- July 8, 2020
Rusty Sechler’s kitchen table was littered with photographs, newspaper clippings and various other artifacts from the 1969 Newberry Little League’ All-Stars World Series team and its run to that Series. But at that same time, there was the laughter, stories, and memories of the players from that team that gathered at Rusty’s house on the
Rusty Sechler’s kitchen table was littered with photographs, newspaper clippings and various other artifacts from the 1969 Newberry Little League’ All-Stars World Series team and its run to that Series. But at that same time, there was the laughter, stories, and memories of the players from that team that gathered at Rusty’s house on the eve of this year’s Little League World Series.
Some may have thought that these Newberry boys of summer from that magical summer of 1969 may have looked a little long in the tooth, but their enthusiasm, camaraderie, and sense of love for each other was clearly apparent at their nostalgic gathering. All but three of the team members were on hand. Steve Kreamer, the team’s first baseman, passed away in 2014 and Brian Nasdeo and Steve Salvatori were unable to attend due to work obligations. Their beloved manager, Fred Heaps died in 1991.
As I talked to all the players, now in their early sixties, they all spoke with reverence and awe of Fred Heaps and what he meant to them as players, and how he helped to lay a firm foundation for them as they became men.
One of the highlights of the gathering was when Rusty brought out specially made duplicate jerseys for each player, just like the one they wore in the 1969 Little League World Series as the East region representative. The difference being instead of uncomfortable and very hot flannel material, they were a much more comfortable lightweight type material that breathes better and that feels better in the summer heat. They also got caps to match. Specially designed pins commemorating the anniversary were also given out, as well as copies of newspaper photographs.
“We were just a bunch of kids who loved playing baseball,” Mike Prowant, the team’s catcher, told Webb Weekly. “There was a great bond among us. We were able to do what we did because of hard work, focus, and dedication. I have been able to carry that sense of mission with me all my life. The home run I hit in the East final in Belleville, N.J. was my biggest thrill.”
He talked of his late teammate, Steve Kreamer, “Steve was a great guy and a great teammate.”
Jim Hamilton Jr. was a reserve on the team and his father was an assistant coach to Heaps.
“Being on the team was a great experience for me. My dad was a coach on the team and helped Mr. Heaps,” Hamilton said. “The experience of being in the World Series stays with us for all of our lives. We had a great teammate in Steve Kreamer. He was a helluva good guy with a very good glove at first base.”
Don Cohick was one of the ace pitchers on the team along with Steve Karney.
“I think our World Series run helped to prepare us well for life. I can’t say enough about our manager, Fred Heaps,” Cohick said. “He instilled in us a great sense of discipline, the notion of good preparation and teamwork. It helped prepare us for the challenges we might face in the future. That served me well during my career as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Bill Byham was very supportive of us and helped encourage us through his radio commentaries. He was also very encouraging of me later when I played basketball at Williamsport High School.”
Doug Kline played left field and said that being steeped in the fundamentals by Fred Heaps was the major reason for the success of the team. “Mr. Heaps taught us to concentrate and have good practice habits that helped us master the fundamentals,” Cline said. “We practiced bunts a lot, and Mr. Heaps set up this area he wanted us to place the bunts, and our prize if we did it the best some of his wife’s great homemade fudge. That was quite an incentive for us. That summer my family moved to East End, and that fall I went to Curtin instead of Roosevelt, and I was not the so-called hero and big man on campus I would have been at Roosevelt. They did not seem to care much about what we did as Newberry All-Stars. I was instead kind of a nobody.”
Allen Reed played right field and termed himself “a very bashful kid.”
“Being on that team and being with those guys helped to make me a little more outgoing,” Reed said. “Being on the All-Stars was the first time that I had really traveled out of town away from home. It was very interesting to travel to different areas.”
Reed remembered Steve Kreamer as a “very quiet kid, just like me.”
Randy Vaughn was the team’s centerfielder and he like his teammates cited the strong and firm managerial style of Fred Heaps as the major reason for their success.
“We always practiced hard and were drilled in the fundamentals and I think that paid real dividends,” Vaughn said. “I think what I learned through my all-star experience provided me a firm foundation for the future.”
Joe Saboski, “I played second base. When we practiced a lot and we had a single purpose and that was to win and go as far as we could. If we did the best that we could the rest would take care of itself. Mr. Heaps did not tolerate anyone just standing around.”
Scott Peterson was a reserve on the team. “Playing on that team taught you discipline. Mr. Heaps knew what the rewards were for all the hard work even if we didn’t,” Peterson said. “He taught us to think ahead and to try and anticipate anything. I think that he prepared us well for life. I remember Steve Kreamer as a laid back kind of guy who was a fine and good teammate who knew how to do his job.”
Steve Karney was the second part of the mighty one-two pitching punch that Newberry had that year along with Don Cohick.
“That team through Mr. Heaps had a great sense of focus and was thoroughly schooled in the fundamentals,” Karney said. “As a pitcher, focus was very important with me in dealing with the batters. Mr. Heaps called all the pitches and that took some of the burden off of me in having to figure out what pitches to throw.”
Joe Eck was a catcher and reserve but unfortunately, he injured his arm and missed most of Newberry’s magical run. He said he always suited up for all the games and traveled with the team even though he could not play.
“We were a very close-knit team and even though I was not playing I was made to feel as though I was as important as anyone else,” Eck said. “The older I get the more I appreciate more what we were able to accomplish. The passage of years gives you a greater perspective. I knew Steve Kreamer real well. We were on the Ray-O-Vac together. He was a great guy.”
Tom Green was one of the effective corps of reserves that the team enjoyed.
“It takes a lot of discipline, team speed and lot of hard work to have a winning team and we were very blessed to have a group of guys who had all those qualities,” Green said. “I remember Steve Kreamer as a really good guy and a hard-working teammate.”
Steve Kreamer was represented at this joyful reunion by his mother, Barbara and his widow, Kathy.
“He loved being a part of the Newberry All-Stars and he always loved Little League,” Barbara said. “He was very active at the Hepburn-Lycoming League and they have a tournament after him and a special award in his name. This reunion today would have been something that he would have really loved.”
His wife, Kathy said. “I am so pleased that they have included us in this wonderful celebration.”
Rusty Sechler, played third base and put together the reunion and celebration so enjoyed by the members of the team.
“We were fortunate to have had a manager of the caliber of Fred Heaps,” Sechler said. “Not only was he a great manager but more importantly he was a great man. Without his sense of discipline and hard work ethic, we could never have achieved what we did. It was a labor of love to put together this reunion.”
The joy these Newberry 69’ers felt was amply apparent to those who saw them atop their trailer in the Grand Slam Parade.