Northbrook’s 1966 baseball champs return to lead July 4 parade – Chicago Tribune
It’s been a long time between parades for the players who brought Northbrook its first championship, but they’re going to lead one a mile long on July 4.
At least a dozen members of the 1966 Glenbrook North High School state champion baseball team will represent the squad as grand marshals of Northbrook’s July 4 “Mile Long Parade.” Most of the same players also won the American Legion regional championship that year, and came in fourth nationally. In 1967, most of the same players came in second in the National Legion race.
In 1966, when they returned after winning the state championship in Peoria, “there was nothing but fire engines, ambulances and police cars lining the exit,” remembered Jim Kozil, who pitched a two-hitter to win the final. “They took us off (the bus), put us into convertibles, and took us through town. There must have been 10,000 people lining the streets –and there weren’t that many people living in town then.”
Glenview residents – who only four years earlier had sent their kids to the same high school as their neighbors to the north – came to welcome many of the kids whose families they’d known for years, Kozil said. The players had brought home Glenbrook North’s first sports championship.
Northbrook’s sports history is dominated by the champion speed skaters of the 1970s, and the 1966 state baseball triumph — and the 1974 football championship — aren’t spoken of as often, Northbrook spokeswoman Cheryl Fayne-DePersio said recently, so parade organizers made sure they were remembered.
But the players don’t need reminding. It’s a moment in their lives that has lived on and on for many of them.
The championship was always on Kozil’s resume, the Rolling Meadows resident, now 67, said.
“Every job interview that I ever went to, they would see it on the resume, and know I was a very competitive person,” said Kozil, who went on to a career in sales.
“They’re always there,” Chuck Leve, the leadoff man on the 1966 squad, said of his teammates. “There are always emails, phone calls, ‘How are you doing? If you ever need anything, call.’ You never do, but it’s great.”
Late in the 1966 Legion season, Leve, now of San Diego, collided with a second baseman in mid-air, and said his leg “snapped in half.” He was carried off the field at Maine East High School on a ladder, and driven over the bumpy field in a station wagon to nearby Lutheran General Hospital, where he said he later watched his friends on the field “with binoculars and painkillers.”
Meanwhile, as his teammates slid into second base, they shredded the infielder’s uniform pants, he said. The next year, Kozil said, players were still sliding hard against that team.
Both players think they were on one of the best teams to ever play in the Illinois High School Association tournament, with a spread of 28 runs scored to three allowed, in the three games.
Future hitting stars “Greg Luzinski (then of Notre Dame High School) and Dave Kingman (of Prospect High School ) — and Tom Lundstedt (also of Prospect), who played for the Cubs — never did anything against us,” Kozil said. “We had pitchers.” They include Mike Croy and Lee De Martino, who plan to ride in the parade, he said.
But none of the Northbrook ballplayers made it to The Bigs. Though several were drafted, including Kozil, they were an aggressive team of very good, but not spectacular, players, he said.
“We got everyone working together and going in the same direction,” said assistant coach Harold “Sam” Samorian, 85, who still lives in Northbrook. “They were a great bunch of kids.
“I still call therm kids, but some of them are a little heavier than they were as kids,” laughed Samorian, who was also head coach of the 1974 GBN champion football team.
Kozil said that of his teammates, probably the most successful in professional baseball was speedy second baseman Bob Breitzman, who played for eight seasons in the Cubs organization, making it as far as AAA, with a .262 lifetime batting average, according to Baseball Reference.
Leve remembered vividly the day when, as a college player, he had been measured against the major league standard.
After a college doubleheader in which he had four hits, a couple of stolen bases and an outfield assist, a Red Sox scout – “with the fedora, the stogie, a stopwatch hanging around his neck, straight out of “The Natural,” called Leve over, he said.
Leve said he had hoped for a question about a contract. But Leve said the scout asked, “Are you making sure you’re getting a good education?”
Just to make sure Leve understood, he said, the man had added, “You’re a little too small, a little too weak, a little too slow, and a little too left-handed.”
Another college moment let him know the scout had been right, Leve said.
“I had to face a kid pitcher (in the New York Mets organization) named Nolan Ryan,” he said.
Ryan was yet to pitch the first of his record seven major league no-hitters, but, Leve said, he threw “at a level I couldn’t reach no matter how much extra batting practice I took.”
Leve said he not only couldn’t hit Ryan’s fastball, he knew he couldn’t even get out of the way of it if it came at his head.
“A hundred and five miles an hour,” he said. “I couldn’t see it.”