On Saturday, 12 of the 14 members of that team, along with coach Ken Turner, will reunite for the golden anniversary of that standout season, looking to relive memories, reminisce about the past and learn what each player has been up to since that incredible summer in 1963.
“We haven’t all been in touch with each other much over the last couple of decades, so that’s why we’re having this reunion,” said David Hunter, a player on that team who’s served as the point man for the reunion, which will take place at his home off Kennesaw Avenue.
“Most of us were 13- and 14-year-olds going into the ninth grade, and because it was 50 years ago, it will be interesting to catch up and find out what everybody is doing.”
Hunter, now 64, and his teammates provided a thrill for the community during that season. The Marietta Sally All-Stars, who were members of the Pony League, captured the Eastern Region championship over the Audubon Park Rotarians from Orlando, Fla., and went on to defeat the Central Region champion from Gadsden, Ala., for the Southeast Region title days later.
The All-Stars won the game in dramatic fashion at Heck Memorial Field — the old diamond near present-day Fairground Street in Marietta — coming from behind in the final two innings to win 10-4 and sweep a best-of-three series over Gadsden. The victory set up a best-of-three showdown with the Southwest Region champion of Monterrey, Mexico, for the right to move on to the Pony League Baseball World Series in Washington, Pa.
“That was definitely a highlight,” said Hunter, who played third base and batted .304 for the All-Stars. “It was a wild game against Gadsden.”
The games against Monterrey were wilder. The Mexican team won the first game 3-2, but the All-Stars swept a doubleheader, 10-3 and 12-10, the following day to take the Pony League Southern Division championship and claim one of the four World Series berths. The games were played in front of an estimated 3,000 people at Heck Memorial Field.
“Those crowds were incredible,” Hunter said. “We had to come back and win that doubleheader the next day or it would have been all over, and we did it. To represent the South in the World Series, and to see all of that, support was fantastic.”
Behind Larry Keener’s two-hit performance from the mound, the All-Stars won their first game of the World Series 3-0 over a team from Woodland Hills, Calif. The All-Stars lost their next contest 10-4 to the eventual champions of Evansville, Ill., and were eliminated from the tournament following a 2-1 loss to Woodland Hills.
“That was a 24-hour bus trip to Pennsylvania,” Hunter said. “Evansville won and we came in third place. It was great to be up there.
“We were 13-year-olds who were fortunate to have the coaches we did, and we hoped we could keep winning. We had good pitching with Keener and (Steve) Norris and that helped.”
The reunion is expected to begin at 5 p.m. and last until the old teammates “want to stop,” Hunter said.
Hunter said he, Keener and Turner are expected to be in attendance, as well as Lory Hill, Tommy Holland, Ben Butterworth, Dwight Copeland, Eddie Cook, Ricky Evatt, Gregg Hartsook, Danny Smallwood and Ronnie Cheshire.
“Everybody kind of knew where everybody else was, so it wasn’t that difficult to find everyone,” Hunter said of bringing the group together.
Hunter hopes to get in touch with Timmy Sears and Larry Bannister to invite them to the reunion. Manager Jack Whatley died of cancer last fall.
“I was hoping to have this reunion before Whatley died, but then I noticed we were coming up on the 50th anniversary, so I waited until then,” Hunter said. “I’m still hoping people will know where Bannister and Sears are.
“Hopefully, all of us can continue to get together more often in the future.”