Little League Tournament Finals - 1959
Brookline's Community Center Hits The Bigtime!
Brookline has seen its share of notoriety throughout the community's long history, but the summer of 1959 has to rank among the top in terms of its standing within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During the weekend of August 14-15, Brookline's Community Center was host to the Williamsport Tournament's Pennsylvania State Little League finals.
Local Little League president Sam Bryen, a tireless campaigner for the advancement of Brookline baseball, somehow cajoled state tournament director Tom Foerster, a Pittsburgh native, into selecting our neighborhood to be host to the biggest Little League baseball show of the year. This was the first year that the Pennsylvania state finals were held outside of Little League's home base in Williamsport, PA, and the Brookline community responded with open arms.
An incredible amount of back-breaking work went into field preparations. Sam and his dedicated group of workers had slowly been improving the Community Center Field during the seven years since being first laid out in 1952, but their efforts now kicked into high gear. With generous contributions from the Little League Women's Auxiliary and the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, donations the local citizenry, and volunteer work from many businesses throughout the City of Pittsburgh, the summer of 1959 saw many changes.
With an estimated 5000 or more spectators expected to flood the Community Center area, parking near the field was expanded, vehicle access improved, and new bleachers were built. With the help of Bell Telephone pole digging equipment, a new fence was erected around the entire field, replacing the temporary wood planks that had been used for several years. The all-dirt outfield was covered with a new layer of sod, prompting residents to remark that the Community Center field had the greenest grass in all of Brookline. The Major League style dugouts were renovated and a new concession stand was built.
Hopes were high within the community that Brookline's own 1959 Little League All-Stars would be one of the four state finalists, repeating and hopefully bettering the feat of the 1958 Brookline Little Leaguers, who finished as state runner-up the previous year. However, our hometown boys bowed out of the tournament in the District 4 city finals after a promising four-game winning streak. The Pittsburgh area was represented, however, by the Ninth Ward Youth Association from Lawrenceville.
The weekend kicked off with a large banquet at the Brookline American Legion Hall, welcoming the four top baseball teams, Ninth Ward (Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh), West Chester Suburban (Philadelphia), Westmont (Johnstown) and Plymouth (Wilkes Barre). Guests included Governor David L. Lawrence, Pittsburgh Mayor Thomas Gallagher, several Pittsburgh Pirate players, national Little League commissioner John Lindemuth, and many other high-ranking Little League officials. The banquet emcee was Pirate announcer Bob "The Gunner" Prince.
After the fun-filled night at the Legion Hall, it was time to play ball. With the Community Center field packing in a capacity crowd and the weather hovering in the 90 degree range, Friday's games saw Ninth Ward defeat Westmont, 4-3, in the opening contest, followed by West Chester Suburban battling Plymouth to a 2-2 tie in the nightcap before darkness forced a halt.
Another capacity crowd descended upon the Community Center Saturday morning to watch the action as the tie game from the previous night was completed. West Chester Suburban came out ahead, 3-2, on a homerun by Mike Thomas in the team's first at-bat. After a short break in the action, Plymouth's Little Leaguers bested Johnstown by a score of 7-1 in the consolation game. Then it was time for the final contest, to determine the Pennsylvania state champion, between Ninth Ward and West Chester Suburban.
The crowd swelled to over 3000 spectators to watch the finale. Fans lined the fences, sat shoulder to shoulder in the bleacher area, and left no empty space on the adjoining hillside. Television and radio crews from several locations were on hand to broadcast the game across the commonwealth. The weather was sunny and the temperature again was in the 90 degree range, making for perfect baseball conditions.
In the absence of Governor Lawrence, Senator Joseph M. Barr threw in the ceremonial first pitch. West Chester Suburban then went to work, led by pitcher Rich Saviski, who tossed a three-hitter and slammed a two-run homer in the first inning. From then on it was smooth sailing for the team from Philadelphia as they went on to a 5-0 rout of Pittsburgh's Ninth Ward, thereby earning a trip to the Eastern Regional Playoffs in Staten Island, New York.
