The resume glistens like a metal baseball bat in the hot July sun. Ken Baker has coached baseball at the Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania to a record of 499-167. His team has won the league championship a staggering 25 straight years.
Now, he and and former Springfield High School classmates and teammates Cleon Morse and Curt Blake will be coming back to Vermont to be inducted into the Springfield High School Athletics Hall of Fame on Feb. 29. They are members of the Class of 1960 so it will also be a mini-class reunion.
“It is going to be fun to see people I haven’t seen in several years,” Baker said.
Baker and Morse were members of coach Bo Birsky’s 1960 Springfield High state championship basketball team. All three were teammates in football and track and field.
“The three us us have remained good friends and in touch over all these years,” Blake said. “Cleon and his wife were just down here (Fripp Island, South Carolina) visiting a year ago.”
Baker has been the athletic director at Perkiomen and is still at it. The Perkiomen baseball field is named Baker Field in his honor.
This will be his fourth Hall of Fame induction. He is in the Perkiomen HOF and the Tri-County Sports Hall of Fame. He heard about his honor of going into the Pennsylvania HOF about the same time he as was notified of the Springfield honor.
The odd twist in his story is that baseball is probably the last sport he never expected to be coaching.
“I haven’t played baseball since I was 12 years old when I hurt my arm. I haven’t been able to throw with any degree of velocity since,” Baker said. “Track and field was my spring sport.
“The sport I always thought I was going to coach was basketball.”
Baker and Blake each went off to Springfield College and Blake was the best man at Baker’s wedding.
Baker has great memories of playing basketball for Birsky.
“Bo was a tough coach,” Baker said.
The baseball field at Springfield is named Birsky/Wyman Field, providing some symmetry with the Perkiomen diamond named for for Baker.
“It was a special day, for sure,” Baker said of the naming of the baseball field in Pennsylvania.
Baker came to love the game of baseball, the one he never really got to play. He has absorbed a lot of knowledge and obviously developed an intense love of the game that he still coaches 60 years after turning his tassel at SHS.
“I am still excited about putting nine guys on the field and getting the job done,” he said.
His program has had a player drafted each of the last three years.
“The highlight (of the Springfield years) was just the unity of the class,” Blake said. “We have a web site and we have all stayed in touch over the 60 years.
“Football was my primary sport but I also loved baseball and track and field.
“But I guess the athletic highlight for me was returning a kick 85 yards to beat Spaulding.”
The Springfield connections run deep. That was a fact that struck Blake when he looked over the inaugural Springfield Hall of Fame Class last year.
Curt Dressel was a member of that class and Blake’s father Glenn Blake played football for Dressel.
Glenn obviously thought an awful lot of his coach — Curt Blake is named for Curt Dressel.
Like Baker, Blake followed a career path in sports. He was on the football, wrestling and track and field coaching staffs at Colgate University and was athletic director at both Rider and Drake University.
He spent 14 years at as the athletic director at Rider University and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2005.
That 1960 state title basketball game was played in Springfield so it made for a frenzied atmosphere.
“The place was packed, I remember that. There were people standing at both ends,” said Morse, a captain of that team.
“The game was usually played at Middlebury but there was some kind of scheduling mix-up. Our gym was the one of the newest at that time with the most capacity. We got to play both the Southern Vermont championship and state championship there. It was an advantage.
The Cosmos defeated BFA-St. Albans with the great Ollie Dunlap that day, 44-42.
Later that year, Morse and Dunlap were teammates on the Vermont team that tied New Hampshire 14-14 in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, the all-star football game played at Dartmouth College.
St. Johnsbury Academy’s Bruce Wheeler was also on that Vermont Shrine squad. He and Blake developed a close friendship at Springfield College and still remain friends today.
Another of the inductees on Feb. 29 is Charlie Tarro (Class of 1928) and he represents another link to the Class of ‘60 athletes, Morse said.
“It was Charlie Tarro who taught us to play basketball down at the Community Center when we were young,” Morse said.
Springfield was a tight community then and perhaps no group was more closely connected than the Class of 1960.
“We had fun growing up and playing sports. We were not competitive with one another. We all got along,” Morse said.
It is a unity that has has continued long after leaving Springfield for Baker, Blake and Morse. It promises to make Feb. 29 an unforgettable day.