The year 1956 represented a time when baseball was America’s national pastime and every kid had a mitt with the signature of Mantle, Mays or Aaron.
In Seaside, young players starred not only for the tournament-bound Gulls’ baseball team, but the Connie Mack American Legion team, with kids aged 17 to 19. The pitching was so good, Seaside’s Ed Rippet said, that Jim Dickson — a future major leaguer with the Kansas City Athletics — played second-fiddle to ace Garry Holmes.
Seaside Kids’ President John Morris and members Rippet and Jim Auld paid a visit to the Seaside Signal offices recently. They were each children when Seaside Kids was founded in 1956, and the experience was so profound they helped create and sustain a program that provides athletic time and team experience for kids to this day. “Active youth today, active leaders tomorrow,” Morris said.
“We followed that team, we watched every game they ever played,” Auld said. “That was the age we were. We lived at the ballpark.”
Seaside’s Connie Mack Legion team played competition from Portland, Forest Grove and Eugene, culminating in a three-day tournament held in Seaside. Seaside won three games in the finals, all of them by shutouts, earning the right to represent the state in the national finals held in San Bernardino, California. Holmes won two and Dickson won one, including a six-hit shutout in a 1-0 thriller.
Bill Fague managed the squad, assisted by coaches Chet Bowser and Bob Paschall and trainers George Gray and Leo “Pop” Leard.
When the Connie Mack team won the tournament in Seaside, Fague began a round of fundraising to get the team to the tournament.
“He said, ‘Well, let’s see if we can get some money and we’ll fly them down there,’” Auld said. “He went through town and people started giving him money, and he recorded every bit of money he received and from who. They got an airplane, got the kids to Portland. None of them had ever been on an airplane before, and flew them down to San Bernardino for this tournament, billed as the West Coast World Series.”
Amazingly, Holmes threw two three-hit games, defeating teams from Burien, Washington, and Stockton, California. Pitcher Hugh Springer won Game 2 in a 1-0 shutout. Dickson, while not on the mound, stayed in the lineup and joined Bob Canessa and Eric Blitz in the run-producing department. The team hit .374 in the series.
Seen from Seaside
Maybe you remember those old baseball movies where fans back in the day waited around for telegraph operators to post the scores.
Such was the scene in Seaside.
“You didn’t have a lot of information going back and forth, other than somebody phoning information about the games and positing it in the drugstore windows,” Auld said. “People knew the inning and what was going on. When they won that thing, everyone was elated.”
Seaside American Legion collected 16 hits and 11 runs in the finale against Stockton.
After the team plane arrived back in Portland, the squad returned to Seaside for what the Signal called “an all-out welcome.”
Hundreds of fans were waiting to greet them at the Junction to escort the “Pacific Coast champions” to the Elks Club for a reunion and celebration.
After the party — including a chicken dinner for 165 people — Fague found he still had money left over from the city’s generous contributions. “He said I can’t figure how to give it back, so let’s use that money to create a Seaside kids’ youth baseball program,” Auld said. “From 1957 on, we operated as ‘Seaside Kids Inc.’ No kid would be charged to participate in our youth programs. From that point on, it ran itself.”
Fague remained in charge until his death in 1985.
Back to the future
Seaside Kids, Inc. is launching its 61st year with a membership drive. Funds provide programs for more than 600 South County kids.
Activities include summer baseball and softball, recreational swimming, third- to sixth-grade football, fourth-to-sixth-grade volleyball and boys and girls basketball clinics. Games are played in Cannon Beach, Gearhart, Seaside and Jewell.
Older teams play against teams in the Astoria league and the organization continues its affiliation with the Oregon Junior Baseball Association. Full uniforms are provided, and every athlete is guaranteed playing time.
“It used to be most of our programs were in the summer,” Rippet said. “Now they’re more concurrent with school. We’d like to think we’re doing things for kids in their spare time.”
Seaside Kids sponsors free swims in the summer months.
Auld, Rippet and Morris made a pitch for adult volunteers — coaches, concessionaires, even umpires. New programs, like bowling, require reliable staffing. “We need an adult person to step up and say, ‘I’ll organize it,’ oversee it on a Saturday morning,” Rippet said.
Big days for Seaside Kids include the Ducky Derby, the Sausage and Pancake Feed and the golf tournament, auction and dinner. And everybody is invited to support the organization.
“We get the people that send money in are often older people who don’t even have kids in the program,” Auld said. “They continue to send that check in. They recognize the value of Seaside Kids. For us, we can all say it gave us something to look forward to and activities to participate in. It’s very important to get kids out and get them involved in some activities and learn teamwork.”
R.J. Marx is The Daily Astorian’s South County reporter and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette.