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Pike Red Devils relive memories of 1967, 1968 baseball seasons

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Diamond memories made five decades ago were celebrated recently at Pike High School on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

Players and coaches who helped the Red Devils to IHSAA sectional baseball titles in 1967 and 1968 and a regional crown in 1968 — the school’s first two sectional championships and first regional title in any sport — gathered with family, friends and school officials to renew old friendships and to be saluted for their accomplishments.

A dinner was held in the school and reunion attendees were recognized prior to the April 20 Speedway-Pike varsity game at Hildebrand Field.

Those in attendance were Buddy Burnhart, Joe Bumgarner, Eric Cheatham, Greg Hadley, Chuck Keever, David Lloyd, Dennis Lloyd, Rick Marburger, Chuck Metzler, Jim Metzler, Jeff Wagley plus Mary Shambaugh (representing husband and former youth baseball coach Don Shambaugh) and head coaches Bob Wayman (1963-66), Norm Starkey (1967) and Ron Iwema (1968).

David Lloyd delivered a ceremonial first pitch to Jim Metzler.

As an added treat, ’60s music was played throughout the game. Among the tunes were Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’) On The Dock of the Bay,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” B.J. Thomas’ “Hooked on a Feeling” and the Beattle’s “Revolution.”

The 1967 team won Capital District Conference, Lebanon Sectional and Indianapolis North Central Regional titles. Players included Dan Barksdale, Bill Blaser, Emil Goeke, Mike Guest, Greg Hadley, David Lloyd, Dennis Lloyd, Chuck Metzler, Jim Metzler, Mike Meyers, Steve Netter, Greg Shugart, Mike Snyder, Jeff Wagley, Dave Walker, Jay Bradley, son of North Central coach of North Central coach Tom Bradley, was the student trainer. Tom Bradley was the first Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series director in 1975 and is in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame.

Catcher Snyder was the team MVP and was joined by David Lloyd, Wagley and Barksdale as the top hitters. The best pitchers of 1967 were Walker, Hadley and David Lloyd.

The 1968 Red Devils went 16-7 and were Capital District Conference co-champions and reigned in the Lebanon Sectional and North Central Regional before bowing 2-1 to Columbus in the first round of the Franklin Semistate.

Players on that squad were Jay Anderson, Bill Blaser, Joe Bumgarner, Eric Cheatham, Emil Goeke, Greg Hadley, Hal Harvey, Chuck Keever, David Lloyd, Dennis Lloyd, Dave Martin, Jim Metzler, Gary Misamore, Greg Shugart and Pat Watson. Larry Taylor was the student manager.

David Lloyd was the team MVP and was joined by Hadley and Anderson as the top pitchers. The best hitters of 1968 were Dennis Lloyd, David Lloyd, Jim Metzler and Blaser.

David Lloyd was on the Purdue University baseball team in 1971 and 1972.

“We had a very good baseball team,” says Bumgarner, who was a senior in 1968. “We all played together for five, six, seven years before (at the Little League in Pike Township). We had great parent support.”

Pike went against Franklin Central, where Starkey was now head coach, for the conference title. When darkness caused a tie game, it led to a Capital District co-champion.

While Pike has more than 3,000 students and is one of Indiana’s largest highs schools now, Bumgarner notes that a transitional period was going on when he was in school.

“It was going from a farming community to an urban community,” says Bumgarner. “A lot of boys who went to school here took days off to bail hay or bring in the crops in the fall or plant in the spring.

“Eventually, all the land was sold and we’ve got what we have now.”

Bumgarner remembers coming up to the old school on 71st Street most summer nights to play baseball or basketball.

Those summers helped lead to success during the school year, especially in the springs of 1967 and 1968.

“It was pretty exciting,” says Cheatham, who was a sophomore utility player in 1968. “I was the only African-American on the team.”

Cheatham recalls that Pike did have grass in the infield when many places the Red Devils played had skinned infields.

