'The Streak': 25 years later, the Trappers' record-setting performance still stands tall
Ironically it was Schley's eye for talent and Gilligan's years of managing expertise that all came into focus as the Trappers were in a position to break the record. Starting behind the plate was Colston, a converted catcher in college who had grown up in Illinois playing for American Legion teams. Reliever John Groennert, also an Illinois native, had actually played against Colston in high school and now they stood on the doorstep of history.
"In high school, we were playing against Frank's team, so I knew what kind of player he was, and he called a great game that night," Groennert said.
Groennert's journey to the Trappers was one of the more unique stories. He joined the team after the start of the season. In early July, Gilligan and Schley were looking for another solid starting pitcher when Colston gave his bosses a tip on a player he caught for back in American Legion ball. Through a series of phone calls and searches, the Trappers located Groennert eating dinner at a pizza parlor in Illinois.
Groennert remembers it this way.
"I was having dinner with some friends when a call came. At first I wasn't sure what to think, but after hearing the offer to play again, I was on a plane to Salt Lake City within 24 hours," he said.
As fate would have it, Groennert would play a critical role in helping to break the record.
After Pocatello loaded the bases in the top of the second inning, Groennert was called on in relief to take the mound.
"It was a pretty tough situation when I came into the game," Groennert recalled. "I kept thinking, 'Just limit the damage and throw strikes. Keep the ball down and throw strikes.' I really wasn't nervous; I just thought about what I had to do and stayed focused on throwing strikes."
That's exactly what he did, working his way through that second inning and going on to strike out eight batters. He issued no walks, yielded only five hits, and allowed only one earned run to earn the victory.
Colston had a night to remember, too, with six RBIs to lead the offensive barrage. Beuder's RBI and Neil Reynolds' two-run double helped secure the 13-3 victory.
After the game, the clubhouse was filled with cigar smoke, champagne was spraying and the players laughed heartily. The manager and coaches cried and cheered for what they had accomplished. They were on top of the sporting world; no professional baseball team had ever won as many consecutive games. This group of baseball orphans proved to the baseball world they could play the game.
Trappers P.A. announcer Mike Runge exclaimed, "In the history of baseball, there has never been a streak like this one."
Players circled the field waving to fans and shaking hands. Fans stood, and for more than 10 minutes gave the team a standing ovation.
"For me, 'The Streak' was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I've won a state legion championship, taken teams to the state tournament as a high school coach, but winning that 28th game the way we did has a special place in my heart," Groennert said.
"Looking back, I don't think this streak will ever be broken," Tim Peters said. "There are just too many things that can trip you up in a game. It's just too hard to win that many games in a row these days."
Neil Reynolds, who played third base for the Trappers, said, "Some guys play their whole career and never get mentioned in Sports Illustrated. We were fortunate in one season to get a feature story. I've got the article framed and sitting on my wall at home. I'll never forget that."
There was talk of a movie, and initial inquiries came to the Trappers from Hollywood director Ron Howard, but nothing came of it.
There was, however, a feature story, "Streak City," in Sports Illustrated.
The late Herman Franks, a long-time Major League manager and Salt Lake resident, said, "Winning 28 games in a row is a hell of a feat. I don't care what classification you're playing in."
With the electricity of that record-breaking night behind them, the Trappers beat Pocatello the next night for win No. 29 before the streak finally ended in Billings with the Trappers losing by a count of 7-5.
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