In 1956 the Nebraska State League was revived with eight teams. It was a class "D" league and each team had major league affiliation. The league lasted through the 1959 season. It was a "rookie" league in 1956 and no player with prior professional experience was allowed.
Grand Island was the largest city in the league and the baseball boosters of the city sold 656 season tickets in anticipation of the season. Tickets were available at G. I. Sports Shop, Russell Sports, Ditter's Grocery, Beck's Bar, Clayton's Pharmacy and various civic clubs. The team was a farm club of the Kansas City Athletics and the players were under contract with the A's.
Manager Art Mazmanian greeted a number of prospects in Grand Island. Art was an all american at USC and the second baseman for them as they won the national championship against Yale. Yale first baseman George Bush had a double in four at bats in the final game. Art was also the manager of the Great Falls Giants in 1973-74 and had a long career as a baseball manager.
Rain hampered early workouts for the team making the cut down process difficult. The team played at Municipal Field (I assume that this is currently the field at Ryder Park today). Many of the players stayed at the Yancey Hotel until they could find a more permanent residence in the town.
Mayor Merle McDermott made the first pitch to open the season and Chamber President Norman McKeag was behind the plate. The Grand Island Municipal Band provided musical entertainment. 1,100 fans watched Grand Island win their home opener 18-5 over Kearney with Thurman French on the mound.
Grand Island was one of four teams fighting for the 1956 pennant. They finished the year in second place, 6 games out of first. They were led by Leroy Scercy who hit .351 for the season and a number of good young arms.
While Grand Island did not have any of the individual league leaders they did have two of the three all stars in the outfield for 1956. They also gave a lot of players game experience during the year with 15 players playing in less than 10 games.
First base was held down by Thomas Jaskowski . The left handed batter was 20 years old and called Chicago home. He averaged .298 for the A's. (the local paper spelled his last name Jasbowski).
Donald Brown split his time between second and third base during the year. The infielder played his collegiate ball for Nebraska. He was a first team All American and batted .446 for the Huskers. He was signed by Kansas City and assigned to Grand Island. He averaged .291 and had 24 stolen bases in his 60 games.
The other second baseman for the A's was Robert Hickingbotham . The 21 year old from McGehee Arkansas played in 20 games and averaged .145.
Third base was Don Guthmiller alternating with Brown. Guthmiller averaged .280 in 43 games. Signed as a catcher, he joined the club on July 6th after 10 of the original players signed for the team were released.
Four different players were in the dirt at short stop for the A's. Bill Capps started 18 games at short and had a .247 average. Ray Radcliff , from Dallas Texas, played short for 10 games and had a .345 average. James Hakes was a 19 year old from Columbus Ohio. He played 21 games at short and 33 games overall. He managed a .132 average. John Morgan a lefty from Albion Michiganplayed 17 games and had a .213 average.
Catcher for the A's was also split between three players. Al Vassey from Gaffrey South Carolina played in 32 games as catcher. He averaged .265. Virgil Bernhardt wore the mask for 33 games and managed a .200 average. Don Guthmiller was in the crouch for 16 games for the A's and averaged .280 for the year.
The outfield was a strong point for the A's. LeRoy Scercy was signed by the A's in early 1956. He was 19 years old and hit .408 for A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis North Carolina. He was named to the all star team and in 59 games he averaged .351. Joining him as an all star outfielder, Claude Horn played in 62 games. The 19 year old from Mobile Alabama batted .290 for the season and had 16 stolen bases. The third gardener was William Marrs. The Fredericksburg Virginia native averaged .223.
Pitching was a revolving door for Grand Island in 1956. Six of the pitchers who were originallys slated to play for Grand Island were released by July 6th the fourth day of the season. New faces appeared all through the season as Grand Island tried a number of prospects.
Abraham Baker was 5-0 in 16 games for the A's. He also batted .323. He was not originally with the A's but arrived on July 6th and stayed through the season.
Thurman French was was from Birmingham Alabama and
had an 8-4 record in 19 appearances,
Robert Cacciarelli was 8-6 in 22 games. Robert led
the team with 116k's for the year.
Don Spohn was 7-5,
lefty Marvin Black from Maryville Mo. was 2-2, fellow
William Corrigan was 3-3.
James Bankswas an 18 year old from Opelika Alabama. He was 2-3 for the A's.
Nebraska State League Standings 1956
Nebraska Minor League Baseball Home