Friday, April 27, 2012

DuBois & The Miami All Stars - 1958 PONY League Champ

1958 Pony League Champions - Miami All-Stars
Ed DuBois is 4th standing in back row from right
The following is an article found in the archives of The Miami Herald written by Greg Cote - August 10, 2008 - about the 1958 Pony League Champions. Ed DuBois, a Miami native whose great-grandfather settled in the city in 1907,  was an outfielder on that team. 



The world has moved on, fast. Miami sure has. But before it did, there was one magical August, and these men lived it, back before 50 years flew past and vanished. Back when Elvis Presley wiggling his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show passed for scandal.

Time stops in black-and-white photos found in a yellowed scrapbook. One shows 15 Miami children in baseball uniforms, wearing baggy pants that look too big and smiles that would last forever.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is signing the Alaska Statehood Act. The Cuban Revolution is under way. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn't share his dream of an integrated America for another five years. And the Lucky Strikes the kids weren't supposed to smoke cost 25 cents a pack.

Those same 15 boys are perched on the backs of brand new Chevrolet convertibles, big fins and cherry red. Ticker tape falls from buildings in a small blizzard as the championship parade moves down Flagler Street from the Dade courthouse.

It was August 1958, and you hardly would believe it happened if the boys who lived it weren't still around to swear it was so.

"We were waving like movie stars," Ed DuBois, an outfielder, said.

This was a Miami unrecognizable a half-century ago, pre-Dolphins, barren of a single professional sports team, still decades from its university's rise to football power.

And so the Miami All-Stars happened, a team of 14-year-olds that won the 1958 PONY League World Series in Washington, Pa. -- the first Miami team in any sport, at any level, to win a national championship.

"We were the only show in town," Frank Fernandez, a right fielder, said.

The 50th anniversary of that team will be recognized Sunday evening as this year's PONY World Series starts, and most all of that historic Miami bunch made the trip. Because the memories and the magic of what they did never left them.

They were the boy kings of Miami.


Fourteen can be an awkward age along that uncharted path between boy and man, a time when dreams of cars and girls can get the best of baseball.

Sixty-four can be awkward, too, a time when middle age is running away faster than you can catch.

The other night, at Shula's Sports Bar in Miami Lakes, a handful of men gathered to chase away the years and polish old memories.
Five of the former Miami All-Stars still living locally -- along with their only surviving coach -- had a reunion, seeing each other for the first time since the glory days.

Former outfielder Steve Vajda, a math teacher at South Miami Middle School, brought his ancient scrapbook, the one with the old Miami News headlines big enough to tell you how big this all once was.

DuBois, a private investigator and a long-serving NFL security representative who was moved to write a song about the team, brought his scarred, old black bat engraved with all the names. (His kids always wanted to use it. But it wasn't for hitting. It was for remembering.)

Beers and memories kept pouring. Raised glasses clinked. A bar manager with a microphone introduced the old Miami All-Stars to curious glances and polite applause.

The world has moved on.

"Simpler life then. Simpler time," says the old catcher, Carlos Perez, now in the construction business. He took his two grandsons to the anniversary ceremony. "We weren't anything special. It was just us coming together."

Most of them never knew each other as kids. Back then, youth baseball teams were based at local parks, and from those an all-star team was formed.

The Miami All-Stars practiced at what was simply called Miami Field, on the southwest corner of the Orange Bowl stadium property. The OB is demolished now. The little ballfield became a ghost long before that.


Improbably, the team would win its district tournament in West Palm Beach (beating a team from North Miami and a pitcher named Steve Carlton), and then win a regional tournament in Rome, Ga., and then win it all in Pennsylvania -- improbably, DuBois said, because "We were the original, real-life Bad News Bears."

They were from middle-class and lower families. For uniforms, they wore Bermuda shorts with socks pulled up to the knee to make them look like full pant legs. For the World Series, they were loaned baggy, adult uniforms. The equipment was shabby, gloves frayed and wood bats dented.

Tom Winston, 74 this month, the only surviving coach, remembers hauling half the team to early round games in his 1948 Buick.
Head coach Alex Balais -- who used to tell his team, "Let me hear you roar, Tigers!" -- is long gone, as are his two other assistants. One, Fenner Philips, used to own a bar on 36th Street called Ma Grundy's. He was found murdered in 1998, shot dead in a bathtub after getting deep under gambling debts.

For the players, it has been happier news. All 15 are alive, and among them were a future dentist, junior-college professor, orthopedic surgeon, chemist and multimillionaire restaurateur.

Richard Miller went from left field to Vietnam to a TSA uniform at the Fort Lauderdale airport, but a piece of him never left 1958.

"I've been proud of it my whole life," he said.

To the reunion at Shula's, somebody brought his cherished old wooden championship trophy, a modest one-foot tall, topped by a tarnishing brass baseball.

The trophy stood at the center of the table like a religious artifact.


It was the sixth inning of the seven-inning World Series title game, and the kids from Miami in the baggy pants trailed 2-0 to the team from Hamtramck, Mich.

The dream was dying until pitcher Tommy Shannon's two-run double tied it. An inning later, third baseman Bob Chandler's RBI double chased home center fielder Ronald Leventhal for a 3-2 victory.

Chandler today works a Michigan assembly line building Ford trucks.

"It was the greatest thrill of my young life," he said of that winning hit. "To be that young and that far from home, all we could do was believe in ourselves."

Leventhal, who scored the winning run, has for 36 years been a Miami dentist. He remembers thinking he wasn't good enough or deserving to be on that all-star team.
"That taught me to believe in myself," he said. "That inspiration given to me 50 years ago has impacted my life for the last half century."

Shannon, now of Tampa, who struck out 14 batters in six innings (including nine in a row), would go on to play quarterback for the University of Florida, albeit overshadowed by Steve Spurrier, and go on to do OK in business, too. He owns 63 Outback Steakhouse restaurants in California.
Shannon made millions, and yet the memories he made in '58 resonate for him as for the others. It meant something. It lasted.
"Magic moments," Shannon called that time. "We've been reminiscing since they unearthed us! There's not many things you get to celebrate 50 years later." He still has his old trophy displayed proudly in his home. The rosary beads he wore in his right back pocket during that championship game are wrapped around the brass baseball on top.


The Miami All-Stars, whose 1958 PONY League World Series victory was the first national championship of any type for a Miami sports team:

LF Dennis Beaird Industrial sales rep; Brandon 3B Bob Chandler Ford Trucks factory worker; Carleton, Mich. OF Ed DuBois Private investigator; Miami Shores RF Frank Fernandez Retired, Dade property tax appeals office; Miami CF Ronald Leventhal Dentist and financial planner; Miami P Walter Malinowski Junior-college professor; Fort Royal, Va. LF Richard Miller TSA agent at Fort Lauderdale airport; Davie 2B Don Mullis Orthopedic surgeon; Asheville, N.C. C Carlos Perez Construction business; Miami INF Robert Roser Retired chemist, Scotts/Miracle Gro; Delaware, Ohio SS Fred Schwabe Owns insurance company; Valrico P/1B Tom Shannon Owns Outback restaurants; Tampa 1B/OF Richard Solloway International development consultant; Washington OF Steve Vajda Math teacher at South Miami Middle; Miami P Eric Wanderon Retired service mgr., Don Allen Chevrolet; Miami * Note: Coach Alex Balais and assistants Fenner Philips and Bill Guinn are deceased. A fourth coach, Tom Winston, is CFO of Boys &a! mp; Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade and lives in Sunrise.