Humboldt Eagles Baseball

Humboldt Eagles Baseball

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Chuck Sonnenberg

Pittsburg, CA

#1 Apr 29, 2008
Bring back the Humboldt Eagles. Time to get rid of this crappy legion baseball. Put the best kids on the field possible. The fact that all of these other teams got started because somebody's kid didn't make it as the 18th player on the Eagles is a shame. You wonder why CR baseball sucks and kids leave the area....there hasn't been a good feeder team since the Eagles stopped because of some whining parents that couldn't face the fact that they their kid wasn't good enough to cut it.....you should have bought them a set of clubs and done them a favor....all you did was screw up something that had been good for 20 years...
Ted Sillanpaa

San Jose, CA

#2 Apr 30, 2008
Chuck...the original concern about the Eagles is that they ended the era where every town had Legion teams. Truth is...the people who ran Legion programs in Arcata and Eureka didn't want to field teams once they lost their top 6-8 players to the Eagles. In the 1970s, one man organized and ran the Joe DiMaggio League with 2 teams from Arcata, 4 teams from Eureka, 1 team in Fortuna and a team in Del Norte. From the two Arcata teams...there could've been a Legion team. From the 4 teams in Eureka, there could've been a Legion team. The Fortuna team WAS a Legion-quality team -- as was Del Norte.

The Eagles were a program for the guys judged very best in the area. Sure, people got pissed if they didn't make the team ... but, only guys who let it end their baseball career were really hurt by it. I didn't make the Eagles at age 17, but I started at CR the next spring where I was admittedly the weak link on a team where 3 pitchers and 3 position players went onto pro ball. The Eagles, too, were a full-time proposition and there were lots of guys who could really play who weren't interested in devoting their summer to the Eagles.

The Legion folks blamed the demise of their programs in the 1970s on the Eagles. They were wrong.

The Eagles folded shop when I was sports editor of the T/S citing a critical column I allowed a writer who followed the Eagles all summer to write. He saw the program in its end times and reported it. The Eagles blamed me, and the writer, for killing the program. They were wrong.

(Oh...a coach who has resurfaced in summer baseball was running around telling people that I pushed for the critical column, in my 40s, because I didn't make that Eagles team at 17! Yeah, boy...four kids, a wife, a job and I just couldn't get over something that happened in 1974. See what I mean about long memories and vengeful coaches? The guy's back and, now, highly respected.)

The Eagles-type program can exist with the Legion teams. Little League exists down here with USSSA tournament teams taking the best players to tournaments.

Legion teams up there could survive quite well if a group of folks gathered up 15 top players 16-18 years of age and played in some USSA tournaments in Sacramento or the Bay Area.(You can find info at usssa.com .) Of course, somebody'd have to put up with the same malarkey I did when I started the Dukes with some really outstanding help from baseball men all over the county. No one person can do it, but one person can start it.
Ted Sillanpaa

Spartanburg, SC

#3 Apr 30, 2008
chuck, it could be just you and me but...

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/
Chuck Sonnenberg

Pittsburg, CA

#4 Jun 12, 2008
Ted,

Just to support my statement above, just found a 1992 Humboldt Eagles program in a box. Take a look at these players (only the ones who were drafted or played professionally...doesn't include college players).....

Bert Nordstrom - St. Louis Cardinals
Greg Shanahan - Los Angeles Dodgers
John Schlesinger - New York Yankees
Dane Iorg - Philadelphia Phillies
Bill Olsen - New York Yankees
Bob Wilson - Philadephia Phillies
Buster Pidgeon - Philadelphia Phillies
Dan Issacson - Boston Red Sox
Mark Lucich - Cincinnatti Reds
Greg Kane - Boston Red Sox
Bob Box - Atlanta Braves
Garth Iorg - New York Yankees
Lee Iorg - New York Mets
Mike Dolf - Cleveland Indians
Tad Sundquist - California Angels
Steve Van Deren - Cleveland Indians
Randy Cornelius - Kansas City Royals
Lee Thomas - California Angels
David Stone - New York Mets
Rick Lundblade - Philadelphia Phillies
Eric Nelson - Kansas City Royals
Shannon Hunt - San Francisco Giants
Gary Young - Seattle Mariners
Shaun Lesina - New York Mets
Kevin Nielsen - Houston Astros
Gary Wilson - New York Mets
Jon Parr - Houston Astros
Ken Maire - California Angels
Brian Shumard - Detroit Tigers

Southern Humboldt also had some great teams in the 80's....many of whom would have played on the Eagles as well.

