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1968 Babe Ruth World Series Players Reflect on Pivotal Season

Klamath Falls Old WS Photo

In 1965, a team of 12-year-old boys from the south suburbs of Klamath Falls, captured the hearts and imagination of its Southern Oregon community by winning 12-straight games on its way to the Western Region Little League championship game.

They lost a 3-1 heartbreaker to a team from Phoenix, Arizona, and with it, a ticket to the Babe Ruth World Series.

Many of those players stayed together in Babe Ruth, making it to the 1967 Babe Ruth World Series in Anchorage, Alaska, furthering the baseball culture in the Basin.

The following year, 1968, when Kiger Stadium became the host venue, the Klamath Falls community embraced it wholeheartedly.

After almost two full years of preparation, when the summer of 1968 rolled around, the South Suburban team of Mike Beach, Jerry Bellotti, Dean Carr, Lon Casebeer, Dennis Coon, Steve Davidson, Dave Fanning, Dan Hart, Gary Houk, Tom Larmon, Don Mills, Dave Selinsky, Randy Smith, Bill Sowell and Randy Williams had the backing of the town.

“We didn’t feel privileged, because we understood what it took to get there, but we felt deserving because of our coaching, because of the time we put in,” Mills said.

Mills, Beach, Coon and Selinsky were the only players to play in both the 1967 and 1968 Series, a reward for a lifetime of preparation and coaching from a staff that included Quentin Steel, Don Eklund and head coach Red Davidson.

“We had excellent coaching,” Mills said, a fact evidenced by just six errors in the team’s 12-game run in Little League playoffs.

“By the time we were 12, we understood baseball … the knowledge I possessed at 12, (many kids today) have never heard of. We were blessed with an excellent coach. We were well-trained and well-prepared.”

The 1967 title went to a team from New Orleans, while Klamath Falls took fifth.

Kiger Stadium replicated those results the following year, when New Orleans repeated for the 1968 title, its fourth straight. The Klamath Falls team again took fifth.

While the 1968 team went 2-2, the level of competition made every hard-fought victory that much sweeter.

In Klamath Falls’ first game, against Wellington, Kansas, Mills had two home runs, including a walk-off homer with two outs in the seventh inning that enabled his team to earn a 5-4 win in front of the sellout crowd of 4,890.

It would also earn him a place in the Babe Ruth individual World Series records.

Mills holds the record for most homers in a World Series game, a feat 24 others have matched, but never topped, according to the Babe Ruth League website.

While Mills is honored to hold the record, what he holds most dear about that game was what came afterward, when Babe Ruth’s widow came up to the 15-year-old Mills in tears, handed him a signed baseball and said he reminded her more of “her Babe” than any other player she’d seen.

Tragically, the ball was destroyed in a house fire years later, and several of the members of the 1968 team have since died, but the memories remain.

The bond developed by those 12-, then 14-, then 15-year-olds was carried into high school, Mills noted, saying: “That team was basically the same guys I went to high school with.”

The majority of the team played for Klamath Union, and a few for Henley.

Skills developed as youngsters translated into successful athletic careers for many of the boys.

Mills, Fanning and Selinski were all drafted into Major League Baseball.

Selinski played five seasons in the minor leagues, including two seasons with the Spartanburg Phillies of the Carolina League. A team which, by coincidence of astronomical proportions, Fanning was also a part of.

Mills was drafted by the Cleveland Indians but blew out his knee playing college football before he played a single game in the minors.