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.