SCHENECTADY — Bill Masucci has a special fondness for the Linton High School baseball team he coached back in 1988. He can't tell you who hit what or how many wins his championship team actually had, but to this day he can recite nearly the entire starting lineup.
They were his guys. Vince Petraccione, Chis Allard, John Barber, Tony Mammola and the rest of the gang, they will always be his guys.
"I think of how close they were," Masucci said of the Linton grads who are now pushing 50. "They were a close-knit group of kids. In school they may have ran in different groups, but on the field, they were one. They took care of one another.
"I remember one time a kid took out [T.J.] Verteramo, and before I knew it, Petraccione was on top of him. I'm acting like I'm pissed off and yelling, but inside, I kind of liked that he did that for his teammate."
With Masucci providing the push, a bunch of players who could hit and run, and one of the best pitchers the high school ever had, the Blue Devils made history that spring by winning Linton's only Section II baseball championship. The Blue Devils were Big 10 champs for the only time that season, too, sharing the top spot with Amsterdam, CBA and Troy.
This spring they celebrate the 30th anniversary of that breakthrough campaign.
"Good bunch of guys," said Petraccione, who played shortstop and batted third for a 17-8 team that started off hot, cooled a bit and then went on its late run to history. "We were all friends. Good times. That season was so much fun."
Linton was a gutsy, gambling team that spring, one, Mammola believes, deserving of legacy consideration by the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
"Our philosophy was run; take the extra base," said Masucci, now 76 and living in Hanover Township, Pa., with his wife Lana. "If we had a single to the outfield and they bobbled it, take second. If we got thrown out, so be it."
"We could hit and we were going to run," said Mammola, Linton's left fielder and No. 2 batter. "Teams had to make plays to beat us. We were going to challenge you every chance we got."
Masucci preached aggressiveness at the plate.
"I was never one of those sit back and wait coaches," he said.
"He never wanted us to take a pitch," Petraccione said. "We hit a lot of first-pitch strikes."
Linton beat Colonie (5-0), Shenendehowa for the first time ever (5-3) and then Amsterdam (12-0) in the Section II tournament that year, dominating its rubber match with the Rugged Rams at Heritage Park in the title game.
Allard pitched a six-hitter in the clincher, Drew Schiavo helped Linton get a quick jump with RBI singles in the first and third, and Allard and Dave Davenport later padded the lead with two-run doubles.
"At that point, I thought there was no stopping us," said Mammola, whose RBI double was part of a late-inning comeback against Shenendehowa. "We were on a roll."
Linton had a made a strong Section II tournament run once before, in 1972, when it lost to Colonie in the final.
"I remember before the season standing in the hallway with Masucci," Mammola said. "We had uniforms that were 15 years old and I asked him about getting new ones. He said it probably won't happen, and I said, 'Then I guess we'll have to win the Big 10 and the section this year with them.'"
Allard won 11 games as Linton's top pitcher that year, and in the sectionals he beat Colonie and earned a save for Pat Allen in the Shenendehowa game before his blanking of Amsterdam, the Big 10's No, 1 seed. Shenendehowa was the Suburban Council's No. 1 seed that year.
"We had Allard in our corner, and whenever he pitched, we thought we'd do well," Mammola said. "Our nickname for him was 'Ace.' He was our star. I still have him in my phone as Ace Allard."
Masucci was an awfully good player in his day, as well, with Schenectady's Little League World Series runner-up and title teams in 1953 and 1954, and later as a high schooler when he helped Nott Terrace (1957) and Linton (1958, 1959) win Class A League championships when there was no sectional prize yet to go after. He continued to excel at Ithaca College, and his success continued in a near 20-year stint with Linton and then Schenectady.
Schenectady began playing baseball in 1991 out of the merger between Linton and Mont Pleasant
"He always knew what buttons needed to be pushed," former Mont Pleasant and Schenectady coach Jerry Rosen said of Masucci.
Masucci's 1990 Linton team made a return trip to the Class A final only to lose to Bethehem, and his 1991 Schenectady team made it back again and beat Troy for the Section II crown. His final Schenectady edition in 1992 won the Big 10 title.
"What a great guy," Petraccione said of Masucci. "He'd yell and scream, but we loved playing for him. Absolutely."