He talked about the characters on the team, saying they were more like a “Saturday Night Live” cast than a baseball squad.
He likened one of his teammates to the late, great comedic actor John Belushi. He talked about the bus rides to games. How the team even loved to practice because it gave them more time together.
Mike Durkin was on perhaps the greatest baseball team in Keith Academy history, the 1968 squad, but when he was chosen to introduce them for induction into the Lowell Catholic Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Dracut, he didn’t talk about statistics.
He never mentioned any pitcher’s earned run average. Or anybody’s batting average. (Of course, this team soared when WAR meant the Vietnam War, not Wins Above Replacement.)
That got me thinking to my own high school experience at tiny St. Joseph Regional High School in Lowell, which closed its doors on Merrimack Street seven years after I graduated in 1983.
Lowell Catholic High School carries on the legacies of six schools — Keith Academy, Keith Hall, Keith Catholic, St. Joseph’s, St. Louis and St. Patrick. Today, Lowell Catholic offers 18 varsity sports.
When I enrolled at St. Joe’s in 1979, we had one sport — basketball. Baseball was added for my junior and senior years. Wow, two sports. The 240-student school doubled its sports offering during our years.
We weren’t state champs in either sports, but I won something far more valuable.
I became fast friends with an amazing cast of characters which included my brother, Tommy, Pat Cook, Tom Beaupre, Mike Cassidy and Joe McHugh. Just typing their names brings a smile to my face.
When we get together or talk, our high school athletics experiences invariably come up.
During a training run in Pelham, N.H., over the summer, in preparation for this Sunday’s Philadelphia Marathon, Tommy, Pat, Tom and I ran about seven miles together.
It was raining but we rarely stopped laughing as we basked in our (not so) glory days of high school and transported back to 1982. I’ve run hundreds of miles in preparation for the marathon, but those seven were special.
It’s never about points or rebounds, hits or stolen bases. It’s about zany times on bus rides. It’s about practice hijinxs or how we used to drive our coaches crazy.
It was tremendous watching the 1968 Keith Academy baseball team as Durkin spoke. They clapped. They smiled.
They laughed, as together now as they were when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.
Nearly half a decade has passed since that team put together a tremendous 13-3 record in their conference.
Consider that Keith had approximately 400 students and their schedule included the likes of Catholic Memorial, St. John’s Prep, Xaverian and Malden Catholic.
Against all odds, the boys from Lowell won the Catholic Conference crown.
Then the fun really began in the state tournament.
Keith Academy won three tournament games to advance to the Eastern Mass. championship game, where they lost 2-1 to Reading.
One of the tournament wins occurred against mighty Lowell High. With an estimated crowd of 2,500 jammed into Shedd Park — believed to be the largest high school baseball crowd in city history — the teams put on a show.
Trailing 2-0, Keith Academy rallied for an unearned run in the sixth and then two more in the seventh to pull out a thrilling 3-2 victory over their cross-city rivals.
It was a game for the history books during a season for the ages.
Durkin, a junior that spring, and many of the other members of the team loved their experience at Keith. They had no idea that — with no warning — the school would close its doors after the 1969-70 school year.
The 1968 team can’t return to Keith Academy to stage reunions.
But long after the record books were lost, they are left with something far more valuable than box scores.
Memories. Memories of bus rides. Memories of practices. Memories that have nothing to do with individual performances.
Memories that nearly 50 years can’t erase.
Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter@BarryScanlonSun