Remembering Smithfield Little League New England Champions of 50 years ago

Remembering Smithfield Little League New England Champions of 50 years ago

The 1970 New England Champions.

SMITHFIELD – Shortened summer baseball seasons wrapped up to end August, and the month also marked the 50th anniversary of the Smithfield Senior Little League team winning the New England Championship.

Rewind to August of 1970 when lifelong Smithfield resident Bob Potter was 15 years old and a member of that championship team. Potter said the team was as good as three years prior when they had won the All-Star State Championship.

In August, 50 years ago, the Smithfield Senior team, made up of about 16 players between the ages of 13 and 15, defeated North Smithfield 10-2 in the R.I. Senior Little League Championship.

From there, Smithfield got to host the New England Senior League Tournament at Smithfield High School, beginning Aug. 7. Potter, who was one of the team’s pitchers, combined with teammate Bob Benoit to one-hit North Smithfield and move on to the New England tournament.

To add to the excitement of hosting a New England tournament, Smithfield also had the fanfare of Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy making a special appearance. Garrahy landed his helicopter in right field and then proceeded to throw out the first pitch to officially start the tournament.

“It was a big event,” Potter said of Garrahy’s arrival. “We thought it was everything back then. We were very excited.”

Smithfield was coached by John Boyle, assisted by Ed Campbell. The players on the team included Potter, Jim Leach, Joe Campbell, Dave Poon, Steven Averill, Steven Lamar, Timmy Boyle, Jim DiNoble, Steve Rahl, Kevin Osborne, Bob Benoit, Jim Hickey, Noel Bennett, Rico DeCesare, Billy Hardnan and Tommy Thibodeau.

In their first game against Bangor, Maine, Smithfield pitched DeCesare, 14, and they won 17-3. DiNoble, DeCesare, Hickey, Tim Boyle and Bennett all had RBI hits.

Potter pitched in the final game to beat Connecticut, 3-2, for the New England Championship. Potter said he went seven innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out seven.

“We had a bunch of stars on that team,” Potter told The Valley Breeze & Observer.

Potter said that if that game was won today they would have gone straight to the World Series, but instead they traveled to Georgetown, Delaware for the Eastern Regional Tournament.

“We ended up one game from going to the World Series,” he said.

Smithfield defeated Delaware’s Dover team, 7-4, then Pennsylvania, 8-0. They went up against a tough New York team and lost 3-1. That New York team went to the World Series and, as Potter said, “ended the Boys of Summer of 1970.”

Playing on a team can bond young people for life and Potter said that was true here. He said it was a great run because it truly was one-and-done, while today the All-Star tournaments are mostly double-elimination tournaments.

Some players are still around, while others have long since moved away or died. Potter is still close with Bennett and Timmy Boyle. Also still in town are Benoit, DeCesare and Osborne.

Potter never gave up his love for sports as he coached both baseball and hockey. His 17-year-old son plays both sports, attending Smithfield High School and playing baseball and hockey for the high school teams.

He said there were never any plans to make a big deal about the 50th anniversary of the championship win, and it was especially difficult to organize anything this year with the pandemic. A few guys got together three years ago to throw out the first pitch of the Smithfield Little League season.

Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy lands his helicopter in right field and then threw out the first pitch in August of 1970 at the New England Senior League Tournament at Smithfield High School. (Photo provided by Bob Potter)