Baseball the topic of HSH Speaker Series
On October 6, the Historical Society of Hammonton held their monthly Speaker Series meeting at the Canoe Club. The Speaker Series this month consisted of members from the 1947-1949 Hammonton Little League teams, including Earl Rehmann, Frank Carelli and Otha “Art” Crowder. Current Little League President Brandon Watson and Secretary Rita Black were also in attendance, to give some insight on how the game had changed in the last 75 years.
The Little League All Star teams were also in attendance at the event, supporting the veterans that played the sport.
Rehmann was the first to speak at the event, explaining that he was honored to be speaking at the event. He said that when he got a phone call from Bill Parkhurst about the Speaker Series, he felt like he was in Mission Impossible getting a new mission. He joked with the crowd, saying that it was hard to recall the year of 1947. He quickly confirmed he was joking, explaining that it was a really fun year in his life.
“Playing baseball took little equipment, you had to have a ball, glove and when available, a bat. Due to World War II, things were scarce. It only takes two to have a catch… we could do that for hours and we did. When we had a bat, we would hit fly balls to each other, we didn’t have many games. A few men had a vision, a vision of an organized baseball program for boys… they heard of the little league program in Williamsport, Pennsylvania… and they came back here and went to work,” Rehmann said.
Rehmann explained that the men organized an area for a field in Lake Park, lined up sponsors and money for six teams and gathered the town together to bring baseball to Hammonton. He explained that many people volunteered to help and if they knew anything about baseball, they were put to work. Rehmann remembers a hat being passed around in the stands to gather funds for the team, with loose change being tossed in to support the team.
He explained that the boys on the original teams were not the best baseball players in the beginning, but they grew to learn.
“We had a lot of errors… we didn’t know what a fly ball was… wild throws all over the place, but boys learned. As we progressed, flys got caught, grounders got picked up and guys got to first base sometimes,” Rehmann said laughing.
Rehmann reminisced on the All Star team, saying how it was an honor to be a part of the team. He said that at practice, they had to announce they were going to Williamsport for the Little League World Series. Many of the boys had never even heard of Williamsport, Rehmann explained, but he remembered the trip to the World Series. He remembers the nice bus that came to pick them up, the nice staff and the energetic atmosphere the team had created. Another member of the ‘47 team, Frank Carelli, was also in attendance at the Speaker Series with his son Frank Carelli Jr. Carelli Jr. spoke for his father, explaining his history.
“He had given me pictures of the ‘47 team and the ‘48 team and when we look at it, all the familiar faces come back to him and he starts naming players and all the fun they had together. My father was a pitcher and when he wasn’t a pitcher he would play right field. He played all the way through Little League and was a good hitter. He says he remembers hitting a home run but I’m not sure, I’m not here to disprove it,” Carelli Jr. said.
Carelli Jr. also was an athlete when he was younger and remembers his father explaining that he had to walk to practice and was not allowed to come home until he brought home some blueberries. Carelli Jr. said that he had learned his father was such a good ball player from a family friend many years later and was happy to be at the Speaker Series supporting his father.
Otha “Art” Crowder was also another veteran from the ‘47, ‘48 and ‘49 teams at the Speaker Series and was the only surviving member of all three teams. Crowder thanked the crowd for coming up to support the veterans, explaining that he was very happy to be back home with the crowd.
The Historical Society then showed some highlights from the 1949 Little League World Series, where Hammonton beat Pensacola, Florida to win the series. The highlights showed a different era and a different view of Hammonton, with shots of the victory parade on Bellevue Avenue. The film allowed the younger generation of Little League players to see what the game was like back in the day and how it had changed in the last 75 years.