Jet Box Baseball was established in 1969 in Detroit, Michigan and has been led by Manager Jim Corte for 50 consecutive adult amateur baseball seasons. The Jet Box team history has been recorded by Manager Jim Corte to highlight the achievements and accomplishments of the 700+ players that have played for Jet Box since 1969.
The team history is organized by “Jet Box Families” to reflect the different era’s and players that span over 49 years. The team history has been broken down to seven “Families” to show the connections between players from season to season.
MESSAGE FROM THE MANAGER: Thanks to all the 700 player-friends that have made JET BOX Baseball a success. Without good cooperation this venture could not continue into the new millennium. This is the reason behind JET BOX Baseball-Friends and a common desire to keep hardball alive. Thanks, Jim Corte
Jet Box Baseball began in the early spring of 1969 as the brainchild of me, Jim Corte, and my uncle, Lou Zardus, owner of Jet Box Company. Lou played baseball for Pepsi Cola in the 1950s and played 2nd base for Jet Box in 1969. Lou authorized $5,000 for the season and I put Jet Box into the Detroit Baseball Federation Class B. I was 22 years young.
Reuniting my Notre Dame High School and sandlot ballplayer friends from the 1960s, The players forming the core of our first JET BOX Baseball Team were catcher/infielder Rich Loria, catcher/outfielder Chris Hacias, infielders Randy Lamprides, John Kuhr, Mike Boccia (who played in 1999 and hit a HR at age 52), outfielder/pitcher John Fayad, outfielders Mike Schuette, Jim Corte, and 1st baseman/pitcher Gary Geister.
Tryouts at high school fields on Detroit’s east side and recruitment by my core ballplayers rounded out the JET BOX team.
Opening day was May 14, 1969 against Vinewood Mfg. Former U of M captain, Marlin Pemberton, pitched a great game and Jet Box recorded our 1st win.
We used wood bats and pitchers batted. Our uniforms were navy blue pinstripe with sleeveless jerseys. Our jackets were navy blue windbreakers with Jets on the back. Why navy blue? Because it was stocked, not custom.
Our win/loss record was 10 wins , 10 losses and one tie. In 1969, Jet Box got a taste of Class A playing a three game ITM invitational. We lost all three, but next season, 1970, we moved into Class A forever.
Jet Box always sought better competition because then Jet Box would improve, ie;. it took 3 1/2 years before we beat ITM, yet Jet Box ended 19 seasons playing ITM with a record of 108 wins and 95 losses and 4 ties.
From my first team, 1969, only Rich Loria (1974 &1976 World Series, batted 4th, hit .442, 2nd highest) and Chris Hacias (1973, 74, 76 & 78 World Series) made the transition from wood to aluminum bats in 1973.
Jet Box baseball means friendship, that’s why I started the team. This team of original friends became a team of new friends who continue to this day. Men like Rich Loria, Chris Hacias, and always me help to make transition fun by their ability to bridge the change that younger ballplayers inevitably bring about.
My job for 32 years is to put the best lineup in the game. All Boxers know that I bench anyone not producing, thus proving my managerial integrity?
Make no mistake Jet Box is my team, yet after 3 seasons as lead off batter, Jim Corte benched Jim Corte. This was 1972, I was 25, and Jet Box landed their first ex-pro, Larry Cutright, who pitched 5 seasons.
In 1973, the star college ballplayer era began with 13 signing contracts with JET BOX. Notably Craig Schalk (22 seasons, holds most career pitching records- 134 wins), U of D’s captain, Mike Sobczak (10 seasons) and Bob Day (10 seasons).
This started a decade dominated by this trio and in 1974 Jet Box tri-fecta of U ofD captain, Bill Turkington (14 seasons, career leader at bats, runs, hits, 2nd base), Central Michigan University’s captain, Dan Griesbaum (10 seasons at 1st base/outfield), and Western Michigan University’s Frank Wojnicki (10 seasons centerfield/pitcher).
