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John Habib's City Sports: Bids in for more baseball regionals

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 02. 2013 11:05PM

Manchester native Bob Savage, who pitched in five major-league seasons, with the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Browns, died last Friday. 

Fresh off hosting the age-13 New England Regional, the Manchester Babe Ruth League is hoping to host the regional for both the age-14 and 13-15 divisions next summer.

“I’ve already sent in our bids for both to the New England commissioner,” said Gary Ulbin, the Manchester league’s director. “We’re going to get one of them, and there’s a good chance we could get both. We’ll definitely know later this year.”

Ulbin said the regional that opened last Saturday and concluded Thursday night drew high praise from the regional officials and all the teams participating in the event.

“They loved Gill Stadium, and each team thanked us for the hospitality we provided them all week,” said Ulbin. “There was a lot of hard work behind the scenes from many volunteers, and it paid off. Now that we’re bidding for more regional tournaments, teams around the region definitely want to return to Manchester.”

One of the reasons Ulbin hopes to host next year’s 13-15 regional is the success of Manchester’s entry in this year’s age-14 postseason. The Hanagan All-Stars are preparing for the Babe Ruth League World Series after winning their regional in Westfield, Mass., earlier this week.

“Most of these Hanagan All-Stars will be playing for the (ages 13-15) Woodlock All-Stars next summer,” Ulbin said. “To have a strong team back hosting a regional tournament at Gill Stadium is a very good thing for our league and community.”

To raise funds for the Hanagans’ trip to Moses Lake, Wash., the Manchester Babe Ruth League is holding a car wash today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Manchester Fire Dept. Station 10 on Mammoth Road. Another fundraiser will take place on Thursday, when the league hosts a community social at the American Legion Sweeney Post from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

“We’re seeking donations from the public and sponsors to help defray the cost of the World Series trip,” said Ulbin.

The World Series begins Aug. 17, in Moses Lake, Wash.

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THE MAN for whom the Hanagan All-Stars are named, Mickey Hanagan, will be coaching in his 11th Babe Ruth League World Series. He said the team’s top two pitchers, Matt Reynolds and Pat Swanson, might be the best two starters he’s coached since his 1976 team won the national championship.

The Hanagans were 5-0 in the regional tournament, with Swanson and Reynolds each pitching two complete games. Drew Merrick also pitched well, Hanagan said.

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IF ULBIN and Sally Dreckmann have their way, Manchester will be Youth Baseball Central in New England next summer.

Just as Ulbin bid on the two Babe Ruth regionals, Dreckmann, president of Manchester Central Little League, bid for her organization to hold a regional in the 10-11 age-division tournament at Sam Harris Field, mere blocks from Gill Stadium.

“Little League didn’t have a Northeast regional tournament for that age group this summer because they didn’t have a place to hold it,” Dreckmann said. “I’m giving them notice we’d like to host it next summer.”Don Kirkland, commissioner of the state’s Little League District I, said he backs Dreckmann but believes her bid may be a long shot.

“It’s my understanding that Little League wants a regional tournament for that age group in both the New England and Middle Atlantic regions,” Kirkland said. “Little League may back off and tell Sally that unless the Middle Atlantic region puts in a bid, they won’t award one in New England. Little League just wants it that way.”

If Little League rejects Dreckmann’s bid, Kirkland said, he’ll ask her to consider hosting invitational tournaments for age-10 and age-11 state champions from around New England.

Central Little League has recent experience running multiple, simultaneous tournaments, having hosted last month’s state tourneys for the age-10, 11 and 10-12 divisions. She estimates attendance for the 16 games that took place at Harris to have been around 3,000.

“It was amazing because before all the state tournaments started, I was hoping for a total of 750 people,” she said.

Part of what made the attendance amazing is Harris Field’s lack of lights, said Kirkland, who has encouraged Dreckmann to seek city help in getting lights installed.

“If she’s serious about hosting regional tournaments in the future, I told Sally it’s wise to install lights,” he said.

One asset Central Little League does have: Dreckmann’s daughter, Saray, who did a great job of phoning in scores to the New Hampshire Union Leader during the tournaments.

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ON THE eve of the Babe Ruth Regional in Manchester, a former major-leaguer who got his start playing baseball in the city while the Babe was still in pinstripes died last Friday. Manchester native Bob Savage, who earned three Purple Hearts while serving in World War II between stints with the Philadelphia Athletics, was 91 when he passed away at Coos County Nursing Home in Berlin.

A graduate of old St. Joseph High in Manchester, Savage was only 20 when he made his major-league debut with the Athletics in 1942 and appeared in eight games, going 0-1 with a 3.23 ERA before enlisting in the Army. He spent four seasons after the war with the Athletics and St. Louis Browns, finishing his big-league career with a 16-27 record and 4.32 ERA.

After pitching in the minor leagues for a few seasons, he retired from baseball in 1953. He went to work for Wilson Sporting Goods, opened his own sporting good store and later moved north, becoming a physical education teacher at Gorham High School and serving two terms as registrar of probate for Coos County.

“He was a good athlete and a good guy,” recalled State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, “very affable and someone you’d like if you met him.”

A basketball and baseball standout at St. Joseph, Savage also pitched for the Atlantic Oilers in the City Twilight League. He received offers to play for the Detroit Tigers and Athletics in the 1930s but elected to attend Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, where he posted a 22-1-2 pitching record before signing with the A’s.

During the war, he fought in southern Italy, took part in the August 1944 invasion of southern France and helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.

After the war, he rejoined the A’s in 1946 and immediately led the American League in pitching appearances, with 44. His earned his first major-league win on July 7, 1946, when he went the distance in a 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.

He ended up 3-15 with the last-place Athletics that season, then registered an 8-10 record with a 3.76 ERA the year after that. Released by Philadelphia in 1948, he joined the Browns in 1949. He retired from baseball in 1953 after pitching in the Pacific Coast League with the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Seals.

“City Sports” appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at

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