Humboldt County deserves so much more than this current watered down Legion baseball. It serves a purpose, but not at the expense of giving the best 18 to 20 kids the opportunity to play together. There are plenty of reasons not to do it, but I would prefer to think of all of the reasons why to do it....and the kids are what matters!!

Sammy Kao

Eureka, CA

#5 Jun 15, 2008
Chuck,

You are absolutely correct! The Eagles need to make a comeback. There needs to be one team again for the elite in the county. It's unfortnate that all of the best aren't together this year, as Arcata, Eureka, St. Bernards, Hoopa, and Ferndale all made the playoffs and I know there are good players at Fortuna and McKinleyville as well and I am sure that Del Norte has a few good players as well.

Just looking at the list really brings back some good memories and what an exciting brand of baseball. I remember going out and watching teams like Bercovich come in from Oakland, just loaded with former Major Leaguers. Scouts were here visiting back in those days because the Eagles and teams like that warranted the scouting coverage. No one is going to come up here to watch the current Legion programs, unfortunately. Probably goes to show why the list isn't very long since you stopped in 1992 or 1993.
Eric Nelson

United States

#6 Jun 16, 2008
Chuck and Sammy you are both right on the money. There are a bunch of good teenage ball players sprinkled throughout the county this year. I watched the Falcons play the other day and was impressed. I talked to a couple of coaches in passing. I was real disappointed to find out that they almost never see a scout at a game anymore. Furthermore, they don't make Bay Area road trips either.

Baseball is the one sport in Humboldt County where many kids can actually move on to the next level if just given a shot. Eagles’ alumni from the past proved they could cut the mustard. However, the Eagles organization took an aggressive approach and took on all comers, any place, at any time. The organization embraced the fact it was all about putting the best product on the field. However, the politically correct crowd hit the scene and nobody could stomach it when Mommy’s Little Jimmy Sunshine got cut. The result is a watered down, albeit entertaining, system of local Legion Baseball where the pinnacle of the summer is to be the best in Humboldt County. As the rest of the teenage baseball world plays in highly competitive show case tourneys consisting of the best from each region, the locals battle it out in relative anonymity.

I applaud the local coaches and volunteers who put in countless hours for their respective teams. However, I challenge them to look at the bigger picture to at least entertain the thought of putting together select all star type teams from the Northcoast to play in high profile tourneys. Let the pro and college scouts attending these select tourneys decide if the local kids have enough juice. The kids could still come home to play for their respective legion teams in between their travels. The last time I checked, I was about four sizes too big for my old high school letterman’s jacket. To that end, the adults need to hang their petty personal egos in the closet so the kids can get their shot. Part of getting that shot includes fielding a team consisting of the area’s absolute best.
Sammy Kao

Eureka, CA

#7 Jun 16, 2008
This whole thing got started because of adult egos. The kids who didn't make the Eagles when this all started didn't even play at CR, if I recall the following year. So really, they eliminated the possibility to showcase local talent to Northern California scouts and college coaches, but more kids get to play recreational summer baseball. Don't get me wrong, I am sure that some coaches take it very serious in the summer while others make it recreational (show up when you want, let's have lots of fun). The talented kids that can play at the next level get hurt, and many of those that can't at least have a fun summer and many memories (their Legion jackets won't fit either someday). The Eagles were all about getting kids to the next level, whether college or pro. The results that Chuck has shown above don't lie. The issue, though, is that someone needs to be willing to get it started and take on Jimmy's Mom and Johnny's Dad when they don't make the team. Unfortunately for some kids, they get cut, as they do in most sports. That is reality. When that happens, they can fold up the tent or go out to CR and prove everyone wrong, and some kids have done that. But when it comes down to finalizing the roster, sometimes you take a pitcher or a specialty player (speed, etc) that can help you win on those long road trips. The 20th player on the team that may have been a marginal player at their high school, may not help you on that roadtrip. That's what the successful teams from down South did (Bercovich, Lafayette, Santa Rosa, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Bay Area Blacksox). It's about commitment. They load up with 10 position players and the rest are pitchers who can play other positions but know that when they are invited and they accept, they are pitchers first and position players second. This keeps it very clear so mom's and dad's really don't have to get involved because the coaches deal with the kids and treat them like adults from day one. Parents know their place and that is to help out on field prep and concessions, but really to sit and watch their kids play some outstanding baseball for the summer and talk to scouts and coaches that come to visit. I, for one, will volunteer my services to get the Eagles started again. My son is 4 years old so you don't have to worry about me doing it for the wrong reasons. I have no ties to any High School teams. I just want the kids in the area to experience great baseball, be able to travel and play the best, and be given an opportunity to be seen by scouts and college coaches. Sign me up!
sweaty balls

