Philadelphia High School Baseball
A Look at
Larry Conti's 15-Year
Career At North Catholic (1976-90)
page includes stories, special lists, record breakdown, recaps of wins in
games and the names of All-City/All-Catholic honorees during Coach Conti's 15 seasons.
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Larry Conti |
Larry Conti coached baseball at North Catholic for 15 seasons (1976-90), winning 150 Catholic League regular season games and four championships (three Catholic, one City). His 1986 CL title was collected in nail-biting fashion. Here is that story . . .
By Ted Silary
Sanger desperately needed a place to hide. Hopefully large, definitely deep.
North's players looked comatose
as they took the field in the bottom of the sixth. None ran and most seemed
to be carrying
balls and chains. In the top half, a promising one-out rally had been squashed when Smith picked Gillespie off second
mmediately upon switching from shortstop to replace Marinucci. Jerry Rose then tapped out to the mound.
"We were down, sure, but we knew we'd come back," Sanger said. "We've got a lot of leaders on this team."
According to Barreto, coach Larry Conti told the Falcons before their last at-bat, "We're down two, but don't worry about
it. We are going to come back. Let the ball come belt-high, then hit it somewhere."
"I knew we'd come back . . . somehow," Barreto added.
Even though North was the away team, there was some speculation that Conti would have Sanger bunting in the seventh,
that he would play for the tie and let the home seventh take care of itself.
"You know how many times Kenny Sanger has bunted in his life? " Conti asked with a laugh, implying none would be the
answer. "If a hitter is up, you hit. We don't believe in giving up outs. It's hard to get people to have confidence in their hitting
when you're always doing everything else but letting them hit."
"Mr. Conti said, 'Kenny, do you think you want to bunt, or do you want to hit away? ' " Sanger said. "I said, 'I'll hit away.'
He said, 'I know you want to hit away. Let's go.'
"The pitch before the home run was a high fastball that I took my eye off. The next pitch was almost exactly the same. I
knew it was gone. It was like I didn't even know where I was. I was lost. It was so exciting."
Ken and Kevin Sanger are exasperatingly difficult to tell apart, but they are opposites when it comes to baseball. Ken bats
left, throws left. Kevin does both righty. Last year, Ken started in one side of the outfield (right), Kevin in the other.
"First and third are what we've played most of our careers," Ken said. ''We were comfortable moving to the infield this year.
Nobody can tell us apart unless they see us every day and know us. A couple of teachers can tell us apart, but not that many.
We have every class together. Kevin either sits behind me or next to me because we have to sit in alphabetical order. The
teachers who can't tell us apart just call both of us 'Sanger.' "
Yesterday, admirers who swarmed onto the field were calling Ken Sanger ''hero."
Some four-letter words are better than others.
TITLE TIDBITS: Larry Conti also steered North to championships in 1977 and '81 and he said neither team was as
talented as this one. Neumann, coached by Bob Santore, was looking for its first title since 1960 . . . The Falcons (20-7) won
15 of their last 17 after Conti convened what he called "a meeting of the mind" one day at Piccoli Playground: "I wasn't
interested in their minds. Since then, we lost only to Wood and to Southern. I know it's a rationalization, but they were both
games we didn't need to win." . . . Homers by Brian Smith and Mark Kavalauskas gave Neumann two-spots in the third and
fourth . . . Santore: "If we get the first guy out in the seventh, maybe everything's different. This will hurt in the short term,
but we were 23-6 and not too many teams have a record like that." . . . Northern Division teams have won 10 of the last 14
championships . . . A North vs. South all- star game will be played June 14, 1 p.m., at Archbishop Ryan.
This story was written after Larry
steered the Falcons past Northeast for the 1977
City Title . . .
This story was written after Larry's Falcons won the 1981 CL crown . . .
By Ted Silary
To achieve the proper effect, someone should have dashed to the mound and jammed a bottle of after-shave
into the pitcher's right hand.
Vince Ciaramella opened the seventh inning of Saturday's Catholic League baseball championship game by
striking out two Cardinal O'Hara pinch-hitters, Marty Schlossman and Ed Harrison, and the smell of victory was
so powerful, even the North Catholic fans not in attendance were getting a whiff.
However, pinch-hitter Tom Cummings managed a four-pitch walk and leadoff man Tom Signora did the same.
