1967 SHS Baseball Group II title

1967 Salem High baseball team recalls Group II title
Posted on 12/17/2013
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1967 Salem High baseball team recalls Group II title

The 1967 Salem High School Baseball Group II champions are, front row, from left, Jerry Myers, Lester Sutton, Charles Porter, James Price. Second row, from left, Coach Wendell Lloyd, Richard Baker, Albert DeMaris, Elmer Wilson, Woodrow Johnson, James McGuire, Robert Newkirk. Third row, from left, manager Charles Ayars, Dale Donelson, Larry Pompper, Rodney Shockley, George Caesar, Victor Christianson, John Gant and manager Russell Wilson. Missing from photo are Paul Hetzer and George Ochs. (Submitted Photo)

By Jack Hummel/South Jersey Times on December 17, 2013

 — Wendell Lloyd was holding court in the newsroom, oblivious to an impending snowstorm.

“You have the team picture of the 1967 Salem High School baseball team, right?’’ the coach of that championship squad 46 years ago asked a reporter.

He rattled off the names of all the people in the picture.

A half-dozen of his players were present.

We’re trying to get some notoriety in the paper,’’ says Lloyd. “They put the photo in the paper when we were inducted into the Salem County Sports Hall of Fame on our 45th anniversary without the names under it.’’

Not good.

Wendell Lloyd has all the records.

He has charts where he wrote down every pitch thrown from the mound.

That 1967 team wasn’t supposed to go anywhere, with only three starters returning.

Football star Lydell Mitchell was still injured.

“Playing third base, he could throw out a runner from his knees,’’ praised Lloyd, now 80. “He started as a freshman. The previous year, he was 17 for 17 in stolen bases.’’

They put up a net at Little League to keep his homers out of a neighbor’s back yard.

“At Pitman, they called Lydell one of those names,’’ said Lloyd. “After the game, I told everybody to grab a bat and get on the bus because we’re going to have some fun around here.’’

“I remember that,’’ said pitcher Al DeMaris. “I wondered why we were all grabbing a bat.’’

Two other missing players who “could have elevated this team to greatness’’ were Timmy Elmer and Hank DeWitt.

They, too, were sidelined.

“But we had a never-say-die attitude,’’ recalled Lloyd. “We had guts.’’

Who was the guttiest?

“Catcher Woody Johnson,’’ said Lloyd. “He handled the pitchers and he led us in all offensive categories.’’

The team hit a collective .167.

“We had pitching,’’ said the coach. “We had two outstanding pitchers in Al DeMaris and Jerry Myers.’’

Both were there to hear Lloyd pontificate.

What the team did was win South Jersey Group II, but not the Tri-County Conference.

The year they did win Tri-County, even the regular fans knew it was a big deal.

The Group II title didn’t compute. Pitman won Tri-County and grabbed the headlines.

“We got nuthin’,’’ said Les Sutton. “No jackets. Not even a piece of paper.’’

Just a little team trophy that banged around so much, the bat broke off and some of the other pieces are gone.

“We saw it at the induction into the Salem County Sports Hall of Fame,’’ said Sutton. “It was dirty and it was broken.’’

Not worthy of a championship team.

“It all went back to Babe Ruth League,’’ said Myers, a junkball pitcher. “Albie and I lived near each other and I always looked up to him and tried to do better.’’

Myers learned his best curveball from Ram track star Cleveland Johnson.

DeMaris was the quarterback on the football team, but he gave all the baseball credit to his catcher, Johnson.

Lloyd agreed: ”Woody was clutch. He’s in North Csrolina now and he’s had a stroke.’’

Elmer Wilson played centerfield.

“He became the greatest umpire in Salem County history,’’ said Lloyd.

The late George Caesar drew baseball scouts.

Lloyd carried his star shortstop to a tryout with the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.

“He was the only one there,’’ said Lloyd. “Caesar was hitting them off the wall, but not in the stands. Then they started talking about college and I knew it was over.’’

Added DeMaris, “George looked like a ballplayer. He was tall and strong, and a running back on the football team.’’

Doodle McGuire had even better success.

While they were scouting Caesar, Doodle’s speed caught the eyes of the scouts.

“The Phillies signed him to the Rookie League,’’ said Lloyd.

Then one night, Doodle called Lloyd and told him he had messed up and gotten cut.

“I goofed off,’’ he said, “but don’t tell Mom.’’

He lives in Pennsylvania, but Lloyd can’t find him.

Outfielder Charlie Porter remembered Salem playing together as a team.

Salem had to beat Clearview, Merchantville and Cinnaminson to win the Group II title.

Myers delivered the winning hit in the 9th inning to beat Cinnaminson for the title.

Bobby Newkirk helped replace Mitchell at third base.

“We had all played together growing up,’’ said Newkirk. “So we were a special team and we played for the coach.’’

Les Sutton batted 1.000 after his first time up, “then struck out the next four times.

“I remember coach pitching batting practice and drilling me in the leg,’’ said Sutton. “’See, that didn’t hurt,’ he’d say.’’

Everybody got a report card the day after a game.

“It was all psychological,’’ said DeMaris.

All the signals were verbal.

“I’d turn up the volume to drown out the other coach,’’ said Lloyd.

He once went after the other team’s catcher when they threw at Myers.

“Don’t throw at my pitcher,’’ he warned.

“Nobody gave Salem a chance, so we wanted to show them,’’ said Myers, who threw a no-hitter in the home opener that year.

Dale Donelson got his foot caught under the fence at Woodstown and went on to be mayor of Lower Alloways Creek.

Sutton became mayor of Alloway.

Rodney Shockley went on to become an airlines pilot and now lives in the Philippines.

“Are you going to get that picture in the paper with the names under it’’ asked Lloyd again, “so I can call the Philippines and tell them?’’

Coach, we’re going to get that nicked up trophy replaced with one with everybody’s name on it and we’re going to hand out championship jackets 46 years later at a banquet.

“Great idea!’’ punctuated Al DeMaris.

In the meantime, somebody go find Doodle.