New Castle News


September 2, 2013

Championship Reflections: Forty years ago, the Croton Dukes changed way softball was played

NEW CASTLE — It’s been 40 years since the fanfare. The car trip to South Gate. The Labor Day tournament.

The improbable.

The Croton Dukes were champions, staking their claim to softball glory with the 1973 United States Slo-pitch Softball Association Eastern Division Class A title.

It’s been four decades, but to team manager Chuck Cook, it seems like only yesterday.

“What we did, we changed the game in our era. We were baseball players who went to softball,” said Cook, who also manned right field. “Before our generation got into it, softball was a lazy man’s game. You had big guys that would hit the ball far, but they couldn’t run and couldn’t field. We were playing softball just like baseball — we were hitting behind the runner, playing good defense. We could win games 6-4, 7-5, 3-2, where other games were 25-24, 23-22, 26-18.”

The Croton Dukes were indeed something more than your typical softball team. They oozed competitiveness, strived for perfection and took to each game with a desire to not only win, but dominate.

“It was fun, but if we don’t win, it ain’t fun,” Cook said. “Some teams played to have a good time and get drunk.”

The Dukes won with a blend of technique, skill, fundamentals and most importantly, speed.  

“If we had a 4x100 relay team, it would have been our outfield,” left fielder Buster Cotelesse said. “Chuck Cook, Bob Cook, John Lambo and me were probably the four fastest guys in New Castle at the time.”

Sponsored by the Duca Degli Abruzzi Club on Croton Avenue in New Castle, the Croton Dukes were started by a collaboration between the team’s general manager and Chuck’s brother, Norm Cook, and then-vice president of the club, Jackie Prioletti, in 1971.

“That was the best thing that ever happened to us. If it weren’t for Norm Cook, we wouldn’t be there,” his cousin and the team’s catcher Gary Stone said. “All the guys that I played ball with, they’re all the greatest guys I ever was with. It was the best time in our life.”

The team was largely a family affair. Along with Chuck and Norm, there was brother-in-law Bob, who played center field and helped manage the team; cousin Billy, who handled second base; and the youngest, Dan, a valuable reserve. With few exceptions, every member of the team, whether it be the Lambos, the Annarellas or the Stones, was related by blood or through marriage. The general rule was, if you got too old to play, got married, or became too busy with life, your brother or cousin would step into your role.

“All of us were from Croton and we knew each other and we grew up together,” infielder Edward “Skip” Spigler said. “We knew everybody’s strengths and weaknesses, if there was one. That made us successful. We had that ingredient that the rest of them didn’t have. There were teams out there that had semi-pro players who were recruited, but they didn’t have the right mixture that we had.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • DougDanko.jpg Census shows county population getting older

    Lawrence County’s population continues to get older. However, it is not alone, as Pennsylvania overall is aging.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • backpackproject.jpg Councilman picks up tab to help lunch program

    Participants of a local summer feeding program are eating this week courtesy of New Castle City Councilman Tim Fulkerson. On Friday morning, the truck dispatched from New Castle to pick up about 3,500 pounds of items from the Pittsburgh Food Bank broke down as it arrived at its destination.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CRESTVIEW.jpg Outreach: Churches plan to host picnic for residents of Crestview Gardens

    Volunteers from several area churches are banding together in hopes of bringing peace to a troubled neighborhood.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Council OKs funds to remove dead trees

    New Castle City Council has approved spending funds from its contingency account to remove some trees at Darlington Park. Marshall Tree Experts of Ellwood City has given an estimate of $12,000 to remove the large elm trees from the Mahoningtown park.


    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 12.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Night light

    The balloons may have been on the ground but spirits were soaring.


    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • lamancusa.jpg Tanner, district attorney: No comment

    The Lawrence County District Attorney is keeping mum about a probe into finances in Shenango Township. “We don’t talk about ongoing investigations,” Lamancusa said Friday.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo 5 Stories

House Ads

Do you talk to yourself when you're alone?

Yes, but I’m basically just thinking out loud.
No, that would be weird.
I don’t know. Next time I’m alone, I’ll ask.
     View Results