By Chris Villani Sports Reporter/Columnist · August 31, 2016
Peter Ellis shows of trophies his team won during the Little League World Series 60 years ago. A Milford native and Hopedale resident, Ellis was in the service at the time, stationed in Roswell, N.M. He coached that town's team to the championship. Harry Platcow photo [back]
Milford Native Led Little League Champs 60 Years Ago
As the Little League World Series wrapped up last weekend, Peter Ellis looked back fondly at the team he lead to glory in Williamsport, Penn. 60 years ago. Ellis, 80, grew up in Milford and was a 20-year old in the Air Force, stationed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1956 when he was asked to coach the Lions Hondo Little League squad. The group of 12 and 13 year-olds ended up capturing the Little League World Series title, and Ellis recounted the story to the Town Crier's Chris Villani.
"I was stationed in Roswell and they asked if I would think about taking a team and I agreed to take the team. At the end of the year, we started to win in these different regionals and sectionals and when it got to the final tournament, they asked if I wanted to go to Williamsport.
"I got permissive leave from the Air Force and went over by train from New Mexico to Chicago and then across to Williamsport. It was a bit smaller back than it is now; it wasn't international, though we did beat a team from Mexico in one of the regional tournaments. I remembered we played Winchester, Mass., and the last team we played was Delaware Township, Penn.
"It was great. For a 20-year-old kid, it was the chance of a lifetime. The people in Williamsport treated us very well and when we got on the train heading there some rich guys handed me handfuls of cash and said 'buy the kids anything they want.' So we bought comic books and candy and the kids had a $5 per day food allowance, although most of them just wanted 50-cent hot dogs, so I had a steak with what was left over.
"After we won, we met the governor of New Mexico, the senator, everyone wanted to have the little leaguers at their events, the Lion's Club, the Rotary Club, everyone.
"The players and I got along well, we bonded well. I don't think these kids playing now know how much this is going to mean to them later in life. It gives them a sense of pride, it makes them mature, and self-confidence is an important thing.
"We have kept in touch over the years, they are having a reunion dinner next week and I made a video to send down. They are 72 or 73 now. I can't really call them kids anymore. One of them went on to be an All-American at the University of Texas in football, one was killed in an automobile accident, and another was killed in Vietnam. Some of them are in Virginia, some are in Washington, and some are still in Roswell.
"You feel if you were a world champ anywhere, if you were a world champ and you walked around Milford, people would be very respectful of what you did. The accomplishment was a very special thing."