Former Ewing Babe Ruth league president shares what it was like to host the world series
Bob Dorio had an idea of what he and the Ewing Babe Ruth league were getting into when they decided to host the 1993 Babe Ruth World Series—20 years ago this summer. They had hosted a few of the organization’s regional tournaments in the past, so they wanted to go a step further and take a shot at the big game.
After a Ewing squad advanced to the 1990 World Series in Louisiana, the league decided the time was right. Parents and officials returned from the trip eager to see the championship come to Mercer County. The league put in its bid the next year, and once it was accepted, Dorio—the president at the time—and his team got to work immediately. He was confident that Ewing would put on a memorable tournament right from the start.
“We had some experience getting sponsorships and housing kids from hosting some regionals,” he said. “We had a good track record.”
Their main task was raising the $40,000 entry fee Babe Ruth requires from all World Series hosts. By comparison, leagues pay a mere $1,000 to host a regional tournament. Dorio knew they would have to raise more than the Babe Ruth fee to put on a successful tournament.
“I figured it was going to take that long,” he said. “You’re pretty much on your own. I knew in order to pull this thing off, I was going to have to raise $100,000.”
The league used the rest of the money for field improvements, concession stand upgrades, and expanded parking.
“We spent over a year preparing,” assistant tournament director Sam Sciarrotta said. “It was organized chaos. Bob was a tremendous leader. He kept everone focus, kept a handle on things. I took several weeks off from work, and we were all knocking on doors and making phone calls for help.”
Most of those house and telephone calls were answered. The town was more than receptive to the league’s requests, and Dorio and Sciarrotta said more than 200 Ewing residents volunteered their time all across the tournament spectrum.
“People were veery anxious to help,” Sciarrotta said. “We didn’t have to drag them out of their houses. It kept me sane. it was really heartwarming to see the community wrap their arms around us. It was just a wonderful thing. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The town was even entrusted to perhaps the most vital part of the operation: housing players. Dorio said Ewing residents housed over 200 players from across the country. Some of the initial money the league raised went toward the host parents, paying for food and other necessities.
“They didn’t have to take everything out of pocket,” Dorio said. “The kids came in as strangers and left as part of a family.”
The league also took the players on field trips to local landmarks that, for New Jerseyans, are staples when it comes to field trips or weekend excursions. Many of these kids, though, may have never gotten a chance to visit places like Philadelphia or New York City. Dorio just wanted to give them a positive impression of his home state.
“The interesting thing is that many of these kids from around the country had only studied places like Philadelphia in books,” Dorio said. “We set up a series of day trips for them. Stuff that we kind of take for granted, they might never have the opportunity to see those things again. One of the kids asked us if this is where they shot the show ‘Cops.’ They heard New Jersey and automatically thought of Newark. It was pretty exciting.”
1993 was also the first year a team from Puerto Rico was invited to participate in the tournament. The decision was met with a little opposition from Babe Ruth higher ups.
“That was also the first time Babe Ruth ever went beyond the contiental United States,” Dorio said. “That year, they came to us and wanted to bring a team in from Puerto Rico. Traditionally, the teams from PR are better because they play baseball 364 days a year. They have a number of tournament teams. They pretty much had an AAU team with the best kids from the area. We knew they were going to be good. Some of the other teams objected, but we felt that it gave it a little extra flavor.”
“Extra flavor” seemed to be something Dorio and his team were committed to. The league held a concert on opening night, received a new scoreboard—still in use today and even hosted a few MLB greats. Lou Brock and Tug McGraw were in attendance, but Willie Mays, Dorio said, was the obvious big draw.
“He was there the first night signing autographs,” Dorio said. “We had 20,000 people come that first night alone just to see him. It was a really exciting time, and that lasted the whole week. We had over 80,000 people come through. It was bedlam every night.”
Players’ parents came from all over the country to take in the tournament, but average spectators came to Ewing, too. Sciarrotta said towns from all over the state ran bus trips and kept up with the World Series as if they were the hosts. Local businesses were more than happy about the influx of customers.
“The town embraced it tremendously,” Dorio said. “It was a good little economic engine for the town, for the restaurants and some of the other stuff. It was just a good community thing.”
Dorio said the Babe Ruth organization was eager to bring the World Series to the area. The league originated in Hamilton, and they were glad to bring the tournament back to its roots.
“They hadn’t had a World Series in the Trenton area since 1950,” Dorio said. “According to Babe Ruth baseball, it was the best World Series ever held up to that point.”
Dorio said many Ewing residents would like to see the championship return to Ewing.
“It was a community event like no other, and we haven’t had one since,” he said. “Many people want to do another. It’s very exhausting. Sometimes, when you try to repeat something, it isn’t as good the second time around. This went off without a hitch.”
Sciarrotta, though, said that was all because of Dorio’s leadership.
“I give all the credit in the world to Bob,” he said. “He did a tremendous job with everything.”