Advertisement
News

BEST BASEBALL TEAM OF ALL TIME?

Speed and great pitching epitomized the 1976 Arundel High School baseball team (22-1), while power and pitching symbolized the 1989 Old Mill (20-1) and '91 Northeast (24-0) teams.

Each was a state champion, and as promised I'm going to attempt to determine which of the three was the best ever in the county and maybe state history as well.

Advertisement

There are few who will disagree that those three teams were the best this county has ever produced.

Mind you, baseball fans, this is one man's opinion, but it is an, ahem, educated one because this reporter has been fortunate enough to see all three play. To analyze the trio and say which one was the team of all time in Anne Arundel County is not going to be easy.

Advertisement

It's always tough to compare teams, but at the same time it's always fun to do. It makes for great conversation and debate. If you have an opinion, please feel free to give mea call on my 24-Hour Sportsline, 647-2499.

Since it is tough to compare clubs, especially state champions, let's do it by giving me the chance to be the manager of the best team ever. And now that I am skipper, I now have the choice of selecting a dream team of 20 players-- five pitchers, two catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders from the three teams.

Starting with the pitching staff, I would take arguably the greatest duo in county history in Neal Herrick and Frank Parreira of '76 Arundel; Old Mill's dynamic right-left combo ofChris Brewer and Mark Foster; and Charlie Buckheit of this year's unbeaten Northeast team.

Craig Everett of '91 Northeast will be included among the outfielders, but could be the sixth pitcher on this dream team, but his value would be swinging the bat.

Herrick was thecounty's all-time winning pitcher at 29-4 before Buckheit passed himthis year with a career record of 30-3. Herrick could "bring it" -- to put it in pitcher's vernacular -- and also had a great curveball, change and pretty good slider.

The classy former Wildcat right-hander was good enough that veteran scout Walter Youse, then with the California Angels, drafted him on the 12th round in 1977, but Herrick instead accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Maryland at College Park.

Playing for Youse's nationally known Johnny's of Baltimore 19-and-under team and for the Terps, Herrick developed intoan outstanding hitter/outfielder with 6.9 speed in the 60-yard --. By his third year, Herrick was drafted on the seventh round by the Baltimore Orioles.

Late Orioles' scouting supervisor Dick Bowie signed Herrick, who played a couple of years ofminor league baseball, the last at Class A Hagerstown, before being released.

Advertisement

In the Wildcats' inaugural state championship year of '76, Herrick went 12-0 in whatwas his junior year.

Parreira, his senior partner, went 9-1 with a county and state record four shutouts and two no-hitters. This guy was as slick as any pitcher to ever toe the rubber in this county.

Blessed with a big-league curveball, Parreira also had pretty good velocity, a slider and change. He had great command of all four pitches and had that sixth sense known as baseball savvy.

Parreira couldoutthink hitters like a pro among little boys, not to mention a presence (that Herrick also possessed) that defied his high school age.

Going out with a state championship in his senior year, Parreira went on to become a Division II All-American at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and later got a brief stint in the Minnesota Twins farm system in 1980.

Herrick and Parreira also shared third base whennot pitching and turned in more than adequate jobs fielding and hitting. Herrick, who had four home runs in his high school career and a .597 slugging clip his senior year, was the better hitter, while Parreira, with five career sacrifices, was the better bunter.

Advertisement

An example of how these two guys could outsmart you came in the semifinals ofthe '76 tournament against Bel Air High of Harford County. A Bel Airhitter lofted a high fly to right field in the sixth, deep enough toscore the runner from third and tie the game at 1-1.

As the guy was tagging up at third with no chance of being thrown out, Parreira,playing third, noticed that the third-base coach had the runner facing home waiting for the green light from his coach instead of watching the outfielder catch it.

So, the guy was waiting for the coach to yell "go," and yes, Parreira hollered "go" before the ball was caught. Right fielder Dennis Hanratty's throw promptly was relayed to Parreira who stepped on the bag and it was a double play -- the runner obviously left too soon.

Arundel won that semifinal, 1-0, and wenton to take its first of a record five state titles under Coach Bernie Walter.

Old Mill's Brewer was the1989 Player of the Year after going 10-0 and also hitting .376 with 23 RBI for that powerhouse. The Patriots' right-hander teamed up with Foster, the only lefty on this dream team, to give Old Mill its version of Herrick and Parreira.

