CLEARFIELD – Baseball, not football, was the focus of 48 Clearfield Area High School graduates who ran, trotted or walked on to the Lawrence Township Rec Park Field for the Third Annual Bison Baseball Alumni Games Saturday.
Above-average temperatures and mostly-sunny skies made the last day of summer a perfect setting for the boys of summer, who ignored tricky winds with gusts of 15 miles per hour to play at a high level in the fund-raiser for the Clearfield Baseball Association.
\”I think it was a great day for Bison baseball,\” longtime CAHS head coach Sid Lansberry (\’64) proclaimed after slugging highlighted the OldTimers Game and pitching dominated the Youngsters Game.
Brian Barr (\’91), coach of the Youngsters Red Team, might have been the only ex-Bison who wasn\’t wearing a smile when he departed for the post-game dinner party at the former Adventure Park.
Barr certainly wasn\’t when begrudgingly offering the congratulatory token handshake to Black Team coach Ben Timko (\’92)after his record dropped to 0-3.
There\’s been no love lost between the former Bison teammates when it comes to bragging rights for the highly-competitive Youngsters Game. In fact, Barr is being investigated by the Alumni Games Committee for possible player tampering. He has been accused of attempting to stack his team this year by conducting a secret draft.
Timko forecast in a pre-game press release that his team had little or no chance of winning and established the Red Team as 14-run favorites, even though he had 2006 Most Valuable Pitcher Mike Davidson (\’02) returning. Several of the so-called \”facts\” in the Timko Report were very questionable, even blatantly erroneous, according to unnamed sources.
If the Red Team was supposed to have the edge with a loaded lineup of players who competed in baseball and softball leagues during the summer, Davidson proved to be the great equalizer.
All the right-hander did was set the standard for all future Alumni Games hurlers with a scintillating complete-game performance in the Black Team\’s 3-2 victory.
In seven innings, Davidson struck out 14 while allowing only two hits and one earned run. He walked five.
Davidson was the obvious choice as the Black Team\’s Most Valuable Player without even considering his contributions at the plate, two singles and a sacrifice fly.
Barr planned to counter with prized recruit Jeff Droll (\’90), who pitched a Centre County League no-hitter for Howard this summer, but Droll was unable to go to the mound because of a blister on his foot. Barr had failed to include a no-hiking clause in his contract.
So, Barr handed the ball to fellow CAHS junior varsity coach and classmate Chris Peacock (\’91), whose response was, \”Why me?\”
Peacock couldn\’t remember when he made his last start (Little League, perhaps?) and probably was pitching with too much rest, walking Kevin Lykens (\’95), Ryan Briskar (\’99) and Jason \”Buzz\” Moore (\’99) with one out. Andy Lingle (\’85), one of only three players in the Youngsters Game who graduated before 1990, hammered a drive to the fence in center field that wound up an RBI-single only because it appeared speedy Kevin Billotte (\’94) might track it down. Davidson followed with his sacrifice fly to left for a 2-0 lead.
When he returned to the dugout, Peacock informed Barr his mound career was history and traded places with first baseman Gary \”Dick\” Welker (\’94), who Barr had lured away from Timko\’s roster.
Welker surrendered an unearned run in the second frame – Tim Oswalt (\’94) reaching base on an error and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Clint Robison (\’97) – but went on to shut out the winners on four singles over the next four innings to earn MVP honors for the Red Team.
Davidson, who fanned at least two batters in five innings, lost the no-no in the fifth.
With one down, Isaac Graham (\’90) cracked a single through the middle. Pinch-runner Frank Hipps Jr. (\’90) was ruled safe at second on Barr\’s chopper to third, umpire Bill Bacharach (\’70) saying the Black Team missed a forceout when the throw was bobbled.
Hipps, traded for outfielders Brandon Billotte (\’98) and Joe Rumsky (\’92) by Timko in the wee hours of Friday night\’s pre-game festivities, raced home on Adam Welker\’s (\’95) two-out single through the left side.
Gary Welker walked, stole second and beat the throw to the plate after a two-out throwing error to make it a one-run game in the sixth, but Davidson responded by breezing through the seventh, sandwiching strikeouts around a flyout by Barr, who was noticeably upset by Alumni Committee Chairman Donnie Shimmel\’s (\’84) heckling.
Lykens and Robison also had hits for the Black Team. Timko, who tried to appease Barr by whiffing three times, and Dave Davis (\’92) were the other players in the winners\’ lineup.
Gold Glove Award recipients were Lingle for the Black Team and Kevin Billotte for the Red Team. Lingle went behind the plate after playing left field and third base in the OldTimers Game and came up with a juggling catch of a foul pop-up for a big out in the sixth. Billotte robbed cousin Brandon of an extra base hit in the fifth by sprinting into left center for a diving, backhanded catch. Brandon had tested him in his previous at-bats, too, with the same result.
Hipps rated much consideration for the Red Team Gold Glove Award, too, for a strong throw that cut down Lykens at the plate on Davidson\’s third-inning single to left.
The Rookie of the Year Award went to Red Team catcher Graham, the lone first-year player in the Youngsters Game.
Infielders Brent Lykens (\’91), Mark Luzier (\’87) and Todd Vanderburgh (\’84) were the other members of the Red Team, which Barr guarantees will be restructured by this time next year.
Earlier, in the OldTimers Game, the emphasis was more on having fun, and surviving without any pulled muscles or pain, though none of the players were making appearances just to go through the motions.
