On Opening Day, League Honors ’67 Team that Came Within One Game of Playing in Little League World Series
League Marks Official Beginning of the 2015 Smithfield Little League Baseball SeasonUpdated Monday May 4, 2015 by SLL.
SMITHFIELD, Rhode Island – Saturday, May 2, 2015- During this morning’s Smithfield Little League 2015 Opening Day ceremonies held at the Whipple Field Complex, the League honored those players from the 1967 all-star team that came within one game of playing in the Little League World Series. Six members of the 67’ team threw out the first pitch, including one who currently serves as a manager of a Majors team.
48 years ago, a group of 14 boys from Smithfield would begin a memorable season of baseball that would bring them within one out of realizing the dream of many children: to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Nearly five decades later, some of those players returned to the field where they spent many hot summer days to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. One player from the 1967 team, Bob Potter, manages a Majors team on which his son, Nathan plays and threw the first pitch to his son.
“Smithfield Little League is proud to welcome members of the 1967 all-star team back to the fields they called home during their youth to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and be recognized for inspiring future generations of Little Leaguers here in Smithfield,” said Smithfield Little League President Shane Moore. “We celebrate their success, but more importantly the values of sportsmanship and loyalty that they developed and demonstrated during their Little League experience. That they would return 48 years later for this special recognition is a remarkable example of the positive impact of Little League Baseball on youth in Smithfield and beyond.”
The 1967 all-star team roster included, Noel Bennett, Bobby Benoit, Tim Boyle, Rico DeCesare, Jim Dinoble, Arthur “Bam-Bam” Dionne, Jim Hickey, Joe and Kevin McLoughlin, Joe Mendes, Kevin Osbourne, Bob Potter, Steve Rahl and Tommy Thibodeau. The team was managed by Herb Rahl and coached by Everett Benoit, both of whom have passed. (Team members in bold indicate that they were present to throw out the first pitch.)
Playing in Montpelier, Vermont, hosting its first Atlantic Little League Tournament in the summer of 1967, the Smithfield team beat Puerto Rico in a single elimination tournament. The “Smithies” as local media coined them at the time, then faced Massachusetts. They would lose the Massachusetts game with one out left to play ending their “Impossible Dream” season. While 1967 was the team’s last chance to play in the Little League World Series, in 1969 and 1970 many of the same players who comprised a Senior League team for Smithfield were state champions for that division.
“Smithfield has always been a great baseball town and remains as such, as demonstrated by the many players and their families who attended today’s opening day,” said Bob Potter, Manager of the Smithfield Lions Dodgers and member of the 1967 team. “Back then, it was single elimination tournaments. With every win, we gained more confidence. It was great to be part of that team. We were ‘the boys of summer.’ It’s been a lot of fun finishing my baseball career coaching my son, Nathan, and throwing to him the opening day first pitch 48 years later from that baseball journey that started in 1967.”
“We couldn’t wait until it baseball season started each year,” said Tommy Thibodeau. “The excitement was unreal. It built character losing that game so close.”
Nearly 300 players from the Blast Ball, Challenger, A, AA, AAA and Majors Divisions participated in the Opening Day parade of players. Hundreds of family and friends were also in attendance to enjoy this seasonal rite of the spring for local youth.
Smithfield Little League was founded in 1951 by Rudy Alarie, a local photographer, and commemorated its 60th year of existence in 2011. The league began with a dozen boys and one team and played as the team from Smithfield as a part of the four team league in the Mt. Pleasant Little League. Home games were played at the Esmond Oval located behind the mills in the Esmond section of town. At that time the Esmond Oval was one of only two regulation size ball fields in town.