Little League – 25 Years of Fond Memories 1977
By Jay Barry (with slight editing by Hall of Fame Chairman Jack Flynn)
It doesn’t seem that a quarter of a century has passed since State Senator William “Biddy” Smith tossed out the first ball and the Warren Little League was under way.
Rocky Marciano defeated Jersey Joe Walcott in the thirteenth round for the world heavyweight boxing championship in 1952; Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president of the United States, the first Republican to be voted into the White House in 20 years; and a war raged in Korea.
The year the Warren Little League was started was also the year the Mills Brothers went to the top of the rating charts with their version of “Glow Worm,” Rosemary Clooney sang “Botch-a-Me,” and Patti Paige introduced “I Went To Your Wedding.” Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn filmed “The African Queen,” and the first National political conventions were televised.
All of this may not seem like twenty-five years ago, but it was. And to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Little League, a gala dinner-dance has been planned for this Saturday night at the National Guard Armory.
The program calls for dinner from 7:30 to 9, and dancing from 9 to 1 am. It’s a BYOB affair and the requested donation is $15. Those interested in attending should contact John Jannitto at 245-6838.
The construction of old Central Park on Water Street into one of the finest Little League fields in the state was an example of what community spirit can accomplish.
In nine short weeks in the spring of 1952 an area that had formerly been a town dump was turned into a playing field for the youngsters of the community.
Actually, it wasn’t that easy. It started early in February when Chet Piepowski decided that the town of Warren should have Little League baseball. He put a notice in the paper asking for volunteers to turn out and help. And he got them, by the dozen.
Meetings were held every week at the Narragansett Fire Station on Miller Street. Piepowski was elected president; he was assisted by Warren High School Athletic Director Charlie Burdge as vice president, Francis Burger as secretary, Town Council President Wilfred Jeffrey as treasurer, and Jay Barry as publicity director.
As soon as the good weather came, the large committee went to work, each member contributing what he could do best for the overall goal – that of getting a Little League park ready for the June 1st opener.
There were obstacles, most of them financial, but each hurdle was cleared as it was reached. Money was raised through the sale of signs for the outfield fence and through a series of tag days.
The contract for equipment went to Harry Platt Sporting Goods Co. of Cranston, the lowest of six bidders.
With the arrival of spring, the field was filled, graded, rolled, and seeded, with the Rego Construction Company of Bristol doing most of the work. Then the various fire companies of the community took turns coming to the field each evening to water the slowly growing grass.
Napoleon “Chummy” Servant led a group that contributed their time and knowledge in the construction of the dugouts. He was assisted by Abby Abbruzzi, Biddy Fish, Firpo Ferriali, and Inky Incollingo. Mr. Servant also directed the construction of the fence with President Piepowski and others selling the ads in the form of billboards.
The original managers of the Little League included: Hubert “Ditty” Drainville of the Yankees; Terry Martin of the Red Sox; Tommy McKale of the Senators; and Ed Silva of the Braves.
Coaches selected by the managers were: Donat Arel of the Braves; Larry Larivee of the Yankees; Donald “Buck” Sarasin of the Senators; and Napoleon Servant of the Red Sox.
The grounds crew included Henry Correia, Fred Jannitto, Sr. (who was later to become president of the league), Howard I. Martin, Sr., Manuel “Mickey” Palazio, and Tom Rimoshytus.
A special backstop committee included Terry Martin, Oliver Rene, and William “Beany” Ryan.
Chairman of the bid committee, Charlie Burdge, arranged for a number of former baseball stars to show up for the opening workouts and give the youngsters a hand. This group included Donat Brochu, Lester Burdge, Nick Cariglia, Henry Correia, and Ed “Beany” Ryan.
The rosters for the four teams that year were as listed in the following paragraphs (All Stars designated by asterisks).
Berkshire Senators – Bruce Aldrich, Ronald Alix, Bill Brouillette, John Costa, Steve Davis, Dick DeBlois*, David Kozik, Joseph LeBrun, Bruce MacDougall, Tommy McKale, Jr., John Medeiros, John Mendes*, Fred Polak, Roger Thivierge, and John Urban,
Kleistone Rubber Red Sox – George Caisse*, Bill Coyne, Tom Flynn, Bob Johnston, Peter Kingsford, Bill Lach*, Leo Lapane, Bob Leclerc, John MacDonald, John McMahon, Joe Palmieri, Leo Poissant, Frank Ribeiro, Tom Rimoshytus, Stan Rutkiewicz*, Steve Sevigny, and Ray Wyrostek.
Crown Fastener Braves – Ed Abrain*, Frank Amaral, Paul Bruno*, Tom Carter, Jimmy Caton, Joe Crowley, Richard Dallaire, Len Ducharme, Leon and Wayne Hebert, Bob and Dick Maisano, Bob Mylnek, Frank Polak*, Pete Rybka*, and Byron Salisbury.
Ellis Buick Asselin Chevrolet Yankees – Jim “Shoes” Abbruzzi*, George “Chico” Andrade*, John Ayer, Bob Bento, Fred Dyer*, Ken Ferreira, Ed Galuska, Peter Guimelli, John Jannitto, Joe Lamarca*, John Lamora, Pete MacDougall*, Walt Nencka, Mickey O’Brien, Nick Ramos, and Ray Rossi.
Even a school principal got into the act and showed his community spirit by letting six boys out of school to start an all-day tag day that raised more than $500 for the program.
