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UPSTATE N.Y. SPORTS LORE: Undefeated GHS Maroon Nine: Duke Miller’s pride and joy

From the 1920s through the 1960s, Gloversville High School coach Duke Miller produced numerous championship teams in both football and baseball.

Along the way, he was also credited with producing future NFL star Dave Smukler (Philadelphia Eagles 1936-39) and numerous professional baseball players. With all his success over 40 years of coaching, his 1951 varsity baseball team proved to be one that stood above all others.

Due to a wet spring in 1951, Darling Field (site of GHS baseball practices and games until the late 1970s) was flooded, and the team was unable to practice outside. Many early season games were postponed and the team’s first time on an outdoor field would be their opening game on April 20 in Wells. Despite not having been outside all spring, they won that first game by a score of, 22-0. They followed up that performance with 14-2 clubbing of the Mayfield Nine three days later at the Riceville Diamond in Mayfield. By May 4, Darling Field was finally game ready and they hosted the powerful Mont Pleasant Nine from Schenectady. The game went 13 innings, and with the score tied at 7-7 the contest was called due to darkness This would be the closest anyone would come to beating this team, as they went on to post wins in their next 13 games. Over those 13 games, Gloversville scored 79 runs to their opponents 19 runs. This team was so respected across Upstate New York that the schools they had postponed early season games with, refused to make them up. This marked the first undefeated varsity baseball team in Gloversville’s history.

1951 GHS Team Roster

Gene Satterlee

Pitcher (3-0) and outfielder, .500 batting average. Due to his incredible hitting, Miller was forced to put him in the outfield on days he was not pitching so he could bat. He would go on to play baseball at Cortland State and Springfield College. Many readers will remember Satterlee as a long-time physical education teacher and coach at Gloversville Middle School and High School from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Don Shoblom

Right Field, .437 batting average. While the smallest player on the team, was a power hitter, with speed and a strong throwing arm.

Chuck Giardino

Catcher and outfielder, .436 batting average. Due to having to split catching time with Frank Ricco, Miller found playing time for him in the outfield due to his power hitting and base running abilities.

Jack Sanford (co-captain)

Pitcher (8-0), averaged 2 strikeouts per inning and walked fewer than two batters per game; threw four shutouts and had an ERA of 1.10 . He also had a season batting average of .433 . Many readers will remember him as a long-time physical education teacher and coach at Mayfield High School from the 1960s to the 1980s and a Flair’s Gymnastics team coach.

Dick Grinnell

Pitcher (4-0), pitched six of the 13 innings in the game against Mont Pleasant. Had a season batting average of .400 .

Bob Richards

Center Field, .378 Batting Average. Possessed speed and a strong throwing arm in the outfield that cut-down runners trying to stretch extra base hits. Richards received a try-out with the Brooklyn Dodgers and would play many seasons in local semi-professional leagues after high school.

Dick LeFever

Third Base, .377 batting average. Great glove and strong throwing arm to first.

Joe Kobuskie (co-captain)

Shortstop, .362 batting average. Smooth fielder and accurate throwing arm to first. Many readers will remember Kobuskie as a long-time physical education Teacher and basketball coach at Oppenheim-Ephratah Junior/Senior High School.

John Recesso

Second Base, .351 batting average. Slick fielding second baseman, who along with LeFever, Kobuskie and DeLaurie made infield hits nearly impossible for the competition.

Frank Ricco

Catcher, .348 batting average. Defensive specialist at the catching position.

Larry “Bubbles” DeLaurie

First Base, .326 Batting Average. Great fielding first baseman.

Jim Meehan

Left Field, .319 Batting Average. Possessed great speed and a strong throwing arm.

Coaches/Managers

Lawrence “Duke” Miller (Head Coach)

Jack Kobuskie (Assistant Coach)

David Cornell (Team Manager)

Charles Catanzaro (Assistant Team Manager)

Bob Anderson (Assistant Team Manager)

This historic squad had a team batting average of .389 and consistently drew the attention of professional scouts. Six of their wins were shut outs, in which they out-scored their opponents 76-0. Overall, they compiled a record of 15-0-1 and scored a total of 156 runs to their opponents 28. This marked the only undefeated varsity baseball team in Gloversville’s history.

According to 1951 pitcher/outfielder Gene Satterlee, “A perfect season in baseball is very unique. There are so many factors working against it; team hitting, team fielding, umpires calls, etc. An undefeated season is a true rarity, and I don’t think we have seen such a season by any area teams since.” Most of the members of this team would go on to play at the college or semi-professional level, and four players would be signed to play professionally.

