Capping a fabulous season of 15 wins and 1 loss, the Animal Clinic captured this year’s Rockaway Little League Major Division Championship, besting a tremendous 29 Deli team two straight in the World Series. Animal Clinic had been consistent all season, faltering only once, 4-3, on a tremendous pitching performance by Baskin Robbins’s Kevin Boyle back on June 4, 1999. Since then, this hardworking, team-oriented group became a juggernaut, winning its last 3 regular season games and then sweeping through the play-offs a perfect 4-0.
Animal Clinic opened the play-off drive with a handy 7-0 victory over a talented Daly Dodger franchise on June 21, 1999. Next up was Plaza King, who had defeated The Beach Club to advance to the quarterfinals. Animal Clinic moved on with a hard fought 7-1 victory over Plaza on June 27. Meanwhile Van Zachery and 29 Deli had advanced with victories over Baskin Robbins and A.T.P. Insurance respectively, setting up a semi-final showdown. 29 Deli came out ahead, in one of the finer games of the season, breaking a close game open, late in the contest, for a 14-8 victory and earning a World Series birth.
Opening the Series, after tough semi-final games the day before, presented managers with difficult decisions, as they were forced to juggle pitching rotations. Animal Clinic handed the ball to Matt Reen for the opener, opting to keep fireballing duo Ryan Roberts and Billy Becker in reserve. Becker had gone deep in Sunday’s semis, and was probably unavailable for use in the opener. Reen was not only up to the challenge, he was masterful, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) over 4 and one-third innings, while striking out six.
29 Deli broke on top 2-0, going into the bottom of the second, with hard throwing Paul Hedderson on the hill. In the second, Animal Clinic responded to the challenge by posting 7 runs. Hedderson, a fierce competitor, who had pitched in Sunday’s semi final contest, appeared to tire, as the Clinic sent all 11 batters to the plate in the inning. With runners on second and third, Stephen Guardino delivered the spark, doubling to left field and driving in Becker and Reen. Five batters later Roberts’ grand slam, deep to centerfield, capped the 7 run outburst. Animal Clinic never looked back, adding 3 more runs on the way to a 10-4 win. Among the many offensive stars were Kevin Cashen (2-3, 2 rbi), Billy Becker (2-2, 1 rbi) and triple-king Mike Paskoff, the catalyst, with 2 runs scored. Roberts pitched the final 12 innings to seal a 1-0 Series Lead. For 29 Deli, Hedderson went 2-3 with an rbi and run scored, Brian Prior was 1-2 with 2 runs scored and Sal Gurino went 1-3.
Game 2 was delayed due to rain on Thursday, allowing two extra days of rest. Saturday morning at 9:00, despite the heat, both teams were ready for action. Animal Clinic sent right -hander flamethrower Billy Becker to the mound, facing off against 29 ace Billy Cook. Clinic took up right where it had left off, scoring 4 runs in the top of the first on rbi singles by Becker and Roberts and a sac fly by Cashen. Becker pitched out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the first, striking out three consecutive batters and allowing no runs. In the second Clinic added 3 runs with Stan Sanders lighting the fire, walking and stealing second and third. Mike Paskoff had the first of his three singles, and after Roberts was issued an intentional walk, Becker strode to the plate with the sacks full. With the count 2 balls and 1 strike Becker laced a single to right center scoring Sanders and Paskoff. The clinching blows were delivered in the third as Clinic scored five more times. Jason Rodriguez and John Gallagher both had rbi bunt singles to start it off and Roberts hit his second series homer, a three run shot, to close the door. Becker meanwhile, despite struggling with his control, managed to hold a good hitting 29 team scoreless over the first two frames before yielding to Roberts in the third. 29 managed to push across 3 runs, with Gurino, Ed Velten and Hedderson crossing the plate, as Clinic defense faltered briefly in the heat. The final score, in a run rule shortened contest, was 15-3, concluding an exciting World Series.
Congratulations are in order to all the Major Division teams for a fine season, with special recognition to Frank Pelligrino’s 29 Deli team for all their success. Animal Clinic, for their part, ends the season with an impressive 15-1 final record. During its four playoff victories they outscored their opponents 39-8, leaving little doubt about the validity of their record or accomplishments. Special thanks to our sponsor as well as coaches Stu Spolin, Stan Sanders and Rich Rodriguez for the endless support and assistance at games and practices. Kudos to all the Clinic Rooters, moms and dads alike, who were always there to support their troops, counting pitches, supplying water and sometimes even interpreting rules. No team can truly be great without fan support and the 1999 Animal Clinic Champions clearly had the most devoted and supportive fans a team could ask for. Thanks for a great season.