The Union County Baseball Association will honor local student athletes for their accomplishments during 2009 and will induct four new members into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame during award ceremonies on Sunday, February 14. The 74th Annual Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner begins at 1:00 p.m. at the L’Affaire Banquet Center, 1099 Route 22 East, Mountainside. The dinner is sponsored by the Union County Baseball Association, in cooperation with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal.
Among the student athletes who will receive major honors are Gary Binkiewicz of Scotch Plains, Amanda Kardys of Union, Mike Murray Jr. of Westfield, and Mike Seamon of Rahway.
The four new inductees into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame – Frank Araneo of Union, Richie Burke of Elizabeth, Bob Hoffer of Linden, and Don Zsak of Scotch Plains – will be honored for their outstanding contributions to our national pastime on the baseball diamonds of Union County, New Jersey.
The special guest speaker at the awards dinner will be Dale Berra, the former infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, and the son of Yankee great Yogi Berra.
“We’re delighted to have New Jersey native Dale Berra as the guest speaker at this year’s Hot Stove League Awards Dinner,” said Freeholder Chairman Daniel Sullivan. “We hope that family members and friends of all the award recipients will enjoy the Sunday afternoon ceremonies in support of youth baseball and the new inductees into the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame.”
In addition to the new Hall of Fame inductees and student athletes, the Hot Stove League Baseball Dinner also will honor local baseball teams for their achievements in 2009.
Tickets for the dinner are $40.00, with proceeds going to help fund the Union County Summer Youth Baseball League for youngsters 8 to 15 years, and the Fall Teen League.
Since 1937, the annual Hot Stove League Dinner has been the primary fund-raising effort for the Union County Baseball Association’s summer and fall programs. Over the years, the awards dinner has honored many local and national baseball luminaries – including Phil Rizzuto of Hillside, Don Newcombe of Elizabeth, Joe Collins of Union, Jeff Torborg of Mountainside, Willie Wilson of Summit, Jake Wood of Elizabeth, and Elliott Maddox of Union.
Tickets for the 74th Annual Union County Baseball Association Hot Stove League Dinner on Feb. 14th are available for $40 and may be obtained by calling (908) 789-3686.
(Editors, please note: Biographical information about award winners is attached).
Union County Baseball Association
74th Hot Stove League Annual Baseball Dinner
February 14, 2010 – 1:00 p.m.
L’Affaire Banquet Center, Route 22 East
Mountainside, N.J. 07092
Dale Anthony Berra was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, on December 13, 1956. He went to Montclair High School and was drafted during his senior year by the Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom he spent most of his minor and Major League baseball career.
Dale appeared in 67 games for Niagara Falls of the New York-Penn League in 1975, playing third base and hitting .257 with 4 triples and 3 homers. He moved up to Charleston in the West Carolina League the following year, batting .298 and driving in 89 runs. By 1977, he had advanced to Triple A ball with Columbus, where he hit .290 with 18 home runs. Late in ‘77, at the age of 20, Dale was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 17 games to make his Major League debut on a team that included Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Al Oliver and Frank Taveras.
Dale started 1978 back with Columbus, where he hit 18 homers in 99 games, batted .280 and split his time between shortstop and third. He was called up again to the Pirates, this time for 56 games, and contributed six home runs.
The 1979 season began with Dale in the minors again, this time with Portland of the Pacific Coast League. He made the most of his time there, batting .324 with six homers in 56 games before he was called up again to the majors. The Pirates of 1979 would go on to win the World Series. Tim Foli was the regular shortstop, Bill Madlock was acquired at mid-season and “We Are Family” was the team anthem. Dale contributed three homers and 15 RBI in a utility role during the pennant chase, but did not appear in the World Series.
He would stay with the Pirates for the next five seasons, becoming an everyday player in 1982, batting .263 with 10 home runs and 61 RBI. The next season, he played in 161 games with 10 more homers. His playing time and batting average declined in 1984 and after the season Dale was traded with Alfonso Pulido and Jay Buhner to the Yankees for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli.
