Golden diamonds: A look back at the LNP Tournament, which turns 50 years old this summer

Bill Carroll, Former tournament director

Bill Carroll, Former tournament director

By Bill Carroll
LNP Sports Writer

On August 20, 1946 New Providence defeated Hamilton 6-3 to win the first LNP Midget Baseball Tournament championship and start a Lancaster County tradition that has lasted 50 years.

Actually, a special five-inning Midget-Midget game, in which the Holtwood Martic Minors beat the Rothsville Tiny Tims 10-3, preceded the midget championship game, but in those days most of the attention centered on the Midgets.

An overflow crowd of 7,258 jammed Stumpf Field, home of the Lancaster Red Roses of the Inter-State League, to see the game between the two survivors of a 63-team field that started LNP Tournament competition earlier that summer.

New Providence scored four runs in the first inning, then held on for a 6-3 victory behind Curt Aspril’s pitching.

In the Midget-Midget championship game, pitchers Terry Bartsfield of the Holtwood Martic Minors and John Rice of Rothsville each struck out 13 batters but Holtwood won the game 10-3.

New Providence and Holtwood – those were the first two champions on a list that has grown to 132 over the past half-century.

There were so many great moments in those 132 championship games that it is impossible to list them all. But here are some of the most memorable.

Nels Chittum, who went on to pitch in the major leagues, played the outfield and got two hits for Elizabethtown in the 1947 Midget championship game.

Willie Risser of Landisville pitched a no-hitter to give his team a 5-0 victory over Millersville in the 1948 Midget-Midget championship game in front of almost 8,000 fans at Stumpf Field.

The crowd at Stumpf Field swelled to approximately 8,700 in 1949 and watched Tommy Silvius drive in the winning run in the last of the seventh to give the East End Panthers a 5-4 victory over the Ephrata Lions in the Midget title game.

The Panthers were back to defend their midget title in 1950 and had won 33 games in a row, but they were upset 8-5 by the Columbia Pioneers in the championship game.

In 1951, defending midget champ Columbia got back in the final but lost to the Ephrata Lions, as Fred Dietzel pitched a four-hitter and struck out 14. In that year’s Midget-Midget championship, the Manheim Chix, who lost in the finals the previous year, beat Columbia Gold for the crown. Abe Weidman, who would later sign with the Dodger organization, and Rod Gibble, who later won a state wrestling championship for Manheim, pitched for the Chix.

The Ephrata Lions became the first repeat champs in 1952, as they beat Terre Hill 10-4 for the midget title. It was the third championship for the Lions, who also won in 1948. Slaymaker’s Lock won the first of its three Midget-Midget titles.

In 1953, Millersville won its second Midget-Midget title, as Johnny Deibert’s solo homer broke a 4-4 tie and propelled his team to a 7-4 victory over the Manheim Chix.

The Manheim VFW repeated as Midget champ in 1954, defeating Elizabethtown 8-4, as Weidman and Gibble duplicated their heroics of three years earlier. Slaymaker’s won its second Midget-Midget title with a 7-3 win over Paradise.

Hager’s Blue Jays won the first of their four Midget titles in 1955 with a 14-7 win over Reamstown. The power-hitting Blue Jays were led by Dave MacPherson, who had four hits, including a triple and a double.

In 1956, Slaymaker’s became the first three-time champion in the Midget-Midget division by beating Columbia 8-7 in extra innings, but a river city team captured the midget crown as the Columbia Elks Pioneers beat Manheim VFW 8-6.

Ron Rice pitched a two-hit shutout as Paradise won its first midget division title with a 6-0 victory over Hager’s in 1957. In one of the biggest upsets in LNP Tournament history, the Brownstown Brownies upset Mountville 7-5 for the midget-midget title. Jay Buch was the pitching hero for Brownstown.

Paradise won its second midget title in a row in 1958. Hamilton beat Slaymaker’s 11-9 for the midget-midget title. The 20 runs set a new Midget-Midget championship game record. Don Mentzer had a homer and two singles for Hamilton. He also pitched in relief to preserve the victory.

