Although McCook was one of the smaller cities in the Nebraska State League in 1956 it was a baseball hotbed. The town led the league in attendance with 32,224 fans in the stands during the season. They were second only to Kearney in total season tickets sold with 741 season ticket holders.
The McCook Cats, a strong semi pro team in the early 50's, played in Eastside Park. Today it is a smaller park at the same location called Felling Field. With the Nebraska State League coming to town it was decided to build a new field at the fairgrounds. Rotarian Roy Lenwell arranged for 7,000 square feet of sod and thirty volunteers installed the new infield. The local moniker for the field was "Dibola Field" after the seven cities of Cibola.
Attendance was phenominal. Average attendance was over 700 for home games or 10% of the towns population. To show up in late July in Nebraska when the temperature hovers in the high nineties is an amazing testament to the dedication of McCook to baseball.
The manager of the Braves was Bill Steinecke . Bill had a four game major league career with Pittsburg in 1931. He played for the barnstorming City of David team in the 30's. He was a scout for the Braves during the late 50's in addition to managing at McCook. He managed the Braves to the league championship in its last year in 1959. His task was to put together team out of a bunch of 18-21 year old rookies.
McCook had two of the four All Star pitchers in 1956. They were fifth in team batting and fourth in fielding. In the batters box the team ws led by Nick Vancho who hit .346 for the year. They finished the year tied for second place six games behind Lexington.
At first base for the Braves in 1956 was Dave Centi. The 20 year olf 6' 4" righty from Elmsford New York averaged .266 for the year and had 12 home runs. He played for Waycross and Leesburg in 1957 and Pocatello in 1959.
John Brady was in the dirt at second. The Bennett North Carolina youngster averaged .270 swinging from the port side of the plate.
Nick Vancho , was a 21 year old from Bridgeport Conn., led the team in batting with a .346 average and played 42 games at third base. From West Newton Mass. came William Cronin . He also played some games at third and averaged .248 for the season.
Switch hitter Carlos Ramirez crossed the border from Mexico City and was a regular at short. He averaged .299 for the season. He played in organized ball through the 1962 season.
Catching chores were split between Stanley Luckoski . The 18 year old from Dayton Ohio averaged .211 in 57 games.
Frank Barfield , from Faison North Carolina was in 35 games and averaged .127.
Charles White a lefty from Hapton Hew Hampshire averaged .303 and was a regular in the outfield for the Braves. After playing in almost every game for McCook, he played 48 games for Leesburg and 3 games for Waycross.
John Stapp was also a regular in the garden. He averaged .268 for the year and had 16 stolen bases. He also played for Leesburg Boise in 1956.
Joeseph Zdanis , from Long Island, averaged .239 for the year as part of the outfield crew. He also played 13 games for Lawton.
Bruno Terelli was an 18 year old shortstop from New York City. He was signed in 1956 after being named the top New York City high school player in 1956. He played in 20 games and averaged .163.
John Huda played 10 games and averaged .364. He played for
Wellsville and McCook in 1956, Boise and Evansville in 1957, Wellsville and Cedar Rapids
in 1958, Eau Claire and Cedar Rapids in 1959 and Eau Claire and Cedar Rapids in 1960.
Philip Coleplayed in 23 games and averaged .310.
McCook had two of the first team All Star pitchers in 1956. Dick Allen , from Brighton Mass. was an all star right hand pitcher. He had a record of 11-4 with 117 k's in 20 appearances. On the port side Bill Hamilton , from Westbrook Maine, joined Allen on the All Star team. He 8-2 record with 89 strike outs in his 20 appearances.
Other pitchers for the Braves included Steve Beckman . The Rhode Island native was 7-6 in 23 games. Gerald Rice was 1-3 and Charles Townsend from Norwich NY High School was 2-3 for the Braves.
Jerome Johnson from Eau Claire Wisconsin played in one game for McCook. He also played for Wellsville in the PONY League in 1956.
Bill Holmes from Kalamazoo was 0-2 for McCook. He played through the 1963 season in the minor leagues.
Robert Burton, John Roberts, Thomas Reagles, Leroy Cherick and Donald Peth were on the roster in 1956.
Nebraska State League Standings 1956
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