A Couple Photos of 1976 Little League Action
"A Base Hit and a Run Scored for B.Y.M.C. on Opening Day!"
featuring Chris Brendel
and an All-Star Cast of Characters
The sequence of action photos shown here
were sent in by Doug Brendel, an old friend, and in 1976 a member of the Denmark's
Cafe Senior League team. They show a lot about what Little League, and Senior League
baseball action was like back in the summer of 1976.
- A Hard Hit Single To Get Things Started
MAY 16 - Batter Chris "Fritz" Brendel,
a 12 year old member of the B.Y.M.C. (Brookline Young Men's Club) team takes a fast
ball from a St. Mark's pitcher on Opening Day and drills a line drive to left center.
Long-time manager of the B.Y.M.C. team Joe "The Old Pro" Powers stands at his
familiar post along the third base line. This was a special day for Joe Powers,
as he was honored during the pre-game ceremonies for his 25 years of service
to the league, along with another old-timer, umpire Bud Auen.
Other familiar faces in this photo
would be umpire Jack "Stanky" Lombardi, wearing the "tools of ignorance" behind
the St. Mark's catcher, ready to make the ball or strike call. Standing behind
the backstop tarp, arms folded, is Mike Joseph, one of the best ballplayers to
play in the Brookline Little League program, in his American Legion uniform.
Standing behind the backstop fence, leaning on the concession stand wall next to
the scorers table is another familiar face, John Wheeler of the Brookline Pharmacy
Little League team.
Next to John, behind the scorer's table,
obscured from view by the gentleman with his leg propped on the fence (Mr. Hamilton)
behind third base, sitting in the spot usually reserved for "the father of the
Brookline Little League" Sam Bryen, is Mr. Angelo Masullo. Ange stepped down in
1976 as the distinguished coach of the American Legion Little League team to take
over as League President, replacing the beloved Mr. Bryen, who relinquished his
post prior to the start of the season, after seventeen years of faithful service,
due to a sudden illness.
Also notable in this first photo are
the Senior League bleachers, freshly painted yellow for the new season, and the
"Spirit of '76" red, white and blue garbage can, freshly painted in honor of the
country's Bi-Centennial. On the Senior League field are the Brookline Lions, in the
yellow caps, and behind the fence I can make out Carmen Tripodi in the red high-top
Pro Keds. Also of interest is the round loud speaker, which had been used for years
to announce the Little League games. I can remember how loud it was standing in
the on-deck pad to the far left. People on the other side of Brookline Boulevard
could sit on their porches and listen to the game progress! It was almost as
good as being there.
- At First Base ... Listen To Coach Burton
Fritz now stands with his foot firmly
planted on first base, awaiting a chance to take a lead or advance with the crack
of the bat. Coach Jerry "Big Bite" Burton, Joe Powers assistant from 1972 through
1976. stands in the coaches box, surveying the situation at the plate. I can't
tell who the players are for the St. Mark's team, nor do I remember the name of
the umpire positioned on the first-base line. The St. Mark's pitcher, however, does
show some nice form.
Watching the action from the fence
are an interesting group of managers and players from yesteryear. I can make out
Phaintin' Phil Sciulli (St. Mark's manager in light blue trousers), Ted Gielas
(Sr League Lions manager, arms raised), Johnnie "Spider" Lee (Sr League Legion
player in white t-shirt), Eddie "Spinach" Beveridge (Sr League McGaffins player
in yellow shirt), Bud Vietmeier (former Lions manager in white trousers watching
a fly ball on the big field), and Rich Anderson (longtime Droz Steel/Tony's
Barber Shop coach in dark blue jacket and jeans.)
On the Senior side, the Brookline Lions
are playing DeBor Funeral Home. DeBor is at bat and a pop-up appears to be headed
over the short chicken wire fence for a ground-rule double. The two Lions outfielders
have their eyes on the ball, as does their manager Ted Gielas, spectator Bud
Vietmeier and the DeBor players standing near the fence along the third base line,
next to the old corrugated steel dugouts. Of the several DeBor players standing near
the dugout, I can make out Al Scalo (dark hair, no cap) and John Boyle (standing
to his right.)
Also with his eyes on the ball is the
notorious baseball scavenger Tommy Mooney (barely visible in his red hat and shorts
beyond the wire fence). The Moondog, one of my teammates on Sr League Healthland, is
set to scoot down the hill and retrieve the ball, adding another prize to his ever
growing collection. Tommy, Doug, Mark Duglonski and myself, along with many other
friends, used these balls for our daily afternoon pick-up games.
- "Get Back to the Base "Fritz!"
This photo shows mostly the same
individuals, with two notable inclusions. George Kinzel (long-time Denmarks and
Castle Tavern manager in the light blue shirt) is now standing to the left of Phil
Sciulli, and next to him is Mr. Graham, whose son Donnie played for Gentleman
Jack Henry's Quaill's Cleaners Little League team, the defending 1975 champions.
Donnie Graham was another standout Little Leaguer who, when the 1976 season had
come to an end in August, had claimed the home run title, banging twelve
round-trippers. His true calling however, was on the football field. He went
on to a stellar collegiate career for Joe Paterno at Penn State University, where
he played linebacker.
All eyes are now on the Little League
action as Chris Brendel scoots back to first base after what appears to have been
a close play, possibly a line drive that found the glove of a St. Mark fielder.