From 1973 to 1983 these 6 ballplayer friends (I was in 3 of their weddings) provided the second Jet Box nucleus. All six received the inaugural 10 year Gold Ring, for dedication to JET BOX Baseball. During these 11 seasons, Jet Box won 6 NABF regionals, the Southern US title, and National Runner-up. Our 11 season record was 408-191-6, a .681 win percent. I was 37 years young when the 1983 season ended, Jet Box baseball was 15 years old.
Bridging the transfer to the new nucleus of our third family, in 1980, were Craig Schalk, Bill Turkington and me. Craig was our main pitcher and Bill was our leadoff hitter until retiring after the 1987 season.
From 1980 to 1987 the dominant new players were pitchers Charley Loehnis (1978-1989), Chris Czarka (1976-1983), Terry Schalk (1980-1987)
Hitters; Dave Zelmanski (1979-1988), Tom Berti (1979-1985), Dave Orzel (1980-1990), Gary Zelmanski (1981-1987), Gordie Cobus (1982-1990), John Clem (1981-1993), Dan Lanoue (1980&1983), Steve Mastro (1982-1985), Mike Seagram (1984-1986), Dave Pagel (1985-1987, 1992-1993) and Dave Jonske (1985-1987).
The JET BOX line-up of this era had power from both sides of the plate. Left handed hitters featured home run power in Lanoue, Orzel, Jonske and Pagel. Plus line drive hitters Turkington, Wojnicki and Berti.
Right handed batters Griesbaum, Dave and Gary Zelmanski, Cobus, and Seagram hit home runs from their side of the plate. Switch hitting power was provided by John Clem and Steve Mastro. As manager I had great flexibility to create problems for any pitcher, right or left handed.
1984 saw JET BOX win its first national regional title in the American Amateur Baseball Congress. We won this title at 2 a.m. Tuesday in Battle Creek, MI. Then we started the AABC World Series on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Battle Creek. Predictably we lost that game to New York using pitchers in our batting line-up because of work schedules. We beat California in the second game but lost to Denver, CO in our third game.
1981, 1982 and 1983 JET BOX played in the NABF World Series in Louisville, Ky. We were always a threat to win with hitting power but we came up short in pitching depth. Until 1998 the top five team home run total were 1981 through 1985. In those five seasons 382 homeruns were hit while maintaining a .317 team batting average.
For the third family’s entire eight year run, 1980-1987 , Jet Box slugged 541 homeruns while averaging .323. Truly this was an offense to fear. In eight seasons JET BOX won 316, lost 122, tied 5, a .721 win percentage. Jimmy Corte was forty-one seasons old and mellowing. Bill Turkington completed 14 seasons in 1987 and his number 4 jersey is now retired.
In 1988 a new family was taking hold with Craig Schalk, John Clem and me forming the bridge from our third family to the forth.
Family number four featured complete hitters, high averages with power, such as John Clem, Andy Krause, Lance Sullivan, Rick Tavormina, Mike Kocan and feisty Tom DiMambro to whom Bill Turkington handed the infield leadership after his 1987 retirement.
Hitting also featured the awesome year by Aldo Pecorilli in 1991 and the budding careers of sluggers supreme Andy Roman and Vic Breithaupt. Pitching for his third family eternal Craig Schalk won 26 games, pitched 292 innings (only 15.2 in 1989 due to injury) and struck out 231.
He led in twenty-six categories in five full seasons including his 19th and 20th seasons leading both years in innings pitched, starts, complete games, victories and 1991’s low ERA (1.81) and 1992’s most strikeouts.
His final season in 1993, Craig pitched 34 innings, seven starts, one complete game shutout, won 5 games lost 2.
In the NABF regional and world series Craig won both starts pitching thirteen innings, striking out 13, walking one allowing fourteen hits and 3 runs for a 2.07 ERA. Not bad for a 41 year old.
Mark Jacob debuted in 1986 and led 28 categories through 1993. Dale Erickson, Lance Sullivan and Dennis D’Agnese garnered forty category leaders between 1988 and 1993. Overall JET BOX was 169-128-6 a .569 win percentage yet we were in three world series finishing national runner-up in 1989.
In 1993 JET BOX started a run of seven straight world series appearances. 1993 was JET BOX 25th season and the last hurrah for Craig Schalk, John Clem, Dave Pagel and Andy Krause.
