Baltimore's Presstman Cardinals

Presstman Cardinals to play for Baltimore

Team competed for 55 years against Johnny's/Youse juggernaut

By Brian Varmecky

When it was announced that the famed Youse's Orioles would not be returning to the tournament this year, AAABA fans were left to ponder the identify of the new Baltimore representative. As it turns out, the representative is not new at all, but have actually been competing in the AAABA for more than half-a-century.

The Presstman Cardinals will play for Baltimore this year, led by manager Reggie Smith. The organization was founded in 1962 and has been battling against the Youse's juggernaut every year. With Youse's program now out of contention, the Cardinals finally earned the opportunity to represent Baltimore. Smith played against Johnny's himself year ago and was on teams that came close to defeating Johnny's, but never quite could. To come to the tournament now as a coach, however, he described as 'a dream come true.'

"We competed for years against Johnny's and Corrigan. We gave them a pretty strong run, but for years they put together a system so that they were really difficult to beat in July to come here [to Johnstown]," explained Smith. This year the Cardinals beat out three other teams in the Baltimore City League to qualify for the tournament. "We just hung around for 55 some years and now we're here."

Big shoes to fill

The Cardinals have the biggest of shoes to fill. The Baltimore franchise has been represented by the same team for most of its existence, and the Johnny's/Corrigan/Youse's teams won 29 national championships for the city. Their overall record is 269-89 in sixty-six tournaments. The team was so dominant that even rivals New Orleans struggled against them, having lost the past twelve consecutive meetings. In the past decade, the Orioles won more than 85% of their tournament games.

"We're inexperienced because I don't have a ball player here that has played in the tournament," said Smith. The Cardinals are a younger team, featuring mostly junior college players. "There's a tradition here they don't know about. Our style of play is different from Youse's Orioles, but out talent level is pretty good and I brought a pretty entertaining club up here."

Although the Presstman team has never competed in Johnstown, over the years there have been several Cardinals selected as pick-up players by the Youse's organization. They have taken their stories from here in Johnstown back to the Presstman club and have helped to keep the AAABA dream alive though all these decades.

Bringing baseball back to Baltimore

Smith says that Baltimore experienced many of the same problems Johnstown has, with vast amounts of industry jobs leaving the city during the late-1970s until the mid-1990s.

"That hurt a lot of volunteerism," explained Smith. "We lost a lot of Little Leagues, and now basketball and football dominate the town. We're just trying to find ways to bring baseball back. Kids still want to play the game, you just have to reinvent how you do it."

The rioting in Baltimore from this past year is still fresh in the minds of the players and coaches, as well. As is often the case, sporting contests can provide a respite from the troubles of the world and also provide hope for a brighter future. Smith hopes that the time spent in Johnstown will serve his young men well, and that they will be able to carry that wisdom with them as they return home next week.

"With this spotlight on us, these guys will take the experience back to the young kids and next year, those young kids will look at the caliber of players and hopefully they can mimic these players the way I remember mimicking the Negro league players and Leone's when I was a kid back in the day."

Although the Youse's organization is certainly a major loss, it will be exciting to see what the Presstman Cardinals can do after more than fifty years of waiting. No one is expecting the Cardinals to perform like the incomparable Orioles, but any strong showing from the first-year club will be considered a success.

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