PHOENIXVILLE >> The greatness of the Phoenixville Area High School sports program’s tradition came to the forefront once again Wednesday afternoon at Doc Kennedy Field.
Former Cleveland Indians All-Star slugger Andre Thornton, a product of the baseball program from his youth days all the way through to American Legion baseball, returned home from Ohio to have his No. 29 retired by the Phantoms.
The ceremony took place prior to Phoenixville’s Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division contest against Pottsgrove. Phoenixville held on to edge Pottsgrove, 4-3, anchored by the combined stellar pitching work of Matt Osisek-Byrne and Trip Shoemaker.
The Phantoms will close out the regular season of their schedule with a home date against Upper Merion Thursday afternoon in a game that was moved up from Friday due to threatening rainy weather Friday. Phoenixville hopes to close out with another win in order to help solidify its position for a home game in the opening round of the upcoming District 1 5A playoffs.
Like most of his peers in that era, Thornton played all sports year-round in Phoenixville, going from football to basketball and then to baseball in the spring and summer. His many friends and teammates followed suit and also participated in some other sports as well.
Andre’s older brother, Bill, remains active in Phoenixville athletics. Bill currently serves as an assistant baseball coach under second-year head coach Neil Herman, a former assistant coach at West Chester University and Sun Valley High School.
Phoenixville honored Andre Thornton for his overall achievements in life, not solely as a baseball player. He was honored as a husband, father, current CEO of ASW Global in Ohio, community leader, ballplayer and forever a Phoenixville Phantom.
Andre enjoyed a 14-year career in the major leagues. He was originally signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1967, but he subsequently moved on to the Atlanta Braves in a trade. From there, he headed to the Chicago Cubs (three years), Montreal Expos (one-plus years) and finally the Cleveland Indians for the final 11 seasons of his professional career.
The two-time American League All-Star belted 253 home runs during his major league career, finishing in the top five in homers three times in the American League.
He was presented with the Roberto Clemente award in 1979 for his sportsmanship and community involvement. Later, he was given the key to Phoenixville on Andre Thornton Day in 1982.
Andre was impressed by the big expansion that has taken place around Phoenixville in terms of the schools and athletic facilities.
“It’s always fun and an honor to come back to your high school once you see what you’ve done and what you accomplished,” said Thornton. “It is a fun day. I am real pleased to do it.”
His high school head coach was the late Paul Tomko. His American Legion manager was the late Samuel “Nebs” Griffith, who took him for his original tryout with the Phils.
However, longtime Phoenixville baseball coach John “Doc” Kennedy was on hand to see the Thornton festivities Wednesday. Kennedy coached Thornton during his Phoenixville Babe Ruth League all-star championship years. Thornton said the late Chester Miller and Frances McElroy were other coaches who were instrumental in his career.
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In the Phantoms’ victory, Osisek-Byrne pitched the first 5 2/3 innings for the victory with Shoemaker coming in from the outfield to hurl the last 1 1/3 innings. Osisek-Byrne gave up six hits and two runs (none earned) with 11 strikeouts and one walk. Shoemaker allowed one hit and one unearned run with four strikeouts and no walks.
For Pottsgrove, Alex Stump threw the first 4 1/3 innings. He yielded four hits and three earned runs with six strikeouts and five walks. Bailey Delp relieved for 1 2/3 innings with three hits and one earned run, one strikeout and no walks.
Pottsgrove led 2-0 with the Falcons scoring two runs in the second inning. Phoenixville countered with three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth.
Osisek-Byrne ripped a two-run triple to the left-center field gap to tie the game at 2. Zach Masalski contributed a double, triple and one RBI. Luke LeBeau (double), Colton Brown, Shoemaker and Kyle Syrek added hits for the Phantoms.
For the Falcons, Nick DeCurtis finished 3-for-4 with a triple and one run scored while leadoff man Adam Girafalco went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Colin Templin and Austin Spencer chipped in with hits for Pottsgrove.
“The game was right there for the taking, but we didn’t get after it,” said Pottsgrove head coach Jamie Nash. “We had no enthusiasm. Our intensity wasn’t there for us today.”
On the other hand, Nash felt Stump and Delp were phenomenal in the pitching department.
Herman was glad to pick up the narrow win.
“Our new philosophy for the rest of the season is survive and advance,” said Herman.
He said while the Phantoms made mistakes, he did not want to dwell on them with another big game in store Thursday.
“O-B pitched really well,” said Herman. “He started out slow, but then he really found it. His curveball was working. He found it in the third or fourth inning, and then he started mowing them down.”
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