STAMFORD, Conn. – Players from the Stamford American Little League team of 1983 have advice and encouragement for the Westport team competing in the Little League World Series. After all, they’ve been there, done that.
“I hope these kids can embrace the entire experience,’’ said Brian Mayglothling, an outfielder on Stamford team. “Just go out, play great baseball and have fun doing it.”
“To me these kids don’t have to win, they’ve won already just by getting there,’’ said Tom Piersa, a pitcher. “It’s a huge accomplishment. You’d love to see the team from Westport win. I’m rooting for them. But what they’ve done already is tremendous.”
The Americans nearly joined three other Fairfield County teams that won World Series titles. Stamford won it in 1951, Norwalk in 1952 and Trumbull in 1989.
Stamford played eventual champion Marietta, Ga., in the winners’ bracket final of the U.S. bracket and jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. Georgia came back to take an 8-5 lead, and Stamford tied it again in the fifth. Georgia scored a run in the bottom of the sixth to win, 9-8. Georgia beat Latin America, 3-1, in the championship game. Stamford American lost to the Far East, 11-3, in its final game and finished fourth.
“There’s no question we would’ve won that final game,’’ said Piersa, who started the game against Marietta. “We had our ace (Greg Padilla) ready. We got up 5-0 and thought it might over. You’re up 5-0 and the way you’re playing, you know you’re almost through.”
But Stamford American’s summer run had gotten off to a rocky start. It lost to intown rival National Lione, 6-2, in its first District 1 game. The Americans then won 16 straight to reach the World Series. Only four teams made the World Series from the U.S. in those days, and they had to get past teams from New Jersey, Delaware and New England to reach the Series.
“I remember sitting in the dugout, looking at these guys and thinking, ‘How could we lose?’’’ Mayglothling said. “We had so many good players. After that, practices were different, everything was different. We just got totally focused.”
The World Series, and the era, has changed dramatically since Stamford reached the World Series. The Americans were a tightly knit bunch, many of them friends who attended the same school and played pickup games in the neighborhood.
“I’ll give you $100 if you show me a place where I can break up kids playing in the street,’’ said Piersa, an electrician who coaches in Springdale Little League. “That’s how we learned everything. The Westport players have committed a lot of time to it. We did it by playing in the street.”
The other big change is the exposure of the World Series. There was no Internet or Twitter, and television coverage was limited to the final game. Stamford’s game against Georgia was taped in case the eventual championship game was rained out. Piersa has one of the few copies of the game.
“I think there might have been a radio station,’’ Piersa said. “But as far as getting the word out, people were waiting to read the paper the next day, or they were traveling with us.”
Mayglothling moved to Wilton shortly after the World Series, went on to play lacrosse at Notre Dame and now works in Norwalk. Like his teammates, he replays the trip to Williamsport every summer.
“Watching them absolutely makes me think back to our year,’’ Mayglothling said. “They were great times. Every year around this time, I look at that old book with press clippings and pictures. Facebook and social media have made it easier to re-connect with those players. It was the best time of our lives.”
The Stamford American team was managed by John DeLelle with Tom Chila as coach. Players were Mark Baldyga, Brian Chartier, David Griffin, Louis Robertino III, Sal DiPreta, Chris Forte, Pat Sheridan, Tim Loughran, Mayglothling, Rod Dawkins, Tucker Pease, Piersa, Danny Kocak and Greg Padilla.