The following 15 young men from
Trumbull, CT went onto the field at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport,
PA on August 26, 1989 and beat Kaohsiung, Taiwan 5-2 to become Little League
Champions of the World. Trumbull didn't
realize that they were not supposed to win!!
(Jim Palmer - ABC Sportscaster & Hall of Fame Pitcher - said so).
Dan Brown, Matt Basztura, Paul
Coniglio, Chris Drury, Chris Fasano, Dave Galla, Jason Hairston, Todd Halky,
Chris Kelly, Cody Lee, Harlen Marks, Ken Martin, Dan McGrath, Andy Paul, &
Now that you know the final
results, let me take you on the trip of a lifetime. Any kid who played Little League dreams of being a Champion.
A few players could have been left
behind. However, Jason Hairston decided
to forget about soccer for the summer.
Kenny Martin decided to return from Cape Cod early and Harlen Marks
missed the entire California trip. This
proved to be a good choice. So we hit
the field on July 5, 1989 for our first practice and we did the same things
that we always did at practice. When we
were on the field we were all business.
The coaching staff (Tom Galla, Bob Zullo & Ed Wheeler) decided to try
to keep the kids loose off the field.
We had fun with mandatory pool parties at Wheeler World, trips to the
movies and watermelon and popsicles after practice. Jason told us he had already seen Batman and we told him he would
see it again. Todd Halky & Cody Lee
came with us but spent most of their time flirting with a couple of cuties from
These early days were very
difficult for Bob, Ed & I because we were trying to get comfortable working
with each other and also trying to place players in the proper slot. I began my speaking career around this time
when we would hold a team meeting out in center field after each practice. I'm sure I bored everybody to tears. But I did tell the kids we were going to
Williamsport, PA!! I wasn't alone,
7,000 other coaches were saying the same thing to their players.
District 2 Tournament
July 15th snuck up on us
quickly and we were off and running.
This began the "District 2" tournament in Bridgeport at Blackham
Field. Andy Paul pitched the 1st
game against Stratford National and pitched a "no hitter". This kid was good! We also hit the cover off the ball and won 23-0. Next we faced Stratford American and won
15-3. Then we beat Northend East 19-1
& Fairfield American 8-4. And then "Whoops"
Park City American beat us 2-0. Luckily
this local tournament was double elimination.
The loss to Park City turned out to be a very important game for
us. We had another center field talk
the next night before practice and we asked the kids to do the talking for a
change. "What happened and what were
you thinking against Park City"? "Chris
Drury struck out and we didn't think we could hit him" said Jason. (Chris was our lead off hitter and started 13
of 16 games with a hit). Wow! Were we
going to depend entirely on that average sized hockey player who spits too much
to do everything for us? No way! We're a team and each and every one of you
must contribute. You have to pick each
other up. So that is exactly what we
did. Two nights later we faced Park
City again and we won 7-0. On August 3,
1989 we had become District 2 Champions.
This is a big deal for any Trumbull team. In all the years that Trumbull has played Little League baseball
no team has advanced beyond one State game.
So here we go. Let's play in the
CT State Tournament.
CT State Tournament
I'd never heard of Forestville, CT
but within the next 10 days we will have beaten them twice after watching them
play 4 times. Bob, Ed & I knew
these kids almost as well as we knew our own.
The Forestville people, in spite of the hard fought defeats they
suffered, turned out to be our best friends and allies in what followed in the
Eastern Regionals. On August 6, 1989 we
defeated Forestville 4-0 in out first State game. Yea us!! On August 8,
1989 we beat Hamden 17-2. This ain't so
tough! Then we faced our friendly
enemies from Forestville again on August 13, 1989 and boy were we tough. Drury led off the game with a dinger and
Brown gets another in the same inning.
Kenny gets one in the 2nd and the score is Trumbull-8,
Forestville 0 after 2 complete innings.
Andy is devastating on the mound and everybody is real comfy going into
the 5th with a 10-0 lead. Whoops
again! Our buddies from Forestville
woke up and before the dust settled they scored 6 runs. Andy moves to left and Danny McGrath moves to
the mound. Chris gets up in the top of
the 6th and hits his second homer of the game and our Australian
lefty shuts them down and Trumbull tip toes away with the CT State
Championship. Another valuable lesson
is learned. Didn't Yogi say "It ain't
over 'til it's over"? Coach Z has such
a great memory too and he never stopped reminding me. Don't you hate it when somebody is always right?
