The Boyertown Bears Legion Baseball squad celebrated the 40th. anniversary of the first state title in appropriate fashion by winning their record 22nd. state title. But it was appropriate in another sense, as well, as an uncle-nephew combination participated on both teams.
Todd 'Heimer' Hannahoe was the regular second baseman for the 1969 Bears, then proudly watched his nephew, Ethan Moser, helped the Bears win the 2009 title, earning the tournament MVP award in the process.
The family story, however, has yet another 'level' to it. Exactly half-way through the 40 year interval, Corey Hannahoe helped the 1989 Bears win what was, at the time, their 12th. state title (and third in a row). Although technically not an 'extra' generation, Corey's presence in the Hannahoe-Moser family presence in Bear history helps make the Hannahoe-Moser family connection in essence be a 'Three-Era Family.'
This statement is especially true when one realizes that the careers of the three Bears, by coincidence, are spaced out exactly 20 years apart: Todd (1967-1969), Corey (1987-1989), and Ethan (2007-2009).
The veteran of the group, Todd 'Heimer' Hannahoe (the nickname was attached 'out of nowhere' by the brother of Todd's classmate, Blain Nagel) remembers first playing ball 'as soon as we could,' which in those days was knee-high ball (in 1958, at age 8) with the Cardinals and the Liberties.
The Legion Bears, ironically, won their first-ever Berks County title that season, but Todd admits that he wasn't aware of it, one reason being that he was simply too busy, along with most kids in the Boyertown area, to notice, since 'everybody played baseball,' whether it was Little League, Playground League, or even wiffle ball. But even though he didn't really pay attention to the Legion team until Babe Ruth ball, Todd admits that the area ' . . . had a good organization' already in place, one that was 'very organized.'
Todd began playing Legion ball after the Bears began their amazing run of playoff appearances, a streak which still continues to this day. Playing their home games at Bechtelsville, the team qualified for the Berks playoffs in 1968, but was disqualified from those playoffs before they even began due to an administrative technicality.
This setback only fueled the fire of determination in the Bears' hearts in the ensuing 1969 season. 'There was no question,' he said about how the team felt about winning the State Championship that year. 'We had a team, we knew we could have won it in '68, so we had to prove it . . . in '69.'
The Bears would do just that. They posted a 16-3 regular season record, won the Berks County, Section 3, and State Regional tournaments to qualify for the State Tournament at York Memorial Stadium, and then won that tournament with five straight wins. Todd, who usually batted third, won the fourth game, a 12-inning thriller over Annville, with a single that drove home team captain Rich Zuber. 'He threw me a pitch and I took it over the pitcher's head into center field,' he recalls. 'I actually slowed down going through first base because I saw [assistant coach] Dick Ludy waving Zuber on and I was down there cheering on!'
Todd also remembers the feeling after that history-making first state title. 'It was jubilation, it was unbelievable,' he recalled. 'A small team like us won.' Naturally, Todd, like perhaps everybody at the time, didn't really realize that a dynasty had been built. Besides, he was too busy playing more baseball, for after his Legion eligibility ended with that 1969 season, Todd played ball with Gablesville and eventually at Bally.
He also began another important activity: raising a family. He began dating his wife, Joan, in 1969; in 1970, he married her; and in 1971, a son Corey was born. Both Todd and Joan remember Corey with a ball and glove, always playing ball, from the time that he was about 2 years old. Like his father, Corey began playing baseball in the knee-high league, of which his father would be president for nine years.
Corey recalls the influence that baseball ' in particular, Todd's baseball ' had on him. 'Going in the back room with all the guys . . . it was quite the learning experience.' He added 'I had fond memories of going through the system.' He also mentions another amazing fact: starting at age 12 (with Bambinos) and continuing through the Legion Bears, Corey's teams won state titles.
Of course, Corey's teams reached their pinnacle in 1987, when the Legion Bears won their second World Series championship. Corey, alluding to his limited playing time as a rookie in 1987, says tongue-in-cheek that his position that season was 'bench,' although he adds that he was something of a utility player until settling in at second base for his final season of Legion ball (1989).
