When we last left the Summit baseball team, the record was 7-7 and the Hilltoppers had failed to qualify for the state tournament. My how things changed afterwards, and it all coincided with the return to the mound of John Merchant, who had been out for a month with a sore arm. Merchant would go on to win five straight and hit over .400 for the season, .417. Think about this, at one point Merch was 28 for 54 at the plate, a .519 average to start the season. Goodness gracious.
And thanks to Johnny, plus the pitching of Bob Cotterell and Bob Miller, as well as some timely hitting from Anthony Sereno and Alan Wessel, Summit, which started out 2-4 in Suburban Conference play, won its next 8 to finish 10-4 and grab a share of the title with New Providence.
For the year, Summit finished 16-8 after their miserable start and Art Cotterell was the conference Coach of the Year. How good was Art? Consider that only Merchant was first-team all-conference, while New Providence had five selected. At least Sereno (.299), Bob Miller (7-3) and Wessel (.314 with a team-leading 15 RBI) made the second team. Rounding out the season, Mike Horn hit .333 and Rick Gross .276. Bob Cotterell was just 3-3 on the mound, but he had a sterling 1.72 ERA. Merchant’s ERA was 0.83. The Hilltopper’s team ERA was 1.69!!!
In other sports news, the lacrosse team finished up 6-5 in its first year of varsity action, though they ended up ranked 6th out of 28 teams in the state. 35 years later, Summit lacrosse is the toast of New Jersey after back-to-back titles and a record-breaking winning streak. But back in 1975, key contributors were Gary Vreeland, Pat Hayes, Loch Kelly, Andy Nestler, Chuck Wiebe, John Combias, Allen Hadley, Jeff Smith, Timothy Hyde and Frank Woodbury. Wiebe was named first-team All-State. And as the Herald described it, Vreeland was “outstanding” in goal.
The tennis team finished 18-3, losing just once in Suburban Conference play, but they lost out to West Essex in the states.
And the boys track team finished 11-0 in dual meets, but finished second in the conference meet and then was disappointing in both the county and state sectional gatherings, primarily because star weight man Bruce Atkinson battled a bad back the second half of the year, missing the state meet for one.
The golf team finished 8-5-1 in conference play, 12-9 overall, behind Dave and Steve Corradi, Tom Gibbons and Brand Whitlock. Gibbons and Kathy Reeves, by the way, won the Booster Club’s Scholar Athletes scholarships for the spring. John Combias took home the Darnell Mallory Award.
Separately, Bill Specht (100-yard backstroke) and Carolyn Schwanhauser (50-free) won golds at the National YMCA Championships in Ft. Lauderdale. [Carolyn’s brother, Roger, was finishing up a great career at Bucknell.]
Kathy Heddy won the 200-IM in record time at the U.S. Trials for the World Swimming Championships, besting Shirley Babashoff. We were about to hear a lot more about Miss Heddy.
And Willie Wilson was off to a super start at Class A Waterloo, batting .358 with 21 steals in his first 28 games. [He had played half a season after being drafted the prior year.]
Outside the sports world, there were two dreadful, fatal accidents during this period that took the lives of two 19-year-old girls from the area; one from New Providence, the other from Summit. The Summit crash occurred at the corner of Maple and Oakland Place and I swear, 35 years later, virtually every time I take that corner, I think of the girl. Ironically, both accidents (the other was at Broad and Middle Ave.) were called in at the exact same time, 1:58 AM.
Vandalism was a huge problem in these days and some of the reports were incredibly senseless. And a Summit woman was kidnapped and severely beaten outside E.J. Korvette’s at Blue Star with lots of witnesses who did nothing. The assailants took her car and then dumped her on Route 22.
For us St. Teresa’s parishioners, Father Fimiani was being transferred to South Orange after 15 years here. A good man.
Alton Gast retired after 42 years in the Summit school system. He had been principal at the high school until 1970 and then finished up at Washington School.
Summit was in the midst of losing $860,000 in school aid as the result of a State Supreme Court ruling on redistribution of funds.
Remember The Summit Squire? I loved this stirring ad copy.
“Dining in the continental manner. Continental food by candlelight. Starched white linen – gleaming silver.” [Pssst….the place was a fire trap.]
And at The Strand, “Shampoo.”
Next update, Aug. 18.