The Red Team rolled to a 16-4 triumph in 4-1/2 innings as MVP Tom \”Bump\” Danver (\’82) drove in five runs with a home run and a double, Vanderburgh walloped a grand slam home run, co-Rookie of the Year Brian Bloom (\’83) rapped a double and a single for 2 RBIs and Brian Robison (\’87) and Gary \”Hairbone\” Rowles (\’82) added pairs of singles.
Danver\’s long balls capped four-run rallies in the first and third innings, Vanderburgh\’s blast over both fences in left punctuated a five-run outburst in the second and Bloom\’s two-run single to center ended the scoring in the fourth.
Denny Bowman (\’86) was the winning pitcher. He gave up four runs on four hits and struck out three in three innings. Well-rested Big Jim Brown (\’82) closed it out with a two-inning save. He fanned three and allowed only one controversial hit.
Bowman, Brown, Ken \”Buck\” Danver (\’71), Garry \”Boats\” Shirey (\’76) and Hank Wilson (\’82) also had hits for the manager Ward Fink\’s Red Team, which also included Jerry Bickel (\’72), Keith Billotte (\’64), Dave Falvo (\’82), Jon Mikesell (\’76), Larry Peacock (\’65) and Chuck Robison (\’64).
The win was the first for Fink and assistant coach Lansberry, who came out of retirement to pinch-run for classmate Chuck Robison. The latter somehow pulled a hamstring during Friday evening\’s batting practice. Fortunately, Lansberry was able to walk home on Vanderburgh\’s dinger.
The Black Team posted its runs in the third inning, two on a single down the left field line by Donnie Beauseigneur (\’80) and two on a double to right center by MVP Jack Rumfola (\’86).
Losing pitcher Tom Kirsch (\’70), who seems to have lost his craftiness as well as his fastball, Scott Dunlap (\’81) and Gary Schucker (\’79) had the Black Team\’s other hits.
Bill Billotte (\’67) labored two innings in relief of Kirsch. They were tagged for six hits apiece, though they contend they were told to serve up pitches their grandmothers would have hit.
Kirsch wasn\’t happy being labeled the losing manager after not having received credit for guiding the Red Team to victory last year. He was told to lodge his complaint with the Alumni Committee.
Others who wore the Black shirts were Merrill Dunlap (\’57), J.R. Rosselli (\’75), Logan Cramer III (\’81) and Ken Billotte (\’74).
Golden Glove honors went to Red Team second baseman Keith Billotte, who snapped Cramer\’s two-game hitting streak by spearing his soft liner with a lunging, backhanded grab, and Black Team shortstop Scott Dunlap, who ranged from the left field line to right center, where he took a hit away from Shirey with a dandy basket catch with his back to the infield.
Tabbed for the Rookie of the Year Award were the Red Team\’s Bloom and Brown and the Black Team\’s Schucker.
An added feature was a Home Run Derby prior to each game, with all proceeds going to the Bruce Graham family. Graham was a former Bison standout athlete who died in a vehicle accident on Sept. 2.
Each batter got 10 swings, with five points awarded for home runs, three points for balls hitting the fence on the fly or one hop and one point for balls rolling to the fence on the hard outfield surface. Though many of the 34 would-be sluggers racked up most, if not all, of their totals on ground balls, long balls determined the outcome.
Shirey, who donated his prize money to the Graham family, won the OldTimers Home Run Derby with 13 points, including one of only two homers. Tom Danver had the other to tie Vanderburgh for second with nine points. Brian Robison followed with seven, while Bowman and Rumfola tied with six.
Brandon Billotte clubbed a pair of homers to set the Youngsters Home Run Derby mark of 15 points. Briskar was a close second with 13 points, followed by Kevin Billotte with 12, Gary Welker with 11, Brent Lykens with 10, Oswalt with nine, Luzier with eight and Adam Welker, Droll, Clint Robison and Moore with six each.
\”We had a great turnout, and it was a lot of fun,\” Lansberry said. \”It is a fund-raiser for the Bison baseball program, and a lot of people contributed, with money or other donations, or with their time. I\’d like to thank the committee, especially Donnie Shimmel and Jeff Kavelak (\’87), who did the most work putting this altogether.\”
Lansberry, Barr and Cramer are other members of the Bison Baseball Alumni Committee.
EXTRA INNINGS – The reunion-type weekend has become a family affair for several former Bisons. Brothers who played were Ken, Keith and Bill Billotte, Chuck and Brian Robison, Ken and Tom Danver, Brent and Kevin Lykens and Gary and Adam Welker. The father-son duos were Merrill and Scott Dunlap, Larry and Chris Peacock, Chuck and Clint Robison, Keith and Kevin Billotte and Bill and Brandon Billotte… Members of the District 9 champion 1982 and 1987 teams on hand were introduced on the anniversary year of their achievements… Left-handed catchers are rare in baseball, but Ken Danver and Rumfola both donned masks, chest protectors and shin guards, something they never did in high school. In fact, nobody could recall just which position Rumfola played… Megan and Sara Liptak, granddaughters of Jack Morris (\’64), sang the national anthem… Bacharach umpired both games, with Al Fricke (\’73) on the bases for OldTimers Game and Shirey behind the plate for the Youngsters Game… Ed Yeager (\’75) and his roving microphone kept players and fans informed and entertained during the OldTimers Game, while Pat \”Planet P\” Pallo (\’86) handled the announcing chores for the Youngsters… The Alumni Committee presented a monetary gift to Clearfield EMS for having personnel at the field… October 4, 2008, is the date for the Fourth Annual Bison Alumni Baseball Game(s).