The summer of 1965 began with people watching as Edward White became the first United States astronaut to walk in space. In July, the Mariner 4 space probe snapped the first pictures of the surface of Mars. And, as August arrived, folks in the …
Community declared Wyoming's ‘baseball capital'As the members of the Powell Babe Ruth All-Stars prepare to embark on the journey of a lifetime to regional competition in Washington, unbeknownst to many of them, they follow in the footsteps of a team 44 years their elder.
The summer of 1965 began with people watching as Edward White became the first United States astronaut to walk in space. In July, the Mariner 4 space probe snapped the first pictures of the surface of Mars. And, as August arrived, folks in the Powell area were treated to some out-of-this-world baseball.
Powell was the host city that summer for the state Legion tournament and placed fourth. The Powell Pacers women's softball team was scoring a runner-up finish at its state tournament. The local Little League team reached bi-sectional competition before falling 4-1 to Fort Collins, Colo., in a game that required the Powell players and their families to leave for Colorado directly from the state tournament site.
But the 15-player Babe Ruth roster coached by Gordie Wentz topped them all.
“I don't remember much about it. That was a long time ago,” said Danny Walsh, one of the members of that team.
“We were in Wheatland as I recall, and it was pretty late at night. Cheyenne had been beating us pretty much the whole game and then we were able to come up and get ahead of them.”
Trailing by a 3-2 margin and down to its final three outs, Powell's rally began, according to the Powell Tribune story on the game, with Randy Langdon reaching first on a misplayed infield grounder. Pete Tester followed with a well-executed sacrifice bunt to get the tying run into scoring position with one out.
Walsh's single put runners on the corners and set the stage for Jack Cabre's game-tying RBI single. Larry Brown followed with a shot inside the first base bag that went to the warning track for a two-run double, putting Powell into the lead.
Walsh wound up recording the game-winning run, but not before Powell fans were forced to endure some nervous moments in the bottom half of the inning. Cheyenne opened with a single and a walk to put the game-winning run in the batter's box. Langdon answered the challenge by recording back-to-back strikeouts of Cheyenne batters before retiring the third on an infield pop-up to seal the victory for Powell.
“There were about eight of us off that team that were part of three state titles,” Walsh said. “We won a Little League title in 1962, that Babe Ruth title in 1965 and a state Legion title in 1967.”
The final-inning rally against Cheyenne provided the last installment in a trio of must-win games to earn Powell its first trip to regional Babe Ruth competition. The team opened state play with 2-0 wins over Casper and Riverton.
They were dropped into the elimination bracket by a 2-1 extra-inning loss to Cheyenne. Powell fought its way into the championship game with a 3-2 win over Casper and a 5-0 shutout of Cheyenne to set up the winner-take-all final game between those same two teams.
Two weeks after the state title, the Powell team traveled to Hoquiam, Wash., for regional competition, where they finished 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament. Powell's regional appearance began with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the host team. In the elimination bracket, the All-Stars rallied to fight another day with a 2-0 shutout of Great Falls, Mont. before getting knocked out of the event the following day by a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Additional members of the team included Mike Catterton, Randy Lewis, Terry Lane, David Pond, Frosty Franklin, Nick Heiser, Bo Brown, Richard Gutierrez and Brett Jameson. Based partially on their accomplishments, the governor proclaimed Powell as “Wyoming's baseball capital” that summer.
“Some of those guys I kept in touch with for quite a while,” Walsh said of his teammates. “Some moved away but came back now and then. Some of them I'm not sure where they went and some of them aren't alive any longer.”
Walsh admits he hasn't thought much about those days, but recalls stumbling across a scrapbook at his mother's that contained newspaper articles from his ball playing days. Reliving those days in print, he said, brought a smile to his face.
“Baseball is America's game. It's mother and apple pie and that's all you heard growing up,” said Walsh. “We didn't have peewee football, basketball or the sorts of stuff kids today have. All we had in the summer was baseball. If we weren't playing baseball, we were in someone's back yard or a vacant lot playing whiffle ball. You don't see that anymore. You don't see many kids outside in the summer at all.”
They played with wood bats back in those days. The echoing crack produced by a solid swing meeting the baseball would lure neighborhood kids like moths to a flame. The modern-day clink produced by aluminum bats rubs Walsh the wrong way.
“That ping just doesn't sound right,” he says.
Across the generational divide, however, Walsh notes Powell's support for its teams has remained strong. He recalls receiving warm community support at games and even offered a nugget of regional advice to this year's Babe Ruth team.
“Enjoy it,” Walsh offered. “You'll run into teams that you've never seen before and you'll experience some things you won't ever experience. The memories will stick with you for a very long time.”