Allan wasn’t writing me this day to talk about Milagro, however. He had more important matters in mind…the 50-plus year reunion of his 1959 Arden Park Little League All-Star team. I was mildly intrigued, so I asked Allan for a little more info, like, how successful were they…how far did they get?” “Well, we beat Roseville and then went up and played Auburn, who beat us,” answered Davis. “That was the team that went on to the Little League World Series.”
Now, Sacramento can be a small town, especially if you have a long history here. Allan and his teammates do. So do I. I told Allan I would submit a story to the Arden-Carmichael News if I could bring a guest. Allan, being his typical amenable self said, “Sure, who is it?” I went on to tell Allan that my former roommate played on that Auburn team that was the nightmare in their field of dreams.
We agreed we’d keep Tom’s identity a secret and reveal it at the luncheon at Piatti’s. So here’s the line-up that was present that day. Please hold your applause till the end or rattle your paper if the notion hits you.
Playing left field, retired San Juan School District teacher and administrator, Ric Williams. At catcher, Don Murphy, CEO/retired of the Optima Company. On the mound, Rick Niello, President of the Niello Company. At second base, developer Allan Davis of Milagro Properties. In centerfield, dentist Jack Stansfield. Playing 3rd base, retired administrator from the San Juan School District, Eric French. Also in attendance at the luncheon were Steve French and George Cate. They played with these guys, but not on this particular team. The afternoon of the reunion, they were happily warming the proverbial bench.
When I explained to the team why I was crashing the party they were very welcoming. When I gave them the clue that Tom Owens, my former roomie, grew up in Auburn, he not surprisingly received a chorus of raspberries.
And then the stories started flying.
In their first outing against Roseville, the Arden Park gang had Rick Niello on the mound. Arden Park won that game, 4 to 3.
The former all-stars attribute much of their success to the fact that in summers previous they would spend long hours playing pick-up games in La Sierra Park, even creating their own sandlot league, which they dubbed “The Continental League.”
Riding high on their win over Roseville, it was on to face the Auburn Little League, home of the legendary Bob Sunada. Said Ric Williams, “He was a man-child.” According to Owens, his teammate, “When Bob would hit one out of the park, it would go beyond the 200 feet marker in centerfield…it would sail over the pines beyond the fence…you could hear the gasps come from the visitors’ bleachers.” Said Williams, “I was shocked anybody 12 years old could hit a ball that far. It went deep into the trees.”
In the early innings, Sunada hit a pair of those towering solo home runs, which put Auburn up by two. Arden Park’s Don Murphy hit a two-run rocket, which tied the game in the fifth inning.
One of the amazing things about the luncheon include the recollections 50 years since. Tom Owens remembers Murphy’s blast. “It was a line drive 30 feet above the fence.” Murphy incidentally went on to play with the Detroit Tigers.
Alas, that was the final hurrah for Arden Park, as Auburn scored three more run in the bottom of the fifth, sealing the fate for the boys of summer, “Arden Park edition.”
With some melancholy Eric French recounted the experience. “It was like going to Mars to play Auburn…we’d never traveled like that…and I remember that in the days after my Dad brought out his transistor radio so that we could listen to Auburn playing in the World Series.” Added Don Murphy, “We always thought it could have been us.”
As the party was breaking up, it was reminiscent of that famous film footage of the last surviving members of the Civil War gathered together for a reunion. Handshakes and good wishes were exchanged, despite the battle wounds suffered on the diamond. Allan Davis submitted one last request. “I’d like the readers to contact the paper if they know the whereabouts of anyone else on the team not present today.” Perhaps another reunion looms. The only question: Will they invite Auburn’s Owens?