Now Trumbull was entering uncharted
waters. What could we expect next? We were heading to Bristol, CT (Home of
ESPN) to face New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania & Maryland. This would be a single elimination
tournament and Trumbull would play 4 games.
One on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and we had to win all 4
The Eastern Regionals
We arrived in Bristol, CT on Sunday
August 13, 1989 and were greeted by John Heher who had assumed the point man
role for our team. John was the
District 2 Commissioner and also coached the Phillies in Trumbull. He had predicted all along that we were
going to Williamsport. He must have
been psychic! We were assigned a room
in an elementary school next door to Breen Field. These were not luxury accommodations but we were happy to be
there. 12 teams had arrived on Sunday
and were each given a classroom with 16 cots obtained from West Point
Academy. Believe it or not the cots
were actually comfortable but the heat was oppressive. (No Air
conditioning). The temperature each day
was up in the mid 90's. The only relief
from the heat was a large free standing fan in one corner of the room. It sounded like an airplane in the room with
us. We were lucky because we got
assigned the kindergarten room which had its own bathroom. We were also lucky because the Forestville
people began taking really good care of us.
There was Jerry Dube and his son Matt who brought Bob & I coffee
every morning to get us started. There
was also Bud Luflin who was President of Forestville LL and he told us to use
their field for our practice sessions.
This way we didn't have to worry about a practice schedule. We could practice whenever we wanted. Most important to us were the team Aunt and
Uncle who were assigned to us. We got
Rita Strahowski and her son Chris.
These 2 willing volunteers were with us 12 hours a day helping us to
feel at home.
There were 12 teams in Bristol for
this single elimination tournament and only one team would fulfill their dream
of going to Williamsport and the Little League World Series. Let's hope that team is Trumbull! It's funny but at this point other teams
gave up their local hometown identity and took on their state name. Whether Connecticut was too tough to say or
we were just so attached to the word Trumbull I don't know but our team cheer
before each game remained "Go Trumbull".
John Heher had thought that we were going to draw a bye in the first
round of the tournament. We were
surprised to find out that this was not the case. This concerned us because we had been pitching Chris & Andy
almost exclusively. Matt Sewell had
been our #3 pitcher and starting right fielder until he fell off his bike while
delivering newspapers and broke his arm during the state tournament. By not
drawing a bye it meant that we would have to play 4 games in 5 days and win all
of them. We were scheduled for Tuesday,
Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday if we continued to win. Since Andy had pitched the final State game
the previous Saturday the rotation would begin with Chris on the mound against
Swanton, Vermont on Tuesday August 15.
Bob, Ed & I decided that all we could do was play one game at a
time. So let's go get 'em! We won that 1st game 17-3 on 15
hits and little Jason Hairston (A fun player to watch said Al Trautwig from ABC
Sports) hit his 1st Little League home run that day. Wow!!
Unfortunately, because Forestville had come back so strong against us in
the States, we were afraid to replace Chris until the end of the 5th
inning when we were up 17-1. What brave
guys!! Chris had thrown 80 pitches
which was way down from what he normally threw so maybe he'd be able to come
back on Thursday. If we got to
On Wednesday, August 16 we had to
face Manchester, New Hampshire. They
had drawn the 1st round bye so we had to face their #1 pitcher. When we saw him throw we knew this would be
a different ballgame from the Vermont game.
Luckily Chris Drury led the game off with a double and 2 pass balls
later it was Trumbull-1- New Hampshire-0 and this ended up being the final
score for the game. Andy threw a 1
hitter (On only 74 pitches) and their guy threw a 2 hitter. This turned out to be the toughest pitcher
we faced throughout the entire summer!
Everybody was losing weight this
week, especially me. I think we were
all too nervous to eat. In the
beginning of the week the school where we lived was a madhouse with 12 teams
running around. However, as each team
lost they would pack their bags and leave for home. It became very quiet by mid tournament and by the end it was like
a ghost town. Next up would be Cherry
Hill, New Jersey on Thursday, August 17.
