Philadelphia High School Baseball
A Look at
Joe O'Hara's 17-Year
(1984-2000) at George Washington High
page includes stories, special lists, record breakdown, recaps of wins in
games and the names of All-City//All-Public honorees during Coach O'Hara's 17 seasons.
. . . To provide additions/corrections:email@example.com. Thanks!
Return to TedSilary.com Home Page
Joe O'Hara coached George Washington's
By Ted Silary
Mruk had to laugh.
SEASON BY SEASON
"This is the biggest thing I've
ever done! " Mruk said. "I love being up in clutch situations. My father
says you can bat .500
all year, but it's what you do in these situations that matters. Time to separate the men from the boys."
Meanwhile, it might be time to reverse the "u" and "r" in Mruk's name. Despite the spelling, it's pronounced murk.
"My parents wanted to change it," Ric said. "They were too tired of explaining. I don't mind. So what if it's not spelled the
way it's pronounced? It's Polish."
Ditto for Jarosiewicz, which is pronounced jahr-uh-witz.
Jarosiewicz trudged to the mound on two different occasions, both times relieving Battista. He rescued Battista from a
first-and-third, two-out jam in the sixth then switched places with Battista - going from pitcher to left - with one out in the
seventh after he allowed a double to Terry Rooney and issued an intentional walk to Grippo, who yielded to pinch-runner
Battista's first pitch was crushed by Rosen for an RBI double. Ferro was given an intentional walk to load the bases and
Logan grounded to second baseman Rob Philippi, who phlipped to shortstop Jim Horn for a force-out. Horn tried for a
doubleplay, but his throw was late as Creighton crossed the plate. Rosen also tried to score, but was erased as Share fired to
Jarosiewicz returned to the mound for the last two innings, pitching no-hit ball.
Like Mruk, he talked about his father, Frank, and how he had pitched for Southern in two PL title-game losses (one-run
decisions to Roxborough in 1971 and Frankford in '72).
"My father didn't get to win a championship," Jarosiewicz said, "but he got drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. I didn't get
drafted, but I won a championship . . . For a high school kid to go through this experience, it's great."
While pitching, the personable Jarosiewicz, a lineman for Washington's championship football team last fall, often removed
his cap to show his shaved head.
"Got it this morning," he said. "I woke up at 6:30 and thought, 'It worked in football.' I woke up my little brother, Pete -
he's named after Pete Rose - and told him to shave my head. He said I was crazy. He did it, though."
In 8 2/3 innings, Rosen allowed seven hits and seven walks (two intentional) while striking out three. The Vikings
committed five errors and several times added unsound decisions that hurt the cause.
"Stupid baserunning, shaky fielding, didn't hit the ball well," Rosen said, ticking off the failings. "We had a lot of chances to
break the game open; so did they.
"My arm wasn't sore. I was just tired. But I was either going to win or lose. I didn't want out."
Rosner, standing nearby, chimed in with, "We were giving them five and six outs."
Do that and you wind up in hot water. Yesterday, the hot water also turned out to be mruky.
This story was written in 1987 about the tie between Washington stars Kevin Higgins
and Kengo Honda . . .
By Ted Silary
Kevin Higgins's earliest Kengo Honda recollection does not concern a defensive gem at shortstop or a gapper resulting
in extra bases.
It does concern a game, however.
Three years ago, before Higgins knew that Honda played baseball, and also before Honda, fresh from Japan, knew
more than a few words of English, the twosome that now forms George Washington's backbone found itself assigned to
the same advisory (public school lingo for "homeroom").
"Kengo was always playing with this little, battery-operated karate game," Higgins said. "I always used to take it
Then, one day Higgins peeked at Honda's desk and noticed that Karate Man No. 1 no longer was tormenting Karate
Man No. 2 with well-placed kicks to the stomach.
"He was trying to tell me that the batteries weren't working anymore," Higgins said. "He was trying to ask me where
he could get new ones. After that, we just started talking and . . . "
They haven't stopped since.
