Surprise! Johnny's is again favored in Johnstown

August 07, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff bjB

If this is August, then Johnny's must be winning in Johnstown, Pa.

Every year at this time, the Johnny's New and Used Cars sandlot baseball team heads for the All- American Amateur Baseball Tournament in Johnstown. The event brings together the 16 best 20-and-under teams east of the Mississippi River for a week of double-elimination play.

When this year's tournament opens Monday, Johnny's doubtless will be the favorite. The team managed by 78-year-old Walter Youse, the Milwaukee Brewers' East Coast scouting supervisor, has won nine of the last 12 championships and 17 in all, dating to 1955.

Johnny's has captured 37 straight Baltimore City titles and has had 300 of its graduates signed to pro contracts. Forty-five of those have made the big leagues, one (Al Kaline) has made the Hall of Fame and another (Reggie Jackson) appears headed there.

Johnny's 58-10 record this year was fashioned against competition in three leagues, including the tough semi-pro Baltimore Major, and in the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands in early July.

Facing teams from Canada, Cuba, Aruba and the Dutch Antilles, Johnny's won the championship after finishing second in the every-other-year round-robin event in 1989. Johnny's already has been invited to the 1993 tournament.

"In 1989 we were the only team to beat Cuba," Youse said. "They have a screwy format over there, more complicated than round-robin, and it was the Netherlands that came back to win.

"This year we played Canada in the final, lost the first game, then swept a doubleheader. Cuba was the best team in the tournament, but those guys only play when they feel like it. They run halfway to first base, then veer off to the dugout. Half the time, they don't slide."

Johnny's has its usual supply of college talent. The strong pitching staff is anchored by Wayne Gomes (Old Dominion), Chad Phillips (Clemson) and Josh Bullock (Nebraska).

The leading hitters are Robby Schmitt (Seton Hall) and shortstop Steve Bernhardt. A graduate of Dulaney High who's now at the University of Richmond, Bernhardt was the leading hitter in the Netherlands tournament.

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