Jay Buch and four other members of Brownstown’s 1957 midget-midget champs, helped Brownstown win the 1959 midget title with a 6-4 victory over Landisville. Paradise became the first town to win four LNP Tournament titles as Ricky Wenger pitched a two-hitter to beat Hamilton.

Hager’s won both the 1960 and the 1961 Midget titles and made the finals in 1962, only to lose to Manheim Township 2-1. Hager’s beat Lititz 14-12 in 1961. The 26 runs were the most scored in a title game up to that time. The first Junior-Midget championship game was played in 1961 and Manheim beat Hertz 6-1 for the title. That same year Local 285 won the first of its five Midget-Midget titles.

Rick Wenger pitched and batted Paradise to a 4-3 victory over Manheim to win the 1963 midget title. Mike Royer pitched a one-hitter in the finals after pitching a perfect game in the semifinals to give Hamilton the 1963 Midget-Midget title.

Hamilton, called Vantage Watch in 1964, won its second straight Midget-Midget title and in 1965 Hamilton won the Junior-Midget title. Dave Trumbower drove in six runs to lead the Elks to the Midget title in ’65.

Local 285 won Midget-Midget titles in 1967 and 1968 after losing in the 1966 finals to Gap. In ’66 Hager’s became the first team to win four titles in the Midget Division, while Anderson’s Pretzels won its second Junior-Midget title in three years, also having won in 1964.

After a five-year absence, Local 285 won the 1967 and 1968 Midget-Midget titles, with Rob Crnkovich shutting out Rorherstowen on one hit. Meanwhile, Landsville became the first team to capture back-to-back junior midget crowns those two years.

In one of the most exciting championship games in LNP Midget Baseball Tournament history, Safe Harbor broke a tie five times in six innings to beat New Providence 7-6 for the 1969 Midget-Midget Division title.

Manheim Township won the 1969 Midget title and the 1970 Junior-Midget title, while Lancaster Township won the 1969 Junior-Midget title and the 1970 Midget title. It was the beginning of a long run of success for Manheim Township, which won Midget titles in 1971 and 1972 and a Junior-Midget title in 1972.

In the 1970 Midget-Midget championship game, Washington Boro scored a big upset over Local 285 behind the pitching of Craig Forney. Lancaster Township won the Midget Divison title and completed a 21-0 season. And Bruce Sutter, who later became one of the Major Leagues’ all-time great relief pitchers, hurled a three-hit shutout as Mount Joy beat Strasburg for the Midget title.

In the 1971 Midget finals Jeff Kaiser pitched a no-hitter – the first in the tournament since 1948 – to give Manor Ridge the championship with a 5-0 victory over Strasburg.

The 1972 tournament produced the fourth Midget-Midget title for Local 285 under coach Charlie Siegel. The team went on to make it five championships by capturing the Midget-Midget title again in 1973.

Columbia dominated the 1974 tournament , winning both the Junior-Midget and Midget titles. Scott Bigler hit two homers in the Midget championship game.

8th Ward won back-to-back Midget-Midget titles in 1975 and 1976. John Young pitched a one-hitter to beat Manheim for the ’76 title. Strasburg won the Junior-Midget title in 1975 and the Midget title in 1976.

In the 1977 tournament the Manor Ridge Giants rallied with two runs in the last of the sixth to tie Local 285, then scored five runs in the last of the eighth to win the Midget-Midget championship. The victory preserved Manor Ridge’s 36-0 record.

The highlight of the 1978 tournament was Mount Joy’s Junior-Midget championship game victory over Manheim. These two Red Rose League rivals had played four times previously that season, with Mount Joy winning three times. Their fourth win gave them the LNP title.

Manor Ridge won back-to-back Midget-Midget titles in 1979 and 1980 giving the team three LNP championships in four years under manager John Zuzu. In ’79 Manor Ridge beat Local 285 in the finals and in 1980 the Giants clobbered Gap 15-3.