Our quest for a world series title thwarted by playing three games on Saturday in muggy Louisville heat. We finished three innings of Friday’s suspended game, won the second game but lost our third contest.
This gutty eight hour performance ended the fourth family’s quest for the national title but this team provided the nucleus of our current family the experience needed to finally win in Louisville.
This nucleus forming the bridge to JET BOX fifth family was hitters Tom DiMambro (1987), Rick Tavormina(1989), Andy Roman(1991), Vic Breithaupt(1993). The pitchers consisted of Mark Jacob(1986), Bob Bell(1992), Joe Loria(1993) and Manager Jim Corte now 48 years young when the 1994 season started.
This family continued the world series streak making six consecutive appearances high lighted by the 1997 NABF National Championship.
The most dominating hitter in JET BOX history led this group, winning fifty-five of one hundred categories from 1992 through 1996. He was a leader 47 of sixty-five possible (73%) in thirteen prime categories: most games-4 times, most at bats-twice, runs scored-4 times, hits-4 times, doubles-5 times, homeruns-3 times, highest batting average-4 times, total bases-3 times, slugging percentage-4 times, runs batted in-3 times, walks-4 times, sacrifice hits-3 times and on base percentage-4 times (6 consecutive years 1993-1998)
His batting average in 1995 was .551, scored 67 runs, stroked 102 hits, slugged 23 homeruns, totaled 157 bases, compiled a 1.065 slugging percentage and knocked in 82 runs all the best in JET BOX history. Oh yeaah, in 1996 he had a .506 batting average!
Proving himself nationally this man has averaged .511 for eight world series winning two national batting titles with .667 and .611 averages.
Twice in world series final this man had five hits in five at bats. He broke John Clem’s season home run record by slamming three round trippers in one 1995 world series game. He did all this playing every inning at shortstop! The BOX calls him the “TAV”, I call Rick Tavormina my dear friend.
JET BOX, however, is not just one man. We are a team. The heart of our fifth family line-up features Andy Roman – 110 HR Vic Breithaupt – .400 career BA Matt Viggiano – National Batting Champ-1997 Andy Whitney – .452 in ’99 and John Lierman-1997 NABF World Series MVP.
Veterans Dave Cooper, Tom DiMambro, Dave Jennings, Cliff Howe, Matt Konwerski, Gary Alatchanian, and younsters Tim Bellestri and Tim Frankhouse. This batting line-up is as solid and versatile as any manager could want.
Members of this team are two-time defending champions of the charity Home Run Derby at Tiger Stadium (1999) and Comerica Park (2000).
JET BOX traveled to Cooperstown, NY to play a three game inter-squad series at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Pitching is still the key to success. Bob Bell, Derek Kramer, Larry Feola, and J.D.Hill and ageless Mark Jacob anchor our staff with support form 1997’s one year starter Mark Fleming, 1998’s pitcher of the year Fred Schwarze, and 1999 starters Mike Borkowski and Jason Hoorn.
In our 1997 championship in Louisville, the final three games we used only four pitchers (one pitch by Dave Jennings) in twenty-seven innings, proving once and for all that great pitching is essential to winning national championships.
Bob Bell 26-10 with 5 saves since 1995, and Mark Jacob 12-1 since 1997 prove the importance of veteran leadership.
In the 1997 World Series, John Lierman was N.A.B.F. MVP & Batting Champion. Bob Bell, Dave Cooper, Rick Tavormina, Matt Viggiano and Mark Fleming were selected to the National All-Star Team.
This fifth JET BOX family is by far the most successful with six world series appearances in seven years, compiling a 45-16 record in NABF regionals and world series, a .736 win percentage.
The pinnacle reached by this family is the only national championship won by JET BOX, in the 1997 world series in Louisville, KY.
Of course the 2000 season was highlighted by JET BOX winning our 1000th game. On this date, July 15,2000, Craig Schalk came out of a seven year retirement to win this game in Bay City, MI. Pitching four innings allowing only two unearned runs.
At 47 1/2 years young Craig recorded his 134th win and passed 1500 innings pitched for his career which started in 1973.
