It has been 50 years the Sciotoville Little League won the state championships and went on to play in Chicago, but to the boys who played on that historic team, it is still a fresh memory.
“This entire story could be made into a book/movie, six years later the same team was Ohio High School state champions. We were defeated by a Chicago area team, playing at their home field by the way. They went on to lose in the finals of the 1967 Little League world series to Japan. The entire city of Chicago at the time was divided into four little league districts. I could only guess the population of the district we played. Sciotoville population was 2,500. We were small, except for me, and our uniforms were laughed at by every team we played. Until the last game we always had the last laugh,” said Steve Sturgill, who pitched for the team, was son of the manager Ron Sturgill and went on to be the now Executive Director of Community Action.
Both Steve and Ron still enjoy remembering that season as father and son.
“This is a story of hope and success. Every place we went we were the midgets, we were the underdogs, they laughed at our uniforms, they laughed at our name, they laughed at where we were from,” Steve remembered.
He was 12 at the time, though he was a very large 12. All his teammates were rather small, but he popped out above them in all team pictures. He had been playing ball all of his life. His father had brought him up in the sport. Officially, he started playing in minor league for eight and nine year olds. Little League was for children nine through 12.
Ron had always loved the sport. He had grown up with a passion for baseball and played all over Scioto County. In high school, he pitched seven no hitters. He decided to coach and manage as a way to share something with his son.
“I wanted to see that I could teach him all I knew,” the father remembered. “He was a good ball player.”
Ron said he knew there was something special about that team.
“I thought we had a better team than we had ever had before,” he commented. “I kept trying to pep them up and keep them going. If we would have had my younger son Scott, we might’ve went all the way.”
The Sciotoville Little League All-Stars was made up of Ramah Frazier, Jeff Cottle, Jeff Welch, Donnie Davis, Gary Coriell, Tim Coey, Joe Kisor, Joe Mowery, Joe McClurg, Larry Howard, Mike Mershon, Mike Stapleton, Steve, Steve Falls, Jason Born, Gary Warnock, Coach Bob Welch, Scorekeeper Bob Knowles and Manager Ron.
Ron remembers that the team always listened and battled. Steve still remembers even more and can even give most of the season’s scores.
“We were the cream of the crop. I was the biggest kid, and you know I’m very humble. I was the star of the show,” he joked.
However, it was Steve who lost the final game in Chicago.
“I had a bad inning. I had us in a five to nothing hole before we ever went to bat,” he explained. “And, the star struck out three times.”
Steve remembers his father coming to him asking what was wrong with him, an event that was photographed and printed.
“You can’t see it, but I was bawling like a baby,” he explained.
Steve says the team was the very best at the time. They were close friends. Throughout their season, they continued to grow and get better before every going to a championship. After having a successful regular season, they went on to play and win the State Championship in Canton before going on to win the Michigan-Ohio Championship in Maumee. The boys traveled together and developed a great sense of unity.
“I couldn’t have asked to play with a better group of boys,” Steve commented.
Steve explained that the parents never had it as well as the children. Parents would often stay in tents in order to attend some of the further away games.
“The Chicago thing I will never forget. We went down to the train station and got on the Chicago Express,” he said. “There was no sleeping.”
The boys were excited the entire 16-hour train trip.
After arriving in Chicago, they discovered that the boys would be staying with parents of other boys who played in the area. Even Ron was unaware the boys with be staying with different families. It also rained, and there was no way for the boys to practice. It was the first time in the season they were apart.
The game was over in the first inning.
“He (Steve) couldn’t get the ball over the plate like he normally did,” Ron said.
He was giving away bases. By the time Steve recovered, the other team already had the advantage. The other team had a great pitcher. Steve scored perfectly after the first inning. Steve also was not hitting well, which was also rare. The game ended 5-1. Though Steve says he was the star, he is clear that the his teammates were stars as well and remain such. This amazing victory would not have been possible with each of them and their contributions.
Many of the team members, including Steve went on to have successful high school baseball careers. Steve’s senior year he says they never had a practice and never lost a game, but he was not the star that year. The awesome group of guys remain friends, many still living in the area. Steve explained that they will get together and still talk about baseball stories from 50 years ago.
A ceremony commemorating the team’s success will take place as part of the East Little League opening day celebrations starting Saturday at 10 a.m. Many of the players from 50 years ago will be there, remembering the crack of the bat from when they were kids.