Dale’s father, Yogi Berra, managed the Yankees at the start of the 1985 season, before Billy Martin was put in charge. Dale was used sparingly at third and short, appearing in 90 games over the course of two summers in The Bronx. He was released by the Yankees on July 27, 1986, and soon signed with the Houston Astros organization.
Dale finished the ’86 season with Tucson in the Pacific Coast League. He was their regular third baseman in 1987, batting .270 with nine homers before his call up to the Astros. He appeared in 19 games for Houston and played in his final major league game on October 4, 1987.
Dale Berra played in parts of 11 Major League seasons. He ended up with a .236 batting average, 603 hits, 109 doubles, 49 home runs, and 278 runs batted in.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES (Four)
Frank Araneo played youth baseball in several leagues, including the Union Little League, Union Teener League, Union Senior VFW, and the Union Rockets of the Essex County League. He played for coaches Gordon LeMatty and Jim Jeskey as a dominant three-year starter for Union High School from 1973-1975, and helped pitch the Farmers to their No. 1 ranking in the state by the Newark Star-Ledger in 1974 and 1975.
Frank’s career pitching record at Union High School was 23-4. He used an overpowering fastball and a sharp slider to help his team win the Group IV State Championship in 1974 and the Union County Championship in 1973 and 1975. Frank was twice named an All State player by the Star-Ledger, twice an All County player by the Daily Journal, an All Star by the New York Daily News, and was named to the Star-Ledger 1970’s All Decade team.
In his senior year at Union High, Araneo was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 8th round. In 1977, he was a first round pick by the San Diego Padres. Frank played college ball at Seton Hall University, Valencia Junior College, and Florida International University.
After arm injuries ended his playing career, Frank became a coach and board member in the Union Little League program and was instrumental in upgrading the Little League fields in Union. He founded the Union Athletics Baseball Organization, which still provides young players the opportunity to compete on travel teams.
Frank Araneo resides in Union with his wife, Cathy; son Frank Jr.; daughters, Jacqueline and Laura; and granddaughter Layla. He is a partner with Summit Financial Resources.
Richie Burke started his baseball career playing for St. Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Linden before he moved to Elizabeth at the age of 10 and began playing in the Union County Youth League. He played four summers of American Legion baseball for Buzzy Fox with the Bayway Post from 1958-1961 and was named a Legion All Star in 1960 and 1961.
A left-handed pitcher, Richie was a three-year starter for St. Mary’s High School in Elizabeth. He earned 2nd Team All-Union County honors as a sophomore and 1st Team honors in his junior and senior years at St. Mary’s. As a junior, he compiled an 8-1 pitching record, and as a senior his 9-0 record helped the Hilltoppers to both the Union County Championship and a State title. Richie was named to the 1st Team All State as a result of his senior year accomplishments on the mound.
After high school, Richie Burke went to the University of Tampa. He participated in the Winter Instructional League with the Cincinnati Reds in 1962 before an arm injury cut short his pitching career. Despite his arm injury, he played for four more years in both the Union County and Essex County Leagues. In addition to his baseball achievements, Richie also gained All State honors as a basketball player.
Bob Hoffer was a three-sport athlete at Linden High School, but it was in baseball that he really made a name for himself. The 6’2”, 210-pound catcher starred for Linden in 1953 and 1954, when he was named to 1st Team All Union County by both the Newark Evening News and the Elizabeth Daily Journal. Bob was considered Union County’s best power hitter and he had game-winning home runs of 370 feet against Roselle and New Brunswick.
In his senior year with the Linden Tigers, Bob sustained a thumb injury which sidelined him for a couple of games. The injury hurt his batting average, which dropped from .384 to .304, but he still managed to blast two homers, three triples, and four doubles. Bob also played in the Union County League, leading the Linden Buckeyes to the league championship in 1954.
Hoffer continued to distinguish himself on the baseball diamond at Rutgers University from 1955-1958. After his senior year long-ball exploits with the Scarlet Knights, Bob signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox and received a $30,000 bonus – the highest signing bonus for a Union County baseball player at the time. He played for Allentown in the Eastern League and later for the Corning Red Sox in Corning, N.Y. In one game against Reading, he hit three home runs. On another occasion, he hit three consecutive home runs in a double header – his last at-bat in the first game and the first two at-bats in the night cap.
