Sometimes we forget our professional players were kids, too.
In 1944, a reported 780 ballplayers ages 12 and older attended a four-day camp at Edmonds Field. The old Sacramento Union newspaper sponsored the event in conjunction with the Sacramento Baseball Club and the city recreation department, and members of the Sacramento Solons ran the proceedings.
One participant was 12-year-old Woodson “Woodie” Held (Sacramento High School), an impressive lad who had two no-hitters for the Klumpps Midgets in the 100-pound division of the boys’ summer league.
Held, the Solons’ batboy for three seasons, played 14 seasons in the major leagues. He hit 179 home runs and always said: “Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball.”
In 1944, 14-year-olds Jimmy Westlake (McClatchy, Sacramento Junior College) and Gene Roenspie (Elk Grove) were members of the Keystone Market club that won the summer league’s 100-pound division.
That same year, 11-year-old Tony Stathos (McClatchy, Sacramento JC) and 10-year-old Tommy Agosta (Sacramento) led Willie’s Motor Transport past Ink Brothers 6-5 for the 125-pound title. The pitcher-catcher combination of 11-year-old Buzz Berriesford (Sacramento, Sacramento JC) and 12-year-old Johnny McNamara (Christian Brothers, Sacramento JC), who managed 19 years in the major leagues and won 1,160 games, paced Senator Florists to an 8-6 victory over J.J. Jacobs in the 110-pound division. Also on that squad was Lou Almendariz (Christian Brothers).
Westlake, Roenspie, Stathos, Berriesford, McNamara and Almendariz played in the minor leagues. Westlake got one major-league at-bat in 1955 with Philadelphia.
Since the Little League World Series began in 1947 in Williamsport, Pa., only three Sacramento-area teams have competed: West Auburn in 1959, Airport in 1966 and Pacific in 1983.
Since the Little League World Series began in 1947 in Williamsport, Pa., only three Sacramento-area teams have competed.
In 1959, West Auburn Little League finished second to Hamtramck, Mich. West Auburn beat Alabama 3-1 and New York 8-1 and lost 12-0 in the final.
In 1966, Airport Little League won 11 games to reach the World Series, and Dean Stotz (McClatchy, Sacramento City) was the ace. Airport beat Canada 3-1, lost to Houston 4-0 and beat Osaka, Japan, 6-0 for third place. Stotz pitched for Stanford and became a coach for the university.
In 1983, Pacific Little League reached the tournament behind pitcher Patrick Zalasky (McClatchy, Sacramento City, Sacramento State) and power-hitting Craig Kamikawa (Kennedy).
Pacific lost to Stamford, Conn., 8-2, beat Canada 10-0 and lost to Chicago 5-0. In getting to Williamsport, Zalasky had a no-hitter against Marysville in the Section I Tournament and another no-hitter against Hollister in the Northern California Divisional Tournament.
Of all the players on the three Little League teams, only Pacific’s Aaron Fuller (McClatchy) played pro ball. He played in the minors from 1993 to 1998 in the Boston and Chicago Cubs organizations.
In 1935, Manhart Post 391, a team of Sacramento High players, won the Junior American Legion Western United States Championships and was runner-up in the World Series in Gastonia, N.C. Manhart was swept by the host team in the best-of-five championship 10-4, 8-1 and 12-4. Gastonia’s shortstop was Lawrence “Crash” Davis, whose name became infamous in the film “Bull Durham.” Davis gave writer-director Ron Shelton permission to use it.
Three Manhart players – Mel Cole, Joe Faraci and Tiny Hansen – played pro ball. Their coach was 24-year-old coach Bill Avila (Sacramento, Sacramento JC), who became a well-known area scout.
In 1968, the Grant Senior Little League squad reached the World Series in Gary, Ind., and finished third.
In 1968, the Grant Senior Little League squad reached the World Series in Gary, Ind., finished third and had 15-year-olds Leon Lee (Grant) and Taylor Duncan (Grant) named to the all-tournament team. Grant beat Canada 4-2 and Tampa, Fla., 8-2 before losing twice to Long Island, N.Y., 2-0 and 2-1.
Duncan was Atlanta’s first-round draft pick in 1971 and played in the majors for St. Louis in 1977 and the A’s in 1978. After toiling in the St. Louis system for seven seasons, Lee was traded to Lotte of the Japanese League in 1978, played in 1,255 games and became a legend in Japan.
Mark McDermott is a freelance writer specializing in Sacramento-area baseball: firstname.lastname@example.org