Fame and Fortunate

November 13, 2005


CHATHAM - Tom Hanks would have been speechless at yesterday's sixth annual Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Bobby Kielty, who played for Brewster in 1998 and currently patrols the outfield for the Oakland A's, displays his Cape League Hall of Fame plaque yesterday.
     (Staff photo by Steve Heaslip

Hanks, in the movie ''A League of their Own,'' uttered those famous words, ''There's no crying in baseball.''

Emotions overflowed at the ceremony at the Chatham Bars Inn as 10 new members joined the elite of the Cape's diamonds already enshrined.

''There is one thing about baseball I hate,'' said current Oakland Athletics outfielder Bobby Kielty, contradicting Hanks.

''It can make a grown man cry.''

Kielty had trouble getting those words out, and also those that followed as he unsuccessfully tried to get a grip on his emotions. ''It was the most magical season of my life. I felt like I could hit anybody. It's the first time in my life a scout told me he was interested in me. It was the most gratifying time of my life.''

Jake Pena, son of legendary player, manager and umpire Manny Pena, who was posthumously inducted yesterday, and Kielty were by far the most emotional of yesterday's thankful and appreciative group. They failed to choke back the tears and at times had to pause as they gave their acceptance speeches.

''To see where this league has come today is absolutely amazing,'' said Pena, whose father's historic tenure in the league stretched from 1940-83. ''When my father died, 1,000 people paid their respects. Grown men came to me and cried, saying if wasn't for Manny Pena, they wouldn't be where they were today. My father would say the Cape Cod League gave to him more than he gave to the league.''

Pena's comments were echoed throughout by the other inductees, which included former major leaguers Mickey Morandini and Tim Teufel, modern-era Cape League stars Pat Pacillo, Sam Natille, John Thoden and Ken Voges, former town-team star Jack Sanford, a hard-throwing southpaw and the winningest pitcher in the league in the 1940s-50s, and former league administrator Mike Curran. Brewster's Tom Gage, a Town Team star in the 1940s and '50s and later a Whitecaps' volunteer, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

So heartfelt were yesterday's speeches that Kielty, the

last of the 10 inductees, said at the beginning of his speech, ''Baseball is a force of mixed emotions and full seasons of serious ups-and-downs. I laughed and cried listening to these stories. It made me feel like I've been through a full season, listening to everybody speak.''

Kielty spoke haltingly in bringing an end to the nearly three-hour induction ceremony, which was followed by dinner and an open question-and-answer session between the audience and the new Hall of Famers. CBS4's Scott Wahle was Master of Ceremonies at the induction. Kara Henderson of the NFL Network moderated the question-and-answer session.

If anyone has a right to get emotional over playing in the Cape League, it's Kielty. He went undrafted out of high school, both years of junior college and after his junior year at Ole Miss. He came to Brewster in 1998, finished one homer shy of becoming the league's only Triple Crown winner, and left with a substantial six-figure bonus.

''I really believe if not for the Cape I wouldn't be playing baseball today,'' Kielty told the hypnotized crowd. ''I felt when I went to the Cape I had nothing to lose. If you're a potential first-rounder, you have a lot to lose.''

Morandini, who in 1987 was league MVP with Yarmouth-Dennis led the league in hitting, hits, runs, total bases, doubles and stolen bases, played well enough to earn a spot on the 1988 Olympic Team. He played in the 1995 Major League All-Star Game and spent 11 years in the big leagues, but seemed thrilled to be in Chatham on a sun-splashed morning.

''When I first got the call from Judy (league president Scarafile) I was quite taken in,'' he said. ''This is probably the biggest honor I've had in my baseball career. I can't tell you how emotional it is to be up here.''

But Morandini also had them laughing with some of his stories. ''My job here was painting houses,'' he said. ''I apologize to anybody in Yarmouth or Dennis who had to have their house repainted the next summer.''

Tim Teufel played 11 years in the majors with the Twins and Mets. He was a member of the '86 Mets team that beat the Red Sox in seven games in the World Series.

''I knew it would take a few years to get invited back up here,'' joked Teufel. ''I had to wait for the Red Sox to win the World Series.''

Teufel talked about how he, instead of Bill Buckner, could have been the goat of the '86 Series. It was his error that led to Boston's only run in a Game 1 1-0 victory. ''I know Bill Buckner is the story of 1986. It could have been Tim Teufel, story of 1986.''

Teufel, like many of others, remarked on how volunteers make the league what it is. ''It's quite an accomplishment to take in a 20-year-old you don't know, many from diverse backgrounds, but take them into your family and let them play baseball. This is something I cherish.''

Sanford, who in a two-season stretch won 25 games for Sagamore and had 60 career wins, was presented by his daughter, Kristen, who related one of the many stories she had heard about her father's exploits.

''My father had just returned from Korea and was at Fort Dix, awaiting discharge. Sagamore was down 1-0 in the playoffs and Game 2 was Saturday. My father was not supposed to be discharged until Sunday. So he did what any self-respecting ballplayer would do. He went AWOL.'' According to his daughter, Sanford won that game and got back in time to be discharged.

''When they handed me the baseball, I was ready to go,'' he said.

''I loved it. I wanted that challenge. They didn't have loudspeakers back then, but I can hear it today. The umpire walked out between the mound and the plate and said in a loud voice, 'Sanford pitching, Pena catching'.''

John Thoden went 9-1 for Wareham in 1988, being named Pitcher of the Year in a league that season known for its hitters - Chuck Knoblauch, Dave Stateon, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Salmon, Eric Wedge, Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn. ''I was surprised to learn that after 17 years, one special summer I spent in Wareham would be remembered,'' he said in his speech. He had fond remembrances of his first clambake, his first trip to Fenway, his first whole lobster, and, he said, ''It was the first time I knew I wanted to marry my wife.''

Ken Voges holds the modern Cape League record for average, hitting an incredible .505 in 1963. The former three-time NAIA All-American from Texas Lutheran told the crowd the Cape League was a success for the right reasons.

''When I went away after that summer I felt I had played in the classiest league in the country,'' he said. ''That's what's unique about the Cape League. Baseball, connected by community and family. You got it right.''

Natille, now a corrections official in Florida, hit .443 for Falmouth in 1981 and had 70 hits, both second all-time. He also homered in his only official at-bat in the all-star game at Fenway Park, and yesterday joked that although he never got to the majors, his lifetime average at Fenway was 1.000. Natille, who advanced as far as Triple A Pawtucket, called his Cape summer fun-filled. He was introduced yesterday by PawSox owner Ben Mondor.

''One of the things that really impressed me about the organization was that about 30 minutes after I arrived in Falmouth I wasn't a stranger anymore. I had the same reception this weekend.''

Pacillo led Harwich to the 1983 title, hitting .338, and was presented yesterday by his house parents from that summer and also 1982, Mary and Dave Henderson.

''I'd like to thank all the people in the Cape Cod League who volunteer,'' he said. ''Playing on the Cape those two seasons was a special time in my life. I hope some day my son - he's 15 right now - has the privilege of playing here.''

Curran started on the Cape as an official scorer, and moved his way up the league hierarchy and was also assistant Sports Editor at the Cape Cod Standard Times.

He moved to Sacramento, but never lost his connection with the Cape. He went to Greg Vaughn's house to convince his grandmother that he would be treated fine in Cotuit. His grandmother asked him if there were any African-Americans in Cotuit. ''No, but there are a lot of nice people who will treat him like a son,'' Curran remembers telling her.

''A lot of nice people. That's really the key to the Cape League.'' 

(Published: November 13, 2005) 


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