Higgins, more than anyone else, can provide the definitive report on the Americanization of Honda. Honda and Higgins
not only share the shortstopping and front-line pitching duties for Washington, which yesterday frolicked to a 19-1
Public League victory at Abraham Lincoln. They also share life, and enjoy it.
Higgins, after allowing four hits, fireballing his way to 14 strikeouts and maintaining a shutout until a wild pitch with
two outs and two strikes in the seventh inning, was asked whether Honda has yet become one of us - as in, an
American. Laughingly, Higgins noted, "I think he's passing us."
The comment, as Higgins quickly made clear, was made with respect to Honda's girl-catching ability. But as everyone
who has watched Honda knows, it also would fit in a baseball vein.
From the complete-package standpoint - soft hands, strong arm, range, quickness, fluid actions and know-how,
combined with a bat featuring pop - Honda is the creme de la creme (sorry, no Japanese here) of city league infielders.
With all due respect to Penn Charter's Ruben Amaro ('83), Roxborough's Rob Patete ('84), Cardinal O'Hara's Ted
Dezzi ('84) and Father Judge's Kerry Cahill ('86), it is even fair to say that Honda, a Daily News first-team All- City
pick as a junior, has blossomed into the city's best overall infielder of the 1980s.
"Simply, he's the best (Washington) has ever had," coach Joe O'Hara said. ''We've had guys who could maybe field
better - just a little - but they couldn't run, throw or hit like Kengo. He does everything right mechanically and he
works like a dog. I feel he's a draftable player."
In America, that is. Honda, who moved here with his family in September 1983 and is adamant about staying, never
will know what would have happened had he remained in Japan.
"I don't think I would have had a chance (at being eyed by Japanese pro scouts)," said Honda, who yesterday
cracked a two-run homer, flied deep to center, singled and collected an RBI double. "There are so many people. It
would be so hard to get noticed.
"There are something like 43 states in Japan and each one has 500 to 600 high schools. Once a year, they have a big
tournament where the champions of each state come to the same stadium. The scouts draft the guys that do the best. "
"Kengo's dad showed me videotapes of that," Higgins said. "It's wild. Mostly what you see is all these Japanese
people going nuts over baseball. "
To date, though they unequivocally appreciate his skills, U.S. pro scouts have failed to go nuts over Honda, who
claims he was "only an average player" for his age in Japan.
His problem is stature, though at "between 5-9 and 5-10" and 160 pounds, he won't wilt away any time soon.
(A check of major league rosters reveals that successful middle infielders such as Glenn Hubbard, Wally Backman,
Marty Barrett, Dick Schofield, Tony Bernazard, Ozzie Smith and Jose Uribe stand 5-10 or less.)
"My height. I guess that's it," Honda said. "Or maybe my baseball skills aren't good enough. For somebody to draft
you, they really have to like the way you play. "
La Salle University coach Gene McDonnell, according to O'Hara, likes Honda so much, he has gone on record as
saying, "He's somebody we have to have. "
"I'm thinking heavily about La Salle," said Honda, who was able to score 770 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test
thanks almost exclusively to his prowess in math. Imagine what he would score if he were better versed in English.
"If they give me the (scholarship) money, I'll definitely go," Honda said. "I'm just waiting to hear whether they'll
"We're staying here. We're definitely not going back to Japan. We just bought a house (the Hondas have been
living in an apartment) and we should move in by August.
"The first year was kind of rough. I spoke almost no English. When you can't do that, it's hard to make friends.
But I picked up English little by little - Val (Kaplan, assistant coach) helped me learn my taking me to the movies a
lot - and when I could start talking to people, I started enjoying it here. Now, I'm having a great time in high school,
and with baseball. "
EXTRA BASES: Washington had six homers (two by Frank Rubin, one each by Kengo Honda, Kevin Higgins
and subs Ed Neeld and Ken Mulderrig) . . . With Washington leading, 14-0, the 10-run rule should have come into
play after five innings, but Lincoln coach Jim Hayburn told Joe O'Hara that he wanted the game to continue . . .
Leadoff man Gary Coughlin had two hits for Lincoln, including a seventh-inning triple. He scored on a wild pitch,
one pitch before Bill Campbell fanned to end the game . . . Higgins, on Honda: "I feel great with him behind me.
