20 Years Later: Revisiting the Beast of the East
The biggest sporting event I have covered and witnessed in my nearly 40 years at WOBM took place on August 29, 1998 when Toms River East American won the Little League World Series by beating Kashima, Japan 12-9.
As we approach the 20th anniversary you will be hearing and seeing more about an event that not only was big news here but across the country as well. The Little League World Series was also the first time America was introduced to 12-year old Todd Frazier who by the time it was over was a celebrity signing autographs along with many of his teammates.
There have been reunions and anniversary celebrations in the past but likely the one taking place this Sunday will be unique and special as they reunite in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where of course World Series takes place.
They will pay a visit to Lamade Stadium the scene of their championship efforts that summer and in the evening will get to watch Frazier and his New York Mets take on the Phillies in the second MLB Little League Classic on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. That game will be played at Bowman Field which is across town and is the home of the Phillies Class A short-season minor league team.
It only seats about 2,400 and on Sunday 11 of the 12 players from that magical Toms River East team will travel from different parts of the country to watch Frazier and no doubt relive memories they will pass on to their children and grandchildren one day. Mike Gaynor, who managed the “Beasts of the East” and two other teams that also reached Williamsport, will be on hand as will coaches Ken Kondek and Joe Franceshini.
Clearly the 20th anniversary celebration will be discussed during the Mets-Phillies game but in addition to that ESPN will air a special, “Glory Days: Toms River Little League” from 4-4:30pm that will look back at the team.
I was with that team on their incredible journey as we broadcast every game from Bristol, Connecticut and Williamsport. I was the emcee of a special ceremony held on the football field at Toms River South shortly after their return and a special banquet held that winter at the PNC Bank Arts Center.
Seems like yesterday and nothing since has matched the excitement it brought to many.