Reliving That Championship Season State Legion victors share stories from '82
     2012-07-27      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Terry Gaston/for the Citizen - Members of the 1982 Gering American Legion Post 36 Class B state championship team, who attended the team's first reunion on July 14, kneeling from left: Randy McKibbin, Paul Votruba, Randy Burbach, Chris Zamarripa; standing from left Tim Marquez and Chuck Bordeaux. Between Marquez and Bordeaux are the team's Class B state championship trophy, mounted 1982 team photo and the Area 7 championship trophy. 
Their quantity was small, just a half-dozen players who gathered July 14 at the Gering American Legion Post 36 Club House to celebrate the 1982 baseball team’s 30th anniversary of their Class B state championship.
But the stories they told, and the memories they often had to patch together to recall the events, were priceless — especially for event organizer Chuck Bordeaux. When he arrived at the Post 36 Club House, Bordeaux started looking for the state and Area 7 trophies the 1982 team had won. Time had taken its toll on the state championship trophy, however: the hitter’s bat was missing.

Like the broken trophy, 30 years has brought ups and downs to the members of the state championship team. While time can break down people, it can also rebuild them. For a July evening, they were 17 and 18 years old again, reliving the “Glory Days” of which Bruce Springsteen sang two years following their state title campaign.
One quality of teammanship the players shared was most, if not all, had nicknames. Bordeaux was nicknamed “Chief,“ not only because of his Lakota Sioux heritage but also his age. Although he graduated high school in 1981 and went to Arizona for college, by Legion rules Bordeaux remained eligible because he was still 18 years old by the cutoff. However, Bordeaux’s nickname remains appropriate in his tenacious desire in wanting to reassemble the players 30 years after their championship run, and also in his leadership for a Lakota-inspired, nonprofit work-release program for state prison inmates in Lincoln who are recovering addicts.

Bordeaux found himself riddled with drug and alcohol problems for years after his Legion career ended. But he also hopes to help youth avoid the path that led him down a hard road of drugs and alcohol, which eventually led to his serving 18 months in prison for a felony drug charge. After being released in September 2004, Bordeaux became a board member Oyate Tokeya, which is Lakota for People First. He rose to vice president in 2011 and to the group’s presidency in 2011.

“It was kind of funny because they said ‘You’re the chief,’” Bordeaux said of his nickname origin, “and now I am a Sundance leader in my ninth year and president of a nonprofit.”
The other players who attended the reunion were Randy “Ralph” Burbach, who is a commercial plumber for Snell Services; Tim “Quez” Marquez, whose son Nate is the current Legion team’s primary center fielder and occasional pitcher; Randy “Chicken” McKibbin, who is a coach and teacher at Bayard Schools; Paul “P.V.” Votruba, a former teacher in Scottsbluff who now works as a fiber-optics locator; and Chris “Zam” Zamarripa, who works for the City of Scottsbluff Street Department.

One alumnus Bordeaux hoped might attend, but holds optimism for future reunions, is ace pitcher Kip Gross, who went on to pitch at Nebraska, was drafted by the New York Mets in 1986 and entered the major leagues in 1990 with the eventual World Series champion Cincinnati Reds. Gross played an additional season with the Reds and two years with the Los Angeles Dodgers before he began a notable and consistent five years in the Japanese Pacific League while pitching for the Tokyo-based Nippon-Ham Fighters. After returning to the United States for arm surgery in 1998, Gross returned to the major leagues in 1999 with the Boston Red Sox and completed his major-league career with the Houston Astros in early 1990, compiling a majors career 7-8 record with an earned-run average of 3.90 and 81 strikeouts.

“We didn’t even know that we had a start in the making,” Bordeaux said of Gross. “That was something else.”
But Gross’s absence did not spoil the event, during which the most-discussed topic was how Gering needed to beat O’Neill twice 30 years earlier, once in bracket play and then in the second championship game after Post 36 had defeated Kearney in the first final. McKibbin said he ran into the O’Neill coach years later at a coaching clinic and found his perspective on the game much different than the way the Gering players saw their state championship victory. Marquez recalled the players’ field maintenance at Ord after the current Legion team had to do the same at a midseason tournament in Crete, for which the home Legion did not have enough players to field a team.

“Our kids did the field every day at Crete,” Marquez said. “I remember when we did the field at Ord.”
And apparently the Gering state champions exhibited other talents besides playing ball and maintaining the field on that trip. McKibbin recalled the van breaking down on the way back to Gering, and others remembered details about assistant coach Mark Winchell replacing the fuel pump with merely a pair of pliers. Ah, the memories — even if over time, it takes several minds to piecemeal the details together.

The reunion, talked about for years but never done until this year, is one Bordeaux hopes can become an event every five years or so, and talk also arose of trying to unify it with the Legion Alumni Game, which has taken place the past four Independence Days.
Bordeaux stayed involved in baseball with his children and also played on teams in the Scottsbluff Softball Association, playing on several district championship and state-qualifying teams. He continued playing until 2007, five years after he moved to Lincoln.
Even while he continues to reside in the capital city, Bordeaux said he would like to become reconnected with his hometown baseball program and area schools to give back and teach the highs and lows he has learned throughout the years.

“I would like to get back involved in the baseball programs here and the Red Ribbon organization to help keep kids from falling by the wayside like I did,” Bordeaux said. “Getting arrested was the life-saving change for me.”
A sports adage states that seasons come and seasons go, but that champions are forever. Even when “Chief,” “Ralph,” “Kippy,” “Quez,” “Chicken,” “P.V.” and “Zam” are long gone, a trophy — whose bat can even be repaired in time — will long remind those Legionnaires in Gering Post 36 of those baseball victors from 1982.


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