‘A Season to Remember’: 1952 Little League Team Documentary Includes Director’s Cut | Local News

The year 1952 featured one of the greatest sports stories in Western Pennsylvania history.

A baseball team made up of children from Monongahela has qualified for the Little League World Series championship game. To date, it is the only team from Western Pennsylvania to have reached this game.

It’s a story of triumph, tragedy and redemption, which was captured in WQED’s documentary, “A Season to Remember: The Baseball Boys of Mon City.”

A shorter version of the film premiered in October. A new, expanded director’s cut, featuring an additional 10 minutes, will premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ringgold Middle School.

“There was a lot of content that we couldn’t fit into a 30-minute broadcast window,” explained Beth Dolinar, writer, producer and narrator of the documentary.

Dolinar, a Finleyville native who graduated from Ringgold High School in 1977, said she had wanted to do this documentary for a long time. This is understandable, because this story has several stages.

Scott Frederick, a retired history teacher from Ringgold High School, believes there are four chapters to the story.

The first chapter involves this 14-boy team called the Monongahela Mighty Mites winning the state Little League Championship.

In the state championship game, Monongahela hit four straight home runs in the fifth inning to stretch a 2-1 lead over Hickory to the eventual final score of 6-1.

“The newspaper said it was the best Little League team in history so far,” Frederick said. “They really were. In their first 15 playoff games, they allowed just five hits.

Dick Sacane pitched a full game on one hit in the state title game, which followed a one-hitter performance by George Fabian in the semifinals – an 8-0 win over Mid- Valley. Sacane, who hit one of four fifth-inning home runs in the championship game, has been dubbed “The Babe Ruth of Little League”.

They were a team that combined excellent striking with exceptional throwing on a staff that included southpaw Eddie Kikla, nicknamed the “Cy Young of Little League”. He was no slouch either, with two homers in the state title game

“The 1952 team was so talented,” Dolinar said. “They were considered unbeatable. We interviewed the coaches’ daughters. They remembered their dads saying they had never seen so much talent in one place.

The second chapter deals with the tragedy, a part of the story that Frederick, a Monongahela native, knew little about until his 2016 visit to Williamsport.

Many Monongahela residents traveled to Williamsport for the state championship, including a group of recent Monongahela High School graduates.

A known criminal ran into three of the boys as they slept in their car. He killed the driver, 18-year-old Raymond Smith, and forced 17-year-old Herbie Hixenbaugh to drive.

“These boys were sleeping in a car in a parking lot,” Frederick explained. “A career criminal approached them. He took them hostage. He shot the driver, who later died.

Hixenbaugh’s quick thinking saved his life and that of another teenager as he signaled SOS with the car’s brake lights as he drove past a parked police cruiser.

The headlines from the August 18, 1952 edition of The Republican Daily mark each event. It reads, “State LL Champions Given Rousing Welcome Home” with photos from the parade honoring the team. The other reads, “Local LL Fan Slain Near Williamsport.”

“This horrible thing happened the same day this wonderful thing happened,” Dolinar said. “How do you manage to hold two completely different emotions in your head at the same time? That’s what it took to tell this story.

Chapter three is the team’s appearance in the Little League World Series as they continued to roll through to the championship game.

In the semifinals, Monongahela defeated a team from Hackensack, NJ, by a score of 10-1.

This set up the championship game against Norwalk, Connecticut. A fifth-inning Sacane home run gave Monongahela the 3-2 lead he took in the sixth and final innings, as Kikla dominated on the mound.

However, Norwalk picked up two runs in the sixth and won 4-3.

Tom DeRosa served as the team’s bat boy. His brother, Frank, was a catcher on the team.

“They were all my buddies,” he said. “It was really exciting to be there. That team was phenomenal. They were crazy good. You never went there thinking they were going to lose. They’re a group of kids who were just seconds away from being world champions.

He said he remembers those days vividly, including the celebratory parade to welcome the state champions.

“That Little League team got everyone’s attention,” DeRosa remembers fondly. “Everyone in the city knew them. Even people from other cities like Donora and Charleroi knew that the children of Mon City were participating in the Little League World Series. The sidewalk looked like a parade of tickers to Yankee Stadium. It was noisy. You couldn’t even park at Mon City. It was a big, big, big problem. »

Chapter four of the story wasn’t written until two years later, when an 11-member Monongahela team from that Little League team won the Pony League World Series in Washington.

Monongahela beat teams from much bigger cities like San Antonio, Texas and Beverly Hills, California before beating Chicago 8-2 in the championship game.

“They were resilient,” Frederick said. “Some of them said it was redemption, not just for them, but for the whole community. From my point of view, it was really good over evil. It’s really a story of underdogs winning. It’s a redemption story, really, for everyone.

Tickets are free for Wednesday’s screening but required due to limited auditorium capacity. They’re available on Eventbrite or can be picked up in person at the Monongahela Area Historical Society at 711 West Main St.

Doors will open at 6 p.m.

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