Anthony “Nuncie” Sacco, formerly of Hammonton, who was the 11-year-old captain of the 1949 Hammonton All-Stars, the team that won the 1949 Little League World Series against Pensacola, Fla. in Williamsport, Pa., died on May 5 at the age of 85, according to his obituary.
His obituary noted that Sacco had a long life filled with success in the decades that followed his childhood achievement.
“Born in 1938 in Hammonton, he lived in Linwood for 60 years before recently moving to EHT.
He graduated from Hammonton High School, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Trenton State College and a Masters from Glassboro State. He started his career with Hammonton High School and transferred to Mainland Regional High School when it opened in 1962 where he taught, coached, served as Athletic Director and Assistant Principal, retiring in 1995.
“Nuncie loved sports and his accomplishments as an athlete and coach are many. He Played football at Trenton State and the high school basketball and football teams he coached enjoyed much success. He was inducted into the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Of all his athletic accomplishments, however, he was most proud of being part of the Hammonton Little League baseball team. They won the World Championship in 1949 where he was captain, hit leadoff, and played a speedy second base. He spent a large portion of his retirement on his beloved boat Fast Ball, religiously fishing the autumn bass runs of Delaware Bay, trolling offshore and drifting for flounder with his grandkids in the back bays. When not on the boat, he could be found having breakfast with his retired Mainland friends, lunch with his Hammonton buddies or holding court in the backyard of his house in Sea Isle. Renowned connoisseurs of ice cream, he and his wife Kathleen could also be found at any of the local custard stands across South Jersey on Summer nights. Wherever he went, he found someone to strike up a conversation, as many knew him and he loved talking with people,” his obituary said.
Retired teacher, coach and athletic director Pete Santilli had kind words for Sacco when I contacted him this past weekend.
“Nuncie Sacco is a shining example of all that was good about growing up in Hammonton in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As a teacher, coach, athletic director and vice principal he was well-respected not just at Mainland High School, but throughout the state. He was a happy, friendly gentleman who was a pleasure to be around. There is no doubt that throughout his career he touched the lives of many young people who will fondly remember him always,” Santilli said.
In addition to his career in education and athletics, Sacco’s obituary makes it clear how much being on that Little League World Series team from Hammonton meant to him, right up to the day he died. It’s also clear, when reading about his life, that the success he had on the field as a Little League player helped shape the trajectory of the next 75 years of his life. Success brings success, and if you know how to handle it, when success comes when you’re young, it brings a lifetime of success. Sacco obviously could handle success, and it showed throughout his life in his accomplishments in sports, his career and his family life.
There are a few quotes from Sacco about the 1949 Little League Series featured in Gazette Sports Editor Dan Russoman’s 2004 book Hometown Pride: The Tradition of Sports in Hammonton. Here’s what Sacco had to say about what the game meant to him, the team and the town, which threw a heroes’ welcome of a parade when the victorious team returned to Hammonton from the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
“We were awestruck at the outpouring of affection from the town when we returned. It was like the whole town turned out for us. I don’t know who stayed home, but they must not have liked baseball,” Sacco said in a 1999 interview republished in the 2004 book.
Sacco appeared in a film about the Little League World Series Championship with then-Governor Alfred E. Driscoll.
“It was all scripted,” he recalled in the 1999 interview.
He added that one of his fondest memories of celebrating the World Series victory came on the night of the parade.
“It was the place to be that evening. Miss New Jersey, Betty Jean Crowley, came over and gave me a big smooch. I remember that, I’ll tell you,” Sacco said in 1999.
At the end, Sacco’s obituary showed where his heart was, all these decades later. It was at the place in Hammonton that led him to his first taste of success—which eventually led to him captaining the 1949 Little League World Series Championship team, a national achievement that has the name Hammonton enshrined in Williamsport and Cooperstown, N.Y.:
“If one wishes to honor Nuncie, or in lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to Hammonton Little League, P.O. Box 1025, Hammonton, NJ 08037,” his obituary reads.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.