Share this article

print logo


Eight new inductees Wednesday will bring to 17 the roster of old Simon Pures players and managers in the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame, which honors the area's sandlot heroes.

At first glance that seems like lopsided representation from one organization. Were the Simon Pures really that dominant? The answer is yes.

From 1933, when prohibition ended and the brewery re-opened, and 1971, when it closed for good, the Simon-sponsored baseball teams won 24 league and 20 playoff championships.

Under five different managers (Dick McCabe, Lou DePoe, Torchy Reiman, Bob Marafino and Don Colpoys) the Simon Pures established a dynasty in the top division of the Muny League.

Colpoys, now Canisius College baseball coach, is one of the new inductees. He joined the Simon Pures as a catcher in 1957 and took over as player-manager in 1960. Five of the Simon Pures inductees played either with him or for him or both.

The five include: first baseman Duke McGuire, pitcher Tom Hallett, third baseman Denny Weiss, outfielder Dick Danieu and outfielder Paul Smaldone. And most of the others he played against.

McGuire played in the last Simon Pures teams in 1970 and later starred for the mighty Voyageurs teams after a minor-league career in the Detroit Tigers chain.

"Great hitter with great power," Colpoys said of McGuire, whom he also managed in AAABA. "Hallett was an outstanding right-hand pitcher. He played at Riverside High and Syracuse University then was signed by the Boston Red Sox and got as high as Triple-A ball.

"Dick Danieu was an all-star shortstop in high school but played mostly left field and was a leadoff batter in the Muny League. He could run like hell.

"Denny Weiss led the team in hitting four times but he also was an outstanding defensive third baseman. He signed with Cleveland after he got out of high school at St. Joe's."

Smaldone, who played at Canisius High and Fordham, stole home in the last game of the 1966 Muny season to snap a 2-2 tie against the Maroones and preserve the Simon Pures' perfect (40-0) season. That was as close as the Simons came to losing that year.

The next season, the Simon Pures extended their winning streak to 63 games before running into a remarkable pitching performance by Vinny Vara of Royal Printers.

"Vinny pitched with an artificial leg," Colpoys said. "He was a junker, threw a lot of soft, breaking stuff but he was just great that day. I can't remember the score but I know it was Delaware (Diamond) No. 3 and it was a close, low-scoring game."

Colpoys' first three Simons Pures teams went 45-0 in 1960, 40-4-1 in 1961 and 43-4 in 1962. The 1963 team was 44-8 and went all the way to the finals of the National Amateur Baseball Federation tournament in Louisville before losing to Detroit.

Pitcher Earle Hannel, catcher Don O'Brien and the late Eddie Durkin, an infielder, were Simon Pures stars before Colpoys joined the team, but he played against them all.

"Hannel was a big, tall right-hander with an outstanding curve ball," Colpoys said. "He played at Bennett, then went to Duke. He played Independent League ball in Canada."

O'Brien was the Simon Pures regular catcher before Colpoys.

"He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals but almost got released his first day of spring training," Colpoys said. "He made a wild throw when he was warming up with a game of catch and he hit a guy in the head. Of all the guys to hit -- Stan Musial! They almost gave him a bus ticket home right then."

Colpoys remembers an encounter with Durkin:

"A big bear of a guy, barrel-chested and hard-nosed. When he quit playing baseball he became almost legendary in fast-pitch softball," Colpoys said. "I remember playing against the Simons when I was on a team of mostly high school guys. I was a dead pull hitter and Durkin used to play me so deep at third base. He was always taking hits away from me.

"I practiced bunting and the next summer when we played I dropped one down in front of him and beat it out. I was pretty happy with myself until he yelled over to me and said 'Kid, when you get to third base I'm going to rip your head off.'

"If he was that mad about a bunt single, I wondered what he would have done if I hit a home run."

No doubt, yarns like that will be retold Wednesday at the enshrinement dinner at the Weber Post on South Park Avenue in Lackawanna.

Besides the former Simon Pures other inductees will be:

Tovi Asarese, manager-sponsor for Royal Printing; Vic Baron, catcher, John Maroone's and Travelers; Bob Barrows, coach, manager and administrator, Ebenezer Stars and Orchard Park; Ray Bellet, pitcher, Sloan, John Maroones and North Buffalo Mustangs; Frank Christiano, catcher, 101s, Cardinals and Cold Springs; Doug Dallas, shortstop, Franklinville; Bob Geiger, pitcher-first baseman, Hamburg, Boston and Eden; Al Henningham, manager and first baseman-pitcher, Eldredge Club; Tom Kam, first baseman, Gorskis and Travelers; Paul Mullen, manager-catcher, Buffalo Stars, Karts Dairy and Ebenezer Stars; Gerry Powers, president Muny League and umpires association; Jon Roth, pitcher, Tonawanda Angels and Eldredge Club; Tom Schroeder, infielder, Kenmore Knights, Eldredge Club and Sloan; Al Staley, pitcher-infielder, Hamburg; Jerry Stockman, umpire for 43 years; John Sullivan, catcher-manager, Huff & Haskins, Karts Dairy, Socony Vacuum and Olean Nationals; Jim Thomas, pitcher-first baseman, Crosby, Pa.; John Viglietta, manager, Franklinville; and Dick Wolf, pitcher, 101s, Buffalo Stars, and Kuehner Leather Goods.

There are no comments - be the first to comment