My first recollection of Cherry
Hill, NJ was the night before the Thursday game. We had been taken to Lake Compounce Amusement Park for some
fun. We saw 5 big kids with baseball
hats on and thought this could not be players from Cherry Hill. They were!
Two of them were over 6 feet tall and the other 3 were as big as Kenny
Martin. (5'10"). Just because they were
big did not necessarily mean they were good, Right? True, except the day before they had blasted Massapequa, New York
who everybody "in the know" said was headed for Williamsport. The other problem was that Chris Drury had
thrown 80 pitches 2 days ago. So we
took the attitude "No big deal", "It's just another ballgame", "Go
get'em". These were to become favorite
sayings for us. TRUMBULL NATIONAL
proceeded to bang out 19 hits with 6 home runs in the most awesome display of
power ever seen in Little League baseball.
So said the Little League experts.
Matt Basztura led off the 4th inning with a solo home run,
then Kenny Martin hit #2, Andy Paul hit #3 and "Downtown" Danny Brown hit
#4. Back to back to back to back home
runs. Kenny came up again before the
inning was over and he hit a Grand Slam for his 2nd homer of the
inning. A local announcer nicknamed us the "Electric Company" after that inning
because of all the power we generated.
We had scored 9 times in the 4th inning and 18 times before
the game ended and Cherry Hill was packing to go home. If this game had been shown on television
people would have never stopped talking about Trumbull.
August 19, 1989
Now there was only 1 team left
between us and Williamsport and they looked a lot like another good team we
faced along the way. They reminded me
of our friends from Forestville.
Brandywine didn't look big and awesome like New Jersey had and they
hadn't destroyed anybody by a big score but they had won all their games. All they had to do was beat Trumbull once,
so we would not take this game lightly.
"No big deal"! Wrong! The final game against Brandywine was
televised on ESPN and I was worried the kids would be distracted. I guess they weren't, as we continued our
offensive assault. We gave them 2 runs in the top of the first and then all
HECK broke loose again. In the bottom
of the 1st we got 9 hits and 10 runs before the rain came. Poor Kenny Martin made the last out of that
incredible 1st inning. He
looked so sick up at bat. He also kept
looking my way hoping the signal would be given for hit #10 of the inning. No, we needed that 3rd out in
case the game was called due to rain at this point. With a complete 1st inning, if the game was stopped
and resumed later we would start where we left off, with us up 10-2. Without completing the 1st
inning, if the game was stopped and resumed later the game would start over at
0-0. Sorry Kenny, that K was mine and
Mr. Zullos. Good Job! It didn't rain and the next time up we gave
Kenny the Home Run signal and he complied.
There is justice! We ended the
game with 18 hits and a 2nd awesome offensive performance in a
row. The final score was Trumbull-15
Trumbull was now crowned the 1989
Eastern Regional Champions and would be leaving for Williamsport, Pennsylvania
the next morning to participate in the Little League World Series!
Trumbull had an incredible week in
Bristol when we outscored our opponents 51-14 and out hit them 55-21. I hoped nobody in Williamsport was
watching. Wrong again, they all saw
us. I guess Taiwan was not impressed!
of the Little League World Series
Trumbull National left Bristol
after the "Breakfast of Champions" celebration on Sunday morning, August 20th. We had a 5 hour bus ride from Bristol, CT to
Williamsport, PA and I think everybody needed the rest. We were exhausted! The coaches and kids napped and happily Matt Sewell joined us for
the trip. This was a heartbreaking time
because Little League headquarters would not allow Matt to be with the team
because after he broke his arm we had replaced him with an alternate (Chris
Fasano). In our opinion both of them
deserved to be part of this team. Bob
& Ed snuck Matt onto the team bus and he made the trip to Williamsport with
the team. Ed was not able to be with us
as only 2 coaches were allowed per team by Little League rules. The trip was scenic as Pennsylvania is such
a beautiful state. The closer we got to
Williamsport the more beautiful it became.
By the way, Wheelz had made the
kids a promise. He had been foolish
enough to promise that is we went to Williamsport he would let them shave his
head on home plate after the final victory in Bristol. Well they did win and then they did shave
his head. Boy, that looked great! That looked like a nice thing to do!
