1976 Clarinda A's
Following the 1969 season those involved with the program knew that some changes were going to have to be made. They ventured into a tougher schedule in 1970, with Madison, WI being one of the first powers to visit Clarinda, sweeping all three games. The first big road trip for the team was a real eye opener as the A's were soundly thrashed by National Baseball Congress' #1 ranked Liberal Ks BeeJays and #2 Boulder, Co Collegians. Stops in Colorado Springs and Hays, Ks also provided stiff competition. Manager Merl Eberly and pitchers Virgil Briggs and Ralph Taylor were the only players from the early days of the program who were still participating, with the rest of the team coming from college players in the area and a few local junior college players who stayed for the summer. Two California players, Dave Butler and Charlie Graham, came to the program through Butler's family roots in southwest Iowa. Jack Shupe led the team in many categories - 14 HR, 16 doubles, 49 RBI, 60 runs, 67 hits and 18 stolen bases - while having a .421 Avg. which was second to his brother Steve at .525. He had joined the team after finishing a stint in the military. Taylor who joined the team after a 12 year absence was next with .396 and Eberly was the only member to see action in every game, finishing at .384. Marv Palmer tied Shupe for HR with 14 and had 5 doubles, missing nine games due to injury and guard duty.
The A's continued to build a strong schedule in 1971 and to do more recruiting of the collegiate ball player. They won the Nodaway Valley League again and were fourth in the State Tournament to complete a 41-12 season. Jack Shupe led the offense with a .391 batting average, hitting 17 HR and having 80 RBI. Others hitting above the .300 mark were Denny Kurtz at .312; Mike Kurtz, .318; Steve Shupe, .341; Marv Palmer, .350; Virgil Briggs, .333; Sam Sharpe, .337; Ralph Taylor, .302; Merl Eberly, .300 and Tim Milner, .329. Scotty Kurtz led the pitchers with an 11-3 record, throwing in 112 1/3 innings, striking out 200 and having and ERA of 1.44. Milner was next with a 9-3 record, 90 1/3 innings, 133 SO and 2.49 ERA. Others who threw over 20 innings that year were Dave Long, 6-2, 65 1/3 innings, 89 SO and 3.71 ERA; Dave Butler 7-4, 73 2/3 innings, 75 SO and 3.19 ERA and Al Whitehill 4-0, 31 1/3 innings, 35 SO, 2.01 ERA.
In 1972 Clarinda joined Indianola, Kellogg, Stater, Ottumwa and Fort Dodge to form the Iowa State League. While winning the league and compiling a 41-19 record, the A's were beat out in the first round of the state tournament. Jack Shupe again led the offense for the A's with a .413 average, 8 HR and 30 RBI. Others hitting .300 or better were Tim Milner, . 390; Tim Porter, .358; Merl Eberly,.353; Dennis O'Doherty,. 321 and Jim Shaw, .322. Pitching was again led by Kurtz with a 9-2 record, 87 innings, 124 SO, 1.45 ERA. Following him were Mike Miltenberger, 9-2, 42 2/3 inn., 51 SO, 3.59 ERA; O'Doherty, 8-3, 70 inn., 58 SO, 4.63 ERA; Dave Butler, 8-3, 48 inn., 39 SO, 4.50 ERA; and Milner 6-3, 72 inn., 91 SO, 4.50 ERA.
It was during those early years of the 70's that the decision to go to the collegiate format was made. The new board of directors, headed by Dr. C.E. Nichols, actively began recruiting players from across the country and the community responded with its finacial support to allow the team to take this new direction. Members of that board with Nichols in 1973 were Keith Garrett, Darwin Buch, Merl Eberly, Frank Kidwell, Monty Boswell, Earl Schenck, Richard Graham, Rollo Trofholz, Larry Bridie and Mike Kurtz. The A's Auxiliary was also formed that year to help the board in fund raising, coordinating activities and helping with team mailings.
1973 was the year of the A's first state championship. Playing a stepped up schedule which included Fargo, ND; Midlothian, IL; Beatrice, NE; as well as the strong Kansas teams Hutchinson, Dodge City and Wichita helped them prepare for the state tournament. In their first trip to the Nationals in Wichita, the A's won the opening game 6-4 over Garland, NE, before losing to seeded Liberal, KS, 3-2 and Grand Rapids, MI, 10-4 to close their season at 44-21. With the state championship win came all state honors for six of the A's players - pitchers Scotty Kurtz and Dennis O'Doherty, first baseman Noel Bogdanski, left fielder Gaylord Gregory and utility players Denny Kurtz and Randy Magers. O'Doherty and Kurtz were the leading pitchers all season being 11- 3 and 10-4 respectively, Kurtz throwing 106 inn., 140 SO and ERA 2.29 and O'Doherty, 100 inn., 108 SO and 2.43 ERA. Hitting was led by Noel Bogdanski at .451 followed by Mike Nally, .392; Randy Magers, .359; Denny Kurtz, . 333 and Steve Shupe, .328.
