LACONIA — The 1956 Laconia High School baseball team, which won the title with a walk-off win, will be inducted into the Laconia High School Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony which gets underway Friday at 5 p.m. with a social hour at the Huot Center Culinary Arts Center followed by the formal induction starting at 6 p.m. in the school library.
The 1956 team, coached by legendary LHS baseball coach and athletic director Soc Bobotas, defeated Keene 5-4 in the Class A championship game, giving the Sachems their first state title in the New Hampshire Athletic Association era, which started in 1947.
Roger Landry, who played second base on the team and later was a well-known basketball official and baseball umpire for 35 years, said that he has some really good memories of that team.
“We were a bunch of average players who were led by two super players, Dean Leighton the third baseman and pitcher Jack Bishop. Leighton was the fastest base runner I’d ever seen. I would put him up against major leaguers like Ricky Henderson and Lou Brock. He was that good. And Bishop could really throw the ball. He was one of the best in the state.”
He said that the Sachems had other steady ballplayers like first baseman Jim Dansereau and outfielder Ron Laramie along with catcher Butch White.
The Sachems were confident and had a good chemistry which allowed them to get back into games after they fell behind, Landry recalled.
And that was the case in the title game when Keene jumped out to 4-0 lead. The Sachems battled back to even the score and Landry recalled how Leighton scored the winning run on the bottom of the ninth inning.
“He singled up the middle and the Keene coach came out and talked to his pitcher, warning him that Leighton was a threat to run. Leighton took off for second and when he saw the catcher’s throw go into the outfield kept on running to third. The center fielder overran the ball, so Leighton kept on going and crossed the plate with the winning run,” said Landry.
He still has special praise for Bobotas, who he said never raised his voice when his players made a mistake and was always supportive and encouraging to all of the players.
Ronnie Laramie, who was the centerfielder, agreed with Landry that Leighton was the fastest person he’d ever seen.
He also praised Bobotas, saying that he was like a father to the players and always told them “You have talent and if you play with heart and use your head you can compete with any team in the state.”
The Sachems had lost in the championship game in 1955 to Portsmouth 9-0, lost to Nashua 11-5 in 1960 and Manchester Central 2-1 in 1967. They beat Keene 5-4 in 1972 to capture their last Class L title. The Sachems won back-to-back Class I championships, in 1990 beating Plymouth 3-0, and beating Lebanon 3-2 in 1991. Their last appearance in a title game was in 1999, when they lost 14-4 to Plymouth.
Other Hall of Fame inductees include 1992 graduate Aaron Jones, a three-sport star in football, basketball and baseball; Mike Grover, class of 1984, Jim Dunlap from the class of 1969, another three-sport star; Class of 1976 football, basketball, winter track, and baseball standout Gary Harbour and the Class of 1996 track star Molly DeMark.