Fans applaud as Baseball team soars again
PICTURE ROCKS – The Rockets are rocking again in Picture Rocks. The borough’s adult baseball team, which had an estimated 50-year run, is back following a 20-year hiatus.
From the 1940’s through 1996, the ball field at Van Rensselaer Park was filled with players and fans. According to George Montgomery of Hughesville, some 300 to 400 persons attended per game. Montgomery, who was a former resident of Picture Rocks at the time, had been a member of the 1952 team. “Those were the days before television,” he said.
In identifying members from a photo of his 1952 team, many resided out-of-town. “There had been many local players when the men came back from WWII. In time, they grew tired after finding jobs, marrying and starting families. This caused our numbers to drop,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery and Jay Harris joined the Rockets during their high school sophomore year. “We were the ones who came up with the name ‘ROCKETS.’ We played rain or shine in Ralston, White Deer, and in cow fields. We’d gather nine guys and go,” he said.
Also on the team with George was his brother Bill, nephews of Jim ‘Socks’ Montgomery, the team’s longtime manager. ‘Socks’, a lifelong bachelor, lived with his father on Main Street. Socks took on the responsibility of the team’s finances. “To keep up with seasonal expenses, Socks canvassed businesses gathering donations of about $700. That paid for balls, bats and umpire fees. Often team members who drove a distance expected to be slipped gas money,” the nephew said.
In appreciation for Socks’ efforts, a memorial stone was placed at the ball park. Letters on the bronze plaque read, “In honor of James (Sock) Montgomery, who from the year 1911 has unselfishly devoted his time and efforts to the youth of this area, dedicated to the sport of Base Ball and training our youth in the sport. (Sock) had given his life work to this end. In appreciation for all that he has done, this monument has been erected by the Picture Rocks Lions Club and his friends this year 1970. So that all who pass will not forget this man.”
Also according to Montgomery, “Pitcher Jim Starr was the Rockets outstanding player. Later when Hughesville started a team, Starr played for them.”
Another former veteran team member is typical of most players. John VanBuskirk spent ten seasons with the Rockets, from 1957 through 1967.
“Before being a part of the Rockets, I’d played baseball as a kid, then at Hughesville High School, and during my time in the Air Force. My positions were either outfielder or pitcher,” VanBuskirk said.
Baseball fever must have run ramped for Van Buskirk also played with the Hughesville Travelers, as well as an independent team sponsored by Muncy Hardware Store owner, Don ‘Hipper’ Wilt.
Looking back, VanBuskirk considered himself an average hitter. His most memorable slam was a homer hit over the wall when slugging it out against a team of men incarcerated at the Allenwood Federal Prison.
VanBuskirk identified manager during his era as Bill Ungard, Clyde ‘Chick’ Campbell and James ‘Sock’ Montgomery.
Recalling teams played in League competition, in addition to the Rockets he named the Hughesville Travelers, Exchange Grays, also names from the towns of Millville, Montgomery, Muncy, Unityville and Watsontown.
Don Andrews of Hughesville gave input after coming forward with photographs. Residing in Picture Rocks, Andrews was too young to play, however, he was of an age to be ‘bat boy.’ In one of the photos Don’s head is topped with a very distinguishable item, a white sailor’s hat noting his dad’s Navy days.
Andrews said, “The day the photo was taken with me, players Harris and Montgomery, our family reunion was held at the park.”
Art Karge, another Picture Rocks youngster of yesteryear, was responsible for part of the publicity. “On a roadside billboard, I printed the date, time and names of teams scheduled.” When asked how it was, he was assigned the job. Karge replied, “I guess they thought I had good penmanship.”
The 2016 re-igniting of the Rockets and the trail they are blazing had been six years in the making. Current team member John Poust, a 2012 Hughesville High School graduate said, “Since 2010, a group of classmates and I have been talking about restarting the ball club.”
And too, let us consider that at least two Rockets are infused with a bit of DNA from former players. In addition to John Poust being the son of David Poust, Jake Fry is the grandson of John VanBuskirk.
The challenge for team Captain Tyler Potts, is finding the means to refurbish the home field. Be it going to the public, or petitioning the borough as property owners, is being considered. Recently the borough improved the grandstand which seats about 150 fans.
Yes, the orange and black are back, the flaming colors of the former uniforms were kept. Other colors had been used for short periods of time, but it seemed the orange and black won out.
The word is out, it’s official, the Rockets have been re-ignited and fans are out in numbers to see them soar.