Principal Frank Lombardi of the Joyce Street School put the names of all the Little Leaguers who attended that school in a hat and drew the names of Chico Andrade, Bill Coyne, Fred Dyer, John Jannitto, John Medeiros, and Pete Rybka. These six boys had a “holiday” from school.
Every baseball league has to have umpires. Some consider them a necessary evil. Warren’s Little League had a fine crew, headed by Manny Heuberger. His staff included Abby and John Abbruzzi, Les Burdge, Henry Correia, Lefty Greenwood, Bill and Leo Lapane, Chassy Leclerc, Gil Mello, Maxie Nicpon, Cooney Oszajca, Al “Casey” Primiano, Tom Rimoshytus, and Bill Ryan.
And then there was the scoring crew, which was headed by Mike Splain, with assistance from Jay Barry and Norm Metcalf.
Just before the season started, a group of people from the league made their TV debut, appearing on Warren Walden’s Channel 10 sports show.
Making the trip to Providence on May 30 for this appearance were President Piepowski, Vice President Burdge, and team captains Chico Andrade, Paul Bruno, Dick DeBlois, and Bill Lach.
When last-minute expenses put the committee in the red shortly before the opener, the state championship teams of 1939, 1945, and 1946 chipped in to buy a section of the outfield fence.
Following this lead, the four high school classes also purchased a part of the fence through donations made through their respective presidents: Dick Krawczyk ’52; Vic Andreozzi ’53; Jim Mello ’54; and Bob Correia ’55.
A third section of fence was purchased jointly by the Warren High classes of 1942 and 1943 through their presidents, Wilfred Marchand and Jay Barry, respectively.
The opening game ceremonies were delayed one day by rain. But on Monday evening, June 2, the Warren Indian Band led a parade of league officials, coaches, and players from the Narragansett Fire Company headquarters on Miller Street along Main Street to Bridge Street and then along Water Street to the new park.
A crowd of better than 500 fans was on hand for the opener. A flag that had flown over the capitol in Washington, D.C. was donated by Edward J. “Rip” Higgins, former Warren town team manager and administrative assistant to U. S. Senator Theodore Francis Green. The flagpole was a gift of Waldo Fish of Barrington, and the scoreboard was contributed by Coca Cola.
Opening ceremonies consisted of State Senator William “Biddy” Smith tossing a high (very high) fast ball to his “catcher,” President Piepowski. Wilfred Jeffrey, Town Council President, threatened with a bat, but not seriously.
In the opening game, George Andrade, now the Town Council President, struck out 15 men in six innings as the Ellis Buick-Asselin Chevrolet Yankees defeated the Kleistone Rubber Red Sox, 6-2.
There were other “firsts” for the Little League. Joe Palmieri of the Red Sox hit the first ball out of the park on June 5 and Ed Abrain of the Crown Fastener Braves hurled the first no-hitter, shutting out the Yankees, 1-0, on June 16.
Paul Bruno went on a batting spree two nights later as he led the Braves to a 12-10 victory over the Red Sox by banging out three home runs and a single and driving in nine runs.
Perhaps the feature game of the year was a double no-hit, no-run game played by the Braves and the Yankees in their stretch drive. Ed Abrain pitched his second no-hitter for the Braves and Pete MacDougall matched him pitch for pitch.
These same two boys hooked up in a nine-inning scoreless tie on the next-to-last game of the season, but the Yankees won the playoff game, 5-2, and with it the league championship.
1952 The Ellis Buick-Asselin Chevrolet Yankees were the first championship Little League Baseball team. Pictured were Coach Larry Larivee, Jim "Shoes" Abbruzzi, John Jannitto, Peter Guimelli, Ed Galuska, Joe Lamarca, Ray Rossi, Pete MacDougall, Kenny Ferreira, Fred Dyer, George "Chico" Andrade, Bobby Bento, John Lamora, Walt Nencka, Mickey O'Brien and Manager Hubert "Ditty" Drainville. The team was standing on the Water Street park's outfield grass, with Main Street School in the background.
The Yankees had a 13-6 record that year, followed by the Braves (11-8), Red Sox (8-9), and Senators (4-12).
The leading pitcher in the league was Ed Abrain who in 55 innings on the mound allowed only 33 hits, 17 walks, and six earned runs. He struck out 86.
Close on his heels were Pete MacDougall with a 6-1 record and Chico Andrade with a 4-3 mark and a 2.37 earned run average.
Bill Lach of the Red Sox won the batting title with a .493 average, Paul Bruno the home run crown (3, all in one game), and the runs batted in title (23), and Chico Andrade, Ed Abrain, and Bob Bento each had six stolen bases. Players besides Lach who hit more than .400 were Dick DeBlois .469, Chico Andrade .455, George Caisse .435, and Tom Rimoshytus .417.
As the evening wears on Saturday night at the Armory, some of those dinky singles of twenty-five years ago will become booming triples and some of the routine fielding plays will be resembled as scintillating stops worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.(As of March, 2013, Abby Abbruzzi, John Abbruzzi, Ed Abrain, Chico Andrade, Donat Arel, Jay Barry, Donat Brochu, Charlie Burdge, Les Burdge, Nick Cariglia, Henry Correia, Dick DeBlois, Ditty Drainville, Lefty Greenwood, Manny Heuberger, Rip Higgins, Fred Jannitto, Sr., John Jannitto, Pete MacDougall, Howie Martin, Sr., Terry Martin, Tommy McKale, Ed “Beany” Ryan, William “Beany” Ryan and Biddy Smith had been inducted into the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame.)