JET BOX was highlighted by Channel 4 in Detroit on Sports Final Edition. Fred McLeod reported the story of the JET BOX Baseball Club spanning 32 years.
At the end of the 2000 season Jim Corte is fifty-four years mellow looking forward to many more seasons of JET BOX Baseball. This ends my brief synopsis of 32 wonderful seasons leading the BOX. For an in-depth year by year analysis keep watching our website, www.jetboxbaseball.com, I am writing as fast as I can.
The new Jet Box family started their reign with mixed results. The first five years only produced one World Series team, 2003 Jet box finished third, despite a 178-72-2 record (.712 win %). The final two years of this family bolstered by new blood has produced national champs 2007 and a national runner up 2008. Our record was no different than the previous five seasons. In 2006 & 2007 Jet Box won 85 games, lost 34 and tied 2 for a similar .714 win percentage.The difference is obvious as the last two years we were 19-4 in NABF competition. So overall this family is in pretty good company. Only the third family 1980-1987 had a better win percentage. Some of the sixth family heroes are long time Boxers such as Matt Viggiano 46 GWH in 7 tears/ Four straight team MVP trophies, two time national all star and Andy Roman who played in 93% of all games that box had from 2001-2007. This after putting in ten years from 1991 to 2000. This remarkable man not only shows up for every game but he produces. Andy hit 44 HRs and had 29 game winning hits. He is the all time home run leader 154. Games played 779 and RBI 650. Long time greats such as Rick Tavormina 2001-2002. Vic Breithaupt 2001-2005 and Tom Dimambro 2001-2005 made traditional transfer from family to family very easy. Young stars such as Mike Borkowski and Luke Humphreys are major contributors of the sixth the family. Veteran pitching is always the key and the first 3 years 2001-2003, these stalwarts fished their careers in great fashion, JD Hill 8 years, Bob Bell 14 years, Fred Schwarze with seven years and pitched in 115 games of our 160 total. nearly 72 percent! Ageless Larry Feola has pitched in 104 games these 7 years of this 6th family, New star players among this family come in steady bursts whether for one year or all seven. Hitters include Matt Essian 2001 & 2003 jet box batting champ, Tim Baywal .392 BA from 02-05, Mark Abro 2006 NABF batting champ. and Chris Demetral 2002-2007, .380 BA. Frank Jeney 2007 Batting champ, Ron Kochan .356 BA and Don Watchowski 2 time NABF ALL STAR were the heart of the Jet Box lineup. Piching is the key and our current hurlers are great competitors. Mike Borkowski leads the wins total with 30 wins followed by Mike Newsted three time jet box pitcher of the year 2005-2007 with has 28 wins. Adam Echlin two time national All-Star 2006 & 2007 and 2007 NABF MVP has 25 wins and Steve Herbst 2003 national all star has 23 wins. New Aces Mark Dewey 06-07 and Kyle Hill have identical 6-0 wins loss record. Both are NABF all stars. As in any family you need support. Jet box is fortunate to have Cliff Howe 14 years, Bob Wilson six years. Matt Konwerski eight years, Gary Alatchanian ten years still currently playing. Key starters in our last two World Series were Dan Fairchild .313 and Travis Kochan. This family success was as it should be a team triumph. Certain performances stand out for me.
In the 2003 World Series Steve Herbst striking out 15 batters in one game and Mark Dewey pitching four games in 11 days in Buffalo, NY and Louisville KY at the 2006 NABF regional and World Series.
All Mark did was complete three 9 inning starts for wins and pitch 3 1/3 innings in relief for his fourth win in tournament play. As incredibly as Marks feat may be (he was 42 years old) the next year Adam Echin duplicated this heroic feat.
Adam had three complete game victories and a 9 inning no hitter and pitched into the eith inning of his fourth game in ten days at the NABF region in Springfield Ohio and the World Series in Louisville.
Thanks to all the 700 player-friends that have made JET BOX Baseball a success. Without good cooperation this venture could not continue into the new millennium. This is the reason behind JET BOX Baseball-Friends and a common desire to keep hardball alive.
As we men find love hard to express, let me be the one to say I love each family as if my blood relative and I am a lucky man.