Andy Konyar from Little League
headquarters accompanied us on the bus and Bob & I questioned him on what
to expect once we arrived. Andy had
already helped us in Bristol when he reminded the coaches that unless the 1st
inning with Brandywine was completed we'd have to start over again at 0-0.
WOW!! What a beautiful sight Howard J. Lamade Stadium was to behold
looking down on it from on top the hill in center field. Our eyes began to get very large. After some formalities were taken care of we
were sent for a physical exam and WOW for the 2nd time. The team from Kaohsiung, Taiwan was in front
of us in line. They were wearing
matching practice uniforms with identical everything including shoes, pants,
shirts, hats, bags and even haircuts.
We, on the other hand looked like a bunch of normal American kids with
our casual clothes. We could have been
in big trouble thinking that maybe we did not belong. So we decided to have a practice and shake off the cobwebs and
try to become comfortable in our surroundings.
Up until this time Little League
was preparing all teams to lose. They
told us how proud we should be of our accomplishments, (we were), and what long
odds we had overcome to get where we were (we knew that). We also knew that we were not satisfied and
were not ready to lose and be sent home.
Whatever happened at that 1st practice I feel the kids came
away from it with a very relaxed winning attitude. I think we all felt that Trumbull belonged in the Little League
World Series and we were prepared to give it our best shot. So we forgot about Taiwan as they were a
team we might meet on Saturday but that was light years from now. We had to prepare for Davenport, Iowa who
was the Central Division Champion and as we were told, the 2nd worst team in
Williamsport. We were told that the
East was always the worst team to arrive each year. I guess Trumbull was lucky to have drawn Iowa and I guess we were
also lucky to squeak by them by a score of 4-3. It was not a pretty sight as we only got 4 hits and only Andy
Paul's homerun in the 5th did us any good. What helped immensely were 12 walks that we received and the fact
that Chris Drury only issued 3 walks to them.
They also got 4 hits.
By the way, there were 2 gentlemen
that we met upon arrival in Williamsport who took pretty good care of
Trumbull. Uncle Ed Claudius and Uncle
Ed Girio were assigned to our team just like Aunt Rita and Uncle Chris had been
in Bristol. These 2 men helped show us
the ropes and prepare us for what was to come.
Although, I think we surprised them a little bit too.
San Pedro, California
Well, Andy Paul was still 12 and I
was still 40 for 1 more day, (we share a birthday on August 25th) but
I was thinking it would be nice to have a birthday present a day early. Andy must have felt the same way because he
pitched a fabulous game to put Trumbull into the World Championship game 2 days
later. After giving up 3 home runs to
the first 6 batters he shut San Pedro down completely except for a check swing single
in the 6th inning. Andy
became a complete pitcher this day as he found out early that the fast ball
alone would not carry him against San Pedro's powerful hitters. He was able to change mid stream, and shut
down San Pedro's bats for the rest of the game. Without Andy's tremendous
performance that day Trumbull would not have advanced to meet Taiwan in the
final game. He was superb!!
I've got to admit that after those
3 home runs I was thinking about what we had done against Cherry Hill and
hoping that San Pedro was not going to return the favor to us. They did not!! I felt really bad for Steve Williams, their pitcher. He looked like he didn't want to be on the
mound that day and I guess he knew it from the start. In our half of the 1st inning losing 0-2, we scored 5
runs on 4 walks, 1 hit batter, 2 errors and 1 lone hit by Dave Galla. Once again it was not a pretty sight but it
got the job done and as I said Andy was flawless the rest of the way. Trumbull was crowned USA Champions!! Many felt that we had reached the end of our
road. No way could we win 1 more
game. Why not? Taiwan went on the field next and destroyed
the Latin American Champions from Maracaibo, Venezuela 13-0. But, their win wasn't pretty either. They only got 6 hits and Venezuela gave up 6
errors, so what was there to worry about?
I almost made a terrible mistake
after the USA Championship game. We had
not let the kids go swimming all week in the beautiful outdoor pool located in
our complex but I thought maybe it would be okay for them to go in today since
we really didn't want them to watch Taiwan play Venezuela anyway. Luckily Bob caught up to us and killed that
idea before it developed. He repeated
to them that "swimming was for losers."