Brookline's bout with Little League stardom ended on Sunday afternoon with an all-star exhibition featuring the best players from the six local community teams, a "cream of the crop" contest that was attended by the largest crowd to ever view a Brookline baseball game. Once the game ended, three of our state teams headed back to their corner of Pennsylvania and one began their journey to New York, and a chance for fame and glory in the Little League World Series.
For the citizens of Brookline, it was back to business as usual, but none who witnessed those four days in August will ever forget the weekend that Brookline was the center of attention in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
These men are to be commended for the many long hours of back-breaking work they have performed in improving the Little League field at the Brookline Community Center grounds. First row, left to right, Alex Favero, "Smokey" Rossa, Walt Evans, Norb Winters, Paul Cummings, Ed Mathias (vice-president). Second Row, left to right, John Leaf, Don Bullock, Len Zankel, Bud Auen (treasurer), John Muehl, John Pascarosa (secretary). Henry Hofbauer and Sam Bryen (president) are not shown in picture.
Examining newly laid sod at the Little League field are left to right, Sam Bryen, president of the Brookline Little League Association; Thomas Foerster, district president of Little League; David Welty, secretary to the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh; Frank F. DeBor, president of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce.
Banquet Tonight At Legion Hall
Brookline will be buzzing with Little Leaguers, the four top state teams, plus officials and countless guests this weekend. The four top teams in Pennsylvania wil be battling it out for the State Championship on Friday and Saturday, August 14, 15, on the Little League Field at the Brookline Community Center grounds.
Festivities will begin with a banquet this evening, Thursday, August 13, at 6:30pm at the American Legion Hall, 520 Brookline Boulevard. Present for the occasion will be the four top State Little League teams, officials of the Little League, officers and personnel of the Brookline Little League Association, and other well-known personalities.
Guest speaker at the banquet will be Governor David L. Lawrence and several Pittsburgh Pirates baseball players will be on hand along with Bob Prince, announcer of the Pirate games, who will emcee the evening's program.
Also present at the speaker's table will be John Lindemuth, national commissioner of Little Leagues; Dr. Creighton J. Hale, vice president and director of research of Little Leagues; Kenneth Teves, president Allegheny Council of Little Leagues, and Mayor Thomas J. Gallagher of Pittsburgh.
Banquet arrangements have been under the guidance of John Pascarosa, chairman, assisted by the following committee: Mrs. John Pascarosa, Mrs. Rudy Reinheimer, president Little League Auxiliary; Mrs. Frank Carcione, Mrs. Wilbert Timmons, Mrs. David Rees, James Klingensmith, Mrs. Sam Bryen, Alex Favero, Bud Auen, Edward Mathias, Mrs. Leonard Zankel.
The selection of Brookline as the site of the State championship playoffs is indeed an honor for the community. This is the first time in Little League history that the playoffs have been scheduled outside of Williamsport, Pa.
Sam Bryen, president, stated the local field was chosen because of the hard work and far-sightedness of the Brookline Little League officers and personnel in promoting and furthering the major improvements to the Little League field this year. A new refreshment and baseball equipment building was constructed in 1959 with funds donated by the Women's Civic Club of Brookline. New stands for the spectators and a fence around the entire field were erected during the past year. The Brookline Chamber of Commerce recently donated a sizeable check to help toward the overall improvement of the field.
The field has been sodded during the past two weeks and everything is "shipshape" for the call "Play Ball" when the four top State Little League teams break into their playoffs on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 14, 15.
Game times are as follows: 3pm and 6pm on Friday, Aug. 14. On Saturday, Aug. 15, games will be played 11:30am and 2:30pm.
On Friday, Aug. 14, at 3pm Section 1 champs 9th Ward (Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh) plays Section 2 champs West Suburban Little Leaguers from Westmont, Pa., near Johnstown.
On Friday, Aug. 14, at 6pm Section 3 champs Wilkes-Barre, Pa. plays the Section 4 champs. On Saturday, Aug. 15, at 11:30am the two losing teams play. Then at 2:30pm on Saturday the two winning teams battle it out for the State Championship.
The State Champs are then scheduled to appear in Staten Island, N.Y. for the Eastern Regional Tournament on August 20, 21, 22. The top Little League nine in New York then goes on to play in the International World Series at Williamsport, Pa. the week of August 24.
* Reprinted from the Brookline Journal - August 13, 1959 *
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