The A's posted a 47-17 record in 1974 as they continued a quality schedule and successfully defended their state championship. The team also had its own bus for the first time when local physician, Dr. Bill Kuehn, donated one to the team. In their second appearance at the Nationals, the A's lost their first game to Houston, TX 6-5, but came back to down Terre Haute, IN 2-0 and Jackson, MS 7-6 before being ousted 7-1 by Newton, KS. In their second winning of the state tournament came all state honors for 11 A's players - pitchers, Scotty Kurtz and Terry Unruh; catcher, Gaylord Gregory; infielders Noel Bogdanski, Perry Hill, Steve Macko and Randy Magers; outfielders Mike Wulbecker and Robert Cerv, Jr.; DH, Jim Shaw and utility, Ron Jackson. Leading pitchers for the season were Terry Unruh 7-1, 69 inn., 45 SO, 1.82 ERA; Scotty Kurtz, 7-3, 83 inn., 103 SO, 2.26 ERA; Dennis O'Doherty, 7-4, 79 inn., 44 SO, 3.75 ERA and Bruce Rasmussen, 6-2, 59 inn., 40 SO, 2.13 ERA. With a .426 average Noel Bogdanski led the hitting, followed by Ron Jackson, .406; Mike Wulbecker, .323; Robert Cerv, Jr., 333; Steve Macko, .310 and Gaylord Gregory, 308.
In 1975 the A's put together one of the most successful seasons ever. With a blend of seasoned veterans and talented rookies they established one of the best records in the National Baseball Congress and became the #1 team in the nation. High point of the season was their trip into Alaska to play three of the most powerful ball clubs in the country - the Anchorage Pilots, Fairbanks Goldpanners and the Kenai Oilers - at that time ranked third, first and sixth. The A's were 4-1 against Anchorage, 3-1 in Fairbands and 2-3 at Kenai. In a visit to Clarinda later that year NBC president Paul Dees said, "Clarinda should be proud of the A's for what they did in Alaska. No other team had ever won a series from the Alaskans on their home ground." He went on to say, ":The Alaska teams hardly ever lose four or five games a month, let alone in one series with one team." Midway in the season the news cam that the A's were voted the #1 team in the nation by the NBC. The big reason for the climb was from their early season campaign in Alaska. This quote by Bill Hodge in the Wichita Eagle- Beacon was typical - "Clarinda where? That's what people used to say about the southwest Iowa community of 6,000 when it's residents would venture forth to the big towns outside their own state. No more. The Clarinda Iowa A's are rated as the nation's number one non-professional team." The team went on to win the state tournament but were denied the right to go to the Nationals when they were beaten out of the Regional Tournament in Eau Claire, WI. They ended the year with a 60-10 record and many rewarding moments for the Clarinda fans. Honored on the All State team were pitchers Scotty Kurtz and Terry Unruh; catcher, Les Hemby; infielders Donnie Carr and Ozzie Smith and outfielders tom Higgins and Gary Thweatt. Terry Unruh led the pitching staff at 11-1, 94 inn., 88 SO, 2.01 ERA followed by Scotty Kurtz, 8-0, 65 inn., 79 SO and 0.97 ERA, Sam Solis 8-2, 65 inn., 51 SO, 2.13 ERA; Scott Heffner 7-1, 66 1/3 inn., 80 SO, 1.63 ERA; and Byron Thornton 7-1, 66 1/3 inn., 53 SO, 1.67 ERA. At .404, Tom Higgins led the hitting followed by Mike Wulbecker, .344; Noel Bogdanski, . 382; Gary Thweatt, .335; and Bill Young, . 322.
1976 held many firsts for the A's. One was the initiation of the houseparent program. From that season to the present it has been an integral part of the total A's success story. Local families open their homes to the players who come from all parts of the country and in some seasons, foreign countries. Through this association many lasting relationships have been formed between the families and their "summer sons". Another was hosting and winning the NBC Midwest Regional Tournament. Seven A's were picked for the All Regional team - pitchers Sam Solis and Chris Kies; infielders Jack Shuupe, Rick Oliver, Ozzie Smith; outfielders Wayne Redfearn and Tom Higgins. Shupe was named the tourney MVP. It was also the first time a Clarinda team had placed in the NBC World Series, finishing in a third place tie with defending champions Boulder, CO. Tom Higgins and Ozzie Smith were also the first A's to receive individual awards at the national event. Higgins was named to the All Star Team in the outfield and also received a trophy for the most extra base hits. Smith, popular A's shortstop who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last year, received the individual sportsmanship award. Playing one of the strongest schedules to that point in their history, the A's finished 65-13. Leading the offense for the team were Jack Shupe, .426; Danny Gans, . 391; Ozzie Smith, .379; Wayne Redfearn, .371; Robert Cerv, Jr., .348; Dwayne Wright, . 341; Tom Higgins, .335; Jeff Nichols, .311; Noel Bogdanski, .300.
