DALLAS — Jack Bestwick can still hear the ball whizzing past him, even though it's been almost 50 years to the day.
Bestwick, an assistant coach on the 1962 Back Mountain Little League team, remembers the feeling as vividly today as he did when the play happened right before his eyes.
"My heart sank," he said. "We were winning the game 1-0, but it was pretty tight. There were runners on first and second with two outs. This guy just hit a hard shot. I was standing in the dugout, and the ball flew past me. I thought that was it. But our shortstop that game, I believe it was Charlie Kern, reached his glove out and grabbed it. It was such an amazing play."
The stories and memories are alive and well within the group, which captured district, sectional and state honors 50 years ago.
"A lot of people probably don't even realize that we won a title. Most probably don't realize that we were one game away from the World Series," Mel Morris said. "We are kind of flying under the radar, but we had a pretty special team with two pretty good pitchers."
To this day, the '62 squad is the only team in District 16 history to win a state championship, reaching what was then called the Eastern Championship in Boston.
There, they defeated a team from the home state, Newton Little League, 6-1, before losing in the Eastern Region final to Pittman, N.J., 4-1. Pittman's Dave Chew tossed a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the victory. New Jersey finished third at the World Series, while San Jose, Calif. won the title, 3-0, over Kankakee, Ill.
"That was a pretty amazing experience in itself," Ken Jones said, "just looking at all the historical sites in Boston. It was pretty impressive."
In all, the team finished the all-star season 10-1 and rode the arms of Kern and Ed Dubil – who allowed just 24 hits and 14 runs in 11 games. The strikeout total was even more impressive, with the fearsome duo combining for 115.
"There was no question that we had some pretty good talent, and a team that could hit the ball," Jones said. "But we also had two great pitchers, and probably two of the best pitchers in the state. It was a team effort, and we all had a big impact during the all-star season in some way.
"But make no mistake about it. Charlie and Eddie were a big part of it. Charlie was a big part of my life. We played teeners together, and also had great high school careers at Lake-Lehman. I think we won something like eight or nine titles together, and Charlie was a big part of that."
Talk with each member of the team, and the details are implanted in their minds – throughout the entire magical journey.
"The state championship game was a well-played game," Bestwick said. "The guy we were going against was throwing curves, and our manager told the players to wait for a strike and hit it. There was an infield single, two walks, and then, we drew a bases-loaded walk to score the run. Hardly did we know at the time that it would be the only run scored."
The person who drew the bases-loaded walk?
"It was probably one of my fondest memories of Little League," Jones said. "It was the RBI that won the state championship. Phoenixville had a powerful team, which included Andre Thornton, who had a really nice MLB career with Cleveland. And we got to know Andre pretty well during our stay in Williamsport. He was a good guy."
Jones can still remember the ride back from Williamsport with the championship in hand.
"You saw the cars lined up with about 15 fire trucks waiting for us," he said. "Those fire trucks took us through the Back Mountain and we ended up in downtown Dallas."
Kings of the Back Mountain, and still history-makers in District 16.
"It's amazing that we are still the only district team to win a state title because our area has seen its fair share of good ballplayers," Morris said. "It was definitely a different path back then because it was single elimination. One loss, and you were finished. I don't know how the talent compares, now and then, but we knew that we had a pretty nice team. With Charlie and Eddie pitching, we knew we would be in every ballgame."
"It was a team that always fought in every game," said Bestwick as the Back Mountain team won district, sectional and state title by just a single run each time. "They were a well-rounded group, but they were pretty composed for 12-year-old kids. We had a lot of kids that chipped in at important times, but we had two really good pitchers. It was a special time for us and the community. We had no-hitters, and games that went right down to the wire – even down to the last pitch. I remember Dubil hit a home run over the left-field fence and onto a porch to win one game. We had some great hits during that run."
The history remains in tact, according to Morris.
Two of the trophies, the regional and state crowns, are proudly displayed inside Dallas High School.
"They were lost for the longest time," Morris said. "We actually found them in Linda Parry's home. They were in pretty rough shape, but we were able to get them refurbished and fixed up real nice."
The memories, though, will last through time.
"It was quite an experience, I'll say that," Jones said. "It's amazing that it's been 50 years. It doesn't seem that long ago. I'll never forget the times on the baseball field with that team. We were a special team that just all gelled together. We had a great manager and great coaches. We didn't know what was about to happen.
"We just knew that we had some good 12-year-old ballplayers who loved to play. That's all that mattered to us. We loved the game."