Throwback Thursday: Northeastern's American Legion state championship came 50 years ago
Even now, the team holds a special place in history in York County. Talk local baseball, and someone will bring up the year 1964 and all those boys from Northeastern High School who won a state championship in American Legion baseball.
Maybe it's because it wasn't a York team. It was Northeastern's team. It was a country team from a small school.
Maybe people remember it because the team was somewhat new, in just its second year.
Or maybe it all had to do with the novel idea of winning a statewide championship in baseball.
Back in the 1960s, the end of the high school baseball season was the league tournament. It marked the end of the road.
Win or lose, high school teams in York knew the season ended at the league tournament. No district tournaments. No state tournaments. Before those playoffs were instituted, it was all about the league.
And that was enough.
The lucky few might string together more victories in American Legion baseball.
All that changed in 1964, when Northeastern had a team to remember.
Three players went on to play professionally, including Doug King (Milwaukee Braves minor leaguer), Greg King (Phillies minor leaguer) and Jim Rife (Red Sox minor leaguer). A couple more, including center fielder Rick Stough — who played at Elizabethtown and York — played college baseball.
"Well, '63 was the first year we had a Legion team," Stough said. "Before then, most of us played for York Post 127 in the city."
Northeastern traveled to Allentown for the state tournament, rooming at Muhlenberg College while the tournament kept going and Northeastern kept staying alive.
A roster of just 15 players, including three sets of brothers — the Kings, Heilmans and Gaberts — needed to string together some come-from-behind victories.
"I remember we needed to win some games by one run," Stough said.
But once Northeastern reached the championship game, it cruised.
The team, however, was not permitted to advance to the national tournament.
"That was a big disappointment," Stough said.
Five decades later, only one other York team, the 1999 Hanover team — led by another future professional in Mark Phillips (Padres and Yankees minor leaguer) — managed to duplicate the feat of the 1964 Northeastern team. This year marks the 50th year since that run.
And yet, all these years later, people still recall 1964 as a special season: It was the year Northeastern went all the way.
Reach Jim Seip at 771-2025.
American Legion champions
American Legion baseball state champions from York County:
1934: York Post No. 127
1927: York Post No. 127
1926: York Post No. 127
Each week for Throwback Thursday, GameTimePA.com revisits memorable moments in York-Adams sports history. Explore the complete series at GameTimePA.com by clicking "Features" on the main menu, then "YAIAA history." Have a memory to share? Contact Sports Editor Lyzz Jones at email@example.com or 771-2058.