He was right! All we needed was
for one of them to get injured in the pool with the big game only 2 days
away. Taiwan had not used the pool and
neither had Trumbull. All the other
teams had gone swimming. So they
watched the game instead (Usually not a good idea), but it did not seem to
bother them. By now they were a
confident, not cocky, bunch of kids.
The media attention was incredible
for the next 2 days. Everybody wanted
to talk to us even though they all thought they were talking to the loser. It's a good thing Taiwan could not speak
English; otherwise nobody would have wanted to interview us. Luckily we were too busy to worry about our
underdog role. We just knew there was one
more game and only one team could win it and why not make the winner be us. "No Big Deal!!!" "We can do it" "Don't be
cocky" "You guys aren't so good" "Relax"
"Keep each other up" "Watch the
ball into your glove" "Roll those
wrists" "Don't throw it down the
middle" "You guys are the best" They were brainwashed. Here goes nothing!
League World Championship
So we had made it further than
anyone believed we could (except us).
We had traveled those light years between Sunday, August 20 and
Saturday, August 26 and we were still playing ball. There were only us and the Goliath from the Far East. Taiwan had won the World Series in 1984,
1985, 1986, 1987 & 1988. Last year
they beat Pearl City, Hawaii by a score of 20-1 and the year before they
defeated California 10-2. Their victories
had been so lopsided that ABC Sports actually left the game early, while it was
still being played, to air something else.
Let's not get embarrassed.
Chris Drury took the mound against
some kid named Lee. I still haven't
found out if he was related to Cody.
Henry says he doesn't think so!
In remembering back to the game it seemed like there were 10 or 20 line
drives to left field. Actually there
were only 5 and Danny McGrath handled them very well. There were also 7 ground balls that we handled perfectly. Two of these grounders were attempted bunts
that were supposed to be their specialty.
Not today!! They also were
supposed to be devastating on the bases.
Also not today!! They tried to
score from 2nd on a hit to the wall in left field. Danny McGrath turned and picked it up after
it bounced off the wall and threw a strike to the plate from 200 feet. Cody caught it and tagged the runner out and
they never ran again. Taiwan was
beatable! We did to them what they
usually did to their opponent. We had 6
hits in the final game and they all came at the right times and without the
help of a lot of walks. They only gave
us 1 walk. But what they did do was
commit 2 errors to our 1. We were
better than Taiwan defensively. We out
hit them 6-5 and I guess the strategic moves we made were better then the ones
Chris Drury had a "LITTLE" to do
with our victory. It wasn't the
prettiest game he ever pitched but it was the most important, gutsiest
performance that many people could remember seeing. He scattered 5 hits, struck out 2 batters, and walked 4 but 2
were intentional walks which could be charged against Coaches Galla &
Zullo. He only gave up 2 runs, one in
the 1st and one in the 5th when the coaches put a lot of
extra pressure on him with the 2 intentional walks.
Like I said, the bats came to life
today and it was about time. Chris
& Kenny each had 2 hits and 2 RBI.
Kenny hit the big Home Run in the bottom of the 5th. Dave Galla & Cody Lee chipped in with 1
hit each and each scored a run. The
final score was Trumbull-5 and Kaohsiung, Taiwan-2. Honestly, it felt like a lot of other games that we had
played. Only it was the biggest game of
our lives and we came away the winner.
Trumbull National Little League
from Trumbull, Connecticut had become the 1989 Little League World Champions! We had played 16 ballgames and won 15. We had amassed a .404 team batting average
with 33 home runs. Chris Drury and Andy
Paul had 15 victories between them and 1 loss, which Andy suffered against Park
City way back on July 31. The team had
played beautiful defense throughout the entire tournament. We never appreciated it so much as we did in
the World Series when our bats cooled off and the runs didn't come so
easily. It amazed me that these young
men played with such skill and calmness in front of 40,000 people during our
final game with Taiwan. Everybody
contributed to make this team successful.