The first baseman looks prepared to take a throw in his direction, and coach
Burton has a look of mild concern on his face. Phaintin' Phil is pointing towards
second base in an obvious state of excitement. The first base umpire has his gaze
fixed on first base, prepared to make a call if the throw comes that way, but
"Fritz" arrives safely before any throw is made. Phaintin' Phil is possibly
telling his fielder to hold on to the ball and not risk a bad throw. "Hold the
- Safe At Second ... A Stolen Base
"Fritz", always a base-running threat,
steals second. The throw is close, but Chris' blazing speed puts him in a position
to score! Look at the outfield grass, or should I say dirt. After many years of
play, the three outfield positions were marked by large circular spots where the
grass just would not grow. For years, the league tried seeding these spots, but
with all of the field usage, the seeds never had a chance to take
- A Base Hit Will Score A Run
Young "Fritz" stands patiently at
second base, waiting for the batter to hit the ball, or maybe a wild pitch, so he
can advance to third base. All eyes are on the action at the plate, except for
George Kinzel and Mr. Graham, now standing near the outfield fence, gazing out at
what will someday be a new Senior League field.
Those of us who were around during the
1976 season, remember it as the season that almost wasn't, at least for the Senior
Leaguers. This was the year that the new lower field was to have been completed
and ready for use. For two years the city had been dumping landfill into the ravine
to enlarge the park. Grading had been done and several feet of the old Senior
League field was cut away during the process. The work stalled, however, and the
new field was nowhere near complete. With the old Senior Field, which was always
kind of short in left field to begin with, now "extremely" short and without a
fence, the season was threatened.
Due to pressure from the community, the
city finally acted and installed a new fence on the old field and added a high
chicken wire addition. It was a quick fix to a bad situation, but we did get to
play Senior League ball that year. The field was so short, however, that anything
hit over the chicken wire was considered a double. You could hit rockets all the
way to the boulevard and still got a double, or you could hit short popups that
barely cleared the fence, easy outs on any other field, and still get a double.
A good shortstop could practically play his position and play left field
simultaneously. It made for an interesting season, with a lot of
After Opening Day, the city began work in
earnest on the new field, and by the second half we were playing on a new regulation
field. It was quite an experience for most of us, as it was the first time we played
on a such a large field. The open expanses in the outfield were quite novel, and the
game of baseball took on a whole new set of dynamics. The triple, the inside-the-park
homerun, and the gap shot, heretofore unheard of terms, became a reality, and for
the first time since 1961, the Brookline Senior League was playing baseball the way
it was meant to be played.
Now, back to "Fritz" and his quest to score
a run on Opening Day!...
- An RBI Double to Left Center Brings Our Hero in for a Score!
At the crack of the bat, All eyes follow
the ball on its way towards the fence in left center, except for young "Fritz"
Brendel, who took off on his way towards home plate, waved on by The Wise Old Pro,
Mr. Powers, who then turned to watch the outcome of the play in the field. Never
taking his eyes off of his goal, #13 scored the first run of the 1976 Little League
season. His team, B.Y.M.C. went on to win the game over Phaintin' Phil Sciulli and
his St. Mark's crew.
Mr. Masullo, now visible among the throng
of players now standing behind the backstop, announces the play. Although Big Ange
had stepped down as manager of the American Legion team, his presence behind the
scenes (mostly a bet for a free steak dinner, according to Legion player Gary
Gielas) helped propel his former American Legion team (pictured further below on
this page) to the 1976 Brookline Little League crown. But this Opening Day moment
belonged to B.Y.M.C.'s Chris Brendel and his unknown teammate, who brought "Fritz"
home with an RBI double.
- Chris "Fritz" Brendel - 1976 Little Leaguer
These seven photos alone tell so much about
how things were "back in the day." As I look closely at them, and all the characters
shown, I can't help but think how much fun we had playing back then. It's hard to
believe that it has been almost 30 years since I was a fourteen year old Senior
Leaguer. The memories all seem so vivid, as if they happened only yesterday. Thanks
to photographer Joe Brendel, and "Dugout Doug" for sharing these photos with
As for young Chris, he went on to play
Senior League baseball with George Kinzel for Castle Tavern, helping lead the team
to championship seasons in 1978 and 1979. Also a fine pitcher, Fritz tossed a
no-hitter during the 1979 season. He went on to play in Colt League and
American Legion, then went on to a college career with Gardner-Webb University
and Slippery Rock. Chris finished his ball playing career in the softball work
leagues of Southern Virginia. Today, he has joined the ranks of Little League
coaches, like many of us "old-timers", passing on his knowledge and experiences
to the next generation of youngsters.
post-script on the Wise Old Owl, Joe Powers...
Seeing these pictures of Joe Powers,
especially the last one, really hit home with me. I played for Mr. Powers
for four years. He was such a fine man, with a gentle demeanor, and a keen knack
for getting the most out of his players. He was a true student of the game, and
a great teacher for several generations of Brookline Little Leaguers. I truly
loved the man, and to this day remember him with a fondness reserved for only
a chosen few.
People called him the "Old Pro" because
in his youth he had been a Minor League pitcher for many years, never quite making
it to the Majors. During the second half of the 1976 season, Mr. Powers suffered a
skating accident, which robbed him of many of his motor skills and took him away
from the game that he had devoted most of his lifetime to, the game of baseball.
It may have been only two years later that he passed away. This man touched the
lives of so many of us youngsters.
The photos above are exactly the way I
remember him, wearing a button-down shirt, with his glasses case and notepad in
the chest pocket, and his gray hair protruding from his burgundy baseball cap.
Our manager always had the day's batting lineup and fielding positions written
in the notepad, and occassionally he would take out his glasses and write down
some notes about the players on the other teams. He always seemed to know what
to do, whatever the given situation, and being picked to play on his team was an
honor and a privilege. I'm sure that young Fritz would agree. If there is Little
League baseball in heaven, you can bet that Joe Powers is a coach, teaching the
young angels how to throw a palmball.