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September 2, 2013

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

(Continued)

NEW CASTLE — HERO’S WELCOME

A police escort greeted the Dukes upon their return to the New Castle city limits.

Dukes’ fandom ran rampant throughout the county. More than 200 people were on hand at a banquet for the team at Troggio’s Restaurant. Carvella served as toastmaster for the event as the Dukes received individual awards, while team honors were accepted by president Rocky Rico. The Dukes also received various  commendations, including one from the Senate, House, state Sen. Tom Andrews and New Castle Mayor Francis Rogan.  

“No one expected it. That was a surprise,” Spigler said. “There was a sign coming into town that said ‘Home of the World Champion Croton Dukes.’ It was nice. It was a sense of pride.”

CHANGING TIMES

That following spring, Croton traveled to San Francisco to compete in the USSSA World Series. Having waited months for this moment, the Dukes were more than thrilled to finally be on their way west.

“It was the only time in my career that I’ve played in anything like that,” said Anthony “Monk” Laurenza, who joined the team for the 1974 season. “It was a beautiful stadium and everything was first class.”

However, the trip would end in disappointment as the team went 0-2, losing the opening game to Capitol before being eliminated by the Bay Area Bombers.

“They beat us 14-6,” Chuck Cook said of that final game. “Of our six runs, two of them were homers. Of their 14 runs, nine of them were homers. Our shortstops were 5-foot-8, 5-9 and 160-pounds. Theirs was 6-6 and 200. Our first basemen were 6-0 and 205, they were 6-6 and 250. We’re squeezing for runs, they’re saying we don’t care if you get three, because we’ll get six.”

That wasn’t Croton’s style, but the trend continued and today’s game features lumbering power hitters, less-than-stellar fielding and lopsided scores. A slugger blasts a home run, trots to first base then heads to the dugout.

Many former Dukes can’t even bear to watch.

They prefer to remember a time when they revolutionized the game, changing its perception from a lazy man’s sport by dazzling spectators with sleek fielding, station-to-station hitting and fundamentals.

(So, what are the Croton Dukes doing today? Find out where they are now in Monday's print edition of The News.)

 

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