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Fogarty’s Call

As the planning for Bitburg, Germany’s 1973 Little League World Series team reunion began to unfold eighteen months ago, players began to look back with fondness and look ahead with eagerness to a return trip to Williamsport. It has been fifty years since they had experienced the magic of the World Series, and most of the 14 players had had little contact over the years with their one-time teammates.

What would later turn out to be a centerpiece of the team’s reunion visit was a radio broadcast tape recording of Bitburg’s 3-2 victory over Colonie, New York, in a consolation bracket game called by veteran Little League broadcaster Mike Fogarty.

The 50-year-old game broadcast tape was discovered by Bitburg team member Dan Thompkins, whose father had had it packed away at his home.

“My family rotated back to Langley AFB, Virginia, in 1976 while I was a sophomore in high school,” Thompkins explained. “When I left home to pursue my career, I left my saved items at my parent’s home. At the time, I did not realize my father, who attended the World Series, had gotten a reel-to-reel tape of our game against Colonie.

“My father retired in 1986 and settled down in Illinois. During a visit, I stumbled onto that reel-to-reel tape. Neither of us had access to a reel-to-reel player, so we just packed it away. I later moved to Dallas and slowly started to move things I had stored at my parent’s house.

“When talk of our 50th reunion came up, I thought it would be a good idea to hear what was on the reel-to-reel tape. I found someone who could transfer the content of the old tape to disc. Listening to the game, I learned the play-by-play was done by Mike Fogarty with one of our team Dads, Pete Halden, father of team member Stuart Halden, helping him.

“Listening to the entire broadcast, it was apparent Mike and Pete were totally into the game. The excitement of the two of them made me want to try and meet Mike when I came to Williamsport for the reunion. I called Webb Weekly, and editor Steph Nordstrom and Scott Lowery helped to arrange a meeting with Mike.”

During the Series, Tompkins and Bitburg teammates Stuart Halden and Jeff Ralston shared a memorable visit with Fogarty. The Bitburg trio had never met the sportscaster whose voice they had only heard on the tape. Although Fogarty had never personally met the players, his play-by-play call was now a cherished memory for those Little League moments the reunion was bringing back to life.

Fogarty’s eyes sparkled as he recalled that long-ago game as if it was played last week.

“I remember it well because most of the games played in that 1973 series were very lopsided, with Taiwan dominating with three straight perfect games. Bitburg’s game was fun because it was a Little League game, and it was exciting. Bitburg pulled it out with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning to win.”

As the visit ended, Fogarty was most appreciative of the trio’s visit.

“It was a great morning. It was a lot of fun meeting new people and recalling some of the stories that were lived 50 years ago when these gentlemen came here as little leaguers. It was a real pleasure.”

Asked if he had ever thought about the effect his radio broadcasts had upon the lives of others, his quick answer was a simple, “No.”

“I figured it just went out into the airwaves and got to other people. I enjoyed doing that and whatever pleasure it may have brought to other people along the way. Truly, it was my pleasure more than theirs. Having the opportunity to talk to those players and realize how special that radio broadcast was to them and what memories it has brought back to them as they gathered for their 50th World Series anniversary meant a lot to me.”

The 2023 Little League World Series is now in the record books. The Bitburg boys have returned to their respective homes, not sure if Williamsport will ever again be a part of their future. But they will long remember what they once did here, and Fogarty’s broadcast will now always be there to remind them.

Scott Lowery, Bill Byham and Mike Fogarty in the broadcast booth at the 1973 LLWS.

Stuart Halden, Jeff Ralston Mike Fogarty and Dan Thompkins.