Top 100 Teams
North Atlantic League
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Behind the efforts of their player/manager, a team from eastern Pennsylvania dominated the North Atlantic League in 1949. Not only did this manager lead his team to the best record in league history, he also led the league in one of its most important categories.
The town of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, located near the New Jersey border, first entered the world of professional baseball relatively late. In 1932, Stroudsburg’s first pro team, called the Poconos after the nearby Pocono Mountains, started play in the Class D Interstate League. With the Poconos in first place with a 19-7 record on June 20, the league disbanded. Victims of the depression, two of the six teams had folded earlier in the month.
Fourteen years later, Stroudsburg joined a new Class D operation. Called the North Atlantic League, the loop featured eight teams in the eastern Pennsylvania-New Jersey-New York region. In the 1946 season, the team, also called the Poconos, finished third with a 72-47 record. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Peekskill Highlanders, four games to two. In 1947, the team became a farm team of the Yankees but still dropped to sixth. Despite the mediocre showing, one of their hurlers, Joe Sebir, tossed a 10-0 no-hitter against Mahanoy City on June 19. The next season, with their affiliation gone and a new manager at the helm, the Poconos improved to 72-59. In 1949, this manager - Frank Radler - would lead the Poconos to the gold.
Radler, a 29-year-old right-hander whose home was in Stroudsburg, Pa., began his playing career in 1937 in the St. Louis Browns organization. In his only year in the high minors, 1945, he had a 6-23, 4.91 record for the Cardinals’ Rochester club in the International League. He started managing in 1948 and piloted the Poconos until 1950. In those three years, Radler won 53 and lost only 13. He led the league in ERA all three seasons (2.18, 1.59 and 1.81) and in wins in 1948 (20) and 1950 (21). In 1951, he managed the DeLand Red Hats to the Florida State League championship and had a 12-5, 1.94 record. After leading the Union City Greyhounds to the finals of the Kitty League playoffs in 1952, he left pro ball.
Aiding Radler in his 1949 quest was a new working agreement for the Poconos. Before the season, the team became associated with the Cleveland organization. Aided by the Indians, Stroudsburg breezed to the pennant with a spectacular 101-36, .737 record. The second place team, the Lebanon Chix, finished a distant 20.5 games behind. In the playoffs, the Poconos edged Mahanoy City, four games to three, before dispatching Peekskill, four games to two in the finals. The team led the league in several categories including: average (.297), runs (925), hits (1,403), triples (94) and home runs (63).
The Poconos were led by a stable of fine hitters, none better than outfielder John Rothenhausler (.377, 128 RBI) who finished second in both categories. Not far behind was first baseman Harry Warner (.347) who batted fourth in the league while bashing a circuit high 17 homers. Jim Finn (.334) and Stan Pawloski (.329) also finished as top-ten batters. Finn also led the league with 22 triples. In addition, six of the eight starting position players scored over 100 runs each. Of this hard-hitting group, only Pawloski made it to the majors, batting .125 in 1955 for Cleveland.
The 1949 Stroudsburg player who had the longest baseball career was Warner., then 20 years old. Warner, who was born and still resides in nearby Reeders, Pa., broke in with Stroudsburg in 1946. He was purchased by the Braves after the 1949 season and played in the Boston/Milwaukee and Washington organizations through 1959. He began his managerial career in 1960 and in the next 17 seasons led clubs in every classification in the Washington/Minnesota system. His 1971 Charlotte Hornets won the Southern League and Dixie Association titles and his 1975 Reno Silver Sox captured the California League pennant. Warner was a major league coach for Toronto from 1977-79 and was acting manager during Roy Hartsfield’s absence in 1978. Warner managed Syracuse for the Blue Jays in 1980, then was third base coach for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981-82. He returned to the Twins organization in 1983, managing Visalia and winning the California League’s Southern Division title. From 1984 until his retirement in 1990, Warner scouted for Minnesota and San Diego. As a manager, his teams had a 1,381-1,226, .530 record.
From the hill, Stroudsburg was paced by two big pitching performances. Ed Varhely (20-2) finished with the most wins and best percentage (.909). Radler (12-2) won the other glamour award, finishing with the lowest ERA (1.59). Also contributing was Dale Melms (15-5) who garnered the second best ERA (1.81) and threw the most shutouts (7).
Seven Poconos made the North Atlantic League All-Star Team: Warner, Pawloski, SS Dom Della Rocca, Finn, Rothenhausler, Melms and Varhely.
In 1950, Radler led the Poconos to a second place finish with a record of 80-50. In the playoffs, Stroudsburg breezed in the first round to return to the finals. Facing Lebanon, the Poconos were trailing three games to two when the series was halted due to inclement weather. Shortly thereafter, the league went under, taking Stroudsburg with it. In the 50 years since, the town has not returned to pro ball.
Although Stroudsburg’s stay in baseball was not lengthy, its 1949 club was certainly noteworthy. In 100 years of minor league history, only three other full-season teams have been able to better the Poconos’ splendid .737 winning percentage.
|1949 North Atlantic League Standings|
|1949 Stroudsburg Poconos batting statistics|
|Dom Della Rocca||SS||136||474||105||141||94||31||4||11||99||71||3||.297|
|Vic Weiss (Nazareth)||OF||49||184||32||62||31||11||5||4||24||23||7||.337|
|Robert Schultz (Nazareth)||P||28||70||7||16||3||2||0||0||4||12||1||.229|
|1949 Stroudsburg Poconos pitching statistics|
|Robert Schultz (Nazareth)||13||13||.500||28||21||1||213||213||48||124||2.58|