"Vince is our money man," said North Coach Larry Conti. "I didn't want to take him out. People use the word
'choke' a little early. That's a strong word. Vince would never do what people mean when they use the word
" . . . I did, however," Conti said, laughing, "want to get his attention."
CONTI GAVE Ciaramella a thanks-I-needed-that slap in the face by dispatching Rob Stone and Mickey Kada
to the bullpen.
Two pitches later, Sean Sullivan lofted a pop to medium left that was caught over-the-shoulder style by
shortstop Tom Frisco. The sequence gave the Falcons a 4-2 win and their second title in five seasons.
"I couldn't tell if I'd catch it or not," said Frisco. "The sun was shining straight down. I looked up and prayed
that the ball would enter my glove. I didn't feel the ball go in because it hit the webbing part. But when I didn't
see the ball on the ground, I said to myself, 'Yeah, I like it.' "
"After I struck out the first two," said Ciaramella, " I started to get excited and thought, 'One more. ' I lost my
concentration. Then I saw two relievers down there. I told myself, 'Hey, you'd better finish this game right now.
Don't mess up so you have to get pulled. I reached back for a little extra and the kid popped it up."
ALL SEASON, RIVALS questioned North's staff because Ciaramella and Tom Cotton failed to light up radar
guns and flood scorebooks with capital Ks.
Ciaramella, however, finished with a mark of 7-1 including the regular season and playoffs. His only loss was
a four-hit effort against Judge.
The last time North seized the league by the throat, lefty Jeff Etsell (12-3 overall) was four-fifths of the show,
whiffing 27 batters in two playoffs and the City Title win over Northeast. Ciaramella never charged into the
spotlight, but he performed well by combining grit and adequate tools.
"When people talked about our pitching, I put it aside and tried to do the best I could," Vince said. " All I
needed to do was throw grounders because our fielders would pick them up. They always gave me lots of runs,
too, like five or six a game. Nah, they usually gave me seven or eight."
Usually centerfielder Rob Gerold, a two-year starter overlooked on occasion, was involved in scoring runs
more than producing them. This time, Rob lined RBI singles to left in the second and sixth off loser Jim Wills.
"When a lefty's pitching, I'm a little shaky," Rob admitted. " But in a way, facing lefties makes me concentrate
harder. The ball seems to whip in there harder. I wait as long as I can and slap it to left, try to avoid bailing out.
"THE ONLY TIME it (lack of attention) bothered me was in the all-star voting. I'd worked hard to make it,
but the Dougherty guys, Doug Flanagan and Ray Saggese, were picked. They're good. What can I say? But it
gave me extra incentive for the last few games."
North opened the scoring in the first on Larry Alosi's double to left and Frisco's single to right. In the second,
Mark Transue's walk, Tony Szymendera's double, Gene Bryan's RBI infield single (bad hop to shortstop that
Tom Signora deflected) and Gerold's single padded the lead to 3-0.
After the final out the Falcons formed a pile of humanity along the third-base line. After they untangled,
everyone had a story to tell, a reason for the success.
Take Frisco . . . he committed two errors in the win over Dougherty and was totally teed off at himself.
Against O'Hara, Tom started a double play (with Andy Cianci making a fantastic pivot) and made two clutch
plays following Clark's double.
"OVERALL, MY performance against Dougherty wasn't that bad, but I still didn't like it at all," Frisco said.
"I was hoping to do something better today.
"That was one good thing about this team. If one guy wasn't playing his best, somebody else would pick him
up. We had to play that way. Mr. Conti wouldn't settle for anything less. It was 100 percent or take a seat on the
Saturday, several Falcons took seats on teammates' shoulders for mini-rides.
Also, everybody gawked at the championship plaque.
Meanwhile, when you walked near Vince Ciaramella, you could almost smell the after-shave.
Thanks, he needed that.
At Thursday's practice, the Falcons presented Coach Larry Conti with a $100 gift certificate for a clothing
store in Frankford.
"You talk about nice gestures. That really floored me," Conti said.
the players who earned first or second team Coaches'
All-Catholic honors during
Larry Conti's 15 seasons as the coach at North Catholic (1976-90).
Recaps of Wins in Catholic League
Recap of Win in City Title