Former Oakland Athletics third baseman Carney Lansford played 15 years in the Major Leagues and won a World Series in 1989 with the A’s, but he still fondly remembers another championship he won — the 1969 Little League World Series with Santa Clara’s Briarwood Little League.
“I started thinking about this [reunion] two or three years ago,” said Lansford who helped coordinate a team reunion. “At the time, I don’t know if any of us understood what we actually accomplished because you’re 12 years old and some of the guys were 11. We’re just traveling around, playing games and having fun. Two or three years later, you sit back one day and go wow, what we did was really special.”
On Aug. 17, 2019 — almost 50 years later to the day that the boys won the U.S. side of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. — the now men walked back onto the Briarwood Little League Field with their families.
The field has since been named after the 1969 team’s manager, Bob Northern. The field right next to it is named after the 1969 team’s coach, Gordon Beatty.
Both men have since passed on but their family members were there to share in the memories.
“It was an adventure,” said Shirley Northern, Bob Northern’s widow. “The boys, everybody was so great. We were one big happy family and especially when we won.”
“It was just a thrill to be a part of the whole championship series,” said Patty Verrey, Gordon Beatty’s daughter. “I remember looking through the fence and watching the games. I can specifically remember because Carney was a pitcher, how serious he was on the mound…He had his game face on, let me tell you.”
Lansford, with the help of former teammates David Przybyia, Jeff Walsh and Wayne Akiya, managed to track down most of the team.
A few said they couldn’t make it or were out of the country, but most made it a must attend event, including one player who delayed a family trip to Hawaii just to be there.
The players paused a moment to remember catcher Mike Quinn who died in 2013. His son and daughter were there with their families.
“He just loved it; he loved the experience,” said Michelle Placencia, Quinn’s daughter. “It’s every kid’s dream to go and do that.”
“He was very humble. He would tell me, ‘It just happened naturally. We were just a bunch of kids growing up around on our bikes. We go play baseball and this guy, talking about Bob, just happened to grab a bunch of misfit kids and said let’s just play ball and it just happened our way,’” said Danny Placencia, Quinn’s son-in-law.
And that’s the part the players seemed to remember the most, being kids and playing the game they loved.
“It was just unreal, it was so much fun,” said Przybyia. “Just a bunch of 12-year-old, 11-year-old kids just couldn’t believe we made it there. It was just amazing.”
“Just the experience of being there, being at the ballparks there in Williamsport,” said Lansford. “We all stayed in a big bunkhouse…the Asian teams, Japan was there and Taiwan. We couldn’t speak the same language, but we all got along, we played ping pong together, we played together, we just had a blast.”
The Briarwood Little League team won the U.S. side of the tournament in 1969, but lost 5-0 in the World Finals to the team from Taiwan. Back then it was single elimination, which meant Briarwood had to keep winning to win it all.
Most people say, while the games in Williamsport were amazing, the most amazing win happened during the Regional Championships in Arizona.
“We were losing, I think it was by a run or two going into the bottom of the sixth inning and the other team came out…celebrating like they had already won and we walked them off in the bottom of the sixth,” said Lansford.
“People were passing out. People were crying. It was amazing. I was crying,” said Shirley Northern.