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January isn’t usually the time for legion baseball articles, especially given the deep freeze that has enveloped the area as of late. However, this past legion baseball season was my tenth full season as the official writer covering the Boyertown Bears legion baseball squad on a regular basis. And thus, in honor of this, my ten-year anniversary, and in concert with developing in the construction of the Bears Museum, I thought that it would be appropriate to provide you, the reader, with a “mid-winter” baseball treat by looking back over 10 years of Bears memories as reflected in my various articles.
Actually, there were articles before that 2003 season. The first article was actually written during the 2001 season: a review of a 17-0 rout of Hamburg on June 24. There was also a lengthier article reviewing the County playoffs, in which the Bears came up short.
But the first of the significant articles occurred later in the 2002 season. Appropriately, these articles were inspired by The Pope of Boyertown Baseball himself, the late Don Specht. Despite being immersed in the 2002 Berks County championship game with Shillington – sitting behind home plate in a special stand, certainly qualifies as being “immersed” – Don provided me with the information necessary for me to complete my article on tie-breakers.
That he did so while watching a heated, championship game – one which, due to a series of errors and umpire calls that I will generously call “poor,” the Bears lost in an extra-inning heartbreaker – was noteworthy; that he did so even while preferring that I write a completely different article was amazing.
You see, Don felt – and in retrospect I agree with him – that I should have been writing an article on Bear stadium, which in 2002 was 20 years old. Don’s influence was so great that I did just that – and perhaps inspired by Don’s stature, I wrote one of my best articles. But thanks to Don, I was also able to get the information that I needed to complete the other article, as well.
Once the 2003 season began, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the scope of my assignments was, for the most part, anything that had to do with the Bears. And so I began where the Bears’ seasons always begin: an article about Boyertown’s traditional, season-opening doubleheader with Doylestown. From there I continued with the season-preview article, one that gave me an amazing amount of insight into the makeup of the roster for the season.
As I proceeded through the season, I gradually developed my “article routine” for a Bears’ season: a season preview article, several features on specific players or achievements, with an occasional game story mixed in, articles that perhaps referred more to legion baseball in general than the Bears in specific saved for later in the season, and a season-wrap article near Labor Day.
And oh yes – there were the articles for the various tournaments that the Bears either hosted or participated in, or both. With those latter articles I developed one of my favorite forms of article: the so-called “random-quotes” article. In this type of article, I simply collected quotes from the various participants at a legion baseball tournament: players and coaches, of course, but also parents, umpires, volunteers, even other writers.
Eventually, these various articles throughout the season began to fill up with noteworthy stories and anecdotes. It certainly helped that that first Bears team in 2003 was one of the best of all-time, a team so good that its brilliance spilled over into 2004 with even brighter colors.
With that noteworthy brilliance, noteworthy articles necessarily resulted. There was the feature on the noteworthy slugging by such Bears as Adam Tsakonas and Matt Cotellese, not to mention the combined no-hitter by Seth Kass and Brien Dierolf.
There was the article based on the game which I taped in its entirety on my camcorder, viz., the 13-2 rout of Exeter that enabled them to be the first Berks team to finish the league season undefeated and untied since the Bears themselves achieved the feat in 1982.
And of course, there were features such as those on very underrated and unnoticed players such as Chad Mackey.
Unfortunately, there were also the articles that dripped with disappointment when the Bears somehow did not win a state tournament for which they were probably over-qualified. Indeed, the only question that still lingers in my mind to this day regarding the 2003 State Tournament is not “How did the Bears not win that tournament,” but, rather, “How did the Bears not dominate this tournament as they did in 1991?”
Fortunately, those articles turned 180-degrees around in 2004. The promise of 2003, so disappointingly unfulfilled that season, blossomed into one of the greatest seasons in Bears history. Indeed, just as I remember the disappointment following the Bears’ season-ending loss on August 7, 2003, I remember the incredible triumph of August 16, 2004, and the two wins over a talented, Chester (NJ) team that put the Bears in their first Legion World Series in 16 seasons.
Naturally, the articles that I wrote in covering the team in Corvallis, Oregon, are special ones to me. The sense that this team was so special combined with the thrill of traveling to The Beaver State made for some of my fondest legion baseball memories. I also smile when I recall my desperate rush to find time to write the LWS articles at my hotel in Corvallis, along with my search to find a way to transmit those articles back to Boyertown!
The 2005 season would bring the challenge of learning the names of the many new faces. My season-opening article reflected this theme, as I attended the two season-openers versus Doylestown and struggled to learn about the new players. The effort was successful – and the Bears, symbolically, would sweep the doubleheader.
Perhaps a key effect of this new season was to shift the focus of my articles toward feature articles. My first my “pure” feature article was an article on Ryan Arcadia in 2003. With my focus now on individuals, I would feature more players in the articles, and in fact would feature other individuals involved with the organization, such as team physician Garland Fisher. It was a rewarding experience as I learned about the various people involved with the organization.
Since then, many varied topics have been featured in the articles. There were family features, such as the articles on the Schnell brothers and the three-generation Hannahoe-Moser family article. There were new triumphs (the somewhat unexpected World Series appearance in 2007) and new disappointments (such as the sudden ending to the 2008 season in Mid-Atlantics). There were articles about neat experiences (such as my trip to Colonial Heights, Virginia, with my daughter to cover the 2008 Mid-Atlantics) and incredible achievements (the main one in that category being the occasion of the 1000th. win for the coaching tandem of Rick Moatz and Craig Eddinger).
And yes – there was the good (Boyertown’s rebound in the playoffs in both 2009 and 2011), the bad (the 2010 playoffs), and the ugly (the unsportsmanlike conduct displayed by a certain Bears’ opponent in the 2008 Mid-Atlantics).
But perhaps the highlight articles for me, at least since 2004, were the articles that I wrote regarding the two Bear reunions that were held (one in 2006 and one in 2009). The sheer joy of seeing the Bears from yesteryear was certainly reflected in my articles on the Reunion Days themselves. And it was a very rewarding experience in interviewing the various Bear alumni.
For me, though, the highlight of those Reunion articles was the research that I did into Bears history. I was able to travel all the way back to the start of the so-called current “dynasty” in 1969, interviewing such people as Dick Ludy and Robin Boughter to get information on that historical season. Other alumni such as Brian Gilbert and Richie Rush helped to provide information on other Bears teams in stepping forward, back to the present, from 1969.
The result was a series of articles written in the winter and spring of 2006 that still interest and fascinate me. In these articles, one can see the transformation of the organization from simply a legion baseball group to a national power. The articles are interesting because of this transformation.
And this theme of Bears’ history and its fascination is one that is currently being captured by the construction of the Bears Museum at Bear Stadium. The accumulation and display of historical Bears memorabilia and artifacts will be another fascinating source of history as regards one of the finest legion baseball programs in the entire country: the Boyertown Legion Bears.
PAW PRINTS: The Bears will be holding a dance this Saturday to help promote the Bears’ Museum underway at Bear Stadium. The dance will run from 7 to 11 at the Bally Fire Hall; tickets are $15.