1961 El Campo Little Leaguers reunite
July 9, 2011 at 2:09 a.m.
EL CAMPO - Time may have taken-most of their speed, skills and athleticism, but one thing it didn't take away from the 1961 El Campo Little League World Series team was their love for the game and memories.
The team got together last month at the Little League Field for their 50-year reunion.
"We became friends and good teammates and here we are 50 years later and we start picking back up just where we were," said Danny Hauser, who played in the infield.
The reunion was part of an event to help the El Campo Little League raise money to renovate the park, which is also used by El Campo High School.
In 1961, the El Campo team advanced to the series Final, but lost to the West team from El Cajon, Calif. 4-2.
Members of the team share some of their fondest memories about the summer of 1961.
The series was single elimination back then and was not televised that year.
In the first game of the series, El Campo opened with the North team from Terre Haute, Ind. and won 4-2 after Bill Shutt hit a walk- off home run in the ninth inning.
But for one of their coaches, what stood out was the El Campo defense throwing out five Terre Haute runners at home.
"Back then and even now it's unheard of," said J.L. Woodyard.
El Campo advanced to the following round where they beat the Latin American team from Monterrey, Mexico 1-0.
Phillip Winfield came in relief during the fifth and sixth innings of the final and gave up the game-winning home run in El Campo's loss.
But don't expect any shame or bitterness from Winfield.
"It has to happen to somebody," Winfield said. "A lot of people would've loved to have been in my position."
Members of the team said that learning to accept defeat was not only part of baseball, but also part of life.
"It pushed me off to do what I've done in my life," Shutt said.
Some lasting memories happened off the field as well when the teams met Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and came away with some autographed balls.
Pitcher Alonzo Ramirez chuckled as he reminisced about the Williams signed ball he had. The fate of that ball was something straight out of the movie "The Sandlot."
"We didn't have a baseball one time so I went and grabbed the Ted Williams autographed baseball and took it to the field," Ramirez said.
According to Ramirez the ball disintegrated after being used so much.
In 2010 the Little Leaguers from Pearland made it to the series and Winfield was in the middle of the hoopla, literally as Pearland is one of three cities where he owns a Buffalo Wild Wings.
He said that even half a century later people still remember the El Campo team.
"It seems like every time somebody around here goes to the World Series our names come up," Winfield said. "People know it for some reason and it's been one of the most gratifying things I've ever done."
After helping El Campo High School win the 1968 Class 3A State Championship Ramirez was selected in the 10th round of the MLB draft that summer by the New York Yankees, making him the only player from the Little League team to be selected in the draft.
Ramirez played in the Yankees farm system for two years.
The 1961 team was joined at the fundraiser by El Campo teams that reached the series in various age groups from 1952, 1961 and 2006 along with softball world series from 2003 and the 2006 Junior League World Championship teams.
The teams were mixed and played a slow-pitch softball game.
The event also featured appearances from Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and former major leaguer Jason LaRue as well as auctions for a Williams autographed baseball and a Carlos Zambrano signed jersey.
Event organizer Mark Van Gorp said that although the baseball fields themselves are in good shape, the stands and the rest of the facility is showing 60-years-old and showing it's age.
"We want an opportunity to get everything put together and just have a nice facility where we can host some select tournaments and even state tournaments," Van Gorp said.
Van Gorp said the goal is to raise between $1.2 to $1.4 million for the upgrades. Prior to the event he said the El Campo Little League was between $300,000 and $320,000 short of the goal.