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The DICK'S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series

Happy 65th Anniversary, Washington '55



PONY Baseball started in Washington, Pennsylvania. Therefore, it was expected that Washington would have a strong program in PONY’s early years. A Washington team qualified for the first World Series in 1952 and earned a spot in the tournament three years later. 

A powerhouse team from Monongahela won the 1954 PONY title, much to the delight of the people in Washington County. Could Washington match Mon City? Area hopes were certainly high in 1955. 

The fourth PONY League World Series was set to open Thursday, August 18, with four games. The opener was scheduled for 9:30 am with an afternoon game and two evening contests to follow. Friday and Saturday had an identical schedule. Of course, in 1955, playing youth baseball on a Sunday wasn’t even a consideration. A single game was set for Monday with the championship round on the docket Tuesday and Wednesday.

Washington opened the 1955 World Series with a squeaker against Greensboro, North Carolina. As a crowd estimated at 4,500 watched, Billy Klinzig led off the top of the seventh inning with a home run to center field, breaking the 7-7 tie. It was Klinzig’s second home run of the game, giving him four RBI in the 8-7 win.

Fred (Reggie) Bolden came on in relief and picked up the victory. He allowed just two hits over the final 3.1 innings. Greensboro had 11 hits over the opening 3.2 frames. 

For all of the drama in the locals’ opening-round win against Greensboro, the squad’s second game win over Marquette, Illinois was rather run-of-the-mill. Washington scored two runs in the first inning, then put up back-to-back three-run frames in the third and fourth. John Phillips got the 8-3 victory, tossing a complete game. 

Bolden, playing first base, had two singles, a double, and a home run, driving in five runs. His four hits established a new PLWS record. 

Washington left fielder Don Richmond stroked a home run and drove in three. The win put Washington just one victory away from a spot in the 1955 PLWS Championship Game.

Unfortunately, Youngstown, Ohio was the team with all the “Wright” stuff, Butch Wright, that is. Early on, it looked like the local squad was in good shape, scoring two runs without a hit in the first inning. Youngstown pulled even in the fourth, and Wright took over on the mound. The reliever held Washington at bay, striking out seven of the nine batters he retired over the final three innings. Wright added a double and a home run to get the 4-2 win. And it was Youngstown getting the berth in the championship round. Washington headed to the losers’ bracket and a meeting with San Antonio, Texas. 

A rainy Monday gave the teams a second day off and moved the elimination game to Tuesday night. For Washington fans, it was well worth the wait. Trailing 2-1 early, Washington scored three runs in the third inning and added five more in the fourth against San Antonio, a program that won the first-ever PLWS in 1952 and was making its third appearance in the tournament’s first four years. Don Ferrell and Richmond blasted home runs for the winners. Both had two RBI along with Bolden, the winning pitcher, as Washington claimed their spot in the finals with a 10-3 victory.

Off since Saturday’s win over the host, all the Ohioans needed was one win to claim the 1955 PLWS title. Washington needed to beat Youngstown twice to win the championship. 

Scoring four times in the top of the first inning, it looked like Youngstown might have it wrapped up. But Washington never quit. After a single run in the fourth, the locals tied the game with three more runs in the sixth.

Sloppy play certainly helped the rally. Ferrell singled, stole second and moved to third on a wild throw. He scored when Bolden’s grounder was fumbled. Richmond singled, and he and Bolden moved up on a balk. Both scored on another error. 

The estimated crowd of 6,000 had to endure the tension of extra innings. But relief came off the bat of Richmond, a towering two-run home run that gave Washington a 6-4 win and a winner-take-all rematch with Youngstown. 

With the championship on the line, and the ball in Bolden's hand on the mound, Washington had to like its chances. But Wright was on the mound for Youngstown, and everyone remembered his stifling performance Saturday night.

The game really boiled down to one inning, the Washington third. Joe Kern led off with a walk and moved to second on a balk. John Voytek laid down a perfect bunt single, putting runners on the corners. Joe Hagan singled to right, driving in Kern. Pete Vactor walked to load the bases. Voytek scored on a force play at second. Phillips' sacrifice bunt scored Hagan. Catcher's interference added another run, making it 4-0.

Now, with a four-run lead, Bolden just had to hold off any potential Youngstown rally over the final four innings. Two batters had reached base in the first inning. Only two others reached the rest of the way. When Vactor caught Gerry Beck's fly ball to right field for the game's final out, Washington became not just "the Home of PONY Baseball" but "the Home of the 1955 PONY World Series Champions," much to the delight of the 7,500 fans in attendance.

Bolden held Youngstown to one hit, no walks and struck out ten, earning his third win of the World Series, a record that has been equaled but never bettered.

The Washington Observer newspaper described the post-game ceremony this way: "The championship trophy was presented to (Art) Sandusky by Commissioner Lew Hays. Sandusky, half-choked by emotion and partially hoarse from shouting, thanked all those who had helped him lead the squad to the championship."

During the championship game, contributions were collected to send the World Series champions to New York City for a five-day trip. The winners went to Ebbetts Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, then dined at Gene Leone's Restaurant in Times Square. They visited Grossingers' camp to watch heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano work out for a fight, then swam in the famed Grossinger pool. The '55 champs visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the US Military Academy at West Point.


Washington 8

Greensboro 7

 

Washington 8

Marquette 3

Youngstown 4

Washington 2

 

Washington 10

San Antonio 3

Washington 6

Youngstown 4

 

Washington 4

Youngstown 0

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