It was 30 years ago the Cody American Legion baseball team made a unlikely run, upsetting team after team on its road to victory.
“Not only were we surprised, other teams were surprised,” said Torin Chambers, a catcher and first baseman for the team.
The former Cubs held a 30th anniversary reunion at Hugh Smith Park on July 3, in conjunction with the Cody High School class of 1989 reunion also taking place in Cody last week. For many members of the team who no longer live in Cody, it was the first time they had laid eyes on each other in years.
“It’s so much fun to be with these guys now, 30 years later,” Chris Burt said. “It’s certainly one of the best memories of my life.”
After exchanging hugs, handshakes and hats, the guys played catch and took batting practice.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids and it just shows what kind of character they have 30 years later,” said Tim Moir, coach of ’89 team.
Run to remember
The Cubs were far from dominant throughout the season, only winning 14 of their first 38 games. But towards the last stretch of the season the team found its mojo, winning 10 of its last 14, including a big win against Riverton.
“They peaked at the right time,” Moir said. “When it came to the state tournament they just caught on fire.”
State was held on Cowboy Field in Laramie, the home of the now defunct University of Wyoming baseball program.
The team opened the tournament with a tough-fought 6-5 win over Gillette in which it pulled six double plays. But what really set the tone for the upset was an 11-1 throttling of Cheyenne, in which the pitcher Eric Swope tossed all nine innings.
Back in those days, Cody was a AA team, meaning it had to go up against the big boys, despite the disparate size of talent pools.
“Cheyenne had two high schools, Casper had two high schools,” Swope said.
In the next game the Cubs continued dominating, beating Casper 17-7. Cody then had to prove itself once more against that same Casper team.
After a rain delay, everything led up to a 10-inning championship thriller the Cubs won 7-6.
It was Swope who picked up a bunted ball and threw to first base for the final out.
“I remember Swope told me he was just numb as he picked up that ball,” Chambers said.
In classic formation, the team dog piled at the mound.
“We went down on the dirt and everybody else was just on top of us,” Swope said.
As soon as the Cubs’ bus pulled up at Yellowstone Regional Airport the Cubs were greeted by countless friends and family. Per Cody tradition for all state championship teams, a fire truck parade ushered the team down Sheridan Avenue to celebrate.
The Cubs continued shocking other teams after state, winning its first game at regionals in Lewiston, Idaho, 4-3 over a team from Vancouver, Wash., a community almost seven times as big as Cody at the time.
It was from there the Cubs’ magic ran dry, but it hardly mattered, because they could still be proud of what they had accomplished.
Memories for a lifetime
As the soft evening glow sent shadows over the same diamond they played on 30 years ago, the Cubs enjoyed playing together once again. A few of the players play softball or coach their own children in baseball, but for most it was the first time they had played since that championship year.
A few struggled to get their glove down for grounders and others came up empty on swings, but it was clear for most the talent was still there, along with passion for the game.
“I just try to tell kids, most players don’t get the opportunity to play at a higher level,” Justin Lundvall said. “So appreciate it while you can.”
The lone player missing from the festivities was Cortney Feeley, who died in a car accident in 2007. It was the outfielder Feeley who knocked in the game-tying run in the championship win.
“He’d be here, just another one of us guys,” Lundvall said.