Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

It’s ‘Batter up’ again
for 1960 champions

IT was about a year ago, in this space, that we read about the proposed reunion of Hawaii's 1960 Babe Ruth state championship baseball team. And about the summer those boys had, so many summers ago, when they were 14, and playing baseball in the sun.

There was Del Nebeker, who, along with two others on that 1960 Babe Ruth team, played on John Velasco's first championship football squad at Radford. And Byron Reynolds, who still remembers those days fondly, thinking of the bittersweet time when they made it to Utah, for the Western States Finals -- but he had to keep going, moving to the mainland straight from the tournament, never to see those teammates again.

The two old friends met each other on the Internet, some 40 years later, and vowed to bring the boys together again, one more time as a team. A reunion of the 1960 state champs.

The update, 374 days later?

"Things are really starting to heat up," Nebeker says. "We found two old teammates this week.

"We have found the starting nine except for one guy. Ray Rogers."

Kenny Reynolds is in Philadelphia. Mac McCarthy is in California. Jerry Hibbeler is in Houston. Mark Holmes is in Jacksonville, Fla. They've heard from the late DeRoy Lavatai's son.

And in these last few days, two more.

"The latest guys," Nebeker says, "are really excited to push this forward."

They feel the same feelings Reynolds and Nebeker had. All the old memories, flooding back. There's something about being a boy on a baseball team. You never forget.

Roy Koenig never has. He's an umpire now, in his spare time.

"Del found me," he writes. He was on Oahu, but it took some detective work: the Kamehameha Schools alumni Web site.

He's never forgotten that trip to Utah, when they gave leis and kisses to the tournament queen.

"A few of us were driven to Salt Lake City from Tooele Army Depot," he writes. "On the way, we made the driver stop so we could watch the most spectacular lightning storm we had ever seen. To see bolts of lightning shoot across the sky and light up the mountains like daytime was just chicken skin."

That trip was the time of their lives.

"Our greatest pastime between games was to go to the indoor pool, and the lifeguards only let the guys from Hawaii jump off the 30-meter platform," Koenig remembers. "And we put on a water-bomb show never to be witnessed again in Utah. DeRoy Lavatai and Bob Apisa could send the water almost to the ceiling!"

Apisa. They found him, too, this week. Or rather, the former Farrington and Michigan State star found them, when he heard about the brewing reunion.

He couldn't believe it. He can't wait.

The old team is going to be together again.

It's going to happen now. It really is.

"One of these days," Koenig says. And it gives him an idea: "... and probably lose to the current Babe Ruth champions."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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