Cherry Hill American Little League will honor 1983 team that won the state title

Jim Lehman (left) who has helped run the Cherry Hill American Little League since 1959, talks with Ed Foley Sr. (center), and his son Glenn Foley Thursday, April 11, 2013. On Saturday, they will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1983 team's winning the state title. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Jim Lehman (left) who has helped run the Cherry Hill American Little League since 1959, talks with Ed Foley Sr. (center), and his son Glenn Foley Thursday, April 11, 2013. On Saturday, they will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1983 team's winning the state title. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: April 13, 2013

Joe Schooley stepped into the batter's box and into the biggest moment of his life.

It was the bottom of the sixth inning. The game was tied, 6-6. The 1983 Little League state baseball championship was on the line.

Talk about pressure for a 12-year-old.

To make matters worse, Schooley had to wait. Playing for Cherry Hill American, Schooley watched as Morristown brought in a new pitcher to face him. The pitcher was uncomfortable with the mound, causing a five-minute delay that felt closer to 45 minutes for Schooley.

But Schooley wasn't fazed. He took the second pitch he saw and ripped it over the right-center field fence, a home run to win the state championship and keep the team's hopes for a Little League World Series appearance alive.

"There was a lot of cheering and mayhem going," Schooley said. "I finally hit home plate with a big jump in the air and landed on home plate, and then got mobbed by everybody."

Schooley is 42 now. That home run is 30 years old. But its memory and importance to a community live on.

Cherry Hill American Little League will honor that 1983 team before the opening day game at Jim Lehman Field at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Members of the squad will return to a field they once called home. They will reunite with old friends they once called teammates.

Perhaps most of all, they will remember a summer of simpler times, the glory days, a period when a bunch of 12-year-olds took a town by storm.

"There were a lot of interesting characters on the team," said David Hieb, who was a catcher.

Hieb's best memory came days after Schooley's home run, when the team traveled to Newburgh, N.Y., for the regional tournament.

"We stayed in a barracks," Hieb said. "Somebody got a hold of a fire extinguisher, and the floors were linoleum, so we're sliding around, doing what kids do. And one kid went right out the second-floor door and down a flight of stairs, so that game had to stop really quick."

Representing New Jersey, Cherry Hill American went on to beat Maryland and then Pennsylvania in a 10-inning game. Playing in its third game in three days, Cherry Hill lost to Connecticut, falling one game shy of reaching the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"I guess what you appreciate more is back in those days we had real good teams," said Ed Foley, coach of the 1983 team. "Now you don't see too many of the teams in our district go very far. They don't even win the district anymore, and we were winning the district every year. It was just a matter of how far we were going to go."

The state championship was the first for Cherry Hill American, marking the beginning of a golden era for a program that would win states again in 1986 and 1989. But being the first from Cherry Hill to win it gives this team a special spot in the memories of those who watched.

"The thing about the '83 team, it being the first time, that's the year we were quite excited," said Jim Lehman, who has helped run the program since 1959 and after whom the team's field is named.

"Down at the field, we formed a line of cars to drive through the township [after the state championship]. They had signs on the cars and signs above the cars, and we were honkin' and tootin'."

Some of the players from the '83 team went on to compete on bigger stages. Hieb eventually caught for the Texas Rangers organization. Adam Shorr, the team's ace pitcher, moved on to Division I Auburn. Ted Page, another pitcher, went on to be a defensive lineman for Boston College.

Perhaps the team's biggest claim to fame comes from Glenn Foley, the coach's son. Foley went on to play quarterback for Boston College and orchestrate one of the most memorable college football upsets: a 1993 victory over then top-ranked Notre Dame to knock the Irish out of national-title contention. He later played for the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.

"You talk about the perfect storm in terms of the kids growing up in Cherry Hill, where the numbers were big and the Little Leagues were great," Glenn Foley said.

Despite the distance apart and the different paths these players took in life, in a way it's as if they never left.

By winning that title at the age 12, these 42-year-olds are still remembered by a community that had watched them play three decades earlier. "We just want to let them know that we haven't forgotten them," Lehman said.


Contact Christian Hetrick at chetrick@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @_Hetrick.

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