In ’51, Manheim team won ‘LNP,’ headed for big city and Ebbetts Field

By John I. Blanck
From the Sunday News

It was 50 years ago this August that the Manheim Chix won the sixth LNP Midget-Midget Baseball Tournament . The events during and after the tournament were exciting for boys of 11 and 12 years of age and even today bring back fond memories.

To make it to the finals we beat Hamilton, a team from Lancaster; then a team from Millersville (which had beaten us in the tournament finals the year before, in an exciting, extra-inning game); and finally Slaymaker Lock, also a Lancaster team. This brought us to the tournament finals, where we beat a team from Columbia (Columbia Gold) 5-3 for the tournament championship.

In those days the championship game was played at Stumpf Field where the Lancaster Red Roses, a minor league baseball team, played its home games. What an experience for a bunch of kids from Manheim, a town of 4,200 people. The town supported the team, and we had many fans at the game that night. In fact, there were 8,000 people in attendance to see our game and the midget championship game which followed. (In 1951 there were few television sets in existence, so events such as our game drew many hometown fans and people interested in baseball.)

Upon winning the championship we were awarded a certificate, a small medal, a jacket a with championship patch and a trip to New York City to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a memorable trip.

On Aug. 22, 1951, 15 members of the Chix, plus our coach John Frysinger and assistant Clair Cassel, arrived at the Lancaster train station and boarded a special coach attached to the Red Arrow train. We and the midget champions, the Ephrata Lions, were accompanied to New York by George Kirchner, LNP sports editor; and Leon Duckworth, Steve O’Neil, Bob Hutter, Bill Cowdrick and Bruce Brubaker, representing the tournament sponsor. We arrived at Penn Station in New York and rode an escalator to street level where we got our first glimpse of city shops and skyscrapers.

After walking several blocks we went down a stairway to catch the 34th Street subway and rode it to Ebbetts Field, the home of the league-leading Brooklyn Dodgers. There we watched batting practice and talked to some of the Dodgers players including Andy Pafko, Al Walker and Coach Cookie Lavagetto. Next we had lunch in the press room and were taken on a short tour. Finally, the game began, and the Dodgers beat St. Louis 4-3 in 10 innings. (In addition to an exciting game we got to see Hilda, a famous and very loud Brooklyn fan.)

After the game we took the subway to a Horn and Hardart Automat on Broadway. We were each given a roll of nickels ($2) to spend. Searching for food by looking through small glass windows, deciding what to buy, putting coins in a slot and lifting the small glass door to retrieve the item of food you had selected was another new experience for us.

After dinner we walked back to Penn Station where we boarded the train for home. Arriving in Lancaster at 9:30 p.m., we were tired but filled with many new memories.

Several of us who played on the 1951 team went on to play on the Manheim midget teams which won back-to-back LNP Tournament midget championships in 1953 and 1954, but I believe we all most fondly remember our trip to see the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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John I. Blanck was born and raised in Manheim and lived there for most of his life.

He graduated from Manheim Central High School, Penn State University with an engineering degree and George Washington University with a master’s degree in business administration.

He and his wife, Carol (Bush) Blanck, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in September, 2001. They have three children: John Jr., Washington, D.C.; Christine, Cleona; and Jennifer, Washington, D.C.

John retired in 2001 from the position of general manager at Graybill’s Tool & Die Inc., Manheim.