Tuesday, May 3, 2016

1976 Condors Turn 40

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Row 1, Pete Bednar, Robert Bendas, Dave Bettick, Ron Sowal, Ed Washuta, Mike Swatt, Steve Sidisky.  Row 2, David Martin, head coach, Paul Petrovich, Rich Carsto, Carl Bielski, Shawn Chesney, Bill Hayes, Mike Gurski, and Phil Santor, assistant coach. 

In 1976, the country was celebrating the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, Watergate was still fresh in the nation's mind, and the Starland Vocal Band sang something about afternoon delight.  This group of rag tag neighborhood friends, family and school mates managed to finish 2nd in the Twin County Little League. 

The Twin County League was made up from two parochial teams from Shamokin, and community teams from Gratz, Pillow, Herndon, Rebuck and Dalmatia.  We weren't affiliated with Little League international but due to some geographically restrictions it would have been hard for most teams to field a team due to being in very rural areas.

Our coaches were two great ones.  David Martin and Phil Santor piloted the 1976 version of the Condors.  Take notice to the fact that their names don't match any of the players.  Maybe for a 5th cousin once removed, they were not related to any of the players.  Family or not, they were dedicated. Mr. Martin traveled 50 miles one-way to work and in turn drive another 40-mile round trip to away games in the evening.

Many players lived within walking, running or biking distance to our home field.  Practice was held everyday except on Tuesday and Saturday game days.  Saturday was extra special.  We played at home under the lights after a 5 pm mass at St. Stan's.  Most of our road games involved 20 mile caravans to the opposing teams fields.  Our season started in the middle of May while ending in late July.  An inaugural tournament held in Shamokin that season extended our season into early August. 

I don't remember much from those individual games.  I do remember we split a regular season games with Pillow losing 7-6 in a continuation of a game halted by rain and beating them 12-3 at home.  After the conclusion of the regular season, we were all tied with a winner take all single game for the championship at Pillow.  We gathered at our usually meeting spot waiting for our coach.  He had been delayed getting home from work due to construction (imagine that in 1976) so the team was left to entertain ourselves in the meantime.  Trying to copy WWF wrestling moves was the preferred method of side entertainment that day.  Our caravan took off 45 minutes to an hour behind schedule for 25 mile ride to Pillow.  The final score that day Pillow - 21, St. Stan's - 0.   Yep, we did the Super Bowl flop before it became popular.

We would get one more shot at Pillow in the Shamokin Tournament.  Looking to advance to the final three in a double-elimination tournament, Pillow got the better of us by one run with a walk off hit in the bottom of 6th.  It was our last game together.

Some of us never played baseball formally again, others reunited in teener league, high school and recreation softball.  Some served our country with distinction, others went to college and medical school. Incredible in this day and age as we have all kissed 50, all of us our still living.  Mr. Santor left us first followed by Mr. Martin two years ago.  Although we didn't claim a championship that season, our coaches left us with championship rules of sportsmanship and values.  It was a great year to be 10 years old. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Villanova......Party Like It's 1985!

Bruce Springsteen, Madonna
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school
They tell her that she’s uncool
Cause she's still preoccupied
With 19, 19, 1985

Some of the lyrics above are from a song performed by "Bowling for Soup" back in 2004.  Villanova basketball's recent run to the Final Four and to the 2016 NCAA Championship conjured up some memories from the magic run in 1985 and the "Perfect Game" against Georgetown in a 66-64 thriller. This writer was a freshman at Villanova living in St. Mary's in the spring of 1985. 

So many things have been written about the basketball and sports side of this story.  I will leave that part to the pro's.  Remembering the team and Coach Mass vividly, the only things that are similar between 1985 and 2016 is both are champions and both have created a family atmosphere on the team. While I was beginning to have doubts about the 4-guard system, all doubt has been buried deep.

Roughly around the time the team made it to the Final Four in Houston, someone created a Villanova Class of 1988 page on Facebook.  Not only were classmates able to share memories from that magic March in 1985, but were also to renew old and make some new friendships.  Even though most of us were not on the team or involved with the team's operation, April 1st united us forever.  No matter where our lives traveled around the globe after graduation, April 1st, 1985 taught us that anything can be achieved doing it the right way. 

With interaction and banter exchanged during the week leading up to the championship, it was nice to read several classmates had children who were freshmen in 2016.  The table was set to pass the torch to a new generation of Villanovans and bring out the pride and emotions of generations past.  Seeing news reports on television and reading stories in the newspaper, it was like reliving 1985 again.  Most people in 1985 said they could not believe what Wildcats have achieved.

I was looking for something leaning our way for the championship. First, I thought maybe Jay and Rollie were the same age when they won their championships.  Jay at 54 has four years on Rollie's age 50 in 1985.  I read a story about the number "44" being part championship. For my point of view, the number 31 played big.  Big Five team LaSalle won in '54.  Villanova won 31 years later in 1985.  31 years later in 2016, it was the Wildcats.  Our only scholarship play in the Class of 1988 wore jersey #31.  Finally, I went to one game this season.  Villanova beat Xavier at home by 31 on December 31, 2015.  We don't know what the college basketball landscape will look like in 2047, but I will go on record not to rule out the Wildcats.

Rollie now has Jay.  Eddie has "Archie."  1985 has embraced 2016.  1985 has the "Perfect Game." 2016 has "The Shot" and the dominating run.  Classes of  '85, '86, '87, and '88 are now joined by '16, '17, '18, and '19 with championships being the foundation to bridge the generations.  Like we remember April 1st, 1985, April 4th 2016 will never be forgotten.  For Villanovans everywhere, those days are ours and no one can take them away.