By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Lehigh Valley Moondogs are a staple at the MSBL World Series and have been since 1991. Some of you out there paying attention have kids younger than their 32 years of participation!
Turk Starniri and Dick Prue are the guys behind the wheel of this success machine and have steered them to multiple World Series championships and relevance in every division they have played in. Dick is a member of the 2017 class of the MSBL World Series Hall of Fame and Turk is a 2021 inductee into the MSBL National Hall of Fame. Turk founded the Moondogs back in 1991 and Dick has been his capable partner on the journey. They remain continually in the playoffs and are a threat every time they take the field.
We had a chat with Dick to find out a little history about these Moondogs from Pennsylvania.
“One thing that we are very proud of is that the team is primarily made up of our league players,” said Prue. “It’s been the same group of guys for many years. We really enjoy being around the guys. Roughly three-fourths of the guys are from the league.”
Dick has been playing at the World Series since 1991 and Turk has been coming since 1988. Dick then helped manage the Moondogs with Turk in 1998 and has attended every World Series since his first in 1991.
“It’s a little harder logistically to be at everyone when you live on the East Coast so it is special knowing I have never missed once I got started. They all say you never attend just once. That is very true.”
There may be logistics involved, but that doesn’t seem to bother their ability once they make it to the desert.
“To the best of my memory, we won rings while I was managing in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2015. Turk won the first Moondog’s ring in the mid-90s in the 40-over division. Our 2003 championship was with our 55-over team. We haven’t won since then but this year we are in the 65+ and 70+ divisions and hope to make a comeback! Turk and I will be playing together in the 70s, which will be fun.”
I remember as a reporter at the World Series in 2012, I was covering a Moondogs playoff game and caught up with Turk and Dick for a few words and they were quite shaken because Hurricane Sandy was heading to their area while they were in Arizona and they wanted to get back home and were torn at what to do.
“Our families back there said to stay in Arizona and they will handle things. That was a tough year. We were ready to hop on a plane and get back. I hope to never go through that again.”
Dick is a pitcher by trade but has had some injuries lately that have curbed his ability to get back on the bump.
“I’m not pitching anymore, not for a couple of years now. I have unfortunately had three shoulder operations. Now I primarily manage and might bat once in a while. I had rotator cuff surgery in 1997 and then pitched for another 20 years but then I had a bicep tear and also some additional surgery to clean up some spurs and scar tissue.
They say I now need replacement surgery but I’m not ready for that. I turn 74 in November and have to think if I want to go through all of that because I’ll never play again if I do it. There’s a lot to think about.”
Dick is a semi-retired roofing contractor and has backed off to two or three days a week in his non-baseball world. But pitching has created many memories of Arizona. Dick’s pitching resume stands tall in Arizona, as he has amassed 19 wins throughout the years. They won their first championship in 2003, though by his own admission, he was a middle-of-the-pack hurler by then after his 1997 surgery. “I never won a championship game as a pitcher. Some guys were just better, but I can still look at the ring!”
It took the Moondogs 12 years to win their first championship, while many teams have toiled for decades and never made it to the winner’s circle. Five additional rings followed, as described previously. But in their first two trips to Arizona, they went 0-6 each year but kept banging away and improving. I asked Dick if there was a special moment in his three decades with the Moondogs. The answer came swiftly, as if rehearsed.
“The 2003 championship, which was in the 55-over division. There are many wonderful memories but the first championship has to be the highlight.”