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Chester County Press

Vermeil and Davis laud new Old Timers members at banquet

01/24/2023 12:50AM ● By Steven Hoffman

Former Philadelphia Eagles coach and football Hall of Famer Dick Vermeil joined Phillies broadcaster Ben Davis with words of good cheer and encouragement for the five inductees who were honored on Saturday at the Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association banquet.

An audience of more than 200 cheered as Vermeil and Davis welcomed new members into the society of talented local baseball players for their past accomplishments at the Kennett Fire Company Red Clay Room.

Vermeil is locally beloved, as was obvious by the warm greeting he received when he arrived. He also led the St. Louis Rams to a 1999 Super Bowl championship and was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Davis is a former major league catcher who currently broadcasts for the Phillies games. He is Chester County native. 

The Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association annually inducts several local baseball players who have excelled on the baseball diamond at the at the January banquet. They have been following that tradition since 1974.

Many members of the audience were especially hyped this year because the football playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants was being held the same evening. Some guests even arrived at this baseball-themed dinner wearing the trademark Eagles green garb.

Kennett Old Timers Baseball president and Kennett Square barber shop proprietor Bob Burton said beforehand that he was not afraid attendees would say home to watch the football rather than come for the baseball gala however.

He turned out to be right.

“This is a baseball event,” he said.

Vermeil, who was also present at last year’s banquet, donated for raffle a carton of his vineyard’s wine. He returned this year and offered a short talk from the podium.

He joked at the start of his talk that he accepted Burton’s invitation because, “I was afraid if I didn’t, he would not give me a good hair cut.”

Vermeil launched into praise for the Phillies, who in 2022 came within two games of winning the World Series. He said he truly admired baseball coaches in general and the Phillies in particular because they excel at such a mountainous schedule.

“I don’t have the makeup to handle that schedule. … There are so many skills needed for 162 games. I have so much respect for those guys,” he said

He went on to give advice for players and coaches.

“If your players care, you’ve got a chance. Coaches are good examples for the people they coach,” he said.

At the end of his 10-minute talk he bid them adieu saying, “I’m gonna sneak out of here and watch the Eagles beat the Giants.” 

(Which they did.)

Davis shared his excitement that the Phillies made it as far in the standings as they did last fall. He observed that the team’s huge success was largely unexpected.

“Low and behold, all of a sudden they are in the World Series. This team rose out of nowhere,” he said.

He made optimist predictions for the 2023 season, commenting on the strengths of individual players on the team. He also said new regulations, including the increased size of bases, would yield good results for the sport.

“It’s a great time to be a Phillies fan. They got a taste of it and they are ravenous for it this year. We’ll see how it goes. They can get the job done,” he concluded.

The inductees, both past and present, came not only from Kennett area, but throughout southern Chester County. Many of the elderly members, who as youth had played intensely against each other, have grown through the years to be good friends. Most seemed to know, hug and appreciate each other thanks to the annual Old Timers banquet. Advanced in age, these former players from Octorara, Avon Grove, Unionville, Kennett and Oxford greeted each other warmly and gathered to share tables.

Those who were inducted on Saturday were Evan Breisblatt, Anthony Buckwash, Doug Compher, Charles Crossan Jr. and Matt Johnson.

Breisblatt, a Unionville graduate, earned nine varsity letters and was Male Athlete of the Year in 1992.

Buckwash was a standout player for Unionville High School and played in the URA, KAU, Babe Ruth, American Legion and West Chester Adult League teams.

Crossan was a Unionville High School baseball standout in 1955 and played baseball in the Navy. He is still active in sports.

Compher was also a Unionville High School standout and was a First Team selection in the Southern Chester County League in 1983 and 1984.

Johnson, a graduate pf Salesianum High School, played Kennett American Legion ball and was an All-Catholic selection for the State of Delaware in 1982. 

The Kennett Old Timers Baseball Association was established to preserve the baseball legacy in Kennett Square and the greater Chester County area by a group that included Howard Lynn, Bat Burton, Donald McKay, Donnie Davenport, Lou Manfredi, John Moynihan, Gordon Farquhar and Joe Husband. It continues under the leadership of Bob Burton.