UCLL Indians had miracle season of their own in ’69

The 1969 Union City Little League Indians, front row from left, Marty Gunnoud, Mike LeClair, Gary Palmer, Mark Tartaglia, Joe Paradis, Keith Raczkowski; back row from left, coach Dick Melion, Hank Witkoski, Nelson Thomas, Brian Czaplicki, Russel Schenk, Charlie Mascola, Gary Raczkowski and manager George Raczkowski. Missing from photo, Hank Marques. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts to win Super Bowl III and the Amazing Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, in what some still say was a miracle.

Naugatuck’s Union City Little League witnessed its own miracle in the summer of 1969, as the Indians became the first team since the league started play in 1950 to finish as the undefeated champions.

The Tribe, under the direction of manager George Raczkowski and assistant manager Dick Mellon, finished the season 16-0, and for the first time in league history there would be no playoffs for the championship. The Indians completed the undefeated run by beating none other than the Mets, 19-7, in the final game of the season.

“I think the reason we were better than the other teams is we practiced all the facets of the game,” Raczkowski said. “I came into this knowing very little about the game but studied up on all the aspects. I just felt if we could do everything to the best of our ability and work hard, practicing to get better, we would be successful, and we were.”

The perfect season didn’t come without a few seat-grabbers, including a come-from-behind, extra-innings 6-4 win over the Tigers. The Indians trailed 4-3 when Nelson Thomas blasted a three-run, game-winning home run over the left field fence to keep the perfect season intact.

Pitching was the key for the Indians. Brian Czaplicki went 8-0 on the hill, including a no-hitter, and Gary Raczkowski made his coach, who’s also his father, proud going 7-0 on the mound.

The Indians batted .347 as a team. Czaplicki led the team with a .510 batting average, followed by followed by Thomas (.479) and Mark Tartaglia (.432). Hank Witkowski was a solid catcher behind the plate and also swung a timely bat (.342 average).

In six years at the helm manager Raczkowski guided the Indians to four straight UCLL championships from 1968 to 1971, coaching his three sons, Gary, Keith and Brian, along the way.

But no one will ever forget the summer of ’69 when the Indians obtained perfection.

“Coaching all three of my sons gave me an opportunity to spend quality time with my boys,” Raczkowski said. “Keith went on to have a great coaching career in basketball and is in the Naugatuck Hall of Fame. Not to be outdone, my daughter, Gayle, is also in the Hall of Fame.”

“I’m proud of the accomplishments of all of my children in sports and in life. But I will always hold fond memories of my 1969 team,” Raczkowski added. “Wins, losses and championships aside the thing I value the most is the friendships I’ve made and still have with the players on that team.”