By STEVE KRAH
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.
1967 Pike Reds Devils.
1968 Pike Red Devils.
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.