(We take a look back at the 1982 EMass Division 1 North baseball tournament game between Winchester and Burlington. The following is a first-hand account at the game by Mark Reardon, Winchester’s starting pitcher on that day.)
I was talking with a friend who shall remain nameless (Jeff Stackpole) about how losing sports your senior year in high school is so difficult on kids and imagining what it would have been like if we hadn’t had our senior year of baseball.
It got me thinking about all the incredible stuff that happened that year. How talented our team was and how confident we were as a group starting that season only to have a 1-3 start slap us in the face.
But I also remember us never quitting and winning 12 of our next 15 to get into the state tournament.
I remember a lot of laughs at practice, on bus rides, and after victories.
I remember a lineup that was dangerous from top to bottom with the likes of Jeff, Richard Fennell, Paul White, Chuck Allard, Stephen MacDonald, Steve Costello and Chris Cahill.
A pitching rotation of Costello, “Macky” and myself that benefitted from lots of runs and a coach in Mr. Chase that tolerated our nonsense because he knew how competitive we were deep down.
It’s easy to remember that year every time I look in the mirror and see my crooked, broken nose courtesy of a throw from Rich Fennell during warmups one day.
When we qualified for the tournament we had to face Lynn English in the first round at Fraser Field in Lynn and despite not being given much of a chance we upset them and moved on to face, ironically for me, Burlington (where I have lived since 2001), our Middlesex League rivals, at Simonds Park. They were a great team also (winning the league that year), but we’d beaten them twice in close games. This one would be no different.
I got the task of starting on the mound that day. Unenviable task? ... perhaps ... scared? ... maybe ...
The Red Devils had kids named Curtin, Girouard, Paganetti, Maguire and future Atlanta Brave pitcher Peter Smith.
By the time it was over Daily Times Chronicle sports editor Rick Pearl called it the greatest high school baseball game he’d ever seen.
To see the final score of 12-6 you wouldn’t think that but it most definitely was.
It was an epic battle that see-sawed back and forth. Inexplicably I was still pitching into the 8th with a 6-3 lead, until all 140 pounds of me soaking wet ran out of gas (what’s a pitch count?).
Our lefty Steve Costello, who had started the day before against Lynn, came in from center, switching spots with me, and got us out of a jam that inning.
Still leading 6-3, he went back out there in the 9th to try and close it out, but the Red Devils loaded the bases. There were two outs. Coach Chase came and got the ball from Costy. He headed out to center to replace me and I moved to second replacing Steve MacDonald who now took over on the mound. He too had pitched the game before against Lynn and didn’t have a lot of life in his arm. We needed just one more out. Bob Paganetti stood at home.
First pitch ... CRACK !!!
OH BLEEP !!!
This ball flew through the air at Simonds with the speed of a girl trying to avoid me at a dance.
It split our left and center fielders and went down a small hill towards where the skate park is now.
And down after it went Costy.
I watched as the runner on third scored ... 6-4.
I watched the runner on second round third and score ... 6-5.
I watched the runner on first run past me on his way around the diamond and he scored, all tied 6-6.
And then as Paganetti ran past me and touched second, and the Burlington-heavy crowd grew in loudness to a crescendo of hope it dawned on me that we may lose this game. I couldn’t believe it. It can’t end like this. Where was the ball? Where was Costy? Paganetti is halfway to 3rd!
As I stood near second making sure runners had touched the base I frantically hoped for a miracle. I saw our shortstop Rich Fennell halfway out in the outfield for a cutoff I so desperately wanted to happen, but I also saw someone else. Chuck Allard our first baseman. What was he doing in shallow left center?
Just as I thought that, I saw a ball appear out of nowhere and fly towards the infield. Costy had run the Paganetti blast down, using his halfback speed to overcome his pitcher’s gut he proudly developed each spring, and fired a laser in the direction of the rest of his teammates.
Turns out too much of a laser. It flew over the head of the cutoff man. All hope seemed lost. Except for one thing. We had an extra cutoff man. Our first baseman. Chuck Allard ended up being in the perfect spot, turned and fired a pill to Jeff Stackpole our catcher waiting at home.
Stackpole vs Paganetti.
Both around 6-foot-4.
One stationary, one a full head of steam.
There was a collision.
When the dust had literally settled Jeff was tossing the ball back in the direction of the mound for the start of extra innings. It was still tied 6-6.
Paganetti was on the ground with a separated shoulder. After a long delay to get him medical help we played on.
The entire field and both sets of fans were exhausted.
But none more than Kevin Curtin. The starting pitcher for Burlington that day was still going. And he would for two more innings until we finally unleashed a 6-run 11th on them.
Paganetti was set to come in in relief if need be. Stack had put an end to that contingency plan. Curtin was amazing that day.
Some 38 years later it doesn’t matter as much that we lost the next day to Acton Boxboro. One game shy of a state title.
What matters, after having that conversation the other day with Jeff is that everything I just wrote really happened and will forever be with me and all of us that battled on Simonds Park that day. How lucky are we to have that?
These kids today aren’t losing knowns ... they’re losing the unknowns.
I could never have imagined the twisted scenario of that day and that season. I’m forever grateful I didn’t have to.