In 1969, Newberry Little League made headlines as the only team from Williamsport, to date, since 1948, to play in the Little League Baseball® World Series. Now, 50 years later, the team is set to return to South Williamsport for a reunion during the 2019 World Series to celebrate their achievement.
In the late 1960s, Newberry Little League was no stranger to playoffs, but were unable to advance past the early rounds until that memorable season when they played in the Eastern Regional Tournament in Belleville, N.J., defeating a team from Smithtown, N.Y., to earn a trip to the World Series.
Representing the East Region, the Newberry LL team amassed a record of 11-0 heading into the World Series outscoring their opponents, 78-11, behind the stellar pitching of Steve Karney and Don Cohick.
Although the team’s run back home at the LLBWS in Williamsport was brief, with an opening round loss to Santa Clara (Calif.) Little League, their World Series journey left a lasting impact on the team.
“It was always a dream to make it to the World Series,” said Mr. Cohick, an airline pilot, and one of the teammates organizing the reunion. “We definitely appreciate it more now that we’re older, though.”
“At the time, it was just another game to us,” said Harry “Rusty” Sechler, a self-employed contractor, also helping with the anniversary celebration. “Looking back now, I think the parents may have actually seen it as a bigger deal than we did, but that excitement and incredible emotion makes so much more sense now that we’re older.”
To the Newberry team, baseball was more than just a pastime, it was their life. Like many Little Leaguers® throughout program history, they played for the love of the game and to be with their friends. They also played to compete, and with four teams in the Williamsport area at the time, there was a lot of competition to go around.
“When we played, the games were still single elimination,” said Mr. Cohick. “Because of that, every day had to be a good day for the team.”
The team credits a large portion of their success, both on and off the field, to their manager, the late Fred Heaps. Mr. Heaps was a father-figure to the team and gave them the tools to succeed later in life. He also made it a point to keep the boys on an even keel through the highs and the lows of the entire tournament.
Making it to the World Series at a young age gave the players an unforgettable experience, and more importantly taught them life lessons that they carried with them beyond Little League®.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Mr. Sechler. “I think it really molded me in a lot of ways other than baseball.”
As they drew closer to the 50th anniversary of their World Series run, a reunion seemed like a good idea, so Mr. Sechler knew he had to step up and help put something together. One of their teammates, Steve Kreamer, passed away a few years ago, solidifying the importance of getting the rest of the team back together for a special reunion at this year’s World Series.
“We knew our 50th anniversary was coming up this year and wanted to do something,” said Mr. Sechler. “This may be our last hurrah, our last chance to get everyone together.”
Mr. Sechler has planned a few surprises for his teammates to make the reunion even more special. They are also planning on compiling their memorabilia and going through it together during the reunion. Perhaps the most exciting part of the reunion is the chance to reconnect with old friends.
“I’m really looking forward to the reunion,” said Mr. Cohick. “I’ve lost contact with a lot of the guys and I’m excited to reconnect with them.”
The reunion is a chance for the team to relive their experience together and reminisce over some of the fondest memories from their childhood.
“Our World Series run is something I think about every year during the World Series,” said Mr. Sechler. “This is the perfect way to celebrate it.”
This story is featured in the 2019 Little League World Series Official Souvenir Program. To read all of the stories in this year’s program, visit the Little League Baseball World Series on August 15-25, 2019, in South Williamsport, Pa. To learn more, visit LittleLeague.org/WorldSeries and plan your visit today.