This playing status did give Corey an opportunity to make plenty of observations. Among his many memories of this season, two observations stand out. The first of these observations was the fans at the State Tournament, in particular on the final day versus undefeated Montoursville. 'Those guys came in really cocky . . . they had signs all over and chanting '44 and 0, 44 and 0,'' he recalls. But after the Bears swept the Region 5 champs on the last day, he recalls the Boyertown fans 'taking over the stadium. It then became a chant of '46 and 2, 46 and 2''.
The second of those big observations was the second game of the Legion World Series, a 22-2 rout of Boulder (CO). 'They came to the Series with only 14 guys because Boulder football is bigger, and they couldn't miss the football practices,' he recalls. 'So a lot of their top guys didn't come to the World Series.' Corey recalls that the game was 'a huge bump-up for us ' it got us rolling again.'
Of course, there was the excitement of the trip to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for the Series, since the team didn't travel as much in 1987 as it would later. But the championship memories are ones that will remain with the team forever. Interestingly, Corey recalls that the thought of reaching the summit of Legion baseball did not really hit the team until later. 'We didn't feel that feeling until we returned the next morning to Bear Stadium,' he said, alluding to the incredible throng of people gathered to greet the returning Bears.
Corey saw more playing time the next season as the 1988 Bears (perhaps the most underrated of the great Bears teams) set a still-standing record with 64 wins en route to a national second place finish after losing in Game 14 to a Budde Post (Cincinnati) team that Corey remembers was 'stacked.' Corey then became a starter in his final season of 1989 as the Bears finished with a 2-2 record in the Mid-Atlantics.
Meanwhile, the ground work was in place for the third person of the group. Todd's younger sister Lori had been attending many ball games ('I was raised at a baseball field,' she recalls), both for his brother and for his nephew Corey. Eventually, she married Bruce Moser and the two became the parents of Ethan Moser. It would only be natural that Ethan, too, would play ball. As Lori recalls, 'It wasn't anything new ' I was going to legion ball fields since I was 10 years old.'
Ethan was not initially aware of the concept of three eras of family members on the Bears. 'I didn't realize until everybody starting saying something,' he said. 'But the tradition was always there,' he adds. 'I always knew that Boyertown was there to win ' that's why I came over from Pine Forge when I was 12.' Regarding the fact that his uncle and cousin/godfather were key members of their legion teams, Ethan commented 'My mom was telling me about how they played, and just how they were both one of the better players on their teams, so I just wanted to live up to the family name and just go out there and play as hard as I could.'
Of course, Ethan would do just that. His well-noted power barrage throughout the 2009 playoffs ' along with key pitching performances ' helped turn the Bears season around after a disappointing end to the regular season. He capped off the entire playoff run ' and indeed the theme of this article ' by being named MVP of the State Tournament as the Bears celebrated the 40th. anniversary of title #1 with title #22.
In the process, Ethan also capped off an amazing history for the Hannahoe-Moser family, one that produced 7 state titles, 3 Mid-Atlantic Regional titles, and of course the 1987 Legion World Series Championship (not to mention being the national runners-up in 1988). But perhaps the true legacy of the Hannahoe-Moser family is the way that this family has helped us to realize that the Bears themselves are a family. 'Boyertown is a close-knit community,' Todd mentions. 'We've been playing together for years ' how can you NOT be good?' he asks. Todd adds that he still sees many of his teammates, and that their gatherings are like family gatherings. But perhaps his neatest feeling through the years was not only seeing son Corey win a national championship ring, but also players whom he coached in little league do the same. 'To me, that was really neat,' he said.
As Corey said 'We never really had a lot of standout players . . . but we always had good teams, and that's 'cause we always had the system.' And as Ethan added, referring to the low expectations that many people attached to this year's team, 'We never had star athletes ' we were a team.'
They were a team, the 2009 Bears were, a team that now has joined the Bears family in the annals of Bear history ' a family that is symbolized by the contributions of families such as the Schnell brothers and the Hannahoe-Moser connection.
STADIUM BREEZES: Midland (MI) won the 2009 American Legion Baseball World Series with a 11-4 romp over Medford (OR) in Game 14. The 2009 Nor-Gwyn Hawks thus join the 2004 Bears as recent local teams whose seasons ended at the hands of the eventual national champions . . . Next season's Legion World Series will be held at Spokane (WA) . . .