Jack Sanford

Sanford went on to pitch for Springfield College (1953-55), where he was one of the most successful pitchers in college baseball during that span. Over three seasons, he compiled a 19-3 record and helped lead Springfield to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., in 1955. After graduating from Springfield in 1955, he was signed to a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent the 1955 and 1956 seasons with the Williamsport Grays (Williamsport, Pa.) of the Eastern League.

In 1956, he was Williamsport’s pitching work-horse, winning eight games, while appearing in 33 (23 starts and 10 relief appearances). He spent the 1957 season with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, pitching for the Jacksonville Braves (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the South Atlantic League. In 1958, he split time with the New York White Roses (York, Pa.) of the Eastern League and then back in the Pirates organization with the Lincoln Chiefs of the Western League in Lincoln, Neb.

Joe Kobuskie

Kobuskie would team up again with Jack Sanford at Springfield College for the 1954 and 1955 seasons. The two also spent the summer seasons playing for the Grand Falls Cataracts (Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada) in the Maine-New Brunswick League (a league similar to the Perfect Game League in which the Amsterdam Mohawks participate in). After competing in the College World Series with Springfield in 1955, Kobuskie was signed to play professionally by the Kansas City Athletics. The 1955 season saw him with the Savannah A’s (Savannah, Ga.) in the Class A South Atlantic League. In 1956 he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and spent the season with the Class D Clinton Pirates (Clinton, Iowa) of the Midwest League.

Frank Ricco

Upon graduating high school in 1952, Ricco was signed by the New York Yankees as a catching prospect. He spent the 1952 and 1953 seasons with the Olean Yankees (Olean) in the Class D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He was the team’s top catcher, batting .301 with 8 home runs in 1953, while developing the nickname “the Hustling Yankee” for his fielding prowess. In 1954 he split time with the St. Joseph Saints (St. Joseph, Mo.) in the Class C Western Association and the McAlester Rockets (McAlester, Okla.) in the Class D Sooner State League. In his last season (1955), he started the season with the Modesto Reds (Modesto, Calif.) of the Class C California League. He would finish the season with the Bristol Twins (Bristol, Va.) of the Class D Appalachian League.

Don Shoblom

After graduating from Gloversville High School in the spring of 1951, Shoblom took a different route to professional baseball. He initially chose to join the Navy and served as a seaman aboard the carrier Saipan. After two years of service, he was honorably discharged in October of 1953. He then attended the Sid Hudson Baseball School in Kissimmee, Fla., and was instructed by Hudson (former Washington Senator and Boston Red Sox), future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize (former St. Louis Cardinal, New York Giant, New York Yankee), Ted Lepcio (Utica native and former Boston Red Sox), Mickey Vernon (14-year Major League career with 7 teams), Jimmy Piersall (16-year Major League career with five teams), and Dick Gernhert (10-year Major League career with 5 teams). Of the 35 players who were chosen to attend the school, only Shoblom and two other players were signed by Major League organizations to a professional contract at the end of the training. The Chicago White Sox signed Shoblom to a contract and he reported to San Angelo, Texas, in March of 1954. He spent the first part of the 1954 season with the San Angelo Colts of the Class C Appalachian League. Mid-season, he received an assignment to join the Pauls Valley Raiders (Pauls Valley , Okla.) of the Class D Sooner State League. While with Pauls Valley, he went up against former Gloversville High School teammate Frank Ricco, who was with the McAlester Rockets, who were also in the Sooner State League.

1951 Catcher/Outfielder Chuck Giardino fondly remembers that undefeated season and Coach Duke Miller. According to Giardino, “Miller was not only a great coach, but he also deeply cared for all of his players. He was so proud of our team going undefeated, that he personally purchased a baseball figurine for each player as a keepsake remembrance of our undefeated season.”

For their accomplishment of being the only varsity baseball team in the history of Gloversville High School to complete an undefeated season, the entire 1951 GHS varsity baseball team has been nominated for induction into the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame. And for reaching the professional level in baseball, Joe Kobuskie, Frank Ricco and Don Shoblom have also been nominated for induction. They will join teammate Jack Sanford in the Hall of Fame, who was previously inducted on Aug. 11, 2018. Inductions will take place on May 31, 2020, as part of the annual Vintage Baseball Game to be played at Parkhurst Field in Gloversville. The event will be open to the public.

For more information about the inductions and vintage game, visit www.parkhurstfield.org.

A special ‘thank you’ to Gene Satterlee, Jack and Diane Sanford, Tom Foster, Jennie Shoblom, Chuck Giardino, Garry Roorda and Springfield College archivist Jeffrey L. Monseau for their input in writing this story.

Mike Hauser is the founder of the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame in Gloversville. If you have story ideas, old articles/photos or would like to nominate someone for the HOF, he can be reached through the organization’s website at www.fchof.com, email; mhauser@frontiernet.net or call (518) 725-5565.

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