The recent passing of Larry Roberts, a standout athlete at Union High and a gifted baseball player for his home town, Edinburg, combined with the imminent opening of the 2021 baseball season, brings to mind the exciting and somewhat bizarre end to the 1961 North County League baseball season.
The season began with a dispute between the league and the umpires over fees. The league officials decided to play the games without paid umpires. The home team provided an umpire for each regular season game and two for the playoffs. Despite some controversies, the league completed the season in that fashion.
Pulaski and Edinburg reached the playoff finals and were deadlocked with 2 wins and 2 losses each when the Aug. 29, 1961, game, which prematurely ended the season, was played. Edinburg was leading 7-5 after six innings and did not score in the top of the seventh. It looked like Pulaski would do the same, but with two out, Dick Fishburn reached on an error and Dan McEachern walked. Bob Brush worked the count to two balls and two strikes. Penwell, who had replaced Roberts, the starting pitcher, fired a fastball and Brush crushed a line drive just inside the left field line.
Roberts, who was now playing left field, raced to his right and back to catch the ball. The ball and Roberts arrived at the fence at the same time. Roberts stretched for the ball and tumbled over the fence and straight down 3 feet and out of sight. The umpires signaled a home run and an 8-7 win for Pulaski. But as Brush rounded second base, Roberts reappeared behind the fence with the ball in his glove.
Loud and vociferous arguments erupted.
The center fielder rushed in to say that he saw Roberts catch the ball. The umpires said they did not see a catch and since Roberts had been out of sight beyond the fence for some time, they could not conclude otherwise.
The victory put Pulaski up three games to two. The next game was scheduled at Edinburg on the following evening. Edinburg refused to play, claiming they had been deprived of a victory in game five. The league ruled the game a forfeit and Pulaski won the championship four games to two.