If it's hit his way, it's an out. All the time."
This story was written after Joe guided Washington to the 1986 crown . . .
By Ted Silary
Like the other members of George Washington's baseball team, junior centerfielder Frank Rubin left Temple's Erny
Field yesterday afternoon with a Public League championship.
If Rubin also left the premises with, say, eight out of 10 personal possessions, he probably hailed the occasion a
"Last game," he said, "I left a bat and a glove. I usually lose things. It's because I get so excited."
As Rodney Dangerfield might say, if you were to look up "hyper" in the dictionary, you would find a picture of
Frank Rubin. His parents could lay claim to having invented the long-elusive perpetual motion machine.
Rubin contributed two hits and two stolen bases to Washington's 7-1 victory over Central, a victory that yielded a
second consecutive championship for third-year coach Joe O'Hara, as well as the school's fifth in nine years.
At the very beginning of the season, Rubin had started to help himself and the Eagles by losing not a bat or a glove
or a pair of spikes, but his admitted annoying ways.
"Because of my mouth, I was a pain in the butt all last year (on the junior varsity)," Rubin said, smiling. "Mr.
O'Hara hasn't had to say much to me this year because I've improved my attitude 100 percent. I used to be cocky,
but to play varsity, I knew I'd have to keep my mouth shut and play ball.
"I put my emotions more toward baseball than toward being . . . You know what I'm trying to say? Obnoxious.
That's the word. That's it. "
When an athlete can perform as Rubin does, a coach, within reason, can accept a character flaw or two.
In the third, although two men were out, Rubin was brassy enough to bunt for a base hit against lefthander Rich
Fernandez. Rubin stole second, held there as shortstop Kengo Honda was walked intentionally, and scored as
catcher Jim Hilley singled past diving first baseman Derek Whitaker.
In a four-run fifth, Ira Prince led off with a triple to center and Rubin chased him home with a single to right.
ave Tittelmayer and Gary Levocz also collected RBI in the outburst (one run scored on a wild pitch), and only a
sensational, sprawling catch by centerfielder Carey Edwards on a line drive by Hilley prevented the inning from
becoming totally ugly.
Once Washington was able to rough up Fernandez, who seemed to lose his concentration ever so briefly, even
those never able to guess an answer on ''Wheel of Fortune" could have predicted the outcome.
Junior righthander Kevin Higgins limited Central to three hits, none after the third inning, and benefited from
two step-on-the-bag, throw-to-first doubleplays pulled off by third baseman Tom Devlin against catcher Jordan
And then there was the second-inning pickoff play, which caused guffaws on one side, red faces on the other.
Whitaker (second) and Zach Matzkin (first) were the one-out baserunners when Higgins attempted a pickoff at
second by throwing to Honda. Whitaker was safe easily, but his problems were just beginning.
Next, Higgins again wheeled toward second to throw the ball, and Whitaker, as is the custom of most runners,
turned his back while getting back to the bag. Honda lightly bumped Whitaker, then turned toward the outfield
as Rubin and rightfielder Levocz broke toward right-center and everyone in a Washington uniform hollered
"Get the ball! Get the ball!"
In the greatest con job since "The Sting," Higgins had not thrown the ball. He had no problem racing off the
mound to tag the shocked Whitaker near third base.
The play had been suggested to O'Hara early in the season by Bob Vivian, Olney's JV coach and O'Hara's
partner in a summer baseball camp.
"It has been successful four out of six times," O'Hara said. "One time, we just missed getting the kid and the
other time was against Olney. I guess Bob tipped them off.
"That was a big plus. They were coming at us. It helped get us out of the inning."
"The pickoff try right before was a play between Kengo and me," Higgins said. "But there are times when
we'll do it (with no purpose except to bait the trap). It's amazing how it works. The guy just runs, then you go
over and tag him. "
Higgins had special cause to enjoy the latest championship. Last year, because O'Hara used Wally
Tittelmayer, now at Ursinus, and Honda almost exclusively, Higgins seldom pitched, although he did fire two
no-hitters in non-league games.
