Hello Fellow Berlinites. I was reading about Gorham's Doug Willy being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels the other day and it reminded me of the great years of American Legion baseball that this North Country produced years ago. One of its finest teams ever was the American Legion Post 36 squad of 1965, which won the District 3 laurels, along with the New Hampshire and New England Championships, then went on to the national competition in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Living in the great North Woods and having less than five months to work on your baseball skills and abilities, this area has still produced some fine players that have been able to compete with young men from many states and other Latin American countries that play this game year round.
When American Legion baseball was in full swing here in this area, top players from the local area high schools, would be encouraged to try out for the Post 36 team here. Notre Dame, St. Pats, Berlin High, Gorham, Groveton, Colebrook, Littleton, Lisbon and Woodsville, were all invited to try out for Berlin's legion team. This all started as soon as the high school spring baseball season and playoffs were complete.
For the year 1965, the American Legion tryouts took place at Berlin's Memorial Field on Sunday, June 13. Coach Warren Langley and his assistant Dick Mortenson ran morning and afternoon sessions after which the candidates for the 1965 squad were chosen. Ten days later, the Legion team would play its first game of the season and they would go on to become one of the eight national finalist in this country.
The first game was under the lights and against a team from the Rumford American Legion of Rumford, Maine. Next, was a Saturday night encounter against Concord and then the Dover Legion at the “Common” in Gorham on Sunday. The locals won all three of these games by one run to start the season in fine fashion, thrilling the local sports fans with some fine play.
By the second week of July though, the local Legion team had also gone down in defeat. One of these losses was a game against the New Auburn Maine Legion at Pettengill Park in Auburn, Maine. It was part of an opening twin bill for these two teams. The second game was won handily by Berlin.
The other loss was to the Belmont, Massachusetts Legion team at the Memorial Field, but Berlin turn the tables on the next day. Already, the halfway point of Berlin's regular-season was being reached.
By mid-July the Post 36 Legion team was winning its share of games. Anybody that had handed the locals a defeat was beaten in the return match and the fans were witnessing some fine pitching and hitting. This now showed that our local Legion ballplayers had the ability to beat all of their opponents.
Near the third week of July, the Ryan-Scammon Post 36 was having its ups and downs on the ball-field, after 15 games, their record was 10 wins 4 losses and 1 tie. Their big obstacle was the Legion team from the Capital City of Concord, New Hampshire. They had beaten them once, but the team from Concord only had one loss.
Berlin went on to play and win against the Barry, Vermont Legion, but was handed a defeat by the New Auburn Legion in the same week, when one big inning became Berlin's demise. The week was rounded off with a Saturday night game under the lights at Memorial Field and then a crucial contest in Concord the following day.
These two games really helped Berlin get going, as Portland was defeated handily 8-2 at the Memorial Field and then Post 36 played his best game of the season at Littleton against the highly touted Concord Legion. Just the previous day in Concord, Berlin had been bombed 16 to 6, but this was a different day. To start with, Berlin's Steve Plante hit a lead off home run in Littleton and Rollie Goulet fashioned a great four-hitter. As a matter-of-fact, Plante hit two home runs, but did not touch second base on the second. This left him at first, but his teammates took care of that, banging out back-to-back triples and to bring him home again.
So now, the opening round of the State Legion Tourney was about to take place in Keene, New Hampshire and Berlin would be representing District 3. The start of this tournament was on Friday, August 6, 1965 with Berlin meeting Sweeny Post of Manchester. This competition was to conclude on Sunday and the locals had just as good an opportunity to win the title as any of the other New Hampshire teams. This great baseball team that was made up of area players brought great pride to the North Country, during the short span of three weeks.
The New Hampshire championship game saw Berlin defeating Exeter Post 32 on Sunday, August 8, by a score of 8-1. Berlin’s Dave Chase pitched a two hit masterpiece to become the third Post 36 pitcher in a row to go the distance and win in the tournament. It was Dick Blais who singled and for his third time he hit a home run in the four games to pace the attack. The other outstanding features of this game were a home run by Greg Holmes and three singles by Rollie Goulet.
Berlin wasted no time scoring in this final match up, when they got three runs in the first inning and never looked back. This win set the stage for a trip to the New England championships the following week in Manchester, New Hampshire.
In the games at the “Queen City”, Berlin had a rough start, when they lost their first game to Middletown, Connecticut. This must have been a wake up call, as they then came up from the loser’s bracket to win four straight games and the climax was their final victory against the same team that beat them originally.
Berlin put the final game away in the early innings with some solid hitting and great base running. The game opened with a walk to Rusty Ross, a stolen base and a safe bunt by Steve Plante to move Ross to third. Ross then came home on a wild pitch and Rollie Goulet doubled to score Plante. Berlin now had a 2-0 lead.
The locals sealed their bid to become the best American Legion team in New England for the year 1965 in the fourth inning and they made sure of it. Plante beat out another bunt, stole second and came home on Goulet’s second base hit of the game.
Greg Holmes reached on an error; Art Ellis singled Goulet home, then stole second and Denny Sinibaldi then got a hit that plated Holmes and Ellis. Berlin was now sailing away with a 6-0 lead.
The “never say quit” Connecticut team managed to push across 5 runs before the game was done, but Berlin also countered with two more of their own and this gave them the 8-5 victory.
With this, Coach Warren Langley’s great team was on its way to this country’s American Legion World Series in Aberdeen, South Dakota and we would be able to listen to it on local radio with our great announcer, Rod Ross.
Although they did not win out West, they certainly brought baseball self-respect to New Hampshire and this small city in the North Country. They were without doubt one of the fine bunch of athletes that played for a team that is still remembered in this area’s baseball ranks as superstars of their time. Every player left their mark in this teams history, even if I did not get a chance to mention them.
After finishing their seasonal playoffs and playing in the national championships, the local team and Berlin fans had a lot of which to be proud, after facing the best American Legion teams in the USA. Not only did they play their hearts out, but the top batter in all of these playoffs was Berlin's Rollie Goulet. He surpassed all batters in the playoffs with a .541 average. This, in itself was a local achievement that would never be matched again.
The members of this fine baseball team in the picture are: Seated, Ricky Mortenson, left and Dave Quimby, right. Kneeling, left to right are Rusty Ross (holding District 3 Championship Trophy), Pete Langley, Dom Sinibaldi, Steve Plante, Art Ellis and Phil Ross. Standing, left to right, are AL Dept. Commander Don Still, who presented the trophies, Dick Blais (holding New Hampshire championship trophy), Coach Warren Langley, Ray Nolin, Paul Daley, Dave Chase, Bob Butson, Rollie Goulet,Greg Holmes, Asst. Coach Dick Mortenson and statistician John Ellis.
The baseball bat signed by all of these players fifty-one years ago hangs on a wall at the new American Legion Headquarters on Main Street in Berlin.
Rollie Goulet and Dick Blais June 2015
Post 36 NE Champs
Blais and Goulet 1965