1956 Eagles Softball Team (l-r) Front row: Jack Donahoe, Ano Delpercio, John Cece, Raymond Kane. Rear row: Bill Therkildsen, Joe Pierry, John Harden, Archie Mason, Tom Kennedy, Martin Bender. Photo by Spiess Photography.

The 2007 Season Opener softball game between The Sportsmen and New Balance Teams began on a rainy Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., April 17th at Depken Field. The opening game was scheduled for Monday, but the week-end’s Nor’easter made the field unplayable.

HH Men’s Softball League --
50 Years of Hits

On May 14, 1956, Dwight Eisenhower was campaigning to secure his second term in office, the New York Yankees, who were still smarting from their 1955 World Series loss to the “Bums” from Brooklyn, were yet to realize the perfection of Don Larsen in the upcoming fall classic, the new sound of Elvis Presley was driving young people to a frenzy, Dick Tort was still in high school, and Jack Lagatutta, behind home runs from Harry Carty and Charlie Roth, pitched the Pioneer Club past the Fire Department in the inaugural game of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Softball League.

Later that summer, the Farmers, sparked by deciding game home runs by Mike Grimes and Jim Mason, clinched the first ever league championship by defeating the Neighbors.
This past season marked the fiftieth anniversary of our local league. The history of the league has been marked by many outstanding players and personalities.

Over the past fifty years, several fine teams have participated such as the Farmers, Eagles, Pioneer Club, Club 80, old Crow’s Nest and the past and present Lovey’s squads.
The league was organized during the summer and fall of 1955 through a series of meetings conducted at the Pioneer Club and attended by the likes of Mike Syll, Ed Mantel, Carl Therkildsen Jr., Frank Brumaghin, Jack Loomis, Archie Mason, Fred Griesinger and Tony Corino, among others.

These men employed all their wisdom to compile league by-laws, which, like our nation’s Constitution, live on today with limited amendments.

An “Observer” article, at the time, reported that the league would “improve the already ample supply of entertainment and good fellowship among the citizens of Hasbrouck Heights” and “provide the people of Hasbrouck Heights with wholesome evening entertainment that wouldn’t dent their pocket books.”

There had previously been a softball league in town which ran for 14 years and other organized softball games with teams from out of town. Most of those games were played at twilight. The current league’s format marked the first time that a Hasbrouck Heights league regularly scheduled night games. Evening games insured no scheduling conflicts with the town’s young people who used the field earlier in the day and provided an accommodation to those players whose “day jobs” didn’t bring them back to town until after 6 p.m.

Various inquiries have led to the conclusion that our town’s league is the oldest organized softball league in the North Jersey area, if not beyond. In fact, the “MODIFIED MONITOR,” a statewide softball newsletter, identified our league as the oldest known to them.

This is remarkable in that with a few exceptions, player eligibility has been and continues to be limited to those who live or once lived in our fair borough. Also significant, is that at least four leagues in neighboring towns that allow unlimited rosters, have folded while ours has continued.
It is a tribute to our community, to those dedicated volunteers who governed the league through the past five decades and to our Board of Education (whose cooperation makes the whole program possible), that our league has set a standard for longevity.

Today the league is as vibrant as ever with Lovey’s continuing their nine year reign as champs by defeating the Sportsmen in the 1996 championship series. The governing board consists of Thomas Mason Jr., Dick Tort and Dennis O’Connor.

Decade by Decade Review

The First Decade --
The first decade of league play was dominated, in large part, by the Farmers and the Eagles who, more often than not, finished first or second.

The historical committee has confirmed that the Farmers won not only the first championship, in 1956, but won again in 1958, 1962 and 1963 and finished second to the Eagles in 1957 and 1966 and to the Bombers in 1961.

The Farmers, who were formed from the nucleus of a hardball club, repeatedly finished amongst the top two teams during the leagues first fifteen years and, in fact, were usually among the top four teams right through the early nineties when their franchise temporarily discontinued play. Other teams active during the embryonic stages of our organization included the Jesters, Pioneer Club, Swim Club, V.F.W., Fire Department and the first Sportsman franchise.

The Second Decade –
This period was marked by some very good Pioneer Club teams, whom it was confirmed won the championship in 1971 and 1972, the Wood-Ridge National Bank team, the 1970 champions (the Wood-Ridge National Bank team was the forerunner of the present day “Boys” squad) and Club 80. Club 80 emerged in the early seventies as a dynasty. Research has lead to the conclusion that the Club 80 team won the regular season championship in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1883.

One of highlights of this period took place on August 21, 1971 when a Hasbrouck Heights Softball League all star team challenged a four man team led by the “world’s greatest pitcher” Eddie Feigner in a contest witnessed by over 2,000 fans at the Athletic Field. The “King of his Court”, as Feigner’s team was knows, bested the Aviator all stars by a score of 7-2.