Eric’s son, lefty-lefty outfielder Jordan Reese Cheatham, graduated from Pike and was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 43rd round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of Wabash Valley College.

The younger Cheatham, who was a standout basketball player, was the Marion County Player of the Year on the diamond. He played four minor league seasons with the White Sox system.

Eric Cheatham recalls Iwema as a coach and educator.

“I considered him to be very knowledgable,” said Cheatham. “He was focused on the fundamentals. He was demanding, but not abusive.

“He was pretty energetic.”

Iwema, a 1961 Concord High School graduate who played baseball and basketball at Butler University and taught 40 years at Pike. He was head baseball coach for 18 seasons and an assistant boys basketball coach for the Red Devils for several years, finishing up on the staff of Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Ed Siegel.

“I loved every minute of it,” says Iwema, who guided baseball teams to three Marion County and five sectional titles. “I fell in love with Pike right away.

“Baseball really took off when the state tournament started. It just kept growing.

“It was hard for high school kids to throw strikes in batting practice. I must have thrown 100,000 pitches. I’ve got a bad shoulder now because of it.”

Mark Siegel, Ed’s son, was a shortstop for Iwema at Pike. He was a freshman on the University of Evansville basketball team that was killed in a 1977 plane crash.

Wayman and Starkey came to Pike in the early ‘60s.

“The reason we had such great baseball is the Little League over there,” says Wayman.

“We had a very competitive Little League,” says Starkey. “These kids were good boys. They came from good families.

“I just called David and Dennis Lloyd ‘Lefty’ and ‘Righty’ because I couldn’t tell them apart. At school, I could because of their watches but not on the field.”

The seeds for the reunion were planted when Rick Marburger, who played for the Red Devils in 1969 and 1970, was attending a Pike game in 2017 and encountered by current head coach Todd Webster.

Seeing the look of nostalgia in Marburger’s eye, Webster asked him about playing on the field.

Marburger spun around, pointed and explained that Pike played on what now is the junior varsity diamond and what is now the varsity field was a field sloped enough that players chasing foul balls to the first base side could disappear from view.

Iwema helped build the new field and press box and remembers what a big job it was.

“We had to bring in a hundred million loads of dirt to make this,” said Iwema. “Man, it looks good.”

And it was a good time for everyone to relive some fond memories.

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1967 Pike Reds Devils.

 

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1968 Pike Red Devils.

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Attendees at the April 20, 2018 reunion to salute the 1967 and 1968 Pike High School baseball teams. Both won IHSAA sectional titles and the 1968 Red Devils also won a regional crown. The school had not had a sectional championship team in any sport prior to 1967.

 

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It’s all about being positive for Webster, Pike Red Devils baseball

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

With a coaching staff always looking for the silver lining in every cloud, Pike High School faces the challenges of playing in baseball-rich Indianapolis.

Pike — one of the biggest schools in Indiana with an enrollment of around 3,300 — belongs to the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (along with Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central of Indianapolis and Warren Central) and is in an IHSAA Class 4A grouping with Ben Davis, Decatur Central, Perry Meridian, Roncalli and Southport.

“The MIC is the toughest conference in Indiana in my opinion,” says fourth-year Pike head baseball coach Todd Webster. “Our out-of-conference schedule is fairly tough, too.

“We we think it’s important that we stay positive. We have to tell the kids that they’re getting better.”

It’s about building them up and not beating them down.

Before landing at Pike, Webster was an assistant to Aaron Kroll at Ben Davis — a school fed by Little League programs like Ben Davis, Eagledale and Speedway.

“They had a treasure trove of kids who had skill and were real gutsy and scrappy,” says Webster. “At Pike High School, it’s a little different. Our kids come from a very small Little League (Eagle Creek) and need a lot of development.”

Webster, a 1982 North Central graduate, served several years as a coach and on the executive board at Westlane Delaware Trails Little League — the largest Little League in Washington Township. His board tenure includes time as president.