He finished this season unbeaten - "I'm 9-0 or 10-0; I'm not sure" - for the 18-4 Eagles, and his playoff stats
show 14 innings, 5 hits, 1 run (unearned), 6 walks and 20 strikeouts.
"If I had gotten more experience last year, I would have been even better this year," Higgins said. "I didn't
know what to think (of how O'Hara handled the pitching), except that he was probably going with the two
guys he felt were best. "
"Last year was tough on Kevin," O'Hara said. "We almost threw him against Mastbaum (in the semifinals).
Sure, he was itching to pitch more in the important games, but he knew he had his junior and senior years left "
Washington is the first school since Southern (1974-75) to win consecutive PL baseball championships, and
has won 28 consecutive league games and playoffs during the past two seasons. The presence of five junior
starters - Rubin, Higgins, Honda, Devlin and Tittelmayer (Wally's brother) - already makes the Eagles next
year's early favorite.
"This team is better than last year's because we're older at key positions - like Kengo at short and Ira at
second," O'Hara said. "Pitchingwise, we had two great ones last year and we had two great ones this year, too."
The Eagles also had a toned-down Frank Rubin.
"I dressed varsity for the playoffs last year," he said, "and when we won the championship up here, all I
could do was sit in a corner of the dugout. I wanted to yell and scream, but I was already hoarse.
"I have to keep moving, keep active. If I do that, I won't get tight. Maybe if I stay loose, the other guys
will follow my lead. I can never sit down. Even in the outfield, I have to keep walking around."
TITLE TIDBITS: Washington did not make the playoffs in 1984, but won its last two regular season
games. Thus, its total league streak is 30 . . . Central started two juniors (Dom Nardini, Rich Fernandez) and
two sophomores (Bud Wray, Zach Matzkin).
Below are the players who earned first or second team Coaches' All-Public honors during
17 seasons (1984-2000) as the coach at George Washington.
|Pos.||FIRST TEAM||Year||Pos.||SECOND TEAM||Year|
|C||John Gabel||1984||3B||Mike King||1984|
|3B||Mike King||1985||SS||Kengo Honda||1985|
|OF||Glen Hassett||1985||OF||Jeff Lackman||1985|
|P||Wally Tittelmayer||1985||2B||Ira Prince||1986|
|SS||Kengo Honda||1986||C||Jim Hilley||1986|
|OF||Frank Rubin||1986||2B||Larry Kolongowski||1988|
|P||Kevin Higgins||1986||3B||Tim Bolwell||1988|
|SS||Kengo Honda||1987||OF||Eric Kauffman||1988|
|OF||Scott Rosen||1987||2B||Chris Curry||1989|
|OF||Frank Rubin||1987||C||Greg Carlisle||1989|
|P||Kevin Higgins||1987||1B||John Plunkett||1991|
|SS||Ken Mulderrig||1988||DH||Vince Trunfio||1991|
|3B||Jim Wark||1989||1B||John Plunkett||1992|
|OF||Eric Kauffman||1989||OF||Steve Harris||1993|
|INF||Tommy Honda||1990||OF||Ric Mruk||1995|
|P||Ray Barnhart||1990||INF||Rory Miller||1996|
|2B||Tommy Honda||1991||C||George Vafiadis||1996|
|SS||Shane Kenney||1991||P||Andy Gartner||1996|
|OF||Doug Tuley||1991||INF||Harry Ley||1998|
|P||Ray Barnhart||1991||INF||Jason Guzik||1998|
|3B||Rick Woertz||1992||OF||Mike McBride||1998|
|1B||Ryan "Rusty" Share||1993||OF||Rob Slobodian||1999|
|2B||Mike Curry||1993||DH||Dan Spitzberg||2000|
|SS||Keith Kabrhel||1993||1B||Kevin Wiener||2000|
|P||Jordan Nicgorski||1993||INF||Chris Drobish||2000|
|1B||Ryan "Rusty" Share||1994||OF||Ivan Kosty||2000|
|1B||Ryan "Rusty" Share||1995|
Recaps of Wins in Public League Championship Games . . .