I'd like to once again congratulate Dan Brown, Matt
Basztura, Paul Coniglio, Chris Drury, Chris Fasano, Dave Galla, Jason Hairston,
Todd Halky, Chris Kelly, Cody Lee, Harlen Marks, Ken Martin, Dan McGrath, Andy
Paul, & Matt Sewell.
games are over and we accomplished something that no one thought could be
done. We did it with talent, hard work
and good old fashioned luck. Many great
things happened after we came home. We
were on Good Morning America, had lunch with Mickey Mantle in his restaurant,
went to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and Fenway Park, met President George Bush
in the Rose Garden, went to the Major league World Series in Oakland and left
the day before the earthquake of 1989 struck, went to Radio City Music Hall,
went to visit Governor O'Neill in Hartford and many other events.
had changed but soon returned to normal.
We had all shared, in my opinion, the most wonderful summer of our lives. The summer of '89!!
I'd like to thank some people who helped support us before,
during and after our win. John
DelVecchio, Pres. Of Trumbull L.L., John Heher, District 2 Commissioner, Aunt
Rita Strahowski and Uncle Chris Strahawski, (Aunt & Uncle in Bristol,
Eastern Regionals), Jerry and Matt Dube and Bud Luflin from Forestville LL,
Uncle Ed Claudius and Uncle Ed Girio (Uncles at the World Series), Andy Konyar
from Williamsport, State Senator Lee Scarpetti, Donald Trump (Trump Shuttle),
Mickey Mantle (Mickey Mantle's Restaurant), Mickey Herbert (Physicians Health
Services), Kay Williams (Captain Cove), John Vazzano (Vazzy's Restaurant), The
Bridgeport Bluefish, Trumbull LL Board of Directors (Bill Woods, Tony Autuori,
Wayne Stokes, Doug Waterbury, Ray Baldwin, George Hairston, Matt Kentosh, Joe
Desabia, Betty Halky, Nancy Sparks, John Heher & Carl Charles), Marilyn
Goldstone, Morag Vance (Trumbull First Selectman), Governor William O'Neill
(Govorner- State of CT), Jamie Rose (The Grille & Bar), David and Marshall
of Hochberg Jewelers, Connecticut National Bank, Ed Portalatin (Executive
Printing and Graphics), Bob Fiondella (From the Eastern Regional center), Wayne
Gretsky, WFAN, ABC, ESPN, David Hartman & Spencer Christian (Good Morning
America), Mario Garrido (Home Plate Umpire vs. Taiwan-great strike zone &
great call at the plate) Frank D'Angelo (Home plate umpire vs. Brandywine),
Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mets, Bart Giammati
(Commissioner of Major League baseball), Mel Allen, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax,
George Grande and many, many others.
If I've missed you, I apologize.
"To the Boys of Summer 1989"
- Coach Ed Wheeler
What would have happened if these boys didn't have
determination, desire, talent and heart?
What if Chris Fasano didn't come to every practice as an
alternate and keep the team members trying hard to keep their spot on the team?
What if Paul Coniglio wasn't there to run every time we
needed a jet on the bases?
What if Jason Hairston wasn't there to cut off all the balls
hit between short and third and make them outs?
What if Harlen Marks wasn't there to pinch hit and get a
rally going when we needed it?
What if Matt Sewell didn't get clutch hits and lead the team
in on-base percentage through the states.
What if Todd Halky didn't hit throughout the state and catch
a great game against N.J.
What if Dave Galla didn't get 3 hits in the Delaware game
and start rallies throughout the World Series?
What if Dan Brown didn't go down town in the Forestville
game and make great plays in the N.J. game?
What if Chris Kelly wasn't there to fill in whenever, and
wherever his great defensive talent was needed?
What if Matt Basztura didn't reach over the fence to take
away a home run against Iowa and throw a perfect strike to third against
What if Andy Paul didn't pitch a great game and shut out
N.H. and change his pitching style completely to beat California?
What if Cody Lee didn't make a great play at home plate and
catch a great game with clutch hitting against Taiwan?
What if Dan McGrath didn't make a diving catch in the gap in
the Forestville game and make a perfect throw to home plate to stop a Taiwan
What if Ken Martin didn't hit the cover off the ball
throughout the All-Stars, and get two key hits against Taiwan while playing
What if Chris Drury didn't have the heart and guts to give
one great performance after another as our team leader?
What if you weren't WORLD CHAMPS????
You would still be a special and great bunch of kids and
always wanted and welcomed in Wheelerworld