When we said that Northeastern's 1964 American Legion baseball team left an impression, we weren't kidding.
After reading last week's "Throwback Thursday" series article about the Legion championship-winning squad, Larry Wallace reached out with more memories of Manchester-area baseball from that era.
In 1962, Wallace was a health and physical education major who was preparing for his senior year at East Stroudsburg. He was back home in Manchester for the summer where he'd been playing baseball "as long as I could remember." That summer, the 20-year-old started coaching Manchester's team in a York County baseball league for boys ages 13 to 15.
That 1962 team went undefeated and won its league championship. And two years later, six of the players from Wallace's squad went on to win the Legion championship with Northeastern. That contingent included two-thirds of Wallace's starting rotation, he said, adding that the photo of the Legion team brought back a flood of memories from his days as coach.
"Those young men not only were talented athletes but had baseball knowledge beyond their years," he wrote in an email."I remember pitchers that charted opposing hitters and pitched them a certain way to take advantage of weaknesses."
Despite that detailed devotion, Wallace recalled the time as much different from the youth sports scene today.
"This was a bare-bones budget operation," Wallace wrote in an email. "I'm not sure if we had uniforms, and if we did they were probably old uniforms from the Manchester adult team. Much of our equipment was handed down as well, and if bats were broken (all wood at that time) it was tough replacing them."
He also noted that because there were no league umpires, each team usually provided one — who was usually a father of one of its own players. That led to what Wallace called "some interesting situations."
The league had teams all over the county, he said, and no transportation budget. So it fell to players' parents and himself as the coach to get the team to fields as far away as Red Lion and Craley.
Wallace's 1947 Plymouth — dubbed the Grey Ghost — carried the team to many of those locales.
"There were times when I crammed so many players in that car that when we got to the games it looked like one of those clown cars as the players exited," he said. "One time coming home from a game there were so many guys in that car that we couldn't make it up the Mount Zion Hill, and some of the players had to get out of the car and walk to the top before getting back in the Ghost."
The experience left an impression on the young coach, who more than 50 years later called his team "just a super bunch of young men."