Something Webster witnessed many times was the formation of travel teams, taking the best players in a given Little League division and putting them on one squad. The fathers of these players would follow and that would reduce the pool of knowledgeable coaches.

Several players come to Pike as freshmen with very little baseball training.

Pike High School & Freshman Center, Pike Career Center and Pike Preparatory Academy serves the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, which also includes three middle schools (Guion Creek, Lincoln and New Augusta Public Academy North) and several elementary schools (Central, College Park, Deer Run, Eagle Creek, Eastbrook, Fishback Creek, Guion Creek, New Augusta South, Snacks Crossing and the Early Childhood Program).

Todd Webster, who saw the Red Devils win five games in 2017, has father Phil Webster, Mike Sloan and Andrew Lawrence on his coaching staff.

Phil Webster won more than 600 games as a high school head coach. His 27-year run at Decatur Central include a 4A state championship in 2008. He was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

“We just kind of let him do his thing,” says Todd Webster of his father, who began his coaching career in the late ‘60s and joined his son last spring. “It’s an unbelievable wealth of knowledge that he brings.

“It’s just nice having him around. He throws batting practice. My dad’s 77 going on 50. Baseball will keep you young.”

Sloan is a former North Central assistant. Lawrence is a social studies teacher at Pike.

The Pike staff keeps looking for things to complement to build up their players and they just keep plugging.

“We have some very good baseball players at Pike High School,” says Todd Webster.

That group includes junior left-handed pitcher Damon Cox (a verbal commit to Northern Kentucky University), senior left-hander Chase Hug (an Olney Central College commit) and uncommitted seniors in center fielder/right fielder Jordan Garrett and catcher Malachi Hamblin. As a junior, Garrett received all-state votes and was on the all-MHIC and all-Marion County teams.

To get seen and signed by colleges, exposures is key.

“Kids these days put a lot of stock in travel baseball,” says Webster. “Certain organizations get a lot of exposure and certain organizations don’t. It’s really important if you have an upper-level baseball athlete that they choose their travel teams and summer programs very wisely.

“Showcases are also very important.”

Pike is proud to call Hildebrand Field home. The complex has two lighted diamonds with new infields and banners and permanent wind slats and toppers on the outfield fences .

“It’s really a beautiful, beautiful field,” says Webster. “I’ve had some college guys say this high school field is better than ours. Our outside facilities are almost second to none.”

When the Devils are inside, they share gym space with many other groups at Pike and have sometimes access to one drop-down batting cage.

“That’s one of the obstacles we have to try to overcome,” says Webster.

One other way Pike players get in some indoor swings is by borrowing a lobster from Pike’s tennis program. Hitters are able to hit tennis balls in the gym and a net is not necessary.

“You have to be as creative as you can,” says Webster.

A Little League player while growing up, Webster got involved with construction trades classes in high school and did not play baseball at North Central.

“We were building our own houses,” says Webster. “I went into the field right out of high school. Back then the money was too good to pass up. He now a general contractor and owns Webster Commercial Contracting and Webster Home Improvement.

Between general contracting and coaching baseball, Webster considers himself as a man with two full-time jobs.

How does he pull it off?

“I own the business and know the boss really, really well,” says Todd, who is also the son of Carolyn Webster and sibling to brother Channing and sister Grey. “The key to coaching baseball and having your own business is you have to surround yourself with good people. If you get yourself into a pickle, you have people there you can trust.

“My assistant coaches on the baseball team are really good, knowledge and reliable. It is not necessary to micro-manage at all.”

In program history, Pike has won 10 sectionals — the last in 2010 — and one regional (1968).

No fewer than three former Red Devils outfielders have been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft — Jim Watkins in the fifth round by the Boston Red Sox in 1979, Dallas Williams in the 42nd round by the Red Sox in 2003 and Jordan Cheatham in the 43rd round by the Chicago White Sox in 2006. All three had brief minor league careers.

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Todd Webster is heading into his fourth season as head baseball coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis in 2018. (Steve Krah Photo)