Skykomish, WA

#8 Jun 16, 2008
Wearing the blue eagles jacket was a huge deal. People in gthe community knew you where a ballplayer. Best thing about that jacket was it made a nice blanket when you wanted to "hit a home run" in the woods at Sequia park.
Ted Sillanpaa

San Francisco, CA

#9 Jun 16, 2008
There were a lot of years between what I figured were the glory days of the early'ish 1970s and the end of the organization's existence. I do remember the glory days as well as I remember the end times for the Humboldt Eagles. There were good reasons to support the return of American Legion baseball to different towns on the North Coast, just as there are good reasons to support the cream of the current crop ganging up on one team to come play in some summer USSSA 18-and-under baseball tournaments in the Bay Area or Sacramento. It's pretty easy, really ...

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/

(FYI: The Eagles cut me in 1974 and I played pretty well at CR the next spring, so -- again -- it was and would be the quality of the player more than the name on the front of the uniform that college coaches or pro scouts look at, don't you think?)

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/
Ted Sillanpaa

San Jose, CA

#10 Jun 16, 2008
A former Eagles and Arcata High star who played D-I and pro baseball has some intriguing thoughts he shared about how to address the future of North Coast baseball and more at...

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/
tinman12

Chico, CA

#11 Jun 16, 2008
Good work on the list of players that turned pro. I was lucky enough to play with a lot of those guys. I played on the 1968 Post 212 legion team. We were the only team from Humboldt County to win a California State championship and move on to the regionals in Roswell , New Mexico. On that team were Bob Wilson, Buster Pidgeon, Mark Lucich and John Schlesiger. It was a great group of guys and this year is the 40th anniversary of our championship.
Will the gay Chimp

Skykomish, WA

#12 Jun 17, 2008
Bring the Eagles back. We all miss the days of them kicking ass up and down the coast and into Nevada. They are Humboldts true team, not the Crabbies.
Eric Nelson

Schuylkill Haven, PA

#13 Jun 17, 2008
tinman12 wrote:
Good work on the list of players that turned pro. I was lucky enough to play with a lot of those guys. I played on the 1968 Post 212 legion team. We were the only team from Humboldt County to win a California State championship and move on to the regionals in Roswell , New Mexico. On that team were Bob Wilson, Buster Pidgeon, Mark Lucich and John Schlesiger. It was a great group of guys and this year is the 40th anniversary of our championship.
Tinman12,
I played as a 16 year on the Eagles for Dave Del Grande. I believe he coached, or helped with your 1968 team. He often spoke about your incredible team and the stars you had playing for it then.

Funny story; All throughout my 16 year old year he repeatedly told our team, "You aren't Dick until you beat West Covina". Apparently, you guys had beat West Covina in the Championships and it was his way of telling us we had a long way to go to live up to expectations. Fast forward to my next season, 1984, the Eagles made the State Championships (with a different coach) and we beat West Covina. We ended up traveling to Roseburg Oregon for the Pacific Northwest Regionals. The first game we played was against Washington State (Bremerton Washington). In dramatic fashion, one of our coaches, Rodger Hawkins, strode to the plate to meet the umps to present his lineup card. With a childish grin he presented the card to the umps. The lineup Card read: Dick Rowen, Dick Imus, Dick Nelson, Dick Stone, Dick Bowie, Etc, Etc. Classic!!!!

Congrats on the upcoming 40 year anniversary. You guys need to celebrate.
Will the gay Chimp

Skykomish, WA

#14 Jun 17, 2008
Eagles road trips are some of everyones best memories. Some sneaking away their parents booze to share with the buddies and others popping their cherry up in Hoquiam Wa. Be surprised how many baby eagles where made over the years on the west coast.
Chuck Sonnenberg

Pittsburg, CA

#15 Jun 17, 2008
Ted Sillanpaa wrote:
A former Eagles and Arcata High star who played D-I and pro baseball has some intriguing thoughts he shared about how to address the future of North Coast baseball and more at...
http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/
Awesome response on Ted's blog, Eric. You are exactly right about the incident that happened in 1989 and I appreciate and respect your honesty. That is when it all started so it only came to an end in 1997.

All of that is in the past and now it is time to do what is right for the players in the area and that is to put a team on the field that puts the highest caliber talent on the field together...

