'They continue to be the boys of summer Forever'
By Steven Hoffman
If there is one thing that the eight new members of the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association Hall of Fame have in common, it's their love for baseball―of course. This year's inductees played the sport in their youth, but their involvement―and love for the game―continued well into adulthood, prompting Keith Craig to remark that “they continue to be the boys of summer forever.”
Craig, a freelance writer and author, once again served as the master of ceremonies for the banquet, the organization's 36th, which was held on Jan. 16 at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square. The highlight of the evening was the induction ceremony for 2016 honorees Bill Beirne, Jack Bradley, George Hadfield, Lawrence “Mickey” Hess, Jerry Johnson, Rick Marvin, Dennis Petrucci, and Jim Wagner. They now belong to an exclusive club―there are 272 people who have been inducted into the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association Hall of Fame.
From the moment awards presenter Doug Stirling led attendees in a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” to the moment that the last picture of the inductees was taken, the evening was a celebration of baseball and of friendship. A recurring theme throughout the evening was the game provided these men with so many great relationships. A few people even admitted to liking an umpire or two along the way.
A ten-minute video showcasing the accomplishments of each of the inductees set the stage for Stirling to present each 2016 honoree with a plaque commemorating his induction into the hall of fame.
Johnson was born and raised in Kennett Square. He began playing baseball at the age of seven for the Kennett Little League. He moved on to play for the Teeners Club, and was primarily a pitcher and catcher during his early years playing the game. Johnson later played for the Counts Social Club and the Sam Tavoni League, where he was a third baseman, first baseman, and catcher for the National Bank and the Catena teams.
When Johnson exclaimed, with a wide grin, “I played a lot of ball in my days!” everyone in the room understood the joy he felt for the game.
Beirne grew up playing Little League and Pony League baseball in Stratford, New Jersey. He went on to be a coach and manager for the KAU Little League for 12 years. He continued playing adult league baseball with the Milltown Mudhens. He was a player, manager, and general manager for the Shear Satisfaction Cutters in the 50-and-over John A. DeBenedictis Baseball League. In 2013, he moved on to the 55-and-over Kennett Cutters team. He was a League Honor Roll inductee in 2007, and the league secretary from 2006 to 2007. Beirne's teams won the B Division Championships in 2012 and 2013. The Wilmington, Del. resident was named Manager of the Year in 2013.
Wagner enjoyed a considerable amount of success on the baseball diamond from a very early age. When he was 12, he starred on the Meadow Pride Dairy team that went 16-0. During one game, Wagner belted four home runs. On the mound, there was a game where Wagner punched out 18 hitters while tossing six perfect innings of baseball. Wagner went on to play in the Pony League and Junior League in the State College, Pa. area. He played third base and pitched at State College High School, and then moved on to Villanova University, where he was also a pitcher. After he got married, he moved to Chester County and played in the West Chester Adult League for about 15 years. He is a member of the West Chester Adult League Hall of Fame, and was named as the Most Valuable Player of the League in 1972.
“This is a big honor for me,” Wagner said. “Baseball has always been a big part of my life.”
Baseball has also been a big part of Hadfield's life. He was the coach of Bishop Shanahan's baseball team from 1982 to 2007, and the Octorara High School's team from 2008 to 2014.
Hadfield started playing baseball at the age of six when he played for the Wissinoming Boys League. He was a catcher on Northeast Catholic’s baseball team in 1970 and 1971, and the team played at Connie Mack Stadium for the Catholic League Championship in 1970. Hadfield went on to play for Keystone Junior College in 1973 and 1974. He started every game during those two seasons, and was the team captain in 1974. He was invited to a tryout for the Pittsburgh Pirates at West Chester University in 1974.
In addition to his baseball coaching, Hadfield played in several adult baseball leagues, including the Fairmount Park Adult Baseball League, the West Chester Adult Baseball League, the Kennett Men's Senior Baseball League, and the John A. DeBenedictis Baseball League. He talked about how he has built many great relationships through baseball over the years.
“The game is fun,” Hadfield said, “but it’s the people that you meet, too.”
Hess echoed that sentiment during his induction speech. “It’s really special―the friendships and the camaraderie,” he explained.
Hess, a longtime science teacher at Oxford Area High School, grew up playing ball in the Lancaster Little League. He was a pitcher and outfielder for Penn Manor High School, and also played for the Millersville Legion squad. He went on to play the outfield and catch at Millersville University. He eventually earned an invitation to a tryout with the Toronto Blue Jays in Syracuse, NY in 1980.
Hess earned the nickname “Stingray” while playing with the Millersville University team in 1977. During a southern road trip, Hess stepped on a stingray in the Gulf of Mexico. He needed surgery to recover, and for the next four years his teammates always called him “Stingray.”
