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It probably doesn’t rank up there with the thrilling 1960 Boyle Trophy hockey championship win over St. Bon’s, but the St. Pat’s junior baseball title 10 years later is still a highlight on the list of athletic achievements for those who donned the green and gold of St. Patrick’s Hall school, one of the old club systems back in the day.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Patricians’ St. John’s junior baseball championship, an unlikely win over a strong Guards squad at Wishingwell Ball Park, according to old newspaper clippings from The Daily News and The Evening Telegram.
It was the first city junior baseball crown and Jim Daley Memorial Trophy for St. Pat’s, which entered the junior circuit three years previously, in 1967.
The boys who wore the green and gold still talk about it today, and a big 50th celebration was set for this summer, until the pandemic scrapped those plans.
That St. Pat’s won the championship is probably not the big story, although the Patricians’ first win was nonetheless noteworthy.
It’s how the Irish went about winning that makes this an interesting tale.
Guards were a very strong team, having won the city’s junior crown seven of the previous nine years. Three players from the squad — Keith Collins, Bill Fitzgerald and Ken Dawe — went on to the Hall of Fame, the latter as a longtime baseball builder in addition to athlete.
St. Pat’s and the Guards would decide the series with three games on Saturday, Sept. 9, 1970 at a cold, gusty and generally uncomfortable Wishingwell Ball Park in St. John’s.
The late, great VOCM broadcaster George McLaren was part of the umpiring crew for all three games.
Guards struck first, winning Game 1 handily Saturday morning — 6-0 on the strength of four runs in the fourth inning and three-hit, shutout pitching from Dawe.
St. Pat’s, coached by former Irish senior star Mike Martin, won Game 2 3-2 behind Ron Power’s pitching. Power and his battery mate, catcher Brian Brocklehurst, would both go on to forge Hall of Fame careers in fast-pitch softball, Power as a pitcher, ironically enough.
St. Pat’s forced a deciding game in the series, the third straight game for the day and back half of an afternoon doubleheader.
Brocklehurst, a two-sport star who also shined on the ice, winning a Boyle Trophy championship with St. Bon’s before going on to star for the St. John’s Capitals, was back behind the plate again in Game 3.
“Brock” has half-jokingly blamed that Saturday in 1970 for the start of his knee ailments.
Everything happens with two out, and the Irish proved that in Game 3, coming from behind to beat Guards 4-3 and win the championship.
The teams were scoreless through five innings. Dawe and the Patricians’ Dennis McDonald were the starting pitchers.
Trailing 1-0, Guards scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning, two on a Keith Collins inside-the-park home run.
In the bottom half of the seventh, with two out, MacDonald drew a walk and Gary Pinto singled, setting the stage for Gerry Connolly’s heroics.
Connolly ripped a two-run triple to even the score 3-3. Wayne Yetman then stepped to the plate, and delivered a single to score Connolly for a 4-3 final.
The celebration didn’t reach the magnitude of the St. Pat’s Boyle Trophy win in 1960, over St. Bon’s on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, snapping a Blue-Golds championship run of 16 straight (between 1944-1960) titles.
But it was still a pretty big deal all the same.
Members of the winning Irish junior baseball squad were Brian Brocklehurst, Wayne Yetman, Bob Janes, Ed Burke, Bob Coffey, Ron Power, Gerry Connolly, Gary Pinto, Dave Parsley, Dennis MacDonald, Bill Cochrane, Bob Walsh, Bob Wilson, Dave Martin, Bill Murray, Bob Jackman and Randy Royle, and coaches Mike Martin and Ken Coleman.