Foster was 5-1 that year with 62 strikeouts in 41 innings, but was also an outstanding hitter/outfielder, batting .462 with four homers and 22 RBI. He has gone on to star at Richmond and just this past summer was named American Legion Player of the Year after leading Mayo Post No. 226 to the national championship in Oregon.

Advertisement

Buckheit was probably the best pure pitcher in the metro area this season, going 11-0with an ERA of 2.28 and 74 strikeouts in 66 innings.

It's probable that Buckheit's good velocity, although not 90-plus mph, and overall pitching skills will result in his being picked in next week's major-league free-agent draft.

Buckheit got great exposure last fall pitching for the hand-picked amateur team of Orioles' scouting supervisor Jim Gilbert and his son, Tom. The team played out of the minor league Keys' stadium in Frederick.

Those five -- Herrick, Parreira, Brewer, Foster and Buckheit -- give us a high school pitching staff that would beat a lot of college teams.

To handle those guys I would select catchers Kenny Rogers of '89 Old Mill and Dave Fischbach of '76 Arundel. Rogers hit .424 with 16 RBI and eight doubles in addition to throwing out 11 runners and not committing an error.

Fischbach was one of those rare catchers who could fly. The guy was a 6.8 runner on that speed-laden Wildcat team and was a contact hitter, striking out only three times the entire season.

Advertisement

At first base, it's gotto be Russ Curry (two homers and 38 RBI) of Northeast and Arundel's Bill Booth, an excellent defensive player, plus Old Mill's John Murphy (.379, 19 RBI). Curry and Murphy would provide a couple of big batsand Booth a great glove.

Arundel's Chuck Hebron was as good a second baseman as there's been in the county. Hebron, from the Harmans area, had 6.5 speed, was a spray hitter and knew how to get on base. He was superb defensively as shown by his game-saving and -ending diving catch in right field with the tying and winning runs racing home in the '76 state championship game.

Old Mill's Jim McNally, an All-County second sacker in '89, also would have to be on the club for his bat (.352, 39 RBI), and his All-County teammate Jim Walter (.371, six home runs) on third. And there is no way to leave out Northeast thirdbaseman Donnie Shump.

Shump clearly would be the DH as his all-time record RBI for a season (45) and career (81), plus his six homers attest.

The shortstop would be Kenny Buch, the '76 Arundel kamikaze-like runner who went on to play at the University of Maryland. Buch, extremely quick defensively (like former Oriole Luis Aparicio), was also a 6.5 runner.

Moving to the outfield, I would definitely take Everett (four home runs, 30 RBI) for his bat, speed and instincts, and Foster, who probably would be the best of the lot. Old Mill's Pat McCoy (.475, 17 RBI) would have to be on the club, along with that entire turf-burning Arundel outfield of Keith Fluker, Hanratty and Mark Matreese.

Advertisement

Fluker, Hanratty and Matreese were all 6.8 or better runners, and all three got college opportunities -- Fluker at Maryland; Hanratty at Western Maryland; and Matreese at Anne Arundel. Fluker, an excellent bunter now a successful card collector's businessman, holds the school career record for sacrifices (eight) and times hitby a pitch (five).

Hanratty led the team in stolen bases his junior year of '75 with 20, while Matreese (only six strikeouts in nearly100 at-bats) led in the state title year with 27.

So there's the "dream team," and you might have noticedmost of the discussion was about pitching, but that's the name of the game, sports fans. How wouldyou like to coach that team?

Just think of all the great players on those three teams left off.

If you've been counting, you shouldcome up with nine players from Arundel (Herrick, Parreira, Fischbach, Hebron, Buch, Booth, Fluker, Hanratty and Matreese); seven from OldMill (Brewer, Foster, McNally, Murphy, Walter, Rogers and McCoy); and four from Northeast (Buckheit, Curry, Shump and Everett).

So does that mean we should rank them 1-2-3, Arundel, Old Mill and Northeast. The answer is no, although a strong case can be made for Arundel playing when fewer schools made it tougher competitively and because of the Wildcat speed.

Advertisement

Certainly we can't overlook the pitching andawesome Old Mill lineup of Coach Mel Montgomery that destroyed Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 20-3, in the '89 Class 4A finale, nor the Northeast murderer's row and the fact that Coach Harry Lentz's Eagles became the first Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association team to go 24-0.

C'mon, Pat, who was the best, I ask myself. Now don't get mad, but myself answers it this way: Arundel was the best of the '70s; Old Mill best of the '80s and Northeast, best of the '90s.

Tough to compare isn't it?



Advertisement