Former major-league pitcher Ed Vosberg can see himself among those boys 11 and 12 years old playing for Sunnyside deep into the West Regional Little League tournament at San Bernardino, Calif.
He can envision himself as part of it all because he was in the thick of the Little League World Series title chase in 1973 as the ace pitcher of Cactus Little League. Cactus is one of two Tucson teams to make it to the Little League World Series. International Little League advanced to Williamsport in 1986.
Some 46 years later, the memories of that magical run remain crystal clear for Vosberg, who is one of only three players to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series (with Arizona in 1980) and the World Series (with the Marlins in 1997). The others are Jason Varitek and Michael Conforto. He is the only pitcher with that honor.
Vosberg, who now works as a coach/consultant at D-BAT Tucson, wants to pass along the following statement to Sunnyside, which plays in the elimination bracket final on Friday at 6 p.m. against Northern California. Sunnyside reached the West Regionals in the consecutive years similar to Cactus with Vosberg in 1973 and 1974.
“I would like to congratulate the Sunnyside Little League team for all the success they have achieved in the last 2 years. That’s awesome! Back in 1973, Cactus Little League represented Tucson, Arizona in the Little League Finals In Williamsport Pennsylvania. I was fortunate enough to pitch and play first base for the team.
“It was an incredibly fun summer to be a part of the amazing run of 12 straight wins. I went 5-0 during the streak, and threw a no-hitter in the State tournament and won the final game of the Regionals 1-0, driving in the only run with a single in the first inning of the game. We won our first 2 games in the World Series, beating a team from New York, 4-0, then beating a team from Michigan 12-0 to get to the final game.
“The game we lost against Taiwan 12-0, but the game was 0-0 going into the 4th inning of the game. Crazy enough as it seems we made it to the semifinals of the Western regionals the following year and were two games away from making it back to the Little League World Series!”
In that regional final in against Concord, Calif., in 1973, Vosberg pitched a no-hitter as well as produced the lone RBI. Teammate Mike Fimbers also pitched a perfect game in the regionals. Cactus also did not have the benefit of a double-elimination format at that time. It had to win 12 consecutive games to make it to Williamsport.
When Cactus — which also featured Mike Carreon, the brother of former big-leaguer Mark Carreon — returned home from Williamsport in 1973, it was welcomed by approximately 3,000 fans and the UA band and cheerleaders at the Tucson International Airport. From there, Cactus was part of a motorcade celebration downtown.
Tucson Citizen columnist P.J. Erickson wrote:
“The brand of baseball they play is called ‘Little League.’ But the brand of kid is strictly ‘Big League,’ Tucson style. Welcome home, gang.”
The team also took a trip to Washington, D.C., after the experience in the Little League World Series.
“It went beyond baseball,” Vosberg said in a 2013 interview with The Arizona Daily Star. “I remember standing in the White House next to president Nixon’s daughter. I remember our team going to Baltimore, watching Jim Palmer pitch. I still have my hat and jacket from that team. We wore green pinstripe uniforms. It was all so cool.”
Here are rosters of that 1973 Cactus Little League team and the 1986 International Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series.
1973 Cactus Little League
1986 International Little League
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.