After college, Hess went on to play in the Lancaster-Lebanon Twilight League, the York Central League, the West Chester Adult League, and the Kennett Men’s Senior Baseball League.
Petrucci, a resident of Avondale, grew up playing in the Kennett Recreation League on the current site of the Mary D. Lang School. He was a two-time all-star selection in the St. Patrick’s Pee Wee League. He played baseball in the Kennett Babe Ruth League between the ages of 13 and 15. Petrucci went on to play for 14 seasons in the Sam Tavoni League. He was an all-star selection in 1979 and 1980, and was the all-star MVP in 1980. He also played in the Kennett Men’s Senior Baseball League for 12 seasons. He was a pitcher, first baseman, third baseman, outfielder, and catcher. He once pitched, and won, both ends of a double-header. Petrucci has also coached baseball in the KAU and Avon Grove Little Leagues, managed the Avon Grove American Legion team, and served as a baseball umpire for 15 years.
Marvin, now a resident of North Eastham, MA, grew up playing in the Unionville Farm League and the KAU Little League.
“I would like to think that I took the enthusiasm that we have for baseball to Cape Cod,” he explained.
He was a standout player for the Tower Hill School, where he earned MVP or Co-MVP honors. Marvin coached teams in several different sports, including soccer and basketball, and coached baseball clubs of Cape Cod for 15 years.
Referring to his vast baseball experience, Marvin joked, “I want the Phillies’ front office to know that I am ready for the call.”
Bradley, a resident of Downingtown, grew up playing Little League ball for the Horsham Little League. He was a third baseman at Hatboro Horsham High School, and he was on the team that captured a Pennsylvania State Championship in 1977.
He went on to play football and baseball at Moravian College, where he was the school's Male Athlete of the Year in 1981. He was named the football team's MVP and received the Maxwell Award in football that same year. On the baseball diamond, Bradley helped the Moravian team capture the MAC Southern Division title in 1981. Bradley was second in the nation in stolen bases for players at Division III schools. He set Moravian College records for hits in a season, runs scored in a season, home runs in a season, and stolen bases in a season. Bradley also holds school football records for career yardage, completions in a game, and passing yardage in a game. He went on to play in the Perkiomen Twilight League from 1981 to 1993. The team won a championship in 1990. From 1993 to 2008, Bradley played in the Coatesville Adult Baseball League, and his teams won numerous championships. He also played in the Kennett MSBL from 1998 to 2004, where his teams also won several championships. Bradley was selected as MVP of the league in 1999. He played in the Tri-State 48-and-over MSBL squad that won championships in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
“This is a fabulous event,” Bradley said. “I am proud to be here. It’s great to see all these people that I’ve played with.”
In addition to honoring the new hall of fame inductees, the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association also handed out a Special Recognition Award for Community Coaching and Administration for the first time. The award was presented to Michael Robinson for outstanding coaching with teams that have won numerous championships between 2002 and 2015.
“This is a wonderful event,” Robinson said after accepting the award. “I saw so many of my former players here tonight. This event spans the generations.”
This year’s program was dedicated to Joe Scalise, the long-time member of the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association who served as the master of ceremonies for the induction ceremony for 17 years. Scalise’s involvement with baseball in the Kennett area dates back to the 1960s, when he first volunteered as an umpire for KAU Little League.
On behalf of the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association, Craig expressed gratitude to Larry Shenk, the head of the Phillies’ public relations department for 44 years before his retirement, for his support through the years. Shenk helped arrange an array of speakers from the Phillies for the 36 induction ceremonies that have taken place so far.
“We wish him well in his retirement,” said Craig.
This year's event also featured raffles of dozens of items donated by local businesses, as well as a silent auction of baseball memorabilia. Proceeds help the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association promote and preserve the rich baseball history of Kennett Square and the surrounding area. The organization was created in 1974 as a result of the efforts of a group of people, including Howard Lynn, Bat Burton, Donald McKay, Donnie Davenport, Lou Manfredi, John Moynihan, Gordon Farquhar, and Joe Husband.
Burton's Barber Shop is the home of the organization, with plaques, pictures, and baseball memorabilia on display. Bob Burton, whose father, Bat, was one of the organization's founders, is the longtime president of the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association. He always looks forward to the annual banquet, and was pleased with this year's event.
“We had a nice crowd tonight,” said Burton. “Any time you get a nice crowd, it’s a good night.”
By the time the 2017 event arrives, local baseball enthusiasts will have a new book to discuss—Craig announced that his book about Hall of Famer Herb Pennock, the Kennett Square native who is considered one of the best left-handed pitchers in the history of the game, will be available this spring. “Herb Pennock: Baseball’s Faultless Pitcher” is the first biography to paint a complete picture of Pennock, based on interviews with Pennock’s family members and Kennett Square residents who personally knew the baseball legend.