The 1977 season found the A's finishing with a 59-12 record, but a disappointing tournament showing. During the season they played some fine baseball and fielded one of the best teams ever. Injuries and the June pro draft caused the line-up to be juggled, with rookies taking over some key spots. Hosting the Midwest Regional Tourney for the second straight year, the A's were runner-up to Rapid City, SD. Selected to the All Star tourney team were pitchers Sam Solis and Bud Black; catcher Darrell Miller, infielders Keith Spreckles and Jack Shupe and DH Jim Wilfong. At the Nationals they were 2-2. Leading the hitting for the season were Gary Weiss, .392; Keith Spreckles, .370; Noel Bogdanski, .356; Joe Scherger, .352; Jim Wilfong, .347; Rick Eberly, .340; Tom Higgins, .328; Jeff Nichols, .317; and Darrell Miller, .308. Pitching was balanced with Tony Hudson being 7-1, 64 1/3 inn., 48 SO and 3.36 ERA; Jack Freeland, 7-1, 62 2/3 inn., 32 SO, 5.17 ERA; Gary Randall, 6-1, 54 inn., 42 SO, 4.50 ERA; Bud Black, 5-1, 70 inn., 69 SO, 3.09 ERA, Sam Solis, 7-3, 94 2/3 inn., 77 SO, 3.04 ERA and Gary Bowers 7-3, 46 inn., 42 SO, 5.28 ERA.
In 1978, the A's became a member of the strong Jayhawk League, joining Kansas teams Liberal, Hutchinson, Dodge City, Hays and El Dorado, as well as Pueblo, CO. Clarinda finished in third place with a 13-10 league record behind Liberal (19-3) and El Dorado (13-9). Outfielder Paul Szymarek was named to the All League team. The A's won the Iowa NBC State Championship and were 2-2 in the National Tourney, to finish the season at 52-16. Noel Bogdanski at .401 led the team hitting, followed by Jeff Williams, .395; Darrell Miller, .355; Paul Szymarek,. 351; Gary Lejarzar, .331 and Keith Spreckles, .316. Buddy Black, 8-3 led in innings pitched with 80, 82 SO and 2.25 ERA. Steve Daniels was 5-3, 65 1/3 inn., 54 SO, 3.60 ERA; Joe Preciado 5-1, 54 inn., 41 SO, 3.50 ERA; Tom Poloski 52 1/3 inn., 51 SO, 4.50 ERA; Jerry Reedy 5-0, 51 1/3 inn., 35 SO, 4.68 ERA; John Shannon 5-0, 47 inn., 43 SO, 3.16 ERA and Gary Bowers 5-2, 40 1/3 inn., 33 SO, 4.95 ERA.
Winning the Jayhawk League with a 22-8 record in 1979 was just one of the highlights of that season. The A's also won another State Championship and tied for fourth in the National Tournament, as well as being presented with the Most Popular Team trophy. Other honors for the A's went to Paul Homrig and Von Hayes who were named to the All Tournament team, with Hayes also being named the leading hitter and receiving a trophy for the most home runs in the tourney. The over-all record for the '79 team was 53-11. Von Hayes led the hitting for the '79 team at .511, a team record that still stands. Others hitting .300 or better were Tom Higgins .409; Eric Peyton, .380; Brian Poldberg, .376; Rusty Snyder, .373; Paul Homrig, .373; Harry McCulla, .358; Tyke Maravich, .355; Arnie Thrower, .344; Carson Carroll, .338; Craig Gerber, .336; Noel Bogdanski, .316; Paul Homrig, .313. Tim Sleek was 9-0 with 62 inn., 50 SO, 3.05 ERA; DeVallon Harper, 9-2, 75 1/3 inn., 60 SO, 2.99 ERA; Stu Hein, 7-2 54 2/3 inn., 39 SO, 2.96 ERA; Pete Zorich, 5-0, 46 1/3 inn., 23 SO, 1.36 ERA and Matt Dixon, 5-0, 30 1/3 inn., 28 SO, 2.97 ERA .