. You don't see that too often."

The Eastern Regionals were played in Belleville, NJ. After shutting out Connecticut, "a kid by the name of Hunter Brett from Smithtown, New York had the kids down when a hard thunder storm stopped the game for some time. It was the first time they were ever behind so it didn't look good. But when the storm passed, Fred and Jim had the kids ready to play and they came back to win it 8-4 to get into the world series! Later we learned that Brett's mother had already booked rooms in Williamsport for the series. She was, of course, very upset."

"We will never forget the great reception given to the team on coming home! City fire trucks and hundreds of fans greeted them out on the (Montgomery) Pike and escorted them to the field on Arch Street where they were given a great greeting!. The people of Holy Rosary Church took care of feeding them. It was a not to be forgotten evening!"

Newberry was rained out of their Tuesday opener and became part of a rare four game schedule the next day. They played at 9 A.M. and dropped a heart breaking 2-0 game when they were no-hitted by California's Santa Clara whose lineup included future major leaguer, Carney Lansford. Cohick took the loss on a day when he allowed just three hits while striking out out 11 including Lansford.

That put Newberry into the loser bracket games with no chance of winning the world series. But in their two remaining games, the team came back to defeat Weisbaden, Germany 4-0 and closed out with a 2-1 win over a team from Puerto Rico to give them a 13-1 run as All Stars and 5th place in the world.

One added note. The radio voice of this team was Vince Campana on WLYC. He was with them every step of the way and did games from some very "hand made" broadcast locations to bring the games back home.