Historic pitcher creates trophy for Back Mountain Little League

Tom Robinson - For Dallas Post | September 7th, 2017 8:10 pm

The Back Mountain Little League reconnected with its past this summer.

Donn Goodwin is making sure that connection continues in the years ahead.

Current members of the league met Goodwin in Williamsport when he was honored at the Peter J. McGovern World of Little League Museum in June.

Goodwin was the center of attention when his exploits as a player in 1954, in the earliest years of the league, were recognized. He used the interest as an opportunity to honor his father’s input in the league.

When Goodwin met with league players again back at home in Dallas, he showed off a new championship trophy in his father’s name that will be awarded to the league’s championship team each season.

The James H. Goodwin Memorial Trophy includes a miniature statue of a pitcher and the date July 14, 1954, recognizing the special day on the field, specifically the pitcher’s mound, that Donn was remembered for this summer.

When he helped create the Back Mountain Little League in the early 1950s on the site that is now the Burger King and surrounding parking lots in Shavertown, James Goodwin could not have imagined the last impacting it would have.

James Goodwin, who died in 1964, had spent 40 years as the Shavertown Elementary School principal.

“I’m very proud of what my father accomplished starting Little League Baseball in the Back Mountain,” Donn Goodwin said in a phone interview this week.

James Goodwin joined Vern Pritchard, Frank Hemmingway and others in getting the league started. Alfred Gibbs served as the early president, with Charles Steinhauer as commission and L.T. “Red” Schwartz as umpire-in-chief.

Congressman Dan Flood attended Opening Day ceremonies.

Wool uniforms and all, the league began to play with teams representing Trucksville, Shavertown, Dallas, Fern Brook, Westmoreland and Noxen/Lehman.

The others serving as administrators left James Goodwin the chance to coach a team that included his son.

Just as Donn is a proud son now, James was a proud father when Donn pitched the league’s first two no-hitters, making sure to save the game balls, clippings from the Dallas Post and other mementos.

Donn took things a step further on July 14, 1954, when he threw the first documented “Perfect-Perfect Game” in Little League history, not only retiring all 18 batters he faced but striking out each one in Trucksville’s 3-0 win over Westmoreland. James wrote a letter to Carl Stotz, who had founded Little League Baseball in Williamsport in 1939 and was still serving as its commissioner, informing him of the accomplishment.

Stotz wrote a letter of congratulations to Donn.

Donn went on to pitch at Wingate Junior College in North Carolina and Appalachian State. Arm troubles that developed late in his college career ended the dream of playing professionally, and Donn followed his father into a career in education.

After serving as an elementary teacher and principal and high school assistant principal and principal during a 45-year career in education that took him to Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, Donn has been living his retirement years in Sebring, Fla.

He still plays in a senior softball league there where he says teammates ruthlessly tease any player who does not get low enough to properly field a ground ball.

Following the February 2016 death of Judy Goodwin, his wife of 37 years, Donn began packing up his belongings and spending extra time looking at old scrapbooks, as he prepared for an upcoming move to Charlottesville, Va. to be with other members of his family.

During that time, Donn came across the letter from Stotz and the old baseballs that his father had saved for him.

All of that led to a busy summer for Donn and a special day for dozens of Back Mountain Little Leaguers.

Following communications with museum executive director Lance Van Auken, the letter, baseball, clippings and other artifacts were placed on display at the museum in South Williamsport in February.

Donn, who has returned to the Back Mountain for part of the summer for decades, was invited to the museum in June to give a private presentation and 45-minute speech about his experiences with Little League.

When he arrived for his speech, Donn was surprised by one of the moments that day which challenged his ability to control his emotions. As he looked over the uniformed Little League players in attendance for his presentation, Donn saw the uniforms that read “Back Mountain,” a development of which he was unaware.

“To me, it was just a typical Little League game, and as the game progressed I started to realize that we were playing really fantastic ball,” Donn said during his speech, according to a Little League press release. “When the game was finally over, and we realized what we did, I was so excited and so overcome with emotion that I was crying happy tears at that point.

“It was a special time and everybody had come out and was cheering me and patting me on the back. It was pretty neat.”

Paul Steinruck, one of the parents in attendance at the speech, noted the connection Donn made with the youngsters from his old league.

“It was really a great, heartfelt speech,” Steinruck said. “He was very thankful of the Back Mountain; … very appreciative of where he came from, which I think was so important for the kids to hear.”

Following the speech, Donn joined the players, primarily the Back Mountain American and Back Mountain National, 9-10-year-old all-star teams, on the Lamade Stadium field, moving among groups of them to play catch. Their reaction, including one autograph request that led to a series of others, made an impact on Donn.

“I felt like Mickey Mantle,” Donn said. “Next to being married and having kids, it was the third-best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Donn returned to Pennsylvania in August. He stayed in the Back Mountain, commuting to Williamsport with Dallas physical therapist Jeff Pace for all but one day of the Little League World Series. He also visited the Back Mountain Little League to show off the new trophy that he had created for future champions.

“This has been a fantastic year for me,” Donn said. “My only regret is my wife was not able to see this. She would have been very proud to have seen the relationship that existed with these kids and parents for me.

“They really made me feel good.”

Donn Goodwin is surrounded by member of the Back Mountain Little League team during a visit to the Howard Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport.
http://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/web1_LITTLELEAGUE1.jpgDonn Goodwin is surrounded by member of the Back Mountain Little League team during a visit to the Howard Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport.
Donn Goodwin, center, poses with Back Mountain Little Leaguers Zachary Williams, left, and Sam Finarelli, on right, outside the Little League Museum in South Williamsport.
http://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/web1_LITTLELEAGUE2.jpgDonn Goodwin, center, poses with Back Mountain Little Leaguers Zachary Williams, left, and Sam Finarelli, on right, outside the Little League Museum in South Williamsport.

Tom Robinson

For Dallas Post

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