P-38's Celebrate the 1975 American Legion Championship Team.
TORRINGTON: When Biff Pond talks about his 1975, P-38’s American Legion baseball team that won that years State Championship, he can’t help but fight back the emotions, especially as the team celebrated the 40th Anniversary of one astounding team that captivated the City of Torrington the way no baseball team has since.
“Were we the most talented team, one through nine?” Pond asked, “We might not have been but we were the best team when we had to be. It was a team that refused to lose.”
That team posted a 35-4 overall record and was one of the top ranked teams in the entire country.
None of the players involved or their fans will ever forget what it was like in Torrington when the team came back into town after winning the Championship with a 5-3 victory over rival Bristol, a team they had lost to the year before.
“We played in Waterbury at Municipal Stadium,” Pond said, “We had a police escort out of the stadium all the way back to town, past Dick’s Restaurant and back to Fuessenich Park.”
Another big event was happening at that time, Pond was getting married in three days as well but getting ready for the next game in Quincy, Massachusetts prevented him from doing something else pretty import.
“I missed my own wedding rehearsal,” Pond said, “I had a game to get ready for.”
The excitement continued as the team prepared to go to the regionals and they received a grand send off from their home field.
“Ella Grasso, who was the governor of Connecticut at the time, met us at the park to send us off,” Pond said, “So it was real nice. It was just marvelous.”
The motivation for the 1975 season came the year before when they were bounced by Bristol.
“For the next 365 days,” Pond said, “These guys were determined to get back and win it.”
Five of the players were on hand on Sunday night, a night the team uses to salute the past years team with annual awards, but this one had special meaning to those handful of players.
Tom Keslow, a flame thrower who dominated in the Tournament that year and closed out the clincher with a ninth inning that featured him challenging the Bristol batters to try and hit whatever he was throwing.
His catcher, Fred Maraia, told the story of that last inning and how Keslow challenged the hitters.
“It’s the last inning,” Maraia said, “There’s two outs. Tommy throws a strike, the kid doesn’t swing so he walks up to the plate and says, “Swing the bat!” The crowd is screaming and I ask Tommy what he’s doing as I underhand the ball back to him. He throws another strike, strike two. He comes running down and says, “You big baby, what do you have the bat for?” So I figure a waste pitch but no, Tommy throws a fastball and its strike three and we win the game.”
Three other standouts were on hand.
Scott Arigoni, who spent some time in the St Louis Cardinals organization, brought a dynamic assortment of pitches to Fuessenich Park well after he left pro ball and is a legendary member of the Torrington community.
Don Murelli played AAA pro ball and has always had the distinction of moving the great Cal Ripken from his position when he came onboard.
Injuries derailed both players’ careers but they remained in the area and always found their way back to Fuessenich Park.
Terry Musselman was one of the toughest players ever to put on a P-38’s uniform and was every bit the competitor that was the standard for that team, that year.
Former Torrington baseball coach Gerry Carbone, who led the Raiders to be one the most consistent forces in the Naugatuck Valley League during his tenure, experienced what it was like on top with the P-38’s and brought that winning tradition to THS. He was not able to attend on Sunday but is a staple in P-38’s family.
Each player on that team grew from the experience and more importantly, used those disciplines once they graduated and went out into the world.
“Look how well they all did for themselves,” Pond said, “That’s what makes me the most proud. The fact that they all became good men.”
The P-38’s get plenty of competition for players from AAU travel teams and the like each season.
Getting all the top players from the Torrington area to stay and play for the Legion team is key to having the team compete on a year to year basis.
Manager RJ Poniatoski and his talented staff of assistants are as dedicated a group as you will find in the game and players would certainly benefit from the experience.
Here’s hoping that talent from Torrington, stays in Torrington.
Would be nice to have another police escort back into T-Town, wouldn’t it?
NOTES: Plenty of next level talent was on hand on Sunday night as well.
Evan Scribner, a current member of the Seattle Mariners after being traded from Oakland, spoke with fondness about his time with the P-38’s and how it helped shape the pitcher he became, one that is now in his sixth year in the majors.
Conor Bierfledt, who is regarded as one of the top power prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organizations, was on hand and getting ready to start his third season as a professional.
Michael Fabiaschi spent four years in the Oakland organization and spent time with the Legion team, time he said he would never forget.
Each of the three above mentioned players remind you a lot of those players from the 1975 team. Winners in whatever they chose to do.
The team awards were also presented on Sunday night for the 2015 campaign.
The Scribner Family award went to Mitch Zagrodnik.
The Player of the Year award was given to Shane Bierfeldt.
The Volunteer award went to the daughter of Bernie Rubino, who passed earlier this fall and was accepted by his daughter, Joyce.
The Coaches award went to Perry Weingart.