St. Joe won the 1979 Junior-Midget championship in dramatic fashion. Trailing Manheim 6-0, St. Joe rallied for seven runs in the final inning, highlighted by Joe Strosser’s grand slam homer.

Manor Ridge didn’t win the Midget-Midget title in 1981, when Dutch Wonderland beat the two-time champ in the finals. But Manor Ridge captured the Midget crown with a 5-3 victory over Ephrata, then repeated as Midget Division champ in 1982 by beating 8th Ward. Manor Ridge added the Junior-Midget title as well with a victory over St. Leo.

Meanwhile, Dutch Wonderland made it two Midget-Midget titles in a row in 1982, as Scott Gegg pitched a three-hitter to beat – who else? – Manor Ridge in the championship game.

The 1983 tournament turned the tables on Manor Ridge. 8th Ward got revenge by beating the defending champ in the Midget Division title game and Your Place beat Manor Ridge in the Junior-Midget title game.

Rick Galgon struck out 12 Leola batters and hit an inside-the-park home run to lead Baron Stiegel to the 1983 Midget-Midget title.

Leola came back in 1984 and won the Junior-Midget title by beating defending champ Your Place 4-3 in the finals. Manor Ridge failed in an attempt to win three straight midget titles as Reinholds won 2-1 on a squeeze bunt in the final inning.

Two veteran managers got their first LNP Tournament titles in 1985. Jim Underhill, in his 32nd year of coaching, guided Leola to the Midget title by beating the Ephrata Tigers, and Dick Weidman managed the Manheim Lions to the Junior-Midget crown after participating in 10 previous LNP Tournaments , seven as a manager and three as a player.

Eric Hines pitched a no-hitter to lead the Lancaster Township Royals to the 1986 Junior-Midget title. Greg Hauck pitched Neffsville to the Midget Division title and the next night his younger brother, Brad, pitched Manheim Township to the Midget-Midget crown.

In 1987, Lancaster Township repeated as the Junior-Midget champ by coming from behind with three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to beat Mount Joy 8-7. Akron also came from behind to beat Manheim Township for the Midget-Midget title and so did Mount Joy, which scored three runs in the last inning to beat Neffsville, the defending Midget Division champion.

Tony Myers pitched a no-hitter in the semifinals and a four-hit shutout in the finals as Mount Joy won the Junior-Midget title in 1988. Rob Burger pitched Willow Street to the Midget-Midget title.

New Providence won the 1989 Midget-Midget title and completed a 39-0 season as Greg Shaub struck out 15 and went 3-for-3 at bat. Burger pitched a two-hit, 13-strikeout game as Willow Street won the Junior-Midget title. Both Burger and Shaub were later drafted by major-league teams.

In 1990, Burger led defending Junior-Midget champ Willow Street to its third title in three years by pitching a three-hitter, striking out 14 and walking none as the White Sox beat the Manheim Township Cardinals.

Scott Harsh pitched a no-hitter as the Willow Street Cardinals beat Dutch Wonderland for the 1991 Midget-Midget title. Manheim Township Sertoma broke a string of four losses in the championship game in the previous five years by beating Ephrata for the Midget title. Greg Shaub led Solanco to the Junior-Midget title.

In 1992 Schaub singled home the winning run in extra innings and struck out 15 batters as Solanco won the Midget title. Lititz won the junior-midget crown and Warwick won the Midget-Midget title.

Manheim rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth, then held on to win the 1993 Midget-Midget title, as Safe Harbor had men on second and third in the bottom of the sixth.

Cory Liebel pitched Mountville to the Midget Division title in 1994, four years after he had pitched Mountville to the 1990 Midget-Midget crown. Manheim’s Clark Showalter allowed a two-out single in the first inning, picked the runner off first then retired 18 Warwick batters in a row to win the Junior-Midget title.