Though Bob Hoffer no longer lives in Union County – having moved to Florida – he still remains a legend among those athletes who played with and against him.
Don Zsak is a product of the Union County Youth League and the Linden PAL. He pitched the Linden JV baseball team to its only County title in 1979 with a complete game victory over Summit. In 1980, as a junior, he compiled a 6-3 record and helped the Tigers attain a 17-8 record for the season. When not pitching, he was an outfielder and batted .310.
Don was captain of the Linden squad in 1981, when the team won the Group III State Championship and was ranked No. 5 in the State by the Newark Star-Ledger. He had an 8-1 record that season with a 1.79 ERA and a .370 batting average. His complete game victory over Lakeland in the North Jersey State Championship catapulted the Tigers into the State Final, where Zsak had the game-winning hit. Don was named to the 1st Team All County by the Star-Ledger, 1st Team All Metro by the Elizabeth Daily Journal, and 1st Team All State Group III. He also was honored by the UCBA as the high school Player of the Year.
Zsak went on to play at Upsala College under Coach Ed Lyons. He was All Conference in his junior and senior years at Upsala. The Milwaukee Brewers had an interest in him before an arm injury ended his playing career. But Don continued his involvement in baseball by coaching with the Cranford PAL. He also was co-director of their summer camp for six years and was the Cranford JV baseball coach for two seasons.
Don Zsak has been working in law enforcement for the last 20 years and currently resides in Scotch Plains with his wife and two children.
CHRIS ZUSI MEMORIAL AWARD
(two) OUTSTANDING ATHLETES
Mike Murray Jr.
Mike Murray Jr. led the 2006 Westfield Blue Devils to their 12th Union County title as team captain. He continues his baseball career with the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest University. Mike batted .336 in conference play in 2009. His performance earned him a spot on the Johnny Bench Award watch list, an annual award given to the nation’s top catcher in Division 1. He led the Chatham Anglers with a .347 batting average last summer in the Cape Cod League and was the starting catcher for the East Division in the CCBL All-Star game played at Fenway Park. Along with his baseball awards, Mike has been a member of the All-ACC Academic Honor Roll. He enters his fourth season for the Deacs and is captain of the team.
Mike Seamon began playing soccer on the recreation level while growing up in Rahway. He excelled in the game for four years at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, led the team in scoring for four years, and was named Union County Player of the Year by the Star-Ledger. Mike was Philadelphia Soccer Seven Player of the Year in 2007 while a sophomore at Villanova University. In 2009, as a senior and team captain at Villanova, the forward-midfielder paced the Wildcats in scoring and helped lead the team to a winning season. He was named to the first team All-Big East in voting by the league coaches. In last month’s Major League Soccer draft, Mike was selected in the second round by the Seattle Sounders.
EDWARD COOPER MEMORIAL AWARD
MOST VALUABLE SCHOLASTIC BASEBALL PLAYER
Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School
Gary Binkiewicz went 9-1 with one save in his junior year and was the key component in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders’ 22-5 record in 2009 that included a Union County Tournament title and a trip to the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 final. For the season he struck out 48 batters, walked 15 and allowed 19 earned runs in 49.1 innings. He also batted .340 for the season. He was 3-0 in the Union County Tournament, allowing just two earned runs and 10 hits in 16 innings of work. In the final of the UCT, he allowed one earned run in nine innings and pushed across a run in the top of the 10th to earn a victory over Westfield.
BANYASZ BROTHERS MEMORIAL AWARD
MOST VALUABLE SCHOLASTIC SOFTBALL PLAYER
Union High School
Amanda Kardys was 18-5 in 2009 with an outstanding ERA of 0.97. She struck out 236 batters while walking 23 in 151 innings for the Union County Tournament champs and Group 4 finalist. In four UCT games, Amanda was 4-0, allowing just 11 hits and three earned runs in 28 innings as Union High School captured its first UCT title in nine years with a 3-1 victory over Linden. In four state tournament games leading up to the Group 4 final, she went 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA, striking out 45 and walking just three. Amanda struck out 13 and delivered an RBI against North Hunterdon to give Union a 1-0 victory and the school’s first sectional title in 14 years.