The Summer of ‘62
Coached by the legendary Ernie Laurence and made up of players from the area, the Rockdale American Legion Post 358 baseball team made it all the way to the state tournament in Austin, where they finished as runner-ups after falling to Austin Travis in the finals at the old Austin Senators field, where the convention center sits now. “Our team was the greatest team ever to step on a Texas high school baseball field to play the game,” team member Bob Dymke stated. “Nobody can convince me otherwise.
In the finals, the Rockdale squad ran up against a buzz saw in Travis pitcher Chacho Alvarez, who threw a one-hitter at them in the first game 8-0 victory and then handcuffed them 7-1 in the finale. Alvarado hadn’t been scored on in 39 innings. Rockdale touched him for 10 hits in the finale, but could not parlay them into any runs.
They whipped three Houston Colt .45s tryout teams that legendary scout Red Murff had assembled and to reach the state tournament knocked off baseball power Houston Bellaire.
Rockdale defeated Bellaire 6-0 in the first of the best-ofthree series and in the process halted their 56-game winning streak—at their home field.
Trailing 11-8 in the bottom of the ninth inning in the second game of the regional finals in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Tiger Field, Rockdale rallied for six runs with the winning run coming in one of the most unusual plays in baseball annals.
With the bases loaded, Dickie Summers hit a line drive between the pitcher’s legs that hit the pitching rubber and skied 100 feet straight up in the air.
When the ball finally landed behind the pitcher’s mound, Summers was rounding third base.
When the Bellaire second baseman finally retrived the ball and threw home, he threw wide left and Summers slid safely under the tag, the crowd exploded and Post 358 was headed to the state tournament.
“Coach Laurence and Coach (John) Sonntag were hollering at Dickie to keep on a-coming,” Dymke said. “Dickie never slowed down. I haven’t seen that happen in any game since.”
The wins over Bellaire were most impressive because of its reputation and accomplishments.
Bellaire was fresh off taking the Class 4A state championship at the UIL state tournament.
There were only two classes at the UIL state tournament in 1962—4A and 3A—which of course today would be 5A and 4A.
The UIL did not expand to five divisions until 1979.
As a Class 2A school, Rockdale was unable to advance past the regional round, hence besting the largest classification school was a big deal.
Bellaire has captured seven state championships overall, a state record.
“To beat Houston and all those other big cities was really a feather in our cap,” said Jim Currey, who was the team’s manager and who’s son Mike was a batboy for the team. “They had a lot of confidence.”
The American Legion provided more than just a summer time sponsorship and was in its heyday in the 1960s.
They built the concession stand/restroom and the outfield fence and were responsible for the field’s upkeep.
Post 358 ran the concession stand and large summer crowds provided the Legion with the funds the improve the field.
“We had great crowds,” said Currey, now 88, who was the Post 358 Commander for 20 years. “And, we had a strong legion post back then.”
Dickie Summers (.429) and Ronny Menn (.410) were the top hitters with Menn smacking 11 home runs over the summer and Summers 7.
Menn clouted five home runs in the first two games of the season.
Summers of course would go on to play baseball at the University of Texas and in the minor leagues.
Bob Dymke (4-0) and Ralph Vahrenkamp (3-0) were the top hurlers, with Dymke allowing just nine runs in 24 innings.
Dymke went on to pitch for the Baylor Bears.
Besides Summers and Dymke, there was plenty of talent to go around.
Rockdale’s Donnie Laurence played football and baseball at Baylor; left fielder Ronny Menn played football at Texas A&M; Giddings’ second baseman R.J. Nitsche, played football at Rice; Thrall shortstop, Larry Johnson played baseball at Texas A&M; Right fielder Ralph Vahrenkamp (from Giddings), who played at Sam Houston State; Leon Wenzel played baseball at Blinn Jr. College.
First baseman Jimmy Killen, attended the University of Texas on an Academic Scholarship.
“We had worlds of talent,” said Currey. “They were a good bunch of boys, a great bunch of fellows.”
And despite mixing up rivals on one team, they all got along wonderfully.
“It seemed like it didn’t make any difference in that summer program,” Currey said. “They just wanted to win.”
A Cameron native, Dymke is passionate about the team and the players on it and has several pieces of memorabilia from that summer, including a signed game ball from a complete game victory over Lubbock Monterrey and the program from the state tournament game.
Of course for the players from Rockdale, it would not be their last taste of a state final.
The majority of them would lead the Tigers to the state championship game in football just three months later.
“As a team, we were all disappointed,” Dymke said. “We knew we were the best team in the state.
“I will tell you this, the opportunity to play for the 1962 Rockdale American Legion team was the highlight of my playing career. I love every member on our team.”
The 1962 team will be recognized Saturday at 1 p.m. at Tiger Field between the Alumni Baseball games.
What—The 3rd annual Rockdale
alumni baseball games.
When—Game 1-Alumni Gold vs.
Varsity, 11 a.m.; Game 2-Alumni
Blue vs. Varsity, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3—Alumni Gold vs. Alumni
Blue, 4 p.m.
Where—The newly renovated
The 1962 Rockdale American
Legion team will be honored
between alumni games Saturday
at 1 p.m.
Here are the rosters for the alumni
baseball teams Saturday:
Alumni Gold Team 2011
Alumni Blue Team 2011
Frank Ramirez Jr.