The Third Decade –
This period saw the continued dominance of Club 80 and the rise of the Boys as Club 80’s chief rivals. Although the Boys did emerge as a consistent championship contender, it was the old Lovey’s team that brought the “changing of the guard”. In 1984 and 1985, that Lovey’s team, which was made up of players who graduated high school in the late seventies, took over as reigning champions having defeated Manny’s and Mike’s Vagabond (Boys) two games out of three in respective championship series.

Other teams of note during this period included P. Chimento’s, Sal’s Exxon (later Reggie’s and the Wood-Ridge Inn), Michael Liquor’s (later Main Auto Supply and now the Wood-Ridge Inn), AFCO Cycle, Pioneer Club (later Samson Caterers and now the Sportsmen) and, of course, the Farmers who won the playoff championship in 1978. The players of P. Chimento’s were, probably, the only ones to actually enjoy themselves during this decade.

The Third Decade
The third decade is also remembered as a tumultuous one from the stand point of governing the league. In reaction to what was perceived as abuses of the “best interests of the game’, residency requirements, free agency filing requirements and outside umpires became realities. These problems culminated in a black cloud which was cast over the league in 1986 as for the first time the playoffs were not concluded and a playoff champion was not crowned on the field. The 1986 championship series, which pitted the Boys against Loveys, stalled after one game over scheduling conflicts and inclement weather. Despite the league commissioner’s best efforts and the threat of judicial intervention, these hurdles could not be overcome and the two teams could not be brought together to complete the series. It was not until many months after the season that the Boys were declared champions by forfeit.

The Fourth Decade –
In 1987, Villagio’s, a/k/a “Asia”, vaulted to the pedestal of champions. The Villagio’s team was made up from the nucleus of the old Loveys team and free agents who had departed the Boys and Samson Caters franchises. This team would be the last team to win the championship that wore other than red and white uniforms.

From 1988 to 1996, the Boys, (now also known as Lovey’s) have defeated all comers in the championship series. The old Wood-Ridge Inn (led by Mark Little) and Main Auto Supply (now the Wood-Ridge Inn and led by Marv Levy—strike that—John (Corbliss) together challenged the Boys and fell short on seven occasions. More recently, the Winners Circle and the Sportsmen were unable to wrestle the title from the perennial champion, Boys.

Other participating teams during this period included Pioneer Club, Carpenters, Juniors a/k/a Orioles, Nuziale Chiropractic and a combined Police and Fire Department team know as “Guns & Hoses”.

The Fifth Decade –
The standard of excellence that the Lovey’s (Boys) softball club had established in the late eighties and most of the nineties withstood worthy challenges exerted by several fine squads. However, it was not until 1998 that their ten year reign as champions came to an abrupt halt. In the first round of the playoffs that year the Wood-Ridge Inn team, lead by John Corbliss, sent the Boys home for Thanksgiving without a championship trophy for the first time since 1988. The historic accomplishment of Corbliss’ team was followed by them coming up short to the Crow’s Nest in the 1998 championship series. The Crow’s Nest lead by Dennis Dinallo, Jr., would again be crowned champions in 2000. Dinallo’s squad was initially assembled in 1995 and brought together top talent from various other already existing teams. The sole purpose of forming this conglomeration was to unseat the Boys and they soon became nicknamed the “Dream Team”. Although Corbliss beat them to the punch, the two championships won by the “Dream Team” would be the only ones not won by the Boys from 1988 through 2002.

The 2003 and 2004 seasons saw the M&M Sportsmen, led by Tommy Mason, claim back to back championships. A new generation of Boys emerged in 2005 and 2006, also, winning back to back championships. Last year’s deciding championship series game was punctuated by a walk off, grand slam home run belted by Boys’ veteran Patrick “Snake” Mason.

Today the long tradition of spirited competition among the local lads of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Softball League lives on. In many cases, young men continue rivalries established three generations ago by their grandfathers.

(Editor’s note: Champions could not be confirmed for each year due to a lack of published information. Our apologies to any champions whose particular championship was not referenced the foregoing article.)

Our special thanks to the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education who generosity and cooperation have allowed the use of the Athletic Field facility without which the resiliency of the league may not have been accomplished. ###

This story is adapted from the Hasbrouck Height’s Men’s Softball Leagues 40th Anniversary Celebration program, which was presented during a Beefsteak Dinner held Saturday, February 22, 1997 at the Pioneer Club. It was noted the Champion could not be confirmed for each year due to a lack of published information. Apologies to any Champions whose particular championship was not referenced in the foregoing article. ###

More Hasbrouck Heights History

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