Hopedale History
    June 1, 2011
    No. 181
    The Hopedale J’s

    Hopedale in May  

    Band concert schedule   

    The Mill River below Route 140.   

    Over the past few years I’ve put newspaper articles and information from other sources about Hopedale
    men who died in war on my Hopedale website. However, there were three who were killed in World War II
    that I had been unable to find. I gave it another try last week, and this time came up with brief articles on
    them. From the Bancroft Library scrapbooks, I found articles on John Barr and Joseph Miller.  Thanks to
    Lynn Lovell and Anne Lamontaigne at the Milford Museum and to Milford historian Paul Curran for
    information on T. Woodrow Wilson.   

    Recent deaths   

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    During the 1970s, and into the 1980s, the Hopedale sports team that attracted the most attention in the area
    was the Senior Babe Ruth team, the Js. The team was coached by Ben Phillips, Jr., and as one of his
    players wrote, “… Ben Phillips, Jr. was the Hopedale Js.”

                                         Hopedale J’s Annex 3rd State Title in 4 Years

                                                                 By Paul Usher, Daily News Sports Writer

      WORCESTER – What would a baseball tournament be without a little drama?

      Yesterday, the Hopedale J’s cakewalk to the Western Mass 16-18 Babe Ruth baseball title was
    postponed long enough for pesky Schwartz of Worcester to give them all they could handle before bowing in
    eight innings, 4-3, to give the J’s their third Western Mass State title in four years.

      Hopedale, which swept through the seven-team double elimination tourney in four straight games for the
    second time in three years, now advances to the New England Regional Tournament at Warwick, R.I.,
    beginning next Saturday. Hopedale plays the Maine state champs at 5:30 at the Mickey Stevens Complex.

      The winner of the New Englands advances to the Babe Ruth World Series in Newark, Ohio, August 16 – 23
    .
      Saturday Hopedale paved the way for a tourney sweep at Clark University Field (where they have never
    lost) by systematically taking apart Greenfield, 11-2, behind the four-hit pitching of Carl Oberg and a12-hit
    attack led by Billy McInnis

      Greenfield, which went into Saturday 2-0, then had to face a defending champ Schwartz for the right to play
    Hopedale in Sunday’s final. In a pitchers’ duel, Worcester’s Jeff Rosen made three first-inning runs stand
    up with a 1-hit, 3-1 win, eliminating Greenfield.

      That set up yesterday’s 1 p.m. finale, and by the bottom of the seventh it looked like Hopedale was going
    to have to play a second game on this muggy day to take the title. Schwartz had runners on second and third
    with one out in the 3-3 ballgame. Momentum had been parked on Schwartz’ bench since the fifth when Jim
    Quinn’s dramatic three-run homer tied the game.

      But John Longo and Co. pitched out of the mess, which evolved into bases-loaded, one out, by foiling a
    suicide squeeze attempt.

      “That turned the game around for us,” said Ben Phillips, Jr., Hopedale’s head coach. “It gave us the
    momentum.”

      The J’s came up in the next half-inning and scored a run on consecutive singles by Carl Oberg, Don
    Walker and Tom Cornetta for run before a controversial double play on a tag at the plate ended the inning.

      The fastballing Longo then took the mound, and three times was a strike away from ending the
    tournament before he finally struck out Joe Pruneau to end it with the tying and winning runs on base.

      “I’m glad we won the first game, because I don’t think I could have taken a second game,” said Phillips,
    who expended quite a bit of energy arguing the call which ended the game-winning rally.

      On that play, Walker tried to tag up and score the insurance run as second baseman Joe Pruneau made a
    back-to-the plate catch behind first. Schwartz catcher Chuck Markarian too the throw and lunged to tag
    Walker, but the ball became dislodged on the play. However, plate umpire Jim O’Brien failed to see the ball
    come loose and called Walker out. Needless to say, all hell broke loose, but the call wasn’t changed.

      “I don’t think Schwartz compares to us in talent,” said Phillips. “The Blackstone A’s (with whom they tied
    twice, then won two of three for the National Division Paul N. Johnson title) were our toughest opposition all
    year. But Schwartz is scrappy and pesky and makes the most out of every opportunity. I was happy we won
    the first one because you never know what can happen when it comes down to one game.

      From a statistical standpoint Hopedale dominated the tourney. Yesterday’s 11 hits was their lowest total.
    The six hits Longo allowed were the most off Hopedale in the tourney. The team batting average in the
    tourney was .444. Five J pitchers allowed just nine earned runs in 29 innings, pitching three complete
    games. Most importantly, Hopedale never trailed a game in the tournament. Hurling complete games were
    Phil Vitali, Oberg and Longo, while Billy McInnis and Bruce Bennett divided up the pitching in the other game.

      Individual hitting standouts were Billy McInnis, the J’s left-handed, lead-off hitter who was 12-17 with nine
    runs scored seven RBI; Marty O’Sullivan, 8-14 with seven runs scored and five RBI; Jim Marsh, 7-13 with 7
    RBI; Jerry Leone, 6-13, 7 RBI; and Tom Cornetta, 8-16.

      The other regulars all contributed at bat. They included Walker (4-13, 4 runs, 4 RBI), Bruce Bennett, (4-12,
    five runs); and Bruce Stanas (4-12).

      The well-run tourney was marred by an injury to Schwartz’ versatile Whitey Moynahan, who aggravated a
    knee injury in the first inning of the final game. Removed by ambulance, he was back at the tourney at the
    end on crutches; the diagnosis torn cartilage is his right knee. Milford Daily News, July 28, 1980.

      The headline on the Milford News story on the next game was, “Hopedale J’s Jolt Maine, 24-1, In N.E.
    Tourney.” That was followed by a 9-7 win over the Rhode Island champs. The article on that game
    mentioned that Chick Sayles debuted as color man for WMRC, filling in for vacationing Bob Perry. Leading  
    J’s tourney hitters by that time were Stanas (4-6) and McInnis (4-9). Usher’s opening line for the next game,
    however, was, “It was a peach of a ballgame, but the ending was peachy keen for Eastern Mass (Revere,
    Medford, Saugus), and not Hopedale, the Western Mass. champ last night in the New England 16-18 Babe
    Ruth Tournament.” A great season for the J’s came to an end with a 3-2 loss.

      A bit over a year after the 1980 season, Ben died at the age of 35. Here’s the complete statement about
    him, from the player quoted near the top of this page

                                                 J’s: A Dynasty in Senior Ruth

        For 11 years the Hopedale Js were a dynasty in the Paul N. Johnson Senior Ruth baseball league. Every
    New Englander that knew anything about Senior Ruth baseball, knew about the J’s.

      And Ben Phillips, Jr. was the Hopedale J’s.

      From the time he formed the team in 1970, until 1981 when he finally lost his three year fight with
    Hodgkins disease, the Js were one of the classiest organizations around. And thanks to Ben and his
    assistant George “Ziggy” Sears, one of the most successful.

      Nine division titles, eight Paul N. Johnson championships, five Western Mass. Crowns and six trips to the
    New Englands were some of the accomplishments of Ben Phillips and the J’s.

      But the numbers don’t matter as much as the memories that remain in the minds of Ben’s players.

      He was never Coach Phillips, always Ben, and he was honestly one of the most well-liked and respected
    coaches in area sports.

      No history of Hopedale would be complete without mention of Ben Phillips, Jr. and his J’s. And from one
    former player, speaking for all the others, Thanks, Ben.

                                                                                                                                                   Jerry Guerra

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Ballgame at Hopedale Town Park - May 23, 2011.