Vaught's Views: Reunion will honor '74 Rebels

April 20, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

It may not seem like that big of a deal now based on what the Boyle County football team has done recently, but 30 years ago it was huge news when the Rebels won the regional baseball tournament for the first time.

Way back then, the state had only eight regions and just making the state tourney was a huge accomplishment. For Boyle or any other area team, it was a far more difficult task then because not only were the Lexington teams in the same region, but so were teams like Shelby County.

Yet that 1974 Boyle team went 25-3, was part of a 40-game regular-season winning streak, beat state favorite Tates Creek in the regional title game and lost 1-0 to Paducah Tilghman in the state tourney because of an unearned run in the first inning.

While some may disagree, that's still the best area baseball team I've ever seen play and the only one ever to make the final eight in the state. The Rebels had everything from great hitting to deep pitching to solid defense to great baserunning.


"That team had a lot going for it," said Bob Gorley. "I think it probably was the best team to ever play around here."

Gorley should be a bit biased. He was the head coach of that team, but he's not exaggerating. That team was good and will be together Saturday for its 30-year reunion when Boyle hosts Madison Southern starting at noon.

Orberson, Beldon could rank among area's all-time best

The team had players who probably should rank as the area's all-time best pitcher - Paul Orberson - as well as the best hitter - Joe Beldon.

Orberson threw 70 innings that season and finished his career with 24 wins and 241 strikeouts, both school records at the time.

"Paul was the best pitcher I have still seen in this area," Gorley said. "His ball really moved a lot. I don't know how fast he threw because we didn't worry about all that back then. I just know he could get people out.

"But our next group of pitchers - Joe Beldon, Leon Marsh, Eddie Johnson, Kyle Lorton and Greg Wilson - could all throw, too."

Beldon, a junior in 1974, had seven triples, including three in one game, that year. He finished his career with 110 runs batted-in, including 46 in 1975. He was also good enough on the mound to toss five shutouts in 1975.

"Joe was an awfully good hitter. We didn't pad averages, either, by letting our best players bat a lot against weaker teams after we got ahead," Gorley said. "We played a lot of people every game."

Want more? Second baseman Mike Orberson was one reason the Rebels ran so well and stole 20 bases in one game and 14 in a regional tournament win over Shelby County in 1974. He finished his career with 95 steals, an enormous total at that time. His brother, Paul, also had five steals in one 1974 game.

"Mike Orberson was probably our best baserunner. But Dallas Pennington was very good. We had a lot of speed on that team," Gorley said.

Senior pitcher Eddie Johnson was good enough to throw two no-hitters as a sophomore in 1972.

The starting lineup

The starting lineup normally would have included Lorton (first base), Mike Orberson (second), Mike Brummett (shortstop), Beldon (third), Tommy Hollon (catcher), Pennington (outfield), Roger Webb (outfield), Erv Yankey (outfield) and Paul Orberson (pitcher).

Both Orbersons, Beldon, Brummett, Pennington and Johnson went on to play college baseball. Lorton went to Maryland to play football as Boyle's first Division I signee.

"Every starter was offered either a full or partial baseball scholarship," Gorley said.

That team also featured two other familiar names - current Advocate staff writer Marty Warren and Boyle County judge-executive Tony Wilder. Warren was a junior; Wilder, one of four seniors on the team.

Just as he is now, Warren was one of the team's most likable players and it's no surprise he's been the front man for much of the reunion work along with current Boyle coach David Camic.

"Marty was always one of my favorites," Gorley said. "He was at practice every day working as hard, or harder, than anyone. His senior year he was 2-0 as a pitcher. He beat Rockcastle County on a three-hitter. He threw batting practice in 1974 or did anything else I asked. He was like a coach on the field, too."

Wilder had hurt his knee playing football at Madison Central before transferring to Boyle. But believe those stories he tells about once being able to hit a baseball.

"He came out as a junior and every time he tried to run, he fell to the ground," Gorley said. "I told him I was going to cut him, but that if he would work on his knee he would make the team the next year. He did, and he would have been a really good player except for that knee. But he played quite a bit his senior year, and I was not afraid to let him bat against any pitcher."

Rall, Stewart were the assistants

Boyle had one other edge then, too. Gorley's assistants were Ed Rall and Morris Stewart, two full-time teachers and coaches.

Try thinking of the last area baseball staff to have three full-time coaches.

"They made my job a lot easier," Gorley said.

But the staff did make one mistake. Instead of driving to Morehead on game day to play Paducah Tilghman, Boyle went a day early and stayed the night.

"If I could do it over, I would never have gone up early," Gorley said. "Our kids were excited. They stayed up late and didn't sleep. We just were not sharp. We were better than we showed."

The players can reminisce about that game - and Beldon getting thrown out at home - Saturday. They can also talk about regional championship losses to Henry Clay in 1973 and Tates Creek in 1975 since both teams went on to win state titles.

"We're going to have a lot to talk about and I'm going to enjoy seeing them all together. A lot of them are still around here, but having them all in one place is going to bring back a lot of good memories," Gorley said.

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