Aspril Remembers

Curt Aspril tosses a baseball autographed by manager Ben Chapman during midget champions' trip to Philadelphia. (New Era Photo by Chris Knight.)

Curt Aspril tosses a baseball autographed by manager Ben Chapman during midget champions’ trip to Philadelphia. (New Era Photo by Chris Knight.)

Aspril says he’ll never forget first New Era Tourney title win

By Bill Carroll
New Era Sports Writer

It’s been 50 years, but Curt Aspril remembers it like it was yesterday.

Aspril was the pitcher for New Providence in 1946, the year the team won the first New Era Tournament Midget Division championship by beating Hamilton 6-3 before 7,258 fans at Stumpf Field.

“My most vivid memory is Tom Reese (the New Providence leadoff batter) hitting the first pitch against the leftfield fence,” Aspril recalls. “I think it was the first pitch of the game.”

Actually, Reese doubled into the overflow crowd that ringed the outfield and later scored the first of four runs that New Providence got in the first inning.

Aspril, a righthanded pitcher and lefty hitter, also helped his team with the bat, driving in two runs in that first inning, then scoring himself to make it 4-0 before he even took the mound in the bottom of the first.

Aspril admits being in awe of the setting for this big game. He was playing in the home of the minor league Red Roses before the largest crowd in the park’s history.

“We were country boys,” he says

“We weren’t used to big crowds like that.

“We had no idea there’d be a crowd like that,” Aspril adds.

“Plus it was the first time we ever played under the lights. Thank heavens we were only 13. I guess we didn’t know enough to be scared. We were in awe of everything, but so was the other team.”

When the late George W. Kirchner, longtime sports editor of the New Era , started the Tournament in 1946, the event had a different format than it does now. Because there were few, if any, organized leagues in the city or county, there were no championship teams as there are today. So any team could enter.

“When we saw the advertisement in the New Era ,” Aspril says, “we answered it. It was just a bunch of us and we decided who was going to pitch and catch and so forth. Then we talked my dad (Curt Sr.) into being the manager.”

New Providence didn’t have uniforms until the championship game.

“We were pretty much of a rag-tag outfit,” Aspril says with a laugh. “Some of us scrounged up uniforms from the old Southern End League players. The rest just played in jeans and T-shirts.
The team didn’t have a field either.

“Some farmer loaned us some pasture land which was our field and that’s where we played,” Aspril says.

There wasn’t much doubt who the pitcher would be. Curt Jr. was an exceptional hurler for a 13-year old. His curveball was especially devastating to batters who had never seen that kind of breaking stuff before. He also threw a fastball and a knuckleball. Aspril struck out 13 batters in the seven-inning championship game.

“There were four of us who were the nucleus of the team,” Aspril recalls. “Donnie Sample said to me, “hey if you pitch, I’ll catch.’ That’s how it started and it stayed that way. Shortstop Tom Reese and third baseman Bruce Barnett were the other two.”
Those four went around and gathered up the rest of the players.

“New Providence didn’t have that many 14 and 13 years olds so we took what we had and made a team,” Aspril says. “We had no idea what to expect. We just thought it would be fun.”

Other starters included Don Herr at first base, Norm Hackman at second and Tom Reinhart, Mel Eckman and Ted Dommel in the outfield.The tournament began with 63 teams. New Providence beat West Lampeter 12-5 in the first round, edged Marietta 2-0 in the second round, beat New Holland 4-3 in the third round, whipped the Grandview A’s 12-1 in the quarterfinals and defeated the Gap Juniors 5-1 in the semifinals to advance to the championship game against Hamilton.

“After the first four or five games we knew we had a shot at it,” Aspril says.

Aspril’s other big memory of the championship game is when Tom Reese caught a popup for the final out.

“That just climaxed everything,” Aspril says. “Peoeple just went wild. My brother Bob (who later signed a pro contract and played several years in the minor leagues) was the batboy and he came out and jumped on me. By the time we got to the dugout it was sort of bedlam.”

The champs got jackets and were taken to Philadelphia to see the Philadelphia Athletics play.

“I can remember we brought Luther Knerr (an A’s pitcher) back on the bus,” Aspril says. “There weren’t many cars then and he was a struggling ball player so he asked us if he could come back on the bus with us. He was from up in the Denver area. That was a real treat. We asked him a million questions.”

Aspril and the New Providence team were back in the tournament in 1947.

“But Millersville beat us in the first game,” Curt recalls. “Dick Barr (who eventually signed a pro contract) pitched for them.”

Aspril played four years of high school baseball at Solanco, four years of Legion ball, four years at Millersville University and a couple years in the semi-pro leagues locally.
“I wasn’t a pitcher, though,” he says. “I played mostly third base.”

Aspril taught at Penn Manor where he also coached baseball for several years. He moved to Hempfield and completed 32 years of teaching before retiring early. He took a parttime job working for his son-in-law, Mike Brubaker, in the agricultural business, something he still does.

Aspril and his wife Jean have three children and 10 grandchildren and live in the Mountville area.