Something to think about to support our alignment...CR baseball had Scott Dwyer and Randy Michalik as part of their program from 1993 to 1997. Those two won a combined 82 games in 5 years with playoff appearances in 1995 and 1997. The Eagle demise hit in 1997. Bob Brown took over in 1998 at CR and won 119 games in 11 years with no playoff appearances. I believe there is a correlation in an area that needs the local talent to compete...Think about it!
Ted Sillanpaa

San Francisco, CA

#17 Jun 18, 2008
The Post 212 team that was so outrageously talented in 1968 was the Eureka American Legion team that drew just from St. Bernard and Eureka high schools. The list of the North Coast's all-time greatest players is filled with players from that Post 212 team. I was 12 years old when Post 212 ruled, but I'm still pretty sure that team was as good as any Humboldt Eagles team that drew from all of northern Humboldt County. Of course, those guys were heroes to me and my pals, so my memory is skewed. Bottom line, I guess, is that a Eureka American Legion team had four guys (maybe more, I forget) who were selected in the MLB draft. Exposure helps, but talent trumps everything when it comes to progressing in the game.

I'd love to read what all those '68 guys are up to these days.
Sammy Kao

Arcata, CA

#18 Jun 29, 2008
Ted continues to add comments and end good conversation....take a look at how many blogs have Ted Silanpaa ending the conversation because of his fence riding ways...Ted, you try and get a reaction from people. Take a stance! Quit "writing" out of both sides of your mouth when it comes to sports up here....your opinions of SB, the Humboldt Eagles, the Crabs....it's all fence riding and self promoting of your blogspot that only you and Richard Marks are conversing with....sharing your boo-hoo stories about CR baseball.

By the way, I talked to some guys that played at CR in 74 and 75...not many recall you in the starting lineup...as you state.

Take a stance and quit promoting your blog, your kids, people that you like or don't like.
Ted Sillanpaa

United States

#19 Jun 29, 2008
Oh, Samm...wait, that's not your real name. You cut and pasted the same thing you wrote on other spots. I'm honored. Really.

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/

In fact, just for you ...

http://focusonnorthcoast.blogspot.com/
Lookin4 Trouble

Eureka, CA

#20 Jun 29, 2008
The 08 Falcons almost have too much talent.There are Mack kids playing for both Del Norte & NorHUM.With travel expenses so high I like all the local games & it provides more roster spots for Northcoast talent.

AAU basketball & Class 1&3 soccer mean many multi-sport athletes play year round & are burnt to a certain extent by the age of 17 or 18.

Throw in that the older players are college freshman and are on vacation ,traveling has lost the magic it had in the 60's70's and 80's.Some of these kids have been traveling 2 weekends a month since they were 10 or 11.

As the Crabs,Steelheads,and HSU's club team,with 7 legion teams,year round babe Rudy ball,and the success of the high school teams lately show:: BASEBALL is alive and well on the northcoast.

Since: Jun 08

Willow Creek, Ca

#21 Jun 29, 2008
Lookin4 Trouble wrote:
The 08 Falcons almost have too much talent.There are Mack kids playing for both Del Norte & NorHUM.With travel expenses so high I like all the local games & it provides more roster spots for Northcoast talent.
AAU basketball & Class 1&3 soccer mean many multi-sport athletes play year round & are burnt to a certain extent by the age of 17 or 18.
Throw in that the older players are college freshman and are on vacation ,traveling has lost the magic it had in the 60's70's and 80's.Some of these kids have been traveling 2 weekends a month since they were 10 or 11.
As the Crabs,Steelheads,and HSU's club team,with 7 legion teams,year round babe Rudy ball,and the success of the high school teams lately show:: BASEBALL is alive and well on the northcoast.
There is no question baseball is alive and well on the Northcoast. This thread was created because local people know players here can compete. Unfortunately, college and pro scouts don't seem to make the trip up through the Redwood Curtain like they used to. I agree, kids might get a little burnt out. However, when you're 17, 18, and 19 years old and sacrificing your summers playing ball (instead of working or attending summer school), it's because you have the dream of landing a scholarship or having a "Bird Dog" place you on his draft list.

I re-iterate what I said before; there are kids playing legion ball here on the Northcoast who deserve a look and a chance. Baseball is the one major sport where a guy can come from the sticks and still measure up. You don't need to be seven feet tall, or run a 4.5/ 40, or press 450 lbs. All you need is heart, talent, and a forum to showcase your ability to the right peolple.

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